Tag Archives: Montana

Homemade New England Style Clam Chowder!

We used to live in the Seattle area, a place where any night of the week, any month of the year, you could go ANYwhere and find a good chowder, scratch that, a near perfect chowder, without too much hassle. I never even attempted to make a clam chowder from scratch before, because we could order it regardless if we were eating from a place with a drive-through or a fancy restaurant.

Now, however, we live in beautiful Northwest Montana! A couple of restaurants serve clam chowder on Friday nights. (I rarely crave clam chowder, by the way, on a night designated by a restaurant’s specials!) One of those is actually really good, the other is a really close second. Another restaurant, a finer dining establishment who specializes in seafood, serves chowder, but they are a bit spendier so we don’t go there often and its usually a “seafood chowder” not a clam chowder. (When I’m craving clam chowder, “seafood chowder” isn’t going to cut it.)

The past couple of months I decided to start my search for good New England Clam Chowder recipes. (For fans of Manhattan style, sorry, I’ve never actually eaten it! I hate to admit that, but I haven’t! If anyone can recommend a good recipe for it, I will try it though. I was raised on the creamy goodness of New England & that’s what I know. I’ve always been curious about the red sauce, just not curious enough to order it in a restaurant, my bad). When I see friends post about their recipes I ask questions, I research & compare online…the search has been long. The recipe below is the collaboration of about 3 different recipes that I have merged & tweaked into something that worked out pretty well. I used techniques from one & seasonings from another & mixed them all together & added a bit of me in there too. The family loved it & I think that you will too. Please feel free to comment below if there is anything that you would add or do differently, this was my first attempt.

*Everyone likes their clam chowder a little differently. Our family likes a really thick chowder, so at the end I made a roux with 1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter and equal amount of flour (8 Tbsp or 1/2 C) and stirred it into the pot until it was thoroughly mixed into the chowder. You could make the roux and stir it in, a couple Tbsp at a time if you want until it is the desired thickness. It was just more of a soup consistency than a chowder consistency at finish, I thought.*

**The recipes that I found online gave good instructions on using fresh clams. Given that I no longer live on the coast, I opted to use canned (which is common for chowders, so I don’t feel like a schmuck). I don’t want to post the fancy fresh clam instructions as if the are my tips that I used. When I get my hands on some good clams & try it myself, & take some photos, I will update this post with those tips & photos as an option as well. I feel fake putting someone else’s “how to” on here as if it were mine when I haven’t even tried it yet. I will list the quantity you would need for fresh clams so that you can look up proper technique if you would like.**

INGREDIENTS:

Clams: fresh-14 Lbs, medium-size hard-shell clams (topneck or small cherrystone) washed and scrubbed clean;                        canned– 8 cans chopped clams (reserve juice) and 4 bottles of clam juice                                8 slices thick-cut applewood or hickory smoked bacon cut into 1/4″ pieces (I prefer applewood, DO NOT USE MAPLE)                                   2 large yellow onions, diced                                             4 Tbsp flour                   6-8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced                                                   1 cup cooking sherry                                                            2  large bay leaves         2 tsp fresh thyme                                                                   2 c heavy cream               4 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves                            2 tsp Italian seasoning 1/2 tsp dill                                                                                 black pepper                       salt                                                                                                white pepper

Here we go…

Before we get started, when I cooked this (& took the pictures) I wasn’t sure exactly how much it was going to make. It ended up making enough for everyone to have exactly 1 large bowl (the toddler 1 normal her-sized bowl) and my husband a little extra. No leftovers. I hate it when there are no leftovers because I actually schedule “leftover nights” into our menu calendar! I cook, generally, 4 nights a week, my husband cooks 1 night a week (or sometimes we’ll go out or to a friend’s house or something) & then we have a couple of nights devoted to cleaning out the fridge! My 12 year old is a Chowder Connoisseur & was hoping for leftovers! I, got everyone dished up, ate, then because it turned out so good was going to fill a bowl to get a pic for the blog, but alas…you get pics of pots, but no finished bowl this time, because it all went into tummies instead…

My point you ask? The amounts listed in the ingredients above are double what I used when I made it for my family of 5 (4+a toddler). The pictures that I took during the cooking process will look like less than what is reflected above, or you may think that I have the roomiest pot EVER.  If you have a smaller family, but enjoy chowder, I would leave it & enjoy leftovers. If you have a larger family, double it! Most of us would have happily enjoyed a second bowl & were very sad, luckily we had rolls & salad…onto our chowder!

First I drained my clams reserving the clam juice into a medium bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup. I looked for the highest quality clams I could find since canned were my best choice right now. Many quality natural food stores carry them too. You want to look for clams that are in their own natural juices or broth. If that is not what the label indicates, please do not reserve the juice & purchase an extra couple of bottles of natural clam juice/broth, & rinse & strain your clams a few times before it is time to put them into the chowder.

Time for the bacon!

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Fry the bacon in a large pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps. Add the onion to the bacon and saute until softened (about 5 minutes).

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Add the flour and stir until lightly colored (about 1 minute). Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice, then the sherry. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, black pepper and thyme. Simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes).

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Add clams, cream, dill, and parsley. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and bring the dish to a simmer. *This is where I added the roux, again some like it soupier, some like it thicker. Remove from heat and serve with oyster crackers or hearty bread.

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This last pic was just before the final roux. Next time I make it, I will take pics in bowls with happy satisfied kids’ faces who got second helpings. I really wasn’t sure exactly how much it would make or how it would turn out, I don’t make homemade cream-based soups & sauces often. My (also Seattle area raised) hubby compared it to Anthony’s Homeport, which is kinda of a Seattle staple for seafood lovers, so I am satisfied. I hope you & your family like it. Please click “follow” if you like what you see here, & comment below if you have any imput or would like to see anything specific from me. I love experimenting with new things! ~paige

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Week 1 of “30 days of Love”. . . did you know?

There are so many things happening right now! Martin Luther King Jr. Day was yesterday. There are many wonderful organizations that have decided to use his legacy to remind us to be a better, kinder, more tolerant, more just, & loving society.

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I love GLSEN! They do SO much for gay & lesbian youth. This week, they are promoting “No Name-Calling Week.” http://www.glsen.org/nonamecallingweek . It is an effort to help stop bullying, primarily in schools.

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Let me talk about bullying for just a minute. I am not a fan of bullying, but many of the zero tolerance, anti-bullying campaigns have been backfiring the past couple of years. (Remember what happened with the DARE program of our era?) If you put an all encompassing umbrella over bullying, give it a lot of publicity, & then make a zero tolerance policy….you draw attention, sometimes to things that kids weren’t even thinking of & you sometimes give existing & potential bullies ideas.

The zero tolerance policy means that your own policy forces you to punish kids for behavior that doesn’t warrant the punishment simply because if you don’t, you’re not following policy. I don’t think that it’s okay to allow children to be mean to each other. I do think though that, depending on the situation, there is a certain amount of age appropriate push & pull that goes on between kids & youth. That is not the same as being mean, but with these “zero tolerance” bullying rules that schools are making, it doesn’t allow for normal behavior. We can’t expect everyone to always act “just so,” a little push in line, not wanting to sit next to the stinky kid, not wanting the kid who is really bad at math on your team during a math drill DOESN’T make you a bully! It makes you a normal, age appropriate kid. Should the teacher tell you that you get what you get? YES. Should the lunch lady yell out, “No pushing in line!” from behind the counter? YES. Should someone remind your kid that it’s not nice to call that kid “stinky”? ABSOLUTELY, should that same someone call the stinky kid’s parent’s & investigate why he’s so stinky ABSOLUTELY.

I think focusing on one aspect of bullying, like GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. is a nice way to handling it. You aren’t teaching these kids a new behavior. Kids have known how to name call since they were 2 years old! Focusing instead on how that behavior effects people, what that feels like (even for adults), instead of talking about bullying as if it’s 1 act, 1 punishment…that’s something I can get behind.

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Many UU’s around the world are jumping on board with Standing on the Side of Love’s “30 Days of Love” campaign.

http://standingonthesideoflove.org/30days2014/

Day 1 was Saturday, January 18th. I cut & pasted below what it says on their site for week 1:

“Week One: Living the Dream

Sunday, Jan. 19: Suggested worship service themes include honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and recommitting to racial justice work.

What to Expect: Kick off the week with MLK Day and set aside time for congregational self-examination and reflection. Look for resources on furthering your racial justice work.”

I think I can do both of these campaigns easily together! Living in small town Montana, you’d be surprised how many racial slurs, comments, & names one still hears (especially when people are talking politics, it seems).

I vow, to do my part to not only not “name call” (which is a rule in my home anyway, one that I only seem to break when speaking of myself…), but to be verbal when I hear others. That takes care of GLSEN. For my UU contribution this week, I’m going to concentrate my ears on those racial slurs, jokes, & “name calls” that I hear when I’m out & about. I am a small woman & usually when I hear these things it is a group of men speaking (although not always) & my habit has been to give a look, much like a disappointed mother or school teacher would give a disobedient child.

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I vow to use my voice this week. I will speak on behalf of my children (& others’ children) who don’t deserve to hear it. I’ll be honest, we are a mostly white community, but that is no excuse to allow the racially ignorant folks in our community to feel like they run it.

This is my commitment to my faith community, my family, GLSEN, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, & most importantly…to myself.

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Beard Conditioning Oil

My husband has had facial hair as long as I’ve known him…we’ll be approaching the 2 decade line since we met next year! Holy Cow!

Usually he wore it in some variation of a goatee, but I LOVE a full beard! These past few years since he’s been in Montana with us, I’ve been trying to talk him into going a little more mountain man. The problem is that he has pretty sensitive skin. That being the case, he is very particular about soaps, lotions, razors, shaving creams….not to mention that it seems whenever the beard was just getting to the length that I was getting happy with it, it was driving him BONKERS due to itching…

I had to figure something out…I wanted my mountain man!

One of my best friend’s husband has a gorgeous beard. I was over visiting last summer & he was telling me about this beard oil that he had been using. Well, I thought, why buy beard oil when I can research & make beard oil?!

I was a little leery due to his skin sensitivity. I myself have eczema, so I know how important it is too be careful with ingredients when it comes to your skin. I looked at blogs & read articles & asked friends who made their own hair products, mixed & matched, & tried a few different batches….

This is the one that I made my beloved for Christmas. I put it in a pretty dropper bottle, wrapped it, put a bow on it, waited for Christmas morning to come, & took a deep breath.

Would he like the scent?

Would he break out?

Would he see an improvement in the condition of his facial hair?

Would he think I wasted money, time, & energy?

HE LOVES IT!

His beard looks nicer, his skin feels healthier under the beard, he is encouraged to grow it out longer…Mission Accomplished!

Beard Conditioning Oil

Mix the following ingredients together in a 1oz amber or cobalt dropper bottle

  • 40 drops Sandalwood essential oil
  • 40 drops Patchouli essential oil
  • 8 drops Geranium essential oil
  • 4 drops Rosewater
  • 20 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 40 drops Grapefruit essential oil
  • 28 drops of Vitamin E oil
  • 200 drops of Almond oil
  • 400 drops of Jojoba oil

Leave the mixture to blend for a few days before use.

Give it a shake before use & then drop 2-3 drops into your palm & massage into your facial hair.

Enjoy!

What is a Unitarian Universalist?

I thought that this was great!

A lot of people ask me about my faith. It is a hard thing to describe to most people in my neck of the woods. Many people here are either SO Christian that to imagine a life that is open to other possibilities is so foreign that it borders on offensive, or they were raised in that life & they run from any & everything that looks or smells like church.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I am allowed to find my own path. I am given the personal freedom to believe (or not) whatever I believe. At my little fellowship, we have Quakers, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Agnostics, Pagans, people who follow Native teachings, people who don’t seem to follow any particular faith, & lifelong UUs who claim nothing other than that. We are all on our own spiritual path, together, & it’s good. We don’t really have any formal dogmas we follow. We are inspired by the teachings & writings of religious leaders from all world religions, poets, philosophers, writers, teachers, lecturers, scientists, presidents, and more. We meditate, some of us pray, some of us take communion from time to time. We are all different & we all have different spiritual needs. None are turned away & all are welcome.

It’s a beautiful thing. I once told a friend that I should start my own church. Where you can believe anything you want. You can be eclectic & draw from all sources. No one is right & no one is wrong. Everyone is okay…we’re all okay…

Then I found, thanks to a childhood friend, my UU church in Des Moines, Washington. I walked in & I listened & I spoke with the minister & I looked in the classrooms & I asked about the curriculum…

This was the church that I had wanted to create years before. It had always existed, for hundreds of years, anyway.

I just hadn’t found it until I needed to.

When I moved to Montana, my criteria was “they have to have the same or better schools for the kids, & they have to have a UU church.” They had both.

Now I get to live with Glacier Park in my back yard, I get to direct children’s programming for my spiritual home. And I get to share all of it & more with all of you.

My next post will be more about food, I promise. No preaching, I just really liked this video!

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Frozen Waffles

My 15 year old son has asperger’s. One thing about our awesome kids is that they tend to get stuck in their routines–now this isn’t a bad thing, routine is good for them, too. I tell you this because today is the first day back to school after the longest holiday break I can recall…EVER! If we didn’t have what my son needs to eat for breakfast on school mornings, there is no guarantee how his day may have gone.

Waffles are amazing! We love carbs in my house, I wish we didn’t, but we do! Ryan has had waffles with peanut butter on them nearly every school morning for as long as he can remember. Mostly because it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get him to eat oatmeal & I don’t always have time to make eggs. My requirement has always been nut-butter. Pancakes or waffles are just cake, unless you add protein to them…then they become the conveyor in which the protein travels to your gob!  Much like bread for tuna fish or chips for bean dip! Plus, there’s the rule of 3’s…a meal requires a minimum of 3 food groups, you add peanut butter to your waffle, then all you need to do is drink a glass of juice or milk & technically you can tell mom that you’re not breaking the “3 rule.” Less than 3 food groups is a snack, no matter how well intended, or which groups you choose.

The problem with frozen waffles (which are super convenient) begins a few years before boys get into their tween years. They now eat a minimum of 2. If you’re buying “buttermilk” or “homestyle” (probably spending between $2-$3 a box unless they’re on sale) they are mostly fluff & not filling at all & the average boy in this age group could probably eat the whole box (of 8-12) if he was being honest with you. If you are buying the “natural” ones (probably closer to $4 for a box of 6-8 not on sale) they may or may not like the taste & because there are fewer in the box you will go through them faster, (It is also near impossible to find the “natural” brands in bulk stores, like Costco, in many areas, so you have no choice but to buy the small boxes.

The other problem for a gal like me is all of the excess packaging. Luckily, the outer packaging is cardboard (for most brands) which is easy enough to recycle. However after living in NW Montana for 6 years, I am well aware that not everyone lives where recycling is easy to do. The bags inside the cardboard box, however, are often not marked, so most folks, including myself, don’t know, without a lot of research whether they can be recycled or not.

My final issue was the space that the Costco-sized box of waffles was taking up in our freezer. (I don’t have a problem mentioning Costco by name in my blog, because I do most of our shopping there. They shouldn’t be upset that I no longer buy their waffles, they get plenty of our support.) We don’t have a large freezer, we have a small chest freezer & a tiny freezer in the top of our refrigerator.  Being able to save room in our freezer for meats, leftovers, soups, sauces, & some easy-to-heat stuff for the teens is much appreciated!

On to my solution!

13"L x 7"W x 3"D Rubbermaid container fits perfectly in bottom of fridge!
13″L x 7″W x 3″D Rubbermaid container fits perfectly in bottom of fridge!

Above is my tiny fridge/freezer, well the leftmost 1/3 of it. The bottom shelf is between 3.5 & 4 inches high, so random little things end up down there like half bags of frozen berries & single popsicles that have lost their way. This box I found is PERFECT! It is a Rubbermaid brand & it said “freezer safe” on the packaging. It is a little more than 3-inches high, about 13-inches long (so I can still put a thing or two behind it if needed), & just over 7-inches across.

about 13 inches longabout 3 inches deep

It came in a 2-pack for less than $4, if I’m remembering correctly. The container being clear was important to me too so that at a glance I could peek in & see if we were getting low. One thing about my son, he announces that we’re “running low” of something when he’s leaving the last of something. So he should be saying “we’re out” not knowing if shopping is occurring that day…awesome.

Begin with your favorite waffle mix. I usually use Krusteaz because it is so simple & I trust the ingredients. I have been hunting for a homemade mix recipe that doesn’t involve adding eggs. If anyone comes across something, I’m a fan of DIY when it comes to mixes and things, please pass it along!

Krusteaz Pancake Mixwaffle directions

I use the instructions on the package, then I double it. I think that it important to give the kids some extra fiber & protein to get them through their mornings at school, so in addition to the water & oil I add about 4 Tablespoons of Oat Bran, 3-4 Tablespoons of Powdered Peanut Butter (you can find it at most health food stores). Then I add Cinnamon to taste, I tend to not measure it just sprinkle it until it looks & smells how I like. (Some say that you shouldn’t waste things on children…I think that the only way that their pallets will develop is if you cook for them with flavors that real people enjoy. Children after all, are real people…give them the cinnamon!)

Oatbran, Cinnamon, Powdered Peanut Butter
Oat bran, Cinnamon, Powdered Peanut Butter
to save cleanup time, I use my 8-cup pyrex measuring cup to mix & scoop out of. No sense cleaning a bowl & measuring cup!
to save cleanup time, I use my 8-cup pyrex measuring cup to mix & scoop out of. No sense cleaning a bowl & measuring cup!

When you remove the waffles from the waffle iron, it is important that they cool completely  before you put them in the container.  Otherwise, the extra moisture in the container will cause freezer burn. If they are completely cooled, they won’t stick together & won’t have excess frost related issues while in the freezer.

let them cool completely, on a rack, before putting them into the container.
let them cool completely, on a rack, before putting them into the container.

  Once they are completely cooled I put them between layers of parchment paper in the Rubbermaid container. (Make sure that there is a layer on the top & bottom of the container as well. If food never touches the container, you don’t have to wash it in between batches!)

I put 2 per layer, with parchment paper in between.
I put 2 per layer, with parchment paper in between.

This makes about 25 waffles. If you buy the Krusteaz bag (above) at Costco, it will cost you less than $6.00 & make you between 112 & 118 waffles or pancakes. That means that it costs around $0.18 per waffle, (That is assuming I did my math right, of course!) Only my 15yr old eats waffles, most days, & he only eats them on school days. All of this considered, in about 40 minutes, for less than $6 (plus a little oat bran, a little cinnamon, & a little peanut butter powder), I made breakfast for my 15yr old for every school day from now until the end of the 1st week of February.

Not bad for the 1st day back from a Holiday Break!

Happy New Year Everyone!