Fall is the time for chowder

October 22, 2003|DONNA CLORE

Ann Morris of Danville enjoys making soup. That's why her friends thought a soup pot would be a great retirement gift before she and her husband, Will, moved here in 1999 from Springfield, Ore. She was an elementary school teacher.

Since retirement, Morris has more time to cook and try new recipes that she enjoys. And soup is great to experiment with "because Will likes to eat the main meal at lunch so that affects the foods that are cooked also."

The sweet potato chowder is "a great fall recipe. The family loves it," she says referring to daughter Robyn and grandson Nathaniel "Nate."

"The sweet potato adds a touch of sweetness to the chowder. The recipe is easy-except for the chopping. But you can do all the chopping ahead of time."


An article from Senior Friends magazine, which Morris subscribes to, calls the sweet potato an unsung health food because it is loaded with vitamins A and beta carotene and has vitamins C and E and other antioxidants. These are known deterrents to heart disease and stroke as well as provide an anti-cancer effect.

Although the chowder recipe calls for adding salt, Morris thinks you could probably get away with leaving it out since the ham and chicken broth are both salty.

Fat-free half and half is available - believe it or not. And it is thick and creamy.

"It gives you that extra richness that makes a big difference," Morris says.

What distinguishes a soup from a chowder? According to the "Joy of Cooking" cookbook, the word chowder is derived from the French chaudie're, a type of cauldron. Regional chowders have become an American culinary tradition.

Early settlers made chowder from household staples such as rendered salt pork simmered in water with local fish or seafood and then thickened with biscuits or bread. Potatoes replaced the crackers in the 19th century, and milk and cream came to be added to chowder.

Morris likes to keep bread and rolls on hand to eat with soup. She prefers bread rather than crackers, but says it's "hard to find interesting bread at the grocery." That prompts her to make bread, especially "bread that has substance."

The amount of effort makes a difference. The recipe "has to be easy for me to make or I won't do it." She preheats the oven to 150 degrees to provide a warm place to let the bread rise, otherwise, "my house is too cool."

In addition to enjoying her hobbies - cooking, tole painting, sewing and decorating flower pots - Morris is president of the Streamland Extension Homemakers Club. It meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. in members' homes.

"We always welcome new members," says Morris, who found homemakers to be a great way to meet people when she was new in the community.

She enjoys her newfound friends.

"Homemakers are very interesting people that do much more than the traditional cooking and sewing. They have educational programs, community projects, ovarian cancer project, support 4-H and camps, and work to support floral hall at the county fair each year - to name only a few."

As cool, fall weather begins, this is a perfect time to get a soup pot out and try some delicious and healthy soups and chowders.

Sweet Potato Chowder

Makes 8 (1-cup) servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound lean ham, cubed (about 1 1/3 cup)

1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)

2 ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

2 medium white potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half

Heat oil in 3-quart soup pot. Add ham, onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add diced potatoes and garlic. Saute briefly. Add seasonings and chicken broth, and stir well.

Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Partially puree soup with a potato masher. Stir in fat-free half-and-half. Season to taste.

Multigrain Bread

Makes 10 servings

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup fat-free (skim) milk

2 packages dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons wheat germ

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon poppy seed (optional)

1 tablespoon caraway seed (optional)

Mix oatmeal, butter and milk. Cook in microwave on high power for 3 minutes.

Mix well. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix yeast and warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add egg, salt and honey to yeast mixture and beat. Beat in cooked oatmeal. Stir in whole wheat flour, cornmeal and wheat germ. Add all-purpose flour and optional seeds. Mix completely.

Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Oil a large bowl, add the dough. Turn to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough, and press into an oiled 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour). Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

Donna Clore is Boyle County extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

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