Souper Sunday: Smoked Fish Chowder

The other day 7.5yo J made dinner and chose to make barbecued ribs.  Well, this necessitated pulling out the smoker (actually we keep it out all winter on our covered back porch because you never know when you need to smoke some meat!) for the ribs.  And since the hubby was going to be heating up the smoker, he couldn’t waste all that smoker space with just one rack of ribs.  Therefore, he came home on Friday with 3 pounds of fish too.  2 pounds of pollock that was locally caught and inexpensive, as well as some salmon.  The salmon, he smoked for bagels and lox.  The pollock, he smoked for fish cakes, and we decided to make soup with the leftovers.

We have a Weber smoker, and to be honest, I’ve never used it.  But, here is the recipe that Hubby wrote out for the fish.

Smoked Whitefish

Generously sprinkle rub on fish (we used pollock).  Rub it in to cover the fish, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.  Rinse off the rub, pat fish dry, and let sit open to the air in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  This should create a tacky film on top of the fish.  Smoke the fish at 225 degrees for 90 minutes, looking for an internal temperature of 165F.  If it’s not done after 90 minutes, you can bake it in your oven for an additional 10 minutes at 350F.

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
1 Tbsp. dried dill
1 tsp. fresh black pepper

We smoked 2 pounds of fish, and there was plenty of rub leftover.  It will probably make about 4-5 pounds of smoked fish.

Hubby used most of the fish to make fish cakes.  I took one fillet and made this super-yummy fish chowder.  Nothing fancy in the ingredient list (except the smoked fish, I suppose), I had all of it in my cupboard.

Smoked Fish Chowder

I started with a recipe that I got off Allrecipes for a Smoked Salmon Chowder.  Did a bit of tweaking to it although not too much.  I didn’t have any of the half-and-half called for in the original recipe.  So, I did a bit of Google research, and decided to use 2% evaporated milk that was already in my cupboard.  It was perfect for the soup!  And much less fat.  I think I’m going to only use evaporated milk from now on.  Not sure how I’ve gone on this long without knowing about this little substitution tidbit.

2 Tb. butter
1 Tb. olive oil
1 onion, diced medium-fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound red potatoes, diced medium (about 3/4 inch dice)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
(1/2 tsp. dill and 1/2 tsp. tarragon – Optional *Note)
8-10 oz. smoked fish, cut into chunks
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tb. fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
A few dashes of Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup evaporated milk (I used 2%)

*Note – I used the herbs stated in the original recipe, which included the dill and tarragon.  Next time, I would omit them because they were a bit too strong for the  pollock in our opinion.  Play around with it!

1. Heat Dutch oven/soup pot, melt butter and oil.  Throw in onions, garlic and celery, and cook on medium-low until transparent, about 10 minutes.

2. Add flour, and stir for about 1 minute to toast the flour.

Dry roux

3. Gradually add the chicken broth, and stir until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in thyme and paprika (and other herbs you may choose to use), throw in the potatoes, cover and simmer for 15 minutes on medium-low.

4. Stir in the fish, lemon juice, white wine, Tabasco and pepper.  (Pour a glass of white wine for yourself.)  I scraped away that brown part of the fish because I find that it’s pretty “fishy” tasting.  Use your judgment.  Simmer on Low, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

5. Stir in the evaporated milk, and continue to simmer on Low for 30 minutes.

It was so, so good.  And awesome the next day, of course.  I’m sad that it’s gone to be honest.  As an aside, I need to work on my food photography skills.  Especially when taking photos at the stove.  The lighting is terrible!  Anyway, there has been lots of cooking being done on this crafty blog, but not so much craftiness.  Don’t worry!  I have been extremely crafty recently, I just can’t share it because I’m participating in a swap with the ladies who were my roomies at the Squam Art Workshop last year.  It is going out in the mail very soon, and I’ll be sharing some of the fun things in the package in the next few weeks.

I want to add that I made this soup a second time yesterday with some of the leftover smoked salmon.  We didn’t have all the ingredients, so I had to do a few substitutions.  I didn’t have any chicken broth and used all vegetable broth.  And I used a mixture of evaporated milk and regular 1% milk.  It was just not as good at all.  Very disappointing.  What I took away from the experience was that you need to use chicken broth.  I think the vegetable broth made it thin tasting.  Also, I didn’t care for the salmon and preferred the whitefish.   That might just be a personal preference of course, as I know a lot of people love salmon.  While using a bit of regular milk mixed with the evaporated milk made it a little less creamy, it wasn’t a big deal.  I’m enjoying everything I’m learning from these cooking-soup adventures!

Kids Cook

We are on school vacation this week, so I suggested to my boys (who are now 9.5 and 7.5) that perhaps they would like to each make dinner one night this week.  We have a Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbook that they paged through and then picked something to make.  While I don’t quite agree with all the recipes as they are written, there are great pictures, and the book was useful for the kids to pick something and be excited about what they were preparing.

J picked the barbeque spare ribs.  Now, the recipe calls for grilling the ribs for 15 minutes on each side.  That is NOT how we make ribs around here!  Low and slow!  This gave the hubby an excuse to pull out the smoker, of course!  We prefer baby back ribs, so I picked up some of those.  J helped Daddy rub the spice rub all over the meat (“gross!”) in the morning.  Normally, we would do it the night before, but we forgot until after J had gone to bed.  We use a homemade spice rub that we make in larger sized quantities and store in the cupboard.  He then helped Daddy put the meat in the smoker, check it, take off the aluminum foil, take it off the smoker, baste with sauce, etc.  For the sauce, we just use Bullseye Original if we aren’t making our own.  J is not fond of vegetables (we keep trying!), so he and Daddy made an apple slaw for a side dish.  They julienned three apples (different varieties) using a mandoline (carefully monitored as it’s super sharp), and tossed with an awesome little sauce that Hubby made up.  Stellar!  And then we also roasted up some Brussels sprouts.  J was so excited about making dinner and licked his plate clean.  The ribs were worthy of plate-licking.

Apple Slaw

3 apples, unpeeled and julienned (we used granny smith, honey crisp and fuji)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
Salt to taste

Stir up dressing.  Mix into apples.

K made dinner tonight.  He chose a sausage/pasta baked dish.  It required quite a bit of assistance from Mama, but he helped cook the entire thing.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it “Quick and Easy” but maybe it would have been quicker and easier if a 9yo wasn’t doing every step.  He tried cutting up the onion, but that was a bit difficult for him, so we did it together.  (Sharp knives!)  He enjoyed using the garlic press, and the can opener, and especially the mini prep food chopper (we made fresh bread crumbs to sprinkle on top).  He was also able to cut up the sausage links (it had sweet Italian sausage in it) with a paring knife by himself.  We have these kids knives and while fun to use, not up to the task of dicing an onion.

I cook a lot, and always encourage the boys to help me, but they are usually too busy with their own activities to be interested…unless it involves licking the cookie dough bowl.  This little project really engaged them from start to finish.  I think the many photos in the book helped them pick something more readily.  And then having chosen the meal, they were more invested in its preparation.  We will definitely have to do this again!  Keeping in mind that the 30 minutes of prep + 25 minutes of baking really equals 60 minutes of prep +25 minutes of baking when cooking with a 9yo.

Souper Sunday – Roasted cabbage soup, Take 2

Yes, it’s Monday, not Sunday.  Does it count that it’s a holiday weekend?  In any case, this isn’t a new recipe as it is the only soup recipe that I had posted prior to this, when I decided to do a weekly soup feature.  However, I made it a bit differently and used some leftover ingredients, and thought I would talk about that.

The original recipe for Roasted Cabbage Soup calls for caramelizing onions and leeks before adding them to the soup along with the roasted cabbage + other veggies.  I hadn’t thought to make this soup when I went to the grocery store and leeks are not something that I normally buy.  So instead of the 1 onion + 3 leeks in the original recipe, I just used 2 onions.  It turned out great.  Yes, the leeks are excellent, but onions are a lot cheaper and more likely to be already in your pantry.

The other thing that I did differently is that I used leftover roasted cabbage.  We had roasted cabbage (purple which is why the soup is an odd color) for dinner one night.  We didn’t eat the whole head that we had roasted, and about half of it was put in the refrigerator.  Perfect for adding to the soup!  So, this was a relatively quick and easy soup since the “roasting the cabbage” step was taken out of the equation.

(adapted from the book, Love Soup – which is awesome and I highly recommend)

2 onions, diced  medium
1/2 head of cabbage (depends on the size of the head)
2 carrots, diced medium-fine (about 1/2 inch squares)
2 stalks celery, diced medium-fine
1 russet potato, diced medium-fine
4 cups vegetable broth (box/canned)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 tsp. dried dill (fresh is better if you have it, about 2 Tb.)

I served with fresh bread, sour cream, and some freshly grated Parmesan.

1. Having roasted cabbage for dinner one night and using the leftovers for this is perfect.  If you want to roast the cabbage specifically for this, just thinly slice the cabbage.  Toss on a baking sheet with about 1 Tb. of olive oil and salt/pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.  Tossing occasionally, until it’s getting brown all over.  We used purple, but I’d recommend green cabbage as it looks more appetizing in the finished soup.

2. Heat your skillet on medium, melt 1 Tb. butter with 1 Tb. olive oil.  Add diced onions and a little bit of salt, and saute for about 4-5 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes until nicely caramelized.  Cut up all the other veggies while the onion is cooking.

3. Dice the carrots, celery and potato.  Add to the pot with the vegetable broth and water, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.  Add in the caramelized onion and roasted cabbage, and simmer covered for another 20 minutes.

4. Add the cup of milk, the dill, and salt and pepper to taste.  I used 1% as that is what we have in the refrigerator.  Whole would be great, but better to use what you have instead of buying special items, in my opinion.  Continue to cook on medium heat until heated through.  Serve with bread, sour cream, grated cheese, etc.

Next time I make it, I’m going to try blending a bit of it with my immersion blender.  I think it might give it a nice consistency.  I’ll report back!


Montessori: Felt mat for the moveable alphabet

I was playing on Pinterest the other day and I came across a sweet flannel mat that someone had made to use with the Montessori Moveable Alphabet.  (MontessoriMom has a good explanation of the lesson and purpose of  the materials.  Simply Montessori also has a good post about alternatives to the more expensive Nienhuis sets for home use.)  It reminded me of the mats that I had made for my son’s primary class way back when…pre-blog!  I thought I’d post some pictures in case you would like to make your own mat.  They turned out beautifully.  They are made with wool felt.  Since felt doesn’t fray you can just sew the two pieces together without any of that sewing right sides together, turning, top-stitching, etc.

Measure your letters, and pin your ribbons to match the height of your letters (see photo).  Sew the ribbons in place along both the top and bottom edges of the ribbon.  Let the ribbons overhand the edges a bit.  Hand sew the dotted lines in place with either embroidery floss or pearl cotton (which is thicker).  Tuck the ends of the ribbons between the front and back of the mat (you might use an iron to get a nice crease), and topstitch around the entire mat.  That’s it!  So easy.  And as I’ve said before, while wool felt is expensive, it’s durable and beautiful to work with.  An alternative would be a wool blend felt (Wool Felt Central is a good source), which is still nice but significantly cheaper.

The green mat above was my first mat in a tabletop size.  Then, I made a larger, floor-size mat using cream wool (I’m not positive since it was 4 years ago, but I remember it wasn’t “felt”, it was more like wool coating, purchased at my local fabric store.)  Made using the same technique however.  The ribbon is just a standard, satin type ribbon.

Look at little J, at 3 years old, rolling up his mat to put it away!

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

Souper Sunday: Ham and Bean soup

I have been telling myself that I want to learn to make different types of soups for quite awhile, but I never seem to do it.  I thought having a feature on my blog might help motivate me!  I’m usually a “recipe-girl.”  Hubby likes to make things up when he cooks, but I much prefer working from a recipe, even if I usually tweak it.  Last week, we had a ham steak (we bought half of a locally raised pig last fall) for dinner.  There was a small bit left, as well as the little ham bone.  We also had some bacon for breakfast over the weekend (also thanks to our piggy-friend), and saved a few slices in the refrigerator.  These were the makings of some soup, I kept telling myself.

Of course, I forgot to soak the beans the night before, but no worries.  I just put them in a pot in the morning, let them boil for about 5 minutes, and then had them sit in the hot water for two hours until lunchtime when I was ready to start the soup.  Since I was just making this soup up as I went along, my measurements aren’t going to be very exact.  But, don’t worry about that!  It’s soup, it doesn’t really matter too much.

The soup turned out great!  I was so pleased with myself.  Of course, the kids wouldn’t eat it.  They don’t care for soup usually.  I keep hoping that if I keep serving it that eventually they will like it.  It worked with K and sushi!  We went out to a new (to us) sushi restaurant for dinner last night (excellent!), and all he ordered for his meal was sushi.  A California roll, Eel roll, and a side of rice.  So excited to have finally converted him.  (Of course, J had chicken katsu.  He did eat a tempura sweet potato and crab stick sashimi, so that’s a step in the right direction, I suppose.)  So, maybe I can eventually convert them over to soup too.  So, here is a general blueprint for what I did.  I served the soup with some fresh whole wheat sourdough bread.

Ham and Bean Soup

1.5 pounds of dried beans (your preference, I used a mix of navy beans and small red beans, and some local beans from my CSA that I had in the cupboard)
3-4 slices of bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped medium
3-4 carrots, chopped medium
2 ribs of celery, chopped medium
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
Some leftover ham from a ham steak, include the bone and fat!  Chop up any meat pieces into bite-sized.  *See Note
6 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of water (or enough to bring up the level of water to what looks right)

1. Rinse beans and pick through for any rocks, etc.  Put in a pot of water and bring to a boil.  Let boil about 5 minutes, turn off heat, and let sit in covered pot for 1-2 hours.

2. Chop up the bacon and place in a large Dutch Oven on medium-high heat.  Rend the fat from the bacon (cook for about 5-8 minutes).  Lower heat to medium, and add the chopped onion, celery and carrots (a classic mirepoix).  Saute for about 10 minutes until the veggies are soft and starting to brown. (Don’t cook them over too high of heat and start to burn the carrots like I did.)

3. I like to put my chopped garlic in a tiny bit of olive oil, stir it around, and then add it to the pot.  Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds until aromatic, and then stir it into the vegetables, and add the drained beans, the spices/herbs, the chicken stock, water, ham and ham bone.

4. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer.  I simmered the soup with the lid on for about 4-5 hours.  I removed the lid and simmered for another 30 minutes to help it thicken up a bit.  By then, the beans had broken down nicely, and the soup was nice and thick.  You might cook it a little less time if you don’t want it to be so thick (or add more water).

5. Remove the bay leaves and ham bone; and serve with bread.

* Note: if you don’t have leftover ham/ham bone, you could use a ham hock.


Any tips for me in my quest to learn to make soup?  I’d love to hear them!


I made soup last night for dinner.  Ham and bean soup with homemade sourdough bread.  Soup that I made solely with ingredients laying around my house, and some random leftovers in my fridge.  I didn’t even use a recipe!  Which is huge for me because I’m a recipe girl.  It’s winter (sad, hardly-any-snow-to-speak-of, winter that it is), but it’s still cold outside.  I’ve been wanting to learn to make more soups.  So, I am going to commit myself to making at least one pot of soup every week.  I’m going to plan on sharing recipes on Sundays.  Souper-Sundays!

In the meantime, here is the only soup recipe that I could find on my blog!

Roasted cabbage soup (this is to die for)

Really?  My only soup dish that I’ve posted about?  Yes, this is mostly a crafty blog, not a foodie blog, but I love cooking.  Do I really make that little soup?  See, definitely time for a weekly soup feature!  And an opportunity to use my cool apple soup pot more!