Friday, February 19, 2010

comfort food

Yesterday was one of those days.

You can tell that the cold, dark season we're stuck in now is really starting to get to people. I know I struggled with it yesterday. Even Ben, who never complains about the weather, mentioned having spring fever. It's everywhere. I've read about it in countless blogs, read about it in the headlines of the local papers. You can see it in people's faces. We're ready for greener, warmer, longer days. I think we deserve it.

But, seeing as how Mother Nature dances to the beat of her own drum, our complaining does nothing more than raise our blood pressure. We have to deal with the remainder of the season in the best way we know how. For some of us, we head outdoors and ski, snowboard, snowshoe, ice skate, etc. Some of us take advantage of the cold darkness and stay indoors with a book, a movie, the television, video games, etc. I, personally, love to cook. Something about the dismal bleakness of the winter makes me want to cook hearty, rich foods and then feed everyone I know. Our neighbors get regular doses of cookies, breads and various other foods. We invite friends over for dinner and make stews and soups and casseroles, alongside a warm loaf of homemade, fresh bread. My biggest weakness, though, and the one food that just screams winter to me, is New England Clam Chowder.

Needless to say, I make a lot of the stuff every year. We dined on a pot of it last night for dinner and its warmth filled our bellies and kept us comfortable despite the chilly drafts and icy cold winds beating at our windows. As I mentioned earlier in the year, dieting has become a regular thing in our household, and it's hard to make rich foods that don't make me want to shy away from the scale after I eat them. I've worked through a recipe over the past few years, tweaking ingredients, adding flavors, taking flavors away. We finally settled on one that we both really enjoy. I'll include the recipe below. It's much more rustic than the white stuff you buy in the can, but I like it that way. This is pretty simple, super diet friendly (if you're following Weight Watchers, it works out to be 4 points per cup), and if you served this to family or friends, they'd never know it was diet food. That, I can promise you.

So here goes. Try different ingredients with this puppy. If you hate corn but love peas, that works too. Dislike mushrooms? Take them out completely. She's an easy one to work with. If you have any suggestions, or a similar recipe, please feel free to share. Also, the fact that this is a diet recipe means there are fewer clams in it than most people might like. Feel free to add another can or two, but it will change the points value.

New England Clam Chowder
4-5 large, fresh basil leaves (minced or sliced into ribbons)
3-4 green onions, chopped
Minced garlic (the more the merrier)
2 cans chopped clams
1/2 cup water
2 cups diced potatoes (I leave the skins on)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (we use wild mushrooms)
1 cup sliced yellow onion
2 cups corn
2 cups skim milk
3/4 cup fat free evaporated skim milk
1 tablespoon corn starch
onion powder
garlic powder

Drain claims and reserve juice. In a large soup pot, saute the onions (I use cooking spray. You could certainly use butter or oil, but it will change the calorie content) until they're slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they're browned and caramelized. If the mixture starts to stick, I add a small amount (or up to 1/2 cup, a little at a time) of the clam juice. Season the onions and mushrooms with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, to taste. At the end of the cooking process, add the minced garlic and green onions and cook for one minute to soften.

Add water, potatoes, basil, and the remaining clam juice - bring to boil, then simmer for 7 mins. Add corn, simmer 5 mins. Add milk and 1/2 cup evaporated milk, simmer 5 mins, or until potatoes are fork tender. If you like a smoother chowder, now is the time to remove one cup of the soup and blend it smooth in blender or food processor. Add it back in. I like a chunkier chowder and leave it as it is. Add clams. In a separate bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the evaporated milk and the cornstarch, add in and stir constantly until thick. Taste and re-season if needed. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Let me know if you try it out!


Metalsgirl said...

Oh my goodness! That looks divine!! I wish I was your neighbor! And I feel the exact same way about making soups and stews during these cold months - we've had tons of stew and chicken soup!!

Lemongrass Love said...

Living in SD means clams are foreign and gross! If it's not cow or pork based our minds start shriveling..hahaha! Your photo's make it look fantastic though so kudo's for that! :)

Elisabeth said...

I feel the same about winter & cooking...I also love how the oven will warm up the kitchen when it's on. :)
Being Italian, my comfort foods include a lot of pasta so I've been making lots of lasagna & rigatonis with homemade sauce lately. Yummmmy. ^_^

Good Girls Studio said...

If I lived closer I would eat dinner at your place every night :) I will be making this in the very near future!