Celtic Farms

Food & Photography

Leave a comment


IMG_8590The origin of Chowder is not as clear as many other foods. The first recipe appeared in 1751 in the Boston Evening Post but traces of the term go back much further.

It looks like the fish chowder was born from the English Channel. References to the soup are found in the fishing villages of the coast of Northwestern France and Southwestern coast of England, right across the English Channel from each other. The French word ‘chaudiere’, a cooking pot, may have evolved into the word Chowder. The village would have a large cauldron ready for the catch the fishermen brought home. Of course, there would be a celebration.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, Cornwall was cooking up their own variation of clams and oysters in broth with potatoes and pork. The Old English term ‘jowter’, meaning fish peddler, could be where our word ‘chowder’ originated. Layering ingredients, called the “layering technique”, made the first chowder. Onions were on the bottom to protect the pork from burning

When someone mentions clam chowder, not that it comes up in conversation that often, most of us probably think of New England Clam Chowder but there are a few more to explore. Chowder is a thick, chunky soup with a key ingredient, like clams or corn, and typically onion, bacon or pork, and potatoes. While the base is not always cream or milk (why not is beyond me), most people think of a cream based soup when they think of Chowder (pretty sure I asked all of them.). There are a couple chowders made with only a tomato base, but either way chowder is a thick, rich and hearty soup that with bread makes a great meal.

The Foundation of Chowder:

  • The main vegetable, seafood, or meat.
  • Stock or broth.
  • Cream or milk, or a thick tomatoes base.
  • Diced onion, bacon, and potatoes.
  • A thickening agent, such as cornstarch, flour, or puree potatoes.

The whole debate of ‘tomatoes or no tomatoes’ in clam chowder is long standing. If you ask me, chowder should include cream (and nutmeg). In fact, in 1939 the state of Maine introduced a bill into legislature to make the use of tomatoes in clam chowder against the law, it was so frowned upon.


The Union Oyster House

Two of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder: The Union Oyster House was established 1826 in Boston, MA (you know,  “Boston” Clam Chowder!). The building itself has been a part of history. Built in the early 1700s, it has been an importer of fancy dress goods, a fish store, in 1771 it housed the ‘Massachusetts Spy‘, the longest newspaper in the US. Hancock and Quincy’s wives hung out at the house mending clothes for the colonists. Louis Philippe (king of France from 1830 to 1848) lived in exile on the second floor of the Union Building in the fall of 1797. For more, perhaps interesting, on Phillippe and the exile check out the History of Massachusetts.

0000And on the West Coast one of the oldest restaurants serving clam chowder is Alioto’s Restaurant, a classic seafood restaurant now run by the fourth generation of the Alioto family. Alioto’s began as a fresh fish stall on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in 1925, and now serving fresh fish in an elegant restaurant on the bay.

There are a number of clam chowders now: New England, Manhattan, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Hatteras (North Calolina), Minorcan , and more. Wikipedia does a good explaining the differences, check it out.

This recipe was using what ingredients I had available. It was for a little contest with mushrooms as the main ingredient, and it was a wonderfully rainy day (in Northern California every rainy day is a beautiful thing!). I would have used potatoes but had none.

Mushroom & Corn Chowder


  • 1 qt. Broth (Chicken or veggie)
  • All the veggies should be diced ¼ – ½ in.
  • 3 Cups mushrooms – cut into ½ in. pieces
  • 1 Cup corn – frozen is helpful when it’s out of season
  • 1 Leek – diced
  • 1 Celery stalk – diced
  • 1 Carrot – diced
  • 1 Sweet red pepper – diced
  • 1 Onion – diced
  • Parsley – minced
  • Salt, lots of white or black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. grated nutmeg
  • ¼ or less cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • Thickening agent. I used flour
  • Cream to taste

To Do:

  • Cut bacon into approximately ½ in. pieces and brown in a big pot. Remove, drain on towels, and set aside.
  • Pour off the grease, keeping a tbsp. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, heat and add diced onion. Sauté onions 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour to 1 cup of broth and whisk out any lumps. Add to the pot and simmer on low to thicken. When the flour doesn’t smell like flour it’s done. Be careful not to brown the mixture. You may need to add some butter or broth as it’s thickening. (You can also use cornstarch or other thickening agent.)
  • Stir in 2 cups of broth.
  • Add the leek, celery, carrot, pepper, mushrooms, and spices, cover with broth and simmer until almost done.
  • Add the corn and stir and simmer until the corn is hot and the veggies are cooked al dente.
  • Add more broth as needed. Chowder is meant to have a thick cream base, but if you want it a bit thinner, that’s OK with me.
  • Add bacon and cream.

* The Alioto and the Union Oyster House photos are not mine They do not give photo credit on their websites but that is where I got the pictures.


These are the helpful references I used in this blog. I did not check their sources but feel pretty good about efforts. Many thanks.

History of Chowder 

Seasoned Advice

The Chicago Tribune

A Mexican Clam Chowder that looks great.

A spicy Chorizo chowder from A Ducks Oven.


Hungry Monster

Union Oyster House

Alioto’s Restaurant

(Any links to other sites or mention of products, stores, and such, are not compensated through advertising dollars. I wish they were.)IMG_8613


Portobello Mushrooms & Red Meat Sauce with Lindsey’s Black Olives

IMG_8568The organizers of IFBC (International Food Blogging Conference) generously offered a big discount for attendance to the 2015 conference, in exchange for writing 3 blogs about the conference and/or the sponsors. Not only is that a great deal, but for a beginner like me, it’s motivation to keep the momentum going.

Thinking about what I could do with Lindsay Olives (they gave us coupons for free olives) I wanted to do something other than tapenade (though that will be next). Coincidentally, a red meat sauce was simmering in the slow cooker. It was a simple sauce, with onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, ground beef, and spices. How could I use the olives? It’s always an experiment…. right?

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Red Meat Sauce and Lindsey’s Black Olives

The freshest mushrooms are firm and the connective white membrane is still mostly in tact. Use those. Remove stems and with a spoon, scoop out the gills making a little bowl.

Add a couple spoonful of sauce (see below) to a baking dish and place the mushrooms on top, bowl side up. Using a slotted spoon drain off the liquid and overfill each mushroom (or you can smother them with the sauce, like I did). Layer the top with slices of fresh Mozzarella, or other cheese of your choice. And, if you like, crumble the breadcrumb mixture on top. Bake in 350-degree (175-C) oven, about 35 – 45 minutes or until the mushroom is fork tender and the cheese and topping are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. No need to burn the roof of your mouth. Garnish with sliced Lindsay black olives.

Serve with a little salad and crispy bread and this makes a lovely meal.

The Tomato Meat Sauce with Lindsey Black Olives

  • Roma tomatoes: About 10 large Roma cut into big pieces.IMG_8575
  • Onion: 1 medium chopped.
  • Mushrooms: 2 cups, thick sliced (you want them to hold up over the long looking time).
  • Canned tomatoes: 16 oz. can chopped or crushed tomatoes.
  • Herbs: 1 tbsp. dried, or 2 to 3 tbsp. fresh chopped oregano, or Herb de Provence.
  • Bullion: Chicken, beef, or vegetable bullion: 2 cubes or 2 tbsp. powered bullion.
  • Red wine: 1 to 2 cups of a hearty red wine.
  • Celery salt: 1 tsp.
  • Spice: Salt & Pepper

Simmer all the ingredients in the slow cooker on medium 4 to 6 hours to thicken. (Or longer if you like having something going all day long. Maybe it’s a rainy day!)  This is a thick sauce

  • Ground beef: 1 to 2 cups of cooked, well-drained ground beef.
  • Lindsey olives: 12 oz. canned, sliced olives. Same some for garnish.


When the ingredients reduce down into a sauce add the 1 to 3 cups of cooked, well-drained ground beef and the sliced olives and continue cooking 1 to 2 hours. > Kidney beans are a good substitute for the beef.

Assembly: You can use the sauce to stuff mushrooms, over pasta, or on it’s own. Fill the mushrooms, place cheese on top, cover with the breadcrumbs.

  • Sliced mozzarella: > Goat cheese, Gouda, Cream cheese are good choices, too.
  • Breadcrumb topping: To a cup of broth or milk add 4 tbsp. olive oil and/or melted butter and drizzle over Italian or Panko Bread crumbs until moist enough to form clumps. Season well. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I’ve used Lindsey olives for decades, since my mom was cooking and I was a kid. The company, Bell-Carter Foods, has been around 100 years. It appear they are one of the good companies, working with its employees to make a healthy working environment and company, and with their new line of natural products they’re also keeping up with consumers needs for clean food.  A California company, they are the largest producers of olives in the world! The company is still family owned and operated. I did a bit of research on this company and really couldn’t find any negative information. On the contrary they are conscientious and concerned about their employees, customers, community and products. They are in support of, and in compliance with, full product disclosure. Bell-Carter Company – coupons.


Food conferences are fun!

I just returned from the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Seattle Washington. It was more much then expected. The event was run by friendly and accessible people, all ready to answer a question or solve a problem. They made the whole event look seamless. The vendors and sponsors were so generous (please check out the IFBC sponsors.). In addition to the gifts they gave us we had breakfast, snacks, and two nights of food and wine tasting that turned into full meals. The venue, the Sheraton Hotel, was a great choice. The staff, from housekeeping to the front desk, were also friendly and helpful. The conference cost and the hotel rates IFBC negotiated were so reasonable. IFBC is doing a good job at making this conference accessible for even beginning and hopeful food bloggers and/or photographers. It was just so much fun! The attendees were open and supportive, we all exchanged cards and were excited for each others work and success. What field do you see that? And friendships were forged. I’ve attended many professional conferences from my first career on child abuse, trauma, mental illness, and none were near this much fun. Yes, I do see the nature of those trainings – all the more important to add fun and laughter! I finally realized what they were missing – wine!  ;)  Another thing I noticed is that after decades in my old field I wasn’t learning much at conferences anymore, but the IFBC was all new information and a good challenge for me. From the presentations to all the bloggers I am inspired to combine and pursue three of my passions, food, writing and photography.

Even though I’ve posted a few recipes on this blog, it’s only been about once a year. A slow start. The IFBC was the jump start I needed to get things rolling. The conference provided me the vision needed to organize my passions into stories, recipes, and photographs people would enjoy. That, and retiring soon has me so excited for my new career (‘career’ – that thing that occupies most of your time, and provides satisfaction and compensation). I’m not retired yet, however, so for a few months I’ll be writing about other people, places, and events vs my own recipes. Now that I have time I want to travel more, mostly around food, of course. That will fit the theme so you can expect some musings and pictures from my Italy trip in October.  This will be a wonderful exercise for me to just start writing, and it will keep the momentum going. This blog has yet to take shape. There will be glitches, the majority will probably be a misplaced comma until I get an editor on board. Someone might advise, “Don’t risk posting mistakes, wait until you find that editor.”. That makes sense. But the thing is much of my life I’ve been waiting until the “right moment”, the “right people”, the “right tools”, and never took a step forward. I’ve spent so much of my life waiting. This is all new to me, and I’ll make mistakes with writing (being a little dyslexic can add humor to it), and post some less than great photos, but I’m pushing 60, and do not have time to wait around for anything anymore.  What I can promise is that I will improve, and if you stick with me you’ll be part of this new adventure. My goals are lofty, typical of me. Others in the food blogging world started not that long ago and are well received and making an honest, albeit humble living. One of the other great benefits from attending the IFBC event is now I have some knowledgeable and supportive mentors. Let’s face it, this was one big love fest for me. :)

The first presentation at the IFBC, Introduction to Blogging, was presented by Dr. Jean Layton. Jean covered a lot of material and made it easy to understand. She painted a clear picture of the essence of blogging and the practical application. While we’re all sharing recipes and beautiful pictures, reviews and travel logs, more then that we’re sharing our story. No one has asked me to share ‘my’ story before. My blog was going to be recipes and pictures. I might have said a thing or two to introduce the recipe but that would be all. Over 30 years as a therapist I have been listening to other people’s stories, and now I get to share mine?

OK, not counseling type stories, of course – everyone has their own! A great quote form the movie Hope Floats is this: A grandchild asks, “Gandma, mom says childhood is the best time of your life”. Grandmother responds, “Oh bull shit, childhood is something that happens to you, you spend the rest of your life trying to get over.”

And one way to help heal our hearts and souls is to find the joy in the foods we grow, prepare, and eat, and joy in the people we meet and break bread. Since the dawn of time people share food. It is a universal symbol of accepting and nurturing.

As I said, the next many posts will be about the conference, Seattle, and Italy as I get organized on line, and my day job hours decrease. So, please be patient as I practice a little here, and get my proverbial feet wet. Let us see how much improvement there will be and how far I can take this new adventure. ….. and thanks for your support. <3

Here we go ….

The Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant in Seattle was one of the generous vendors at this year’s IFBC. The “Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant, features freshly prepared, authentic cuisine that spans the Pacific Rim from China to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.” (taken from their FB page)

I don’t know if Executive Chef: Jacky Lo and Cuisine Chef: Nathan Uy created this soup for this event, but either way I’m so glad they brought this delight to us hungry food bloggers.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar

When I think of ginger I think of a sharp flavor drowning out the ingredients, it’s suppose to enhance. In truth I don’t think everyone knows how to use ginger well, and since I don’t care for it all that much, I also don’t care to learn … but wait, this soup has changed my mind.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup

It is a balanced blend of flavors, all floating together in this perfect broth of coconut milk, waiting for you.

Wild Ginger Soup

Wild Ginger Soup from the Wild Ginger Asian Restaurant & Satay Bar in Seattle Washington.


Here I go ….

It is official, I’m retiring from my position as Executive Clinical Director at REACH Counseling (Grass Valley, CA) in the spring 2016, if not sooner. I founded REACH and our sister non-profit, N.C.A.T. 14 years ago. It’s been a huge challenge and great work, and now it’s time to change venues. In my 30+ year career I’ve worked with thousands of kids and plenty of adults, as individuals, couples, and families. I’ve heard incredible stories from the darkest to the lightest. and  I’ve learned so much about human nature, worked hard, helped plenty, and I learned about myself.

Now I want “to be” a food blogger and photographer. The competition is stiff, especially since everyone has a blog. And so many are really great and the photos these folks are taking are impressive. There will be a learning curve on just about everything involved. Good.

For years I fooled around with this blog but never spent much time because of my day job. As said that is changing. To push myself across the way into being serious  I’m going to the 2015 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. I’m very excited. There will be a wealth of information to learn, new contacts to meet, and most of all inspiration. So off I go to a new chapter in my life filled with food, beautiful images, creative design, travel, and one of my favorite things of all, writing.



Cabernet Sauce for Meet & Poultry

This is a dark, rich sauce that could be used with any game bird, like duck, Cornish hens, and more. It would go well with chicken or beef, too.
Any hearty red wine will do.

1 c. Red wine
1 c. Broth
1 Small shallot
Tbsp. Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
½ c. orange juice (or other sweet juice. Or a pinch of sugar.)
Thickening agent. I used corn starch.

Finely chop the shallot and sauté in olive oil until translucent.
Add the other ingredients and simmer to cut by 1/3. Taste it as you go, as it can be a bit too tangy for some.

Use what ever you like to thicken things, like cornstarch or arrowroot. Use just a bit to give the sauce more body, not to make it thick. To skip this step continue reducing the liquid until thick.

Serve hot over a roasted bird.


Grilled Lebanese Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

Lebanese Squash is a lovely summer squash I like far more than Zucchini. It’s firm, with a sweet, nutty flavor. It also goes by, Mid-East or Cousa squashes. Lebanese types are bulbous-shaped light green to cream colored, with white speckles.

This is a great squash for sauteing, grilling, stuffing and baking, used in any recipe for eggplant or added to soups an stews. It holds up better then the other summer quashes. and is often used in Middle Easter cooking.Lebanese Squash

The plant grows in vines on the grown, and fruit matures at 50 days.

Open-pollinated. Also called Mid-East or Cousa squashes, Lebanese types are bulbous-shaped light green with white speckles. Robust crawly bushes are amazing croppers; yielded 15 fruits per plant in our trial plot. Pick fruits when they are young and tender or allow them to fatten for stuffing. If you grow it, be gentle harvesting and handling. It bruises and scratches easily.

IMG_0808_2Slice the squash cross wise, about 2 inches thick and grill until tender. Crumble goat cheese over the hot squash and serve. Salt and pepper, if you like.




Gazpacho is a tomato based, cold soup. It hails from Southern Spain, and Portugal. Rumor has it, the Moors brought it over to Spain and Portugal. That the Arabs used stale bread, garlic, and olive oil. Or, that the Romans introduced the soup, with the addition of vinegar.   There are many variations of it now. I first learned about Gazpacho when I worked at Chico Cheese and Charcuterie, in Chico, CA, 1983(ish). (I was attending Chico State, where I received my BA in Psychology.) Bill Wallace was the chef, and he and Tom Taylor were the owners. They were wonderful people, and I learned so much. We made our own tomato juice for the soup back then, but. these days I use V-8 juice.

Use 5-6 medium Tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 bell pepper, 1 onion, 8 or more garlic cloves, 2-3 jalapeño, sprigs oregano, and a little mint. Peel the cucumber, seed everything. Dice all the veggies to about the same size, 1/4 in. Chop the herbs, mince the jalapeño and garlic.

Put everything in a big mixing bowl, add about 2 cups of tomato or V-8 juice to cover. Add about 1 cup of vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste (about 1 cup), salt and pepper. These are estimates. You want enough liquid making it a soup, and not salsa. Though that’s very good, too. Chill before serving.

IMG_6253No need to garnish, but if you like add some cubed avocado, salad shrimp, a couple grilled prawns, chives, a dollop of sour cream, or whatever you think would be good. Cold, fresh, delicious! So good for you.IMG_6264




References: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/when-moors-ruled-europe/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajoblanco



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers