In The Kitchen With Grandma
Whenever I’m missing my grandma a little extra, I find myself drawn into my kitchen. Sometimes when I’m lucky, while my hands are busy whipping up something over the stove, I look down and see her hands in the way mine move. It’s so comforting to see some of her same mannerisms pop up now and again in my own motions. She’s the one who taught me how to cook and I can’t tell you how many hours I spent as a child mesmerized by her seemingly effortless dance in her kitchen. She never left me out of the adventure of creating something tasty and always made room for me by her side, standing on a stool, letting me be a part of the magic.
I don’t know if you could really call this much of a recipe, it’s less about instructions and more of a choose your own adventure sort of thing – which is just my style in the kitchen and exactly the way my grandma taught me to cook. For the most part, this soup is more of a corn and potato based chowder than a soup and as far as the name goes, I don’t actually remember why we named it “Birthday Soup”. The only reasoning that I can think of for the name is because it’s full of summer veggies and we made it frequently around my June birthday. Regardless, its one of my favorite all time soups and is the perfect way to use up those vegetables from your garden!
For the base:
- 2 large russet potatoes, cubbed
- 3 ears of corn, de-cobbed
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 32oz of vegetable broth
- 1 can of creamed sweet corn
- Bits of cooked bacon, for topping
- Spices to taste – black pepper, white pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic, thyme, mustard powder
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 zucchini, sliced or cubed
- 1 – 2 large carrots, shredded
- 1 – 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 cuped diced salt pork
- 1 cup cooked sliced sausage
- Milk, cream or sour cream
- Green onion
Remember, this is more of a “choose your own adventure” than a real recipe so bare with me. This soup is less about exacts than your typical recipe instructions, so go with your gut and have a little fun! Today I chose to use up whatever veggies I had on hand in addition to the usual base of corn and potatoes. Personally, I like to chop my vegetables in a somewhat uniform shape, but feel free to use what ever size and shape you’d like. One must do tip for this chowder is to reserve your cobs after you’ve removed the corn. Adding in the cobs to the simmering soup helps add some extra flavor and sweetness.
Whenever I make soup, I like to give the onions, garlic and tomatoes a head start by adding them to a hot pan with a little bit of the broth. It helps everything mellow a bit more together and is a sneaky way to add ingredients that give flavor, but some picky eaters may not enjoy the texture or stand alone taste of. I pop the cover on and turn the heat down to a simmer for about 4 minutes and let the veggies cook.
Once the onions, garlic and tomatoes are translucent from the steam, I then add in my potatoes and corn cobs to the pot and cover them completely with the remaining broth and bring everything to a boil. After about 8 minutes of boiling, the potatoes should be thoroughly cooked.
Poke the potatoes with a fork, if they’re still translucent and crunchy inside, give them a few more minutes. We want our potatoes to be a little over done so that they help thicken the soup. Once you’re sure that the potatoes are done, mash them up a bit with a large spoon or potato masher. If you want your soup to be extra thick, you can take a few ladles – veggies, broth and all and add them into a blender with a bit of cream or full fat milk. Once blended, add the puree back in to the remaining mixture to give the chowder some extra creamy texture.
Bring the potato and veggie mixture back to a simmer and add in the fresh corn, canned creamed corn and whatever veggies you chose. If you’re adding in a pre cooked meat that is not being used as a topping, add it in now as well. At this point, I like to add in my seasonings. Remember, you can always add more seasoning – so do it in stages and taste as you go!
Let everything simmer together without the lid on for a good 10 – 15 minutes. I like to let the chowder cook down a bit and having the lid off lets the steam escape and allows our liquids to cook down. That helps make the soup even thicker and the flavors a little more melded and robust!
This chowder couldn't be easier!
I always had this summer chowder served in a mug growing up, theres just something about soup in a mug that makes it a little more cozy. Fun fact, the mug pictured here is the same one I enjoyed this chowder in as a kid at my grandmas! I like to top mine with bacon, but another great topping would be green onions and even sour cream. This chowder is so flexible and forgiving, as long as you don’t burn and get your seasonings right, you’re golden!
Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me!
This weekend marks 10 years since my grandmas passing. This last decade without her has brought some of the worst and some of the absolute best years of my life. There are so many things that I wish I could share with her, but I like to think of her smiling while watching me dance my own dance in my kitchen this week while recreating one of our favorite recipes to share with you all.