CROCK POT CLAM CHOWDER – LOW CARB, GLUTEN FREE
1/4 cup chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 small leek, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 - 10 oz cans of fancy whole baby clams, drained
2 cups clam juice
1 lb thick cut bacon, cooked crisp, and crumbled
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
Heat slow cooker on low setting.
To slow cooker, add chicken stock, garlic, shallot, leek, celery, onions, butter, and salt and pepper. Cover, and cook vegetables on low for 1 hour.
To the slow cooker, add clams, clam juice and bacon.
Add cream cheese, heavy cream, garlic powder and thyme. Continue mixing until there are no visible clumps of cream cheese and all ingredients are well incorporated.
Cover and cook for 6-8 hours
“But I’m supposed to make you clam chowder,” Nora said.
“And I want to go out with the heart-stopping handsome principal.” Darby elbowed Nora. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Nora glanced around the cottage the school supplied. She had a few of her things in it, but since it came furnished, she’d used most of her furniture in her classroom. The result was that her classroom was darling and her cottage was…not.
“Maybe the principal…my brother…could join us.”
Darby squealed and clapped her hands. “That would be so great.”
“It seems like the least I could do,” Nora said, “after all of his help.”
Darby whipped her phone out of her pocket. “Okay, I’ll call Cole.”
“You have his number?” Nora asked, feeling dazed by everything.
“Don’t you?” Darby asked.
When he’d offered her the job, they’d corresponded by email and he had called her Miss Tomas, and she’d called him Mr. Rowling. Of course, his relationship with Darby would be much more casual. Darby didn’t work for him…but Darby wasn’t his sister, either. Nora sighed and dropped onto the saggy sofa across from the large picture window that overlooked wooded hills. The tiny house had a giant view. She told herself that she would be happy here, but she wasn’t sure she knew how to be happy anymore.
But she didn’t want to feel sorry for herself, either. Been there and done that for much too long. She bounced back up and strode into the kitchen.
She tried to explain her feelings to Darby as she made the clam chowder. Because Canterbury was six miles from the closest grocery store, they had gone shopping before they’d arrived. Now, while Nora chopped celery and potatoes and browned bacon, Darby went to work stocking Nora’s kitchen.
“It’s like everyone I ever loved has lied to me,” Nora said, whacking the celery.
“And now it’s your turn to lie?” Darby said as she opened cupboards. “Wow, Cole was right. You really do have everything you need.”
Nora peeked in the cupboard at the plastic plates, bowls, and cups. “I should have brought my own things.”
“Why? You said you were only going to stay here for the school year.”
“I know, but…I don’t want to feel like I’m camping.”
“Girl, this is not camping.”
Nora glanced out the window at the sun sinking into the dark hills. Her cottage was the last on the road, definitely the best location with probably the nicest view. She wondered if Cole had intentionally arranged this for her, or if she’d just gotten lucky. “It is great, isn’t it?”
“What are you going to do after your year here?” Darby asked.
“Publish another book.”
Darby squealed and clapped her hands. “Oh, I can’t wait!”
“But you can’t tell my dad! He practically died of embarrassment after the last one. I’m going to use a pen name.”
“Oh, he’s such a prude!” Darby waved her hand dismissing him. “Besides, once he finds out where you are, and with whom, he’s going to—for once—shut his jaw.”
“Maybe.” She wasn’t ready to think about her parents. Yet. Eventually she would have to, but not now. Nora lifted the bacon out of the pan strip by strip and placed it on a bed of paper towels to drain while she stirred together cream and butter.
Darby watched and groaned. “How is it that you have such a bird body? No one who eats that much butter deserves to be thin!”
“I love clam chowder,” Nora said. “It reminds me of my Grandma Eleonore’s house up in Port Townsend.”
“Did you stop to consider that if you aren’t your mother’s daughter, then even your grandmother lied to you?”
“She wouldn’t do that,” Nora said as she slid her chopped potatoes off the cutting board and into a pot of boiling water.
“But if Crystal was telling the truth that had to mean that your Grammy Eleonore lied.”
Nora scowled as poked at the potatoes trying to float to the surface of the boiling water.
“Wow, it smells amazing in here.” Cole stuck his head in the door.
“When will the soup be on?” Darby asked.
“Not for a while,” Nora returned. “The potatoes need to soften up, and then everything needs to simmer. Also, I need to make the bread and then it needs to rise.” She grimaced. “We’ve at least an hour.”
“Can we skip the bread?” Cole asked.
“No,” Nora and Darby answered at the same time.
Cole laughed at their intensity.
“You have to have the bread,” Nora told him.
“It’s that good,” Darby assured him.
“Huh, it sounds like I should have hired you to teach home ec,” Cole said.
“Do they even have that at schools anymore?” Nora asked.
“We don’t,” Cole said, “although I’m not sure why.”
“Since we have some time, why don’t we go for a walk,” Darby suggested. “I’d love to see the campus.”
Nora knew what Darby was doing and it bothered her, although she couldn’t pinpoint why. Darby wanted to stake Cole as her own. The girlfriend agreement—a pact they’d forged in junior high—clearly stated that once a boy, or man in this case—showed any physical sign of attraction, this included handholding, hugging, or kissing, then that boy officially ‘belonged’ to the first recipient and anyone else pursuing him would be in violation of the girlfriend code.
Nora, knowing her jealousy was ridiculous, said, “Good idea! But this bread will take me a while. You two should go ahead.”
After Cole and Darby had been gone about an hour, Nora punched down the bread, pulled it from its mixing bowl and kneaded the life out of it.