LiveSTRONG with Cheddar Corn Chowder

When I saw that was hosting the LiveSTRONG blogging event, I knew immediately that I wanted to participate. The only problem was trying to figure out what I wanted to make that was yellow! This blogging event is something a little extra special in the blogging community and was created to remember how cancer affects each and every one of us, to remember those loved ones that are no longer with us, support those still fighting, and celebrate with those who have won the fight.

The A Taste of Yellow blogging event invites food bloggers to make yellow food (and blog about it) to show our support for LiveSTRONG Day 2008, which is on May 13, 2008. My entry is submitted in memory of my dad, David, who lost his battle with cancer of the blood on April 4, 1999.

His story and Cheddar Corn Chowder after the break…

It goes without saying that cancer has had some type of impact on almost everyone in this world. The impact that it had on my life started in the fall of 1997 when I was a senior in high school (my sister a sophomore) and my dad sat us down one night and said he had to talk to us. In typical teenage fashion, the first words out of our mouths were, “Are we in trouble?” That would have been a much better alternative. He went on to tell us that during a routine blood workup for his cholesterol the doctor discovered some abnormalities in his white cell counts. After some more testing and meeting with a couple of specialists, he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). He assured us that everything was fine, he didn’t even feel sick, and the doctor said his was a very early case and that typically the disease progressed slowly and he wouldn’t need treatment for a number of years. Okay, that’s not so bad, we could handle this.

Fast forward about six months… routine bloodwork was showing that my dad’s disease was progressing far quicker than normal and he was placed on a bone marrow transplant list. Neither of his two brothers were matches, and within a few months my dad decided to do an autologous (donate his own marrow and have it cleansed) transplant. This ended up not working out because after undergoing chemo and radiation the disease still had a hold of 2/3 of his once-healthy cells. By January 1999 an unrelated donor had been found and my dad was off to Boston (Brigham & Women’s Hospital) to undergo the transplant. My mom and grandparents went with him; I was in college and my sister was in high school and we stayed back at our respective schools. The transplant actually went perfectly – everything was going as well as doctors could have hoped and within 8 weeks he was discharged. Getting ready to return home and out of the hospital, my dad woke up with a high fever. Back to the hospital he went, and he would never get back out.

A result of the bone marrow transplant, my dad contracted graft vs. host disease, which was basically his body rejecting the new marrow. Once that was thought to be taken care of, his weakened immune system couldn’t fight a lung infection, which is eventually how he passed.

My dad touched more people than any of us probably can comprehend. I watched his friends cry like babies at the funeral home, and stood and received people for hours while a line snaked outside. We received letters from people we had never heard of, telling us how wonderful of a man my dad was and how he touched their lives. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about my dad in some way. I miss him and hope that he is proud of me and the life I have built.

And now the food! This recipe comes from Annie of Annie’s Eats, who is a great friend of mine and also has a heart-wrenching story of how cancer has affected her and her family, three times over. She makes some incredible dishes, so if you haven’t checked out her blog before head on over there and check it out! Her chowder definitely looks better than mine (I haven’t really gotten good at photographing soup yet!), but this tasted fabulous. It was my first time making corn chowder, and you really can’t go wrong with an Ina Garten recipe! It was wonderful.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Yield: Serves 10-12

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


8 oz. bacon, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 lbs.)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 lbs.)
2 cups half-and-half
8 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


1. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

2. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

(Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, Clarkson Potter, 1999)


23 Responses to “LiveSTRONG with Cheddar Corn Chowder”

  1. peabody on April 21, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    What a touching story. So sorry about your dad.
    Soup looks great. Corn chowder is one of my all time favs.


  2. barbara on April 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    That is such a touching story. He fought so hard and to lose in the end is so so sad.

    I think you have photographed the soup brilliantly. Thank you for sharing and supporting LiveSTRONG With A Tste Of Yellow.


  3. Ally on April 21, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Chelley I can’t type through my tear filled eyes. I’m sorry for your loss, but your father sounds like he was a wonderful friend, husband, and father to you and your sister. What a wonderful way to honor him, with your passion– food!

    Great dish, I could just spoon the screen!


  4. Julia on April 21, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    This made me cry! The soup looks awesome.


  5. Di on April 21, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Your chowder looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing the story about your dad.


  6. Cheri on April 22, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I love this event and the stories that people share through it. Thanks for sharing.

    This chowder looks sooo good. I don’t think I’ve met a Barefoot Contessa recipe I didn’t like. I’ll have to give it a try.


  7. Annie on April 22, 2008 at 5:32 am

    Chelle, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. You know I can relate to how hard that is. I’m sure your dad would be incredibly proud of the wonderful woman you’ve grown to be.

    Glad you enjoyed the soup. That is a good recipe, I need to make it again soon.

    Love ya, girl!


  8. Brooke - in Oregon on April 22, 2008 at 8:05 am

    I am sure you Dad is very proud of you. 🙂 Yes it is amazing how every one I know (myself included) has been touched by loss from Cancer in one way or another. Your Dad sounds like a really good man, I am still wiping tears away.

    The chowder sounds wonderful and it is another of your great recipes I am bookmarking! I am no great cook but your recipes do inspire me to at least try! lol


  9. Beth on April 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Damn, Michelle, now I’m crying too… your dad was wonderful and so many people loved him and still talk about him almost daily (he’s frequent conversation at our family dinners…. usually surrounding the blackout Thanksgiving where the kids were at Aunt Irene’s and the adults were at your grandma’s and your dad was playing cards and laughing…)

    I am 100% confident he’s proud of you!



  10. Amber on April 22, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Wow, what a touching story. I am sorry to hear about your dad but I am confident that he is totally 100% beyond proud of you.

    The chowder sounds wonderful.


  11. Deborah on April 22, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Your dad sounds like a wonderful man, and I’m sure he is missed by many.

    Your chowder sounds amazing!


  12. Erin on April 22, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like he was a wonderful person and loved by everyone.

    The chowder looks good. Chowder is on my list of things to make!


  13. Melissa on April 23, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Chelley, what a touching post. You are such a strong person. I am sure your Dad is beyond proud of you.

    Cheddar corn chowder is on my list of things to make, yours looks delicious!


  14. Erin on April 23, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    I made the mistake of reading this on my lunch break… crying at your desk is like #1 in the rules of things not to do at work. From what I know about you from your blog and the nest, you seem pretty amazing. I’m sure your dad looks down and is proud of you every day! I admire your strength.

    Tasty looking chowder, too… 🙂


  15. bakingblonde on April 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    That sounds just wonderful!


  16. Jaime on May 6, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    i’ll have to pass this on to my mom – she loves corn chowder


  17. Kate on May 11, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    We made this for dinner tonight. Mmmmm…soooo good!


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  20. morri on April 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Oh… I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was one of the only two times that a food blog touched such a raw nerve with me (my family has had its own battles with cancer, more lost than won). Your dad sounds like a great guy – I hope they have high-speed internet wherever he is now, so he can keep tabs on your cooking adventures.

    I couldn’t possibly miss cooking a dish with such a history behind it, so I immediately got down to it… and I learned that corn chowder is possibly, not my bowl of soup. The corn is sweet and mild and so are potatoes, so the whole dish has this creamy/mild/sweet/floury quality, without a distinctive note to it (the bacon helps, as usual). I froze half of the soup and defrosted it the next week… and it was amazing how much character it gained. It’s probably one of those soups that get a lot better overnight. What surprised me, is that the rest of the family loved the soup, and here I was, fretting that they’d complain about the blandness. Definitely a matter of personal preference.


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