Tag Archives: rogue river

Smoked Steelhead Chowder


I’ve said it before and I can’t help but say it again.  I love living in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon.  And, if you have a few minutes, I’ll give you three reasons why.  First of all, it’s a beautiful place. There are mountains, lakes, and rivers just minutes away.  Second, it’s not crowded like large metropolitan cities such as Portland or Seattle.  You can drive 20 minutes in any direction and end up somewhere in the beautiful Southern Oregon countryside.  Third, I think that it has the best of both worlds.  There’s plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and camping and also there’s the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival, dozens of vineyards and microbreweries, and a number of wonderful restaurants that feature spectacular local ingredients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Rogue River in Southern Oregon

I always love visiting the Rogue River.  Whether it be for hiking along the banks, rafting or my favorite river activity, fishing.  One day on my lunch hour, I briefly stopped by the Rogue River near Touvelle State Park and decided to snap a few photos.  It was a bit overcast that afternoon but the temperature was nearly perfect.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Looking down at the river from the top of the bridge, it’s easy to imagine large fish swimming in the cold deep water below the surface.  And, if you are lucky, you might even see one!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA fly fisherman on the Rogue River

Many types of fish inhabit the Rogue River.  There’s steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, green sturgeon, coho salmon, and so many more species of fish.  My two favorites are steelhead trout and Chinook salmon.  I prepare those varieties of fish quite often for my family.  As a matter of fact, I serve fish for my family at least once a week.  When selecting fish, I prefer to prepare wild caught fish as opposed to farm raised fish.  In my opinion, the flavor is better, there are no chemicals or additives, no color enhancements or antibiotics.  If given a choice between wild and farm raised fish, the decision is easy.  Wild caught fish is your best bet.


My Smoked Steelhead Chowder is a deliciously creamy soup made with smoky bacon, roasted russet potatoes, tender onion, fresh  thyme and a splash of heavy cream.  It’s prepared similarly to a  New England style clam chowder but with smoked tender steelhead instead.  It’s great with a slice of warm crusty bread, a crispy green salad or a hot grilled sandwich.  If you are not able to obtain smoked steelhead where you live, feel free to substitute the smoked steelhead with some good quality smoked salmon instead.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1/4 pound Smoked Steelhead Trout (skin and bones removed, chopped coarsely)
  • 5 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbs. Butter
  • 1/3 cup Flour
  • 2 Tbs. Tomato paste
  • 1 pound Russet Potatoes – peeled and diced
  • 1 large White Onion – peeled and diced
  • 4 oz. Bacon – chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh Thyme
  • 1 – 2 tsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. Seasoning Salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper (or to taste)
  • fresh minced Parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  On a sheet tray or baking pan toss together diced potatoes, diced onions, 1 to 2 tsp. olive oil and seasoning salt.  Arrange potatoes and onions in a single layer to ensure even cooking.  Bake until the potatoes and onions begin to turn golden brown or about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, grab a large heavy pot and place it on the stove.  Turn burner to medium high heat.  Add chopped bacon and cook until the bacon is crispy.  Remove bacon with slotted spoon and set aside.  Turn down heat to low, add 2 Tbs. butter and 1/3 cup flour to the remaining bacon fat to make a blonde roux.  Whisk flour mixture constantly, taking care not to burn, and cook until a very light golden brown.  Whisk 5 cups milk and 2 Tbs. tomato paste and cook until almost ready to boil, whisking constantly.  Add smoked steelhead, bacon, potatoes, onions, 1 tsp. fresh thyme, 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning.  Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened and the flour taste has disappeared, for about 1/2  hour.  Add heavy cream, taste and correct your seasonings. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped smoked steelhead trout and fresh minced parsley.  Makes about 2 quarts or 8 servings.

Grilled Steelhead Trout


Now that the spring in Southern Oregon is in full force and the weather is warm, I prefer to prepare many of our meals outside on the backyard barbecue.  Our barbecue sits out on the back deck only a few short steps from the kitchen.  When barbecuing meals for our family, I simply roll the barbecue in front of the sliding glass door so I can easily keep an eye on the grill temperature and quickly deal with any flare ups as they may occur.

During the work week, I often cook fish for dinner for Bruce and myself.  I love to cook fish because it is quick, easy, healthy and most importantly, we both enjoy it.  What I enjoy about living in Southern Oregon is that we have access to some really great species of fish. For local fish, Chinook salmon, rainbow trout, bass and steelhead top the list. If we take a short drive west to the Oregon Coast, we have access to ling cod, tuna, and snapper fresh from the ocean.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABear Creek earlier this spring….

Bear Creek is a tributary of the Rogue River here in Southern Oregon.  Bear Creek runs through the middle of the Rogue Valley and during certain times of the year, you can actually see salmon and steelhead making their journey back from the ocean to their spawning grounds a few miles upstream.  Bear Creek is home to many species of plants and animals including otters, beavers, ducks, and turtles.

Of all the fish that I cook for my family, steelhead is one of my favorite fish to prepare.  Steelhead trout lead a different lifestyle as compared to the other species of trout that inhabit our local creeks, lakes and reservoirs.  It’s an anadromous fish and that means it is born in the fresh water, spends most of its life in the salt water ocean and returns later in life back to the fresh water stream where it was born to spawn.

My Grilled Steelhead Trout is simple to prepare and perfect for a busy weekday meal.  Steelhead trout is similar in texture and taste to salmon.  Just marinate the fresh fillets in a homemade teriyaki sauce, toss on the grill and within minutes dinner is done. Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 12-16 ounce steelhead fillet (use salmon if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (see recipe below)
  • toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Wash and skin the steelhead fillet. Cut the fish into large serving sized pieces.  Marinate the fish in teriyaki sauce for at least 1/2 hour.  Heat up the barbecue and lightly oil the grates.  Place fillets on hot barbecue.  If you don’t have a barbecue, that’s okay…  Feel free to prepare the fish on a grill pan on your stove or broil it in your oven. Cook for only a few minutes, flipping fish only once.  Fish is done when it begins to flake with a fork.  Be sure to not over cook.  Remove from heat, drizzle with teriyaki sauce and serve.  Makes 2 – 3 servings.

Teriyaki Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch

In a medium sized saucepan whisk together soy sauce, sugar, mirin, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch.  On medium low, cook mixture stirring occasionally for a half an hour or so until mixture has thickened.  Let cool.  Any leftover teriyaki sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.


Snowshoeing at Union Creek and Fireball Hot Chocolate


Fireball Hot Chocolate

This last week was one of the busiest work weeks that I have had in a while…  It was so brutally busy that by the end of the week, Bruce and I decided to book a cabin at Union Creek Resort for a mini vacation over the weekend.  Union Creek Resort is located in the Southern Oregon Cascade Mountains approximately 70 miles from our home and only 21 miles from Crater Lake National Park.  Union Creek Resort is a charming 1900’s era lodge with cabins for rent and miles of hiking trails all around.  Beckie’s restaurant is a short walk across the road and is known for their delicious homemade huckleberry pies.  At Union Creek Resort, there’s no cell phone coverage, no cable television in the rooms and definitely no internet.  No nothing, except for peace and quiet…  And, that was precisely why we were there.  To unplug and to unwind after a crazy busy work week…


The lodge and country store at Union Creek.


The rental cabins appeared rustic and rough on the outside but, they were nicely updated and clean on the inside.  We found the resort staff polite and courteous.  We would definitely stay there again.


The old Do Not Disturb sign was pretty cool…  So was the antiquated key hole and knob on the front door.  Not to worry, there was a sturdy “modern” brass lock on the door above…


Early in the morning, we rented snow shoes at the lodge.  This was the first time that Bruce and I ever tried snowshoeing before.  The skies were clear and the air was cold and crisp.  We knew that we were going to have a wonderful time.


A view from the middle of the footbridge over Union Creek.  The water was icy and cold from the snow melt.  In the warm summer months, you can fish for rainbow and brook trout.


Bruce and I trekked along Union Creek and through the forest on our way to the Rogue River.  There was about 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground and bit more under the trees.  While making our way through the woods I made the mistake of tripping over my snowshoes and falling flat on my face in the powdery snow.  Note to self…  Be careful how you step in the shoes and be sure to not to fall into deep powder snow without poles.   Once down, I quickly learned that you can’t push yourself up very easily.  Every time I put my hand down on the snow to get my balance, I sank deeper. I yelled and Bruce had to turn back around and help me my get back upright.  It was embarrassing and fortunately nobody else was in the woods that morning to witness the event.


When snowshoeing on the unbroken marked trail, we always looked for the blue diamond markers nailed on the sides of the trees.  In the summer months, following the trail is really easy.  Winter is a completely different story.  You can’t see the trail and it’s easy to trip over logs and branches if you happen to veer off.


We finally reached the Rogue River…  During the summer, Bruce and I like to take our tent trailer and camp along the bank.  It’s such a quiet, peaceful and beautiful place. Yet another reason why I love living in Oregon.


After reaching the bank of the Rogue River it was time to start our trek back to the cabin.  The snow was light, fluffy and sparkled in the morning sun.  I was extremely careful to make sure that I did not trip over my snowshoes on the way back.  I did not want to do an embarrassing “face plant” again.  By the time we got back to the cabin we both agreed that we would like to do this again soon.  Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore the forest and to get a great winter workout.

One delicious way to warm up after spending a day in the snow is to make Fireball Hot Chocolate.  Fireball Hot Chocolate is a wonderful blend of homemade hot chocolate (you can use instant hot chocolate packets if you like) and cinnamon flavored whisky.  It’s easy, delicious and is a perfect beverage after spending a day snowshoeing.  Makes one serving.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • I cup milk
  • 2 – 3 tsp cocoa.powder (I like dark cocoa powder best)
  • 2 Tbs sugar or to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 ounces Fireball Whisky (cinnamon flavored whisky)
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate sprinkles and cinnamon stick for garnish

Begin by preparing the hot chocolate.  In a mug, add cocoa powder, sugar and salt.  In a microwave safe bowl, heat milk in microwave 1 to 2 minutes or until hot.  Add the hot milk mixture to the mug and stir.  Add the Fireball cinnamon flavored whisky to the mug and stir again. Top with whip cream and garnish with chocolate sprinkles and a cinnamon stick. Makes 1 serving.

Cocoa recipe adapted from Hershey’s Perfect Cocoa.

***Note:  This is an adult alcoholic beverage and should not be served to those under the legal drinking age.  Please drink responsibly.***


Marinated Black Olives and Autumn along the Rogue River…

Marinated Black Olives

This year at our Thanksgiving table, one of my responsibilities is to prepare an antipasto platter to share with our family.  My antipasto platters always includes a simple selection yet carefully chosen variety of cheese, salami, olives, vegetables and bread sticks.  Those who have prepared antipasto platters before, know that good ingredients don’t come cheap.  One way to save some money is to instead of purchasing expensive store bought marinated olives, is to marinate the olives yourself!

My Marinated Black Olives is simple to make and what’s so cool about it is that you can make a ridiculously dirt cheap can of black olives taste amazing!  Toss together the ingredients and make a plan to get out of the kitchen.  And while your olives are marinating, go out and visit one of your favorite places for the next couple of hours. Maybe the mall, your favorite park, or hiking trail…

One of my favorite places to visit in Southern Oregon is the Rogue River.  This a section of the Rogue River a few miles outside a tiny little town called Merlin.  This is a view looking downstream above the world famous Hellgate Canyon.

A view of Hellgate Canyon at the top of the hill.  Several Hollywood movies and television shows were filmed in this area. John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn filmed “Rooster Cogburn” in the canyon.  James Arness filmed an episode of “Gunsmoke” here.  Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep filmed scenes from the movie “The River Wild” on the Rogue River below.

A fly fisherman along the bank of the Rogue River at Indian Mary Park.  Abundant quantities of Salmon, Steelhead and Trout are found in the river.

A view up river towards Merlin.  If you ever get the chance to visit Oregon, be sure to stop by our wonderful Rogue River.  It’s so beautiful!

My Marinated Black Olives are ready to serve.  It takes only a few minutes to prepare and about 4 hours minimum to marinate.  If you are patient, the olives taste even better the following day.  These Marinated Black Olives are bargain priced, easy to prepare and most importantly, delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 – 5.75 ounce can of black olives (drained, I used jumbo)
  • 1/3 cup garlic red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a non reactive bowl.  Add to pint jar or container. Cover and place in refrigerator.  Keeps up to 3 – 4 days.

Slow Cooked Lamb and Mascarpone Polenta

Lamb and Mascarpone Polenta

Yesterday morning Bruce and I made the decision to spend our Memorial Day afternoon down at the river.  By mid day, we were on our way to the 53rd annual Boatnik Memorial Day Celebration on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon.  Before we headed out the door, I had a pound of fresh Oregon free range lamb that I tossed in the slow cooker to cook low and slow for an easy dinner when we got back home.

If you don’t own a slow cooker, I highly suggest that you go out and get one.  Slow cookers are perfect for busy people such as Bruce and myself.  They are inexpensive to buy and really easy to use.  Just toss in your ingredients, plug it in, disappear for a few hours, and when you get back, dinner will be nearly done!

In all the years that I have lived in Oregon, I never once attended Boatnik…  I am now asking myself what the heck was I thinking?  Boatnik is three days of carnival rides, food, boat races and tons of family fun!

Bruce and I found a shady spot under a tree along the river with a great view of the jet boat race.  The weather was perfect and we sat right before the finish line.  We ate our lunch and watched the jet boats fly by on the surface of the water.

These little jet boats go crazy fast!  During one part of the race, a boat driver caught a bit too much air and crashed his boat.  Fortunately, he’s doing okay.

What fun!  I really want one…  I’m quite positive that Bruce would say nope, uh-uh, no way, no how, not happening Tess…  Oh well, I’m not gonna argue.  I know when to save my bullets :).

By the time we got home, we had tender lamb waiting for us in the slow cooker.  I added a splash of white wine, some flour to thicken the sauce, prepared the mascarpone polenta, picked lettuce for the green salad and less than an hour later, dinner was ready.   It was simply delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Slow Cooked Lamb Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lamb stew meat (I used local Oregon free range)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 white wine
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 tsp garlic paste

Begin by grabbing a nonstick fry pan.  Place on stove and heat to medium high heat.  Add lamb, onion and canola oil.  Cook until lamb is golden brown and the onion is cooked.  Add mixture to slow cooker.  Add black pepper, seasoning salt, thyme, 1 cup water, and 1 chicken bouillon cube.  Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.

When you get back, whisk together the 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup white wine, 2 Tbs flour and 2 tsp garlic paste.  Add mixture to crock pot, give a quick stir and cover.  Cook for another half an hour or until the sauce has thickened to your liking.   Taste and correct your seasonings.  Meanwhile, prepare the Mascarpone Polenta…

Mascarpone Polenta Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cups polenta
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Grab a covered sauce pan and bring to water, salt and olive oil to a boil.  Add polenta and whisk to mix.  Cover, turn heat down to low and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes stirring occasionally until polenta is cooked and thickened.  Stir in the mascarpone cheese.

Ladle hot polenta onto four plates or shallow bowls.  Divide lamb mixture and add to top of the mascarpone polenta.  Garnish with fresh sprigs of thyme.  Serve with a fresh green salad on the side.  Makes 4 servings.

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

I love living in Southern Oregon.  We may not have the fanciest of restaurants like faraway places such as New York, Los Angeles or even Paris but we do have some amazing local ingredients at our fingertips.  And fresh salmon is definitely one of them.

I remember the very first time I caught a salmon on the Rogue River not far from my home.  The Chinook salmon that I caught was almost three feet long and it pulled so hard that it felt like I was reeling in a Volkswagen bus. It took me about twenty minutes (it seemed like an eternity) and all of my strength to successfully land that fish.  I will never forget that day.  I had such a great time!

Well, it has been many years since I caught a fish that big but I know that if I want to prepare fresh salmon, all I have to do is stop by my local grocery store or butcher.  Even if salmon is not in season, I know that I can always find a good quality frozen salmon filet in the freezer section of my local grocery store.  My Salmon Cakes are a wonderful representation of Southern Oregon cuisine.  They are light, flavorful and have a wonderful salmon flavor.  They are made with delicate panko bread crumbs, onion, celery, shredded carrots, fresh herbs and spices.  You can make about 10 large (3 ounce) cakes or two dozen smaller cakes for tasty little appetizers.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 3/4 pound cooked flaked salmon (no bones)
  • 1 cup celery and leaves (diced fine)
  • 3/4 cup white onion (minced)
  • 1/3 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • canola oil for frying

In a nonstick fry pan, on a medium flame, cook the celery, onion, parsley, carrots, butter and Old Bay seasoning until the onions are cooked or about 5 minutes.  Let cool. In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and eggs.  Gently fold in the salmon, the vegetable mixture and the panko bread crumbs.   Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Using a 3 ounce scoop, form mixture into 10 patties.  Fry patties in a small bit of canola oil in a non stick pan.  Use only a tablespoon or more of the oil because you want the nonstick pan to do all the work.  Cook about 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Remove from heat.  Serve with lemon wedges or your favorite dipping sauce such as tartar or cocktail sauce.