In the Kitchen

February 18, 2003

For Cheryl Smith, winter is a soup-er time of year.

Cutting vegetables in her kitchen, the 54-year-old Hagerstown woman is fixing a Cheesy Chicken Chowder that has been a staple for years.

Last week, Staff Writer Kevin Clapp talked to Smith about what makes her thick, cheesy soup a crowd pleaser for the first installment of In the Kitchen, a new Sunday Lifestyle feature.

Every other week, Lifestyle will dish about home cookin' with Tri-State residents to talk about the meals that feed a community.


For Smith, cooking has been a way of life since learning the ropes in 4-H as a girl.

Not that every recipe goes smoothly. She remembers trying one meal mixing pineapple and meatballs that didn't go over well with her family when her three grown children were younger.

And then there was the first time she made a pumpkin pie with her mother-in-law, some 32 years ago. Short on filling for two pie shells, they quickly realized they had omitted a key ingredient - the pumpkin.

"Since then," she says, "I've made many, many pumpkin pies and I've always remembered to put the pumpkin in. Usually, when you make one mistake like that, you don't repeat it."

What do you enjoy about cooking?

Kind of everything, finding something people like. And I've had a few disasters, like everybody does, but then the outcome and getting nice comments, hopefully.

It's fun to experiment. Sometimes, if you don't have all the ingredients (a recipe) calls for, and you modify, sometimes it works fine and you have a new recipe. And sometimes it doesn't, and you have to go back to the original recipe.

Your recipe for Cheesy Chicken Chowder, where did it come from?

A friend of mine from church gave me some chowder one day, and I asked her where she got the recipe. She said she got it from Taste of Home magazine. I get Taste of Home and looked and looked and looked for it and couldn't find it. Finally, I found it in a cookbook.

Have you tinkered with it over the years?

Sometimes, I'll add more vegetables than what it calls for. It's good for leftovers, you can always add a few leftovers into it.

Why is it popular in your home?

We like soups and breads or soups and sandwiches in the wintertime.

Soups are something that is fast, because I have meetings or work at night and my husband has meetings. This is something quick that can be left on the stove for the next person. If you have kids eating in shifts because of practices or something like that, it works well.

Sounds like you speak from experience.

Uh-huh, yes. When you have three active children, and I can remember one year all three kids played soccer. And when you had one practice at one end of town and another practice on the other end of town, you relied on carpools and fast meals those days.

What do you enjoy about this recipe?

It's quick, and it really tastes good. If you like cheese, this is a good recipe. So many soup recipes have beef or hamburger in them, and chicken is supposedly more healthy for you.

Do you have fun in the kitchen, or do you know someone who does? If so, let us know. We're looking for a few good cooks with stories to tell about their specialties and favorite dishes.

Send e-mail to, or write to The Herald-Mail Co., Lifestyle, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741.

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