The very first “Jim’s” opened back in 1963 at the corner of Broadway and Loop 410 in San Antonio. This location was my Dad’s absolute favorite to meet up for a standing breakfast with a large group of colleagues. When it was a lucky weekend day Dad would let me tag along. Here the staff knew him like the best of family.
My friend Dan said his Dad created this cheese soup for Jim’s Restaurants, which I remember being a favored thing right up there with the pet rock and the skateboard. This soup was a pre-appetizer staple that I liked more than the greener alternative – the salad. Um, no. When I asked my friend why his Dad named it “Canadian Cheese Soup” he said it was because “the name sounded good.”
Flash forward several decades to today and the recipe is still on Jim’s menu so it’s quite exciting to be able to enjoy it at home now that I’m not within walking distance of my childhood Jim’s.
My research for this recipe helped teach me the difference between a mirepoix, a roux, and the foodie “holy trinity” (deets below) so hats off to this silky, delicious, cheesy soup!
❤ I’ve adjusted the recipe ingredients below based on my friend’s inside scoop – cutting back on the milk, adding Tobasco, and using Velveeta instead of the triple play of cheeses I found in another copycat recipe which was: Cheese Whiz (16 ounces), Swiss (2 ounces), and cheddar cheeses (2 ounces).
❤ You can adjust the flour and milk as you see fit to arrive at your preferred consistency.
❤ I wasn’t sure what “chicken base” was, thinking it might be chicken stock or chicken broth. Turns out there is such a thing as chicken base – I found this “Better Than Bouillon” at my local market and it sure was flavorful, living up to its name.
❤ Refrigerate leftovers for an impromptu treat for when you’re in a hurry – you may find that adding a bit more milk will help return the silky, smooth consistency.
Veggie prep: About 10 minutes.
Total prep: About 45 minutes.
6 cups | water
5 stalks | celery, finely diced
¼ medium | onion, finely diced
3 medium | carrots, finely diced
4 tablespoons | low salt chicken base
2 sticks | butter (my grandmother insisted on Falfurrias)
1 cup | flour
20 ounces | Velveeta, cubed
2 ½ cups | milk
tiny bit | Tobasco
to garnish | oyster crackers (optional)
iii. What to do
1. In a stockpot over high heat bring the water to a boil.
2. Let’s make “mirepoix!” To the water add celery, onion, carrots, and chicken base. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, or until the celery is tender but firm. Note: About 15 minutes into the simmering start Step 3 (if you like the quick route)!
3. Next up? The roux: In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and mix constantly with a whisk until things are smooth and free of lumps. Cook your roux 8-10 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.
4. Reduce heat under the soup (not the roux) to medium-low, add the prepared roux and continue to whisk until everything is smooth and thick, 4-5 minutes.
5. Add the Velveeta and continue cooking until the cheese is melted, making sure to whisk occasionally.
6. Heat the milk in the microwave (or double boiler). Slowly add the milk to the soup mixture, whisking all the way. You can add a little more – or less – milk to reach your desired consistency.
To Serve: Spoon into bowls and top with a few shakes of Tabasco. After enjoying my first bowl I added a few oyster crackers for crunch and 5-7 fresh pinched oregano leaves to add a pop of herby flavor.
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
Relevant, Additional Foodie Info:
More About Mirepoix:
The fact that anything made with clams has not crept its way into my foodie hall of fame is because I’m a selective (um, “picky”) seafood eater. So sometimes I miss out on the sea fun because I suspiciously stereotype and elevate food options to DEFCON 1 when shrimp, octopus, oysters and the like are on my radar. Basically if it’s cold and fishy, I’m likely out. Except for the highly rated ceviche sampler I had at Stephen Pyles‘ downtown Dallas hotspot that now is closed. Boo.
This recipe daunted me because of *clam* PLUS I had never made a puff before – cream or otherwise. Surprisingly these puffs were remarkably easy to make and I look forward to a little more puff magic to come. In the end I couldn’t help but notice how similar they were in size and shape to my childhood favorite Dunkin’ Munchkins. Glazed, powdered, filled or sprinkled, these sweet treats were born in the 1970s and are still alive and living life large today.
❤ When the recipe author Mary Stephenson (more about Mary below) wrote that these freeze beautifully she wasn’t kidding! We had leftover puffs and almost 2 months after they went into the freezer Joe enjoyed some when I was out of town for work and he said they were just as good as fresh. Shazam! Joe simply reheated them in our air fryer for 7 minutes at 400°F.
❤ Mary noted that you can substitute the clam with shrimp or crab. So you can enjoy “sea inspired puffs” 3 ways!
❤ I didn’t find clam broth at the store. But I did find clam juice which is apparently the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled for either.
❤ We halved this recipe. Sans hosting a party we would have been eating puffs for weeks!
To prepare: About 20 minutes.
To bake: 35 minutes
To fill: About 20 minutes
for the puffs:
1 cup | clam broth
1 cup | water
½ cup | butter (my grandmother insisted on Falfurrias)
1 cup | flour
5 | cage free eggs (4 for the puffs and 1 for the glaze)
1 teaspoon | more butter (to grease pan)
½ teaspoon | milk
for the filling:
3 6.5 ounce cans | minced clams, drained
8 ounces | cream cheese and chives (I only found chive and onion)
6-8 dashes | Tobasco brand red pepper sauce
½ teaspoon | fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon | Lawry’s seasoned salt
iii. What to do
1. In a medium-sized pot heat the clam broth/juice and water and bring to a boil. Add the ½ cup butter and let it melt – it won’t take long!
2. Stir in the flour all at once and stir constantly until the dough “leaves the pan” and forms a ball. Note: the dough isn’t literally going to leave/leap or otherwise hurl itself out of the pan – you’re just looking for when it begins to stick to itself and become doughy enough to form. :)
3. Remove the pan from heat and add 4 eggs, one at a time (you’ll reserve the last egg for the puff glaze.
4. Place 1 teaspoon butter on a cookie sheet and smear to coat the pan. Form the dough by hand into about 50 balls (100-120 puff balls if you’re making the full recipe in which case you’ll need more than 1 cookie sheet). When we formed the balls we improvised by transferring the readied flour into a Ziploc bag, cutting a small corner from the bag, and piping it onto the cookie sheet.
5. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
6. Make your egg-milk mixture by whisking together 1 egg and the milk. Brush the pre-baked puffs with the egg-milk mixture.
7. Bake the puffs at 400°F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and bake for 20-25 additional minutes.
8. While the puffs are baking let’s make the clam filling! In a medium bowl cream together the clams, cream cheese, tobasco, salt and pepper and set aside.
9. When the puffs are golden brown remove them from the oven and let them rest until they are cool to the fingers. Cut them in half with a knife and fill them with the clam filling (a little schmear with a knife will do just fine).
Yields 10-12 dozen as penned. Remember you can half this recipe!
Seafood Lover? I have a post coming soon with a great story about the Texas Coast that stems to my childhood. In the meantime check out the other Betty’s Cook Nook seafood recipes at right by clicking on yup – you guessed it – “seafood!”
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
Who is “Mary Stephenson?”
We Kikers lived at 2927 Trailend Drive in San Antonio from the early 1960s until the mid 1980s. Mary was the Mother of the Stephenson family living next door to us.
Mary was a fabulous foodie friend of ours and you’ll see a few recipes from Mary’s kitchen here at Betty’s Cook Nook.
Our two families spent many shared dinners and laughs together so I was happy to find some of Mary’s recipes tucked in Mom’s cookbook since the Stephensons were a magnificent and memorable part of my wonder years.
After I safely recovered Mom’s cookbooks in 2011, I was quick to notice one thing missing – recipes from her Mom – Nanny. Nanny was the Grandparent I was closest to and she had a few “home run” recipes like her coconut-fruit (Ambrosia) salad, homemade chicken noodle soup and waffles served hot from the press. What’s not to like there?
I’ve been deeply saddened that Mom didn’t have any of Nanny’s recipes in her own cookbook but I find “the closer to home, the less likely you are to write things down.” This is certainly true with cooking as many of Mom’s favorite recipes were in her head – not on paper – so good luck to us all in documenting our family’s tried and tastefully-true recipes!
My family’s recipe void began changing earlier this spring when I visited Julie, who’s my 1st Cousin and our family’s much loved Matriarch. Julie has a mind like a steel trap, so after blogging my way through almost 100 of Mom’s recipes I decided to dig deeper; a trip to San Antonio with the specific culinary reconnaissance mission of recovering a few family recipes I didn’t have. And recover, I did!
In addition to Julie gifting me Nanny’s Iced Tea recipe, I scored the Grandmother-load of all – Nanny’s Barbecue Sauce Recipe (below) which we’ll get to in a moment. Why, in a moment? Well, for those of you who haven’t read most of Betty’s Cook Nook you may be disappointed to hear that I have the gift of gab which translates quite nicely online as I’m also fast-to-type (so was my Mom, Betty). So if you want a “CliffsNotes” version of this recipe, you best scroll down to this post’s “Foodie Tips” section and continue on. If you want to read a free and fabulous story about family and food, read on!
The Art Of Family Cooking
When creating Betty’s Cook Nook I knew I wanted to weave in family stories along with our recipes because to me, eating goes hand-in-hand with daily living for all of us regardless of geography, culture or perceived socioeconomic status. Celebrating great food and friends was something my parents Betty and Louis absolutely loved to do, so it just felt right to try to honor my Mom’s love for cooking by creating this blog so I could translate her conventional cookbook online for generations to come.
While my storytelling is primarily for my family, I’ve heard from several non-family members – even strangers – who say they love reading the stories so I know the true essence of my effort extends far beyond a handful of my closest family members, maybe even to you! So I want to share a really touching story about something that happened today that directly ties to this recipe in the most fantastic way.
Who Do You Think You Are? (a.k.a. You Are What You Eat!)
For a few years I’ve enjoyed watching the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are.” I’ve seen some incredible stories uncovered through research. Because I lost my parents at a young age I have several family “holes” to fill, so last night after watching Valerie Bertinelli‘s amazing story I finally signed-up for a free 2-week trial at Ancestry.com. No, the folks at Ancestry didn’t pay me to write this post, but they should have. ;)
I was instantly addicted to my family’s online research – I’m quite skilled at online sleuthing, so Ancestry.com fits right up my alley. Within a few hours I had connected over 50 of my family members dating back to 1874. One of the most impressive things I quickly found was the address where my grandparents “Nanny” and “PaPaw” and my Mom “Betty” lived in 1944 thanks to a local city directory listing. Years after I grew-up in San Antonio, lived in Dallas 20 years then moved to Italy and returned to Texas in 2012. I learned they lived just 20 miles from where I live today in Austin, Texas … and I had no clue!
With their home address I was quickly able to find driving directions – even score a recent picture of the house from GoogleMaps.com. The home was a charming stone house, and the more I looked at the online photo I realized it looked strangely similar to one photo among the thousands of family photos that I have. It was well after midnight so I went to bed. At 4am hope and excitement woke me up. I pulled out the family photos and within 10 minutes had found the match for the online photo!
I knew I had to visit the house today. While the Google picture from the front of the street looked relatively the same with just a few modern updates to the carport and entry, I was nervous the house was no more as online records suggested their house had quadrupled in size. Today I bundled-up my two Labs “Boomer” and “Harley” and drove to Nanny’s and Mom’s old neighborhood and was thrilled to find that the house had not been torn down – it was doing just fine – including the two huge oak trees that flanked the 1981 family picture I have of the house (above).
The Way We Were
Standing in front of the house at 1701 Virginia Ave. here in Austin was a bit strange for me. While my feet were 70 years late arriving to the party, I felt an awesome peace; the peace that comes from discovering something special. I pictured the old 1938 stone house with my Mom “Betty” and her Sister “Delores” playing in the yard … then my Grandmother “Nanny”, sticking her head out the screen door to summon her two girls to dinner.
Today, while I may have arrived 70 years late for dinner, I’m able to recreate one of their family favorites thanks to Nanny’s Barbecue Sauce recipe. So can you!
Foodie Tips ~
♥ This sauce works well with chicken, beef or pork. Feel the force!
♥ Julie said my Grandfather Harry would make a basting “sop mop” by wrapping a T-shirt strips around a stick. Feel free to create your own … or use a modern silicon basting brush shown above.
♥ What are those yellow wrappy-things below? They’re lemon cover stretch wraps and you can find them online or at a store near you! They make juicing lemons a seedless, pulp-less pleasure!
♥ A nice side for this dish would be one of my all-time favorites here on BCN – California Potato Salad. It’s that good!
1 cup | shortening
3 | white onions, peeled and quartered
1 | green bell pepper, cut into chunks
4 pieces | celery, cut up
1 can | tomatoes (we used a 14.5 ounce can of diced toms)
1 can | tomato sauce (we used a 15 ounce can of Hunt’s)
½ cup | vinegar
2 cups (or more) | water
1 | lemon, juiced then quartered and everything added, including the peel
3 teaspoons | yellow mustard
¼ cup | catsup
2 teaspoons | chili powder
3 teaspoons | salt
1 teaspoon | fresh cracked black pepper
2 dashes | hot sauce
2 dashes | tobasco
¼ cup (or more) | worcestershire sauce
ii. what to do
1. In a large stock pot simmer everything uncovered until it’s all cooked down and reduced. While the original recipe below says “at least ½ hour,” my Cousin Julie was quick to point out that it takes much longer than noted! I think we simmered everything for about 2 hours, stirring every few minutes.
2. Taste and adjust the sauce as you like, because these measurements aren’t “exactly right!” Gottaloveit.
3. When the sauce is done to your liking, baste the meat on the grill with a sop mop or basting brush. We made sure to heavy-up on the last basting just before removing everything from the grill.
If you want to enjoy this the way Julie said our family did (throw away nothing), save the vegetables and serve them as a side dish for your barbecue meal.
Family Fun Facts ~
♥ The vintage “Fire King” measuring cup above is my Mom, Betty’s; it has surely measured-up over the years and can probably tell bountiful stories about the families and friends it has fed! I alone can tell more than a few stories. :)
♥ Cousin Julie told me that when they lived in the old stone house my Grandpaw Harry worked at the IRS in Austin; turns out he was too old to enlist for WWII so worked this government job instead. What’s even more impressive is that my Mom (Betty) her Sister (Delores) and Delores’ Daughter Julie (my Cousin who was barely 2 in 1944) also lived in the house. It must have been a lively party of five, indeed! Delores also worked at the IRS which Julie said was “filled with women” as most men were off serving in the war.
♥ Cousin Julie said Nanny and PaPaw (Grandpaw Harry) would hose down the old stone house above in the hot summer days to keep it cool inside; these were days before air conditioning!
♥ In 2014 I sent a letter to introduce myself to the residents of 1701 Virginia Avenue but sadly they did not reply; still sad about “no reply” to this day (2020).
♥ Here’s my original scan of Nanny’s BBQ recipe – Cousin Julie said this was Nanny’s recipe penned by Mom’s sister Delores Sutton who is one of the most elegant ladies I ever met. I love her handwriting! The paper? It can tell a story all its own. Click the pic for a bigger view.