Decorating my plate one meal at a time

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Instant “Cream of” soup.

I posted pictures of this on my facebook account when I finished up making this.  I had several responses asking for the recipes, and a couple of people shared the photo.  I hate digging back through my facebook posts to find something so I thought I would post this in a “pin-able” format.

Finished jars of "Cream of" soup.

Finished jars of “Cream of” soup.

Cream-o-Chicken

  • 2 cups dried milk
  • 1 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup chicken bouillon granules (powder)
  • 1/2 cup dried minced onion
  • 3 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cream-o-Mushroom

  • 2 cups dried milk
  • 1 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup beef bouillon granules (powder)
  • 1/2 cup dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 3 teaspoons parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

OPTIONAL: Chopped dried mushrooms (to taste- I use about a 1/3 cup or more per batch)  If you have a dehydrator, one 8 oz package of mushrooms will easily make two batches. Dry until crispy and then crush into smallish bits.

Stir all the ingredients with a whisk and put into an air-tight container.  One batch fits perfectly into a quart jar.  I use my FoodSaver attachment to seal the jars for extended storage.  One jar makes about 10-12 “cans” of soup, and takes up a LOT less room in your pantry.

To use: Mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup cold water and bring to a boil. Replaces 1 can condensed soup in recipes.

You can also make this with milk for a richer soup, or thin it with additional water/milk for gravy.

I adjusted the original recipe to my taste, you may find you need to do the same. The original had somewhat different measurements of the herbs, what I felt was too much pepper, and omitted garlic, which is a staple in our house. I also added the dried mushrooms because I felt that it was just “cream of beef” without them.

32 oz of button and baby bella mushrooms, washed, sliced, and going into the dehydrator.

32 oz of button and baby bella mushrooms, washed, sliced, and going into the dehydrator.

Dried mushrooms. Total volume reduced by about two thirds.  This was enough for 4 batches of cream of mushroom AND a quart jar of mushrooms "put up" for later use.

Dried mushrooms.
Total volume reduced by about two thirds. This was enough for 4 batches of cream of mushroom AND a quart jar of mushrooms “put up” for later use.

Meal Planning

So one of the big things I promote to help with healthy eating is planning.  Having a plan keeps me from coming home from work and deciding to make something terrible for dinner just because I don’t want to think too hard.

I used to have a fairly complicated process of choosing recipes, entering them into a 2-week grid on an excel spreadsheet, then breaking down all the ingredients into another tab of that spreadsheet as a grocery list.  It had some good points, but it wasn’t easy to explain/share with others.

At some point last year I discovered Ziplist.  I was on Pinterest, finding new recipes, and the link lead me to a Ziplist recipe.  Then I started exploring the site and realized what an amazing resource this is!

There are recipes already on the site, but if you found a recipe elsewhere, it’s usually as easy as clicking a button to add it.  You can enter tried-and-true home recipes as well, it will just take a few extra minutes to type it up.  Once they are entered I can then “schedule” that recipe into my week (or month, or year even!) and then create a grocery list from that recipe.  You can create & keep multiple lists too!

I put together a menu plan for the week on Sunday.  I spent about 5 minutes putting recipes from my Pinterest board into Ziplist, then another minute scheduling them for the week, and another 5-10 minutes putting together my shopping list.  Some of that time was spent running to the kitchen to see if I still had frozen peas.

Now, I have a plan, and a shopping list.  I’m prepared to eat healthy this week!  Oh! You can also import your Ziplist menu plan into your Google calendar! Which is awesome if you have a shared family calendar.

I will say that Ziplist isn’t entirely intuitive, there is a bit of a learning curve at first, but once you get it, it’s so simple!

Where does time go?

graduationGah!  Has it seriously been 2 years since I updated this thing?

So much has changed since I last posted!

I graduated with my Associates Degree in October and days later started an entry level job sort of in my field.  Not exactly what I went to school for, but I have my foot in the door and a chance to move around within the community based hospital/clinic I work for..

I also moved in with my boyfriend,Pork Chop (PC), which means I gave up my really pretty brand new kitchen for a 50’s vintage farmhouse that was last updated in the 80’s.  I love love love it.  It could use some freshening up, but otherwise, it is a space I’ve come to love in the years I’ve known my boyfriend.  Living in a rural setting is not what I expected I’d be doing with my life, and yet, here I am.  Living on a family farm that PC’s grandparents built, and sharing it with PC’s parents has turned out to be a dream come true.  Who would have guessed?

Living with him has meant some adjustments to my eating.  Most of which were not healthy.  There’s been some weight gain.  I found myself coming back here to collect a recipe or two.

If and when I am back to posting regularly, there will likely be some evolving here.  While my focus will still be on healthy eating, it will also be on “boy friendly”  meals.   Also on chicken and egg dishes.  We currently have 12 laying hens and 1 roo, but just put our order in yesterday for 5 more egg chicks, 15 meat birds (I call them “nuggets”), and his parents ordered 15 meat ducklings, and 2 egg ducklings!    I’m really enjoying our freezer full of last fall’s nugget harvest, and a fruit cellar full of canned tomatoes.  We’re planning our (shared) garden now and I’m hoping that my gardening skills get better with time.  Hey, that poinsettia is still alive!  So is last year’s Christmas cactus.  My brown thumb seems to be recovering!

As you can tell from this post, I may stray away from the food-focus now and then, and more onto a farm-life topic more often.  We’ll have to see.

If you’re one of my former readers- thanks for coming back.  If you’re a new reader- I make no promises about consistent posting, either in frequency or theme, we’ll just have to see where this goes!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Pot luck.  I feel a little bit of dread each time I head to one.   I know that I’ll be faced with a buffet of things I shouldn’t really eat.  Cookies, cake, fat-loaded dips with greasy chips, mayo based pasta salads… all very tasty, but not really fitting my nutritional needs.  I know I should eat a meal before I go and then just have a few snacks from something healthy, like the fruit or veggie tray.  But what should I make to contribute?    Yet again, I turned to Hungry Girl.  Mom and I have several of her books, but the one most useful in this situation is Happy Hour, which is filled with recipes for healthy (low fat/calorie) hors d’oeuvres, dips and adult beverages.

I made her Crazy-Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip and put it out on the buffet and waited…  I got a pretty big grin on my face when the first person asked “OMG! Who made the dip?!?!”  No one believed that it was “diet” food.   I deviated from the recipe just a tiny bit.  First, I used my old favorite Gourmet Garden garlic in a tube, and then I minced the shallot in my mini food processor but I didn’t follow her direction to saute them, I just mixed them right into the dip.  I also didn’t bake the dip, I simply poured the whole works into a little crock pot and served it up when it got hot.  Super easy.  It tasted fantastic with the pita bread that I sliced into little wedges, or with the tortilla chips that someone else contributed to the buffet.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of it, but there is one on her website.

Next time you’re trying to figure out what to take along to a party, keep this in mind, but hold a little back for your breakfast the next day. I made a double batch, so there was just a little left over.  This morning I stirred some into my egg mug.  Fantastic!  Nothing like getting two different meals out of one recipe.

It had to happen…

A little soy and sriracha helped balance the vinegar flavor.

After going on a new recipe spree and having so many fantastic results, it had to happen: we discovered a recipe we weren’t excited about.  Well, let me clarify that.   We were totally excited to make it, but once it was made and we were eating it, neither one of us was excited about it any more.  It wasn’t *bad*, it just wasn’t as awesome as the other things we had that week.  In case you want to give it a try, check out FoodNetwork for the sweet and sour pork recipe, after all, tastes vary, and you might really like it.  I thought it was just a little too vinegary.  Mom thought it was ok, but “not worth the points”…  in other words, the nutritional values were a bit higher than she was hoping, especially if you serve it over rice.

It turned out pretty enough, I added a little red pepper for color, and served it with brown rice, soy sauce and sriracha (or rooster sauce, as we call it around here).

So this post won’t be a total bust, let me tell you about the super tasty, super easy, decadent treat I found.  Guess where.  That’s right, Pinterest.  I swear, between that and facebook, I’m not sure how I ever manage to peel myself away from the computer.

I didn’t get a photo of it, and to be honest, it’s *not* that much to look at, but it tastes pretty darn good.  The blog author calls it 123 cake, but after sharing it with some friends, I’ve been informed it’s actually 321 cake, which makes sense, keep reading and you’ll see why.

Basically you get two boxes of cake mix. One HAS to be angelfood.  The other can be whatever you want.  You pour both boxes of mix into a storage container (like a gallon Ziploc baggie) and mix them together well.  Then you put 3 tablespoons of the mix into a coffee mug, add 2 tablespoons of water and stir.  Pop it in the microwave for 1 minute (actually, 45 seconds to a minute, depending on your microwave).  That’s it.  Fresh hot cake.  (for those tracking WWP+: my calculations show 3, but another poster on the original recipe page said 4.5, it may depend on which cake mix you use)

So quick and easy and not bad in the stats.  My biggest weakness is sweets, especially cake, so if you’re like me, keep this on hand to stave off those ruthless cravings that just won’t take no for an answer.

Pork Chops with Apples and Kraut

Pork Chops with Apples and Kraut

I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a little while.  Like 2 months.  I can’t remember where the original recipe came from, other than Mom’s recipe box.   I will say that this is one of Mom’s favorite things to make and that she has made a LOT of changes from the original recipe.  So much so that she had to write out a new recipe card for me to work from.

I grew up eating “kraut” and I love the stuff.  It’s a special treat around here when Mom makes a big pork studded batch with fluffy dumplings and a side of landejagers.  I tried to find an accurate description of what I know as a landejager, but they’re either in German or describing some weird rectangular sausage.  If you don’t live near a good bohemian meat market, you don’t know what you’re missing.  We only get ours at Schmidt’s Meat Market in Nicollet, MN which is about 15 miles from our house, and TOTALLY worth the drive.  (PS, they do ship!)

Ok, now that I’m done side tracking myself, lets get to the recipe!

You will need:

  • 4- 4oz boneless pork chops
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 apples, peeled and sliced – the original recipe called for a specific apple, but we’ve always just used whatever we had around.
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 C sauerkraut, drained
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Brown the chops in oil until cooked through.  Set them aside/keep warm.  In the same pan add apples and cinnamon, cook until apples begin to brown.  Add in kraut and caraway and cook until kraut browns.    Serve with the chops.

This recipe makes four servings and for those of you playing along is 6WWP+.

Tasty and easy, it’s also a good way to use up the apples that might not be in prime condition for eating fresh.  Even if you didn’t grow up eating kraut, give this a try.  The apples, cinnamon and pork add sweetness to balance the tart kraut.  This is one recipe that we have to dish up in the kitchen and then carry our plates to the table.  If we leave the pan on the table Mom and I pick at the kraut and apples until it’s short half a serving!

As always, if you give this a try, please stop back and tell me what you think!

It’s good weather for soup!

Yet another Pinterest find….  sort of.

Vegetable soup with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan.

If you were inclined to Google “Zero point soup” or something like that, you would likely find quite a few recipes.  Most of them similar, but not quite the same.   I found one through Pinterest that I thought sounded good, so when Mom and I were planning meals, I brought it to the discussion table.  She, in turn, pulled out her version of the recipe.  Between the two of us, we created something pretty tasty.  For those of you playing along, this is no longer zero points.  Our version is 2 WWP+ per very generous cup.

Here are the details:

  • 1 large uncooked onions, chopped
  • 4 medium uncooked carrots, chopped
  • 4 ribs  uncooked celery, chopped
  • 4 cups uncooked Cabbage , chopped
  • 3 cups frozen green beans
  • 32 oz fat-free beef broth
  • 12 oz canned tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups water

And the all too easy instructions:  Put it all in a pot.   Season to taste (we recommend celery salt).  Simmer 1 1/2 hours.

DONE!   Don’t forget to fish out the bay leaf before eating.   This could also probably be cooked in a crock pot if you wanted, I would recommend keeping it on low for a max of 4 hours.

It reheats beautifully- so we’ve been eating it for lunch or as a vegetable side-dish for supper all week.   Keep in mind that the veggie amounts in the recipe are estimated.  If you like more celery and onions, but not green beans, then adjust away.   The real star here is the beef broth and tomato paste base to the soup.  Its the right texture/consistency and it has great flavor- especially when seasoned with celery salt.  (Shhhhh- That’s Mom’s secret tomato soup ingredient- I spent all of my adult life not knowing why my soup from a can did not taste like hers, until I moved in with her last spring.)

This is especially great for using up those frozen green beans and that bag of baby carrots you never got around to finishing, but don’t cut out the cabbage.  There is something about the cabbage that seems to “fill out” the soup so that you get veggies in every bite and don’t end up drinking a cup of broth.

So what are you waiting for?  Give this one a shot, and come back and let me know how it turned out for you!

Veggie Soup
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