Decorating my plate one meal at a time

Main Meal

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.


  • 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


  • 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.


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

French Dip “cupcakes”.

French Dip Cupcakes and asparagus

I made another dish today that I found on Pinterest.  Another really good dish.  I’m not going to type it all out, because I didn’t really make any catastrophic changes to it, so go Emily Bites to find the recipe.

She has this listed as an appetizer, but we made it as a meal.  We used a combination of Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh roast beef and Carving Board roast beef because that was what we had in the fridge and freezer.  I prefer the Deli Fresh, but Mom likes the Carving Board better for this recipe.  We both think the CB is more salty, and I believe, stats-wise, the DF is a better choice.

The recipe states to chop up the Laughing Cow wedges.  Don’t bother.  It’s soft to begin with, so dump the whole wedge into the microwave bowl and smash it up a bit with the spoon as you mix everything together.  Once you’ve nuked the whole works and give it another good stir most of it will have liquified.  There might be some little chunks, but don’t stress over it, they’ll melt out in the oven.

Mom and I are both kitchen gadget geeks and I discovered one in her kitchen that I do not have that was seriously useful in making both this recipe and the Chicken Pot Pie Bundles.  The Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper may not seem like much, and you can probably live without it if you’re not a kitchen junkie, but it made pressing the wonton wrappers into the cups without sticking my (long, fake) fingernails through them much much easier.   You could probably use a small rubber spatula or the bottom of a juice glass if you also have problem nails.

Once we had the wrappers pressed in, I made note of how much went into each layer, because I dislike it when the directions say “portion half the mixture in 12 cups”.  Crap.  I’m going to run out.   I’m going to use too much and not have enough left for the top layer, or use too little and have too much left.  Anyway, I used about a tablespoon of the meat/cheese/au jus mixture per cup, per layer.   I wasn’t smart enough to do the same for the mozzarella cheese, but we did measure out a half cup per layer which made it easier to portion.

These turned out beautifully!  The smelled great, looked pretty and tasted so good I almost licked my plate clean.  We served up 2 “cupcakes” with a side of asparagus and it was the perfect amount.  I left the table feeling completely satisfied.

So, I give this recipe a thumbs up, who doesn’t like meat and cupcakes in the same sentence?

Just mush the cheese up with the spoon, don't bother chopping.

After microwaving and stirring

All ready for the oven! 20 minutes until dinner.

Chicken Pot Pie Bundles.

I found this recipe while surfing Pinterest, the new time-sucking website of choice.  You can find the original recipe here.  I made a few minor changes.  While I have tried to make this blog simply about healthy eating, I have to be honest, I’m trying to lose an ambitious goal of 111 pounds.  I’ve lost 51 so far in 31 weeks by following Weight Watchers.   Not everyone needs to lose weight, but everyone needs to eat healthy, so I try to keep the weight loss message to a minimum.  What I’m trying to say is that I make adjustments to recipes to make them fit more within my own needs, if you want to make this using the original recipe, go for it!  I don’t claim to author any of  the recipes I use and I always try to give credit where credit is due.

Ok, with that out of the way, I am very excited to share this recipe.  It was so good!!

You will need:

  • cooking spray

    Chop chop chop

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup Carrots, Chopped
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup cooked frozen green peas
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 12 egg roll wrappers
  • 2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • butter spray (like I can’t believe it’s not butter)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Spray large nonstick skillet , heat over medium-high heat. Add the carrot and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in the chicken, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Place the broth and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Add to the skillet along with the peas and corn, and bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue to simmer and stir gently until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

To prepare the bundles, use a muffin pan with 12 medium-size cups (do not coat with nonstick cooking spray). Gently place 1 egg roll wrap into each cup, letting it extend over the sides. Place a generous 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture into each wrap, and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese (a little less than a 1/4 tsp each) on top.

Fold the corners up and over the top of the filling and press to seal the edges – try wetting your fingers with a little water to help the seal (it doesnt have to be perfect!).

Lightly spray top of each bundle with a little spray or butter substitute spray (I can’t belive it’s not butter).

Bake until golden and crisp,14 to 18 minutes. Cool slightly before eating.

And now: Photopalooza:

Using a wet finger to seal up the bundles

Spritzing the tops may or may not help them brown. Your mileage may vary.

Lets EAT!

Portion! Portion! Portion!

Open faced turkey sandwich
Open faced turkey sandwich

Open faced turkey sandwich or as we call it in MN, turkey commercial.

For me, this is the standard day after Thanksgiving meal.  Simple, tasty and fast.  Dig the leftovers out of the fridge and pile them together, that’s it!  The main thing I’ve done to keep this healthy is to limit the portions.

1 slice of low-cal bread. My favorite is Sara Lee 45 and delightful.

1/2 cup of mashed potatoes. We make ours with skim or 1% milk, Brummel & Brown spread and plenty of Mrs. Dash seasoning.

1/4 cup gravy.  I make my own gravy, but honestly, there are a lot of low-fat jarred gravies out there.

2 oz chopped turkey. White meat is better, but I usually end up using a little dark meat because the white is the first to go around here.

That’s all there is to it, so you’ll be able to get back to untangling those holiday lights and finding your ornament hooks in no time.

By the way – are you planning your Turkey Day meal??  Check out Food Network’s website, which is totally devoted to the bird and all its trimmings right now, including a whole special on leftovers.   I’m not saying that all the recipes are healthy, but there are some healthy options.  For the holidays, I plan on eating small portions of my favorites, even if they’re not low-fat/carb/cal.  For example:  To me, it is not Christmas morning without Chocolate Crinkles and milk…  So, I will limit myself to one (or two) and I won’t feel deprived.  I know the main reason I have fallen off the healthy-eating wagon in the past is because I felt like I couldn’t have any of the things I enjoyed.  This way, I get to eat what I want, in moderation, and I won’t feel like I’m missing out.

Portion! Portion! Portion! It’s my new holiday mantra.