easier than you think: soup from scratch

One of my goals this year in a part of living more simply is just to learn how to do the “convenience” foods easily with the foods that I already have on hand… instead of feeling like I need a bunch of ingredients to get dinner on the table.

A small way I’m doing that is by relying less on “staples” like canned soup, especially of the “creamed” variety.

If I have to be honest, we haven’t used a lot of a creamed of anything soups for a while, because of the additives and extras that I’m not a fan of. For instance, to make homemade cream of mushroom soup, you need 4 ingredients, up to six if you want actual cream in it and add salt.

Let’s look at the ingredients of what is in one of the most popular versions of mushroom soup. I copied and pasted directly from their website.

WATER, MUSHROOMS, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN), CREAM, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, SALT, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, TOMATO PASTE, FLAVOUR, YEAST EXTRACT, DEHYDRATED GARLIC.

That’s a total of 14 ingredients, and that’s not counting any extra anything that sneaks in with vegetable oil, the modified milk ingredientS (plural means more than one, the last time I checked…), and also whatever is included in “flavour.”

(I’m not even going to go down the rabbit hole of what monosodium glutamate is… but it’s better known as MSG, if that helps get an idea. And some people really might be surprised to find soy in a cream of anything soup.)

So, what do you need to make your own creamed soup at home?

Easy: Butter. Flour.* Milk and/or cream. And then whatever other ingredient you want to be creamy. So, chicken for cream of chicken soup. Celery for cream of celery soup. Mushroom for mushroom.

(I’ll stop insulting your intelligence now. Ha!)

Oh, and salt and pepper, if you want to season the soup specifically vs. seasoning it with whatever you might be mixing it with.

Let’s chat steps. They are super easy.

First, melt your butter. For a medium thickness, you’ll start with 2 TBS.

If you are making a celery of mushroom soup, you’ll add it and soften it in the butter before adding salt and flour.

Once the butter is melted and your vegetables are softened…
Add the flour. For a medium thickness, you’ll add with 2 TBS.

Use a whisk to prevent lumps. Once it is incorporated…
Add 1 cup of liquid. Most of the time, it will be milk. In the case of cream of chicken, it should be half broth, half milk… and then add the cooked chicken.

Add salt as desired.

If you want the soup to be runnier or thicker, you’ll reduce or increase the amount of butter/flour at the beginning before adding the liquid. The flour and butter will be in equal amounts to each other.

How simple is that?

And can I say HOW MUCH BETTER it tastes? My 9 year old taste-tested and just asked me to make the soup for dinner all by itself.

Maybe next time, E… this batch is already claimed for a one-dish meal for dinner tonight. 😉

* For people who are gluten free, you can totally sub a gluten free flour here, but you might have to modify the amount of liquid, as gluten free flours with coconut flour are more absorbent. And I’ve even used almond flour itself as a replacement, but the texture is more “gritty” vs smooth, and obviously the fat is higher than the regular flour counterpart. It is definitely a viable substitute for those want to a much lower carb or flour-free version of the soup, though.

Random bits & pieces: free mulch and foraging

The weather is getting warmer, and the plants are making their way from the cups and little planters we started seeds in to our raised beds. Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe what excites me in my life has changed— probably both 😂— but gracious, I delight in seeing seedlings grow. Just little green bursts of friendly potential.

Watching my kiddos take pride in the plants is just another added privilege to see.

Behold, my buddy’s pea plant. 🙂

If you look at the picture above, you’ll see some mulch around the peas from a pile that we received for free from a company called Chip Drop (https://getchipdrop.com/). We went to the website, filled out our info and a few days later, a truck was dumping a huge mulch mountain in our front yard! We’ve placed it on our flower beds and in our raised beds as filler and enrichment.

It was completely free and convenient, and will be doing it again in the future, I’m sure.

Another way, besides gardening, that I’m enriching my own knowledge and experience is learning how to use “wild” and useful plants— for food, comfort, and wellness.

See, I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t grow up learning about plants or animals, how to observe nature not just for its beauty, awe, and intricateness… but for how we can exist and be symbiotic with it— how it provides for us in unexpected places, and how we, in turn, can provide for it, too.

Here is a plant I never, ever knew was edible, and it grows in our shady spaces so incredibly well… hostas! Here was my first time, harvesting and cooking hosta from our yard! To my surprise, it cooks down and tastes very similarly to spinach. I’m researching other ways to use it in my cooking and meals… but I was thrilled to start here!

My daughter’s friend, P, was over while I was snipping the hostas and was still there as I finished cooking them and needed “taste-testers.” Three out of four kids lined up, and they each loved them! Later that day, I got a text from P’s mom, asking me about my “hosta recipe.”

And I laughed because not once ever in my life did I ever think I would have a hosta recipe, let along be asked for it.

Here’s to tasting food from our gardens and yards and learning about how to care for them well while learning how they can care for us.

If that’s not essential living, I don’t know what is. 💛

Companion planting… with a twist

In our Gathering Wellness group* for the month of March, we have been concentrating on how to start a garden, seed prep, planting, and plant care for the season ahead. (Gardening is one of the best ways to practice reliance and cut the gardening budget while learning life skills… so a win/win/win!) Yesterday, we chatted a bit about companion plants: how some plants are great friends… and others aren’t.

A hack that my husband and I have used before in a small capacity and really plan to use a lot more of this year is the idea of companion SPRAYS… not just plants.

We’ve used essential oil sprays on our plants before, mainly for luscious green in our home and for pest-aways on our plants (Brian has such a cool story about cedarwood and roses!)… but I’m really wanting to step it up a notch this growing season.

What’s the idea behind companion sprays?

Well, essential oils are made from plants (I feel like I should say “duh” here, ha!)… so consider using oils in place of your companion plants. Companion sprays might work especially well with smaller plots of land or are doing container gardening!

Let’s look at an example. Say you want some luscious green beans this summer, but need to plant other veggies instead of transplanting a lavender bush beside your beans. (Don’t get me wrong, though… lavender is so great to have on hand, but that’s another post!) So, grab your Lavender essential oil instead, and let it do the work for you while you save soil space.

Here’s a guide to creating Companion sprays to use on the soil and leaves of the plant: Add 10-15 drops of the corresponding essential oil to a 4 oz. glass spray bottle. Top with distilled water; shake before each use. So easy!

PLANT …………… COMPANION PLANTS

Green Beans….… Lavender, Basil

Broccoli……………. Basil, Thyme

Carrots……………… Sage

Cucumber…………. Sage

Onion……………..…. German Chamomile

Potatoes………….… Basil, Sage

Tomatoes………….. Basil


I think we are going to try a Basil spray first, since it seems to be friends with lots of types of plants!

I’ll keep you posted as the season goes on!

If you want to check out a whole little e-zine on some of the other information about how oils can be used to encourage growth and troubleshoot problems in your garden, click the button below to read more. 🙂

  • Gathering Wellness is an interactive FB community where we learn about lifeskills, homemaking, and wellness together. To join us, just click here!

A glance through our Pioneer/Homesteading Summer

This summer, we had a fabulous time incorporating all kinds of homesteading and pioneering fun!

I will be honest— we didn’t get to all the things my brain had planned. But we enjoyed the slower pace and worked with the realization that learning comes in all shapes and forms and in moments not jammed full of all the things.

I am sometimes better documenting the day-to-day on Instagram; so you’ll find this post to be a one-stop-shop on the smatterings of homesteading moments I have shared over there.

Here we go!

Cheesemaking

Although they made a version of a hard cheese in The Little House in the Big Woods, we did an easy, faster version at home!

Listening Ears and Busy Hands

We did a lot of reading aloud this summer, learning all about the Big Woods and then how life looked on the Prairie before packing up and moving again. Here’s how we spent a good chunk of time: making fun messes on the patio while joining the Ingalls on their journey.

Tracking our Travels

Because we embrace a Charlotte Mason approach to literature, we want to fill our time and minds with living books. Although “school” wasn’t happening in “full,” we liked to narrate the chapters as we read them and write our progress down on our chalkboard.

Life skills

A large chunk of our activities focused on life skills: we learned how to wash and hang clothes by hand. We made cheese, sourdough bread, and cookies. We used our Daybook to track meal planning, planting, and other skills. And although I doubt Ma Ingalls ever made this simple version of oatmeal cookies, she definitely used the few ingredients she had to make something delicious and filling.

Science

After reading about the prairie fire, the kids had a lot of questions about how starting a fire actually helped keep their home safe from fire. (Good question, huh?!) So we chatted and did a little experiment, learning about what fire needs to actually stay a fire. Once we learned those few little things, the kids could figure out the answer to their own question! Learning at work!

The Highlight Reel

To see the highlights of our summer, check out our InstaStory HERE. You’ll find cross stitch, life skills, snack ideas, cabin building, cornbread making, and more! We actually didn’t document a lot this summer because we were in the middle of doing… but that’s okay. 🙂 Just because no one sees it doesn’t mean we didn’t have a lot of fun doing it.

Resources

If you are interested in Little House Copywork that we did (print & cursive), the Daybook that was designed and used and/or the beginning piano book that my husband arranged… check out the freebies and links by clicking on the image below!

Because so much of our summer was developing good habits surrounding life skills, I decided to help my kiddos visualize some of their tasks and organize how they want to structure their time and plan their work. My kids– especially my oldest– really like working with these care task cards!

Home Care Cards

Homesteading Cards

Homelearning Cards

(Also, as a thank you for reading and checking out the resources, click HERE for 15% off the resources mentioned in this post. 😉 )

Since the summer, our schedule has started picking up… as it always does. Music lessons and kindermusik are back. I began teaching debate for our homeschool community again, and coaching our communication club. Our birthday season is in high gear.

I’ll be honest; I do love fall. Autumn has, and probably always will be, my favorite season. But I’m so glad that our days were spent in the Woods and on the Prairie during our warmest season… and I look forward to next summer of learning and doing and going a step further in our small version of homesteading. ❤