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!

embracing grace in the grind.

For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:

It’s okay to let things go sometimes.

If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.

This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…

“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…

There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”

For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.

It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall. ❤️




If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂

The gift of handicrafts. Literally.

Charlotte Mason once said, “The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head.”

I will admit: as an adult, there have been many times that I have felt handicapped… not by my lack of knowledge (because I know how to get more of it if I need it), but my lack of skills. I wish I was more “handy,” and find the learning curve a bit harsh at times. (Leaky roof and broken fence, looking at you.)

Right now, I feel it’s so important to teach my children 1) handicrafts (skills that merge both beauty and usefulness) and 2) that generosity and gift giving isn’t just about using money to buy stuff.

When E (my 8yo girlie) began talking about Christmas, we sat down and talked about the gift of creating… and she has decided to put her growing skills in hand sewing and loom knitting to work to make things for her brother and sister (like we read about in Elin’s America).

And together, we are learning the process of scenting and designing goat milk soap with essential oils, mica powders, and flowers.

One day, I’d love to actually learn the processing of making and curing soap from scratch, but the chemicals and storing for the entire process isn’t something we can do right now.

So here is to learning and creating what we can, without waiting for all.the.things to be perfect to do so.

(What do you know… another life lesson. 😉)

Here is the Orange Juniper Goat milk soap we made!

(To see what we used for the soaps, go here, here, and here. 😀 I’m obligated to say that these are referral links, which means our family gets a small smidgen of a boost to our budget if you use them. There is no additional cost to you at all, though. So yay!

Note: the mica powders and essential oils I already had on hand from other projects and needs. Also note… we got the 2lb soap base because I didn’t know how much each bar would make, and how much we would want to do it. We will probably order a 5lb bulk next, to reduce the cost of making it per bar and to give more as gifts this Christmas.)