A Home Tasting Meal Where Ever You Are – Bear Creek Soup

Bear Creek lunch with book

It’s not always possible to actually eat at home.  I do my fair share of packing up food to go.  My youngest daughter takes her lunch three days a week to classes, where she has access to a microwave.  And Jim works in an office, so he likes to keep some easy meals handy there.

One quick and easy meal that also has a taste of home, is Bear Creek Hearty Soup Bowls.  These are so easy to toss in your bag in the morning.  Fixing the hot bowl of soup is as simple as adding water, stirring and heating.

If I can have a warm bowl of soup, along with a good book, that is a taste of home for sure.  I love to read while I eat.  That equals comfort for me.

Bear Creak Soups

There are four varieties of Bear Creek Hearty Soup Bowls.

Cheddar Broccoli – Thick and creamy broccoli soup with a blend of rich cheeses

Creamy Potato – Rich and creamy potato soup with a delicate blend of herbs and spices

Cheddar Potato – Savory cheese flavor with a blend of spices and rustic potatoes

Creamy Chicken with Rice – Rich and creamy home-style chicken soup with hearty rice

Bear Creek Cheddar Potato

All of them make a good meal away from home (or even at home!)  And pairing the soup with a good book makes it even better.

Bear Creek Country Kitchens began over 20 years ago with one goal in mind: to create home-style soups that will satisfy every appetite.  Combining high-quality ingredients and a special blend of spices, Bear Creek soups are delicious and easy to prepare.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Bear Creek Soups. The opinions and text are all mine.

Print Friendly

100 + Recipes for Fall


I love fall. The crisp air. The gorgeous colors. And of course, most of all, the wonderful, aromatic flavors of autumn ingredients. Pumpkins, winter squash apples, cinnamon, caramel and spice! There’s nothing better than that. And this collection of recipes is proof of my love for cooking with these things.

From Breakfast to Dinner, to Dessert, you’ll find over 40 recipes that are inspired by fall and the delicious ingredients available during this time of year. Plus, you’ll find a link at the end to 75 more fall recipes to add to your menus in the months ahead. Enjoy the season!

Sweet Breakfast Dishes


  1. Spiced Chai Tea Muffin
  2. Pumpkin Pecan Sticky Rolls
  3. Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
  4. Cranberry Strudel 
  5. Hot Spiced Apple Cider Oatmeal
  6. Gingerbread Oatmeal
  7. Gingerbread Muffins
  8. Cinnamon Chip Scones

Savory Dinner Dishes

  1. savory dinnerApple BBQ Pork Chops
  2. Honey Dijon Pork Chops and Apples
  3. Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
  4. Keilbasa with Potato Apple Slaw
  5. Pork Chops & Apples (a Sheet Pan Dinner)

Soups & Stews



  1. 15 Minute Creamy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
  2. Chicken Cock Leekie Soup
  3. Pumpkin Black Bean Chicken Chili
  4. Black Bean Butternut Squash Chili
  5. Chicken Vegetable Soup
  6. Smoked Sausage Sauerkraut Soup
  7. Split Pea Soup with Ham
  8. Creamy Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
  9. Chicken and Dumplings with Gnocchi
  10. Potato Soup

Flavorful Sides


  1. Carrots Parsnips and Potatoes
  2. Easy Butternut Squash Skillet
  3. Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  5. Corn Casserole
  6. Slow Cooked Apples and Butternut Squash
  7. Roasted Butternut Squash or Sweet Potatoes
  8. Winter Squash in the Slow Cooker
  9. Pecan, Cranberry  & Orange Marmalade Cream Cheese Trio

Delicious Desserts


  1. Pumpkin Ice Cream 
  2. No Bake Pumpkin Spice Caramel Cheesecake Dessert
  3. Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Caramel and Gingersnaps
  4. Pumpkin Spice Eclair Cake
  5. Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Cake
  6. Spiced Chai Latte Cookies
  7. 1 Min Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apples
  8. Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze
  9. Butter Pecan Pumpkin Cake
  10. Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
  11. Cranberry Fudge Pie
  12. Apple Crumb Cake
  13. Apple Crumb Pie
  14. Gingerbread Bars 

Plus 75 more fall recipes!

Print Friendly

5 Kitchen Tools to Help You Save Time

Jessica is one of my good, blogging friends and I’m so excited to have her here to share about her latest cookbook. I know you’re going to love her recipes and tips. She has a common sense approach to family meals that keeps things quick, efficient and tasting wonderful!

sharp knives for book promotion

Everyone knows that a well-equipped kitchen can help you enjoy the process of cooking and pull together great meals. But did you know that the right kitchen gadget can also help you save time?

Over the years, when I’ve struggled with junky kitchen tools, I’ve discovered that not only do them slow me down, but they take the fun out of cooking. With the right tools in hand, I can make dinner in 30 minutes or less!

Here are some of the gems that help me make the most of my cooking experience and get dinner on the table lickety-split.

Sharp knives

Ever struggle to slice meat or vegetables with a decrepit knife? No fun. Invest in a good set of knives and keep them sharpened to avoid that hack job.

Food processor

I remember hearing about a friend spending an hour to shred a block of cheese because she was using a rusty old box grater. The food processor is a veritable whiz at making quick work of shredding cheese and vegetables, pulsing flour and butter into pie crust, and blending up salsa and mayonnaise.

Electric griddle

banana pancakes on griddle for book promotion

My husband thought I was nuts when I brought home an electric griddle. But, with a large crew of hungry children, this countertop appliance is worth its weight in gold! Not only can it cook eight pancakes at a time, but it’s also great for bulk cooking quesadillas, crisping burritos, and grilling cheese sandwiches.

Stick blender

The immersion, or stick blender, was the joke of the 1980’s. Turns out, the joke’s on those of us who waited 20 years to buy one! With its one-handed efficiency at blending smoothies, soups, and sauces, the stick blender gets the prize for saving you from washing extra dishes, including that bulky blender bowl.

A large skillet with a lid

For years I messed with frying multiple batches of foods in too-small pans with jury-rigged lids. It was a revelatory experience when I bought a larger skillet that came with a lid. Wow! Not only could I cook more safely, but I could also cook it all in one fell swoop.

How you equip your kitchen can make cooking dinner quick, easy, and utterly enjoyable. Once you pick up one of these handy-dandy gadgets, you’ll wonder how you lived without them.

Honorable mention: Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!)

GCE 30 cover

While not a bonafide kitchen gadget, this cookbook will help you get dinner on the table in no time. With over 200 recipes, 100 time-saving tips, and 100 meal plans, you’ll have everything you need to put real food dinners on the table really quick. Plus, my husband

What’s your favorite kitchen item that helps you save time in the kitchen?

Jessica Fisher loves to cook, but she loves eating more. The quicker it gets on the table, the better! Check out her new book Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!) so that you can eat real cheap, real quick, and real good.

Print Friendly

Want to eat more vegetables? Start roasting them!

Easy changes for health

You might wonder why the cooking method would lead to eating more vegetables, but trust me – it does!

Since I started roasting veggies vs steaming them, we’ve upped both the quantity and variety of vegetables we eat as a family. It’s a small change that brings healthy benefits.



Roasting brings out the flavor of foods in a way that steaming can’t.  I toss the veggies with olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper.  Often, I grab a seasoning blend instead of the salt and pepper.  Montreal Steak seasoning is one of our favorites.  Sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary are wonderful too.

When it comes to types of veggies to roast, the variety is as endless as the produce department.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


It only takes about 15 minutes for many types of vegetables to roast.  Some potatoes and winter squash will take closer to 30 minutes.  I heat the oven to about 425 degrees, give or take.  It’s not an exact science, so don’t worry about getting it wrong.  If you want them to roast faster, turn the oven a bit hotter and cut the veggies a bit smaller.

I’ve found that vegetables I didn’t think I even liked are now favorites.  Things like green beans and brussels sprouts taste much, much better when roasted.  We also love combining several different types of vegetables on one pan.

Quick roasting (15ish minutes) options include:

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Zucchini and yellow squash
  • Tomatoes (grape, cherry or larger varieties that are quartered)
  • Red bell peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant (although I admit we haven’t tried this one yet)

Roasted Butternut Squash or Sweet Potatoes


Best Ever Roasted Squash or Sweet Potatoes

Veggies that need longer roasting (30ish minutes):

  • Onions, quartered
  • Garlic cloves
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips

What are your favorite vegetables to roast?

P.S.  Since we’ve been talking about making small changes for health, I wanted to share with you a new program I found.  Jen from Healthymoving.com is doing a 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge during the month of September.  Jen is a yoga teacher.  I’ve been a member of her site for a while now (used to be called Stay at Home Yoga).  She has recently rebranded to Healthy Moving and is really promoting that we don’t need to make lots of time for exercise in our lives, we just need to get moving.  

This really speaks to me, because I work at my computer and also do a lot of driving each week.  All of that leads to lots and lots of sitting without much moving.  As part of the 30 Day Healthy Moving Challenge, Jen is going to be teaching us to create a dynamic work station, where we get to move around instead of just sit.  

I’m really excited for the things I’ll learn during the 30 days of September.   It’s so much easier to make small changes for better health, than to try to fit in an hour long workout.  If you’d like to join me, click here!  The challenge starts in September.


This post contains affiliate links.  I only share things that I truly like and that I think you will too.


Print Friendly

Easy Changes for Health – Kefir Smoothies

kefir smoothie


My favorite way to get healthy is to make small changes that add up for a larger impact.  I’m not inclined to sign myself up for a marathon, but I have started walking nearly every morning.

It’s unlikely that I’ll do a complete overhaul of my eating habits (although I did try the Whole 30 once).  I’d rather make small changes that are easier to keep up with.

One of those things is adding kefir to my snack rotation.

What the heck is kefir, you may ask?

First, let me just say that it actually tastes pretty good.  The description I’m about to give you may turn you off of trying it, but stick with me.  Despite the description, I do enjoy these smoothies and I think you will too.

Kefir is fermented milk.  It’s a little like a thin, drinkable yogurt, but it’s not yogurt.  It’s possible to make kefir at home, but I haven’t tried that.  Instead, I buy Lifeway brand.

lifeway kefir


I’ve found it at Walmart, Meijer, Costco and Aldi.  Aldi has the best price on the quart size bottles.  Costco carries the individual bottles at a price just a bit more than Aldi.  (This post isn’t sponsored, by the way.  I’m just sharing a product I’m loving.)

Kefir comes in plain or various berry flavors.  I prefer the flavored.  Actually, I’m not brave enough to try the plain.  I even add to the sweetness of the berry flavor by blending half a frozen banana with it.  Of course, the flavored varieties aren’t quite as healthy as the plain, but I think it’s a lot healthier for me.  The reason, is I’d never drink the plain, so I’d miss out on the health benefits altogether.  At least with the flavored type, I get all the good probiotics and other goodness, even if it does come with a bit of added sugar.

Benefits of kefir

Because it’s fermented, kefir is full of probiotics – many more than are found in yogurt.  This is a real boost for gut health, but it also brings a lot of other benefits too.

This article goes into more details on the benefits, but here’s a quick list for you.

~ The probiotics are good for you gut and can help restore good bacteria after illness.  It’s also good for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

~ It boosts your immunity to viruses and infections.

~ It builds bone density.

~ Some studies show it helps both allergies and asthma.

~ People who are lactose intolerant can usually drink kefir with no problem.  In fact, there’s evidence to show that it will help people who deal with that.

~ There have been lab studies that show kefir fights cancer in animals.

~ There are only about 100 calories per cup.

It’s been easy to swap out my morning or afternoon snack for a kefir smoothie instead.  I just blend half a frozen banana with 1 cup of kefir.  If I don’t have the banana already frozen, I add a cube or two of ice to the blender.  Easy!

I’d love to know if you’ve tried kefir and what you think of it! 




Print Friendly

No Heat Dinners

No Heat Dinners to keep the kitchen cool

When I was little, we didn’t have central air in our house. My parents had a window unit air conditioner in their bedroom window that cooled their room and the short hallway to a bedroom my sister and I shared. During one especially hot summer, we would set up the card table in the bedroom to eat. It was just too hot to eat in the kitchen.

And the meal of choice was Chef Salad. Cool iceburg lettuce, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, lunch meat, sliced American cheese all topped with Seven Seas Green Goddess dressing or maybe Russian dressing.

Side note: Remember that Green Goddess Dressing from the 70s? I think it disappeared for a while, but now Kraft is selling it. I haven’t tried it since I was little.

Chef salad still makes a great dinner on a hot evening, but there are some other good no-heat meals too.  Here are a few that will keep you and the kitchen cool.

gazpacho done



This cold soup is full of garden veggies.  It’s a great way to use all that zucchini!



Tomato Sandwich

Admittedly, this is a pretty light meal for dinner.  But if you’ve got garden fresh tomatoes, what else do you really need in life?

Peach Chutney Chicken Salad

Peach Chutney Chicken Salad

This 15 minute recipe calls for using homemade peach chutney that you’ve already frozen.  You can skip that and use store-bought chutney instead.  Or go for this Chicken Salad recipe with grapes and pecans.  Use rotisserie chicken to keep it cool and quick.  (The photos on that post are old and not great, but the recipe is wonderful.)

tuna tomato salad done


Summer Time Tuna Salad

There’s no mayo in this version.  Instead the tuna is served over sliced avocado with plenty of tomatoes and other goodies.  This is one of my favorites!  It’s quick and easy to make too.

What are your favorite no-heat dinners to beat the sweltering summer heat?


Print Friendly

When illness derails even your simplest daily plans – survival mode meals

Survival Mode Meals

I’m going to be honest – the last month has been stinky.  I’ve been dealing with a virus along with migraines twenty out of the last twenty five days, including one episode that lasted for over 48 hours.  I bet you’ve had times in your life when illness (yours or someone close to you) takes all your energy, leaving nothing for even the most basic routines.  I’m not even dealing with anything series or life-threatening, but it still saps all my resources.  I can only imagine that when the diagnosis is more serious and severe, it would all take an even bigger toll.

It’s discouraging and disheartening.  The whole time the Eat at Home Challenge was going on, I was struggling to get dinner for my family or some days, to even make it to the table myself.  My plans of sharing our meals on Instagram and creating new recipes fell by the wayside.  Even the nights I did make dinner, I didn’t find enough energy to take photos.

It left me feeling like a bit of a hypocrite as I encouraged others to make meal plans and eat at home, while we were making do with quick runs to the grocery and more restaurant trips than normal.

But it also made me realize that there are seasons in life when focusing on meal planning and cooking is not the right timing.  That’s the season I found myself in and maybe that’s where you are (or have been) too.

Some seasons call for survival mode.

Here are some things that have gotten my family through this (hopefully) temporary situation.  Maybe some of these ideas will help you too.

1.  Be kind with yourself.

It’s okay to cut things out of the calendar, pare down the housework to bare minimum, and have the easiest dinners ever.  This season of illness and recovery are temporary.  There will be a season of thriving later on when you can get things back the way you like them.

2.  Fall back to your easiest meals.

If you find something you or a family member can easily make and that is tolerated on a sick stomach, it’s okay to have it regularly.  There’s no prize for variety in this season.

3.  Don’t worry about big grocery trips.

I usually shop once a week and try to keep extra trips to a minimum.  During the last month though, we’ve made more grocery stops than I can count.  It just wasn’t possible to think through what we might need or want more than a couple days out.

4.  When you start to feel better…

~ Make a plan for simple meals.  The slow cooker is your friend, as it can be loaded in the morning when energy is higher.

~ Set backs happen.  Try not to get discouraged as you recover.  Focus on the progress you’re making.  If you need to grab food from a restaurant one night, it’s okay.

~ As your energy returns, try making something simple to stock the freezer.  I made a double batch of meatballs the other day and put half in the freezer.  It made me feel like I’d accomplished something and we have something easy and homemade for later.  You can do the same by doubling a favorite casserole or soup recipe.

I’d like to know what has worked for you as you pull back together after a “survival mode” time.


Print Friendly

Slow Cooker Hacks to Make it Really Work for You

Using a slow cooker is such a time saver in the kitchen.  There’s nothing as satisfying as knowing your dinner is prepped, cooking and will be ready to eat when you are.  But it’s possible to get even more use from this appliance.  Check out these tips to really up your slow cooker game.

5 Hacks to Make Your Slow Cooker More Awesome

1.  Cook more than one type of food in the slow cooker at a time.

By using foil to wrap different parts of the meal, you can cook a whole meal that retains separate flavors.

using foil in slow cooker

BBQ Chicken Dinner in the Slow Cooker

Ham and Hash Brown Casserole

Try this method with steak, smoked sausage, pork chops or chicken.  Add packets of potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash…  Top with corn, peas, green beans, broccoli… And season each packet a little differently, if you like.

The possibilities are endless.

2.  Make your slow cooker smaller.

If you’ve got a large crockpot, but need to cook a small quantity of food, place a small casserole dish inside the crock.  This makes the inside much smaller, which keeps your food from overcooking.

3.  Add a timer to make it programmable.

slow cooker and timer

DIY Programmable Slow Cooker isn’t a perfect system.  It won’t switch off to a warm setting when the cooking time is up, but it does work for things like overnight oatmeal.

4.  Make it easier to clean with one of these three methods:

Line it with foil – Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures lines her slow cooker with foil to make clean up easier.

Use a plastic liner.  We use these on vacation.  I don’t mind cooking on vacation, but no one wants to scrub a dirty crockpot.

Spray with cooking spray before adding food.  This really does help the clean up process.

5.  Cook with a water bath for things like cheesecake or oatmeal.

Pouring some water around the bottom of a dish set inside the slow cooker creates a water bath.  This prevents foods from drying out or getting overcooked.  It works great for things like cheesecake and oatmeal.



P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the Eat at Home Challenge!  Find out more here.

P.P.S. We’re also having a Facebook Party with prizes on July 16!


Print Friendly

Join the Eat at Home Challenge!



I’m really excited today to invite you to join the free, two week Eat at Home Challenge!  It’s easy to get off track with meal planning and dinner making.  The next thing you know we’re hitting the drive-thru too often or we get in a rut of making the same meal over and over again.

I’ve got help for you though!  Sign up now to be part of the Eat at Home Challenge.  It starts July 16 and will be full of tips on meal planning, pantry stocking, quick cooking, and grocery shopping tips.  The goal is to eat at home for at least six dinners a week for two straight weeks.  This is a great time to build the eat at home habit and take control of dinner time before school schedules start again!

Pop over here and enter your email to join the challenge!

Print Friendly

How to do Road Trip Picnics – where to stop and other tips to make them easy

Road Trip Picnics


We’ve been talking picnics all month.  We’ve covered Day Trip Picnics and Vacation Home Food.

This week, let’s talk about road trip picnics.  I really like to pack our lunch for our first (and sometimes, last) day of travel.  We prefer our own sandwiches to fast food, especially when traveling.  A couple of my kids deal with car sickness and it really helps to have control of the food choices.  Not to mention that it’s much cheaper to pack.

I won’t talk too much about what to pack.  We’ve covered that pretty well already.

I do want to share some tips I’ve learned and I’d love to hear yours too!

Where to stop for a road side picnic.

When you’re on a long trip, trying to get where you’re going, you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a place to eat.  Convenience wins big over scenic views in this case.

Rest stops are an obvious solution.  Many of them have picnic tables.  We’ve found that as you enter most states, there are Welcome Centers that tend to be a notch above regular rest stops.

Tip: It’s nice to have a roll of paper towels to use as place mats or even to sit on if the benches aren’t the best.  Although, the adults tend to eat standing up to counteract all the hours in the car.

Eating in the car.

We’ve found it’s best to get out for a break, but there are times when it makes sense to eat in the car.  If it’s raining, you may want to skip the picnic.  Heavy traffic occasionally makes it hard to to stop.

Just in case you end up needing to eat while driving, pack the cooler where an older child or adult can get to it.  Have that person pass out the lunches and drinks.

Tip: For snacks like boxes of cheese crackers or grapes, small paper cups work great for handing out individual servings.  These are also easy for the driver to eat from.

Strategically splurge on treats.

If you’re looking at 8-15 hours in the car, you can bet you’re going to need a few treats.  Here are a few things that have worked for us in the past:

  • DumDum lollipops and Jolly Ranchers – It’s fun to choose a flavor and the small candy lasts a while too.
  • Planned afternoon breaks that involve purchased treats like soft drinks, coffees, or even ice cream.
  • Treat bags – When the kids were little, I would pack a bag of small games, toys, stickers, etc.  I tried to aim for one treat per hour.  Some of the most successful items were masking tape, pipe cleaners, dry erase markers (to use on the windows),  and blank notebooks.  The car was usually a mess when we arrived at the destination, but everyone was was (relatively) happy.

I’d love to hear your tips!

Many of us will be hitting the road this summer for long trips.  Share what works for you and your family in the comments.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Print Friendly