National Soup Month with Bear Creek Dry Soup Mixes (and a giveaway!)

Bear Creek Soup with a cozy fire

The first part of our winter was so warm and nice.  We had to turn the heat off in the house on Christmas day so we could enjoy a fire that morning.

Now that we’re well into January, the weather has shifted.  It’s 12 degrees outside right now, with snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Brrr!  No wonder some smart person set January as National Soup Month.

I love any kind of soup.  Paired with a salad or warm bread – or paired with a fire in the fireplace – soup warms both body and soul.

Bear Creek Soup Mix

I’ve shared Bear Creek Soup Cups with you before.  But I also really like their soup mixes that make a whole pot to share with the family.  These are wonderful for stocking the pantry, so you can have soup anytime you need a quick lunch or dinner.  My youngest son is home with a bad cold today, so I’ll be making the Chicken Noodle Soup for his lunch.

Bear Creek Soups are so easy to make and they only take minutes.

Bear Creek Soup

Last week we had Creamy Chicken Soup by the fire while it snowed outside.  The Creamy Chicken Soup has small shell pasta in it, so it’s filling as well as being warm and tasty.

Giveaway on Instagram

Bear Creek Foods has another giveaway for you this month!  Submit a photo on Instagram showcasing you all bundled up in your winter gear for the chance at a winter warm-up, a month’s worth of Bear Creek Dry Soup Mixes!  Tag Bear Creek (@bearcreekfoods) and use the hashtags #NationalSoupMonth and #WinterWarmUp

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

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Healthy Soup & Salad Combo for Winter

Sometimes in the middle of winter, I feel like we hit the doldrums. It’s cold outside, everyone seems to be catching a bug–and I really just want spring and fresh, garden produce to be here already!
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That’s when I like to pull out one of my favorite mid-winter combos from my blog:

Virus Killing Soup and Detox Salad.

The soup is a wonderful way to warm up on a cold, blustery day. And the broth is full of vitamins and nutrients to help us get well if we’re feeling down, or keep us well by fighting off the bad bugs going around. Detox Salad is chock full of vegetables. The dark, green leafy ingredients are also filled with great vitamins, and really give a great boost after the holidays. Plus, even if the names aren’t the most exciting, the soup and salad both taste amazing! We always enjoy dinnertime when this is on the menu.

This combo is one of the many soup + salad recipe parings in the FREE eBook, Soup & Salad of the Week. If you want a copy, just click the image below and enter your email address and we’ll get one off to you

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15 Minute Soup and Salad Dinner

15 minute soup and salad

Soup and salad make a great dinner combo, especially if the recipes are fast.

Italian Bean and Sausage Soup can be put together in about 15 minutes.

Quick Cole Slaw takes even less time to make.  Stir it together while the soup heats.

The savory sausage and tomatoes in the soup pair up with the creamy, crunchy cole slaw perfectly.

You can find these two recipes in the FREE  Soup & Salad of the Week ebook. Click the image below to get a copy sent to you.

Click the image below and enter your email in the pop up box to get your FREE copy!

Weekly Meal Plans

If you like meal ideas like this one, along with done-for-you grocery lists, check out our Weekly Meal Plans.  We make dinner simple so you can focus on your family.

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Create a Family Culture of Dinner Together

Creating a Culture of Family Dinner

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about goals and resolutions.  I love this chance to hone in on what truly matters and make an intentional plan that focuses on the most important things.

It’s also the time of year when we begin to crave some order and routine again, after the holiday hustle and festivities.

One of the things that I know is high on your list is building a strong family.  There are, of course, lots of elements that go into that, but one piece that works well is this:

Family dinner together.

Gathering around the table together most nights of the week provides so many benefits for your family.  It can be hard when the toddler doesn’t want to stay at the table, or the four year old is going through a picky phase, or the teens are off working…

Sometimes it might not seem worth it, especially after a meal that turned into more of a battle of teaching table manners.  Or a dinner that mostly involved cleaning spilled milk off the floor.

But all those times around the table add up, creating a family culture that says:

Our family is worth the effort.

Our kids are important.

We can count on every person around the table.

Home matters.

Those dinner times also give a chance to talk together, pray together, explore new foods together and share favorites over and over again.  They provide a time for us to reconnect after busy days, find out how school and work are going, talk about things we’re looking forward to and more.

Commit to focusing on having regular family dinners.

If you’re already in that habit – fantastic!  You might want to think about ways to have more conversation around the table.  Or focus on teaching your kids to cook parts of the meal this year.

I promise our efforts will pay off!

 

Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans on Sale 50% Off!

If you’d like to simplify your planning, shopping and cooking this year, Eat at Home Weekly Meal Plans are for you.  We do all the planning for you, plus give you an abundance of slow cooker and 15 minute meals so that you can easily fit dinner into your day.

Right now, through January 7 you can save 50% off of new monthly and 3 month membership plans.  Find out more here.  Sale is good for new memberships.

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Veggies and Marzetti Dip Make the Best Party Snacks (and a $50 Gift Card Giveaway!)

Marzetti dip

My youngest daughter put this vegetable tray together for a family gathering the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  And then I caught her snitching a taste while I shot photos 🙂

All of Jim’s family came on Sunday so we could share a meal together.  Usually, we are the ones who make the drive to see them, so it was really special to get to host.  We moved our kitchen table to the dining room to make space for all fifteen of us to sit together.

table for 15

I snapped this photo on my cell phone before everyone came in.  I remember thinking I should take another photo once everyone was seated, but I totally forgot.

In the empty spot in the kitchen, where the table usually sits, we put a card table.  It was the perfect place for the veggie tray to sit – between the kitchen and family room.  A lot of veggie munching took place while we waited on dinner.

The veggie tray made a great appetizer before the meal, especially since this gathering came at the tail-end of the Thanksgiving celebrations.  We’d all eaten plenty of pie and stuffing.  It felt good to fill up on veggies.  They are colorful and fun and taste great dipped in the Ranch Dip.

Mia cut strips of red and yellow bell peppers, celery sticks, broccoli florets and she piled up baby carrots and grape tomatoes.  Marzetti® Ranch Dip took the center spot on the tray.

Everyone loves that dip!  I always get compliments on it when I serve it.  The flavor goes perfect with the veggies.

Giveaway!

Marzetti dip and vegetable tray

Marzetti® is giving away one $50 Visa Gift Card.  To enter, just leave a comment sharing your favorite vegetable to dip in Marzetti® Dip.

You can find Marzetti® on Facebook .

Marzetti party veggie plate

 

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Marzetti® Veggie Dips. The opinions and text are all mine.

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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.

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100 + Recipes for Fall

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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

breakfasts

  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

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  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

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

dessert

  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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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! 

 

 

 

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