Wellness Wednesday: Seven Wholesome Soups and Stews

As I sit down to write today’s Wellness Wednesday post, a cold drizzle is falling outside. The leaves are almost all down from the trees, and we have had several gray, cloudy days in a row. The crisp but sunny September and October days are over, it seems, and a more wintery feel is moving in with November’s arrival.

This being the case, soups and stews are showing up on my weekly meal plan more often! My family can’t eat canned soups, since many contain gluten, MSG and other additives that give us various health issues. But healthy, wholesome soups recipes abound on the internet, and they are often very simple to make, especially with the help of the slow cooker or Instant Pot!

Here is a round-up of seven tried and true recipes for soups and stews that have become family favorites in our house. I usually serve the soups with a side of gluten-free biscuits and a green salad, and we always have gluten-free cornbread with butter and honey alongside the chili soups.

Seven Wholesome Soups and Stews

Photo credit: Lulu the Baker

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder from Lulu the Baker: This yummy soup is on the menu tonight!

Photo credit: Nom Nom Paleo

Simple Egg Drop Soup from Nom Nom Paleo: Egg Drop Soup is great as a side with stir fry and/or fried rice.

Photo credit: Well Plated

Instant Pot Lentil Soup from Well Plated: There is just something so comforting about a hearty lentil soup.

Photo credit: Gimme Some Oven

The BEST Butternut Squash Soup from Gimme Some Oven: This truly is one of the best butternut soup recipes I have tried!

Black Bean Chicken Chili by Crystal Miller: This chili recipe doesn’t have a photo, but it is a staple in my menu plan all year round!

Photo credit: Better Homes and Gardens

Chili Soup from Better Homes and Gardens: This is another tried and true staple chili recipe in our home, easy to make on the stove, in the slow cooker and in the Instant Pot!

Clam Chowder by Crystal Miller: We just added Crystal’s delicious clam chowder recipe to our line-up this fall, and it was a winner!

Now it’s your turn! I’d love for you to share your favorite soup recipe that our family can try this fall and winter! Or tell me which of the above recipes you want to try.


Want to link up? I would love to read your thoughts on your own health and wellness journey! Follow the instructions below to join the link-up and share!

How to participate: 

  1. Write a post on a topic related to wellness, and add your link to the list below.
  2. Grab the Wellness Wednesday logo graphic below and put it in your linked post, also with a blurb mentioning and linking back to that week’s link-up.
  3. Please stop by at least two other participants’ blogs and leave a comment on their Wellness Wednesday posts. This doesn’t take long, and it is really encouraging and helpful for building community and continuing the conversation!
  4. Bonus points if you post about the link-up on your social media. I will feature a post from one or two Wellness Wednesday participants on my Facebook page during the week after the link-up, so please head on over there to follow me and see if your post is featured!

The Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning: Homemaking Series, Pt. 6

In this final post in the Homemaking for Real People Series, I am getting really, really real! I am going to admit that I don’t like meal planning. But I still find it absolutely indispensable to the general health and happiness of my family, not to mention the maintenance of our budget. I also have to admit that I actually am not a big fan of cooking. Eating, yes. Cooking, not so much. It’s not that I can’t cook. I am actually a pretty good cook! I just don’t love it. I know some people who go bake or whip up a new recipe for the pure enjoyment of it. I don’t. I cook because I like to eat, and, as a matter of fact, so does my family! Since we believe that whole, natural foods are the healthiest way to fuel our bodies, we also like to eat food made from real ingredients. And having food allergies and sensitivities makes it even more necessary that I do a decent amount of cooking on a daily basis.

In order to manage all this cooking, I have to have a meal plan. But how does a reluctant cook go about doing this?

Enter, the Reluctant Cook’s Guide to Meal Planning:

Step 1: Make a Master Meal List

Make a master meal list of 20-30 meals that are simple family favorites that you can rotate again and again. For a lot of people, this means just dinners because they have about the same things for breakfast and lunch, like toast or cereal, and sandwiches or salad. Our family, however, doesn’t eat cereal except as an occasional snack, and since we have a wheat allergy, bread for sandwiches is a real pain. I also like a lot of variety, so I do actually have lists of our favorites for breakfast and lunch, as well. Your master meal list is something you can always fall back on when you are lacking creativity or just need a default for meal planning. Obviously, it is good to try new recipes, too, but it sure is handy to know you have this list of meals everyone will enjoy when you just need to hit the easy button.

Step 2: Find Your Style

This part takes some trial and error, in my experience, but once you find your groove, you’ll be set! Some people like to have a monthly meal plan, others plan weekly. I’m a weekly gal, thought sometimes I do plan for up to two weeks at a time. You may prefer to have a paper plan that you post in your kitchen, or a digital meal plan system like Plan to Eat. I actually put my meal plan right in my Happy Planner along with all my other weekly to-do’s so I can see everything all in one spot. There are myriad meal planning calendar printable online, so I encourage you to try out a few different styles until you find your sweet spot.

Step 3: Look at Your Calendar

Before you start writing out your actual meal plan, you need to consider what you have going on in your week. Knowing how much time you are going to have for meal prep each day helps you choose what to make. For example, I know if I’m going to be gone most of the day, I either need to plan to have leftovers for dinner or make a slow cooker meal that will cook itself while we are out. Also, consider the season and weather when choosing meals. If it’s going to 90 degrees and humid, you probably aren’t going to want to plan a lot of baking or roasting if you can help it.

Step 4: Make Your Meal Plan

Once you’ve got all the preliminaries done, all there is left to do is plug in meals from your master list (or maybe a few new recipes from a Pinterest board)! I like to write down breakfast, lunch and dinner in that order. For breakfast and lunch, I don’t have as many choices to rotate, so that goes pretty quickly. We like to try more new things for dinner, so sometimes it take me a bit longer. As I go, I have my grocery list alongside me, so I can write down any ingredients that we need for the coming week as I go. I also try and write in any prep-work that may need done ahead of time in my planner. If we are going to have soaked baked oatmeal on Sunday morning, for instance, I write down that I need to get the oats soaking while I’m making dinner Saturday evening.

Step 5: Follow Your Plan

So, you’ve gone to all the work of making a meal plan. Now you need to put it in a place where you will see it and do your best to follow the plan! I know there are times when plans change and meals will get switched or left out all together. I am fine with this as it is MY plan, after all. I have the freedom to change it as needed. But I also know that if I don’t take care, produce purchased for a specific meal may spoil, or meat may not get thawed in time, etc. If I want to be wise with my time and money, it helps to stick to the plan. And, yes, I do build leftovers into my meal plan as much as possible! It is frugal and time-saving, and even my kids have no problems with eating leftovers (most of the time).

Step 6: Have a Good Attitude

Okay, maybe this should have been first…and it certainly isn’t reserved just for meal planning and cooking! Having a good attitude and thinking positive about your role as cook and meal planner for your family will go a long way toward making it a more enjoyable experience. I know that I am always proud when I put a healthy, hot meal on the table for my family. It is satisfying to know that this is one way I can serve and bless my husband and children, and it really is not all that much trouble after all. Even on a frugal budget, we can enjoy good meals when I plan well and execute that plan. And so can you! So, go ahead. Make a meal plan and go cook something wholesome and delicious!

That wraps up our Homemaking for Real People blog series! I’ve enjoyed sharing a little more in depth on how we run our home, and I would love to hear what you’ve thought of the series! Would you like me to write more on topics of homemaking, planning, or routines? Leave me a comment below. I’m all ears!

Previous Posts in the Homemaking for Real People Series:

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Pt. 1

Why Just “Good Enough” Housekeeping? Homemaking Series, Pt. 2

A Good-Enough Housekeeping Routine: Homemaking Series, Pt. 3

20 Daily “Quick Wins:” Homemaking Series, Pt. 4

Keeping the Laundry Monster at Bay: Homemaking Series, Pt. 5

Intro to Homemaking for Real People: Homemaking Series, Part 1

Do you ever look at images on Pinterest or Instagram and ask yourself, “Does she ever do anything besides clean or cook and take pictures of the results?” Or maybe you are more tempted to ask, “Why can’t my house ever look that picture-perfect?” Either way, going down that rabbit hole of comparison is a dangerous path to take, isn’t it? We have to remember that those little pictures are not the whole package. We can only see a small piece of someone else’s life, and what we see may or may not reflect real life.

Why write about homemaking for real people?

The fact is, we are real people with real life situations and real busy schedules. As a result, sometimes our houses are going to be a REAL mess! And that’s okay. We can, however, aim to take control of the mess and find some order and beauty in the ordinary. Over the last 14 years of marriage, and even more so the last 7 years of motherhood, I have been finding ways to make homemaking a priority without sacrificing relationships. After years of swinging from perfectionism to sloth, I am finally able to keep our house in a tolerable state of cleanliness, to have a manageable schedule in most seasons, and to keep healthful food on the table and in the pantry. Thus, the inspiration for this blog series!

What is homemaking for real people?

Homemaking for real people is all about having grace while also getting things done. It is about doing what you can, when you can, to keep a balanced household without killing yourself. This series is for anyone who has a home, whether you are married, single, have kids in the home or not. I will talk a lot about routines and systems we have in place currently, which means they include my husband and our kids. These are things I wish I would have learned how to do a lot earlier on in life so that good habits had been in place before I became a mom. I will also weave in little bits of wisdom regarding our attitudes toward homemaking and having grace with ourselves and those who share our homes.

Topics I will cover in this series are as follows:

Every Monday for the next month, I will be sharing a new post from the list. I would love to hear from you as we go through this series. If you struggle with a specific area of homemaking I didn’t mention above, we could tackle that topic, too. Just leave me a comment here or on my Facebook page. If you have an extra tip to add, please share that with us, too! We can all learn from each other. Join me back here next Monday, and let’s embrace this concept of homemaking for real people together, one real day at a time.

Kitchen and Dining Dreams and Inspiration

Last week we signed a contract on a house here in Middle Tennessee. We had been looking and researching for a little while, but we weren’t really quite planning to buy so soon. However, the right house in the right location came up, and the price was right, too! So we jumped at the opportunity, and now we are waiting on all the inspections and such, hoping to close sometime before the end of March!

The house is structurally in great condition, but the paint colors and carpet are sorely in need of an update. So my husband and I have been thinking and planning what we want to do to make the house really feel like home. Of course, Pinterest has been a big source of inspiration. And it has helped me organize my ideas room by room. I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite looks here on the blog, and maybe I’ll be able to do a before/after post or two when we actually get in the house, too!

The biggest challenge we are going to have is the kitchen and dining area. The walls are currently a bright orange color, and the cabinets are in need of a paint job, as well. We decided that we are going to paint the cabinets white. The appliances are black, and the existing countertops are a nice dark color. We are planning to go with a light gray on the walls, and I think it’s going to look really great.

My kitchen inspiration:


Modern Farmhouse Kitchen Makeover

Modern Farmhouse Kitchen Makeover

<a href="https://www.housebyhoff.com/2016/07/my-finished-kitchen/" rel="noopener" target="_blank"></a>

House by Hoff Modern Farmhouse Kitchen

Nest for Less Cabinet Makeover Reveal

Nest for Less Cabinet Makeover Reveal

The dining area is open to the kitchen (and the living room), so it will have the same color scheme. The big challenge we have had there is deciding what style of table and chairs we want to get. For the whole 13 years of our marriage, my husband and I have been using free dining table and chairs, mismatched and outdated as they are. It’s been a blessing to have these things, but they are literally on their last legs now and need to be replaced. I think we have settled on a somewhat farmhouse style table and chair set with a wood top and white or whitewashed legs. There is not room in the dining area for any other furniture because it’s a small high traffic area. But I do hope to get a nice big statement piece or create a gallery wall on the large wall opposite the kitchen. There is a lot of light in the dining room because it opens onto the patio via double doors, so I may put some sun-loving houseplants in the corner, too.

My dining area inspiration:


Photo by @bloomingdiyer on Instagram

Photo by @bloomingdiyer on Instagram

Photo by @shegaveitago on Instagram

Photo by @shegaveitago on Instagram

Photo by @bluebarnandcottage on Instagram

Photo by @bluebarnandcottage on Instagram

20 Rustic Home Designs from Good News Architecture

20 Rustic Home Designs from Good News Architecture

So there you have it…some of my favorite photos of kitchen and dining areas that are inspiring me right now! If you enjoyed these, feel free to follow me over on Pinterest where I have more pins and boards dedicated to rooms in our new house.

Simple Soothing Chamomile and Calendula Salve

Simple Soothing Chamomile and Calendula Salve

This time of year we tend to have lots of dry, cracked skin. My son’s skin was super sensitive when he was an infant, and most ointments made his eczema and dry skin worse instead of better. Finally, I found a soothing salve that worked and actually helped heal his skin instead of irritating it more. The problem was, it cost around $11 for a tiny tin of the salve. And whenever I ran out, I either had to drive 20 miles to get more or order some on Amazon and pay even more for shipping. (This was before the wonder that is Amazon Prime!) So, instead, I decided to try my hand at making my own salve so that I could always have it on hand. 

Chamomile and calendula flowers are both known as amazing powerhouse herbs. They have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making them excellent additions to ointments to promote healing and reduce swelling and irritation. This is my simple recipe for a super soothing herbal salve that works great for eczema, cuts and scrapes, insect bites, burns, chapped lips and dry skin. 

Chamomile and Calendula Salve

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Place the dried flowers and petals in a pint mason jar, then cover with the oil.
  2. Let the oil and flowers sit at room temperature for 4 weeks to infuse, shaking daily.
  3. Quick Method: place the jar on a wash cloth in a slow cooker. Fill slow cooker with a couple of inches of water and close the lid. Heat on low for between 2-6 hours.
  4. Once the oil is infused, strain it into a clean jar using a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
  5. In a double boiler, slowly heat the beeswax until fully melted.
  6. Pour melted beeswax into infused oil and mix gently.
  7. Let cool and use on all your dry, chapped skin as needed!