Friday, January 13, 2017

Nailed It! The Best Broccoli Soup Ever

Copycat Panera® Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I thought I made good cream of broccoli soup, but recently came upon a recipe that was a copycat Panera Bread Co. Broccoli Cheese Soup.  Since I had all the ingredients one Sunday night, decided to give it a try.

Oh my, this was the best broccoli soup ever!  Sweet hubby and I had bowls and I was looking forward to taking some of the leftovers for lunch the following day. 

On the stove was the pot of broccoli soup remains along with a pan of gravy left over from lunch.  I asked our son to take the scraps out to the dogs, then walked away. (don't do that to a teenager!).  When I walked back in, he was returning the EMPTY soup pot, he gave the soup leftovers to the dogs!  Trying to make a motherly point, I asked..."There is a dish of leftover gravy and a pot of freshly made soup, which one looks like it should go to the dogs?"  He answered typically of a teenage boy, 'both".   One day surely he will appreciate a great pot of soup!

But just to hold on to this recipe, I"m sharing it!

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup

1 tablespoon butter 
1/2 onion, chopped 
1/4 cup melted butter 
1/4 cup flour 
2 cups milk
 2 cups chicken stock 
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets 
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots 
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced 
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
 salt and ground black pepper to taste

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion in hot butter until translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Whisk 1/4 cup melted butter and flour together in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; cook until flour loses it's granular texture, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk if necessary to keep the flour from burning, 3 to 4 minutes.
Gradually pour milk into flour mixture while whisking constantly. Stir chicken stock into milk mixture. Bring to a simmer; cook until flour taste is gone and mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes. Add broccoli, carrots, sauteed onion, and celery; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir Cheddar cheese into vegetable mixture until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Walking Down Memory Lane

Several years back, my husband had surgery on his back that entailed a long recovery time.  To assist with the healing he was encouraged to walk daily.  Diligently we got up and out early for a morning walk most every day.  Since then, a walk together is something we enjoy doing together.

Of course we have to have different preferences for walking.  I like the city sidewalks and to begin and end with a point of reference.  He prefers country walks along the river and exploring different trails.

Trying to be a good sport, I go along with the country walk, with one stipulation...I don't like to walk in the sand!  Keep me on a hard path and not huffing and puffing through branches and underbrush and I'll be fine.

Recently there was a trail to the river we had not been to in years.  I knew it would be those conditions I didn't care for, but determined to go and make the best of it!  Here is the sand we got into!

Dirt trails, sand, leaves...he loved it!

But even amidst all the things I don't care for when walking, the scenery was beautiful. 

Then a trip down memory lane... as a little girl, my uncle would take us swimming at the river. He drove a Volkswagen and to get to the river you had to go up and down these gigantic hills.  They scared me, but my uncle made it fun.  A fast head start, tires spinning, pretending that we were stuck...he eagerly hit the hills while I nervously just wanted to get to the river!

On our walk, we found those same hills!  They weren't quite as steep as I remembered and I found it amusing to walk up them over 30 years later!  

Sometimes putting our self aside for the sake of others can bring back blessing...even in the sand! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Elderberry Syrup

In the middle of two weeks of school Christmas break linked to a week of vacation for sweet hubby and I, with lots of family time spent together, someone came down with a cold!  As in any generous family, it was shared.  Thankfully it wasn't the flu and didn't put us down and out, but complaints about sore throats and congestion were sounded.  

A dose of over the counter medication cleared up our son's nose, but totally knocked him out. It was ok at bedtime, but would greatly interfere with daily activities.  As soon as hubby started having symptoms, natural mama here jumped in with some proactive natural remedies!

Essential oils rubbed on throat - Thieves and Breathe blends to fight germs and clear nose, then a batch of elderberry syrup to build up the immune system to help it do it's job.  Elderberries naturally contain A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system.  Click HERE to read about some of the powerful benefits of elderberries.  

Elderberry benefits - Dr. Axe

Here is an easy recipe to prepare.  I halved this to make less for our small family. 

Classic Elderberry Syrup 
4 cups cold water
2 cups organic dried Elderberries
1 organic Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp fresh grated organic ginger root or organic dried Ginger Root
raw local honey
To make the syrup, combine the berries and herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and mash the berries in the liquid mixture. Strain the berries and herbs through cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice. Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of honey. Gently heat the honey and juice for a few minutes until well combined. Do not boil! Bottle in sterilized glass.

The Bulk Herb Store is where I purchase the majority of the herbs I use. 

DISCLAIMER: For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fitness Goals for the New Year That Will Stick

One evening this week, make it a point to ride by your local gym. I'l bet it is packed with people! Getting in better shape is one of the more popular New Year's Resolutions.

It begins with good intentions, a new gym membership, a few weeks diligently hitting the gym, eating better, feeling better until the day comes you don't 'want to' go work out.  Those 'don't want to' days come more frequently, the meals slip back to the old familiar foods which bring comfort and before long any progress made has disappeared...until next January. 

Instead of radical resolutions, taking fun smaller steps keeps us moving in the direction of our big goal.  Here are a few fitness resolutions to keep us headed in the right direction:

Instead of focusing on what you want to lose from your workout, focus on what you want to gain. For example, “I want to lose 30 pounds” is less motivating than “I want to gain strength.”  Turning the focus to how clean eating feel so good instead of the loss of some of the favorite foods. 

Make your resolution a measurable goal by participating in a race or other fitness competition like a charity walk, 5K, marathon or sprint triathlon  Whatever level of fitness, these are fun things which inspire us to train and become better.

Instead of using your jam-packed schedule as an excuse to say, “I don’t have time for exercise,” use the time crunch as a reason to perform a quick high-intensity interval workout. Hold a wall sit while you brush your teeth, or just take the stairs more often.  Find something physical to do in those quick spare minutes.

Once you hit a goal, do something nice for yourself. For example, if you want to run a 10K in under an hour, your reward could be the running watch you’ve been eyeing.

Instead of trying to go from zero to 100 on January 1, work on mastering one small exercise habit over the course of a couple of weeks. Once you feel like you have that one down, add another one.

Don’t skip your exercise warmup. It makes your ultimate workout — running, cycling,  lifting weights or intervals — feel easier, and it allows you to push harder, which means you’ll get better results.

Ask your family, best friend or sibling to help keep you accountable and cheer you on during your fitness journey. Pick someone who already see health and fitness as a top priority.

Integrating strength training into your workout routine is vital to building muscle, increasing strength and keeping your bones healthy.

Every once in a while, you will miss a workout or have an “off” day in the gym. Don’t let that trip you up. Just accept it and move on.

Apps like MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness make you more likely to stick with your goal and will eliminate time spent guessing about how much you ate, how fast you ran or how much weight you should lift this week. Plus, it’ll allow you to see just how far you’ve come.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Heartfelt Hospitality

Unless you are a Martha Stewart type, the subject of hospitality may be one that causes a bit of an internal struggle.   When we prepare our homes for visitors and find ourselves stressing out over the details, we are "entertaining" which is vastly different from 'hospitality'. Here is the difference:

Entertain: To hold the attention of with something amusing or diverting.

Hospitality: Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.

"Entertaining can be stressful; it feels like everything has to be perfect before your guests arrive—and the perfection must continue throughout the visit with the food, d├ęcor, conversation, and games. Hospitality is not about perfection or appearances... In fact, hospitality says I’m not perfect and neither is my home, but please come over anyway and fellowship. Hospitality has an open door / open life policy; whereas, entertaining says wait until I have everything perfect then come over. Entertaining is exhausting, and when hospitality is confused with entertaining it can lead to an avoidance of hospitality all together."

It has taken my several years to move beyond entertaining to opening our home with a spirit of hospitality. When the focus is on the guest and blessing them, it removes the stress of holding up a sometimes impossible standard.  It gives from the heart, where true treasures can be shared.

Instead of perfection, focus on graciousness. People won’t remember your menu in six months. They won’t remember what color scheme your table was, what place-card holders you used, or what you wore. They will never forget how you made them feel. They’ll remember the feel of your home. 

A home that loves, that's the feel I want for all who enter.

Over the Christmas season, we hosted our church deacon dinner. As I prepared to open our home and sought for a hospitable heart, the reminder of grace came as I recalled who I was and from where the Lord has brought me.  A teenage girl making poor choices, heading straight into a life without hope who grasped the offer of salvation as a young engaged woman.  Our marriage and home has been built from God's grace and through the years, we have grown and matured in the Lord.  He has made my life a life of transformation.  Grace was poured out on me and is alive and well to be poured out to others, especially in our home!