How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? K and I (and little miss Lycka, the cute puppy pictured at the end of this post) had an amazing time visiting family in Wisconsin. Took the week off work, drove around Lake Michigan and holed up in my dad’s gorgeous victorian home in a small town called Kiel. Five days of laughter, relaxation and really really good food. It’s just what we both needed.
We’re back in Michigan, and I’ve been spending a bit more time at the gym — because, pie… And K has been hard at work in our garage, building us a beautiful red oak kitchen table for our 1900 farmhouse. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally have our very own kitchen table to have dinner parties, play games and do puzzles. No more balancing a plate in one hand from the couch! Okay, that’s still going to happen sometimes, let’s be honest.
And even lovelier because K will have built it with his own hands, with mostly reclaimed wood.
This time of year is my absolute favorite (you too??) — we move from Thanksgiving straight into Christmas, with holiday parties and drinks with friends and family gatherings and lots and lots of yummy food that we only make once (or twice) a year.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of my favorite holiday recipes, lightened up a bit, and tips for making your holiday recipes a bit healthier — but still as delicious as ever. Because why wait until the new year to start treating yourself well?
Healthy Holiday Tip #1: Make Your Own Cream of Mushroom Soup
As the temps continue to drop here in the midwest, we look to comforting slow cooker meals, casseroles and soups to warm us up — and cream of mushroom soup is a staple ingredient in many of these recipes (at least my favorites). Unfortunately, store bought cream of mushroom soup doesn’t really live up to the magic of the holiday season:
- Surprisingly little cream or milk (less than 2%)
- Lots of sodium — nearly half the recommended daily allotment in one serving
- MSG and MSG substitutes
- Highly processed oils that can be harmful to your body
Making your own homemade cream of mushroom soup is a super quick, easy, healthy alternative. All you need are 9 simple, fresh ingredients and 15 minutes to infuse your recipes with earthy, creamy mushroom flavor. I could (and have / will again) eat it with a spoon.
Stay tuned for more Healthy Holiday Tips in the weeks to come.
This super creamy green bean casserole is full of fresh, vibrant green beans, earthy mushrooms and topped with the crispiest oven “fried” onions. It’s one of K’s favorite holiday dishes, and full disclosure — we ate the whole pan after I took these photos. The whole thing. Gone.
It’s that good.
To lighten it up, I took a couple of traditionally canned, processed items — cream of mushroom soup and fried onions — and replaced then with homemade versions. The result? A fresher take on a classic that you can really feel good about eating (and not the least bit guilty about overeating!).
PS — Panko baked onions get a gold star. They’re a definite favorite, and such a cinch to make. They add a delicious and welcome crunch to this creamy casserole, and I could imagine they’d be pretty awesome on their own as a game-day snack. Just putting that out there.
- 1 batch homemade cream of mushroom soup (see the recipe link above)
- ½ medium onion, cut into ¼" slices
- ¼ cup flour (I used whole wheat)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed and chopped to 1½" pieces
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange three bowls next to the baking sheet -- add the flour, Panko and egg to separate bowls. Whisk the egg lightly with the milk, and season the flour with salt and pepper. Using one hand for wet (egg) and one hand for dry (flour, Panko), coat a few onion slices in flour, then in the egg mixture, and then in Panko. Arrange on the baking sheet and repeat until all are coated. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through to prevent burning. Remove to a cooling rack. Reduce the oven to 400 degrees.
- While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the green beans, dropping into the water and cooking for 2-3 minutes until vibrant. Remove to a colander set in a bowl of cold water -- this stops the cooking.
- Make your homemade cream of mushroom soup. Once the soup has reduced slightly, add the green beans and ⅓ of the onions. Stir to coat evenly. Top with the remaining onions and bake for about 10 minutes until bubbly.
And as promised, here is the newest addition to our little family — Lycka. We adopted her almost 2 months ago, and she’s been such a joy. A puppy mill survivor, K and I have watched her slowly come out of her shell. She’s going on 9 months old, and we’re halfway through a 6-week puppy training class — which includes a great dane puppy named Elsa that’s about as tall as me when she’s sitting on the ground. Lycka can walk right under her.
Just look at that face.
Lycka’s favorite things:
- Playtime at the park — conveniently located two blocks from our house. We didn’t even know!
- Her Kong stuffed with ice cubes.
- Chicken flavored dental treats — I know, yuck! But she loves them.
- Learning new tricks — or maybe getting treats for learning new tricks is more accurate. She’s mastered sit, stay, down, up and leave it.
- Snuggle time on the couch.
- Nylabones. Because she. loves. to. chew.
Things we’re working on:
- Being outside in wide open spaces. She’s happy in our backyard and at the fenced in dog park, but going for walks around the neighborhood brings too many overwhelming sights, sounds and smells.
- Eating when we’re nearby. Treats are no problem, but she’s still a little skittish around her food dish.
- Taking treats gently.
- Being more independent. She got attached to K and me pretty quickly, and has a bit of separation anxiety when we go to work.
Baby steps! We wouldn’t have her any other way.