homemade cream of chicken.

I do not like the canned “cream of” soups.  They are disgusting.  Convenient, yes.  But really gross.  The way they glop out of the can.  The shape it takes.  And it just plain doesn’t taste good.  I may be dramatic in saying this, but I can almost taste the preservatives.  I really came to dislike the canned “cream of” soups as a new dietitian working on the cardiac floor in my first job as a Clinical Dietitian.  A lot of people cook with these, and they are full of salt!  Many people don’t even know that.

The thing is that a lot of good recipes call for cream of something.  I used to just use chicken broth, but it lacks flavor and a thickness that the soups provide.  So now I make my own.  It takes me five minutes, and it’s time well spent in my opinion!

Here’s how I make it.

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup


2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk  [I use skim]
1/2 cup chicken broth [I use low-sodium]
salt and pepper as you desire [I often skip these]


1.  Melt butter on stove over medium heat.
2.  Add flour and whisk together.  Stir frequently to avoid burning!
3.  After 1 minute, add the milk and chicken broth.  Whisk together.
4.  Cook until mixture thickens [approximately 3-4 minutes]
5.  Add salt and pepper as desired.

*this is equivalent to one can of cream of chicken soup.

*you can use this recipe, substituting beef broth for chicken broth to make a suitable substitute when cream of mushroom soup is used in recipes.


homemade cream of chicken soup



creamy steamy southern chicken.

Comfort food.  Healthier comfort food.  Have I sold you yet?  I am obsessed with this dish.  I came up with this recipe the other day because I was craving some creamy chicken.  My friend, Danielle, is the southern cooking girl.  She is a great cook and makes the best food, especially down home southern food.  She makes an amazing poppy seed chicken.  I had that dish in mind when I created this recipe.

healthier comfort food


This chicken dish is so easy to make.  It is like a poppy seed chicken, but without the poppy seeds.  You could easily add them in if you like them, or just make it as is if you don’t.  I also used Club crackers instead of Ritz crackers.  Just because I’m not a big Ritz cracker fan, but you could use either.  I tweaked this recipe to make it healthier.  I made my own cream of chicken soup.  I cannot stand cream of chicken soups that you buy at the store.  I find them disgusting.  They’re full of preservatives and very high in salt.  I appreciate their convenience but to me it is just not worth it.  You can use a can of cream of chicken soup, or you can use my recipe to make your own.  I would normally put sour cream in this dish, but this time I replaced it with plain, nonfat yogurt to make it healthier.


Here’s why it’s healthier:

All natural, plain, nonfat yogurt  vs. low-fat sour cream
Calories                                  100                                                     320
Total fat                                  0 g                                                      20 g
Saturated fat                          0 g                                                      16 g
Sodium                                    150 mg                                             200 mg
Potassium                               510 mg                                              0
Carbohydrates                        15 g                                                   16 g
Sugar                                         15 g                                                   16 g
Protein                                      11 g                                                   16 g
Calcium                                     40%                                                  32%


*This is per 1 cup of yogurt and 1 cup of sour cream.  


As you can see, the yogurt is lower in calories, fat, sodium, and is high in potassium.    Yogurt is a much better choice than sour cream here!


That being said, I do not recommend this substitute for everyone.  Stick with sour cream and not the yogurt substitute if you have kidney problems and need to limit your potassium.  Yogurt is rich in potassium, so while it is a great benefit for most of us, for someone with kidney disease it would not be a good place to get potassium.  



Here’s the recipe:


Creamy Steamy Southern Chicken


10 frozen chicken breasts
homemade “cream of chicken”
8 oz. plain, nonfat yogurt
1 sleeve Club crackers
3 T butter, melted


1.  Place frozen chicken breasts into 9×13 baking dish.  Follow directions for baking.  [My bag of Kroger frozen chicken had instructions to bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes]
2.  While chicken is baking, make homemade cream of chicken [or you can skip this step if you are using the canned stuff]
3.  Add yogurt to cream of chicken.
4.  Crumble crackers and add to melted butter.  Coat crackers in butter.
5.  Remove chicken from oven when thoroughly cooked and pour yogurt/cream of chicken mixture over top.
6.  Top with cracker crumbs.
7.  Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until everything is warmed and slightly brown.

creamy chicken breasts

creamy chicken

creamy steamy chicken for jack   Jack loved this dish, too.

creamy steamy chicken

creamy steamy southern chicken


sweet treat.

Yesterday I had to take a sick day.  I may have laryngitis – not sure and totally self-diagnosing there.  But I have no voice and my throat hurts pretty badly and I have swollen lymph nodes – one so big it’s sticking out of my neck and keeping me from being able to turn my head.  Thankfully, Tommy was home yesterday because he got called in to work Saturday evening and didn’t come home until Sunday late afternoon.  Even though he missed a night of sleep, he spent most of the day yesterday taking care of Jack and allowing me to rest.  I haven’t had anything that’s kept me laying down in quite awhile.  But the sick day did allow me to get some posts written, and this is one that I’ve been wanting to share.


I experimented with this sweet treat a couple of weeks back.  I noticed this picture pinned on Pinterest

2014 diy valentine's day food gift, Sweet Treats for Valentine's Day


and decided to try and make a similarly pretty but much healthier version.  This is what I came up with…

Nikon D3200 632

This is so easy to make, takes very little time, and is a much healthier alternative to a very rich dessert.  This dessert is under 100 caloriesCompared to my inspiration picture which is cake and frosting and at least 300 but maybe as high as 500 calories. 


Here’s how I did it:


Pint of strawberries
1 container of light Cool Whip [I used the Kroger brand]
Mason jars



1.  Wash strawberries
2.  Cap strawberries and halve or quarter, depending on how big they are
3.  Place a layer of strawberries on the bottom, followed by a layer of cool whip.
4.  Repeat until you reach the top.

Hint:  For an even lower calorie dessert, add more strawberries than cool whip, and for a richer dessert add more cool whip. 


Nikon D3200 629

Nikon D3200 630

Nikon D3200 631


In less than 10 minutes you have a dessert that is healthy and looks great, too!  Enjoy!

healthy bits from last week.

Happy Sunday friends!  I hope you’ve had a nice weekend.  It is sunny and 54 here right now!  It’s windy, but it’s such a nice day out.  Tomorrow the low is 14 and they’re calling for scattered snow showers.  You just never know what the weather will be like in East Tennessee.


Our Maryland friends got some snow last week!  Lately I have really been missing Maryland, and mostly our friends there.  I think because our first winter there was so intense [3 blizzards], winter just makes me think of Maryland.  And my heart misses our dear friends there.  I loved our little house in the snow.  It was cozy and the radiant heat made it feel even cozier.

None of that has anything to do with my post today though.  Today I wanted to share what #healthyandorganized2014 steps I took last week.

Like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t been as good on the healthy as I have on the organized.  I did make one of my favorite, very healthy vegetables dishes a couple of weeks ago.



Last week Tommy’s mom, his uncle from Wisconsin, and Tommy’s mom’s friend, Christy, came over for lunch.  Christy brought this for dessert.

angel food cake and berries


It was very sweet, very delicious and definitely a healthy dessert option.  Angel food cake is a great way to go to save on calories and the berries are a great way to get in fresh fruit.  Top it off with low fat cool whip and you are in healthy dessert business.
As I shared earlier in the week, I made white chicken chili.  It was such a healthy dinner and so easy to make.


white chicken chili



So even though I made chocolate chip cookies twice, I did make some healthy choices lately, too.  Sometimes I get caught up in the all or nothing mindset, even though I taught against it to all of my patients.  Looking back on the week to think about healthy steps helps me to see what I did well.  And it also helps me to see areas I could improve upon.  Like the Cokes I had to drink 🙂

healthy and organized 2014.

A few weeks ago my friend Becca and I were talking about eating healthier, exercising, and getting organized.  You know, all those things pretty much everyone feels they need to do in a new year.  I’ve felt it coming for awhile.  I haven’t been taking good care of my family or myself.  Our nutrition, our exercise, all of that flew out the window last year.  We were in survival mode last year, but now I feel ready to do more.  To thrive in 2014. 

Between the lack of healthiness in our lives, and the total disorganization, it’s hard to be efficient and intentional in life these days.  I want to spend my time in the new year taking care of my family, being focused, loving and doing it all efficiently so that I have time to do more. 

So as Becca and I talked about this, we decided to hold each other to it.  And because Becca is awesome, she hashtagged it – healthyandorganized2014.  So that’s what we’re doing! 

I know I can’t do it all at once.  I know that’s not healthy either.  So I’m doing it bit by bit.  Small steps in healthy eating, exercising, and organization.  And I’m pretty excited to get things back in order. 


The first day of 2014, I started off by eating a healthier breakfast than I have been eating lately.  I had a turkey and cheese omelet, with fruit.  And just to keep it real, I had 4 slices of bacon with it.  Thin bacon – so that’s more like 1 slice, right?? 🙂 

Starting the day off on the right foot helped to set the tone for the rest of the day.  So I am glad I made the decision to do that.  It’s just the beginning.  Excited to see what all is in store this year.  

#healthyandorganized2014 … here we go! 


Nikon D3200 269 Nikon D3200 265

be healthy during the holidays.

The Holidays – a wonderful time of joy, love, thankfulness, celebrating, family, friends, and food.  Also a time of busy schedules, parties, relatives’ houses, car trips, plane rides, shopping, wrapping, cooking, and a lot of doing.  With all of this going on it’s hard to find time to take care of ourselves….



Today I’m sharing this post over on the Knoxville Moms Blog.  Head over there to read it and see my tips for a healthier holiday season.



Thanksgiving is tomorrow!  Hope your day before is joyful.

how to make resolutions you can stick with.

Did you know dietitians who do counseling, particularly weight loss counseling, have the slowest season between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Makes sense, right?  Who wants to go see someone who’s going to tell you you need to eat less and better when there’s so much good food around?


Their busiest season starts right at the New Year.  New plans, the desire to make changes, people wanting to shift their lives– or at least their waistlines, making new resolutions.  They seek the help of a professional, a Registered Dietitian– hopefully!





Not everyone sees a dietitian, and that is totally fine!  But most people do make New Year’s Resolutions.  And many of them include goals for food, weight loss, and exercise.  I have seen so many people with great goals who can’t make it out of the starting gate.  Or make it out of the starting gate but never round the bend.


I chalk this failure to meet goals up to unrealistic goals and expectations.


I see it all the time.  A patient who has just had open heart surgery and sees their new life ahead of them now.  When I talk to them about their diet goals and changes they tell me they’ll never eat red meat again.  They’ll never go to another fast food restaurant.  They’ll do it all right.  [Of course I see the other extreme, too, but that’s another story for another day.]  Doing these things, in theory, would make a difference, but no one can do them.  Just like the newly diagnosed diabetic who says they’ll never drink sweet tea again.  That would help their blood sugar, but they’ve grown up in the south– sweet tea’s in their blood.  They can’t just drop it like that.  It’s so unrealistic to be so extreme.



So the thing I always focus on with patients and clients is making realistic goals.  When I was a dietetic intern one of my mentors was so focused on this point, and now I get it.  It is so important.  Realistic goals lead to real change which gives real results.  Goals that are challenging but obtainable are the best.  So I encourage you, as this new year approaches, to really take time to think about your goals and make them fit you.  I can promise you that I will be doing the same thing.


nutrition tips for these holiday days.

We have had so much wonderful food over the past several days.  We’ve had favorite treats, sweet desserts, full meals, and incredible dishes all around.  We are so blessed.  I realized as I opened my fridge on Sunday night and I had no room to put anything, that we have these incredible blessings including so much food that most of the world doesn’t have.  So before I get into the dietitian-y things, I wanted to share that.  How blessed we are.  Beyond measure.  And I pray we don’t take that lightly.


Now on to the nutrition…


I have stuffed myself full for days.  It’s been awesome.  But I’ve reached that point where I feel full.  Maybe the fact that I had my coffee this morning with a big handful of Dove chocolate.  So I’m at that point where I know change is coming, but I’m not ready for it yet.  I still want to enjoy the rest of the delicious food and keep on celebrating.  In the meantime, until the rest of the holiday season passes, I’m trying to follow a few easy tips to keep some healthy stuff in my daily diet.


1.  Make at least one snack a day vegetables.

My morning snack today was carrot sticks with some ranch dressing.  Now when I snack on party mix or candy this afternoon, I will know that I got some veggies in earlier.


2.  Choose vegetable side dishes with your meal.

When the big meals or leftovers are served, go heavy on the vegetable side dishes.  Try to keep the macaroni and cheese and mashed potato servings to a minimum, and bulk up on the sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots.


3.  Keep drinking water.

Drinking water all day long will keep you hydrated as well as help keep you from nibbling all day long.  Keep water on you throughout the day and you’ll be drinking it more than popping little treats in your mouth.



Easy enough, right?

soup full of veggies.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any type of recipe post or talked about vegetables or nutrition on this here blog, so I thought it time to do so.


One of the things I love about winter is that you can make lots of soups and stews that are quick, easy, and full of vegetables.  It’s a great and easy way to get a lot of veggies in.  Minestrone soup is one of my favorites.  It’s got great flavor and before you even realize it you’ve eaten several servings of vegetables.


This recipe is from my CrockPot cookbook — it came with my CrockPot.  So it’s super easy.  Just get all the ingredients ready, throw them in, and let it be.


I needed the knife and cutting board for the onion and zucchini.  I used big chunks of zucchini.  I used baby carrots, shredded cabbage from the grocery store, and canned tomatoes, so there really wasn’t much food prep needed.











Everything looked great thrown together.  And it tasted great hours later.  Add some macaroni noodles and parmesan cheese and you won’t be disappointed.



Nutrition information:

–  Lots of vegetables in each serving of soup.

–  Beans are great source of protein without the fat of meat.

–  Vegetables and beans are rich in fiber which has awesome effects on the body including GI health.

–  Low-calorie, low-fat soup.




– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 carrots, sliced [I used baby carrots and put them in whole]

– 1 zucchini, diced

– 1 cup cabbage, shredded

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained  [I used one can kidney beans, one can pinto because I don’t like kidney beans enough to do 2 cans]

– 32 oz beef broth

– 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes [I accidentally grabbed the diced tomatoes instead, and I loved how it turned out so I’ll probably do that again]

– 1 tsp. dried basil

– 1/2 tsp. dried oregano [I didn’t have basil and oregano so I used 1 heaping tsp of italian seasoning]

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1/4 tsp. black pepper

– 2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated



1.  Combine all of the ingredients in your Crock Pot– except the macaroni & Parmesan

2.  Cover.

3.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

4.  Stir in the macaroni & Parmesan cheese.




take a helping of my own advice.

There have a been a few times in my adult life where I’ve needed my nutrition knowledge for myself.  Right now is one of those times.

I’m having gallbladder problems, I think.  I had my most recent attack a week ago, and it was miserable.  So I sought out some help.  My Dr. sent me to have some tests done, so we’ll see how those turn out, but in the mean time she told me I need to eat a very low fat diet and that I’d know what to do.

Honestly, I didn’t think it’d be too hard for me.  I really eat a generally low fat diet anyway, but right off the bat I started having some dilemmas.  My doctor’s office is downtown.  Also downtown is a Zaxby’s [the food love of my life].  Since I don’t make it downtown very often these  days I plan it out to take advantage when I’m down there.  In fact, my doctor’s office has a West location which is much closer to my house, but I choose to schedule my appointments downtown so I can go to Zaxby’s.  Do I have problems?  Maybe.

So I called Tommy as I was leaving telling him I had a big dilemma.  He thought it was something medical and serious.  But no, I needed to know whether I should have Zaxby’s or not.  He  only laughed at me.  He wasn’t much help.

So I stopped by my mom’s office.  She works in the hospital where I had my appointment.  I told her my dilemma.  She said just don’t eat the fries.  Oh mom…  the fries dipped in the Zaxby’s sauce is my favorite part.  Meanwhile, it was Pharmacy Week and they were having a lunch so she had a crockpot set up in her office to keep warm the macaroni and cheese she had made.  Paula Deen recipe.  People.  Talk about fat.  I sat there right next to that pot of mac and cheese and just stared it down.  The last time mom made this was 5 years ago.  Small tragedy, actually.  It was for Thanksgiving and she made a ton of it.  The leftovers stayed in the crockpot and the whole thing went in the fridge.  The next day my little brother went to get it out and dropped the crockpot.  The lid shattered, thus sending glass shards into the macaroni and his legs.  We had to bandage him up but I swear he was more upset about losing the macaroni.  So needless to say, this macaroni is rare and special.  But I didn’t eat it.  I ever so perfectly followed my low fat diet restriction and left the mac and cheese behind.  And then went to Zaxby’s.  Compromise though– I only ate half the Zaxby’s and brought the rest home for Tommy.

This was last Wednesday.  Since then I’ve been faced with the low-fat conundrum several times.  Warm brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup.  Crap.  Mom cooked country ham yesterday.  Country ham.  Hello favorite food.  Hello awesome memories from childhood.  Hello deliciousness.  PS- if you don’t live in the south and are judging me now— come down here and I’ll show you good food.  Hershey bars out for Halloween.  Sunchips– did you know they have fat in them??

I didn’t eat the brownie and ice cream.  I really wanted something sweet.  So instead I got up and got myself some applesauce.  True story.

I couldn’t resist the country ham, and I don’t feel bad about it.  Good news was I didn’t have a gallbladder attack last night.

I’m eating a true serving size of Sunchips.  Never really done that before.

Last night Tommy fixed us up a very healthy very, very low-fat dinner.  It was delicious, filled my belly, and met my health needs.   Great thing about it was that it’s something we have every fall anyway.  I was encouraged that I do like low-fat foods 🙂

Mashed sweet potatoes.

Amazing acorn squash.  He does this every fall and it is so so good.  Very sweet, very satisfying.

[sorry for the terrible picture. i was too excited about eating it to take a picture of it before i dug it out of the skin.]

Fresh salad.  I choose the low-fat dressing, too.

14g of fat in the Ranch vs. 4.5 g of fat in the Italian.

Reading back through this, I realize it looks like I always eat high fat foods, and I don’t.  But I REALLY enjoy my favorite high fat foods, so it’s been hard to turn them down– even when I know it’s for my health.  Another way I’m learning to see more like my patients do.  It’s easy to know what’s right– it’s hard to choose those things.