Homemade Onion Soup Mix (with No MSG!)

Save money and use real food ingredients when you make Onion Soup Mix!

I’m at church camp this week, loving life, swatting bugs, and trying to stay hydrated. While I’m gone, you can enjoy a re-posting of some of our most popular time-saving, money-saving, healthier eating mix recipes

Originally posted March, 2011

So far in this Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge, we’ve come up with recipes for Homemade Tator Tots, Healthier Chocolate Milk and Teriyaki Sauce. I attempted a recipe for corn tortillas and while they tasted pretty good…they were NOT easy to make, they fell apart and looked ugly. I’m going to keep working on that one until I come up with a corn tortilla recipe that doesn’t take the whole afternoon to make. :)

This new recipe in The Challenge was super easy to put together! Vicki, one of our readers, sent me an Onion Soup Mix recipe to try and WOW is it simple! I tweaked it a teeny tiny bit, but really, this recipe is more Vicki’s than mine.

What I love about this recipe is that I didn’t have to look high and low for the ingredients.  Many onion soup recipes I found call for some sort of bouillon. Almost always, bouillon has MSG. There are MSG free bouillon varieties out there, but what if they aren’t easily accessible to you? And so…I was very happy to see this recipe that contained just dried herbs and spices!

Onion Soup MixYum

Homemade Onion Soup Mix (with No MSG!)
  • ⅔ cup dried, minced onion
  • 3 teaspoons parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sucanat (or sugar if you prefer)
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients in a jar, then give the jar a good shake.
  2. I'd recommend shaking the jar to mix the ingredients well before each use.
  3. Use 4 Tablespoons Onion Soup Mix in a recipe in place of 1 packet of onion soup mix.  (I actually found that 2 Tablespoons was plenty in a beef stew recipe I tried.)
  4. Store this in a dry, cool place.


I used the Onion Soup Mix in this simple, one dish stew and YUM!
Find the recipe for Simple One Dish Meat and Potato Meal here.

And with that…I have to ask:

SO many of you requested this recipe that I’m guessing you all must have tons of wonderful ways of using Onion Soup Mix? I would LOVE for you to share what you do with this mix!!! I have exactly two recipes that call for Onion Soup Mix. I’m so excited to use this mix in those recipes because I’ve not made them for years. But what else??? What do you make with Onion Soup Mix??

High Five Recipes: Easy Butterscotch Bars

People can’t get enough of these butterscotch bars. They’re made with whole wheat flour but no one knows. They’re made with only five ingredients that you probably have on hand – so easy!


I originally posted this recipe in 2010, but decided to post it again for you today. Why? Because butterscotch bars. And also because I have only been home 3 of the past 11 days so I’m behinder than ever. While I play catch up and work on new projects (wait till you see!), I wanted to bless you a recipe so you could bless others.

High Five Recipes 2

You’ll be glad to know that this is a High Five Recipe! (High quality recipes + five ingredients or less = High Five Recipe)

This is not a Low Sugar Recipe, however. So make them to share with others, and saver them slowly (as opposed to gobbling down half the pan before you realize what happened).


Easy Butterscotch BarsYum

3.3 from 3 reviews
High Five Recipes: Easy Butterscotch Bars
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1¾ cups sucanat or brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  1. Stir melted butter and sucanat together.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.
  3. Stir in flour and mix until well combined.
  4. Pour batter into a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

These bars are gooey, rich, and need I remind you to make them to share with friends?

Now that I’ve been making these butterscotch bars for so many years, I get frequent requests for them.

  • “Laura, would it be too much for me to ask you to make a batch of your butterscotch bars for me for my birthday? Like very year for the rest of my life?”
  • “Laura, my friends and I were talking about your butterscotch bars and now we want some. I told them I’d ask…can you make us a batch?”
  • “How much arm twisting would it take for you to make another pan of your butterscotch bars?”

These requests make my day, and since the bars are so easy to make, I almost always say yes! If you haven’t tried these bars yet, do it. They’re crazy easy, but beware: people will beg you to make more. You’ll have more friends than you ever had before and everyone will love you for providing the butterscotch bars. It’s hard, but you can handle it.

Easy Butterscotch Bars - Five Ingredients!

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

I’m often asked how much Sucanat to substitute for white sugar, or if whole wheat flour can be substituted one for one with white flour. I decided to share a little bit about how I adapt “regular recipes” to make them healthier! Please know that when I say “healthier”…I’m not talking low fat. To me, healthier means real, whole food.  Click on the following links so read about how I feed my family and why I love real, whole foods!! Be sure to also check out this entire series on Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating.


  • If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil I switch it out one for one with melted coconut oil or melted palm shortening. It’s a little bit tough to measure out solid coconut oil to an exact needed amount. I just kind of “eyeball it”. If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, I make my best guess at how much 1/4 cup of coconut oil (or palm shortening) is while I’m scooping it out…then I melt it down in a small saucepan on the stove. If you are new to cooking/baking…you may prefer to melt it, then pour it into a measuring cup to be sure you  have the correct amount.
  • If a recipe calls for margarine (I gag and then) I switch it out one for one with real butter. This means that if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine, I use 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Usually butter and coconut oil can be used interchangeably. For instance, when I make muffins…sometimes I use coconut oil and sometimes I use butter. It depends on what I have on hand and what sounds good at the moment (coconuty goodness, or rich buttery flavor). If you are unable to eat dairy, you can substititute coconut oil for butter in most recipes.
  • I almost always use melted palm shortening to fry foods (like french fries, onion rings, homemade corn dogs, etc.).  Palm shortening does NOT create the same freaky effects from frying that vegetable or canola oils create. This means that foods fried in palm shortening (or coconut oil) are NOT unhealthy!
  • I use olive oil if a recipe calls for just a few teaspoons or Tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • You can read more about the fats I prefer and why I prefer them here!!


  • Sucanat (or Rapadura, which is the same thing…just under a different name) can be substituted one for one with white or brown sugar. This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white sugar…you can instead use one cup of Sucanat. However, I generally cut the Sucanat down just a hair because the flavor is stronger…and because it is more expensive…and because wow…do we really need that much sugar? :)  Sucanat, by the way, is dehydrated cane sugar juice and the healthiest form of cane sugar I’ve found. You can read more about it  here.
  • Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount the recipe calls for. This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white or brown sugar, I only use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey. Honey has a rich flavor and is sweeter than sugar. I have not found that substituting honey causes much difference in the consistency of a recipe, even though honey is a liquid and sugar is not. If anything, I find that honey makes quick breads, muffins and cookies more moist…and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me!
  • Real Grade B Maple Syrup can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I don’t often bake with it (ooh, except for Coconut Macaroons!). I use maple syrup for liquid treats like Chocolate Milk and Smoothies and Ice Cream. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, I use Grade B Maple Syrup instead, substituting it one for one.
  • You can read more about the sweeteners I prefer and why I prefer them here!!


To make things a little bit easier…I created a free printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” download. Click the following link, print it off and keep it in your kitchen as a handy reference!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions

How do you feel about adapting recipes? Are you good at making substitutions…or do you prefer to follow a recipe exactly?

This post was originally published March 9, 2011.

Black Bean Chicken Nachos – A Last Minute Meal

Where does the time go? My kids are not babies anymore, I’ve been married for almost 20 years, and just last week, I realized that it was almost lunchtime and I had forgotten to put the chicken into the crockpot. Yes, time flies after breakfast. And when you’re happily married, raising kids, and all that.

I have no advice on keeping time from moving so quickly. I can, however, give you an idea for a quick meal for when you haven’t managed to prepare anything in advance. It all starts with frozen chicken. This is because not only did you not start lunch or dinner on time, you also forgot to thaw the chicken. For all of you perpetually prepared people out there, don’t worry – thawed chicken will also work in this recipe. For the rest of us, we rejoice in the fact that frozen chicken and a cold crock pot does not prevent us from putting a great meal on the table in a short amount of time.

This recipe is a result of me realizing at 11:30 one whirlwind morning that while I had been planning to serve Chicken Tacos for lunch that day, not only was the chicken still frozen, I didn’t have any tortillas prepared or purchased. Without thinking too hard, I chucked the frozen chicken into a saucepan on the stove, dumped on salsa, and hoped for the best. I covered the pan and turned the heat on low. Within an hour, my chicken thawed, cooked in delicious salsa flavors, and was ready for lunch – which we had with chips instead of tortillas. It turned out so delicious, I decided we would make it this way again and again. This recipe turned out to be a “six out of six” which means that all six of our family members loved this.   A brainless, effortless, healthy recipe that we all liked? Score!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

Black Bean Chicken NachosYum

Black Bean Chicken Nachos - A Last Minute Meal
Serves: 6
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 cups cooked black beans (or one can of prepared beans, if you've - you know - not remembered to soak and cook them ahead of time while you were busy not thawing your chicken...)
  • tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and other nacho toppings of your choice
  1. Place chicken and salsa in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes (if chicken is thawed) or 45-50 minutes (if chicken is frozen).
  3. Use a fork and knife to shred chicken and stir it back into the salsa.
  4. Stir in black beans, and continue cooking until beans are hot - about five minutes more.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese and other nacho toppings of your choice.
  6. Scoop up Black Bean Chicken nachos with tortilla chips and congratulate yourself for throwing together such a wonderful meal with such minimal effort.

Then, before you forget, get out the meat for tomorrow’s meals so it can be thawed and ready to use. Not being prepared certainly worked for this recipe, but let’s not push it.

Easy Homemade Nacho Cheese Pretzel Dip

Obviously, this nacho cheese pretzel dip can be eaten with other foods beyond pretzels. I’m thinking tortilla chips, steamed veggies, popcorn chicken


But with these Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites? So delicious!

What’s fun about this recipe is that you can make it as spicy or as mild as you like. In fact, our family made individual bowls of the cheese dip, then added as much hot sauce as we each preferred.

Easy Nacho Cheese Pretzel DipYum

Easy Homemade Nacho Cheese Pretzel Dip
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 to 1½ cups milk
  • hot sauce to taste (we like Cholula)
  1. In a medium saucepan, slowly melt cream cheese and cheddar cheese cubes on medium low heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Once melted, gradually add milk and whisk together while continuing to heat.
  3. Once the sauce reaches the consistency you desire, remove from heat and serve - adding hot sauce to taste.


My boys were so impressed that I was able to make something that tasted so much like the canned fake cheese dip. But never fear – because this is made with real ingredients, it tastes much better than what comes out of a can.

Let’s take a vote: Who likes the cheese stuff that pours out of a can?  Love it? Hate it? Don’t feel bad admitting that you like it. We all have our lingering non-food cravings (says the lady who still chooses Nacho Cheese Doritos when given the opportunity).

But speaking of Doritos and Velveeta (which we weren’t actually speaking of but hang with me here). If you want to avoid cheese from a can and cheese from a box – but you really love Nacho Cheese Dip – I have a recipe you are going to love!

After years of trying, I came up with Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip.

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Dip

You guys. This recipe changed my life and I now make this dip every couple of weeks because we love it so much. I exaggerate frequently and am sarcastic often – but I am very serious about this dip.

So there you go. You now have two amazing homemade, real food dips to try so that you can forever and always avoid processed cheese. Amen and amen.

Cranberry Nut Trail Mix

This healthy, make-ahead snack is kind of a no-brainer, and not really a recipe at all. But it’s still worth mentioning as we focus on getting ahead with healthy snacks. Why? Because there’s chocolate in it. Obviously.  And also because it’s easy and good for you and all that other stuff.

Last week, I mixed up a big bowl of Cranberry Nut Trail Mix with items we had on hand. Then, I scooped it into individual grab-and-go baggies. Don’t like the dried fruit and nut options I mention below? No biggie – just use what you have and what you like. No matter what, you’ll be putting together a healthy snack. (Unless you add candy corns or m&ms, c’mon.)

And have you purchased bagged trail mix? Talk about pricey! They can’t help but be. Ingredients like nuts and dried fruit can be expensive.  Therefore, I’ve decided that I don’t need to pay someone to stir my ingredients and put them into a bag for me. I can do that myself thankyouverymuch and save some bucks while I’m at it. (I buy my nuts in bulk at Braga Farms.)

Cranberry Nut Trail Mix

So here you go – Cranberry Nut Trail Mix, the recipe. Which isn’t a recipe. Far be it for me to tell you how nutty you should be on any given day.

Cranberry Nut Trail MixYum

Dried Cranberries
Golden Raisins
Dark Chocolate Chips

Stir any combination of the ingredients together in a bowl. Store in an airtight container (like a jar!), or scoop mixture into individual baggies for grab-and-go snacks.

What other trail mix combinations do you like?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola


I’m guessing that many of the greatest recipe “inventions” have happened by accident. Asa (our 15 year old) really didn’t mean to create this wonderful Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola. His real intent was to make No-Bake Cookies for a mission trip fund-raising meal last Sunday. But somehow the liquid ingredients got slightly overcooked, the oats made the mixture way too dry, and no way no how was a cookie going to be formed once it was all said and done. I told him to press his mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and that we’d try cutting them into bars later. While that was a brilliant idea, it didn’t work any better than forming the mixture into cookies. We ended up with peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles instead. Peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles that tasted really, really good. :)

And so – we all just grabbed a bowl and a spoon and had at it. (While planning a different dessert to take to the fund-raising meal.)

I’m calling this “granola” because that’s what it looks and feels like. But I do have a hard time calling this a healthy breakfast or snack. While it is made with real food ingredients, it is still more dessert-like, for sure. In an effort to make this a little less sugary, and a bit more diverse for “stir-in” options, I’ve tweaked the ingredients from the original cookie recipe Asa used. I’m pretty sure it will still taste awesome with less sugar than originally called for in the cookie recipe!

By the way – depending on how you make this, it can be completely dairy free if you wish. :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate GranolaYum

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup milk or coconut milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (we use homemade peanut butter)
1 cup sucanat or 1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Put butter, milk, peanut butter, sucanat, and cocoa into a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Add vanila, oats, and coconut flakes. If the mixture is too liquidy add a few more oats or coconut flakes until you reach desired consistency.


Or shucks. If you “mess up” this recipe and the mixture turns out to be nice and smooth instead of crumbly – go ahead and spoon it onto wax paper and make No-Bake Cookies. ;)

 UPDATE:  If you do find your mixture too wet:  Add a few extra oats to soak up the liquid. Then put it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and baked it at 250° for one hour, stirring occasionally. The granola should get nice and crispy!

Whole Wheat Quick Mix Fruit Pizza


This Fruit Pizza is so yummy – you’ll feel like you are eating something naughty. But in fact, because it is made with whole wheat, honey, and fruit, I believe you could serve it for breakfast. Since figuring out this recipe, I may have done that a time or two at our house. ;)

You will love how easy this is to make!

Fruit Pizza CrustYum

1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Quick Mix
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

Mix ingredients together. Press (or pour) dough into an 8×8 inch baking dish. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until it is slightly golden. Allow crust to cool.

Cream Cheese Layer

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup 

Mix well and spread over cooled crust. Top with fresh fruit. (Berries, bananas, and kiwi work best.)

Serves 4-6. I typically double this recipe for my family and spread the crust into my large baking stone.


I’d love to know – have you made the Whole Wheat Quick Mix yet?!  More sneak peeks into our upcoming Oh, For Real book still to come!

Cranberry Biscuit Mix {Gifts in a Jar ~ Day Two}

You will not believe how simple these biscuits are to make, and how tasty they are to eat! This mix is very nice to have on hand, and of course, it makes a very fun gift to put into a jar.

By the end of this series, I bet you’ll begin to think that I say that about everything. Not so. I promise that even though I love jars and think that food in jars is beautiful and makes a great gift…I will never suggest that Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas would make a great Gift in a Jar. Nor would I encourage you to give Angeled Eggs in a jar.  See? Even I have my limits. ;)

Have fun and be creative with this biscuit mix idea! You can switch out the dried cranberries for raisins and throw in some cinnamon just for fun. Or you could include a variety of dried fruit – cherries maybe? This recipe is definitely not limited to cranberries – although cranberries are really good at Christmastime. (And in April. And September. Dried cranberries rock.)

Cranberry Biscuit Mix

6 cups whole wheat flour (I used freshly ground hard white wheat)
6 Tablespoons sucanat
4 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Divide the mix into two separate quart jars.

To make Cranberry Biscuits:

Place contents from one quart jar into a food processor or bowl.  Cut in 1/3 cup cold butter or palm shortening. Add 3/4 cup of milk and mix well. Roll dough onto a well floured surface and cut into 12 large biscuits. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 425° oven for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.

I have even found that it works well to mix up the entire batch (both jars) of biscuits – bake the amount we want for one meal, then freeze the remaining biscuits (unbaked). Then, I thaw the prepared biscuits overnight and bake them as directed in the morning!

I freeze the cut out biscuits on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Once they are frozen, I transfer them to a freezer bag until we are ready to thaw and bake them.


If you’re gifting this mix, you’ll want to be sure and attach a tag including the mixing and baking instructions. Want a fun tag to use for your gift?  Download Your Free Gifts In A Jar Tags Here!

What dried fruits do you think you would like best in this mix?

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares – In Case You Need Another Dessert for This Weekend

Yeah, I know. There are likely to be plenty of desserts at your table this weekend.

But just in case you wanted one more idea, I wanted to remind you of my Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares dessert. We love the combination of pumpkin and pecan. And it is fairly simple to put together. 


Pumpkin Pecan Pie Squares

Hey, if it makes you feel any better – pumpkin and pecans are really good for you. 

Now how can we justify the sugar??? :)

Happy Thanksgiving!