Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pantry Salmon Casserole

I got another snow day yesterday, and as a result feel pretty well rested! God knows what I need, as usual.

I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings with my last post. I re-read it and started wondering if any of my blog-friends will feel like I'm saying they're not good enough for me. You guys are wonderful -- I just wish I could have you over for dinner. I have never done long-distance relationships well, and just now I admit to being an emotional basketcase (I mean, more than usual) which responds better to hugs than to emoticons (though I like both).

There isn't much news lately. John's job search is going well, I think. He has a lot of leads. But it might take awhile to see which are going to pan out. That's almost an answer to prayer in itself, though, because I was terrified of trying to navigate a job change or move before the baby is born, and now it looks like that probably won't happen. However, none of the leads are solid enough that you should stop praying! Hopefully we will find something soon.

Pregnancy is going well at 33 weeks. The back pain flares up when I am on my feet a lot, and gets less when I get rest. So, with all these snow days and everything, plus my efforts to sit down more at work, I'm handling it okay. And everything else is quite stable. I've had one wakeful night with heartburn, and other than that am pretty comfortable considering I look like the Goodyear blimp! I've been having a LOT of false labor, which worried me for awhile, but now I'm getting used to the way it comes and goes. My mom says she had a lot too. And my mother-in-law says it will make my real labor shorter -- here's hoping!

Anyway, the post title suggested a recipe, and I do have one for you. This was a dinner that I made from things in the pantry because we are out of almost everything right now. (Shopping today!) I didn't expect it to be much of a hit, but I actually got compliments! I ate one serving and John ate three ... so I will label it "serves four," but keep in mind that it actually only served two in our case.

Pantry Salmon Casserole

1/2 cup brown rice (after cooking it was more like 1 1/4 cup)
1 can salmon
1 can mushrooms
3/4 cup peas (mine were frozen -- I think canned peas are icky)
2-3 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 onion, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese

Cook rice. Mix all ingredients except cheese in a smallish casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese over top. Put in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so. Enjoy.

You see it was just a thrown-together dish. I thought it wouldn't turn out well, especially when I found out that the onions hadn't cooked completely. (I chopped them quite coarsely and only had the casserole in the oven for about 5 minutes, to melt the cheese. I've changed that for you, but you can also try it my way.) I found them rather strong, and was sure John wouldn't care for them. But it turned out he loved them crunchy! Said it gave the dish more of a bite. I'll leave this to your personal taste, whether you like raw onions or you'd prefer to have them soft and milder.

I meant to put some garlic in, but forgot. Salt might also have been nice, but I didn't add any to my portion -- the cheese was salty enough for me. John's suggestion was that this would have been delicious with artichoke hearts, and I thoroughly agree. (Yum!) In fact, you could really add almost any vegetable in place of or in addition to the peas -- whatever you happen to like. You could use white rice instead of brown, but I much prefer brown, and I think it went better with the dish anyway. I've made something similar with white rice and didn't get any compliments that time!

You'll notice this is a Friday-in-Lent recipe! So you have something to add to your repertoire, if you're grasping for ideas to get you through all the Fridays. Also, it can easily be increased, and the exact proportions don't matter much either: you could double the rice and leave the rest the same, or double the salmon and veggies and leave the rice where it is.

No picture -- we ate it all right away. :)

Happy Lent!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Friendship

I've been thinking about friendship a lot lately. It's natural, when I'm in a phase of my life when I have no social life to speak of. I won't say I have no friends, because I have many of them in theory, but I see most of my friends very rarely. It has been at least a month since I've had so much as a phone call from a friend. I see people at work and at church, but it's always a "Hi, how're you doing, bye" sort of conversation, in between things. It's just a side-effect of living somewhere where we don't know many people, and of being so busy I'm lucky if I make dinner and clean the house.

However, I've heard it's good for newly married couples to have a little time on their own, far from friends and family, to forge their own bond. And I do believe we have done that. When I married John, I never could have believed the amount I would love him now. I can only imagine how much I will love him in 20 years! And since he is my best friend, I don't feel lonely very often.

But, as I think about how rarely I connect with anyone else, I get to wondering. Considering I see none of my friends very often, who are my best friends? If I really needed to talk to a friend, who would I call? Why haven't I made more of an effort to keep in touch with my friends? What "counts," for me, as true interaction with a friend?

I find that I am very picky. I enjoy emails, but they often feel so distant and vague, and so I sometimes neglect my email correspondence, even when I am lonely. And I don't much like talking on the phone, except maybe with my mom. With others, I feel lost because I can't see their faces. I enjoy large social groups all right, but I prefer small ones. My favorite is to sit down with one friend for awhile -- preferably a long time -- or to spend the day hanging out with one or two friends.

Then I'm picky about how the friendship has to go. I think the single most important thing to me in a friendship is honesty. Not just "not lying," but being completely candid -- not avoiding or glossing over certain topics. When I gripe to a friend about my problems, I want her to listen, of course -- but I also want to hear exactly what she thinks about what I said. I don't want to be agreed with all the time. I want to be told if my friend thinks I'm wrong.

A lot of that probably has to do with my time at boarding school. There were so many things you couldn't talk about, and no one would give their real opinion about a lot of the things that mattered. I guess it's sort of a rebellion on my part to demand absolute openness instead. As a very sensitive person, it's a challenge to open myself to criticism, but I am much less afraid of criticism than I am afraid of the other person holding back, secretly thinking I'm wrong, but not considering it "okay" to say so. Even worse is for the other person to expect me to hold back. I tend to be pretty positive about my friends -- after all, I like them -- and I don't load them with criticism, yet when I think they're wrong, I want to be allowed to say so. I insist that I am not really loving them if I don't tell them when they're out of line, making a mistake, or have spinach on their teeth. They're welcome to disagree -- because I am often wrong -- but I do have to be allowed my two cents.

The average rule of friendship among women, as far as I can see, is to be affirming: to tell your friend she doesn't look fat in that dress and that her relationships are all going fine. But I simply can't and won't do that. I feel like I'm lying. And in a friendship where that's expected of me, or I fear it might be expected of me (as with people I don't know that well), I feel nervous and ill at ease ... like I might accidentally stumble on some sore topic and find it's a landmine.

That happens all the time at work -- people in this city seem a lot less open than what I'm used to, and they don't talk much about their lives. So when I share a lot (as I generally do), I always wonder afterward, "Do they think I'm too forward? Was I accidentally rude? Or do they think I'm some kind of eccentric?" So my conversations at work end up being more of a burden than anything else, as I try to avoid topics that others might not like, and obsess (way more than I should) about what I said.

Still, my social anxiety is hardly the point. I know how to navigate casual relationships tolerably well -- at least enough that people still put up with me. And I'm okay with spending a percentage of my day on superficialities. But that's not friendship. I do not find "friendships of convenience" (as Aristotle called them) fulfilling in any way. I am not satisfied with this level of interaction, and I would like to have deeper levels of contact with true friends.

But, as you can see from what I've said above, I'm terribly picky. I demand a lot before I will consider myself someone's true friend. Though I'm friendly and share a lot even with recent acquaintances (as you can see by the fact that I am blogging all this!), I need to know someone for awhile before I feel like I can list them as a true friend. It takes a long investment.

Aristotle said that true friendship only exists between people who share the same idea of goodness. This is because true friends will help one another achieve the good, and they can only do this if they agree on what it is. I would agree with this assessment. That's requirement number two for friends of mine. I can be friends with someone who isn't Catholic, but I don't think I could be friends with someone who thought it doesn't matter how you treat others, or who lies on a regular basis, or who doesn't value responsibility and decency.

So, with my two huge requirements for friends -- that they be completely open with me and allow me to be open with them, and that they share my views on the most important things -- it's no wonder my friends are few. And I lose some along the road. I used to think you could never truly lose a friend, but as I've become older and more cynical, I've found that you can. Friends who I used to share my faith with, who now have abandoned it. Friends I thought shared my views on relationships and then cheated on their boyfriends. That sort of thing. I might still like them, talk to them, wish them well, but something is gone that used to be there. I find myself asking what we have in common anymore.

Then, what if I add in another dimension and say I want friends who are similar to me in more superficial ways? For instance, I have several close guy friends, borrowed from John, who is an excellent maker of good friends. Is it selfish of me to want to have some girl friends too? Well, I do have a few close girl friends. I haven't seen many of them since my wedding, though. Still, never think for a minute that I am not tremendously grateful for my girl friends.

What about state in life? Wouldn't it be nice to have at least one friend who was married and going to have a baby -- or maybe already had one? I would love to have at least one peer I could talk baby stuff with. But almost all the married women I know are much older than me. I have two friends who are married -- both of whom are states away, and we never really talk. It's sad.

Well, I don't have a solution to this problem. I'm not going to whine and say "I have no friends." That would be insulting to the truly amazing people who are my friends. But ... I guess right now I am craving an afternoon in the company of a really good girlfriend, and I don't know what I can do about that. I didn't write this post to complain, but to explore my expectations. I'm wondering if they are fair.

Is it that I expect too much? Or is it just a matter of where I happen to be in my life right now -- in a different city and a different point in my life than the select group of people I count as friends?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Back to Work

So, I've been back to work. That's why you haven't heard from me. I must say, the break did help. The first day back seemed SO long! But I got through the week okay -- tired, sore, exhausted, but not depressed or frustrated like I was feeling before. I don't feel like I'm carrying the burdens of months or weeks of issues ... just taking one day at a time. That's good.

It helps that I'm making some progress in the realm of discipline. At the beginning of the year, I thought, "These kids are so unbelievably good, they won't need any of the things I learned about discipline from teaching high school last year!" Well, those days are over, but I'm discovering that many of the secrets I learned last year work with this age, too.

The parents would have me believe that if I were just nice enough, if I had a relationship with their kids, if I understood them, I wouldn't have issues in the classroom. And, silly me, I put this idea into practice, even though I know from my years of nannying that there is no magical spell of niceness that can replace good, old-fashioned discipline and consistency. True, good teachers don't spend much time on discipline. That's because the kids know the discipline is there, even if it rarely has to be used because it isn't challenged. So consistency has been the byword for me -- fewer threats, more actual consequences. At their age, the main thing I can do is take away recess. And so that's what I do! The kids don't like it, but they respect it, and when I've done it even once in a day, to one child, not only that child but the whole class shapes up a bit.

Now, they are little kids and need positive incentives too. So I've been trying out the idea of contests. I have an equal number of boys and girls. (Also of first and second graders.) The other day, we had a contest running all day to deal with one of my pet peeves: rocking their chairs. They always rock their chairs back from their desks, and eventually end up falling over and hurting themselves. Not so bright, huh? Anyway, the challenge was to go without rocking their desks all day, and whoever rocked their desks the least would win. I kept track with tally marks on the board. The girls won, and they got stickers.

That worked so well that I'm thinking of making some kind of longer-running campaign, complete with a poster of some sort. The kids could move forward by raising their hand, being ready for the next activity the fastest, paying good attention, and backward every time they rocked their chairs, talked out, or goofed around. I'm thinking of using Lent as a framework, and having the two teams be Israelites in the desert, trying to get to the Promised Land. Think it would work? I will have to think of something nice as a prize, though.

There isn't much to my life right now besides work. I am just too tired when I get home to do anything at all. Even standing up is a huge effort. At work, I'm trying to teach sitting as much as possible, because I've found my back pain is directly related to the time I spend standing. But it's next to impossible to teach small children without standing up at least half the time, it seems. So, when I get home, my back is screaming in agony and it's all I can do to stagger out of the car and collapse onto the couch with my hot pad. The kitchen was a mess all week, dinner didn't get made, and laundry piled up. I'm trying to catch up with that this weekend! I tackled the kitchen today. Tomorrow, I want to vacuum, do laundry, and do some prep for dinners in the coming week.

I've been having an awful lot of false labor. When I'm home, I have contractions maybe every half hour or so, less in the morning. When I'm at work, it is at least that often and maybe more. Unfortunately, I'm too busy teaching to time them. I do know they get much more uncomfortable when I stand up. (It helps me remember to stay sitting!) The conventional wisdom states, "If you have four or more contractions in an hour, drink water and lie down to help them subside." That is all very well, but I don't know what they would suggest for elementary school teachers. I can't tell how often I'm having these contractions, and I can't lie down even on my free periods, because there is nowhere to go. So I drink water throughout the day, take it as easy as I can (which isn't all that easy), and try not to stand up unless I have to.

But, all in all, it has not been a bad week. If you're lucky, I'll finish the post I'm working on about women in the workplace and have it up for you sometime this week.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Frozen Yogurt

I just finished eating my frozen yogurt from earlier, and it was delicious. I must warn you, though, that frozen yogurt is not the same as ice cream, and it doesn't taste like ice cream. Yogurt will always have that sour yogurt taste. However, if you're in the mood for it, it's just perfect. And, of course, much better for you.

Frozen Yogurt for One

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put all ingredients in a mug and stir until completely blended. Put in the back of the freezer for about three hours. Then take out, stir, and enjoy!

I stirred every hour or two, but it really doesn't seem to have made a difference. If you leave it in longer, though, it might get too hard if you don't stir before serving.

That is kind of a lot of sugar I put in. The thing is, frozen things need more sugar to still taste sweet. You could cut the sugar a tad, but it will be more sour that way. You can taste as you mix the ingredients together -- it will taste about the same frozen, just keep in mind that the flavors will not be quite as strong.

Variations

Straciatella: Omit vanilla and add mini chocolate chips.

Fruit: Omit vanilla, reduce sugar a bit, and add fruit preserves, puree, or whole fruit pieces. You could also just freeze fruit yogurt.

Spice: Omit vanilla and add a sprinkle each of cinnamon and nutmeg. You could also replace some of the sugar with molasses and add a bit of ginger. Or maybe some cooked apples!

Chocolate: I considered blending in chocolate syrup. I'm not sure how that would blend with the sour yogurt taste. I decided against it, but you could still give it a try.

Things Look Up

Last blog post sure was whiny, wasn't it? I was feeling pretty terrible when I wrote it. But I have good news for you, dear readers: you are in good company. Along with many wise and intelligent people, God is a faithful reader of my blog. He read the whiny post -- and also saw how I was doing each day. He saw me fighting back tears at the very notion of going back to school last Monday. He saw me struggling to choose between the nap I badly needed and the hot bath that would make my back pain go away.

So He decided to step in. It snowed all weekend -- school was cancelled Monday. I went in Tuesday -- then it snowed some more. It snowed enough to cancel school Wednesday and Thursday, and cancel an inservice on Friday. I worked all of one day this past week.

Thank you, God!

Over the course of this week, I have gotten an insane amount of sleep. I took several long, hot baths. I stayed off my feet. I prepared a bit for baby -- mostly by reading, but also going through the baby things I had and making lists of what I needed. I spent time with my husband -- he had Saturday and Wednesday off when I did. I sat on the couch feeling baby kick and pondering whether this or that was a Braxton-Hicks contraction. (My mom says most likely.) I did a bit of cooking, and I got the kitchen clean at last. I folded the laundry and put it away so that it is not driving me crazy sitting around in huge piles.

Finally, I feel rested. My back pain has gone from unbearable agony to a slight twinge now and again when I change position. My feet don't hurt. I don't feel like melting into tears about everything. I am eating throughout the day, so I don't feel alternately starved and sick. When my husband talks, I listen and don't resent him for thinking he has anything to complain about.

If only it could always be like this! But that wouldn't be fair. I never had the intention of staying home full-time before having kids -- it would be a waste of my abilities and, in my opinion, lazy. (I know there are people who think a woman's place is in the home, regardless of whether she has children -- but I disagree. Someday I will write a long post that explains why. My basic reason for working was that we needed the money, and it would be ridiculous for me to stay home and clean a 500-square foot apartment while my husband took a second job.)

I know school will start back up next Tuesday, and as the weather gets warmer, snow days get less likely. There's still a bit of trepidation about this: I know how quickly I wear out. But I also know I'm closer to the end: I only have about seven weeks of school left. And I'm hopeful that the two weeks or so between my last day at work and my due date will be a good time to rest and prepare like this week has been. (Though there's no counting on it -- my mom had a couple of hers three weeks early.)

In any event, I have a few more days to rest and relax. I'm prevented from spending this time cooking things for the freezer, as I would like to do, because I haven't been able to get out and get groceries. And all the other basic chores are done. It's quite a foreign feeling! Today my main jobs are to make refried beans (in progress!), cook dinner, and experiment with frozen yogurt. I'll tell you all how that last one goes. I'm going hog-wild on dairy, because babies use a ton of calcium (in fact, I've heard they use an adult's whole RDA of calcium every day to develop their bones!), and I know yogurt is very healthy. I don't make my own yet, but I've been buying the plain kind in a big tub and trying to find ways to jazz it up and make it interesting.

In the rest of the time? I'm mostly dreaming. Dreaming of what being a mother will be like. I suppose I already am one, but I don't feel like one in the least. But I'm already in love with the baby. I see the ripples under my shirt as an elbow or knee wiggles around, and I get so excited. I wonder what baby will be like. Will my child be anything like me? Two of my younger siblings are very much like me, and I find myself completely enthralled by them -- the way they talk a mile a minute, wonder about everything, and have wild and unpredictable emotions. I would love to have a baby like them. But then, maybe the baby will be like John. I can't quite imagine what a baby version of John would be like. But I love the grown-up version so much I know I'd like the fun size.

I imagine ash blond curls, hazel eyes like John's. But if the baby comes out with red hair and blue eyes, I'll only love those the more. Or favoring the Hispanic side, all brown. I am so impatient to find out. I just want to have this baby put in my arms so I can continue falling in love.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Granola bars, update

Today I made granola bars for the first time! I've been wanting to do it for some time, because I hate paying two or three dollars for a box of eight granola bars which are gone in less than two weeks. Besides, they are all so sweet that I don't think they're all that good for me. I wanted something which was more high in protein than sugar.

I read several recipes on how to make them, but in the end mostly made up my own. All the recipes I could find were a little too sweet. I don't have corn syrup anyway, but I also didn't want to put huge amounts of honey in there either. I decided to use part honey and part molasses. (Molasses, especially blackstrap molasses, is also high in iron!) To make sure they were high in protein, I used a lot of peanut butter and whole peanuts. I also added an egg white to help them stick together.

Recipe

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses*
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1 cup peanuts
3 cups instant oatmeal
1 egg white

*Maybe a bit more -- see below.

I heated the first four ingredients over the stove (set on low) until they were all melted and blended. I recommend using some of the butter to grease your measuring cup before measuring the honey, molasses, and peanut butter -- they are awfully sticky! Then I added in the oatmeal and blended well. I dumped in the peanuts -- it might have been a little less than a cup. At that point I found the mixture was a little dry, so I added a bit more molasses -- maybe two or three tablespoons -- and another spoonful of peanut butter. I stirred all the ingredients in the pan till they were warm and well-blended. Then I turned off the heat and made sure the mixture wasn't too hot to touch before I added the egg white. (I wanted to be able to blend it in completely -- not end up with scrambled egg bars!)

Once I'd mixed that in well, I put the mixture into two buttered pans. One was 8 x 8 and the other was a little smaller. I squashed them down really well into the pans so they would stick together. They ended up about a half inch thick. Then I put them into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. When I took them out, I cut them into bars. (They were still quite soft.) They're out cooling on the counter right now, and when they're cool enough I'll put them into the fridge to really harden up. I hope this part works! If not, I'll just put the crumbs in a baggie and call it granola, I guess ... but I would much prefer bars for taking to school, so here's hoping.

Update

Last weekend, I had several blog ideas I was planning for the upcoming week. Then the week stunk so bad I gave up the whole idea, so my apologies. It's not just being pregnant ... it's not just work ... it's not just worries for the future ... it's a combination of all these things, with a heavy overtone of being tired.

Teaching children is a pretty energy-intense job at the best of times and in the best of situations. This is my second year at it, and I still haven't hit a point where it doesn't completely wear me out. But, in an ideal situation, it's bearable. In a less-than-ideal situation -- not so much. When the other teachers and administration is not 100% supportive, for instance, it gets a whole lot harder. That's kind of the situation I have right now. It's a big stress factor.

(Here is removed a whole paragraph of rants about the ways people have not been supportive! I decided the internet wasn't a place for it, even though I doubt anyone at work could find this blog if they wanted to. I am aware that I would be less critical of the (actually very nice) people I work with and their faults if I had more patience just now.)

Then the other factor is trying to do this extremely stressful job while pregnant. I'm in a state of acute exhaustion most of the week. I also have pregnancy-related sciatic pain -- which is one of the more painful things that can happen to your back. It is exacerbated by being on my feet all day, which I can't really avoid doing. I sit more than I did as a high school teacher, but I still have to circulate around the room an awful lot of the time. Driving for over an hour and a half every day also doesn't help.

Teaching children of this age is a job which requires boundless patience. But I haven't got a lot left, and it's only grace that is keeping me from snapping, "I'm in horrible pain right now, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm tired, so why don't you kids all sit down and shut up!" Thank goodness I haven't done that yet! But I must admit I've been a little less than patient these days, all the same.

So, I'm counting the days. I have two four-day weeks, five five-day weeks, and a three-day week of half days before I am done for good.

When I'm not at work, though, I must admit I'm doing fairly well. I sleep like crazy on the weekends, which helps a lot, and I'm off my feet. The only thing that bothers me is the fear of work starting up again on Monday. Well, that and my fragile emotional state. I have just been all ups and downs, all the time. Unfortunately I've been heavy on the downs the past few weeks, whether there's the slightest reason for it or not. I guess I'm just edgy. I hope it passes.

The happy part of my update is the part where I'm making progress, or rather, baby is. I'm getting a ton of kicking, a lot of the time, which always cheers me up. Sometimes I can see a little elbow (or whatever it is) moving around. I never get tired of watching! Though sometimes at night I say, "Simmer down, kid! Go to sleep!" The most active times are when I'm still, so nighttime is "kick mom in the ribs" time. This baby promises to turn out a night owl and a late sleeper -- so it might end up a good schedule for me. You never know.

I also get a kick out of being huge. I actually don't mind when the kids say, "Gee, Mrs. C, your belly is getting really big!" They love watching baby grow, and so do I. The bigger I am, the closer we're getting to getting this baby on the outside. (It helps that my weight seems to be doing fine. I got weighed last week when I got my Rh factor shot, and I'd only gained three pounts.)

We toured the hospital last week, which was so exciting for me. I don't like hospitals, but I must admit this is a pretty nice one as hospitals go. I am not positive how my efforts to avoid interventions in labor will go over, but they did give off a vibe of being pretty flexible. Now, this isn't one of those places with a birthing Jacuzzi and mood lighting -- but I do think I'll be able to pull off what I want. The only "focal point" I really want is my husband anyway. And the hospital made me very happy with its newborn policies. They encourage rooming-in -- so baby will be in a bassinet near me instead of in a row of other babies in a glass room, like they always have in the movies. And they do not whisk away the baby after birth -- they actually have a little area set aside in each labor and delivery room where they can weigh the baby and clean it off. They also said they wouldn't do even that right away. As long as the baby is all right, I get to hold it right away for as long as I want. This is even more important to me than having a natural birth, so I am glad the hospital allows and encourages it!

Right now, I just want to hit fast-forward on my life, get to the part where I'm not working, this baby is born, and John hopefully has a new job. But life doesn't go like that, and it wouldn't be fair if it did. I think I need to go through some hardship to experience the real joy when it's over. Lent is coming up quickly, and believe me, it'll be the real thing for me! I haven't decided what to give up ... I'm afraid of giving up anything that stands a chance of making me grouchier and I feel like I've given so much up already. Perhaps I should give up complaining ... ;)

But at any rate, you've got to have Lent in the desert before you can have Easter. Lent falls just at the right point for me -- I'm due less than two weeks after Easter. And believe me, when I hold this baby in my arms for the first time, I'll be celebrating Easter for sure.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chicken Corn Chowder


This is inspired by a post I read on Kitchen Stewardship about reverse-engineering favorite premade recipes. She suggests examining storebought foods that you eat and trying to see how you can make it yourself, more cheaply and healthfully than the original.

I decided to try to make chicken corn chowder. I was buying it at Aldi, canned, for $1.39. That is an awful lot for one lunch. At the same time, my grandma was reminding me that I shouldn't eat much canned soup because it is high in sodium.

So I forced myself to read the label -- something I don't usually do, because I know I won't like what I see. Sure enough, it was full of chemical ingredients that didn't sound like they could possibly be good for me. But there was also good news: the main ingredients were all cheap and easy to come by. I figured it would be pretty easy to reconstruct -- and it was.

4 potatoes
1 qt. chicken stock
half an onion
one carrot
one bag of frozen corn
half cup of milk
1 T butter
1 T flour
Shredded chicken: 1/2 to 1 cup

I cooked the first five ingredients till the potatoes and carrots were soft. In went my handy-dandy Christmas immersion blender. I made a bechamel sauce (white sauce) with the last three ingredients and used it to thicken the soup a bit. You could just as well use cream for this, but I never have any. Sour cream or plain yogurt might also go well with it. For extra flavor, I saved out about a quarter cup of corn, roasted it in the oven at 450 degrees, and added it at the very end. However, I set off the fire alarm doing it, so be careful. It only takes about five minutes. Another flavor kick would be added by crumbling in a little bit of bacon. It was in the canned soup, but it's another thing I never have, and it wasn't really missed.

Once the soup is made, you'll just have to season it according to your individual taste. I added only garlic and salt.

The best part? My estimated price per serving is about 60 cents. I cut the price of the canned soup in HALF! As to whether it tasted better -- I don't think so, but it was pretty equal. I think it would have been better with even more corn, but I only had the one bag. And if I had had bacon and cream, it probably would have tasted a little closer to the original.
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