Mushroom & Wild Rice Soup

Mushroom Wild Rice Soup

This rich vegetarian soup could easily turn vegan by omitting the butter and the cream. It’s perfect for a cozy afternoon lunch or supper.  The depth of this soup is brought out by caramelizing the onions and the mushrooms, so don’t rush. I like the thin broth on this soup, but others might like it a little thicker.  I’ll share in the recipe when to add a little flour if you want it thick.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup wild rice mix (feel free to use 100% wild rice if you like)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de provence
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy or light cream
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 cups of  water to a boil. Add the wild rice mix and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, following the directions on the mix package.
  2. While the rice cooks, heat a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter  in a skillet.  Add onions, a teaspoon of salt, and stir until the onions are completely coated.  Keep an eye on the them while you begin to make the soup base in another pot. You will want these onions to caramelize.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and celery with a half teaspoon of salt, and cook until the celery has softened, 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the vegetable broth.  Allow the broth and vegetables to simmer.  When the onions have caramelized, add them to the pot. Stir, and continue to simmer.
  4. Put your skillet back on the burner, add a tablespoon of butter, now you will brown the mushrooms. Add the other teaspoon of salt to the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and turned dark brown, 15-20 minutes. Add the garlic and herb de provence, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Here is where you make a decision – thick or thin broth.  If you want it thin, skip this step and move to step 6. If you want it thick, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour over the mushrooms and stir until they are completely coated.
  6. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour the wine into the mushrooms. Stir and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue simmering until the wine has reduced.  If you did not add flour, you will notice that the mushrooms will absorb much of the wine. If you did add the flour, continue to heat until the mushroom sauce has thickened a bit.  Now add the mushrooms to the soup pot.
  7. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf, cream, and wild rice mix. Simmer for another 15 minutes, until the soup has thickened to your liking. Add salt to taste.

Chunky Marinara Sauce

Chunky Marinara SauceWhy buy “spaghetti sauce” when you can make your own, easily and control the ingredients to your own liking and come up with a sauce that tastes SO much better than store bought?  The only answer I can think of is convenience.  And, I do understand that.  But, when you have some time, my goodness, make your own!

I admit that I am picky about ingredients. I prefer organic vegetables and fresh cuts of natural meats if it fits in my budget.  I use just as many generic as brand names, and many are interchangeable to me. However, when I am making my Chunky Marinara Sauce, I will only use one brand of crushed tomatoes, Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes with Basil.  I usually use cheaper diced tomatoes in the recipe, but I do not substitute the crushed.  See what you think….

Best Crushed TomatoesIngredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion diced small
  • 4-5 cloves garlic smashed and minced
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 shakes of red pepper flakes
  • (optional) 1/2-3/4  cup vodka*
  • (optional) 1/2- 3/4 cup red wine

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil and butter to a Dutch oven on medium heat.  When warm, add onions and give them a good stir, coating them well.  Let the onions gently sizzle for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the garlic.  Continue to cook the onions and garlic until the onions turn translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Do not allow them to brown.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, two shakes of red pepper flakes, stir and bring to a gentle bubbling simmer.  Now, here is where you make a decision about the optional ingredients.  Add the vodka for a vodka marinara – or – add the wine if you like a rich tasting marinara.  I haven’t tried adding both – for me – it’s one or the other.  Stir the option ingredient incorporating it into the sauce.
  3. Heat on a gentle simmer, mostly covered, for 2 hours.  I leave about a 1/4 inch crack on my Dutch oven. This lets more steam release and helps cook down the sauce so it is nice and thick.  I find myself stirring the sauce about every 20 minutes, checking on its progress.  After 2 hours it is cooked down to the consistency I like.

If you are using the sauce for a meal right away, you are ready to serve.  Typically, I make my sauce on a Sunday and use it throughout the following week or two.  If you plan on storing it, you can.  Just let the sauce cool to room temperature, pour into an airtight jar or plastic container.  You can also freeze it up to 2 months if using an airtight plastic container.

* for a creamy vodka sauce, add 3/4 cups of heavy whipping cream once the sauce has cooked its 2 hours.  Stir and heat through and it is ready to serve. I would not freeze this sauce, but you can store it in an airtight container for two weeks.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant ParmMy husband discovered he had Type 2 Diabetes in January.  Immediately his diet needed to change.  No pasta, no rice, no potatoes, no bread and of course – no sugar. It’s been a whirlwind of doctor visits and endless monitoring of his blood sugar. It took a while, but he is stabilized now, and allowed small portions of whole grains and other starches.

I adore eggplant.  He has never been a fan.  I’ve made eggplant parmesan in the past, but he has pretty much turned up his nose. I admit, I’ve struggled to find a great recipe that didn’t taste overly greasy or mushy. I also wanted a recipe that tasted fresh and healthy. I went took out Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook and decided to give her recipe a go.  Like Mollie, I too made my sauce from scratch.  This way I was assured there was no added sugar. Amazing!  My husband devoured it. So, here it is slightly revised and more appropriate for smaller proportions and a family of 2-4 people (4 servings).

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 7 inches long)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup Italian or whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 cups chunky marinara sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a large baking sheet. 
  2. Slice the eggplants into circles, about 1/3 inch thick. Pour milk into shallow bowl and bread crumbs on to a lipped plate. Dip each slice in the milk, moistening both sides. Then, press on to bread crumbs ensuring both sides are thoroughly coated. Place slices on the baking sheet and bake until tender about 25 minutes.
  3. Spoon some marinara sauce, about 1/4 cup, on to the bottom of a deep casserole dish or 8 x 8 square baking pan. Add a layer of eggplant slices and cover with more sauce. Sprinkle some mozzarella over the sauce, then repeat the layering until you’ve reached the end of your eggplant slices. Top the slices with the last bit of sauce and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes.  Casserole should be bubbly and brown around the edges.  Remove from oven and let the the eggplant parmesan set for about 10 minutes before serving.

(Thanks to Older’n Dirt for the nutritional values below!)

450 Calories; 21g Fat (42.2% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 1745mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 Fat.