Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup

Every time we get just a bit of cool weather in California, I start wanting warm, comfort food and Cream of Mushroom Soup is usually at the top of the list. A side of cheesy garlic bread and a bowl of hot soup is perfect for a cool California evening . . . You know, when the temperature dips all the way down to, maybe, 65 degrees!

Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup
1½ pounds firm white mushrooms, cleaned
1 medium lemon
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon minced shallots
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Cups heavy cream
2 Cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, coarsely chop them. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan and lightly sauté the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, chili flakes, and bay leaf and sauté over moderate heat for 20 minutes, or until the liquid disappears. Add the salt, pepper, cream, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cornstarch to the soup and continue to simmer 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Plain Old Lentil Soup

When my daughter was away at college, she soon found the cafeteria fare to be lacking in things like taste, fiber, and nutrition unless all could be found in fries. She started doing more cooking in the dorm kitchen and a favorite that caught on with her friends was Lentil Soup over a bowl of rice. Her friends weren’t sure about it not being familiar with lentils but after a few bites, they said they somehow felt healthier!

Plain Old Lentil Soup

3 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and diced
1 ½ cups dried lentils (They should be rinsed under cold water before cooking)
1 cup of diced ham
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
7 cups of chicken broth (canned or homemade)
2 teaspoons of chicken bouillon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon chili flakes

Freshly-made rice
Enough freshly-grated sharp cheddar to top each bowl of rice and soup

In a soup pot, add a few drops of olive oil and saute the garlic until it softens. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (EXCEPT for the rice and cheese!), bring to a boil and the cover and simmer for approximately 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

To make a thicker version of the soup, put two cups of the soup including some of the solids to a blender and carefully blend until smooth. Stir back into the soup and stir until you bring it back to hot.

Black Bean Soup Upon a Rainy Evening!

Finally, California seems to be getting some cold, rainy weather. A good way to celebrate is to enjoy a bowl of hot, homemade soup and a slice of warm bread. Okay, I make soups year round but I don’t get as many complaints about it as I do when I serve it in 100-plus degree weather! With last-minute Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, and baking, it is a good feeling to know that the soup is basically cooking itself in the crock pot awaiting it’s appointed dinner time.

Black Beans Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 16 ounce cans black beans, drained & rinsed
1 14 ½ ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 14 ½ ounce cans broth
1 ½ cups cooked rice

Combine all ingredients except rice in crock pot. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours (high 3-4 hours). Add cooked rice before serving. 6-8 servings. Grated cheese, green onions, or sour cream add extra interest to the soup.

Naturally, you can add some diced beef or chicken to the soup. A good reason to save those leftover slices of beef or chicken in the freezer for such a time as this.

Best Dinner for a Cold Evening!

Although we pretty much devoured the Thanksgiving turkey, I saved enough bones and meat to make a big pot of turkey and egg noodle soup. And, yes, even being gluten-free, egg noodles can still be part of our diet . . . if I make them myself. No wheat flour was used in the making of these noodles and, according to my daughter, they taste better than my wheat flour version.