Eat well. You owe it to yourself.

Month: March, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Soup


Here’s the deal, guys: it is spring break and it’s snowing and I’m upset. Because the only times the words snow and spring break should be in the same sentence is when the word mountains, or possibly skiing, is there too.

Clearly, the only way to comfort myself was to make soup.

But I have another reason to make soup. See, I started reading Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking and so far, I’ve learned that I am doing everything wrong. For starters, I’ve been chopping onions wrong. I have burning eyes and the tears running down my cheeks to prove it. You need to leave the root attached while you chop. Also, I’ve been sautéing all wrong. Did you know that when you’re using butter to sauté, you need to add a bit of oil to stabilize it so it will reach a proper heat without burning? Of course you did, you’ve probably read Julia Child already.


I needed to put this new knowledge to use. And, while there is a recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup in the book, it looked….complicated. Whisking in egg yolks? Making your own stock? Sorry, Jules, not ready for that yet. Then, I remembered a recipe I’d pinned a while back for mushroom soup that looked simple, quick, and good. This is more my style, I thought. I made a quick trip to the grocery store to get a buttload of mushrooms. And at that grocery store, I discovered my own hypocrisy when it comes to vegetables.

You know how in the produce section, right next to the bagged lettuce, there are little containers of already chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc? I’ve always looked at those and judged people who bought them as exceedingly lazy. I mean, really, who’s life is so busy that you can’t take the time to chop an onion? No one’s. But there, under those fluorescent grocery lights, I became one of those people. See, the price for a container of the whole mushrooms or a container of the sliced mushrooms was the exact same, and, to my estimation, you can fit more in the box when sliced. At first, it was all about value, I promise! But then I got home, and realized just how long it would have taken to slice five cups of mushrooms. (Have I mentioned how lacking my knife skills are? And reading Julia Child has thrown this into even sharper relief; apparently some people can slice 3 lb. of mushrooms in five minutes. I am not one of those people.)


Five cups of mushrooms is no joke. Look at this! Anyway, I roughly chopped them into slightly smaller pieces and went on my merry, sautéing, way. No one was the wiser. (Except you, reading this post. Shh, don’t tell.)

I guess, after all this chatter, I should probably say something about what the soup is like, yes? First of all, I want to be clear that it does not in any way resemble the gloppy canned cream of mushroom soup you put in green bean casserole. Gross, no. This soup? It is a flavorful, creamy, warm-you-up kind of soup. The fresh thyme adds a herby, complex fragrance, the mushrooms and onions give you something to chew on, and the heavy cream makes the broth worthy of sopping up with a piece of bread. It is the perfect remedy to an unexpected, unwelcome snow day.


Creamy Mushroom Soup

Adapted from Season With Spice

5 cups fresh mushrooms – cleaned and chopped (I used a mix of white button and baby portabella)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

6-8 cloves garlic, minced

1 small yellow onion, sliced

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

5 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 1/2 tbsp flour dissolved in 2 1/2 tbsp water

Salt to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk (skim milk is fine)

Heat the oil and butter on medium heat in a large skillet. You can also use the saucepan that you plan to put in the soup in for this step, but I used the skillet to give the mushrooms and onion more space to sauté properly. (Another thing J. Child taught me!) When hot, add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme and sauté until the mushrooms and onions are soft and browned, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan and add the stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix the flour and water together, and then stir into the soup. Add salt to taste. Stir in the cream and milk, and bring to a slow boil again. Serve immediately.


Simple Syrup, 3 Ways: Or, The Best Lemonade Ever


Last week was Daylight Savings, and the fact that world isn’t dark anymore after dinner makes me so outrageously happy. We had unusually good weather in Missouri; the world feels like sunshine and warm breezes and spring, even though spring isn’t official until Wednesday. And spring? I propose that we all celebrate this Wednesday with a tall, cold glass of your chosen flavor of this lemonade.


The trick for delicious, fruity lemonade is simple syrup. Simple syrup is no secret – it’s used in many cocktails and drinks. But where it gets interesting is when you add your own twist to it. For today, I made three variations: raspberry + mint, strawberry + basil, and blueberry + lime.

I mixed them with some plain, pulpy lemonade, and made what I think is the prettiest lemonade I’ve ever seen. I’m a sucker for bright colors, which probably has something to do with it. I had a hard time deciding which one was my favorite, and there was no consensus among my family members either. I think this means you can’t go wrong.


The process for all of them is the same – boil, strain, chill, mix. A fine mesh sieve is going to be your best bet, but I’m at my grandparents and used their colander. There’s a few more seeds and berry bits than there would be otherwise, but I’m okay with that.


I used frozen fruit. You can use fresh, of course, but I think the way frozen fruit thaws and becomes soft lends itself well to infusing the syrup. I also kind of smooshed them (technical cooking term, learned it from Julia Child) (Just kidding) with a spoon as they cooked to release more juices.

This is the basic recipe that makes a half cup of syrup, but if you’d like to make more, just remember a one to one ratio of sugar, water, and fruit, and herbs to taste. The flavor of the herbs was very subtle in the amount listed; add more if you’d like a stronger flavor. If you’re making your own lemonade, dial back the sugar to account for the sweetness of the simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

Put ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let cool.

…..that’s it. It’s called simple for a reason. Now, for some variations!

Raspberry + Mint:

½ cup raspberries

6 mint leaves, torn into quarters

Strawberry + Basil:

½ cup strawberries

6 basil leaves, torn into quarters

Blueberry + Lime

½ cup blueberries

2 limes

Juice the limes. Add water until it make a half cup, and use in place of the normal ½ cup water.

Mix to taste with your favorite lemonade or tea. Enjoy on your porch swing/deck/patio while thinking about spring-ish things, like….flowers. Okay, you don’t have to actually think about flowers.

What Candace Ate

Sometimes I make a meal, and it’s not noteworthy enough to make a whole post about it, but it’s a good meal nonetheless and I want to share it with you. This is a round up of five meals I have eaten recently and wholeheartedly enjoyed. These are simple and sometimes use more store-bought, readymade things than the recipes I usually post. Rachael Ray built an empire on 30 minute meals, but let’s beat that. Let’s do fifteen or less. (Okay, you may have to make the rice beforehand to make it fifteen minutes or less. But otherwise, you’re golden!)


Fake Chipotle: In a medium saucepan, heat a can of black beans, a can of corn, two minced cloves of garlic, chopped red onion, and salt. Spoon over rice, squeeze a lime and sprinkle cheddar cheese over it all, and and garnish with cilantro.

Made this salsa, minus the jalapeno, and I think I’m addicted. SO GOOD.


Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals Lime +  Salt popcorn and scrambled eggs with cheese.


Peanut butter toast and coffee with cream  in bed on a lazy weekend morning with Sherlock. Click here for the aftermath.


This is one of my favorite quick and easy meals. A can of tomato basil soup + brown rice + toasted sunflower seeds for garnish and crunch.


Grilled cheese, grown-up style: fresh mozzarella, garlic salt, avocado smashed and spread on top. Served with a broiled portabella mushroom with a pat of butter, salt, and dried rosemary, and a lemon squeezed over post-broiling. I’d go for fresh rosemary next time, or skip it entirely.

What have you been eating and enjoying lately? What’s your favorite quick meal?