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Category Archives: Thankfulness

Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

One of the great pleasures of food, for me, is having the opportunity to use ingredients fresh from the earth. Spring is the beginning of the season where Mother Nature’s bounty becomes accessible to us once again, and for many people, seasonal spring foods are a bit of a celebration.

This weekend, we spent some time in the woods, searching for our favorite spring treat, Morel mushrooms! Because of the weather, we’ve had a very early season for them, and the gray morel variety is already out. Morchella Esculenta is a very distinctive fungus, as are the earlier, darker, Morchella Elata. The morel mushroom is one of the most easily recognizable varieties that people hunt, but care still needs to be taken to have a full understanding of all look-alikes before foraging in the woods, and it’s a very good idea to accompany a seasoned mushroom hunter if possible.  (Please see Northern Country Morels website for more information.) Also remember that while the morels are edible and choice for most people, it is always possible that someone could have intolerance to a new food, so only eat a small amount to begin with, until you know that they are safe for you.  There’s a saying … “You can eat ANY mushroom, once.” We definitely want to live to taste another day! Personally, I have been hunting morels since I was a child, going on many trips into the woods with my parents to hunt for the elusive fungus of my dreams! Now I go out with my husband, and we very much enjoy the time walking the woods, even when we come up empty-handed. And when I say fungus of my dreams, I mean it literally… every spring I have dreams of finding groves of lush morels growing, just waiting for me to find them… unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to reality very well most of the time 😉

The good news is that even if you aren’t planning to hunt your own mushrooms, you can purchase dried morel mushrooms at many larger grocery stores, as well as order them online. We are lucky, even though our weekend hunting didn’t result in a basket full of ‘shrooms, we have a friend who shares with us the morels he finds when mowing his yard! What a guy, huh?! Since he is so generous with one of our favorite treats, I return the favor when we make fresh sushi rolls at home, and send a few in his direction.

So now that I have a gorgeous bowl of fresh morels, I have to decide what I want to do with them. I usually sauté them in butter and often make them part of a cream sauce, because I like to keep the contrast mild, to preserve the unique morel flavor and texture as much as possible. I started to look around to see what else I had on hand that would go well with them…  a package of crimini mushrooms that need to be eaten soon (thinking I can stretch the flavor a bit by using the oil left from sautéing the morels for the criminis)… remembering I have some nice sized leeks in the garden that wintered over (when cooked, leeks are so mild and sweet, perfect complement to the mushrooms), still have some of my parmo wheel, heavy cream of course because of the low-carb diet… wishing I had beef filet, but I do have some very fresh ground chuck and thick cut bacon from the meat market…

Morels and Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

Simmering cream with the criminis and leeks.

Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

  • ½ lb thick cut bacon, ½” dice
  • ½ to1 lb morel mushrooms, soaked, rinsed, dried off, and otherwise free of dirt
  • Butter as needed for sautéing
  • 1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 2 medium leeks, thoroughly cleaned and sliced
  • ½-1C heavy cream
  • ¼ C finely shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

I prefer to work with either an enameled cast iron skillet for this, or Caphalon because they are nice and heavy, but use whatever is comfortable for you. Cook the diced bacon down slowly until it begins to crisp, and the fat is rendered.  Remove the bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet for sautéing the morels.

With the fat heated over medium, carefully add the cleaned morels, minding them closely and turning as needed until they brown up a little and seem done, about 10 minutes. Remove morels and set aside.

If there is enough fat remaining in the pan, add the sliced crimini mushrooms, or add a Tb or so of butter first. (If you are wondering why I didn’t cook both mushroom varieties together, it’s because I don’t want the morels cooking down into the soup, I would rather layer them on at the end, as the spotlight of the dish.) Cook the crimini mushrooms for 5-10 minutes, until they begin to look done.

Leeks are notorious for being very dirty, so be sure to split them lengthwise and rinse all sections in water before using.

Add a little more butter if needed and add the sliced leeks, cooking for an additional 5 minutes or so, until they begin to soften. Slowly add the cream to the pan, not quite covering the mushrooms and leeks, and simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. Add the shaved Parmesan to the pan, stirring to allow it to melt. Add salt and fresh pepper as desired. Dish into bowls, top with morels and bacon, or serve over a small tender burger, as we have done.  Makes 2-3 servings.

As always, this recipe is free from gluten, free from wheat, and low-carb, though it is quite high in fats. While I do use fats in my gluten-free lifestyle, this is not the kind of rich meal we would eat every day, but what a treat it is for a springy Sunday afternoon! The servings are smallish, and every bite is worth savoring, mmmm.

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Why Gluten Free for Me? Reasons I Deleted the Wheat!

It’s been just over a month since I cut out wheat and gluten in my diet, and went low carb. If you read the veryyyy first post on my blog, you will have some idea of the health issues that made me decide to try going gluten-free. I will say up front, that I have not been formally diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease (and I have noticed in the food intolerance/health community, that some people really frown on self-diagnosis. To this I say, OH WELL!) I made a simple experiment with my diet to eliminate something I felt might be toxic, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. I am not about to start eating wheat again so that I can be diagnosed formally, when I already know that the treatment IS abstaining from wheat. Even if there was a drug to take instead, I would still choose to be gluten-free.

Here are some results I have experienced during the past month:

  • Immediate relief (within 2 days) of abdominal bloating that made me feel much more comfortable, and clothes fit better (same with husband).
  • Joint pain and inflammation 90% gone, within 3 or 4 days. I had been experiencing shoulder, hip and knee pain that had been worsening for a couple years, and often interfered with sleep and exercise (my son also experienced disappearance of joint pain).
  • Decreased appetite and craving for sweets and carbohydrates (same with husband) after the first couple weeks.
  • Haven’t had a headache bad enough to take Motrin in a MONTH, when I used to take it up to several times a week for headaches that could last 3-4 days
  • IBS symptoms lessened, but not gone. (Currently researching other possible causes for issues, such as low stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, or other food intolerances.)
  • Lost 10 lbs over the course of the month (and my husband did as well.) I didn’t start with the goal of losing weight, but I am thrilled that I have! 

In my mind, there isn’t much that’s more personal than the choice of what we put into our bodies. To make any thoughtful decision to eat a thing or not to eat a thing, is taking responsibility and accountability for our own health. As a society, we have given over a large part of these critical choices to a fast food and processed food mentality, which has speed and profit in mind, not health and wellness (which is the point of eating in the first place.) Nutrition is sacrificed for convenience, and at a price so high, that our health as a nation is likely worse than it has ever been. Good thing the pharmaceutical industry has our back with all those handy-dandy (side-effect laden) medications!

Obviously, I have a lot of misgivings about the current state of our food industry, and that is for reasons too numerous to detail. As a family, there are some changes we were able to make immediately, and there are others that we are working on sourcing out in an affordable way, such as locally farmed beef and poultry. (I have no plans to become vegan or vegetarian, however, I do strongly believe in humane treatment of animals during their lifetime in addition to skipping all the chemicals.)

In the past weeks, I have done endless research about the effects of gluten, and how to eat healthfully without grains, and I will continue to do so, and occasionally share my findings here. I will say though, that the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, is an EXCELLENT starting point to regaining health and wellness through properly feeding the systems of the body. His book is a compelling combination of personal experiences and scientific data that went a long ways towards explaining to me WHY I felt the way I did, both before and after. The reason I say that his book is brilliant as a starting point, is that for many people, wheat is likely to be the largest, quiet toxin in their diet, and once it is eliminated, it makes room to pinpoint further issues without wheat muddying the waters, so to speak. The results vary from person to person, as we are all unique in our make-up and history, but I believe strongly that the majority of people could find benefits from going wheat free. I have seen that many people discover other intolerances and sensitivities as well as deficiencies in certain bodily systems as they begin to get clean, and I am in the process of investigating these things for my own situation.

When I read opinions and consider factual studies, I also take into consideration whether the person or agency has any benefit to be gained by convincing people that what they are saying (selling) is valid. Critical thinking plays a large part in my personal research, and it pays to question things and seek out a variety of resources, especially those that are contrary to each other. In doing this, I have found that those who are opposing the health benefits of whole grains, aren’t out to make a profit from this point of view, they are trying to give people the power to make informed decisions and break addictions! If the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis, was only out to make money by selling copies of his book, he wouldn’t have such an informative blog where he takes a personal interest in the people who post and query him about this topic. Instead, it is obvious that he has in mind helping to open peoples’ eyes so that they are able to regain their health.

While I am doing my best to live up to the dietary recommendations in Wheat Belly, I know that I am not the gold standard with the recipes and foods that I post, but I am sharing what types of things we are eating in my home, in the hopes of helping people who need a few new ideas, or are even possibly overwhelmed by the task of eating differently. I consider recipes from many sources, some gluten-free, some traditional, some Paleo… while other postings are just a peek into the way I cook at home, and some of the methods I use in my kitchen. I urge readers to play with the recipes and adjust them to your tastes and dietary needs, as there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for health and wellness. I am thankful for comments and “likes” from the blogworld, and enjoy the sharing and positivity that is happening here!

 

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Go Ride a Bike! And a Note of Thankfulness~

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the energy to ride a bike! I know that sounds completely lame, mostly because it IS. But the daily joint pain from the unknown wheat-intolerance really did a number on my body, and my mental state as well. Being free from wicked wheat for barely 2 weeks, and I am ready to RIDE!

I couldn’t resist the slightly retro look of this bike, along with what I think of as the the Black Cherry/Vanilla coloring. But the thing that really won me over (other than a reasonable price point) was the shocks in front AND on my seat post! Like many women, finding a comfortable bike seat was akin to finding a dentist that you look forward to seeing. A myth that didn’t seem to exist for me! So far so good with this one though, and I’ve already enjoyed a couple 5 mile rides with my guys down to the local park and around the neighborhood. It’s really quite exciting! I know that there are plenty of die-hard bike enthusiasts who will snark at my paltry 5 mile outings, but I am thrilled to have the energy and even more thrilled to be pain-free even after riding!

Staying on track with relevance to eating well and feeling well…. I splurged on a front basket which snaps on, and can be removed with the push of a button. I can’t wait to take it to the Farmer’s Market when the season begins, so that I can fill it up with fresh veggies, local honey and artisanal cheeses.Yeah Baby, yeahhh!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my wonderful husband for being so supportive, and urging me to buy the bike when he saw that I was serious about feeling well enough to use it. He really rocks in so many ways! I wish that everyone was as fortunate to have a built-in support system, because it really does make all the difference to me. He was also the one that urged me to “write baby!” He has always loved my cooking whether it was normal fare or now the gluten-free variety, and he has also always tried to prod me into writing down my recipes, which I was far too distracted and/or lazy to do. I just feel bad that it took me so long to get on board with it!

So, no recipe today (since I have been eating left-over soup), just a celebratory post of feeling well, and being thankful that I found one of the keys to improved health for myself. I wish that I could reach out to every person that is feeling chronic joint and body pain, and convince them to simply TRY going wheat and gluten-free for a week, and see if they feel better. If you don’t, no biggie, but if you do…. go ride a bike!

 

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