Seven years ago, I embarked on a new way of living and being. After battling the scale for most of my life, I finally decided to accept the unattractive truth that diets only encouraged weight gain. I’d been on them in one form or another since the age of 10, when my well-meaning father drove me from our home in Lake George to Albany for an appointment at the stately Madison Avenue offices of “The Diet Doctor.” I’ll spare you the details with this simple spoiler alert: the food plan was so strict, the Marquis de Sade would have been proud. The end result: it made me more obsessed with food….which caused more weight gain…which fueled self-loathing.
So by the time I stepped on the scale that fateful day of January 5, 2009, and watched in horror as the digits registered 345, I knew it was time to take some action. I also knew it could not in any way resemble a diet. Instead, I embarked on a self-devised prescription that included tuning into to my hunger cues, paying attention to feelings (something every emotional eater must do), and being more aware of the nutrients that went into my body. I was also very careful not to let things get too out of hand in terms of severity. I wanted habits that could be lived with long-term, so pleasure was an immutable part of the deal. When I really want something decadent (and I’m not misusing it as an escape) I have it in moderation, enjoy it thoroughly, and then move on.
One of my favorite things from the ‘old days’ was cream of mushroom soup. Though non-descript in color and pasty in texture as it plopped out of the can and into the saucepan, I was somehow enchanted with the concoction, made soup-like by filling the empty tin can with milk and whisking over low heat. Today, I can’t imagine ingesting all that dairy and white flour (or whatever was used as a thickener). These past 7 years have been filled with all kinds of self-discovery. And two of the biggest revelations are I don’t function well on cow dairy and gluten. Avoiding these two staples of the American diet has required commitment and imagination. But it has paid off because through them, I’ve discovered viable replications of some of my old favorites, including cream of mushroom soup – minus the bloating and dairy cramps! This recipe is not only simple, it’s perfect for winter.
Dairy-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
6 cups chicken broth or stock
1 ½ pounds mushroom, washed and sliced
½ stick unsalted butter or 3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces of high-quality, room temperature whipped chevre, such as the Chavre brand
Sautee all mushrooms in butter or oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon out approximately ¼ of the mushrooms and set aside in a bowl. Add approximately 1 ladle of chicken stock to pan with remaining mushrooms and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes, uncovered. Take the mushrooms from the skillet and pulverize in a blender or Vitamix, adding more stock if necessary until mushrooms become a creamy mixture.
In a large saucepan, add entire mushroom mixture to the remainder of the chicken stock and simmer gently. Whisk in chevre until completely blended with the soup. Stir in remaining sliced mushrooms, thyme and pepper, gently simmering for approximately three minutes over medium-low heat. Stir often, scraping bottom of pan so soup does not stick. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.