Mushroom and Rice Soup

I may have mentioned before that I was a picky eater as a kid. Until college, my diet consisted mostly of carrots and turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. Like most kids, I had very strong opinions about certain foods that would never (never) enter my mouth. I couldn’t tell you where these strong opinions came from. They were certainly not based on taste. Because I knew with the utmost certainty that something dreadful would happen if I ate that. As you might imagine, a food labeled “fungi” fell into this category. And I may or may not have pitched a legendary fit over a certain mushroom spaghetti sauce that went down in the annals of my childhood. And here I am 20+ years later eating, cooking and telling you to try nothing other than… mushrooms. Oh the irony.

I’m not sure exactly what turned me on to mushrooms, but now they’re a regular staple of my grocery list. With some dark leafy greens and a little onion, you’ve got one of the quickest and healthiest weeknight meals you can make. Mushrooms are one of the most powerful healing foods on the planet. They’re a staple of Chinese medicine and have been used for thousands of years to treat everything from viruses to tumors. There are more than 200 varieties used medicinally with different powers and properties. But even the most common of mushrooms will do your body good.

Generally, mushrooms are natural immune boosters and also work in the body to help regulate inflammation. I’m talking about the kind of inflammation that can exist and linger at low levels in the body and contribute to all sorts of diseases, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. We’ve also learned that mushrooms help balance the level of estrogen in the body, essentially helping to prevent certain estrogen-related cancers, like breast cancer. In the world we live in today, where we come into contact with estrogens regularly from plastic bottles and containers, and added soy in so many foods, mushrooms work to block it. They’re also high in vitamins and minerals that are critical to cell and immune function – selenium, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese.

Superpowers aside, mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and add a richness to whatever it is that you’re cooking – like this soup, and I’m sure too that spaghetti sauce I turned my nose up at when I was five.

Mushroom and Rice Soup


1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
20 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme


In a medium-sized pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add a little salt and 1 cup of rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Saute until the onions are translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the carrot and celery and cook, covered, for 6 minutes more.
Add the mushrooms, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, covered, until they release their juices, about 4 minutes.
Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the cooked rice; remove and discard the bay leaves. If desired, season with additional salt and pepper.


Greens + Onions + Mushrooms

Last weekend Dr. Joel Fuhrman gave us this as a cancer fighting super combo: greens + onions + mushrooms. For the green part of the equation, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts and cabbage, are particularly beneficial. The phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables keep toxins from doing the kind of damage to our DNA that leads to cancer. The cruciferous greens modify human hormones, detoxify compounds and stop toxins from sticking around. Onions are like the antibacterial scrub to clean the system. And mushrooms are aromatase inhibitors that block the synthesis of estrogen – making them especially protective against breast cancer. The recipe at the end of this post (and pictured above) is a tasty way to get all three.

According to Fuhrman, the most beneficial compounds we get from these foods though are the isothiocyanates (ITCs). ITCs boost the immune system, but the catch is that they don’t actually exist in the foods themselves. Tricky. ITCs take shape when the foods are chopped or chewed. Think of when you’ve chopped into an onion and your eyes welled up. The smell that’s released and your ensuing water works are a result of a chemical reaction taking place. Fuhrman’s point is to chop before heating and chew well to get the maximum benefit from your foods.

Speaking of chopping an onion… here’s a video that shows how its really done.

And here’s a more complete list of cruciferous cancer fighters:

  • arugula
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • broccoli rabe
  • brocollina
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • collards
  • horseradish
  • kale
  • kohlrabi
  • mustard greens
  • radish
  • red cabbage
  • rutabaga
  • turnips
  • turnip greens
  • watercress

Kale with Mushrooms and Onions

What you need:

– 1 bunch kale, torn into bite size pieces
– 1 yellow onion, cut into crescents
– shitake mushrooms
– olive oil
– 1 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
– 1/2 tbsp mirin (rice wine)
– 1 tbsp water

What you do:
Heat pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onions. Cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent. Add mushrooms. Cook a few minutes. Add kale. Stir to coat with oil. Combine tamari, mirin and water in a bowl. When greens begin to shrink down, pour in liquid mixture. Stir and cook a few more minutes. Taste greens to know when they’re done. Greens will be wilted and slightly sweet, not bitter. Serve with brown rice or quinoa.


Crustless Chicken Pot Pie

snow. Snow. SNOW! It’s still coming down out there. Dallas is covered in white right now. It’s no 60 or however many inches the DC area has gotten at this point.  But to us it might as well be. I’m snowed in (well, pretending to be). It’s 6 p.m. and I’m still in my PJs working from the home office (i.e. our kitchen table). I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got some left over chicken pot pie in the fridge – the perfect meal on a night like this!

I made it on Tuesday based on this recipe from Whole Foods. You can make it gluten free if you use rice flour for the thickening agent. I just used the spelt flour I had on hand. In place of crust, you make a rice mixture (pictured bottom left) and put that on top. When you bake the thing it gets nice and crispy (pictured bottom right).

It’s a little different take on the classic, but has that same cozy, warm and fuzzy effect.

Here’s what you need:

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for greasing
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 pound sliced button mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped thyme, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium gluten-free chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked brown rice or brown and wild rice blend
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup frozen vegetable mix (peas, carrots, green beans….)

What you do:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with oil; set aside.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, onions, salt and pepper and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add broth and milk, stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine rice, cheese, paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Stir vegetables into chicken mixture then season with salt and pepper and transfer to prepared dish. Scatter rice mixture evenly over the top then arrange dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until bubbly and crust is crisp, about 30 minutes.

(recipe adapted from Whole Food’s Chicken Pot Pie with Rice)