Friday, February 23, 2007

Homemade Mushroom Soup

The Recipe: For anyone who's only tasted canned mushroom soup before, this recipe for homemade mushroom soup will be a revelation.

The Conversation: An introduction to St. Louis' very own "mushroom lady" and her company, Ozark Forest.

Homemade Mushroom Soup ♥, a classic, just a few ingredients, nothing like canned soup. Low Carb.

Missouri’s Bootheel and the country of Japan share a mycological treasure, climates, water and timber perfect for cultivating mushrooms. Leave it to a clever Englishwoman to figure that out.

Nicola Macpherson is St. Louis’ very own "mushroom lady". Her company, Ozark Forest, grows shiitake and oyster mushrooms year-round on a family farm using renewable, sustainable and organic agro-forestry practices.

Whew. Yeah, that's a mouthful. How does she do that, really, in laymushroom terms?

First, specially harvested oak limbs are inoculated with mushroom spawn. Then they're left alone to incubate for six to nine months. Come spring, the spawn are soaked in water for 24 hours. Then comes the real magic. After a few days? The mushrooms are ready to harvest!

Ozark Forest mushrooms mostly get grabbed up by the chefs at local farm-to-plate restaurants. But keep a look-out for a woman with a lovely English accent peddling mushrooms at weekend fairs and farmers markets. Until then, use fresh mushrooms from the supermarket which also yield a luscious pot of creamy soup.

Homemade Mushroom Soup ♥, a classic, just a few ingredients, nothing like canned soup. Low Carb.


Homemade, home delicious
Hands-on time: 30 minutes over 90 minutes
Time to table: Minimum 24 hours, preferably 48 hours
Makes 5-1/2 cups

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, diced small
  • 1 pound pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed, a few sliced, the rest chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Hot chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • Grated nutmeg, for serving

Bring broth to a boil in the microwave.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion and "sweat" for about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms as they’re prepped, cook until just beginning to soften.

Stir in the flour until all the lumps are gone, let cook for a minute or two to cook off the floury taste. A quarter cup at a time at first, slowly add the hot broth, stirring the whole time, letting each addition mix in completely before adding another. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer. Let cook for about an hour, until the mushrooms are soft.

Stir in the milk, cream and sherry; heat through but do not boil. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Cool and refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours for the deep mushrooms flavor to develop. Before serving, gently rewarm but don’t let boil. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with nutmeg. Savor every spoonful.

VARIATIONS On occasion, I've lightened this soup considerably by using Smart Balance instead of butter and fat-free half 'n' half for the milk and cream. I've also thickened it with arrowroot rather than flour but have learned to do the thickening at the very end of cooking, rather than the beginning. Next time, I'm going to use just 2 tablespoons butter but really allow the time for the mushrooms to soak up the butter.

ALANNA’S TIPS I can't impress this strongly enough: do-do-do make the soup at least a full day ahead of time and even better, two days. Usually when a recipe says to allow 24 hours for the flavors to develop, it's okay to make the soup in the morning for dinner that night. This soup? No way. You'll be wondering what all the fuss is about if you eat it too soon. Please know, the texture of this soup is thinner (soupier?!) than the heavy gloppy stuff that canned soup has trained our tastebuds to expect. For a thicker soup, use less stock or work in another tablespoon or two of flour. To "sweat" onions is to gently cook them without allowing the onions to turn color, without browning them. For this delicious soup, choose shiitake, cremini or baby bella mushrooms. These can be expensive so to economize, it's just fine to use half the less expensive white button mushrooms. I like to keep food recognizable, making it clear what's on a plate or inside a bowl. So once for this soup, I broke apart the mushroom caps into large chunks with my hands, a technique first learned with the World's Best Green Bean Casserole. That said, for this soup, I think the texture is best when most (let's say 3/4) of the mushroom pieces are chopped small and the rest are sliced to show off the traditional mushroom shape. Use fresh-grated nutmeg if you can, it really makes a difference! Surprisingly, this soup is as good cold as it is hot. Who knew?!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 214 Calories; 17g Tot Fat; 11g Sat Fat; 56mg Cholesterol; 211mg Sodium; 8g Carb; 1g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 6g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 5 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 10

More Creamy, Hearty Soup Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Creamy Wild Rice Soup Salmon Chowder Smoked Turkey Chowder
~ more soup recipes ~

More Recipes Using Mushrooms

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Easy-Easy Grilled Mushroom Appetizer Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms Greens & Grits

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2007, 2009 & 2016

Friday, February 9, 2007

On-the-Run Breakfast Bars

The Recipe: Low-sugar oat bars studded with bacon and cheese, the Kellogg rendition of an old-old recipe from Quaker Oats called "Breakfast Takealongs".

Are you here to learn about the old Finnish custom of planting grass in plates and bowls during Lent? That's story's been moved, please see Lenten Grass, it's such a good way to mark the season of Lent with children.

On-the-Run Breakfast Bars ♥, low-sugar oat bars studded with bacon and cheddar cheese, our family take-off on an old recipe from Quaker Oats called Breakfast Take Alongs

Has anyone checked out the energy bar shelves at the grocery store? Whoa, they go on and on and on! And don't even talk to me about energy drinks. All this energy and we're still couch potatoes?

Breakfast Bars were my mom's answer to energy bars back when I was in high school – maybe before. They're simple oat bars, studded with bacon bits and grated cheese. I remember loving these bars and when my family published a family cookback with family recipes way back in 2002, Breakfast Bars were one of my contributions.

RECIPE HISTORY Since then, I've learned that what we call Breakfast Bars are likely our rendition of a recipe from Quaker Oats called "Breakfast Take-Alongs," no doubt my mom herself got the recipe off the tub of oatmeal.

That original Quaker recipe called for 2/3 cup margarine (don't judge, remember the times, margarine was then thought to be "more healthful" than butter) and 2/3 cup sugar and 3/4 cup of regular flour and 6 slices bacon. The dough was baked in drop cookies in "rounded teaspoons" (doesn't that sound teensy-weensy???) and baked at 350F for 12 - 14 minutes.

Along the way, my mom switched the recipe to whole wheat flour (and a full cup) and switched from slightly fussy cookies to easy-peasy bars.

And then back in 2007, I "Alanna-sized" recipe, cutting back the butter and sugar and bacon.

That was the good news.

I also, weird, doubled the oats.

The bad news is that even though I test (and re-test) every single recipe before publishing it, Kitchen Parade readers had trouble with that 2007 version of the recipe (you'll see that in the comments, below) especially with 3 cups of oats, the doubled amount.

Since then, I've baked these a few times with the recipe shown here (and just 1-1/2 cups oats) and they bake up wonderfully. So give Breakfast Bars a try! You just might discover a new family decades-long favorite!

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to finish: about 45 minutes
Makes 1 8x8 or 9x9 pan, about 16 small bars
  • ½ cup (1 stick, 114g) salted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour, preferably whole wheat, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 125g
  • ¼ cup wheat germ or ground flax seed
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (135g) oatmeal (regular or quick, but not instant)
  • 1 cup (114g) grated cheddar cheese (can be doubled for extra cheesiness)
  • 3 strips (30g) cooked bacon, crumbled (can be doubled for extra bacon-y-ness
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit, optional (snipped dried apricots are especially good)

Heat the oven to 350F/180C. Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 baking sheet with baking spray. If you like, for easy removal, line the pan with parchment that hangs over the sides, clamping the sides with metal clips, and spray the parchment as well.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well, letting the mixer run on low speed for a minute. With the mixer on low, blend in the flour, wheat germ or flax, baking soda and salt until combined but do not overmix.

Clean off the beaters, then use a wooden spoon to blend in the oatmeal, cheese, bacon and dried fruit if using.

Gently pat the thick dough into the pan without packing it too tight and bake for 20 - 25 minutes, the top should be slightly golden and firm (but not hard) to the touch in the center. They'll also smell great!

Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm; lift out with the parchment first if using parchment.

Be sure to store Breakfast Bars in the fridge since they contain both meat and cheese.

ALANNA's TIPS Here's how I cook the bacon, extra crispy! It's Baked Bacon. Could you bake these in a 9x13 pan for something thinner, more akin to the thickness of a commercial breakfast bar? I think so, yes, in fact that's how I once made them too. But the baking time will be shorter, I'd start checking at 10 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Bar, assumes 16: 152 Calories; 9g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 37mg Cholesterol; 204mg Sodium; 13g Carb; 1g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 4 & SmartPoints 6

Breakfast Celebrations with Oatmeal!

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Triple-Banana Oat Pancakes Homemade Granola with Almonds & Apricots Swiss Bircher Müesli

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

© Copyright 2007 & 2018 Kitchen Parade

Observing Lent with Children: Lenten Grass

Lenten grass is an old Finnish tradition and a lovely way to mark the season of Lent with children. If you're looking for ideas for observing Lent, planting grass is easy to do, fun for the whole family.

Lenten Grass

For adult observers, the Christian season of Lent is often a time of quiet contemplation. For kids, however, Lent seems little more than preamble to Easter’s bonnets and bunnies and baskets.

To help children observe Lent, consider adopting the old Finnish custom of planting grass seed in small dishes on Ash Wednesday.

For children, it is fun to plant and carefully tend the seeds. Soon delicate blades burst forth from the earth, stretching toward the light. With good care, the grass will grow thick and strong and lush, symbolizing the resurrection and the certainty of spring.

Here's how to mark the Lenten Season with Lenten Grass. It's easy, it's fun! Consider starting several trays and giving them to family and friends.

Plant the seeds for Lenten Grass on Ash Wednesday. But if you happen to miss Ash Wednesday, I don't think God will mind. :-) Starting a few days later will work too.

Lenten Grass Step 1

Start with a pretty bowl or tray about three inches high. For drainage, first lay down an even layer of small rocks – aquarium rocks are perfect. Add a layer of potting soil, the loose stuff works better than dense dirt. Don't fill up the bowl or tray, however, leave room for another layer.

Lenten Grass Step 2

For grass seed, I use rye grass from the local feed store, it costs all of $.40. Sprinkle the seed on top of the soil. Be generous! We want thick grass!

One year, I planted wheat grass but was unhappy with the results; others have good luck, however, so in 2010 I experimented with it again (more information about wheat grass below).

Lenten Grass Step 3

Add more potting soil. If it's dry and airy, use quite a bit because it'll pack down once wet.

For visual interest, especially before germination, arrange a few rocks or perhaps pieces of colorful broken china. Be creative!

Lenten grass with a bear!

A bear, perhaps?

Or a regal cat?

Lenten grass with Easter bunny

Hey wait! Where'd he come from?!

Lenten Grass with stones

Me, I'm a minimalist and a naturalist so I start with simple stones from my garden.

Lenten Grass - water

Water the seeds, but not too much, we don't want to drown these little guys!

Now. Place the container in a sunny spot, someplace where it's easy to see, often. I put mine right in the middle of the kitchen table.

Moisten the soil every day. Use something with a small spout to control the flow. If you're doing this with kids, a spray mister may prevent over-watering. The soil shouldn't be soaked but it should be moist. And because the soil is shallow, it'll dry out quickly.

And then, about Day 6 ...

... start looking for itsy signs of grass!

In fact, leave for a couple of days and you'll miss the first growth and come home to this! This was taken on Day 8.

After that, the growth will be fascinating to watch. On sunny days, you'll be positive you can see new growth every couple of hours.

At first, the grass will come up in clumps and seem a little sparse.

But don't worry. Soon enough, with sun and water, there will be a thick tray of lush Lenten Grass, green and bright and fresh-smelling, for everyone to enjoy, by Day 10, say.

See the clump of dirt? The sheer power of the thrusting grass is impressive!

When the grass gets unruly, ‘mow’ it with scissors. From now til Easter, you'll need to 'mow' every week or so.

After each mow, the Lenten Grass will grow back thick and lush. (Day 14.)

If you have a cat, the grass might be a curiosity, unless you have a Finnish cat, like mine, who feigns indifference. Meet Toivo: she's learned that grass doesn't agree with her tummy and leaves the Lenten Grass alone.

In 2009 and 2010, I also planted wheat grass. It requires a deeper dish and grows more slowly.

But by Day 15, the wheat grass is tall and thick and quite pretty.

Can you see how much fun it is to hide things in the grass?

I love the tradition of planting and tending Lenten Grass and hope that others will adopt and enjoy it too!

Recipes for Lent & Easter

~ Lent ~
~ My Mom's Pancakes ~
for Shrove Tuesday supper

~ Easter ~
~ Hot Cross Buns ~
for Good Friday

my family's tradition for
~ Jesus' Birthday Cake ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Become a Kitchen Parade fan on Facebook!