Mushroom Soup - Quick + Earthy

I can make this soup in about 30 minutes. It’s rich and filling. It is a vegetarian recipe that is gluten free with vegan options.

I use organic whenever possible

I use organic whenever possible

It’s all about the mushrooms -

I use fresh frozen and dried and whatever I have on hand. Any combination always comes out delicious.

Frozen mushrooms don’t need to thaw.

Dried mushrooms - soak in water for about 15 minutes. I forage morel’s and dry them.

Fresh mushrooms - simply wipe any dirt off fresh mushrooms with a soft cloth. You don’t need to thaw frozen mushrooms.


You can use Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base. It’s saltier than most box broths, so adjust salt to taste.

Vegan’s can add vegetable broth, omit the butter and use your favorite plain nut milk.

Add a little sherry to liven up the flavors

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche or chopped chives

Serve with a crisp green salad or grilled cheese sandwich.

My friend Lynn says “Every soup begins with leeks.” This soup starts with leeks and then I add celery

My friend Lynn says “Every soup begins with leeks.” This soup starts with leeks and then I add celery

Rich and Creamy Mushroom Soup


Mushrooms - 2 cups - any combination of fresh, frozen and/or dried - chopped
Celery -2-6 ribs - I like celery so go for 6 ribs and include some of the leaves - sliced
Leeks -  1-2 stalks - washed and chopped
Garlic - 3-6 cloves - peeled and minced
Thyme - 1 tsp dry fresh or 1 tbsp dried
Olive oil -1 tablespoon
Butter - 1 tablespoon (omit for vegan and add another tablespoon of olive oil)
Mushroom broth - 1 box
Heavy cream - 1 pint (omit for vegan or use your favorite unsweetened nut milk)
Salt and pepper to taste


Saute leeks, celery and garlic in oil and butter until translucent. Add thyme and mushrooms and cook until soft. Add mushroom broth and heavy cream. Heat and serve.

Beautiful mushroom soup!

Beautiful mushroom soup!

I add my herbs when sauteing. I thinks they infuse their flavors into the veggies.

I add my herbs when sauteing. I thinks they infuse their flavors into the veggies.


I stock up on mushroom broth, but you can substitute chicken or vegetable broth.

Milk: I rarely have fresh milk, but keep a supply of canned evaporated milk, boxed unsweetened nut or hemp milks. I even a boxed whipped cream. I use what works for the recipe and more importantly my taste.

Butter: I keep a back up pound of butter in my freezer.

Vegetables: I almost always have fresh carrots, celery, onions and garlic in the refrigerator. Add a minced carrot for color and sweet

Mushrooms: I forage morels that I dry and store in quart jars. I buy portabella and cremini when they are on sale and I know I'll have time to process them. Wipe the mushroom free of dirt, slice and place on parchment paper is a cool dry location. Turn every 12 hours (or so) until dry. Store in canning jars. Rehydrate in water or broth until soft and ready to use.  Or slice and freeze.

For more information on drying mushrooms the Mushroom Appreciation has several methods.

Re-hydrating Dried Mushrooms only takes 15 Minutes

Put dried mushroom in a bowl of water to rehydrate.

Put dried mushroom in a bowl of water to rehydrate.

Morels after about 15 minutes. Plump and ready to use.

Morels after about 15 minutes. Plump and ready to use.

Miso Soup - quick + healthy

Miso Soup - according to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods to assure health, longevity and happiness.

Miso Soup - according to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods to assure health, longevity and happiness.

Miso Soup - The basics

The only thing you really need to make miso soup is hot water and miso. Below are some suggestions and directions you can use to make a heartier soup.


Vegetables - Use what you have raw, cooked, or frozen. Cut raw veggies into bite size pieces. Cabbage, peas, mushrooms and green beans all work well with a quick Miso Soup.

Protein - Tofu is traditional, cut into small cubes. This is a good use for leftover chicken, just cut into bite side cubes.

Noodles - Udon (buckwheat noodles). Thai Rice noodles are good choices. They are available in the International aisle of most markets.

Miso - White miso is milder in flavor and is often served in the summer and for breakfast. Red miso has a stronger richer flavor that is welcome in the cooler months. Do not boil miso.

Garnish - Green onions, shredded raw carrots or chives.


Your goal is to have a bowlful of perfectly cooked vegetables, noodles in a pot of hot water. That’s when you add the miso, mix well, garnish and serve.

Cook raw vegetables in boiling water. Don’t add salt. Cook noodles and heat any tofu, left overs, etc. Add miso. You don’t want to miso to boil.

I put my miso in my serving bowl and ladle a tablespoon or two of hot water into the bowl and begin to dilute the miso. Then add it back into the hot water. It can take some stirring to melt the miso into the hot water. Do not boil the miso.

What is Miso?

There are days when I want something warm and healthy and I want it quickly. Miso soup is a go-to meal for me. it’s warming and makes me feel like I’ve done something healthy for myself.

Doing research on miso I came across a website that, “offers general information about soy and recipes with soy and explains how to make your own soy products. We search the market, mainly Belgium and the Netherlands, for newly launched soy products and provide reviews.” states that Miso “can be traced to China as far back as the 4th century BC. A seasoning, called Hisio, was a paste resulting from the fermenting a mixture of soybeans, wheat, alcohol and salt. The written word, miso, first appeared around 800.

In Japan, miso was introduced the 7th century by Buddhist monks. The process of making miso was furher refined and it became a necessary part of the samurai diet. With the widespread cultivation of rice, miso has become a staple food for Japanese people. Over the centuries, different types of miso were developed, often named after the province where it originated.”

Red and White Miso - I purchased these at Berryvale Grocery in Mount Shasta.

Red and White Miso - I purchased these at Berryvale Grocery in Mount Shasta.

There are many variations of miso, which are basically all made from koji mixed with either rice, barley or soy beans. The ingredients are fermented and aged in wooden kegs. Some of the lighter sweet miso is aged for only a few months, while the darker miso may be aged for up to 2 years.

Miso is paste made of fermented soy beans. The fermentation process turns soy beans into amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars. Miso can be made with other grains, but soy miso is the most readily available. I recommend trying different miso varieties…so far I haven’t found one I don’t like. White miso is milder in flavor with the dark reds being the strongest flavor.

Kristin Allen - The Best Vegan Mom

Kirstin is also known as "The Blind Lady"

Kirstin is also known as "The Blind Lady"

Lauri: Tell me a little about growing up in Minnesota.
Kristin: I grew up in Glencoe, a farming community in Minnesota (dairy land!) a town where my grandparents lived, my parents grew up and raised us and now my sister and her family are still living. Needless to say, not many people move away. 

Growing up, my parents were always working on one home project or another. Before I was born, they built the house I grew up in from the ground up, not having much construction background.  My family's business was a Goodyear Tire shop called Sam's Tire (my maiden name was Samuelson, and Sam was my grandfather's nickname and later on became mine when I was in the Army Reserves and throughout college).  I believe since I grew up in that kind of home-renovation environment, it just became part of my DNA. 

During my senior year of high school, I joined the Army Reserves, mainly as a way to afford my college education.  Neither my parents, nor grandparents had gone to college and my family did not have the financial resources to pay for college.  After my initial military basic and job training, I started college at Minnesota State University. I originally started taking business classes and realized I needed something more creative.  I switched my minor to marketing and ended up graduating with a B.S. in Interior Design and Construction Management. 

Kirstin and her family having fun on the beach

Kirstin and her family having fun on the beach

Lauri: And now you live in Siskiyou County. How did that happen?
Kristin: After college I moved to San Diego, because I swore I would "never live in a small town or anywhere it snows ever again!"  (you can see how well that worked out, right?!). In San Diego I worked in Solana Beach for a custom furniture manufacturer and designed custom upholstered pieces, it was a very creative job and I loved working with people to design every aspect of a piece of furniture.  After a little while, I wanted a change, and went to work for a large model home design firm. They did high end model home design all over Southern California and throughout the United States. It was a great job as well, but while living in San Diego, I had my first daughter and was getting tired of the commute and busyness, so when an opportunity came up to move to Dunsmuir and buy a house, my husband at the time (now ex) and I moved. I started at Edgewood Custom Interiors in 2005, less than a week after moving to Siskiyou County.

Kristen working with the blinds

Kristen working with the blinds

Lauri: How did you get the nick name The Blind Lady?
Kristin: My role at Edgewood has changed as the business has changed throughout the years. Originally, I was hired to sell furniture and be the in-house interior designer. A little over a year of starting at Edgewood, I started helping people with Hunter Douglas window coverings and filling in at our Mt Shasta store, ECI Flooring, working with people on floor coverings as well. Today, we no longer sell furniture, but I am still very active in every other aspect. Every so often someone jokingly calls me the "blind lady" when they see me out and about (like I've never heard that one before!). 

Lauri: What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
Kristin: One of my favorite things is working with people in their homes and seeing their spaces. I find myself not only helping people with their window coverings, but giving them advice on paint colors and space planning. I love that a lot of my "clients" have become friends!  There is something to be said for living in a small knit community.  I know that if I would still be in San Diego, or another bigger city, I wouldn't create nearly as many connections as I do with people here in Siskiyou County. 

What the heck is that?

What the heck is that?

Lauri: How is California eating different from how you grew up?
Kristin: Ok, getting onto food:  Obviously, coming from MN, I grew up in a family that ate meat, potatoes and not much else!  I think I ate dairy with every single meal.  I was a cheese-aholic, loved the stuff!  To give you an example of how little vegetables we ate, our salads were iceberg lettuce with Hidden Valley ranch dressing.  Fruit was either canned peaches (on top of cottage cheese of course) or fruit cocktail.  I'll never forget when my mom came to visit me in California, and I made a breakfast scramble with avocado and she freaked out because I was using a "raw" avocado, "aren't you going to cook that?!"  Obviously, we never had avocado growing up!

How cute is this sign? Adorable!

How cute is this sign? Adorable!

Lauri: Now you've changed eating a plant-based or vegan diet?
Kristin: Yes, for me to change my diet about 4 years ago from a cheese-loving, meat-eating, not very vegetable-based way of eating, it was quite the change! I can't really say what facilitated the switch to a plant-based diet. I watched a few documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated.  Those were a big eye opener, and as I began to educate myself on what I was putting in my body the foods I was used to eating were sounding less and less appealing.  (I recommend What the Health and Cowspiracy as well!!!)

Lauri: What has been the hardest part about making this kind of change in what you eat?
Kristin: Cheese was the last big hold out for me, because I ate so much of it and it was such a big part of my diet. I mean, pizza, enchiladas, mac and cheese! But a funny thing happened and as I went without it for a couple weeks and then longer, I no longer craved it and I realized how much better I felt without eating it. A side effect of going vegan was the compassion for animals. I made the connection to what I was eating and realized that I can eat amazing foods without harming animals, and I haven't looked back.  I joke that I'm a cow-hugging, tree-loving, kale-eating herbivore!
Nowadays, I am eating mostly a whole food plant-based diet, which means no oils, or processed foods as well as no meat, dairy, eggs or animal products of any kind.  It is amazing what you can do with plants. I definitely do not deprive myself and this is not a "diet' for me as much as it is a lifestyle.  I don't limit myself and count calories/carbs/fats. I just eat plants! 



Lauri: I love your passion about 'just eating plants'. It sounds like you have figure it out for you and you family.
Kristin: I make a mean cashew-based cheese sauce and buffalo cauliflower poppers that would rival anything you'd find at a sports bar!  Really, it's been a learning experience and having to educate myself on a new way of cooking.  I have such a passion for this way of eating and I am looking to share it with others.  I'm not quite sure what direction I will take, whether it is helping people individually by teaching them how to cook plant-based meals or if it will be just creating nutritious foods for my family.  I did recently receive my Certification in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell's T. Colin Campbell's Center for Nutrition Studies.  

Lauri: I know there are options for eating out for vegetarians and vegans. What are your favorite local eatery?
Kristin: Eating out locally has been interesting. I have my few go to restaurants where I know I will be able to order something plant based. It really isn't that difficult, but the funny thing is - I don't like salads!!!  I tend to go for a heartier meal when I'm going out to eat, so I love The Wheelhouse in Dunsmuir. Link here to read The Bill Plate review of The Wheelhouse. They have a vegan BLT that is made with tempeh bacon that is out of this world!

Also, Mexican restaurants are usually easy for me to find something. Casa Ramos (Link here to read The Bill Plate review of Casa Ramos.) has their Enchilada Espinaca (spinach and mushroom enchilada), but I have to make a few tweaks, like no cheese or sour cream, also, no refried beans since theirs are made with lard, and cilantro rice instead of their Mexican rice (which uses chicken broth). My absolute favorite breakfast dish is Seven Suns Veggie burrito, substitute tofu for the eggs and nix the cheese.  And even though I said I don't like salads, I make an exception for the Signature Salad (again omit the blue cheese) at Jefferson's RoadHouse. It is absolutely amazing!!! Link here to read The Bill Plate Review of Jefferson's Roadhouse.

Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup

Comfort Food -  Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup  from Life is No Yoke

Comfort Food - Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup from Life is No Yoke

Lauri: What's one of your favorite comfort foods? One you are willing to share the recipe with our readers?
Kristin: Below is the recipe for one of my favorite dishes Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup. It isn't my recipe - it's from one of the many blogs I follow  Life Is No Yoke.  Growing up in Minnesota, Chicken Wild Rice Soup was a staple so I searched everywhere for a vegan plant-based version and this one is as good if not better than the original. Typically, Chicken Wild Rice Soup has (of course) chicken and chicken broth, but also heavy cream, butter and sometimes vegetable oil, all of which I don't eat anymore! So to find a recipe that actually tasted like what I had growing up, but a much healthier version was so difficult. The key to cooking without cream or milk when making cream based soups is soaked cashews and white beans! It sounds strange, but I've used it in cheese based sauces, alfredo pasta sauce and in this recipe and it is amazing! I did upgrade to a Vitamix Blender a couple of years ago because as you can imagine, blending cashews to a smooth and not gritty consistency is key if you want a creamy sauce.  It was definitely a splurge, but I highly recommend it for anyone transitioning to a plant based diet.  I'm a texture person and if I had to eat something that was grainy or had a gritty texture, I probably would have had a hard time with this way of eating. I typically serve this soup with a heated up loaf of sourdough bread and it is the ultimate comfort food.  Especially on cold fall or winter days, it is like a hug in a bowl!  I eat WAY more than one serving and sometimes even make a double batch so I have leftovers for lunches!

Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup


  • wild rice - 1 cup (160 g)

  • vegetable broth - 64 oz (2 L)

  • bay leaves - 2 whole

  • dried thyme* - to your taste (we use 1 Tbsp. (4.3 g))

  • salt - 2 tsp. (5.69 g) + more to taste

  • celery - 4 ribs chopped

  • carrots - 1 cup chopped (128 g)

  • onion - 1/2 whole chopped

  • garlic - 4-6 cloves chopped

  • mushrooms - 8 oz chopped (225 g)

  • cashews (raw/unsalted) - 1 cup soaked (125 g)

  • cannellini (white kidney) beans - 15 oz can (425 g)



  1. Soak cashews overnight if possible

  2. If not, soak in boiling water as soon as you see this, the longer the better


  1. Pour 1 cup (8 oz) of broth in a small bowl to the side

  2. Heat the rest of the vegetable broth in large pot on medium heat

  3. Rinse and drain your wild rice

  4. Add wild rice, thyme, bay leaves, and salt to your hot vegetable broth

  5. Place lid on pot and set a 30 min timer


  1. Chop celery, carrots, onion, and garlic

  2. Put in pot w/broth, replace lid

  3. Chop mushrooms, reserve on side


  1. Drain soaked cashews and the liquid from the cannellini beans

  2. Place cashews & beans in Vitamix container

  3. Add reserved cup of vegetable broth

  4. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth


  1. When your timer goes off, add the creamy Vitamix mixture to your pot

  2. Add the chopped mushrooms

  3. Replace lid

  4. Set timer for 15 more min

  5. When timer goes off, check if wild rice is done (should be a bit chewy)

  6. Remove bay leaves


Open a Can Chili + Quesadillas

Simple to make with ingredients you might have on hand. A hearty meal to feed a crowd.

Simple to make with ingredients you might have on hand. A hearty meal to feed a crowd.

I learned how to make this chili from Ike Edgmon. He shopped at "the dented can store" for chili, beans and where every he could save a dime to feed his family of five. One time when his wife Doris was out of town, my brother and I were visiting he fed us dinner. Ike went into the kitchen fried up some hamburger, opened a couple of dented cans and when everything was heated up we ate some of the best chili I've ever tasted.

Since that day I've learned this is a default meal for many families. Ike's chili would never come out the same because, he bought whatever was on sale. I know some Grandmothers who plan ahead and purchase the same ingredients every time. Either way it's a quick meal that will feed a crowd

Crock Pot Open a Can Chili family dinner with paper plates. A nice reward after a hard days work!

Crock Pot Open a Can Chili family dinner with paper plates. A nice reward after a hard days work!

Open a Can Chili  - The Basic Recipe


Ground meat or Beyond Meat, a veggie base protein vegetarian option
Onion - chopped
Garlic - 1-2 cloves chopped
Canned beans - whatever kind you have on stock. I used 1 can of pinto and 1 of cannellini   Canned Tomatoes - I usually have a can of diced tomatoes on hand, but you could use whole  tomatoes and cut them up or fresh is even better. You can use tomato sauce if that's all you have.
Canned green chiles
Chile powder or fresh chiles of your choice 1 to 2 tbsp
Mexican Oregano - 1 tsp to 1 tbsp to taste
Cumin - 1 tsp to 1 tbsp to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Ike's Secret - Add a can of chili. It give your chili all the seasoning needed so you don't need to.


Brown the meat with onions. If using Beyond Meat you only need to saute the onions until translucent. Put everything into a Crock Pot or slow cooker. Turn on high for about an hour then on low until you are ready to serve.

Toppings: Here are some suggestions for toppings. Use what you have on hand.

Sour cream
Pico de Gallo - link to my Pico de Gallo recipe
Chopped onions - green, purple or yellow
Fresh chopped jalapenos
Grated cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Hot sauce or Tabasco sauce

Garnish with my homemade  Pico de Gallo  and a little sour cream.

Garnish with my homemade Pico de Gallo and a little sour cream.

Serve with chips, tortillas or warm cheesy quesadillas

Quesadillas crisp up quickly on a griddle. Everyone was hungry after a day of moving furniture at Shelly's house so, I wanted to make a lot of them quickly.

Quesadillas crisp up quickly on a griddle. Everyone was hungry after a day of moving furniture at Shelly's house so, I wanted to make a lot of them quickly.

Quesadillas are super simple. Heat buttered flour tortillas filled with grated cheese until the cheese melts and the tortillas are warm and golden. I have a griddle, but you can use any frying pan. By adding lots of fresh veggies and salsas you can turn a quesadilla into a hearth meal. Tonight we kept it simple with just sharp cheddar cheese. 

My Family - Shelly, Grace, Caty, and Bellis

My Family - Shelly, Grace, Caty, and Bellis

Thai Tom Kha Gai Soup




Thai Tom Kha Gai Soup

Easy to Make Yummy Soup

This has always been one of my favorite soups to order when I eat at Thai restaurants. My granddaughter had to have braces, that means we spent a lot of time in waiting and treatment rooms. Luckily for me her orthodontist had a good supply of magazines. I found this recipe in Family Circle February 2012.

My local grocery stores are limited in international ingredients, so I made a list and went right to a large grocery store that was next to the orthodontists office. I had to make another stop at an Asian market that was in the area. I came home and made it that night. It has been a go-to delicious soup ever since.

This soup is really easy to make. It's all about having the ingredients ready to cook. My daughter is a vegetarian so I simply substitute the chicken with firm tofu and use vegetable broth.

Tom Kha Gai Recipe

Serves 6

1 quart box chicken broth - low sodium
2 4” pieces of lemon grass - crushed
2” of ginger root - peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic -  minced
8 oz. Cremini  mushrooms - sliced
2 tsp Thai chili-garlic paste adjust to taste
1 lb. broccoli florets
½ lb. chicken breast or thigh cut into ¾” pieces
1 red bell pepper - cut into matchsticks
1 - 14 oz. can coconut milk
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce

4 green onions - sliced

In a large pot heat bring chicken broth to a simmer. Add  lemongrass and ginger simmer on medium high for 5 minutes to release the aromatics.  Reduce heat, simmer, add garlic, mushrooms and chili paste. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in broccoli, chicken, red peppers and coconut milk. Simmer 5 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice and fish sauce. Serve in bowls, garnish with scallions.  


  • Prep all ingredients before you begin cooking. Once you begin cooking it goes quickly. 15 minutes cook time.
  • To reduce calories substitute low fat coconut milk.
  • Substitute with chicken ingredients for vegetable broth and tofu for a delicious vegetarian soup.