Saturday, October 16, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Wild Mushrooms & Truffle Scented Cashew Creme Fraiche

I am going to start with a tease for the soup because I think this turned out incredibly well. It has a light smokiness from the mushrooms and a hint of truffle from the creme.  This may be the best soup I have made in the last few months. I actually like this enough that I am planning to repeat it this season which you know I almost never do. ;-)

Friday Lunch:

Once I finished my errands I grabbed a quick snack for lunch since I didn’t have a big appetite this afternoon. This snack included a dollop of okara pate (I am working on a white cheese recipe that isn’t quite ready to be shared yet and that is what this was), some Dijon and a few cucumber slices. This is definitely my favorite sort of snack. In fact I thought it was good enough two hours later I made myself a second plate exactly like the first one.  I hope to have the pate perfected soon so I can share it. It is close, just not perfect yet. ;-)

I washed this down with a glass of fresh veggie and fruit juice. The glass is frosty because I stored it in the freezer. I prefer my cold things to be cold and my hot things to be hot. ;-) In total I had 2 cups of fresh juice today spread throughout the day.

Living Green:

How many of you are interesting in living green, or already try to do this? The reason I am asking is that over the last five years I have slowly reduced the commercial cleaning products I buy to reduce the toxins in our home. I have found formulas that work, and ones that don’t work. If many of you are interested I will start posting those formulas that are my own creation or will point you to where I found the recipe.

I have mentioned EWG before but it has been a long time ago now so I thought I should bring it up again. To avoid the nasty chemicals in beauty products I check the ratings at the Environmental Working Group website. It has been a great resource for me. If you haven’t checked it out you should. I will warn you that if you are like me you can lose hours at this site researching all your products. Things I learned at this website caused me to make a lot of changes to the products we use.

Holiday Shopping:

Have any of you starting shopping for the December holidays? I have two extremely tough men to buy presents for so I starting shopping about a week ago. I have only bought one item so far but the hunt has started. Do you like to shop online? I adore online shopping. There is nothing having things arrive at my front door. The UPS man and I are almost on a first name basis, LOL. Hopefully since I started shopping this early there won’t be a mad dash at the end of December like usual.

Afternoon snack:

Knowing that Dan would probably be late coming home I made myself a snack when I got hungry. This one contained cooked brown rice from the refrigerator (heated in the microwave), salsa, cilantro and raw pumpkin seeds. It wasn’t a huge snack but it was enough to tide me over until dinner. Given the cool temperatures we have been experiencing the last few days I enjoyed the hot aspect of this snack.


I have been craving mushroom miso soup for the last few days. Since that is a healthy craving I thought it sounded like a great idea for dinner tonight. I made the mushroom stock using the shitake stems I store in the freezer and kombu. Then I strained the solids and returned the stock to the pot. I also added fresh shitake caps, garlic, tomato, green beans, cooked brown rice, nutritional yeast and miso. I finished the soup with a little fresh baby arugula on top when I served it. Since there are so many variations of miso soup on the blog I decided not to detail this one formally. I started adding the nutrition yeast to my miso soup to provide umami without sodium (from the miso that was I was able to reduce after adding the nutritional yeast).

I had planned to make a salad to accompany the soup but we had such large bowls that neither of us had enough room for the salad. That is what I get for starting with the soup instead of the salad.

Why I blog:

It is such an incredible feeling to open an email that talks about being inspired to become a health conscious vegan from reading my blog. I can’t tell you how much it means each time I receive an email like that. Becaue I know it is easier to be processed food vegan each time one of you tell me you are interested in health it absolutely makes my day. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. :-)

Principles regarding what we eat or don’t eat:

I received a question from a fairly new reader asking if I had summarized what we eat or don’t eat somewhere on the blog and I realized that I had not actually done this yet. So here goes for anyone that is interested:

We focus on consuming whole plant based food which includes: vegetables, fruit, beans, seeds, nuts, whole unprocessed grains (this does not mean flour). Most of what I buy at the grocery store/farmers’ market is whole food as it comes off the plant or out of the ground. We don’t eat meat, fish, or dairy but that is probably obvious from the blog name. ;-)

Items we tend to avoid or minimize include anything that is processed including: flour, oil, salt and sugar (including maple syrup and agave). Also in this list are commercially prepared foods like TVP and soy protein isolates which elevate IGF-1. Those are absolutely out of question. Process soy seems to be harder for some people to avoid since it is found in so many commercial prepared foods. Processed soy is in vegan dairy substitutes, meat analogs (veggie burgers, veggie sausages, and boxed meat substitutes), bread, and some brands of tofu. My approach is to eliminate those items with processed soy from my pantry.

When we go out to eat we modify these rules because it is hard to find vegan food to eat if you eliminate flour and oil. This is why you will see whole wheat pizza when we are out, and whole wheat pita. Additionally we have talked to our chef friend Ian about cooking without oil and he looks at me as though I am an alien with three heads. We settled on he uses less oil. *shakes head* I remember how difficult it was for me to give up cooking with oil so I understand his hesitation. He actually uses very little oil for us so it doesn’t concern me too much. If we went out more often I would be more worried about it.

I will occasionally make an exception to the things we avoid when it is absolutely necessary for flavor. I sometimes use a little smoked salt or truffle salt to finish a dish, or a bit of truffle oil when I feel like the flavor is required and I don’t have canned or fresh truffles. But those items are used as sparingly as possible. Sometimes you will find a recipe with a tablespoon or two of flour when that is necessary (like the tofu lasagna) to achieve the correct texture for the “tofu ricotta”. For celebratory meals (birthdays, national holidays, etc.) you may see homemade ravioli or pizza but those are the exception at our house now. Being part Italian I can’t give them up 100% though that would be better for our health. ;-) Overall our diet is about 95%+ whole plant based food with a little bit of processed food (salt, flour or oil) when necessary.

We made those changes to our diet so that it would be as anti-inflammatory as possible. Many of the foods we eliminated/reduced either increase inflammation or suppress the immune system.

Speaking of the immune system one reason you see so many mushroom dishes is that there is some data to suggest that mushroom enhance the immune system and have antiproliferative properties. Onion, garlic and other items in that family also enhance the immune system. Herbs like ginger, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves are high in antioxidants. In the case of turmeric it has been shown to also have anti proliferative properties. Ginger is anti inflammatory and thought to help with joint pain.

I hope that helped you to understand some of the reasons I include or exclude certain foods from our diet.

Where does my health information come from?:

This was another question I received from a new reader for which there is no quick answer. I read about nutrition every day which means the factoids I mention are things I have read from many different sources. If I ever write something and you are curious what my source is ask me. I have a fairly decent memory so I should be able to point you to the book or article where I learned it. In general the information either comes from books written by respected authors or articles I read on PubMed. Some of my favorite books are as follows:

The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD

Eat for Health” and “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman, MD

"Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD

Life Over Cancer” by Keith Block, MD

Anticancer” by David Servan-Schreiber, MD

An Evidence-Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals” by Jane Higdon, Ph.D.

Nutrition in Clinical Practice” by David L. Katz, MD

As you may have guessed by now nutrition is serious stuff with me. I try to make certain my information comes from sources I trust.


Breakfast was a kale and banana smoothie before we ran out the door for Marshall’s and the library. We were in such a hurry that I forgot to photograph the smoothies so I used an old photo.

At Marshall’s I found a couple of kitchen gadgets worth noting. The first was a Pyrex loaf pan with a lid for $4.99. I can imagine making a lentil or tofu loaf in this and then storing it in the pan. Hopefully it works as well as I am anticipating.  I purchased this brand because it can be used in the oven/microwave and freezer.

Dan found this Kuhn Rikon julienne slicer for $9.99. As much as we eat salad we both though this would be a great addition to the gadget collection and add textural variation to the salad with both sliced and julienned veggies.

Next stop was the library where we both picked up entirely too many things. I got another book on nontoxic cleaning because I can not hav too many of those to read. The other book I picked up was on Italian Jewish cooking. Some of the best food I have ever had came from the Jewish Ghetto (Trastevere) in Rome. If you ever get to Rome I don’t think you can find a bad restaurant in that neighborhood.

Before we left to run errands this morning we decided that we would have split pea soup for the mid day meal with my folks because it is relatively quick cooking. I thought about how to flavor it off and on while we were out. Once I remembered the smoked mushrooms in the freezer I knew that would work great here. I decided to make a truffle cashew crème to keep with the mushroom theme. Here is what I did:

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Wild Mushrooms and Truffle Scented Cashew Crème Fraiche
Serves 8

Soup Ingredients:

3 cups split peas, picked through and sorted
water sufficient to cook the peas (approximately 10 -12 cups)
2 bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes after chopping before adding to the pot)
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes after chopping before adding to the pot)
3 carrots, finely diced
2 pinches red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
dulse granules to taste
approximately 1 cup smoked mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces

Truffle Cream:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour then drained
zest of 1 organic lemon
juice of ½ lemon
water necessary to form a thick cream
truffle (either canned truffle, truffle juice, truffle oil or truffle salt) to taste, you won’t need much you just want the aroma to permeate the creme


Combine the split peas, water, bay leaves, onion, and carrot and cook until the peas are tender. Season as desired.

While the soup is cooking prepare the truffled crème so it can thicken in the refrigerator as it chills.

If you don’t have a smoker, or smoked mushrooms in the freezer you can rehydrate dried mushrooms in water with a ¼ teaspoon of liquid smoke. That should be enough to give them a light smoky flavor. One thing to keep in mind when using liquid smoke is that it is very intense and you can always add more if you need too. I have used too much liquid smoke in the past and regretted it.

To serve I reheated the mushrooms in the microwave until they were just warm. Place the soup in the bowl, top with the smoked mushrooms and dollop of cashew crème. If everything worked as it should have you should smell a light smokiness from the mushrooms and a faint aroma of truffle.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 311.83
Calories From Fat (18%) - 55.56

Total Fat - 6.64g
Saturated Fat - 1.29g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 72.08mg
Potassium - 1099.59mg
Total Carbohydrates - 48.48g
Fiber - 8.62g
Sugar - 3.28g
Protein - 17.98g


I think this is one of the better soups I have made in a while. It was a good combination of flavors and aromas. I think the truffle creme and smoked mushrooms take this from a run of the mill soup to something special. I would serve this to guests I like it that much. Even my omni father enjoyed this. It is definitely a winner and will turn up again during the cold weather, I liked it that much.

To accompany the soup I made individual side salads of romaine, Roma tomato, thinly sliced cucumber, currants and sliced almonds dressed with dijon, red wine vinegar and stevia.

Signing out:

Time for me to clean up the kitchen from the mid day meal with my father and decide what I am going to make Dan and me for dinner. Something tells me there may be a bowl of soup or a salad in our future given that it is after 5pm and I am still full from the last meal.

I hope everyone is having a nice Saturday. Talk to you again soon.


  1. I definitely can't wait to try that soup. It sounds delicious. Also, I use the EWG website, especially the cosmetics database, very very often. That's how I chose the new group buy preschool sunscreen...I found the cheapest, safest sunscreen on that site. However, now that I see how little I need in the realm of cosmetics (thank you, vegan diet!), I only use a few per day : )

  2. I wish you could come cook for me! So impressive.

  3. Stephanie,

    Thanks, I think you will like this soup. It is subtle but very distinctive. I am quite pleased with it as you can probably tell. ;-)

    I have lost many hours on the EWG site. I also use fewer cosmetics since I changed my diet. Thanks for letting me know that happened to you too. I had wondered what role diet played.

    hope you are having a good Saturday,

  4. Krystina,

    Thank you SO much! What a nice thing to say. :-) But I think my husband would miss me and my cooking. ;-)


  5. I am not big presents person. Can you believe it just isn't something we do in my family?

    I am also happy to see some more explicit background on what you eat and the reasons. Some of this I have gathered already. One question I have for you is whether your research supports use of nutritional yeast, which I know some people do not use for health reasons.

    On another note, I like the cats legs in the pyrex photo and the smoked mushrooms sound wonderful. I like to repeat recipes that I like; it is mainly for the blog that I keep trying new things. So yes, if something is good, I'll do it again.

  6. Jessica,

    Christmas and birthdays were big when I was a kid. Also, I love to buy people presents, I always have. I definitely get as much and maybe more joy out of giving presents than receiving them.

    You have been reading long enough I would have expected this post wouldn't have been much new info for you.

    I have read some comments about nutritional yeast being a problem but haven't seen any indication that there is any real science behind that. I will keep my eyes open and if I see something that appears solid I will post the link.

    Those are Binky legs in that pic. He was helping me, like usual. My felines tend to get involved in everything that happens here.

    The smoked mushrooms are really good. The smoker was either a Christmas of b'day present from my buddy Louis (my hard to buy for friend). We like to buy each other unusual kitchen gadgets.

    I have never been one to repeat a lot of meals much to Dan's dismay. He would prefer a lot more repeats. I get bored and usually want to make something new. I have never been the type to eat the same 20 things day after day.

    hope you are having a good Saturday,

  7. Lots of great information in this post. Speaking of "why you blog," you definitely always inspire me to continue eating better.

    I do love getting packages in the mail. My husband isn't really hard to buy for, but I know spending money stresses him out. So that's the only reason it's hard to buy for him - do I go forth with buying him things I know he will love or does he prefer the gift of a higher bank account balance...always the dilemna...

    I really need to start putting our glasses in the freezer because that looks so great.

  8. Oh my goodness - that soup looks absolutely wonderful! How creative.

    I'm definitely thinking about Christmas already! I absolutely love finding gifts that I know people will love, so I've had a tentative list going for a few months now. I'm also big on handmade gifts, so I have a project or two started already.

  9. Jenny,

    Thank you for sharing that with me. I like knowing that I might be helping people view food differently.

    I understand the problem with your hubby and presents well, been there too. One of the very benefits of being "older" is the money issues seem to resolve themselves. I am sure that will happen for you too it is just a matter of when.

    Glad you like the glasses in the freezer idea. It is perfect for smoothies.

    enjoy what is left of your evening,

  10. Vegga,

    Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you like the idea of the soup.

    Wow, you started planning months ago for the holidays. I am very impressed!

    enjoy the rest of your weekend,

  11. egads!! microwave? please stop using that dreadful radiation machine and get a toaster oven. i know it takes a little longer but at least it won't kill you!!

  12. Danna,

    Thank you for your concern. In the past I was skeptical of microwave ovens. However there is no scientific evidence to back up those concerns. The last study I read (a few months back) found that food cooked (not reheated) in a microwave had higher antioxidant levels than all the other cooking forms.


  13. Mmm, I love smoked food. I don't have a smoker, I use an old saucepan on the hob - maybe I should write a blog about it, I can't be the only one not to have a smoker.
    I love soups made from pulses - there's such a fantastic variety out there; in England many people buy something called a "broth mix" which consists of pearl barley, red lentils, yellow split lentils, rice, marrowfat peas and aduki beans in various combinations according to supplier. This mix is simmered for an hour or so in a casserole. It gives body, but since the individual ingredients really need differing cooking times, it's far from ideal.
    I found this blog very interesting, thank you for sharing.
    Happy Sunday x

  14. Christine,

    We enjoy the flavor of smoked food too. ;-) Before I got my smoker I used an old wok or roasting pan I lined with foil. You are right that you don't need a smoker. Mine was a present from a dear friend. I do think you should right a post about smoking food without a smoker. :-)

    The soup mix soups similar to something we call a French market soup here. Now I need to look for marrowfat peas, those are new to me. Thanks for the idea.

    hope you are having a good Sunday,

  15. Can you believe I've never had split peas soup? I used to be so much better about getting an early start on holiday shopping. I've been slacking at that the past 2 years though.

  16. Heather,

    Never? I think you need to rememdy that immediately, LOL. One thing I like about split peas is that they are quick cooking. I think you will like them. I assume you saw the protein on this. ;-)

    As organized as you are I would have expected you would be nearly finished shopping. Thanks for making me feel better.


  17. Alicia

    Your soup does sound wonderful--thanks so much for sharing your recipe.

    I never buy commercial cleaning products...we rarely used them growing up and I guess I just continued on with that. I would love to see some recipes that you have found to work well in the past. I have a few I rely on, but I am always interested in new/better ones :-)

    You mentioned that your dad was there for the meal yesterday, but not your mom. I hope she is doing okay.


  18. Courtney,

    Thanks, I thought you would like this soup. ;-)

    I also appreciate knowing that you are interested in natural cleaning products. Your mom certainly was ahead of her time! Have you tried making your own soap yet? That is next on my agenda.

    Thank you for asking my mom is fine. She was watching a football game, or something and fell asleep. My father decided not to wake her up and took her a doggie bag instead.

    talk to you later,

  19. ok, that picture with the furry kitty tootsies in it? OMGOSH it was so cute!!!! i had no idea that little cat legs could be that adorable!!! i went to that database, im pretty sure its the same one you told me about before, i just hadnt been there in awhile, thanks for the reminder.

  20. Michelle,

    Those are little Binky feet. He was determined to help so I couldn't get a picture without him in it. But I do agree with you cat feet are pretty cute, LOL. I guess that is how you can tell we are real animal lovers. ;-)

    That is the same database I mentioned before. But it was so long ago I wanted to bring it up for the new followers. I love that database, LOL. ;-)

    hope you are having a good Monday morning,

  21. Hi Ali,
    Thanks for summarizing the main types of foods you eat/avoid. I dont mean to go overboard with spying when I ask this but what times do you eat? I'm just wondering if you are more of a small meals-more often because I've heard the benefits of this type of diet as opposed to a few meals-less often diet. As always, thanks,

  22. Jill,

    I am more of a snacker but Dan is more of full meals person. I think both are probably fine and that you should do whatever works for you. In my opinion it matters more what you eat and of course don't skip breakfast. But your gut is probably leading you in a particular direction which I think you should stick with it if works.

    I tend to eat around 9am (after exercising), noon, 3pm, 6pm and sometimes again at 9pm depending on how much I ate that day. Those times are only estimates since I eat when I get hungry but it seems to be every 3 or 4 hours or so. However if I have a big meal then I can go 6 hours or more without food. My food consumption is pretty variable actually. I try to listen to my body. I hope that answered your question but I am not sure it did.


  23. Hi Ali,
    Yes you answered my question! The word snack/snacker has such a bad reputation but I am certainly an eat-every-few-hrs type. My grandma playfully says that I eat like a baby, every 3 hrs. But I agree, listen to you body. Don't just eat because the clock says it's dinner time, whatever that means.

  24. Jill,

    Sounds like we are on the same schedule. I say if it works for you stick with it. Grandmothers are cute aren't they? ;-)


  25. Ali,
    I also found soy protein isolates listed as ingredients in some granola bars that I would have classified as 'healthier' granola bars. All I wanted was something quick to grab on a morning when I sleep through my alarm clock.

  26. Shannon,

    Thanks for letting me know. I am always surprised the places they are turning up. Sometimes labels will say soy protein and since that is vague I avoid those products too. It is shame the food supply is so full of science projects. *sigh*

    thanks again for the heads up,


Related Posts with Thumbnails