Gluten Free For Good


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It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m guessing you were expecting dark chocolate, candy hearts, and frilly cupcakes—not shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and spinach. I’m compelled to skip the sugar-laden Valentine goodies this year and go the medicinal mushroom route instead. It seems half the people I know are sniffling, sneezing, and coughing and although it’s hard to avoid being exposed, nourishing food gives your body the ammunition it needs to stay healthy in the midst of cold and flu season.

You want to be able to share the LOVE, not the flu cooties, right? That takes a powerful immune system. Shiitake mushrooms will help you boost your endurance in that department. I’m lucky to have a local source in Hazel Dell’s fresh organic mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms have a long and colorful history as cold and flu fighters. They’re a symbol of longevity in Asian cultures and there’s research to back up the claim. What is interesting about these mushrooms is the unique way they work in contrast. Let thy food be thy medicine. These little gems stimulate the immune system in a magical way, enhancing the beneficial aspects of immunity while suppressing the negative aspects. Perfect for those of us with misdirected immunity (think celiac disease).

Having said all that, I’m not a fan of the texture of mushrooms, but love the taste. I don’t like slimy foods like mushrooms or oysters. I can watch open heart surgery up close and personal, but can’t tolerate a runny nose. Mushrooms are plant boogers and they give me the willies. So, in order to take advantage of the medicinal attributes and wonderful earthy flavor of shiitake mushrooms, I cook them up and blend them with broth and a small amount of organic tomato sauce to make the most divine soup base you can imagine. I use this base for all kinds of soups and stews. It’s a cooking/health trick worth adding to your arsenal of radiant living tips.

Immune boosting shiitake mushroom soup

What you need (see fresh ingredients above) 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 eight-ounce can organic tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced in rounds (into the green section)
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, about 1 cup chopped (leaves included)
2 carrots, about 1 cup chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken (option)

* Note that the total amount of broth should be 8 cups. You can substitute vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian soup.

What you do
1. Place chopped mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat when finished cooking so it can cool slightly.
2. While mushrooms are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot on low-medium. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add 4 cups broth to large soup pot with the leeks and garlic mixture. Add celery, carrots, chopped tomato, chicken if using, and seasonings. Turn heat to low.
4. In the meantime, pour mushroom and chicken broth mixture into a blender. Be careful—hot liquids can blow the top off your blender. Let the mixture cool before blending. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups of room-temperature chicken broth to the blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into stock pot.
5. Simmer soup over low heat until vegetables are cooked, but still crisp (about 1 to 2 hours).
6. Add a handful of fresh, raw spinach to the bottom of a large soup mug or bowl. Ladle soup over spinach and give it a stir. The heat of the soup will wilt the spinach to perfection without overcooking it.

Options: add cooked brown rice, quinoa, or Tinkyada brown rice noodles.

For sweet treats to go with your immune boosting soup, check out these recipes.

Double chocolate, double walnut, double heart cookies from Gluten Free Easily
Mexican chocolate brownies from The Book of Yum
Chocolate souffle from Celiacs in the House
How to choose gluten-free chocolate for baking (part 1) from No Gluten No Problem
Pecan and chocolate pie from The WHOLE Gang
Chocolate fondue from Cook It Allergy Free
No bake cookies and creme cheesecakes from Simply Gluten-Free

Peace, joy, and immune-boosting love!

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24 Responses to “Love is in the air (along with a zillion cold and flu cooties)”

  1. Oh YUM! I am in love with soup. This sounds amazing on so many levels. I can’t wait to get cooking. Thank you for sharing my pie too. Oh how I love those mushrooms!

    • Melissa says:


      Yes, there’s nothing better than a big bowl (or mug) of soup. Happy to share your amazing pie recipe! Thanks for commenting. I always like hearing from the queen of cooking! =)

  2. Boogers of the plant world, huh? LOL That had me totally cracking up. I actually adore mushrooms and eat them all of the time. My boys, however, totally happen to agree with you. I will be making this one for sure. I love all of the health benefits of these little boogers. 🙂 What a beautiful recipe, my friend!

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks, Kim!

      By the way, I raised 2 boys as well and they loved the idea that they were eating plant (or, as I often called them “rhinoceros”) boogers. Boys will be boys! We are on the same wavelength with nutrient dense foods. Love all your ideas for adding healthy ingredients into family meals.

  3. Elese says:

    Yum Melissa, I’m totally craving this soup now. Making chicken stock today so this will be the perfect use for it. It sounds fragrant, warm, and comforting…can’t wait to try it. Thanks!

    • Melissa says:


      “Fragrant, warm, and comforting” is a perfect way to describe this soup. Wow, wish I had thought of that! And there’s nothing better than homemade chicken broth (or veggie broth for that matter).

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Alta says:

    Wow, this sounds great. My hubby is the same way about mushrooms. Perhaps I could lure him in with this soup because there are no chunks of mushroom in it. Either way, I’d adore this.

    • Melissa says:


      Blended cooked mushroom (they need to be softened first and it’s best to cook them in broth) make the best soup base. You never know what’s in the stock, just that it is rich, earthy, and delicious. It’s a great trick!

  5. Call me strange, too, but like you, I think this is a loving dish to serve to my honey. Not so sure he’d prefer it to an ice cream sundae, but he’d still like eating it. And it would be good for us! 🙂

    • Melissa says:


      A “loving dish” indeed. In so many ways! Thanks for your comment. Love the soup you’ve got cooking over on your blog. Invite me for lunch, would you please!?

  6. So many good things packed into this soup. Now that I’ve read your description of mushrooms, I’m gonna need them blasted to bits in a blender too.

    • Melissa says:


      I’m into packing as many nutrient dense foods into a soup as possible. You don’t need a lot of anything, just a mixture of broad nourishment. That way you get a great combination of healing foods.

  7. Alisa says:

    Haha, well I guess I like plant boogers 🙂 This sounds amazing Melissa, and reminds me that I need to splurge on the “fancier” mushrooms from time to time!

    • Melissa says:


      The great thing about mushrooms is you can buy a few of the “fancier” ones, which happen to be packed with healthy goodness, without spending much money. They look ridiculously expensive (and they are), but luckily they don’t weigh much!!

  8. Boogers of the plant world? That has to go down as one of your best quotes ever. Start making a list and put it on there. 😉 I had to learn to like mushrooms. Mr. GFE adores them though. But I like them enough now that I use them all the time, even when I can see and still recognize them! LOL Love the recipe and its properties, Melissa–thank you! And super thanks for the link love. 🙂 Despite the decadent sounding name, those cookies are the healthiest treats that I’ve made in months!


    • Melissa says:


      I used to call one of the big, healthy casseroles I made (packed with mushrooms) when the kids were little “rhinoceros booger casserole.” Of course, my 2 little boys loved that name. The girls, on the other hand, thought it was gross.


  9. Jane says:

    I love this! Whenever I cook mushrooms I have to blend them up anyways, otherwise my husband won’t eat them! 🙂 I never knew about the immune boosting properties of mushrooms. I definitely will be making this, thank you!

    • Melissa says:


      Yes, mushrooms have a long (1000s of years) history as a medicinal food and there is a lot of current scientific research to prove the claims. They make the best blended soup base. That way you have a rich, earthy soup base, but you don’t have the slimy stuff floating around!


  10. Cyndy says:

    “Mushrooms are plant boogers …”
    The Super Bowl commercial preteen quotes to mind:
    “That is so gross.”

    • Melissa says:

      Cyndy (Dudette),

      I didn’t see that one, but I loved the VW commercial with the dog getting him/herself in shape. “Seriously” good. Like, totally!

  11. Maggie says:

    Yum! I am an adult who’s been converted. I am now on the plant booger side! They HAVE to be cooked. And now I’m going to need to erase the whole plant booger thing from my brain…
    I was talking to a mushroom farmer at my Farmer’s Market. They grow shitake, crimini, and oyster. Organic. They rock! The only thing though, she told me they grow the shitake using a compound they mix up. Included in this compound is barley chips, and sometimes wheat chips. What are your thoughts on this? It’s been on my mind since the Fall, and I’d love to get back to using shitakes. Crimini are so boring by comparison 🙂

    • Melissa says:

      Interesting, Maggie. I had not heard that about mushrooms, but my source is local and part of our CSA so I’ll give them a call and see what they say. Weird. I alway clean them with a mushroom brush and I’ve never been impacted (like glutened) by them, so I’m thinking they must be okay. I’ll find out though — and keep you posted. Thanks so much for adding that piece to the conversation! I appreciate it. Hmmmm? Now you’ve got me wondering.

  12. Liz says:

    The next chilly day we have I am totally making this. It sounds like an instant, delicious warm-up.

    On another note, I’ve been away from the blogosphere for awhile and missed so much! I can’t wait to catch up on all your posts. (Just glanced and saw you’re a super taster – too cool!!)

    • Melissa says:

      LIZ! So good to “see” you. Boy, you have been busy lately. A new baby takes priority over everything! Congratulations. Loved snooping around your newly updated blog. So good to see “Henry” again as well as the rest of your gang. What a cute baby! Yeah, glad you’re back!


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