Since starting this blog well over a year ago, I have become an amazingly easy person for whom to buy gifts. My friends give me food—ingredients they think I will enjoy using in my kitchen and, sometimes, trying out on them. If you cook for those you love, your loved ones will shop for you. Works for me!

For instance, this Christmas, I received gourmet oils and vinegars, homemade canned apple pie filling, home-brewed hard apple cider and the decedent and exotic ingredient I’m featuring today: Mushroom Jerky, a smoky and rich vegan delicacy even my carnivore husband loves.

Leo Sulentic (Remember Leo the local mushroom grower?) gave me a precious bag of his newest creation for Christmas, and, of course, it came with a challenge: “Let’s see what you can do with this.”

Never could resist a challenge… So I bought about four cups worth of his big gray oyster mushrooms, dug some frozen cauliflower out of my freezer (Oh the freezer was one of those easy-to-pick gifts, too, remember. Yeah, I’m sure you do.), lined up a few lemons, my favorite seaweed for extra smoky flavor, a couple of carrots, some fresh rosemary from my windowsill and high-quality toasted sesame oil (also a gift) and went to work. The result is an elegant, creamy, vegan soup that now tops my list of Green Gal Best Soups of all time. See what you think.

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Star Ingredient: Mushroom Jerky

mushroom jerky in bowlIn addition to the incredible flavor of Leo’s jerky, is the even more incredible story of its harvest. You see Leo uses up the stems for this—what would normally be thrown away because it’s just too tough to eat. What was once compost is now haute cuisine. LOVE it!

Then there are the health benefits of mushrooms. Check out Organic Facts or Leo’s go-to source Dr. Joel Fuhrman for good information on why mushrooms, cooked traditionally or dried into jerky, are a great choice for your health and should be part of your menu every day.

Hey! Where’s the jerky?

So, I sense you are sort of frustrated with this post. You don’t have a friend named Leo who lives down the street, grows amazing mushrooms and gifts you jerky for Christmas. No worries. It may not be Leo’s jerky, but good healthy sources of mushroom jerky can be found by shopping online or—even better—searching for a local grower near you. You can search The Mushroom Company’s Newsletter section “Farms online” to find a sustainable source of mushroom jerky near you. You can find cool family-owned, generations-old online sellers like Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. However, I’m pretty partial to Leo’s, myself, and am in the process of convincing him to market his delicacy beyond his local borders. Stay tuned on that one—you might be able to get Leo’s mushroom jerky no matter where you live! Wow.

Delicious Living Magazine recipe: cauliflower buffalo bites and celery leaf walnut pesto

What a great vegetarian option for your Super Bowl or Mardi Gras party goers.

Inspiration comes from everywhere in my life these days, especially from Delicious Living Magazine and their recent issue, filled with helpful information on going green and improving your health. Their recipe for Cauliflower Buffalo Bites and amazing waste-not-want-not Celery Leaf Walnut Pesto just might replace your traditional Buffalo Wings and dip at the next party. Well, it’ll be a nice alternative for your vegetarian friends, anyway. Be brave!

See you shroon….