I lovelovelove cream of (fill in the blank) soups, but like most things that are deliciously decadent, the relationship is complicated.
I don't love the calories. I don't always love how I feel after slurping down a bowl full of creamy goodness. And I am quite sure my doctor doesn't love what cream soups do for my cholesterol.
Like I said, it's a complicated -- somewhat forbidden -- love affair.
That's why my heart skipped a beat when I found Walnut Mushroom Soup. Instead of using cream, it calls for walnuts, which are chock full of omega-3 fats and other nutrients. In fact, this soup is so gosh darned healthy, it's hard to believe how rich and decadent it tastes.
Basically, you thicken the soup with a walnut paste (sort of like peanut butter) made by grinding the nuts with broth, mushrooms and milk (I made the soup using almond milk, but feel free to substitute soy).
I've made the paste two ways. First, I used my high-powered, high-speed blender that ground the walnuts to a very smooth consistency. I also made a batch using my food processor, which took a little longer and left the nuts a tad gritty, but still worked fine in the end product.
You need to toast the walnuts first to enhance the sweet, nutty flavor. If you were making the walnut paste/butter for sandwiches or snacking, soak the nuts in water overnight before toasting them; it gets rid of the sometimes bitter flavor.
You don't need to soak the walnuts for the soup, but once you see how easy it is to make homemade nut butters, you might start adding that to your repertoire. They are so simple to whip up and taste so much better than the store-bought stuff.
And I'm fairly certain, once you make this soup using walnuts in place of cream, you might never go back.
So sorry, cream, but I'm afraid it's over for us.
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation, and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.