tomato + brown rice soup with crumbled sausage


Yesterday was a dark day. The sort of day where you want to draw all the blinds and burrow under the covers. I was at work when I received the results of my initial bloodwork (celiac coming next week, kids!) and my food sensitivities have been confirmed: gluten, dairy, yeast. Essentially, every food product in AMERICA. I spent the bulk of the day despondent, in a fog, trying to make sense of this–how I went from monthly stomach pains and sickness to hives and food elimination–and more importantly, trying to wrap my head around the fact that this seismic shift affects me in ways I never imagined.

I’m a baker. I love yeasty loaves and plump muffins. Baking gave my hands something to do, kept me occupied during my darkest hours. The alchemy of it, the wonder I felt watching dough rise through the small window of my oven, gave me comfort. And now, all of it, is in ruins. My kitchen appeared tainted, bruised, having just survived a purging of all gluten products, and now this. I needed to spend yesterday mourning the loss of the simple joy that only white flour, sugar, and butter can bring. I didn’t need to hear: there are options! you are strong! be positive!

Why is it that we always race to brand a smile on someone’s face? Why is it that we’re afraid to watch someone sit quietly in their sadness, albeit for a little while? There is always this curious rush to solve, to correct, to fix, when all I wanted to do was sit in front of my computer, work, and say, this sucks for a few hours. Allow people trespass to their sadness–you’re not helping if you try to immediately diminish the weight of it.

I came home defeated, and decided to make this soup. It was delicious, comforting, filling –until I discovered that the chicken stock I used contained yeast extract, and so began the nighttime itch.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to slowly sit with this adjustment. I’m going to have to be more diligent about reading labels. I’ll have to be inventive, patient, and curious. I’ll have to buy books and read new blogs. I’ll have to play this as it lays.

No gluten, dairy, and yeast for at least nine months. I’m going to need to sit with this.

INGREDIENTS (all local/organic)
2 large beefsteak or vine tomatoes
1 28oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 quart of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 Italian sausage link, crumbled out of the casing
1 large yellow onion, rough chop
4-6 fat garlic cloves, rough chop
2 cups of basil (in season only; tonight I opted to nix this)
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt/pepper to season and taste

De-seed and dice the tomatoes (no need to get all exact about this. My rule of thumb is to cut everything the same size so as everything cooks evenly). Chop the onions & dice the garlic. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic with pinches of salt & pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. You’ll notice that the onions are translucent and soft. Add the sausage and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Once the mixture has softened, add the can of San Marzano tomatoes and the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the salt and pepper to season, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Bring the heat down to medium. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the fresh basil. You are ready to blitz! I have an immersion blender (one of the best investments I’ve made since I cook a lot of soup), which I recommend. Blend to smooth. Alternatively, you can blend this in batches in the blender. Warning: when blending hot liquids make sure you fill the blender only half-way & cover the lid with a towel and press down. This will prevent a steam/liquid explosion. After the soup is smooth, return the mixture to the pot. It will look watery! No worries, the starches released from the brown rice will serve to thicken the soup. Add the brown rice and cook for another 20 minutes.

In a medium skillet or grill pan, grill up bits of a sausage until well-done.

Ladle into bowls + serve with the crumbled sausage, olive oil and fresh basil. The soup will store wonderfully in an airtight container for a week.


18 thoughts on “tomato + brown rice soup with crumbled sausage

  1. Felicia, Thank you for sharing your journey as well as the many great recipes. You are inspiring and I am trying to correct my eating behavior slowing as well.


  2. I’ve been in your shoes, and it’s definitely a difficult journey despite the options available to you. It does get much, much easier, but the first month or so is definitely a challenge- eating out becomes nearly impossible, grocery shopping turns into rage-filled discussions with products that have no right to contain dairy but still do, and sorting through your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator is a painful experience. I remember pitching item after item into the trash as I tearfully moped about how unfair it was that I couldn’t eat “anything.” The nine months will go by quickly once you get into the swing of things, which I’m sure you will do quickly! Best of luck to you.


    1. Nika,

      Thank you so much for this!!! Part of me feels really paralyzed, although I know logically there are a ton of options. I think I need to get through this first month, and hopefully (fingers crossed!!!) things will get easier.

      Warmly, Felicia

      On Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 9:48 AM, wrote:



  3. This soup sounds wonderful! And, while my situation is nowhere as serious as yours, I, too, have been involved on a “food discovery” journey. It does get easier as you keep moving forward. And, as someone who has dealt with my own serious health issues ( going blind and cancer), I can tell you the “why me?” feeling does not last long and your natural optimism will soon kick in.


    1. Pat – thank you! Your comment gave me a healthy dose of perspective 🙂 I had a bad day yesterday (going through a range of emotions is always good unless you linger on one for too long), but today I’m trying on my optimism outfit for size.

      On Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM, wrote:



  4. Is food sensitivity the same as food allergy? In other words, will you be able to eat dairy/gluten/yeast in moderation one day? My daughter was a highly allergic kid and she adapted pretty well (she has since kicked her dairy allergy). You’re going to get very good at reading labels! I’ve no doubt that you’ll kick these sensitivities in the ass (hard, and with feeling). Hang in there.


    1. Luckily, they’re different. I can reintroduce them after nine months, but I’ll have to be conscious for the rest of my life of overdoing it. I get my celiac results back next week, and GOD WILLING I do not have celiac. If so, you’ll find me in a corner, petting cats, weeping.

      On Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 3:20 PM, wrote:



  5. My friend, as a fellow baker I can certainly understand how you are reacting to this news.

    Sit with it, get pissed at it, and when you are ready to talk about it we are here to listen.

    As for broth, it seems homemade is the only way to go. I poach a chicken, make my broth, then have both to enjoy for the week. Why the hell does packaged broth need yeast or sugar?

    Peace Felicia.


    1. It blows my mind how much of our alleged “organic” food still is processed. I did find a local brand of stock, which doesn’t contain yeast or random preservatives. I guess this means I need to be even more vigilant about reading labels. 🙂


  6. The soup looks and sounds great, first of all. But I’m sorry to hear about your struggle with food sensitivities. I myself have gone through periods of ‘no this, no that’ in the attempt to erase minor side affects such as bloating, pain, etc, but not so severe as your situation. My mother is a holistic nutritional consultant (who doesn’t actually practice due to the tiny market in her area, sadly) but she recommended cream of tartar to me recently for yeast. Having had many intense health struggles herself including cancer, she said she’s seen some very obvious results in the digestive department.

    As for the other two that’s obviously a huge hurdle to jump. On the bright side- it can’t be as hard as quitting drinking, smoking, the like, right?! Hmm. Well we’ll be here to see the creativity as it comes to you. It’ll come. Best of luck Felicia!


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts. I am currently going through the process of seeing a nutritionist and (hopefully) finding some answers to my life long stomach issues. I appreciate your honesty and openness as you go through this process – as it has been so inspirational to read.

    Wishing you the best as your process continues! Thank you for shedding light on this often (not talked about) issue!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, Felicia, that really sucks. Yes, there are options out there, but I completely understand how crushing it would feel to have something you’ve loved taken away–at least taken away from the typical context in which you know it. It reminds me of when I went vegetarian for a little bit for an experiment. I thought it would be a piece of cake because I eat vegetarian meals all the time. But there’s something about having an option completely taken away that can make you really focus on what you’re missing. So I say go on and grieve a little. I’m sure most of the people so eager to paste a smile on your face would definitely be pressed to do that themselves if they were in your situation. Go ahead and be sad. Perspective will find you when you’re ready for it.

    But it’s funny you mentioned the whole bit about people just wanting to fix things for you immediately because my husband and I got into an argument about that a few nights ago. When I share my feelings on things sometimes, he has the same tendency to just want to fix or cheer me up. I had to explain that when someone just jumps in with advice or ways to cheer up immediately, it can feel like your feelings are basically being invalidated. It feels like, “No, don’t feel what you’re feeling. Feel this instead!” I think our culture is so used to having quick fixes for everything, that it’s really hard for people to sit with uncomfortable feelings (or to let others sit with uncomfortable feelings). I started reading The Empathy Exams after your book post a while back, and it’s helped me to explore these ideas further. I’m trying to get more comfortable with the idea of sometimes being uncomfortable.


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