Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe Review: Peasant Soup (like Olga's)

When I was in middle school one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday was to go to The Mall and shop. I would take my babysitting money and usually buy something weird on clearance but lunch was always a bowl of absolutely delicious Peasant Soup and Snackers at Olga's.

Haven't heard of Olga's? It's a Michigan chain of Greek-style restaurants. It's not a fast-food place but also seems to be limited to malls.... everything about this restaurant seems to be very odd. Greek in Michigan? A sit-down sandwich place mainly in malls? Also they had some type of specialness regarding their muffins. But the soup is fantastic! And yesterday I developed a hankering for it.

This is the best recipe I found online. There's also a recipe that comes up using lentils and hot ham water, but trust me, there are no lentils in this soup. I made a few changes based on what I had on hand: substituting ground beef for lamb, chicken broth for vegetable broth, 8 oz tomato puree for 14.5 oz canned tomatoes (more authentic to the restaurant version), and frozen corn for the zucchini and squash. My husband hates it when I don't follow the recipe exactly ("They wrote it that way for a reason, Lise."), but then he's not the cook. And the soup turned out great! Very similar to what I remember from Olga's. Next time I see ground lamb marked down I'll pick up a package and make this recipe again - I think that's the last flavor needed to get this soup spot-on.

Olga's Peasant Soup (more or less)

1 pound ground lamb
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup quick barley
1 can (15 1/2 oz. size) diced tomatoes
5 cups vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 small zucchini cut in bite size pieces
1 package (10 oz. size) frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, beans, corn)
1 large bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon Greek oregano
1/4 cup dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot, brown lamb, onion and celery only until lamb is no longer pink. Drain off fat. Add tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf and broth. Bring to a boil. Add quick barley, zucchini, frozen vegetables, thyme, oregano, and parsley. Then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toasted pita bread triangles.

Now this soup is usually served with Snackers and Cheese - seasoned pita bread wedges and swiss almond cheese spread. I didn't make any of the homemade pita bread recipes I found on this page but I did try the cheese! We spread it over Triscuits and it was delicious.

Swiss Almond Cheese Spread


* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
* 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted, divided
* 1/3 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

I dumped it all in a food processor. Then I turned the food processor on. Then, after a while, I turned it off. Mmm, cheese spread.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


And we are coming up! Up! Up, out of the depths of the norovirus!

Please, go read about the norovirus. I did not know this was a thing people - regular, ordinary people like you and me - could get. I thought it was perhaps reserved for people of dramatic historic novels, or people in wacky sitcom dramas, or people on cruise ships.

You'll notice it is characterized by "severe vomiting."

So I started feeling ill at 5:00 on Thursday evening, and by 6:00 the, ahem, full gastrointestinal evacuation began in earnest. I threw up six times in three hours and actually got into somewhat of a routine: vomit, stare in horror at my blue lips, stagger back to bed, shiver and moan under the covers while sleeping fitfully and becoming increasingly nauseated, then at the half-hour mark stagger back to the bathroom and repeat!

But by 9:00 the vomiting stopped, and started to sleep in gradually longer stretches, and my lips turned back to their usual mauve. However, I was so weak from loss of food and fluids that I could hardly lift my 3-month-old daughter (I kept asking Aaron when she got so big) and felt like I was sleepwalking all day. It's hard to recover when the two things you need (calories and sleep) are trumped by an infant, who makes so many demands what with all her needs and frequent nursing and refusing to take 4-hour mid-day naps with you.

So I'm still a little light-headed and my stomach is still a little iffy (although I did prescribe myself a chocolate milkshake Friday night on the assumption that it would pack the easiest caloric wallop to my system), and I admit I did come downstairs and almost excitedly tell Aaron that I think I lost a few pounds this week - duh.

Norovirus! An easy way to kick off your New Year's diet goals!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Three Months

Mary turned three months old recently and I've been thinking about all the ways she's changed in those 13 weeks. I just went through and updated her baby book but it's pretty basic and oddly focused on how many times she sleeps during the day (um, three? sometimes four? I guess?). That's not really what I wanted to keep track of.

Also it has oddly mystifying blanks.

We fed you ________________________________________ and you ate ________________ times a day.

What goes in that blank? "Formula?" "From the boob?" "Even though you screamed about it and Mama winced every time you latched on?" It's a very long blank so I suspect they are expecting something more than I wrote ("several").

Anyway, I wanted to record all the things the baby book didn't include confusing blanks for. And there is a word for that!

It is called MOMMY-BLOGGING.

Stay tuned for exciting updates!

Turkey Fajitas

The week before Thanksgiving, Wegman's was selling turkeys for $0.39/lb.


I bought a 15-lb turkey. For our two-adult and one-baby household. I roasted it two weeks ago and we've been eating turkey ever since!

Thankfully I used a Cook's Illustrated recipe and the turkey turned out moist and flavorful. So what have I done with the bird?

- 1 Thanksgiving mini-feast
- 2 leftover-Feast lunches
- 2 casseroles Turkey Divan
- 1 large serving Turkey Fajitas
- 1 gallon turkey stock

The turkey fajitas used up the last of the turkey and formed the basis of a delicious 50-carb meal. This meal is a lot simpler than most of our meals - all the meat, veggies, and carbs fit into one dish.

I used about three bell peppers and 1 onion, with about 1.5 lbs of cooked turkey. In the future, I would use more veggies for the quantity of meat - probably 4 or 5 peppers and 2 or 3 onions. Using a higher onion-to-pepper ratio would of course be cheaper, or using green peppers, but I hate green peppers so it's red or yellow for us!

Total for the dish:
Turkey, cheese, sour cream, fajita seasoning: 3g carbs max
Onion: 10g carbs
Red pepper: 21g carbs
Total: 34g carbs. We made it into 3 servings of 11g carbs each.

Corn tortillas: 1 tortilla has 7g carbs. 6 tortillas/serving = 42g carbs

Total: 53g carbs.

Caution: this is a lot of food! That's how much Aaron ate... I had 2 tortillas and about 2/3 the meat combo he did and was quite full. For lunch I used about half a cup of the meat mixture wrapped up in a whole-wheat tortilla burrito style. Delicious.

Turkey Fajitas (serves 3)
Warm up leftover cooked turkey and place in large frying pan with chopped peppers and onions. Add water and fajita seasoning packet. Cook until veggies are crisp-tender.

Warm up corn tortillas. Top with fajita mix, cheese, and sour cream.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

50 Carb Meals

We're having friends over tonight for dinner! I like this menu because it's fairly easy to prep in advance and has a lot of delicious and healthy food in it... yum yum.

Turkey Divan Casserole (1/4 of recipe = 10g carbs)
Roasted Carrots (3 oz = 7g carbs
Brown Rice (3/4 cup cooked = 28g carbs)
Cranberry-Feta Salad (1 serving = 10 carbs)

Total: 55g carbs.

We got Chicken Divan from a friend as part of a baby meal after Mary was born, and LOVED it. Basically, combine cooked chicken, cooked broccoli/cauliflower, mushroom soup, milk, and cheddar cheese in a casserole dish, then bake and enjoy! I add mushrooms for more bulk and flavor, and use thyme to season. I don't know how I managed to avoid knowing about this casserole, but it is now a standard at our house! It's easy, delicious, and super low-carb. This is Turkey Divan because I got a cheap cheap turkey a few weeks ago. I roasted it last week and we're eating the leftovers this week. Also? This recipe makes me want to drawl "It's di-vahhhhhhn, dahling,' whenever I talk about it.

Turkey (or Chicken) Divan: Combine 1.5 cups cooked turkey or chicken, 1 cup cooked broccoli, and 1 cup mushrooms in a casserole dish. In a separate bowl, mix 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 1/3 cup milk. Add salt, pepper, and thyme to taste (I use a lot) (we like flavor). Pour sauce over the casserole dish and stir a bit to coat it all. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese on top. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.

Roasted Carrots: From The Pioneer Woman Cooks! Recipe here. I use dried thyme and baby carrots. Because that's how I roll. I combined everything ahead of time and just popped it in the oven when I started prepping the Divan (di-vaaahhhhhhhn).

Brown Rice: Durrr. I'm actually not very good at cooking rice (or beans, or eggs (used to be, better now), or not burning grilled cheese. I can frost a wedding cake but I can't cook rice. Somebody notify the grandmother's league!

Well, like the eggs, I'm getting better at the rice. It's almost always cooked through now and rarely burnt on the bottom. Well done!

Did you know you can make those handy microwavable frozen rice packets at home? That's what I did when I made rice for turkey curry earlier this week. Go here for details.

Also I love brown rice. I think it tastes so much better than white rice. Especially short-grain, slightly sticky brown rice. Yay flavor.

Cranberry-feta salad: Romaine lettuce, sliced onions, dried cranberries, feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette dressing. One of our standbys.

That's it! I'm always looking for new low-carb and delicious vegetable-based recipes.... we'll see what I find next.

Recipe Review: Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from Allrecipes.com. See the original recipe here.

With 4.5 stars and almost 2,800 reviews, I figured this one was a sure-fire hit. Plus, they're chocolate chip cookies! Even the recipe provided on the back of the bag turns out great cookies. Reading reviews like these convinced me I had found a winner.

"They're rich and buttery, with crispy outsides, and a soft but chewey [sic] inside."

"They turn out fabulous every time!"

"I like many others have been searching and searching for a really good chocolate chip cookie recipe and I finally found it!"

Also? Read the name! I doubted that level of hubris would be allowed to remain long with so many reviews.

However, this is what I got: 40 crunchy, too-thin cookies, with the chips left stranded like the islands of an ancient sea. They don't taste... bad, although how you could get a bad-tasting result from a recipe involving almost as much sugar as flour, I'm not sure. We've been eating them (for, ahem, breakfast) (with a glass of milk! that makes it healthy!) (Right?) and enjoying the chocolatey goodness, but I'm certainly not going to put them out at the cookie-swap this Friday.

So what happened? I think that I didn't use enough flour. The dough is really sticky and when it runs away like that it's generally considered to be lack of thickening agent, aka flour. I've heard all about how scooping flour out of the bin with the measuring cup packs it in and leads to doughy and bland goodies, so this time (because I really wanted these to be great!) I used a spoon to fill my measuring cup. Then I weighed the flour (taring out the weight of the cup of course) and proceeded to weigh out the rest of the flour I needed. I guess it was... not enough? Perhaps the original recipe relied upon people doing the regular scoop method? I doubled the recipe so I still have half of the dough. I'm going to add more flour to it and try again.

Update: I added 4 oz more flour and they cooked up a treat! But they're still not as awesome as those reviews suggested. They're good. I mean, they're chocolate-mint chip cookies. But the best? Maybe not.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's like deja vu all over again

Aaron's Gawker account was one of the accounts compromised recently, so he's been changing his password frantically on all his web accounts, including some that we both use. All evening, he's been pulling his computer open every time he remembered another web site using the Gawker password.

"What's the new one?" I asked. He rattled off a string of letters and numbers. I tried to repeat it and got lost. He helped me memorize it, emphazing the capital letters vs. lowercase.

"Is there a code or some way you remember it?" I asked.

"Nope, it's completely random," he responded confidently. "Not linked to anything significant at all."

"And you're using the same one for all the same accounts?"

"Yep..." he said, realization slowly dawning.

I giggled. He groaned, and pulled his computer open.