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!