Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vegetarian Lemon Orzo Soup

A couple of weeks ago I realized Trader Joe's carries bags of orzo, which was in the back of my mind. I wanted to try it out, but couldn't figure out a good reason. This weekend I decided to pick one up for soup. I had some extra lemons and decided that lemon orzo soup was on the menu. I didn't do research beforehand though and figured I could just use the 2% milk I had at home or powdered milk for the broth. I was pretty surprised when I finally got home and looked up the recipe and realized the milky-colored broth was actually made from a combination of eggs and lemon, as indicated by the real name for it that I hadn't heard before: avgolemono!

I did some searching around online & most of the recipes were made with chicken broth. I wanted to make it vegetarian, so I used way more veggies and spices to add flavor. Using information from these 3 recipes from:, and, I came up with a delicious, filling soup that my boyfriend and I have been savoring all week. The most complicated part of the recipe is tempering the egg and lemon mixture with the broth, but a bit of patience helps make such a delicious and flavorful soup that it's worth taking the time to do it. I also had some plain chicken tender quorn in the freezer, so I tossed a bit in to add in that chicken-y element. Between the quorn and eggs, this soup was not vegan. I'm not really sure how to get the same broth without the egg (although you could just use lemon juice instead) and you can add chicken as well as chicken or veggie broth instead of water.  I personally don't think this soup needs to be served with bread since the orzo adds a lot of carby type foods to the meal, but some people might like a bread to soak up the flavorful broth. Even after rewarmed, this soup still has a nice flavor and thickness. I will definitely be making this easy, bright & lemony flavored soup again!

Vegetarian Lemon Orzo Soup (~6 meal sized servings):

1 medium-large onion, diced
3-4 carrots,cut into half moon slices
5 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup of cut leeks (I used the frozen leeks from Trader Joe's)
5 cloves of garlic (or adjust to taste if you don't like it that much) diced or dried garlic powder to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 cups of water
1 cup frozen spinach or a couple of cups of fresh spinach, chopped if not baby spinach
1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregeno, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons of dried parsley or ~1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste (more salt than pepper in this recipe)
 8 oz dried orzo
juice of 2 lemons
3 eggs
toppings such as: fake chicken-y thing, real chicken & cheese

  1. Prepare veggies. In a stockpot, warm the oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery & leeks to the pot and saute until onions become translucent. 
  2. Add fresh garlic, if using, to pot and continue to cook for about a minute. Add the water, spinach & spices (besides parsley) to the pot. 
  3. Allow the soup to simmer for a while, letting the flavor develop. If using quorn or other frozen/coldish meat things, you can add them in after at least 30 minutes & bring back to a simmer.
  4. In a separate pot, cook the orzo according to directions and then add to soup. 
  5. In a decent sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice. Once well combined, begin tempering the eggs with the simmering broth and adding to the soup once warm enough. 
  6. Allow mixture to reach a simmer again, add parsley and taste. If needed, adjust seasoning, salt & pepper, but the soup should be lemony tasting and you don't want to overpower that!
  7. Remove Bay leaf before serving. Eat alone or top with chicken, cheese, etc.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pouches, la primera!

I realized I've been on a kick of making pouches and bags of all sorts and yet I haven't really posted any except for the folding grocery bags. These first couple are small ones and my first experiences with zippers. I was scared of zippers because my mom always avoided sewing them growing up. After picking up large bags of zippers for very little money in the LA Fashion District, I decided I needed to figure these things out. I don't have a zipper foot for my sewing machines, but I just try to get as close as possible to the zipper teeth along with taking advantage of the right and left placement of my needle and take my time. The results might not be perfect, but they're pretty good and I'm learning. I lined both bags for more durability.

 The large pouch currently houses my buttons and snap type items. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but the ribbon should have been on the side where the zipper is located once closed, I think.
When I had jury duty this past summer, I needed some entertainment. Along with a book, I decided I needed a way to take along my pigma micron pens so I could doodle while hanging out and waiting. That's where the small pouch came into existence. I wanted something that would let me easily see the caps for the color and size information, while holding them easily while mobile (i.e. no table top.) The top part of the pouch is completely encircled with the zipper, yet still connected in the back so there's no top to take off and lose. I really like how this pouch turned out, although sewing the circles was a bit tricky and I accidently sewed the top ciricle on the outside instead of the inside - I went with it. The pouch holds about 20 of the pigma micron pens.

Oh pouches! Up next I have similar items, yet completely different!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. The meal was small, just my sister and myself, but it was a fun, long and busy day. When I heard that a few people in my life were possibly going out to eat for Thanksgiving this year, I decided I was up for cooking for a few more. Four people ended up coming for dinner besides myself, including my roommate from college and her boyfriend and my boyfriend and his brother. Woo! This group included one vegetarian and one vegan, so I decided to make most dishes vegan, which is to say, turkey was not part of the plan. Unfortunately because I was busy cooking, cleaning and having people over, I forgot to take pictures of most things. Ooops. Anway this was the menu:

  • Whole wheat crockpot bread - I used something like this recipe, cooking the bread in the crockpot on high for 3 hours. I'm not sure if my yeast was bad or what, but it didn't rise as much as I expected, and as a result the bread was a little more dense than I hoped. It was still ok with the soup and cut very thinly for grilled cheese sandwiches. I want to try this technique again at some later point I think.
  • Tomato & Delicata squash soup - I didn't really follow a recipe for this soup, but it was similar to this soup. I used fresh tomatoes and delicate squash instead of the butternut squash called for. I also used more veggies and spices in it since I didn't use the cheese or chicken stock. My trusty vitamix made the soup nice and smooth.
  • Israeli Cous Cous salad - This has become my go-to recipe for Thanksgiving potlucks since it's easy, can be made the day before, doesn't require any reheating and includes some fruits and veggies and the ever favorite carbs. I used dried rosemary and thyme, adding it when cooking the couscous, which seems to add more flavor than adding once it's cooked. I also added in some quinoa instead of all of the couscous (like Trader Joe's Israeli Cous Cous pilaf mixture.) Sometimes I also add some orange zest as well as pink lady apples instead of green, green onions and cucumber if it's on hand. If I have it around I also will use fresh squeezed orange juice instead of some of the apple cider vinegar. I usually forget the almonds. I really like this as a fresher, vegan version of stuffing/filling.
  • Green salad - Nothing crazy here. Just a green salad with strawberries, Asian pear, green onions and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting with a vinaigrette.
  • Green Bean Casserole - The first and only time I had made green bean casserole before this was a few years ago with my cousin and sister for Christmas with a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. It turned out well, but I don't have the cookbook, so I found this recipe online instead. I took a shortcut, using the harcot verts from trader joes, which I steamed and didn't bother cutting any smaller. I also used 4 largish portabella mushrooms instead of the wild mushroom mix. I was so happy how this worked because the mushrooms added so much flavor to the dish and I wanted to make the dish a little more substantial. I also didn't use the veggie bullion cube, instead opting to use some dried thyme, sage, rosemary and a little nutmeg for seasoning instead. I also added some leek into the mix for more depth of flavor in conjunction with the onion and garlic. Finally, I made my own "fried" onions, gently frying some onions mixed with whole wheat flour and light seasoning in olive oil.
  • Sweet Potatoes - I pretty much used this recipe, except I used 2lbs of sweet potatoes and not as much topping as mentioned in the recipe. I also used a mixture of pecans and walnuts on top.
  • Baked Salmon with herbs -  I vaguely used a recipe similar to this for the salmon. For the herbs, I layered roughly chopped parsley, green onions and very thinly sliced lemon on the salmon. I was surprised at how much flavor these brought to the salmon.
  • Vegan almond Cream with fresh fruit & my friend brought a pumpkin pie! - I vaguely used this recipe for vegan almond cream. I had made it before without the agar, which was still tasty, but I wanted to see how it would change the texture. So I ventured into Little Tokyo to pick a few packets of agar agar powder at a fraction of the price of what Whole Food's had. I used already blanched almonds from Trader Joe's, which I soaked a little bit and then blended into an smooth cream with my Vitamix. I didn't bother straining the mixture before boiling it with the agar and sugar. After letting the mixture firm overnight in the fridge, I added a bit of lemon juice, lemon zest and apple cider vinegar for an extra level of tangy flavor and to losen the mixture (from what I've read, acids can cause the agar to not set if added in excess) a dash of cardamom while breaking up the mixture into a smooth cream after it set. It was delicious with both the cut strawberries and persimmon as well as the pumpkin pie.
Overall, I think things went well and I didn't have any major disasters. It was relatively easy to make nearly the whole meal vegan and I enjoyed making dishes from scratch since I like adding more fruits & veggies, cut down on the excess fat and enhance the spices. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and I enjoyed the company and having the chance to cook for people since that's definitely a way I like showing my love (especially when it's foods I know are healthy!) I wanted to make sure I made some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes while still remaining true to some of the concepts and cooking techniques I usually utilize. I experimented with some techniques and recipes that I want to continue using going forward (like the green bean casserole! That was my favorite leftover!) Overall, a Thanksgiving day success!

aww. and a sweet little rat to be thankful for.