Avgolemono : Greek Lemon Chicken Soup

The other day we found ourselves at a lovely local Greek restaurant, and since it was a chillier day, I was looking at the soup options.  I saw the Avgolemono Greek Lemon Chicken soup and was curious.  I ordered a cup and fell in love.

I love the lemon taste – how it made me pucker just a little – and I was intrigued by the broth, which I later learned was thick due to the eggs in the recipe. Simply yum,

Three reasons I love Avgolemono

It’s hearty, but doesn’t weigh you down.

It’s lemony, clean, and refreshing.

It’s super easy to make.

Avgolemono recipe

Thanks to Jeff Mauro at Food Network for the above linked recipe. Below is my interpretation of the recipe. I completely spaced and used two chicken breasts instead of four – and I think it was still mighty meaty.

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 3 large eggs, separated 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest plus juice of 4 fresh lemons 
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper 

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.
  2. Add the chicken breasts and lower to a simmer. Simmer until the chicken is just cooked through – 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Remove to a plate and let rest. Once cooled, shred the chicken and reserve.
  4. Add the orzo to the pot with the chicken stock and cook until al dente, 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and most of the lemon juice, reserving some to add later as needed.
  7. Combine the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Then, ladle in some hot stock to temper the egg mixture, whisking constantly and adding the hot liquid slowly. (I filled nearly the entire bowl before adding the warmed egg mixture into stockpot.) Very slowly, add the warm whipped egg/lemon mixture into the pot, whisking constantly to prevent any curds or clumps from forming.
  8. Continue to cook over medium-low to medium heat, whisking, until the soup thickens, about 10 minutes more.

Book Review: Little Prince Board Books

Ever since I read Le Petit Prince in high school for French class, I have loved it.  Like, from the first page and the first picture.  If you’ve never read it – I highly recommend it.  It’s a quick read (85 pages with pictures sprinkled throughout).  Although may be a quick read, the content settles in your soul and makes you contemplate all the symbolism for much longer.

I’ve read the book many times since then, and every time I do, something new speaks to me.  Every time I read it, I’m a little wiser.  Below are some of my favorite gems from the book:

The Fox on being tamed

“One does not see well except with the heart.  The essential is invisible to the eyes.” Fox shares his secret with the Little Prince before his departure.

The fox also tells the Little Prince how words create misunderstandings, but by just sitting next to someone, investing time in them, creating a bond with them, one can tame or domesticate them.

The Rose and what makes someone special

The fox teaches the Prince that despite there being a whole garden of roses, his rose can be special and unique to him.  

The Little Prince visits the rose garden again. “You’re lovely, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies.) Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.” 

Mono No Aware and the color of honey

“I had drunk the water. I could breathe easy now.  The sand, at daybreak, is honey colored.  And that color was making me happy, too.  Why then did I also feel so sad?”

When I read the final chapters with a class this past semester, I had a whole new context that I was bringing to it, a whole new level of understanding. And a boat load of tears.

Recently, I learned about the Japanese concept of Mono No Aware. The bittersweet feelings of happiness for having known or experienced something that will not last. As I read the quote above, it hit me again – Mono No Aware. It’s so remarkable that a simple scent, color, sound, or texture could provide a link to a memory and concurrently a pang of sadness, too.

The Little Prince is a book for kids, but the message speaks to us all.  Even though this is a “kid’s book,” it’s a little above Mon Cœur’s (MC) current attention span or word to picture ratio.  I can’t wait for the day when we can read this book together.

So I was more than excited to find Little Prince board books – Meet the Little Prince and Travels with the Little Prince at a local bookstore.  It introduces the characters (the Prince, the fox, and the rose) and the story in a concise, toddler-friendly fashion.  Bonus: Meet the Little Prince, was written bilingual French-English.

MC enjoys these books immensely, and tells me the characters each time.  This is a great way to introduce the story without reading the book, and it will build interest and background for MC for when we do read the book together when she’s a little older.

Have you read The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry? Please share your favorite gem in the comments section!

Two new friends – building a virtual community post-stillbirth

Background

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing more and more research into podcasts, blogs, and websites, looking for others who had experienced a similar loss. I was hoping to find others to build community, to discover different angles or additional insights.

Initially, I had no intentions of diving into the black hole of the internet to seek out community and assistance through this journey of grief. We tried the old-fashioned, face to face contact – our village, counseling, and support groups.

Chouchou and I have supported each other throughout this journey, while also grieving in such individual ways. As we continue to grieve for Millie and try to move on with a new pregnancy, I felt compelled to seek any resources or communities that I could be a part of. Below are two resources I’ve found that are helping me.

The Joyful Mourning Podcast

One of the podcasts that I found was The Joyful Mourning, hosted by Ashlee. Currently, she is producing a series of episodes with her guest, Monique Scrip, around what the enneagram is, exploring the different types, and how to help individual types who are grieving.

I was curious and I took Monique’s test on her website. Perhaps I’ll share my findings here another day.

I found that Ashlee has built an amazing community online with numerous interviews with mothers who have met similar fates, a book club community, and other resources for marriage and grief.

Where my blog is a hodge podge of this and that, trying not to focus solely on our stillbirth, Ashlee’s podcast and blog embraces this grief and provides her community with stories of hope that moms are seeking.

While loss is her sole focus, this is far from a depressing blog – it is quite the opposite – where she seeks to provide all forms of hope and positive thinking throughout. I try to sty positive, like anything in life though, the positive vibes ebb and flow. When I need a pick-me-up, I make sure to check in with Ashlee.

Star Legacy Foundation

I found out about Star Legacy Foundation while listening to Kasey Macha’s story on the Tuesday Mom Group.

In general, the TMG podcast doesn’t focus on infant or pregnancy loss, however, these gals understood how sensitive the topic is, and made a point to discuss it. Namely, they wanted to know how to help a friend who is grieving and what does she want to hear?

Many, many people have asked me questions about what to say or do to help or have been candid with me, sharing, “I just didn’t know what to do.” Some people prefer to avoid me now, and even nine months later, I prefer to avoid certain places and situations where I would have to confront this truth with specific people (namely my students who had a contagious enthusiasm for my pregnancy).

At many points during the episode, I found myself shaking my head – agreeing with Kasey’s points. Yes, this happened to us, too. We tried counseling, support groups, etc, which helped us in the beginning from a communication and bonding standpoint, but did not prove to be what we needed for us in the long run. We wanted to begin trying again as soon as possible, too – not to replace Millie, but to propel us forward, and importantly for me, to show I’m not a failure. I can do this.

Kasey mentioned Star Legacy Foundation, and I’ve found that the website is an excellent resource for anyone- family, friends, healthcare professionals- to go to get more information on how to support grieving loved ones, statistics on stillbirth, and research. They have online support groups, local chapters, and a blog and podcast.

In the end, I lean into Ashlee’s website more than the Star Legacy Foundation. Although Star Legacy has amazing resources and information, if I lean too much into them, I find myself divided. Is this all “part of God’s plan” or was this truly preventable? Could I have had control over my situation and have Millie today? If I ever wanted to lobby, become an advocate for stillbirth awareness and prevention, then this would be a great resource.

In this season of grieving, though, I find myself needing more comfort, and Ashlee’s positive messages and resources provide that for me. When I can be less selfish and if I want to do volunteering as a support person, then I will turn to Star Legacy.

Do you have resources, podcasts, or blogs that you lean in to to help you with your grief? Please share them in the comments section!

Instant Pot Adventures: Loaded Potato Soup

As I transitioned back to staying at home, committing to Mon Cœur (MC) and Chouchou full time and trying to post regularly, I decided to try at least one new Instant Pot recipe a week. I started looking online and then I found an Instant Pot app.

Yes – there’s an app for the Instant Pot. And I love it.

Three reasons to love the Instant Pot app:

  1. You can change the number of servings and the recipe ingredient amounts are automatically adjusted. An accurate cooking time and difficulty level are also included.

2. It has step by step directions and timers built in that you can start and stop as you reach those parts of the recipe.

3. The recipes run the gamut from desserts to soups to roasts. All sorts of recipes are available to try from the traditional to the adventurous.

Loaded Potato Soup Recipe

I tried Heather Schlueter’s recipe which I found on the app. Although I was worried at first about the soup being a little too runny, it did thicken up and was wonderfully delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp sliced fresh chives

Directions:

  1. Preheat Instant Pot on Sauté.
  2. When hot, add bacon and cook until crispy, 5 minutes.
  3. Cancel sauté, remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Drain off bacon fat.
  5. Add onion, potatoes, seasonings, and broth to pot. Stir well.
  6. Close, lock lid and ensure steam release handle is in sealed position.
  7. Pressure cook on manual, high for 5 minutes.
  8. Natural release for 10 minutes then quick release.
  9. Add sour cream, cheddar, and bacon to pot and stir well.
  10. Garnish with fresh chives.

I made this on a cold rainy day, and this was the perfect cure.

Do you have a favorite soup you make in the Instant Pot, or any favorite recipes from the app? Share them in the comments section!

***all photo images for this post come from the Instant Pot App. All credits for food pics go to Heather Schlueter. I was not quick enough with the camera before the family taste-tested!***

Book Review: The Gruffalo

But who is this creature with terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobbly knees and turned out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.  His eyes are orange, his tongue is black, he has purple prickles all over his back.

Mon Cœur (MC) received this sweet little gem of a book for Christmas. After reading it a few times at bedtime, I wondered if it was a little too frightening for right before wishing her “sweet dreams.”

Although Gruffalo’s quite a beast, she is not easily scared away. She continues to choose this book among her top three every evening. Chouchou and I love this book, too, and happily read it to her with our most monstrous voices.

Three reasons we love The Gruffalo

1. Sing-song rhyming and repetition: The author, Julia Donaldson, has a gift with words. When I read it, it’s like the words are dancing across the page, spinning the story of the mouse and Gruffalo. She weaves animals, forest settings, and food dishes together to make silly rhymes. For example: “Where are you meeting him?” ” Here by these rocks, and his favorite food is roasted fox.”

In addition, I love the repetition of words and phrases. MC is at a stage now that she is able to figure our patterns of repetition and sing along with songs or “read” along in books. I enjoy any book that has repetitive, predictable phrasing so that she may participate in the reading with us.

2. Survival of the wittiest mouse: Poor mouse is just looking for a bite to eat, when three different predators try to “invite” him to their home for consumption. Mouse is so smart, he makes up the beastliest beast to scare each animal off, but then he realizes this monster of his imagination truly exists!  So then he has to outwit the Gruffalo, and in the end, that intelligent little mouse scares away any would-be predators and gets his snack.

3.  The formatting of the text: It may seem minor, or even silly, but I really love when authors differentiate between speakers. Yes, yes, they use quotation marks, of course. It just makes for an easier read and better flow when there is a little something extra. Donaldson uses italics to help the banter between animals flow back and forth.

The format of the text and images on the pages also reflects the predictable and repetitive phrasing I had mentioned earlier. It makes for an enjoyable reading experience, no matter how many times we read it.

I was surprised to learn that the Gruffalo is celebrating his 20th anniversary this year. I knew he was after my childhood, but I imagined he was younger than 20. There is an official Gruffalo website with resources, activities, and games that are tied to one of Donaldson’s many books. I found finger puppets for our next read, and a recipe for Gruffalo Crumble. Hmm, I was thinking a sweet crumble like apple or peach…but I suppose Gruffalo are saltier, as the recipe suggests. MC and I may still give it a go and we’ll keep you posted.