Monday, February 17, 2020

Pressure Cooker Chicken Lemon Avgolemono Soup


We've been eating a lot of soups this winter, as one does.  In particular, I've been using my InstantPot to prepare a lot of soup as it's quick, easy, and my glass cooktop stove has been shattered for several months and I haven't gotten around to dealing with that.  On top of this, someone in my family has joined Weight Watchers and I've been trying to consciously make "low points" meals where we can all feel full and satisfied.

One thing that's hard to do "low-points" is anything creamy.  The minute you reach for any fats, most dairy products, or thickening starches, you're adding a lot of WW points to the dish.  However, eggs are one of the "no points" items on the newer WW plans.  And this got me thinking.  I vaguely remembered a lemony Mediterranean chicken soup that is thickened with eggs instead of flour or cream.  You make a typical soup, but then you temper some eggs (bring them up to temperature so they won't scramble) with a couple ladlefuls of hot soup, then add the egg mixture to the pot of soup and return it to a simmer until it thickens-up.  It sounds complicated, but it really isn't.

So, this evening, I gave it a try.  I googled-up a basic recipe for avgolemono soup, which, in the Italian tradition, is typically made with lemon added to the broth, a meat or fish protein, and either rice or small pasta.  I merged the recipe with my standard Chicken and Rice Soup for the pressure cooker recipe and had myself a pretty delicious soup.

I'm looking forward to trying some variations that use the same thickening technique.  But in the meantime, I thought I'd share this simple and traditional version.  Enjoy!

Pressure Cooker Chicken Lemon Avgolemono Soup

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken, fresh or partially thawed
1/2 cup of white long-grain or jasmine rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
juice of two lemons, divided
2 cups (packed lightly) baby spinach or other chopped greens
salt and pepper
olive oil 

  1. With your pressure cooker in saute mode, coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil and saute the minced onion with a pinch of salt until it begins to soften.
  2. Add the chicken broth, water, juice of one lemon, and rice.  Nestle the chicken pieces into the liquid.  The chicken can be partially or completely frozen as long as no single piece is larger than a chicken breast.
  3. Lid-up the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes (following the instructions for your particular pressure).  When the cooking cycle is complete, perform a quick pressure release.  Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board and cool slightly.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the remaining lemon juice, eggs, and egg yolks.  Whisk until it begins to become a little frothy.
  5. Take one ladleful of soup (avoiding rice and onion bits as best as you can) and stream it slowly into the egg mixture while whisking.  The objective here is to not plop hot liquid into the eggs and cause them to turn into scrambled eggs.  Repeat with 2-3 more ladelsful of broth.
  6. Pour the egg/soup mixture into the rest of the soup.  Using saute mode, bring the soup back up to a lightly bubbling simmer, stirring periodically until it thickens.  Turn off the burner and stir-in the spinach.
  7. Using two forks or your hands, shred the chicken pieces.  Add the shreds back to the soup.
  8. Taste the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
This soup would be great served with crusty bread, rustic toast, and a sprinkle of  good Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My Sewing Journey, Part V - Baby Rompers

We have a new niece or nephew coming soon and I wanted to use my new-found sewing skills to make something for the baby.  I hunted and hunted online for a pattern for a gender-neutral baby romper or overalls that would be suitable for a winter baby in New England, but kept coming up empty.

Finally, I settled on the free Baby Boy Romper from Melly Sews and decided I'd have to try my hand at pattern modification to extend the legs to full pants instead of shorts.  The free pattern is size 0-3 months, but Melly also offers it in multiple sizes with a dress variation on her paid pattern site, Blank Slate Patterns.

My daughter and I visited the same local fabric store where we found the purple minky for her robe and picked-out a super soft flannel in two gender-neutral colors.

I'm extremely pleased with how the finished patterns turned out.  The gray geometric one was done with buttons at the shoulders as the pattern describes, but I'm having some difficulty with consistency on my buttonhole foot, so I decided to just put snaps on the other one.

Aren't they just so cute and cuddly?!?!?

Monday, July 16, 2018

My Sewing Journey Part IV - Robes and Up-Cycling

One of the most supportive groups along my sewing journey has been the Up-Cycled Cloth Collective on Facebook.  It's not a beginning sewing group, but the people on it are so incredibly creative and diverse in both their personalities and talents that there's just a wealth of ideas and things to learn.  Plus, everyone's supportive and complimentary towards each other's work.

My daughter needed both a new bathrobe and a new bathing suit cover for the beach.  She'd outgrown her previous ones.  I knew I wanted to do the bathrobe in a double-sided minky fabric--a very very soft furry fleece and I knew it'd be best to purchase that, but I thought the bathing suit cover might be a great up-cycle activity.

I found a free pattern called The Sleepy Robe from Melly Sews, one of my favorite YouTube Sewing Vloggers.  My daughter and I took a ride to a new-to-us independent sewing store and found some gorgeous velvety double-sided minky in dark purple.  It wasn't cheap.  To tell you the truth, it would have been cheaper to buy her a new robe fully made, but there's value in my learning new skills and in homemade things!

Here's the finished robe:

(Don't mind the belt loops...those will get replaced with purple)

I'll be honest with you.  Double-sided minky like this is a pain in the butt to work with.  It sheds EVERYWHERE.  We're talking clouds of purple fluffies floating all over the room for days and sticking to your clothing.  Also, it was a bit thick for some of the pattern instructions (such as turning hems under or making belt loops).  So you do need to improvise a bit.  But it came out great!

For the beach robe, we were looking to do more of a "house dress" style robe.  I was thinking I could use the same pattern, but use a much lighter weight fabric and snaps instead of a belt.  So we took a ride to Savers, a chain of thrift stores, and started poking around in both the bedding and adult clothing sections to find something that might work.  We ended-up finding a thick cotton women's nightgown with, of all things, FISH on it!

Here's the before and after to show the transformation:

I'm getting familiar enough with garment construction (and this pattern) now that I was able to place the pattern pieces so as to preserve the pockets from the original nightgown.  I was also able to cut the new sleeves from the old sleeve pieces, saving me a hem on each of them.  Everything else was new construction as if I were cutting from a bolt of fabric.  I love how it came out!  It'll be great for our upcoming lake house vacation.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

My Sewing Journey, Part III - A Simple Rectangle Skirt

My next project was to make a "Circle Skirt" for my daughter.  If you've never heard of the term, it's basically exactly what you'd expect.  You cut a piece of fabric into a circle (really more of a donut shape) and then turn it into a skirt.  It's a nice project because it can be done entirely with measurements and doesn't require a pattern.

However, after going through several circle skirt tutorials online, I determined that it just wasn't the right approach for this project, for a few reasons.  First of all, it requires that you have fabric as long and as wide as the double the length of the skirt you want to make.  I was using a half-yard of fabric I had on hand that would have come-up short.  Second, every tutorial I found involved knit (stretchy) fabric, which will hang and drape differently after the skirt is made (and continues to change a bit overnight).  I was using basic cotton fabric that would have behaved differently.  And third, I really wanted something dead-simple that could have an elastic waist.

Enter the rectangle skirt.  This skirt is made very simply from a long rectangle.  You sew the short ends together, hem the bottom, build a channel for elastic, install the elastic, and you're done.  And it's perfect for a little girl.

You'll notice a bit of contrasting pink fabric in the waistband.  This is because I miscalculated ow much I'd need for the waist and the first attempt was too short.  So I took-out the waist and added some fabric.

You'll also notice that I tried out one of my machine's decorative stitches on the bottom hem.  I'm pleased with how it turned-out.

 This is more or less the method I used:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

My Sewing Journey, Part II - Another Dress

As mentioned in my previous post, I've been on a journey to teach myself to sew.  The last project you saw was a simple dress that I made for my daughter from a commercial pattern.

The next project was a tad more difficult.  It was another dress, but one that included a curved bib around the neck, a zipper that is installed AFTER dress construction (no small feat), two different fabrics, gathering, and an underskirt/petticoat.

It was a heck of a challenge and Burda is not known for having the most detailed instructions, but nonetheless, I'm pleased with the results and so is my daughter.

 (Google Photos actually offered me that artsy pop-color print, so why not!)

Alicia (the doll) does not have a matching dress, but I did order a bunch of plain white headbands and whipped-up a quick matching headband with some strips of leftover fabric.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with how this dress turned-out.  There are a couple of small flaws that I can see, but your average person won't notice them.  Also, this pattern has some flaws in the bodice construction, in my opinion.  I probably won't be making it as-is again, but I like the silhouette and might re-use the pattern pieces to make a simpler sun dress.

(Listen to me, I'm sounding like an accomplished sewist.)