Eating In: Greek Salad Wrap

Greek Salad Wrap

Considering the record breaking heat these past few weeks, it may surprise you that summer doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. In honor of the season, I have a great summer wrap to provide a brief respite from the heat.


4 Flat Bread We used Lavash from whole foods. It’s great for wraps, but it tends to dry out after a few days, at which point it splits very easily. So use it prompty, or substitue your favorite wrapping medium.
1 Head Iceberg Lettuce Shredded. I know, iceberg is a bit pedestrian. However, it has the best cold crisp crunch of any easy-to-find lettuce, and that crispy crunch is what this wrap is all about. Substitute at your own risk.
1 or 2 Tomatoes Chopped, anyway you like.
1 tub (4-6oz) Feta Crumbled.
6 oz Tzatziki Recipe to follow.


  • Assembly is easy. You could throw it all in the wrap and be done, but my preference is to put a small handful of the lettuce in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of Tzatziki and a tablespoon or two of feta. Toss to coat. I prefer this method because the real magic happens somewhere in the combination of the yogurt sauce and the feta, and I want to make sure I get a little bit of that in every bite.
  • Pile the dressed lettuce into the wrap, top with tomatoes, and anything else that strikes your fancy, extra lemon juice, a bit of pepper, etc., then roll it up and enjoy.

4.5 stars based on
2 reviews

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Yield: (4 servings)

Tziziki Sauce

6 oz Greek Yogurt We used Chobani Lowfat plain.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice Adjust according to taste. I used about a half a lemon.
1 clove Garlic Crushed then finely chopped.
½ tbsp Fresh Dill This is a problematic ingredient in my opinion. The fresh taste is key, but you use so little of it that it seems like a waste to buy a whole bundle at the store. I don’t have a good solution for this, other than growing your own (which is what I did), but if you buy a bundle of dill, you should know that if it’s not treated, the unused potion should keep for a while in the fridge. Just trim the stems and put it in some water.
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cucumber none Now, Purists will cry foul as cucumber is generally an essential component of Tziziki. However, Melissa doesn’t care for the taste, so I left it out. I think our results were great, but You should judge for yourselves whether you want it or not.
  • Place everything in a food processor and pulse until thuroughly mixed.
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Eating In – Smoothie

Maybe we touched on this in an earlier post, but I would like to ask the makers of Yoplit why they must put gelatin (aka powdered bone slime) in all of their products? My guess is that it keeps the product homogeneous. But honestly, how hard is it to stir yogurt? I feel especially betrayed because I bought their products for so long that I became accustomed to them and never though to check the labels once we went veggie. So while these days I usually buy Stonyfield Farms yogurt, I occasionally buy Yoplait and unknowingly ate a particularly gross animal by-product. So let that be a reminder, always check your labels, even for products that you expect to be “safe”.

Why the yogurt rant in a smoothie recipe? Well, when I make myself a smoothie, I usually use a bunch of fresh or frozen berries/peaches/etc, a banana for creaminess, soy milk to wet things enough to blend and honey to sweeten (if needed). Of these ingredients, I think the banana is key to the texture (blueberry-avocado smoothies are an exception). However, when I take into account Melissa’s banned ingredients list, my usual recipe needs a few changes. And being that she was sick with the flu, right on the heals of two months of morning sickness, I knew I had to get it right before she withered away. The result had to be nutritious and tasty, and I didn’t want to risk hiding a banned ingredient in there because if she caught it, smoothies as a whole would be banned until she forgets the experience. So I substitute juice for soy milk, and yogurt for bananas, and brown sugar for honey. This is what I ended up with:

note: I used the single serving yogurt container as a measuring scoop in the recipe below.
1 container (4oz) YoBaby Vanilla Yogurt I bought baby yogurt because the store was out of our regular organic yogurt, so I started to grab my fallback yoplait and discovered the aforementioned gelatin. I am sure in marketing terms the baby yogurt is higher in vitamins and easier to digest or something. My unscientific non-side buy side taste test indicates that YoBaby is a litte creamier and less tart that the adult yogurt, which is great for this smoothies, but really, you could use what ever is in your fridge.
2.5 containers (6-8 whole berries) Frozen strawberries – eyeball it. It’s basically a handful and a half You can always add more later if you short-changed yourself.
1 container(4oz) Juice (V8 frusion light blackberry Pommegranette) These two slightly bitter berry flavors really add a lot of depth to the end product. If I was using fresh “in season” Louisiana strawberries I might use water instead, to really showcase the strawberries, but with cheap frozen california berries, I think a good juice needed. Also, the “light” v8 doesn’t have added splenda or aspartame. As best as I can tell from comparing the regular and light side by side, the “light” designation just means they didn’t add extra HFC. Still plenty of sugar in there though.
Brown sugar (if needed) In this case I probably used about 1 tbls. Which is a lot, but the stawberries were not very sweet, and I wanted to err on the side of sweet.

1-2 containers crushed ice


  • add the juice, yogurt, and berries to the blender. Pulse until the berry chunks are gone.
  • Then add one container of ice and blend it in. Slowly add the second container and stop when the desired texture is reached.
  • Taste to determine how much, if any, brown sugar is needed.
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Veggie Burger

Click Image to see the source(

A few months ago, when the weather was pleasant and the dogs weren’t tracking snow through the house, we threw a little soiree with a few of our closest friends. We told them we would feed them and give them free booze if they would come over and help us with a little project for the blog. If you follow us on Facebook (and you should if you’re not – we know you’re on Facebook, everybody is on Facebook), then you know I’m talking about our Veggie Burger Rating Party.

We started at our local Publix, which really does have a decent selection for vegetarians when you consider that vegetarians are the pariahs of the culinary world (my opinion). We decided to start with four different brands. We bought MorningStar and Boca, of course, since those seem to be the vegetarian standard in any supermarket freezer, Amy’s All American Burgers, and the real crap shoot, Publix Greenwise Burgers.

Burger tableI should say that all of our friends that took the bait are omnivores. So, when you factor that into the ratings, it’s actually quite fascinating. Andy and I are, more or less, loyal to one burger brand so this was as much an experiment for us as the rest of our meat-eating gang. We grilled our chosen four, anonymously labeled them, and served them up with all the typical burger accoutrements. Immediately, there was a burgery line of demarcation; those attempting to mimic meat, and those that embraced the ‘veggie’ in veggie burger. I, probably because my tastes are more attuned to expect a veggie flavor, preferred those that didn’t try to be meat. In fact, the Boca Burger, with it’s heavy meat-smoked flavor, set of my poison alarm, and I immediately spit it out. Terrible, it tastes like dog treats smell… I’ll ignore the middle grounders for the sake of brevity (you can see my ratings in the included graphs), and mention that my absolutely favorite was… The Publix brand. Yes! I was so shocked when the brands were unveiled that I didn’t believe it. I figured the dog treat burger was the Publix burger. We now buy those cheap ole store brand burgers. Our meat eating buddies, on the other hand, seemed to prefer the meat mimicking brands. They stated that as their reason of preference. At least we were able to unload that nastiness on them, because we certainly weren’t going to eat those things. As I type this, the thought of those burgers is triggering my pregnancy nausea.

At home we usually buy Amy’s Brand stuff. Melissa likes the California burgers, and I like Texas burgers, but in either case we usually cook them on the stove. So it was an interesting to me to try four brands side by side on the grill. My process was bare bones, using only a basting brush, a little olive oil and a charcoal grill. It seems that the main stream brands put some thought into the barbecue setting as the MorningStar burgers seemed to get really juicy and moist on the grill. Boca and Publix both were in the middle and seemed to do well, while Amy’s All-American looked downright bad, as if it were just drying out over the fire.Burgers on Grill

The scoring was done like this: each person had a score card with the sections A,B,C and D. In each section they had room to score -5 to 5 on taste, texture, and overall experience, and there were a few lines to comment on their rating if they wished. The burgers were grilled up, and put on lettered plates. The tasters were allowed to eat them plain or dressed, as long as they were consistent for all four samples.

Final ScoresScores By Category

The results:
BEST TASTE: Publix GreenWise Market – Garden Style Veggie Burgers
BEST ON THE GRILL: MorningStar Farms Grillers Original
WORST: Boca Original

As you can see from the first graph, it looks like the overall winner was the MorningStar burger. This surprised me since in my notes I wrote “it tastes like I remember microwaved Salisbury steak tasting”. Which is to say edible, but I would not recommend it. So, to figure it out I dug into the numbers a little deeper. The second graph shows the breakdown of the scores by taste, texture, and the vague “overall experience” category. Here you start to see a much better picture. It shows that the GreenWise brand won in overall taste, but it’s irregular texture and chunky veggies lost it a few points to the much more even MorningStar patty. Furthermore, you see that the big loser was the Boca, which scored negative in taste and overall experience. A fact that was clearly stamped on the from of the MorningStar box. The general consensus on the Amy’s All-American burger was that it was just too unique. My worries that it dried out on the grill were unnecessary. They tasted just fine, but everyone the strong red-pepper flavor of them was strange and made it hard to compare to the others.

Scores - Veggie Vs Omni

Once we began discussing, it was clear that we, the vegetarians, are much more opinionated on veggie burgers than the relatively even tempered omnivores, and the graph above illustrates that fact. It reminds me of a conversation I had some years ago with my friend Andrew. He was buying vegetarian boneless ribs (Side note, someone should start a company to make fake ribs with a fake plastic bones inside, compostable of course. Oh, and I want my cut for the idea.) and I asked him, why get something that does a second rate job of pretending to be meat when there are plenty of options that can substitute for meat without trying to taste like meat. His response something like this “There are some great options out there, but there also people who like the taste of meat, but choose not to eat it for ethical reasons or health concerns.” So, while a Boca burger left me asking “why do they even make these?” apparently our meat-eating pals would consider buying them in the future.

Puppy Likes It!MorningStar seem to grill the best, and the taste is okay, but the problem with both of the major brands is that when you design your flavors to fit a wide array of tastes, you end up with something mediocre. Publix store brand gets my overall best vote. Being a store brand it probably has a relatively small distribution, but that probably gives them the room to target the veggie/green-living market with visible chunks of veggies, etc. So, next time you are in your freezer isle, know that there are essentially two types of veggie burgers. Look for clues to determine what which you are dealing with. Boca brand? Keep Walking. Fake grill marks? Pass! Vegetables and whole grain ingredients rather than just textured vegetable protein and liquid smoke? Buy!

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Knocked Up

Well, it didn’t take long, but this vegetarian managed to get knocked up. It has been the most dizzying experience of my life and I’m not even out of my first trimester! The biggest challenge, of course, has been what to eat. What do I eat when I can’t eat anything? When the thought of choking down a saltine cracker makes me want die, what’s left? I’ll tell you, not a thing. So here I am, ten pounds lighter, on medication to keep the nausea at bay, and starving after very little food since November. I continue to have some food aversions, but in the beginning, it was terrible. Really, truly, terrible. Anything green was repulsive, so salads were out, green beans were out, spinach, out, broccoli, out. Almost all vegetables were out. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any that I was able to palate. It’s difficult to maintain the vegetarian thing without vegetables. Luckily, I was able to keep down fruit most of the time, with the exception of oranges. Those were rejected from my stomach quite resolutely and with extreme prejudice. Point taken – I haven’t had one in months.

Preggo cannot live on fruit alone. I had to come up with creative ways of tricking my stomach into accepting some other forms of nutrition. So, we brought in yogurt. Honestly, I am not a fan of straight up yogurt. It’s too tart. But, I used to eat the Yoplait Whips when they came out, so I thought I’d try those again. Well, damn it, they have gelatin, so that was a no go. Almost all yogurts have gelatin, except for just one. Ironically, the one for babies (Yo Baby) is animal free, and – bonus – not quite as tart. It’s still not great straight, but mix it in a smoothie and it’s just fine, thank you. Potatoes aren’t bad either. (Almost any form works, but I couldn’t stand baked potatoes before, and I can’t stand them now.) In cases of desperation I can almost always keep down french fries or harsh browns. That’s a slippery slope, though. You start stopping for fast food fries, and then you start to get the taste for the salt and fat, and pretty soon you want a greasy burger. Yeah, I admit it. A Whopper sounds good, and a veggie burger just won’t do as a substitute. So far, no cheating. No animals have died to feed the baby. Willpower… that’s right.

My experience with the doctors, so far, has been that they have had very little experience with vegetarians. We’re everywhere! Aren’t we breeding? Doesn’t seem like it or you’d think they’d run into an obstetrician every now and then. Procreate, Veggies! But, beware of the following (this is what I’ve had to deal with):

Doc: You should take [X] prenatal vitamins.
Me: Are they gel caps? I’m a vegetarian, so I can’t take gel caps.
Doc: What’s in gel caps that you can’t have?
Me: Uh, gelatin. Powdered bone slime…

Next visit, different doctor…
Doc: How are you feeling?
Me: Like crap all the time.
Andy: She’s not eating much.
Doc: Try to eat something. Try chicken soup.
Me: I can’t eat that, I’m a vegetarian.
Doc: Try a broth.
Me: No… that’s still made from chickens. They don’t just give the chicken a bath to get the broth, you know…

A lot of people have been asking me if I plan to stay a vegetarian through the pregnancy. I don’t even understand why this is a question. “Oh, a little won’t hurt you” or “It’s not a sin, and the baby needs the protein”. One doesn’t just throw away their belief system! And what is this myth that vegetarians don’t get all the nutrition they need? In my experience, vegetarians as a whole are much more conscious of their health. I’m doing just fine, thanks. So, yes, I plan to stay a vegetarian. Oh, and yes, we do plan to raise the baby as a vegetarian.

The news is out. The Unconventional Vegetarians are on the road to being unconventional parents and I for one am very excited. As Melissa said, we have every intention of raising a vegetarian child, and I am glad to see the overwhelming number of studies that illustrate how good it can be for your kids.

As for this pregnancy, the hormones have been wreaking havoc with Melissa’s stomach. We haven’t had any restaurant reviews because eating out has been an exercise in playing it safe. We haven’t had any recipes to blog because Melissa hasn’t had an appetite for cooking. So with her eating whatever she can stomach, i am left cooking for one, and there’s not much fun in trying something new or complicated for just myself. The one recipe that I have worked on recently is a smoothie recipe that doesn’t violate any of Melissa’s banned ingredients (like banana, honey, or soymilk) and also doesn’t use any of the ingredients that have recently started making her nauseous (like acidic fruits). Eventually, I think I got it right; recipe forthcoming.

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Eating In – Green Chile Cheese Sandwich

This recipe originally comes from the book “Just 10 Minutes”. We picked it up on the sale rack at the local book store. At first I was happy with the idea of 10min meals, but usually it’s only 10min if you already have everything chopped, shredded, or otherwise prepped and that’s cheating. FYI publishers, I still would have bought this book if it were called 15min or 20min meals. It’s not as if I had three books in my hand and bought the one with the fewest minutes on the cover. That aside, My real issue with the book is that we have now made three recipes from it, and only one was good. In both cases the proportions of ingredients seem off if made as described, and in other ways the application of heat is just wrong. It also bugs me that the ingredients are often not specific enough. For example, once recipe called for 1 tsp of “herbs”. Well, let me open the cupboard and grab the jar of “herbs”. I bet it’s right next to the “sauce”. I am all for recipes that are open to customization, but I think that was too far. So, safe to say, I don’t recommend this book.

Green Chile Cheese Sandwich

Who doesn’t love a good cheese sandwich? To the afore-mentioned issue of specificity, this recipe called for “cheese (such as cheddar)” and “green chiles”. I applaud them for having a cheese suggestion, and not just saying cheese. We chose to blend jack and white cheddar, mostly because jack pairs so well with peppers. “Green chiles” made me wonder though. Do they mean jalapenos, serrano, anaheim, padron, bell?? Is this suppose to be a spicy cheese sandwich? We went with poblanos because I like the flavor, and Melissa likes that they are not spicy. Feel free to to be adventurous and use whatever green chile you like.

3/4 cup white cheddar – shredded
3/4 cup monterey jack – shredded
1/2 – 1 poblano pepper – diced
2 tbls butter (plus a little extra)
4-6 Slices bread – Use your favorite sliced bread.


  • Preheat your oven to 375.
  • Put your shredded cheese and 2 tbls of butter and mix. Then add your diced pepper.
  • Spread the mixture onto a slice of bread, place the second slice on top, and lightly butter the outiside of both pieces. Reapeat for each sandwich(duh).
  • Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 8-10min. Check on the sandwiches after about 5min to make sure they are cooking okay. In my oven I had to flip them to get the browning evenly.

Yes, this is basically a grilled cheese sandwich, but what’s not to like? The best part is that the poblano gives it a great chile relleno-esque flavor. If you wanted to push the chile relleno flavors further, you could add a 1/2 tsp of ground cumin to the cheese/butter mix. The recipe even called for it, but I leave it out because Melissa does not like that spice(cumin).

Let me preface this by saying that the first two recipes we tried from this book were nothing short of wretched, so I was gun shy going into this one, almost balking altogether. I was feeling guilty because I had chosen all the recipes that Andy had cooked and we had tried from the book, and truly disliked them. I told him I wasn’t blogging about any more recipes until we found one that I liked, because, since I wasn’t in love with the last two we posted, I felt like I was coming across as Mrs. Negativity. That said, it seems like the book wasn’t a total loss. Look what we found:

This sandwich is sinfully delicious! This is a fabulous twist on the old grilled cheese, but to call this a ‘grilled cheese’ in no way conveys its tastiness. I loved the ooey-gooey center of melted Monterrey Jack, and White Cheddar (a modification to the original recipe, as I recall), and the addition of chili pepper was absolute genius – just the right amount of unique. As if the cheese alone isn’t enough to make you say an extra prayer for your pants to still fit the next morning, there’s so much butter involved that you can rest assured that there’s an extra mile waiting for you on the treadmill. But, who says it’s not okay to indulge once in awhile? Putting the sandwich into the oven to cook isn’t something I would have considered, but it creates a crunchy shell well contrasted to the melted cheese.

If I had any suggestion, it would be to make sure that both sides of the sandwich are toasty to ensure you get the shell effect. In our trial, the bottom toasted nicely, but the top stayed buttery. You’ll probably need to flip it in the oven and cook on both sides – not long! – just a minute or two.

On our scale of -5 to 5, this one is definitely a 3.5.

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Lifestyle – Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety

Not so long ago, I posted a few lines from the book Gristle on our Facebook page after having read the excerpt on Amazon. (If you’re not following us on Facebook, you should! It’s a great way to keep up with what we’re doing.) I decided I had to read it…

This book is absolutely terrifying. TERRIFYING! It delves into the depths of the factory farm industry, and pulls out facts and numbers that will make your head spin, bring tears to your eyes and vomit to the back of your throat. It’ll make you glad you’re vegetarian (if you are) and make you consider veganism (if you’re not).

Below are a few facts from the book:

  • “Those who eat meat are twice as likely to become hospitalized, twice as likely to have to be on medications, and more likely to need emergency diagnostic procedures and emergency surgery.”
  • “University of Arizona researchers found more fecal bacteria – on sponges, dish towels, and the sink drain – than they found swabbing the toilet. Even after washing everything with bleach not once, but twice, in a house with omnivores, it is safer to lick the rim of their toilet seat than the kitchen countertop… because people aren’t preparing chickens in the toilet.”
  • “…each hen is given about sixty-seven square inches of space – about two thirds the size of an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper.”
  • “You could drive to the moon and back 114,000 times and still have released less carbon than the U.S. chicken industry does annually.”
  • “…veg kids in the United States grow up taller and leaner than their peers, and studies in the United Kingdom even suggest that veg kids are smarter.”
  • “Over the last thirty years, more than thirty new diseases have emerged… Never in medical history have so many new diseases appeared in so short a time – and almost all of them have come from animals.”

It’s an incredibly well written book, by quite a few respected experts on the food industry. It’s a quick read – I read it on a Saturday afternoon, and it was definitely worth the investment of time. I like to think of myself as somewhat well-versed on the matters of factory farming/food processing industry, but I am an emotional person, and the choice to go vegetarian was based on an emotional response. This book is, in my opinion, as objective as one can get when dealing with such a subject matter. It’s cold, it’s hard, and it’s not about conversion, it’s about presenting the facts…educating.

I hope that this country starts taking stronger, longer strides to put an end to what these factory farms are doing to these animals, to our environment, and to our health. We, and everything around us, are being poisoned. We can only withstand so much! Callous disregard – that’s the only way I can describe the attitude of these ‘producers’ (read: ‘destroyers’).

Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety
Category: Books – Nonfiction
Description: Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat
Link: Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat)

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Eating Out – MAFIAoZA’S Pizzeria

MAFIAoZA’S Pizzeria & Neighborhood Pub

MAFIAoZA2 Dexter Ave Birmingham, AL
Phone: 205-414-7878.

Mafiaoza's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Its hard to know where to start here. MAFIAoZA’S Pizzeria & Neighborhood Pub was one of my favorite restaurants for the first year to so that I lived here. I frequently claimed it as the best pizza in town, and made a point to bring out-of-towners, including my parents, my brother in law, and my old collage friends. beer glassThe pizza is usually awesome, we tend to favor the irrate Italian. In addition to good pizza, MAFIAoZA’S has a nice atmosphere, a small selection of great beers (though they serve them in mason jars, what is this Po’Folks?) and a veggie friendly menu (though I wasn’t veg my first time there). So it is very hard for me to say anything less than positive about them, therefore I will try and be objective, and let you come to your own assumptions.

The problems started back in the early spring. Melissa and I tried to go there for lunch, but to our surprise the place was closed. When we arrived there was a woman on the patio who tells us she thinks they are closed, and walks in to ask, eventually comes back to send us off saying they “don’t do lunch”. We were disappointed but understanding. Looking their website it looks like they only do lunch on Fridays, so maybe we had only ever been there on a Friday but that doesn’t sound right to me. Since the location is closer to work than home, and given that they “don’t do lunch” it was a while before we returned. Our next visit was was on April 24th. I know the exact date because we were at the schaeffer eye center crawfish boil with a few friends and decided that it would be a great place to go after the show. Thinking that their hours may have changed, I pulled out my iphone to check their website, It read “11:00AM – At Least Midnight”. We show up between 11-11:30, and the place is dark with chairs on the table. Strangely enough the valet is still there, so we ask him if they are still open. He looks over his shoulder puzzled, and in an odd parallel to our previous visit, he runs inside for a moment, then runs back out to send us off.

Unlike the first rejection, we actually banned the place for a few months after that. Our next visit was on June 5th after brewfest. Again we had people in town, and decided to give it a go. They were open, but service was terribly slow on a night that did not seem excessively busy. It was one of those situations where after waiting for out waiter/waitress for a long time, I had to step inside and ask the hostess to send someone over to with menus. When the waitress finally found us, she seemed more concerned with letting us know that this was not her area, than she was with giving us service. Slow service was the theme of the night, but the food was good and we had good conversation with good friends, so our night was not ruined. That said, we put the place back on another ban until October.

Irrate ItalianOur experience this time, wasn’t much better. Our waiter was very polite and professional(unlike last time), but the food was incredibly slow once again. I get the impression that something went wrong and our order was lost or forgotten, because it was about an hour before we got our pizza. We ordered the irrate Italian, which has Parmesan, black olives, and garlic. It was pretty good, but tasted a little like it was thrown together in a hurry (supporting my suspicion that it was forgotten and had to be made in a rush), it had all the right flavors, and the crust was good, but the garlic, which you can’t really see, seemed to be mostly piled in the middle. Leaving garlic overload on the first bite of some slices, while near the crust the flavor was notably bland. I admit it may be nitpicking, but the one thing in my mind that redeemed this place in the past was that the pizza was always first rate. In the end we did not complain. However, we were given our bill and a moment later, recognizing that there was a problem, the waiter came out with a “revised” bill. The new bill had deducted half the price of our pizza to make up for the wait.

In the end, I am very let down with the string of bad experiences. I really want that great pizza, and I don’t want to suffer sub-par service to get it. My advice to you is try them, but only give them one shot. If the food and service are good, you are in for a treat. As for us, we probably need another 5-6 months before we give them a chance to win us back. In the mean time I guess I can be content with the second or third best pizza in town.

House SaladMafiaoza’s has great pizza. That, I will never dispute. It has great flavor, it’s not salty, and the pizza is reasonably priced – Andy and I can split a pizza for $12, often with leftovers. We always get the Irate Italian which is topped with a combination of cheeses and black olives. (There are other veggie options.) On our most recent trip, I was especially hungry, so I decided to order a house salad to start. Learn from my mistake, and do not do the same. It was absolutely not worth $5.50 – the serving size was too small, and not a thing about it was special (iceberg lettuce with two pieces of romaine lettuce does not constitute ‘mixed greens’). It was a $3 salad, max. Instead, put that money toward an appetizer sampler, which, as I recall was less than $10. We’ve ordered it in the past, and it was a pretty good option for vegetarians since there’s a list options including White Bean Hummus, various cheeses (we got the Gouda), Spinach and Artichoke Dip, etc. (Mafiaoza’s, I dislike very much that your website doesn’t have a menu, so I can’t list anymore options. I boo you!)

Great pizza and yummy appetizer sampler aside, I don’t think we’ll be going back. It doesn’t take much for a restaurant to end up on my banned list; however, I don’t feel that my expectations are unreasonable. The list of transgressions that constitute blackballing: first, slow service; second, rude/indifferent service; third, poorly prepared food. I gave Mafiaoza’s the benefit of the doubt too many times – more than most restaurants get – and got burned every time. Our first issue came when we went there for lunch one Thursday afternoon, and they had inexplicably changed their hours and were no longer operating during lunch. Okay, I let that one slide even though a little warning would have been nice. The second time we took some friends after a concert. We arrived at about 11:30, but they were closed, even though they were supposed to be open to midnight – FAIL! The last two times we went there it was incredibly slow. The first time we encountered this problem, we took my bother and his wife who are from out of town. We thought it would be sure to impress, but our wait put the kibosh on that straightaway. That experience kept our early-to-bed visitors up way to late, and made us feel like sub-par hosts. On our most recent/last visit, the majority of our time – one hour and ten minutes – was spent waiting on our pizza. Let me assure you, that by the time we got it, we were ravenous, and it didn’t take us any time at all to down that thing… maybe 15 minutes. I think waiting 55 minutes for a pizza is unreasonable. To be fair, I should acknowledge that we were comped half the price of the pizza, but that amount of time wasted is worth more to me than $6.

In short, great pizza, terrible service. If you have plenty of free time, and don’t mind a wait, then give it a shot. We won’t be there…

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Lifestyle – Food Rules, Michael Pollan

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

“Why do we need food rules?”, Pollan answers that right up front. Simply put, the American diet is toxic. It has been linked to all sorts of maladies, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, most cardiovascular disease, and 33% of all cancers. It’s not just a matter of too much fat or too many carbs because no other country or culture is even in our league when it comes to these problems, even those with seemingly unhealthy diets. It’s a combination lifestyle, lack of moderation, and the fact that much of what we eat is so processed that it can barely be counted as food. There are a lot of industries working hard to find the magic bullet that will “solve” the problem, but the human body is massively complex, food has enormous variety, and some results take a lifetime to observe. So if you ask me, healthy eating is like learning calculus, there are no “shortcuts”. Food Rules is a very short read consisting of only 64 rules for for the American eater. It’s not strictly about vegetarianism, but I think it has a place on this site because it has great information about the ways in which the American diet needs to change, a large part of which is diminishing the role of meat on our plates.

If you already very food conscious, or of you are familiar Pollan’s other books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, this book may seem a little like “common sense”. But there were a few rules that were new to me, and I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy the vindication of reading a few of my personal food rules written in plain English with supporting evidence.

Six pages into the introduction Pollan give the one rule (not numbered) from which all the other rules are derived. “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” It takes 64 more rules to fully define what that means, but if that is where you stop reading, you will have gotten the most important part. Here are a few of the other rules that are worth mention:

Rule 10 – “Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.”
This applies to fake butters, which turns out are not better for you than real butter (in moderation) and also veggie burgers etc. Sad for us, since we eat stuff like Amy’s californa burgers on a semi-regular basis, but I guess we can ignore this rule for now.

Rule 22/23 – “Eat mostly plants, especially the leaves.”/”Treat Meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.”
These two are easy for us veggies, but I mention it here to point out that the books claims that “Vegetarians are notably healthier[...] and live longer.” And “It turns out that near vegetarians -people who eat meat a couple of times a week- are just as healthy as vegetarians.” So, if I can’t convert any of you omnivores out there to be veggies, maybe you would consider just being veggie on the weekdays. If you did that, not only will you live longer, but it would help the world in terms of pollutions and natural resouces.

Rule 37 – “The whiter the bread the sooner you’ll be dead.”
Already I try and stick with whole grains. Mostly because I prefer the taste and texture, but what I didn’t realise was that white breads, causes big unhealthy spikes in your glucose levels nearly as severe as sugar. It makes since when you think in terms of simple carbohydrate vs highly refined complex carb, but I guess just needed it spelled out to be put into perspective.

Rule 39 – “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.”
At first this sounds like carte blanche to eat junk, but the point here is that ”junk foods”, like cookies, cake and French fries, are a chore to make. So it stands to reason that they will fall back into their rightful place as special occasion foods when you have to go through the hassle of making them from scratch (and cleaning up after). I also love that when I told this rule to Melissa she responded “So it’s okay to eat junk food as long as it sucks?”. I guess she doesn’t like my Rosemary-Salted French fries.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
Category: Books – Nonfiction
Description: A simple, sensable guide for anyone concerned about health and food
Link: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

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Farmer’s Market

Pepper Place Saturday Market

Pepper Place Market2829 2nd Avenue SouthBirmingham, AL
Phone: 205-802-2100 ext. 230.

What a charming little market! This was my first time at Pepper Place Market outside the old Dr. Pepper building downtown (Lakeside District). I assumed this was a fairly new endeavor, but it’s about to end it’s 11th year! Where have I been? I’ve heard very little about it until recently. It seems like such a novelty to actually see the people who grew the fruits and veggies you buy. I guess it is a novelty these days. If you live in an urban environment, like I do, how often do you see that ever endangered being, The Farmer? Well, here they are, in their overalls selling a myriad of colors from the back of their trucks. They call to you ‘Git cha tuh-may-tahs and sweet puh-tay-tahs here! Fi’ dollahs, fi’ dollahs! Tuh-may-tahs, tuh-may-tahs, sweet puh-tay-tahs!’ as you walk past their stall. I find it refreshing (and a little bit nobel) to put money directly into the hands of the fellow who grew the food.
Peppers!RootsSeasonal Produce
Fall MarketI enjoyed the Saturday market and we got some nice veggies, so hopefully we will have a few new recipes later in the week. Check the website to confirm dates, but it looks the market is there every Saturday except those in the dead of winter (this being the “Harvest & Holiday Market” which runs till Dec 4th).
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Eating In – Andalusian Gazpacho(short)

Andalusian Gazpacho

Andalusian Gazpacho

If you read our Chez LuLu post you may recall that I was a bit inspired to try my hand at recreating one of the gazpachos that they have in the summer. With summer gone and the days getting shorter, I figured it’s now or never, and it gave me a worthy place to use the last of our gardens summer harvest (basil and peppers). The editorial will be short though, Melissa doesn’t care for cold soups.
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Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Yield: (3-4 appetizers)

7-8 Campari tomatoes

fresh veggies
A good tomato is hard to find. I used campari here because I think they taste a little better than average, but they are not organic or local, and they are not as good as home grown. Tomatoes are the highlight of the dish, so I encourage you to use your gut, and select the best of your options. Be sure to adjust quantity accordingly, Campari are small patio tomatoes, so this probably equates to 5 Roma, or 3 “regular” tomatoes.

1 red pepper
seeded and chopped

1 green pepper
seeded and chopped

half cucumber

1/4-1/3 red onion
After the tomato, this is the other secret to the soup. The amount you use will vary according to taste, but keep in mind that the flavor will mellow overnight, so don’t be too scared.

1-2 slices of stale bread
This is a great place to use that bit of bakery bread that a few days old an too hard to eat.

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Start with a couple of tablespoons, add 2 more if needed(4 tbsp = 1/4 cup)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
As with the vinegar, start with half, and see where you are before you add the rest.

small handful fresh basil
chopped (optional)

Salt to taste


  • Remove the crust from your bread and saturate with water (by briefly soaking) then squeeze out the excess. Place bread mush into blender
  • Chop all the vegetables, place in blender. Add two tablespoons of vinegar and begin pulsing
  • As Everything starts to mix, begin slowly adding the olive oil so that it emulsify into the veggies mixture.
  • Once everything is mostly mixed, stop and give it a taste. Decide if you need to add the remaining vinegar/onion/oil. Keep in mind that the onion flavor will be extra strong at this point. Then finish blending till reasonably smooth.
  • Once smooth, cover and chill overnight (or at least 4 hrs)
  • Serve chilled in a bowl as an appetizer, or in a short glass as a beverage. Garnish with left over bits of chopped pepper/cucumber/etc. for a little style.
So, is it as good as Chez LuLu, no. Is it good in it’s own right, yes! The flavors are hitting all the right notes, and I suspect that it’s vitamin packed. It’s just too bad fall is starting, because this would be very refreshing on a hot day.
Andalusian Gazpacho
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