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So I’ve been back on Weight Watchers to lose my last little bit of weight there, and unfortunately this limits the number of lovely baked goods I can feature. But rather than cook/bake items of which I can only enjoy half a portion, I’ve decided to pass my cheap little diet secrets onto anyone who’s interested.

I’ll tell you something, in case you didn’t know already: eating out SUCKS when you’re essentially counting every calorie. Diner food is easy because it’s so simple, but every time I go out for diner food, I sit there thinking about how easy it would be to slim down the same dishes. We decided to institute Diet Diner Dinners once weekly to make eating things like egg substitute and light Italian bread a special meal. This also gives me a focus for the blog, which it so desperately needs.

We’ll start with the basics. Here, have a menu. Take a look.

Omnomicon's diet diner dinner series

Bacon is a diner food STAPLE. Sometimes I feel guilty ordering a diner plate without it because shit, the smell of bacon grease is what Sunday morning hangover food is all about. I’ve tried turkey bacon, and while I’m not afraid of food colouring nor fake diet food, that stuff is remarkably unappetizing. Those stripes and that awful off-taste don’t convince me at all. What is a surprisingly good substitute is frying up some ham and kinda just pretending it’s bacon. Goes well with a fried egg.

diet diner dinner

No pan greasing required! And a single 30-calorie slice of ham makes four slices of fakin bacon. Just the right amount for a single egg.

diet diner dinner

Now because I’m completely unoriginal (and also because I’ve never made hash browns before), I followed Simply Recipe’s Crispy Hash Browns Recipe. I cut the oil down to 2 tbsp to achieve that delicious crispy hash brown taste without all the calories.

I should write commercials.

I started with a pound of potatoes. This is what they looked like.

diet diner dinner

There was a lonely potato as I was shredding ’em. Dano took a picture. It’s my new desktop background. Grab the large size on Flickr if’n ya want yer own.


Alrighty. Elise was so right about draining the potatoes. In the absence of a potato ricer, I annihilated about half a roll of paper towels drying these out. It was worth it.

diet diner dinner

I guess it’s a little subtle in the photos . . .

I threw on some salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, a pinch of cayenne, and probably other spices from my standard fare.

diet diner dinner

Then I ruined the photo by mixing it all up. This stuff is not terribly photogenic, not gonna lie.

diet diner dinner

But in the end? Best diet food ever.

diet diner dinner

Next week there will be more diner food. Stay tuned, cats ‘n kittens!!

Just like your half-Polish, half-Italian grandmother used to make!

Everyone who’s ever had pierogies loves them. Unless they don’t like potato, cheese, pasta or butter, in which case they are clearly mad. I have yet to make pierogies, but I have a little ace up my sleeve called pierogi lasagna. It’s very easy, if time consuming.

Recovering carbophiles may wish to avert their eyes, lest they become entangled in the enticing mesh of potatoes and pasta. On the other hand, this dish is relatively low fat (remember, the butter is being distributed among 12 servings, and I found that fat free cheddar did the trick quite adequately), and they sit like a brick in your stomach, so you’re not likely to want more than one piece of the stuff.

We begin, predictably, with potatoes. These are some of the most beautiful reds I’ve seen in a long time.

Red potatoes.

The skin was so lovely, in fact, that I left it on. That’s my usual preference anyway, though.

Red potatoes: mashed.

Stir in some cheddar and sour cream. I left out the butter, for now.

Red potatoes: with cheddar.

Sautee a sliced onion in a 1.5 sticks of butter. This is why there was no butter in the potatoes.

Onion: sauteed.

Now we begin the lasagna part of all this. Spread a little onion-butter on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.

9x13 baking dish: buttered.

Lay down some noodles.


Spread potatoes little by little. It helps to drop a dollop, then spoon it out, working row by row along the noodles.


And then some onions and butter on top of that.


Repeat that a few times, then top with noodles and the rest of the butter and onions. There should be more of this stuff on top than in any of the layers.

The top!

Bake for 20 minutes and you get this.

Pierogi casserole, baked.

Use your baking time as an opportunity to fry up some kielbasa. Enjoy the hell out of it.


Pierogi Lasagna

1 lb lasagna noodles
4 lbs red or white potatoes
1/4 c sour cream (optional)
1/2 c milk
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 c butter (1.5 sticks)
1 onion, sliced in rings

Cook the noodles. Chop potatoes into 1″ cubes, place in pot of cold water (enough to cover), and allow to come to a boil. Continue boil until potatoes are soft enough to yield to a fork stab. Drain, mash, blend with a mixer. Toss in the optional sour cream and milk, mix some more. Add salt to taste. Stir in cheddar.

Melt all the butter over medium-high heat, then sautee onion until the rings no longer hold their shape.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with some of the onion-butter. Lay noodles on the bottom of the dish, then spread the potatoes, a dollop at a time, along the length of each noodle. Once done, smooth the potatoes, then spread about a quarter of the onion on top, and drizzle a small amount of butter as well. Repeat this twice (or more if your dish can accommodate), then top with noodles and the remainder of the onions and butter.

Pop in the oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

It’s getting chilly, isn’t it, friends? Time to bust out the belly-warming goodness of winter veggies and heavier fare.

This is yet another recipe belonging to the Family Cookbook. My Memere Rita INSISTS that she has the best beef stew recipe. Once my father made the mistake of mentioning “well, Doris [my mother] has a pretty good recipe herself,” my memere was in complete disbelief. No no, her soup was clearly the best, and none would compare.

I’m not sure how long ago this battle raged, but when my mother requested recipes of the Mater Familias, this one was sent, no doubt to prove a point. Now I love my mother dearly, and her beef stew is excellent, so I was a little defensive about the whole situation and didn’t want to like this stew. It contains veggies I’d never used before, but I went outside my comfort zone and, ironically, ended up with a new comfort food.

The broth is sweet owing to these mysterious turnips and parsnips, standard fare in many households, but not the one in which I grew up. I thought the recipe could use a bit more colour, so I threw in some celery. And oh my, if you serve this to a friend with some Tuscan bread, you may very well earn a friend for life.

Here we go! Don’t tell Memere I let the veggies get that close to the meat before it was cooked okay? Thanks dude, I appreciate that.


Now we do the choppy chop.

Chop chop.

First step is to sear the beef. Memere wisely used the oil and butter method, in which you use two tablespoons of each. I try to keep my recipes lower cal wherever possible, but I am a meat LOVER and searing your meat on high in oil and butter is hands-down the best way to do it. For stew, it is no different.

Where's the beef?

At this point, I sauteed the onions and almost broke down and just dug in the way it is. Because there is no more amazing combination in my world than steak and onions.

Onions first.

Now we’re gonna start with our other veggies. Each is added one at a time in league with a cup or two of water. At first I was a little frustrated at the vagueness of this. “One to two cups?! Memere, just tell me how many cups already!” I think the idea is to make sure that all your veggies are at least partly in the water with each addition. Oh, and every time you add something, let it return to a boil before adding the next.


Next carrots.


Now celery.


And turnips.


And parsnips.

And potatoes!

And finally, potatoes.

Now you let this bad larry simmer for a little while and you end up with this little number here.

Warm your bones.

Wrap yourself in a blanket on the couch and enjoy!

Memere Rita’s “Back to My Roots” Beef Stew

2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1.5 lbs sirloin beef, lean cut, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 carrots, peeled & sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced (editor’s addition, optional)
1 purple tap turnip, peeled & diced (I googled this term, and I think she means the small turnip. I could only find a large, so I used half of it)
4-5 parsnips, peeled & sliced
4-5 potatoes, peeled & diced

Let oil and butter get HOT on the stove, then sear beef for about two minutes. Reduce heat, add chopped onion and sautee to caramelize.

Now add each vegetable in turn with 1-2 cups hot water (just enough to cover most of the vegetables). After each addition, allow the pot to return to a boil:


After the potatoes, give it a good stir. I wouldn’t recommend stirring it again after it’s simmered, or your veggies will kind of fall apart in a mushy mess. Let simmer, uncovered, 30-50 minutes. Season to taste (and salt is an excellent idea here).

Serves 8 exhausted, growing farm boys. Reheats well.