Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Breakfast in Bed

I love breakfast in bed.

Lizzard Loves....breakfast in bed

I hear the critics out there lamenting crumbs in bed, potential for spills, and the general sense that its going to make a mess (which means a lot more work in the long run if you're changing sheets, getting coffee stains out of pajamas, etc.). I hear the critics and I have breakfast in bed with blissful reckless abandon!

Chris & I tend to lead pretty active lives. Our alarm goes off at 5am on the typical Monday-Friday. It can be earlier to accommodate my bread baking schedule, or as late at 6am if we are willing to rush and still make it to work on time. Our early morning routine can make it difficult to sleep in on the weekends, which is usually absolutely fine by me. I love mornings (see this post if you want to read more on why!) so waking up at 6am on a Saturday or Sunday is generally great. 

But there is a small part of me that relishes slow moving lazy weekend mornings. Our lives are jam packed with obligations (both fun & not so fun) during the work week. We move pretty fast for long, full days. The indulgence of waking up, brewing coffee, warming some homemade scones, and climbing back into my still warm bed to read a book, or the Sunday Tribune, or just talk is almost overwhelming it is so good.

I love the chances I have to slow down and just be. 
Breakfast is bed is one of the times I am lucky to do just that.

For the record, I also love blue pottery mugs. I have started collecting them both at home and when I travel. They make me happy for no good reason.

The scones are Cheddar Chive & Dark Chocolate Dried Cherry;
they are easy riffs on this recipe I shared awhile back. If you want exact measurements or details on how to make these varieties- let me know in the comments!

I hope you have a chance this coming weekend (or week!) to slow down and enjoy some breakfast in bed. I know I am looking forward to it.

The "Uh Oh" Series

I love fixing my mistakes.

Lizzard Loves....the "Uh Oh" series of cards

Obvious, right? Mistakes stink.......fixing them makes you feel a lot better. I also love to make cards, which you likely already knew.

Combining these two loves created the "Uh Oh" series of cards! 

Lizzard Loves....the "Uh Oh" series
Sometimes you forget a birthday. Other times your thank you note is months delayed. There may even be times when you made a mistake in life that warrants a note to apologize for it. Perhaps you forgot your anniversary. Maybe you neglected to acknowledge the birth of a friend's baby. I may or may not have made these mistakes myself.

The beauty part? A handwritten note goes a long way to smooth things over. These particular handwritten notes may also make the offended party giggle.....its next to impossible to hold a grudge if you are giggling!

Let me know if you want to order any of the "Uh Oh" series, it never hurts to have a mistake eraser in your back pocket :)

Snuggle Me

I love my old Snuggle Me tshirt.
Lizzard Loves....this 16 year old shirt
I bought this shirt when I was in high school; lets say I was 16 - because I am quite certain I drove myself (& undoubtedly a woody-station wagon-load of my friends) to a thrift shop. For 1 tiny little quarter I bought the best tshirt ever. Bold statement,? Yes. True? Absolutely.

My Snuggle Me tshirt has been on every major "trip" I've been on .......Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Brazil, Guatemala. Snuggle Me sometimes comes on vacations, but vacations are quite different from trips. A trip is hard work, it takes planning, lots of language barrier hopping, thoughts of safety, and is so worth it. Vacation can happen anyplace, anytime! No plans, no itinerary, no schedule, easy peasy. Snuggle Me is essential on trips, because wearing it is like getting a hug from my best friend. It is akin to my baby blanket; but far more socially acceptable for an adult to travel with a tshirt than a baby blanket, right?

The only problem with Snuggle Me? I am wearing it out. It is virtually see through, there is a serious hole in the back, a new hole forming on the front, and much of its blue-ness has faded to gray.

In swoops my wonderful husband. I recently celebrated my birthday & opened a new pair of pajama pants from Chris. They are lovely & perfect in their own right, but it was the 2nd gift bag in the "theme" that confused me. Chris told me that he needed to have the perfect pajama shirt to go with the new pants, and this is what he found. I opened the gift bag & pulled out Snuggle Me! My facial expression asked him "why did you wrap up my own tshirt for me?" before I could get any words out. Oops. I do not excel in hiding my thoughts & feelings - they tend to hop right out onto my face for all to see.

Only when I shook the folds out of the shirt did I realize it was not Snuggle Me.........there was no gaping hole in the back! It was a "new old Snuggle Me" in Chris' words! The wonders a thoughtful husband & some eBay searching can do! Who knew that Snuggle Me was made in 1983? Chris learned Snuggle Me was about 30 years old in his extensive research online.
Lizzard Loves...her old tshirt (left) and her new old tshirt (right)

I am now doubly comforted by Snuggle Me; because my stress about wearing it out has been alleviated by a back up shirt. Now that I am married, I don't need to rely on my adult version of a baby blanket as much, Chris gives an awful lot of comfort. The fact that he knows I need that tshirt version of a best friend hug & figured out how to offer it to more comforting than any tshirt could ever be.

Friday, June 7, 2013

National Donut Day

I love National Donut Day!
Lizzard Loves....these boys and donuts!

This post is a follow up to an earlier one about just regular old donut day; which in my humble opinion is just as awesome as National Donut Day.

The reason I know today is National Donut Day is because of my earlier post :) It seemed only appropriate to bring 2 of my littlest donut lovers with me to one of my favorite bakeries in Chicago to celebrate this holiday. 

If you live in the Chicagoland area and you haven't been to Dinkel's, allow me to introduce you to one of the most fabulous old school bakeries we have! The atmosphere is great, the service is pretty slow, there is nary a hipster to be seen. If you go on the weekend, they offer the best Maple Bacon donut I've ever had! They do not skimp on the bacon crumbles; nor the maple icing. It is tremendously good! 

I should also mention that my littlest donut fans' favorite is the white fudge with sprinkles....I eat the "bread part" (which is what they call the bottom of the donut) because they only want the icing & sprinkles :) I happen to love the actual donut part of the donut......the little ones; not so much!

Lizzard Loves...Dinkel's Bakery
 I referenced Dinkel's in my last post, but I figured I should give them an official shout out- because I really love the place.

Donuts make me happy. National Donut Day is a wonderful reason to enjoy a great donut! Happy National Donut Day to you all!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Crazy Purple Flowers

 I love these crazy purple flowers.

I don't know what they are called - maybe someone can tell me the comments? I love that they look like purple powder puffs. 

These over sized dandelion looking flowers tower over the other early spring arrivals in Chicago, swaying around in the breeze & seemingly really enjoying their short lived lives.

Goodness knows I enjoy them!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keeping in touch....and an apology

I love staying in touch & keeping in touch with friends & family.

So I need to issue an apology to those of you who are kind enough to reach out to me in the comments on my blog! I am really embarrassed that virtually all of your kind comments went rude can I be??

I hope you keep commenting & I promise I will start responding more quickly (because I just responded to a comment that was OVER A YEAR OLD).

Within 1 week - that is my new promise for any comments to Lizzard Loves.

Sorry again everybody! I want you to know that your comments make me smile, they feel to me like a quick digital postcard (& you all know how much I love mail!), they help me feel like people are connecting to this little project, & they help me to stay in touch with you all. Keep the comments coming & I promise I will reply promptly.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cashew Coconut Cups

I love chocolate.
Lizzard Loves. Ingredients for Dark Chocolate Cashew Coconut Cups
It seems like the most obvious thing you could love, right? As much as I am tempted to be suspicious of those who do not like chocolate.....I can't fault my best friend in the world just because she & all things chocolate do not play nice :) I will admit I am thoroughly surprised when a friend (new or old) admits that they just don't love chocolate. They may as well be speaking to me in Chinese; it is incomprehensible! 
Lizzard Loves  filling like a blob :)

Lizzard Loves...Making the filling
As an indication of my intense love of chocolate, I currently have the following in my pantry milk chocolate, dark chocolate, 72% dark chocolate, semisweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, baking chocolate, cocoa powder, white chocolate, and in my mom's delicious homemade chocolate sauce. What? I told you I love chocolate!

Lizzard Loves cups waiting for the 2nd layer of chocolate

I have been cultivating my love of Pinterest lately too and the recipe I am sharing is adapted from one I found through Pinterest! I made the recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups from Sprouted Kitchen's blog & I really enjoyed their recipe- but I figured there were a few ways I could tweak it & make it better for me! These made a perfect Easter gift for my Dad - who has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know personally. I put 6 in a clear plastic gift bag & tied it shut with baker's twine. Delicious & cute - which is perfect for me (my Dad probably didn't care or notice the cute part.....but whatever :)

I hope you enjoy it the recipe below, let me know in the comments what you think of it- or if you have any additions/adjustments or questions!


Dark Chocolate Cashew Coconut Cups
18 oz dark chocolate (i used 9oz Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate & 9oz Trader Joe's 72% cocoa Dark Chocolate)
1/2 cup natural cashew nut butter (feel 100% free to sub in peanut butter, almond butter, soy nut butter- whatever you like best!)
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut 
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon fine grain/table salt
1/2 teaspoon (or to tastes) fancy schmancy salt - for sprinkling on top *see note below*
24 toasted cashews (approximately 1/2 cup) for topping

1. Break/chop the chocolate into pieces that will fit into your favorite microwave safe bowl.
2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, in 1 minute increments at 50% power until it is totally smooth. Stir in between each burst in the microwave to ensure it is smooth.
3. Line a mini muffin tin with 24 paper liners (don't worry - you don't bake these- the pan is there to ensure a nice shaped candy :)
4. Spoon a generous teaspoon of the chocolate into 3 of the paper liners, then tilt/rock the pan back & forth/around in a circle to help the chocolate coat the sides of the paper. Repeat until you've filled all the cups.
5. Now its time to make the delicious filling! Combine the cashew butter, shredded coconut, honey, powdered sugar, vanilla & coconut extracts, & fine grain salt in a bowl until well mixed.
6. Scoop out a generous teaspoon of the mixture and roll it between your hands to make a little ball. Press down slightly to form a disc & place one in each paper liner (that is now lined with dark chocolate!) Repeat until each cup has a flattened ball of the filling in it.
7. At this stage, you may need to give your chocolate another 1 minute blast in the microwave at 50% power. Do so if the chocolate is not easy to scoop/pour.
8. Time to cover the filling with more chocolate! Another generous teaspoon of teh chocolate should be enough to cover your filling completely- but add more chocolate if you need to!
9. Sprinkle your fancy schmancy salt over the top of your pan, so each chocolate has just a smattering on it.
10. Press 1 cashew into the top of each candy before the chocolate has time to firm up!
11. Allow the chocolates 20-30 minutes to harden, and then enjoy the homemade chocolates!
Lizzard Loves the almost finished product!

I've found that these freeze perfectly well. Put them in a tupperware (or double bag in a ziploc) and freeze for up to 2 months (this is as long as I've been able to wait to eat them....they may keep longer.....but not in my house!). If you're going to eat them within 5-7 days, leave them in a tupperware/ziploc at room temp.

*A note about salt: OK, I realize that sounds so silly- but use whatever the nicest salt you have in your pantry.......I was lucky & received a gift set 2 Christmases ago of 6 different specialty salt- so I use Maldon - a deliciously flaky salt- but sea salt, kosher salt, gray salt, pink salt, in a pinch use the regular table salt- but the texture is vastly improved with your fancy schmancy salts - I promise! You can often find fancy schmancy salts at Homegoods & TJ Maxx at a serious discount.....and since salt by its very nature isn't perishable- I often do that!) 

Lizzard Loves - the final product! Sneak attack- I also tested an almond version!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sara Bareilles

I love Sara Bareilles.
This is a new found love- born out of a ridiculously fun & entertaining show she put on earlier this month at the Park West.

Lizzard Loves....Sara Bareilles playing piano
Things that I completely dug (in no particular order):
~her low key interaction with the audience
~her tour/album called "Brave" - we could all use some encouragement to be more brave
~the 100+ f-bombs she dropped throughout the show 
~her silly quirky self deprecating sense of humor
~the ridiculously awesome songs
~a strange table top accordion like instrument she played while she sang 1 song
~the cover she sang of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" - she knocked it out of the park & made us all laugh at ourselves for our collective inability to whistle
~the facial expressions she made while she sang- like her emotions were drawn onto her face by a cartoonist!

Lizzard Loves....Sara Bareilles singing & joking around
My friend went to the concert venue 2.5 hours before the sold out show started to try to scalp tickets for us. I love the dedication she showed to this concert going effort!! (She had seen Sara Bareilles in concert before- so was far more in love with her/her music than I was). I loved our 4th row center seats & the friendly crowd that made it possible for my friend to save seats for us while still trying to buy a ticket for me!

 I was so happy to be there with a friend, seeing a new found love :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Donut Day

I love donut day.

Not "National Donut Day" (which, thanks to Wikipedia I now know is celebrated annually on the 1st Friday in June......National Donut Day ). Just donut day. As in "its Wednesday & we 
all deserve a delicious treat" day. 

  If possible- I recommend buying your donuts from an old school bakery who makes them fresh each will probably be greeted with a "Hi honey, what can I get you?" and a smile. The fact that the donuts may still be warm with melting icing on top is, well, just icing on top of an already lovely experience. (I love puns too).
Lizzard Loves....Donut Day
I have waxed poetic about my love of the morning (in case you missed it, here is the post Waking Up Early ) so really what could be more perfect than a treat in the morning??My little nephews are all about donuts - something about the sprinkles & frosting in the morning really makes their hearts race! So bringing donuts to the little guys is a double dose of happiness. They shared some donut with their Dad; another satisfied donut lover! Add to that my husband's fondness for the treat I sneaked into his work bag & we really are talking major morning happiness all around!

If only I could figure out how to avoid the inevitable sugar crash.........

Happy Wednesday everyone- hope you have your own donut day soon!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coconut Almond Scones, Coffee and Mail

I love coffee.
Lizzard Loves a surprise gift of coffee
My morning cup(s) of coffee is the best part of my day (and when I say this, I'm only sort of kidding). Each night I set my coffee maker to "delay brew" so it starts the brew cycle 15 minutes before my alarm goes off. This way I get to wake up to the smell of coffee, one of the best smells in the world. Yuuuummmm.

I also love mail. I suppose some weeks I should call it "snail mail" because it can be so darn slow, but I prefer just mail. When I check the mail and our box is chock full of my favorite magazines, maybe a card, or a letter from one of my favorite organizations I am thrilled. It has always seemed like magic to me, the way USPS works (or as the case is now, doesn't work, at least not on a feasible budget.......but I digress). For less than $1, I can get something from my front door to the front door of anyone in the US. Seriously? That seems utterly magical to me.

Cards are my favorite things to get in the mail, I could wax poetic on why I love a handwritten card or note, but it is really quite simple. A handwritten card takes a bit of time, extra time (over a text or an email) and it makes me feel like a friend or a family member was really thinking of me when they sent it. And there is something awesome in my mailbox when I check it! Double bonus!

Lizzard Loves a handwritten card and great coffee
I checked the mail this week & found a PACKAGE! It is not my birth month, it was not sent for any occasion, it was a glorious "just because" gift. A bag of delicious coffee and a handwritten card from one of my favorite friends who lives 5 states away. She shares my love of coffee and the wonderfully cute shop Paper Source (even if you don't have a physical store near you, check out their website. Great gifts, awesome stamps/ink, and obviously a huge selection of paper products) The card was from Paper Source and was covered with French macarons; another thing we both love. Stay tuned for a future post on baking macarons; I haven't perfected it yet, but once I do I'll share the process!

What could be better than a friend who is thoughtful enough to mail you a treat they enjoy & know you will too? The card that accompanied the coffee specified that since we can't sit down & have coffee least we can sit down to the same coffee apart. What a great idea & sentiment from a wonderful friend. I enjoyed some this morning with my newest favorite scone; Coconut Almond. In case you want to rock some of the scones, the recipe follows........

Coconut Almond Scones
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting your work surface
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup unsalted slivered dry toasted almonds (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling (separated)
1 tsp coconut extract (imitation is OK & is cheaper)
turbinado/raw sugar for dusting

1. Preheat your oven to 425 and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use airbake cookie sheets for softer scones, traditional cookie sheets for crisper scones.
2. Place both flours, baking powder, sugar, 1/3 cup coconut & butter into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the mixture is uniform & no pieces of butter remain.
3. Scrape the contents into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 1/3 cup shredded coconut and the slivered almonds. Toss to coat.
4. Mix in the buttermilk & coconut extract; just until the dough comes together.
5. Flour your work surface (counter top, cutting board, whatever you're using!) and turn the dough out.
6. Knead the dough gently a few times and shape into a flat disk. Kneading your dough too much will yield tough scones.....scones should be delicate, not tough :)
7. Sprinkle the dough with turbinado sugar and the extra shredded coconut and press down to ensure the toppings have adhered.
8. Now for the fun part.......cut the dough into whatever shape you desire! I tend toward triangles and I make some miniature & some "normal" size.  I've used a round cookie cutter & also sort of ripped the dough apart to make it look like messy mounds.......they all taste great, its just a matter of what you think looks good!
Lizzard Loves Coconut Almond Scones with coffee
9. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-18 minutes (my oven is old & weak- it usually takes me 20+ minutes, but in my brother & sister in law's new powerful oven it only takes 10-12. As always- you will know your oven better than any recipe- so take a peek at 10 minutes! If they are not done at 10 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom).
10. Let the scones cool on a wire rack and gleefully enjoy them with your favorite coffee.....I know I do!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

I love Irish Soda Bread.
Lizzard Loves homemade Irish Soda Bread
It gives me something to look forward to in the dog days of Chicago winters..... At least this year we've gotten fresh snow pretty frequently. Often in February & March it is cold & gray. Rainy & gray. Gray on gray on gray. Yuck. Buuuuuuuut: warm Irish Soda Bread baking in your over is decidedly not gray! It is a lovely blonde color and the smell. Oh the smell. It is enough to help you forget the gray outdoors!

What exactly is Irish Soda Bread anyway? Well, quick breads use baking soda & an acid to rise vs using yeast. and Irish Soda Bread is a quick-bread. Beyond that I'm going to direct your attention to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (I love that there is a website for everything!)

Yet another reason I love Irish Soda Bread; it is something my Mom made for my Dad when I was a kid. My Mom is the best cook I know and would often make things because she knew my Dad liked them. It was one way I came to learn that cooking for people can be a way to show you love them. I do wonder if that is why I love to cook so much? Because the time, thought & effort I pour into the food is then presented to those I care about. Menus are chosen with an eye for what might please my family, friends & particularly Chris. I often give gifts of food for the same reasons; it is a way for me to show someone I care enough about them to spend the time preparing something just for them. Well, enough of my ramblings.....if you know me or have been reading much of my blog you already know how much I love to cook. Now you know a little bit more about why I love it so much.
Lizzard Loves the ingredients for Irish Soda Bread**

Irish Soda Bread
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp ground flax seed (also called flax meal. You can omit this if you don't feel like buying it; I add it for the omega 3s but also because I've found it helps keep the bread moist if you plan on eating it over the course of several days. Chris & I are not such big eater that we can eat a loaf of bread in 1-2 days, so the extra moisture from the flax helps keep the bread yummy for 3-4 days)
3/4 c raisins (or dried currants/cranberries/cherries. Use what you like!)
1 egg, beaten well
1 c buttermilk, plus more for brushing
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
cornmeal for dusting
Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) for sprinkling

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the bottom of a cast iron pan (or dutch oven) with cornmeal & set it aside.
2. Melt the coconut oil in your microwave and set it aside to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (including the dried fruit. Coating the dried fruit in your flour mixture will help it to "float" in the dough rather than sink to the bottom of your dough!)
4. Add the beaten egg (it is important to beat the egg before your add it to the dough because you risk overworking your dough if you need to break the yolk while mixing it into your dry ingredients. Overworking this dough will give you a tough bread. I do not like my bread tough :) then the buttermilk & melted coconut oil
5. Mix until a dough forms, or all the wet ingredients have been incorporated into the dry.
6. Lightly flour your counter, or a cutting board and turn the dough out onto it.
7. Fold/gently knead as little as possible until the dough comes together
8. Place in the cast iron skillet or dutch oven, brush with buttermilk & sprinkle with the turbinado sugar (go crazy if you like it to be sweet, go light or omit entirely if you'd like the bread to be less sweet) I think the sugar/buttermilk combo gives a nice crunch/crustiness to the top of the loaf so I always include it.
9.Bake for 45 minutes or until the edges are beginning to brown
10. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
11. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, ideally with a cup of coffee and some melting butter (on the bread, not in your coffee ;) Admittedly that is my ideal........I suppose a cup of tea would be much more authentic......but I don't love tea like I love coffee. Such is life.

Lizzard Loves homemade Irish Soda Bread toast & coffee
**Please don't judge.......I forgot to put the flax & turbinado sugar in the photo! I love blogging; but I had already begun to prepare the bread when I realized I omitted those ingredients & I didn't have the energy to go back & redo it

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Curry Fried Rice......& quinoa too

I love Curry Fried Rice.
Lizzard Loves....Curry Fried Quinoa
Chris & I have a standing Friday date night which hinges upon 2 things we both love:
1. WTTW's Check, Please! (if you've never watched it you are missing out on easily one of the best free things Chicago has to offer! WTTW is one of Chris & my favorite stations - its quite easy to have a favorite when you only get 5 or 7 channels on any given day; but that is not in anyway meant to diminish the love we share for WTTW specifically & PBS more broadly!)
2. The hole in the wall Thai place we frequent, New Thai Kitchen
 (our top favorite things we love about it: 1. the couple who owns & runs it are incredibly friendly and warm. Sometimes their kids are there to help out. I love family owned businesses. 2. If you order online & eat piggish amounts of food; they reward you with more food for free. I love free food, particularly of the delicious variety. 3. Their Curry Fried Rice - it is terrific.)

Sounds like somebody went & got old doesn't it?!?! Well, you're right; we did. We stay in on every Friday we can (gasp!) and we love it (double gasp!!)

Chris and I decided to give up meat for Lent this year, which has been going really well. Who knew how much fun I would have trying out new vegetarian recipes? I did not anticipate enjoying this as much as I have been. We continue to eat fish & all things dairy; but bid adieu to poultry, pork & beef. I had never (until last week that is) prepared tofu at home; I don't dislike it, but a meat option always seemed easier (probably because I knew how to prepare it, what to expect, how long it would take, etc etc). But taking this vegetarian road less traveled led me to this simple tofu recipe 
Lizzard Loves.....all the tofu ingredients
I made the marinade in the morning, sliced & pressed the tofu & let it have a workday long bath in the marinade in my fridge. The recipe recommends turning the tofu in the marinade; I didn't - because I was a few miles away at work & the end product was still delicious.
This is all a long lead in to why I was motivated to try my hand at making curry fried rice at home. I found a basic recipe here (and from a PBS food blog........WTTW happens to be the Chicago affiliate of PBS.....see above for my love of WTTW). I had purchased ingredients I like in fried rice before I found a specific recipe & none of them were called I adapted the recipe to fit my taste. 
Lizzard tofu a marinade bath :)
I had a bit of a hiccup when I realized that the rice I had planned to use in this recipe had gone rancid in my pantry. You may have guessed that we do not prepare a lot of rice in our home & you would've guessed right! It takes a looooooong time for rice in an air tight container to go bad. How long? I'm not sure because I honestly can't remember the last time I made rice at home! Rancid rice was going to be a quick way to ruin my fried rice I took a leap of faith & prepared mine with quinoa instead. Quinoa never has a chance to go bad in our pantry; we eat an awful lot of quinoa around here!

We both loved the dinner and have been pleasantly surprised by our new vegetarian diets, however temporary they may be. Here is my version of curry fried rice: 
Lizzard Loves....the ingredients for Curry Fried Quinoa

Curry Fried Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
10 baby carrots, finely diced (or 1.5 full carrots. I just never have full sized carrots in my fridge anymore!)
2 c snow peas, sliced in half on the bias/diagonally (I think this is prettiest, you could just cut them in half! It makes it much easier to eat the meal if you cut them somehow though :) 
1 1/2 c bean sprouts
4 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dry quinoa yields approximately 4 cups cooked)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hot madras curry powder
scant 1 tbsp plain curry powder
1-2 tbsp water (as needed)
2 scallions, white & light green parts only, thinly sliced into rounds 

1.  Chop. chop. chop. Prepare all the veggies (as well as the quinoa if you don't have any leftovers to use) first. Once you start cooking, the pan will need your undivided attention because you are cooking at a high heat.
2. Beat the eggs vigorously with a fork in a bowl.
3. Heat half the oil in a large non stick saute pan (or- if you have the luxury of owning a wok & the implied luxury of a kitchen/home big enough to store it - use the wok!) over high heat. Add the eggs & scramble them with a spatula (taking care to break the eggs into small pieces. No one wants a huge bite of egg in their fried quinoa!) Once they are just barely cooked; remove them from the pan.
4. Add the other half of oil to your still hot pan, swirl it to coat the pan, then add the onions & carrots. Stir fry until the carrots are cooked/tender. The amount of time this will take varies based on the size of your dice :) The smaller the pieces, the quicker they cook.
5. Add the garlic to the pan and stir fry until fragrant, less than 1 minute (don't over cook the garlic; it will scorch & turn bitter if you do :(
6. Add the quinoa & snow peas, stir fry until the quinoa is hot.
7. Sprinkle both curry powders over your pan along with the soy sauce. If the stir fry seems too dry, add water 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the desired moisture level.
8. Add the bean sprouts, cooked eggs, and scallions and stir to combine.
9. Taste test (one of the best parts of cooking) and add salt & pepper as desired.
10. Open a bottle of lightly sweet white wine, or a delicious IPA (my choice was Deviant Dale's IPA.......sometimes you just need a tall boy after you cook a great meal :) Enjoy your quinoa with the tofu you may have also prepared, or just on its own. Its great either way.
Lizzard Loves....a delicious IPA and dinner!
PS- I also love when my friends start wonderfully fun businesses! The koozie is compliments of a favorite small business of mine, Let's Bev, Check them out - you won't be sorry!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mother Daughter Book Club

I love my Mother Daughter Book Club.

We have been meeting for 5 years, which is incredibly hard to believe. I seem to be having the "time flies" feeling a lot lately (when I look at it as "time flies when you're having fun" I love it; when I look at it as "I'm getting older - fast" I don't love it. It just depends on the day I suppose!)

The amount of laughter we share every time we meet is immense- the mothers have all known each other for 30 some odd years and the daughters have, in large part, been friends for their entire lives. I count myself so lucky to have the chance to regularly see my Mom & her friends, right alongside the younger generation of my friends. The 30 years of friendship means we share a lot of memories of our growing up years which were rife with silliness, misadventures, multi family trips to Boyne Highlands, MI, countless hours spent in each others homes, backyards, basements & kitchens. Depending on the book that was chosen (and how many people started and/or finished it) we may skip over the book discussion entirely. Other times, we can't stop talking about the book. Perhaps we should call it Mother Daughter Club....with books, wine & food!

"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn was our most recent book club pick (freaky book - not my favorite. Compelling for sure- but FREAKY). We met in the suburbs, we do try to alternate between city and suburbs for our meetings which seems like a fair way to do it for our group which is slightly geographically challenged :) Kristi made a delicious dinner for us! An antipasta platter with wine when we arrived, Greek yogurt marinated chicken with a delicious green salad & couscous on the side for dinner (also with wine....) and brownies for dessert......because who doesn't like a brownie at the end of a meal? Everyone at book club loved the meal & Kristi was gracious enough to share the recipe with all of us immediately by making photocopies. I loved the instant gratification. 

I hope you enjoy the chicken, let me know in the comments if you try it! Also let me know what your thought of "Gone Girl" if you read that.

Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken Recipe
2 tsp dried crushed red pepper (feel free to add more if you like a higher spice level)
2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 c plain greek yogurt (whole, 2% or fat free are fine) plus more for serving on the chicken
3T extra virgin olive oil
2T red wine vinegar
2T tomato paste
2T warm water
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground or cracked black pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed or pressed
2 lemons, 1 sliced into thin rounds, 1 cut into wedges for serving alongside the chicken
2 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs

1. In a medium bowl stir together the red pepper, paprika & warm water to form a thin paste.
2. Add the yogurt, olive oil, tomato paste, salt, pepper & garlic. Whisk to blend.
3. Place chicken and thinly sliced lemon rounds into a gallon sized zip top bag and pour the contents of your bowl (your delicious marinade) into the bag.
4. Squeeze most of the air out of the bag & zip it closed.
5. Now the fun begins; squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the marinade - ensuring all of the pieces of chicken are coated as evenly as possible.
6. The fun is over & it is time to wait........put the bag-o-chicken in the refrigerator for at least an hour or as long as 24 hours (I commend you if you have prepped tomorrow night's dinner tonight! Rare are the nights that I can accomplish this!)
7.** Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
8. Place the chicken in a single layer in a glass baking dish and sprinkle with kosher salt & Hungarian paprika
9. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees. (I realize that line sounds pretty serious & a little lame- but the idea of serving my husband or myself undercooked chicken gives me the heebie jeebies! I live & breath by my instant read thermometer when I'm cooking meat at home. I like to think I'm a decent cook - but I don't yet trust myself to determine the doneness of meat; especially chicken. The thermometer is the closest I will ever come to having X-Ray vision.........and if you think of it that way - it doesn't seem serious or lame :)
10. Discard your bag-o-leftover marinade.
11. Serve your delicious chicken with the lemon wedges and a bowl of the plain Greek yogurt as the sauce. A couscous or quinoa makes a great side dish  - particularly if it involves pine nuts, feta cheese, parsley........yum. Pasta would be fine on the side too- really whatever suits you.
** Allegedly you can also grill this chicken. I don't own a grill (not for lack of wanting to grill, but for lack of space in my condo for one :) so I don't really know what to tell you for instructions to grill this. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

King Cake

I love King Cake.
LizzardLoves.Beautiful, yummy, surprise King Cake

Pretty sure it stems from my school age years of taking French classes at school (and always participating in French Club). King Cake was a consistent part of the Mardi Gras/Carnival celebrations in my French classes and clubs.

This particular King Cake came via FedEx from 2 great friends who live in New Orleans. Chris and I got home from work and lo and behold, a big FedEx box was waiting for us! Oh my goodness a sparkling green, purple, & yellow circular cake was hiding inside! A fun and delicious surprise for us midweek.

LizzardLoves.KingCake.Slice with Baby
More importantly; I love thoughtfulness when it comes from people who (in theory) shouldn't have enough time or brain space to be thoughtful. Our friends who live in New Orleans are expecting their first baby (a BOY!) any day now (well0 tomorrow at the latest!)........I can't imagine how they are feeling - excited, nervous, and busy! It made my heart very happy to know that Chris & I were on their minds in some small way even in such an exciting time for their growing family.

And the cake was delicious- did I mention that already?? 

In case you're curious about the history of the King Cake, read this (I also love that I donated to Wikipedia this year.....I feel a lot better about reading their content constantly :): if you want to send your unsuspecting friends a King Cake, visit Sucre's website
Happy eating everyone.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kids' art

I love the artwork my nephews & niece make for me.

It is so funny to see what their little minds are thinking (via crayons, paint, colored pencils, etc) and it absolutely warms my heart to hear my oldest nephew say "Aunt Lizzy, this one is for you to take home & show Uncle Chris". 

The little man loves the fingerpaints his "Bo Bo" (aka my mom, his Grandma) gave him & wants to play with them all the time. Now that he's in preschool he's been giving the paintings as gifts every now & again.

LizzardLoves.My nephew's fingerpainting

LizzardLoves.My niece's really funny drawing & explanation
Being an aunt is just awesome, I guess you could also say I love being an aunt.

In case you can't read the "explanation" page that came in the envelope from our niece (who lives on the east coast) here is what it says:
"Uncle Chris
Favorite Animal Moose
Favorite color green
Middle name Brian"

We assumed this was part of a school project or larger wasn't! Our niece just got the idea to draw these pictures & send the details along with them. We have had this hanging on the fridge for months. Its awesome.

Happy Monday everyone, hope you have some kiddo art hanging on your fridge today!

PS- yes, I hung my nephew's painting on the fridge with magnets I made out of beer bottle caps I wanted to Hope that isn't too much of a contrast!