Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

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!