Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homemade Cookies - Favorite Recipe Included!

Lizzard Loves homemade cookies.
Lizzard Loves the pools of melty chocolate
these cookies are filled with!
I mean, who doesn't?!? Is there anything better than a plate of fresh baked, homemade cookies? I would argue there is not. Cookies are my favorite sweet treat, I like them in (almost) every form: chubby, chewy, crunchy, soft, plain & chock full of extras.

Store bought cookies for SURE have their place; they can be abundantly delicious. This brand is my top notch favorite for store bought. A good bakery cookie is hard to beat; if you live in the Chicagoland area; this bakery is worth a pilgrimage as is this one (get the Florentines & smiley face cookies at the first, the bulk cookies by the pound at the second). This post isn’t about store bought cookies though. Store bought cookies don’t take thought, time, or effort. They also don’t make your house smell like heaven.

Homemade cookies matter because they communicate so much goodness in their perfect little smash up of flour, butter & sugar. Homemade cookies tell people you care about them. Homemade cookies tell people they are worth your time. Homemade cookies convey a sense of comfort few other foods do.

“But Liz”, you say, “I don’t have the time to make a batch of cookies every time someone needs a pick me up, congratulations, birthday treat” and I would agree with you. You are busy, you have a job, a family, obligations at church, perhaps you go to school, you volunteer, you blog, you create art, you watch shows,  go on dates, plan playdates, make lunches, have adventures. All these things are wonderful & meaningful uses for your time!

My challenge to you is; find a chunk of time, early in the morning, late at night, whenever. It doesn’t matter. Prepare a double or triple batch of cookie dough and FREEZE it! I’ve included links to some of my favorite recipes below. Once you’ve made the dough, stretch a long piece of plastic wrap out on your counter (leave it attached to the box – don’t tear it off yet – its sooooo hard to handle a loose piece of plastic wrap. That stuff sticks to everything) & thwap a big hunk of dough onto it. Fold the plastic wrap over the mound of dough & use it to flatten it and shape it into a rough disk shape. Tear the plastic wrap from the box & wrap the dough tightly. Now wrap it again. Repeat 4 times for a double batch, or 6 times for a triple batch of dough. These disks do not need to be uniform; they do not need to be perfect. They do need to be double wrapped tightly in plastic. Using a permanent marker, write out the baking instructions for the cookies on the outside of a zip top freezer bag (oven temperature & baking time at least) so when you come back to the dough you don’t need to go searching for the cookie recipe to remember what to do with it. To prevent your future cookies from tasting like your freezer, slide the entire bag into another freezer bag.

If you find yourself with extra time on your dough making day (extra time for the first time since you got the job, had the baby, started your business), feel free to shape the dough into balls and freeze on a cookie sheet. After a few hours they are frozen enough to dump into a zip top bag (that you still should label with baking instructions…… yourself that favor!). It is just a question of, do you have those extra minutes on dough making day or on baking day. 110% up to you.

Now the fun part; it is your friend’s birthday & you want to make her a treat. You don’t have time to drag out all the ingredients & tools necessary to make a batch of cookies. You might just have the time to pull one of your dough disks out of the freezer, let it sit on the counter for 20-40 minutes (until it is soft enough to form into balls) and bake. I use a mini ice cream scoop for the most uniform size/shape cookies. If you line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, you will only need to wash the ice cream scoop – no sink full of dishes, no countertop covered in flour, no muss, no fuss. I’ll give you extra points if you let your dough defrost overnight in the fridge so it feels like less waiting.

So dear friends. Get that mixer out & dust it off. Make an epic batch of cookie dough every now & again to be prepared to bring homemade awesomeness wherever you go. You won’t be sorry. I promise. Oh, also, this method provides you with the steady supply of frozen cookie dough you’ve always wanted. Maybe that’s just me. But just in case it’s not; you’re welcome.

This recipe has, over the course of the past 5ish years, become my absolute, hands down favorite. I have, in that time, tweaked it, adjusted it & in my humble opinion, perfected it! I hope you make and enjoy these as much as I do!

Salted Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from Real Simple
Makes approximately 50 cookies (enough to stock your freezer for future use!)
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2 cups bread flour (or all purpose if you don’t have bread)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons flaky sea salt (Maldon works well, sub in Kosher if you don’t have anything flaky)
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
½ cup coconut oil (warmed to a very soft state, liquid is fine but let it cool to room temp so you don’t melt your butter!)
½ cup turbinado sugar* (raw sugar)
½ cup coconut sugar*
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 large air bake baking sheets with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Set aside.
3. Beat the butter, coconut oil & all 3 sugars with an electric mixer (or stand mixer with the paddle attachment) on medium high for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.
5. Reduce your mixer speed to low and gradually add your flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Don’t overmix or you risk your cookies being tough, not chewy.
6. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
7. Using a mini ice cream scoop, drop rounded mounds of dough onto the lined baking sheets, spacing them approximately 2 inches apart. I fit 16 cookies per sheet on my baking sheets. This dough does not spread too much.
8. Sprinkle the dough balls with the remaining 2 teaspoons of flaky salt.
9. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets before sliding the cookies (on the parchment) onto cooling racks.

*If you don’t have these types of sugar in your pantry, you can substitute granulated white sugar. I like the taste/texture the raw sugar/coconut sugar combination gives the cookies. I’ve made them many times with granulated sugar & they are quite delicious as well!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Delicious, Homegrown & Homemade Food

Lizzard Loves delicious homegrown and homemade food.

This week has been full of deliciousness all the way around it. Celebrated Lynn's birthday at the Lake with Mom, Lynn (obviously), Marg & the Hennie chicky. Ate deliciousness at every turn including brunch at Simple Cafe (favorite, favorite, favorite restaurant at the Lake), donuts from Do-Rite Donuts (they were a sweet treat bonus from me since they are located almost too conveniently a couple doors down from our doctor!), flourless chocolate cake from Simple Bakery, etc etc etc. We don't cook on our girls "weekends" which are always during the week - eating out is the name of the game! 

Which is why I was THRILLED beyond measure to come home to this:
Camilla's homegrown arugula
Delicious, nutritious, perfect arugula grown by Camilla in her community garden plot. Breakfast for dinner was on the menu the night I got home - the arugula was sauteed down with olive oil and mixed with scrambled eggs and assorted leftover grilled veggies. Perfection. And a bit of a detox after the wonderfully indulgent birthday celebrating.

Also was uber excited to discover 2 of my tomato plants ripened fruit while I was away! My bumper crop of 5 tomatoes was my biggest harvest to date. I was thrilled. I might add that these are cherry tomatoes......SunGold and Zebra Cherry......5 is not a lot......but they were DELICIOUS! I'm still new to the whole growing your own food thing. It does not take much to blow my hair back!
My Zebra Cherries on the vine
I hid out indoors yesterday to stay out of the insane heat wave heat we're having. What to do while hiding out indoors? Crank up the oven & make the AC really work. Environmentally friendly, not at all. But I'm afraid it had to be done! Blueberry Coconut Muffins (adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe) were on the menu! Some went to our neighbors who recently lost one of their moms. Some went to Christina with her bread delivery today. Some went to Laura & little Lizzie because they stopped by! 
Blueberry Coconut Muffin explosion
Cheese & Pepper bread required another oven crank today......but it was a loaf for CC & Adam who have family in from England. I'm willing to heat up the kitchen if they are willing to fly oven the ocean ;) Happiness overwhelmed me when I was gifted some indulgent buttermilk cheddar chive biscuits that CC baked. They became the base for breakfast/brunch for Chris & me today. Toasted the biscuits in the oven, scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach and built my most delectable breakfast samby to date. 

Egg sambies on Christina's biscuits
My cup runneth over with delicious this week. I am particularly grateful for the homegrown & homemade delicious that came my way!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mother's Day Brunch - recipe included

Lizzard Loves thinking she published this post 3 months ago! Oops!

Lizzard Loves Mother's Day. 

Lizzard also loves brunch! Put the 2 together and I am quite happy indeed!

This year I was finally able to make good on my theory that Moms should NOT cook on Mother's Day! In years past, I've been living (like a normal adult does) in my own place away from my parents. This year though, Chris & I have been leeching on my parents & living with them while the house we bought is renovated. Logistically speaking - this is the PERFECT year to prepare brunch for the Moms! 

My Mom & her best friend Lynn have traditionally celebrated the holiday together, along with their families, always in/near the town where they live. Seeing as how I have not been living in the same house, let alone town, in the past years - I have not been able to make & transport the entire meal to them. So this year I put on my stubborn hat & refused any/all offers of help with brunch!

I am so thankful the meal went off without a hitch! I started preparing on Wednesday with grocery shopping round 1 (there were rounds 2,3 & 4 giving the items I needed & how quickly they would spoil). Friday was flower arranging & table setting with a bit of food prep thrown in. Saturday was all cooking for about 7 hours. I love cooking, especially for the people I love, so it was really a day well spent. 

Mother's Day went smoothly! My Mom & Lynn both had portions of their kids/grandkids represented at the table; though they would've preferred to have all of their kids/grandkids present - some is better than none :) Hooray for one of the only meals I've hosted that the timing was spot on. All the food was ready/hot at the same time (which was 30 minutes after the guests arrived - giving everyone enough time to settle in- but not enough time to be hungry enough to gnaw off their own arms).

The menu included the following:
Turtle scones (chocolate, caramel, pecan)
Pecan rolls (mini cinnamon rolls with pecans)
Peggy Malone's Breakfast Casserole (see below for the recipe)
Hash Brown Casserole
Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (click to order from Belle Plaine Bread)
Plaine Old White Bread (click to order from Belle Plaine Bread)
Cheese & Pepper Bread (click to check out Belle Plaine Bread on Facebook)
Chocolate Covered Strawberries 
Everyday Chocolate Cake (click for the recipe from Smitten Kitchen) with chocolate whipped cream

Peggy Malone's Breakfast Casserole

This is a recipe from my sister in law,Tara's, mom Peggy. Thank you so much for sharing it with us Peggy - I've made it approximately a zillion times :)

1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Sauté sausage in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until brown and cooked through, breaking up with back of fork into small pieces, about 10 minutes. Add shallots and garlic and sauté 3 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and 2 tablespoons parsley; stir 1 minute. Spread sausage mixture in prepared dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Whisk eggs, egg yolks, half and half, whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and salt in large bowl to blend well. Pour egg mixture over sausage mixture in dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley over. Bake until top of casserole is golden brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes let rest 5 minutes before serving.

What are your favorite brunch recipes? I wish brunch was an everyday meal, not just a weekend/special occasion meal! Hope you enjoyed your Mother's Day with the special Moms in your life!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Perfect homemade iced coffee

Lizzard Loves the perfect glass of homemade iced coffee.

Sometimes your Sunday needs a bit of a pick me up to keep it rolling...and its summer and it is approaching afternoon and you are hot and want to cool down. Enter homemade iced coffee. By this point in the day your pot of morning coffee has cooled off, so just add iced and your favorite milk and sweetener.

My preference is a ton of ice cubes, vanilla coconut milk and about a teaspoon of good old granulated white sugar. I stir it a ton to help the sugar dissolve.

I find the swirls the coconut milk makes in the coffee to be just wonderful.

Insert straw & enjoy!