Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Year, New Friday Plan + Lentil Soup Recipe

Lizzard Loves plans!

I love lists, New Year's resolutions, goals, big ideas, schedules.........there's a major part of me that is type A ;)

My plan for 2018 (going forward anyway..........because I just cooked up this plan this week.........) is to do a weekly post on Friday with a few things that I'm grateful for, or happy about, or made me laugh. Just some goodness to head into the weekend thinking about! I hope it is a plan I can stick to, I used to keep a grateful journal, but have fallen out of the habit. In many ways this is an appealing new take on my old habit! Please always feel free to tell me in the comments what is making you happy, has you laughing, or has you thanking your lucky stars. I find the more goodness that I put out into the world, the more it comes back to me too!

So here goes!

1. Best friend dinner parties
I am so grateful that I have 2 best friends who I've known since birth (they are a year older/wiser/cooler than me). Our Moms are friends, our siblings grew up together & we are as thick as thieves even now that we are theoretically all grown up. Last night they came over with their plus ones (who are both simply wonderful people too, I suppose not shockingly) and we had a simple meal of soup, salad & bread. We had candles burning, wine open, a fire in the fireplace & so many laughs. Cody brought appetizers & sweets, Stacey brought a million yummy beers, and we all talked and ate and relaxed until almost midnight. You know that I don't stay up late if you've been reading my blog at all. I am a morning person through & through. In this case though, I had no idea it had gotten so late - we were having such a great time. So, insert happy grateful sigh here. What a fun night we had.

2. Lentil Soup (recipe at the end of the post)
I have been on a MAJOR soup kick since the start of 2018. I've made 5 different soups and the Lentil I've made 3 times! Last night I made a giant triple batch of it.........we really like this soup! It is simple, doesn't require crazy ingredients, is vegan, gluten free, nut free if you've got people in your life who need those things (though I am hard pressed to think of a soup that has This recipe was generously shared by my neighbor - I texted her asking for it & she made a copy from the cookbook & dropped it in my mailbox without ringing the bell in case the Lulu bug was napping! My neighbors make me happy all the time, their generosity, thoughtfulness & kindness seems limitless. I've adapted the recipe to meet my tastes/preferences - I hope you try it & love it as much as we do!

She loves oranges :)

So random, I get it. But we shifted the way we were feeding our little one solids from the traditional spoon fed purees to Baby Led Weaning (more info here on Wikipedia). Why did we switch? Lulu seemed completely disinterested in food/didn't enjoy mealtime/rejected the spoon & whatever was on it. The only times she seemed happy at mealtimes were when I'd let her gum a segment of clementine or suck on an apple I was eating. I had only loosely heard of BLW so obviously did what you do........Googled it! 
Hehehe, black beans were fun to feed!

The premise is to give your 6 month or older baby soft foods in spear shapes so they can grab the food & eat what they want. They learn to chew (in our case anyway) before they have teeth, they make a mess & generally have a ball. Its not for everyone - as your baby learns to eat, they gag & cough to keep food out of their airway. Others have told me they couldn't handle that part of the puzzle. I found reading up on it to be reassuring & helpful - gagging is good! They are learning how much food they can handle & how far back in their mouth it can go! Choking is, on the other hand, bad (duh). Thankfully we have not had any issues with the silent terror that is choking since Lulu started eating this way. This is all a REALLLLLLLLLLLLY long way of telling you that I am SO happy with this way of feeding our daughter. She likes meal time, she reaches for food, she enjoys it. I LOVE FEEDING HER. Again, if you've read my blog at all, you know how much I love food & cooking, so I was really looking forward to starting solid food with our firstborn. It was such a disappointment for me (& her I think!). Needless to say, this continues to make great sense for our family & I'm so glad I tried it.

4. Homemade mochas
Because winter. Because coffee all day. Because chocolate!

Because I can bake cookies for a mom friend whose nanny quit with zero notice. Because she needs something to smile about.

So much chocolate.So much salt. Swoon.

6. Dinner dropped off
Another neighbor dropped off dinner last Friday. Why? Because we had a baby 9 months ago. It was amazing. Both the gesture & the food itself. Not only dinner, but also a gift for Lulu. This is a woman who I know because we see each other out on the sidewalk walking our dogs. She is always friendly & was quite kind to me during my pregnancy. She wanted to apologize for the dinner being so late, as she put it "I know Lulu is about to go to college" :) But honestly - it was almost more appreciated coming when it did!! We didn't have any expectation that we were in line for anymore delicious neighbor provided meals - it came as a complete, total & welcome surprise! Bottom line; if you are considering making a friend/neighbor/coworker/family member dinner for any occasion - do it. The recipient will love it no matter when it comes.

7. Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.
I am making this my theme of 2018. I will have fun and make plans and get together with friends and invite people over despite nothing being perfect or finished! There will always be laundry, dirty dishes, dust bunnies (who are we kidding, dust monsters), a barking dog & general messes everywhere. That doesn't mean I have to stay home to deal with them - or can't invite people over to hang in spite of them! Things are not going to be perfect in 2018 - but they are absolutely going to be good - likely even great :)

Lentil Soup Recipe
Adapted from "The Vegetarian Feast"
Serves 4 (easily doubled or tripled so you have some for your freezer!)
1-2 T Olive Oil (a heavy glug to coat the bottom of your soup pot)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 c dried lentils, washed (I used organic green ones from the bulk bins at Whole Foods)
2 bay leaves
2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock (obviously not vegan if you use chicken stock)
2-3 tsp sea salt or kosher salt (or more to taste - if your stock is not labeled low sodium, you probably want to start out with 1 tsp and add more at the end if you need it!)
1-2 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
1. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed soup pot or cast iron dutch oven over medium heat
2. Add the onion, carrots & celery and saute 5-6 minutes, until the veggies begin to soften
3. Add 1/2 of the garlic and the dried spices and cook another 3-5 minutes until the veggies are soft and the onions are translucent
4. Stir in the lentils, stock, & bay leaves
5. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes
6. Add the salt & the remaining garlic and continue simmering another 30 minutes-1 hour until the lentils are tender
7. Remove the bay leaves and discard
8. Carefully remove approximately 1/2 of the soup from the pot (I use a large bowl & scoop out the soup) and set aside
9. Using an immersion blender (if you have one) blitz the soup in the pot until no veggies or lentils are visible. This step ensures a thick & creamy soup - if you skip this step, you soup will be more brothy....not my preference! If you don't have an immersion blender, let the soup cool & carefully pour into the pitcher of a regular blender. Please please please don't do this with piping hot soup. You are asking for a soup explosion in your kitchen and a burnt face!! 
10. Return the un-blended soup to the pot (& the blended soup if you used a regular blender), taste & add more salt & pepper as needed. If the soup seems to thin, boil it for a few minutes uncovered to allow some liquid to evaporate. Just make sure to stir it frequently so it doesn't scorch on the bottom.
11. Enjoy with crusty bread (maybe Belle Plaine Bread)& friends & wine!  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Christmas 2017

Lizzard Loves Christmas!

Merry (verrrrrry belated) Christmas to you & yours. I hope that you found joy & peace in the holiday season this year. I don't always, so I get it if this is a time of stress and vague (or profound) sadness. I'm hoping it was a wonderful time for you & yours this year.

Some highlights from our (seemingly) weeks of Christmas celebrating:

Lulu's 1st Christmas Eve morning at home

Christmas jammies

Mulled wine

Hot drinks all season long

Our town's Christmas tree

CTA Holiday Train - our first ride!

CTA Holiday Train - quite holly jolly!

Neighborhood Christmas Caroling
Neighborhood Christmas Caroling - all the kiddos 


BoBo reading Christmas books

Cheers to 41 years of Mom & Dad's marriage!

Lulu's 1st visit to the Wonderland Express train exhibit at the Botanic Gardens

Lulu's 1st visit to the Wonderland Express train exhibit at the Botanic Gardens

Chris' annual batch of homemade eggnog (& Christmas socks)

Ready for her first cookie exchange 
Do you think she's excited to be with her cousin at a party?? 

Lulu's 1st Christmas morning in Philly

Lulu's 1st Christmas morning!

Lulu's 1st Christmas morning!

Lulu's 1st Christmas morning!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Frigid temps call for a group hug

Lizzard Loves group hugs.

And the Lincoln Park Zoo. Especially at 9:30 on a FREEZING cold weekday morning. I love how quiet & empty the zoo is before the buildings open in the winter. I love that I got to see this huddle of Japanese snow monkeys.

Sometimes you just need a photo of monkeys hugging.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Productive mornings & a veggie stew recipe

Lizzard Loves productive mornings.

Even more so now that I'm a mom, I find the days when I accomplish a lot early on to be so incredibly satisfying.
Lizzard Loves delicious vegetarian meals

This morning I took this photo at 8:30. I had made my first ever batch of "from scratch" cornbread (using this recipe from King Arthur Flour) and also made a giant pot of vegetarian stew. One of my New Year's resolutions for 2018 is to seek out & prepare more vegetarian meals at home, in an effort to explore new recipes and lower our meat consumption simultaneously.

The stew recipe is from the Chicago Tribune, here are a couple of photos of it (because I don't want to spend my precious alone time minutes while the baby sleeps typing a recipe :)
 In case you are paying close attention.........I didn't bake the stew with cheese on top because 90% of the double batch I made was destined for our freezer. My preference is to add the cheese when we defrost & warm this dish rather than before freezing it.

Cheers to a New Year & many adventures to come in 2018!