Tag Archives: food

Cherry Almond Angel Cake

cherry almond cakeLast week I had a couple of friends over for “Christmas” lunch. I made an orange pomegranate prosecco cocktail, Ina Garten’s split pea soup, a salad, and this cake. Isn’t it cheerful?

It’s a Cherry Almond Angel Cake and it’s basically a doctored box mix cake. I read about this cake many years ago on a blog I can’t find anymore*. She made the cake based off a Betty Crocker recipe and she made hers in two loaf pans. I wrote down the recipe and all these years later, I finally tried it. It’s so fun. My cherry “glaze” was more of a frosting, but it was really delicious so I’m not complaining.

Cherry Almond Angel Cake

1 box angel food cake mix (Betty Crocker gets my mom’s stamp of approval, so that’s what I used.)

1 1/4 cups cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (One tiny 10 ounce jar will be plenty for this recipe, with a few leftovers for a Manhattan or two!)

 

Make sure your oven rack is at the lowest level possible and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, and almond extract on low for 30 seconds. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

Fold in cherries.

Pour into an tube cake pan. DO NOT GREASE YOUR PAN! (Also, do not use a non-stick pan!)

Bake for 37-47 minutes until the top is very dry, cracking, and dark golden brown. If the top is still sticky, the cake is not done.

When done, remove from oven and turn over onto a glass bottle. (If you don’t have a glass bottle on hand–this isn’t 1950–you can set your pan on top of 2-3 cans. The important thing is that the cake cools upside down.) Let the cake cool completely. When the cake is cooled, run a knife along the edges of the pan to remove it.

Cherry Glaze

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) of maraschino cherry juice

Full disclosure, I broke my hand mixer making this glaze. The hand mixer was pretty old, but also, apparently 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice were more like wall putty than a nice, glossy glaze. I finished the glaze by hand, with a spoon and ended up using 5 tablespoons of juice and still, my glaze was pretty thick. Start with 2 1/2 tablespoons and add as you go, 1/2 tablespoon at a time to be safe. When it’s the right consistency, drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake

Decorate the cake with extra maraschino cherries and beam at your work like a 1950s housewife.

Three things: Wouldn’t this cake be so cute for Valentine’s Day? I’m going to make it again for a Valentine karaoke party we’re going to next month. And, if you aren’t a frosting person, I always think angel food cakes are delicious on their own. Maybe slightly less cute, but delicious still. Lastly, if you’re interested, the box mix has instructions for making your angel food in two loaf pans. One for yourself, and one for a gift.

 

*Maybe you’ve read this blog? The woman lived in Champaign, Illinois. She was married, had a corgi, and she made quilts and doilies to show at fairs. She also had an etsy shop where she sold a pattern for aprons made of pillow cases.

 

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Christmas Dinner with Julia Child

Christmas tree 2017, Costco tree, colored lights. I didn’t get a good shot of the tree this year with the presents all around it, but here it is, dropping some needles due to dryness and Presley’s hourly visits to drink from the tree stand. (I know, I know…it’s not good for her but seriously, she’s been drinking tree water for all of her years…)winter sun cocktail, breakfast cocktailThis year, we didn’t make our Christmas voyage to Mitsuwa. I was tired of having to shower and get ready and battle weird weather and traffic on Christmas Day. So this year we stayed home in our pajamas and opened presents and made breakfast and a morning cocktail. We made the Winter Sun, and it is seriously the perfect breakfast cocktail. So citrusy and tart, perfect for a winter morning. Don’t skip the citrus sugared rim or the rosemary. Julia Child's beef bourguignon, Mastering the art of french cooking, Julia Child, beef stewThen we spent most of the afternoon and evening making Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. We wanted to try a new recipe and something kind of complicated, so we picked beef bourguignon. We watched the original episode of The French Chef where Julia makes the dish and we were enchanted with her easygoing personality and cooking flair. Her show really highlights the tips about browning the meat and sautéing the mushrooms. We felt like we learned more in that thirty minutes than we have in all our years of watching the Food Network! (We don’t really watch anymore, but we used to watch a lot in the early 2000s.)

The dish wasn’t hard. There were a lot of steps and some techniques that we’ve never tried before, but dinner was worth it!! There was so much flavor packed into this dish! And it fed us for three days. Naoto makes a really delicious beef stew, but the flavors here are totally different. We want to make it again this winter, and add more carrots and leave out the pearl onions just because they weren’t our favorite thing. (Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but we prefer carrots and Julia only uses one which had us arm wrestling for the few bits in the dish.) We also served it over pappardelle on the second day and it was sooooo good. Naoto eating Christmas dinner, Julia Child's beef bourguignon

One thing I would recommend, and I’m feeling this way about almost all recipes lately: get the cookbook! Whether you buy it or borrow it from the library, cooking from cookbooks has been so much easier for me than constantly running to the computer or waking up my phone. (I know you can change your phone settings but, I don’t.) The beef bourguignon recipe is in three separate places in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and we were constantly clicking on different links and it just would have been better to have the cookbook.

I’d love to know some “complicated” dishes you’ve made that are worth the time and effort. Naoto is going to be around more in 2018 and our goal is to cook together more often.

Cheers to the last post of 2017 and hopefully more blogging in 2018!

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A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery

A Cocktail Story at ch distilleryFor the second year in a row, Naoto and I went to CH Distillery in the West Loop for their Christmas pop-up, A Cocktail Story. I love a good theme party, so it’s right up my alley–all of the food and cocktails are based on the holiday classic, A Christmas StoryA Cocktail Story at ch distilleryI wish I’d taken pictures of the menu, because I can’t remember the witty names of our cocktails, but we started with bourbon (Naoto’s was a version of an Old Fashioned and mine was similar to a Manhattan) and moved onto tasty rosemary gin cocktails.  We ate classic snacks like deviled eggs, cheese balls, and fried rice (keeping with the movie’s Chinese Christmas dinner theme.) A Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogFor me, the best part of the whole experience was Eddie’s Frozen Eggnog. (Eddie = Clark’s cousin in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) It is so deliciously decadent. I’ve been thinking about it since I tried it last yearA Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogCheers to the holidays once again!

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The Last Plot 6 Post of 2017

plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, hunter boots, herb garden, raised bedThere’s a blanket of snow on the ground this morning, so what better time to talk about…gardening!

We put Plot 6 to bed right after Thanksgiving. It was kind of a sad year in the garden. Our tomato plants became infested with white flies so we barely had a harvest. To say I was devastated is an understatement since really, the only reason to garden is so you can enjoy deliciously ripe, home-grown tomatoes. Our kabocha squash, however, grew like gangbusters and delivered a dozen kabocha by fall. It was crazy and we’ll never grow one in our plot again, but it was a fun experiment and I’m glad we tried it. (Besides tomatoes, experiments are my other favorite part of the garden.) Our basil, parsley, lavender, and rosemary did really well, too and made great additions to cocktails and dinners over the summer. I’m 100% growing more herbs next summer. Herbs and tomatoes. That’s it. Except maybe some carrots at the beginning and end of the season. (Clearly I need to ponder on this all winter.)

morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowers morning glories, balcony garden, vining flowersOn the balcony, I was able to save lots of seeds from my various morning glories so I’m excited to plant those next spring. Sometimes I feel like such a dummy about seed saving. It never occurred to me to save them from my morning glories until my dad mentioned how easy it is. Hopefully these flowers will be making a comeback next summer! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

I got this book at the library this fall and I am looking forward to experimenting with micro-greens this winter (probably after Christmas when the doldrums of winter set in.) I promised myself I’d get through the holidays before making a mess of the kitchen with more plants. (The kitchen window is the only place safe from Presley’s teeth.)

Do you have any winter gardening plans?

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December…Already?

naoto at thanksgiving thanksgiving table, vintage tablecloth, vintage dishes, table settings thanksgiving table, vintage tablecloth, vintage dishes, table settings thanksgiving food thanksgiving food naoto at thanksgivingIs it too late to share a few pictures from Thanksgiving?

It’s that time of the year again where I can’t believe it’s already December, yet this year seems like the loooooongest ever. My friend and I were talking about the famous Beyoncé pregnancy photo last night and I couldn’t believe that picture was from this year. (February to be exact.) Aren’t those twins toddlers by now? At the same time, I feel like summer was just here and we didn’t enjoy it enough and fall flew by in a blink.

Now we’re in the middle of the holiday season and time isn’t slowing down. The house is all decorated, but it’s still a mess because I haven’t put the decoration bins away yet. My goal for today is to get that done, vacuum and be ready to finish my cards in front of a Hallmark Christmas movie tomorrow afternoon. As far as other holiday goals go, I’d like to:

  • bake cookies
  • make some Chex Mix
  • host a tiny gathering (mostly because I want to make a cheese ball)
  • finish my cards by the 10th (and spend out most of my holiday sticker and card stash)
  • mail gifts to faraway friends before the 15th
  • rate all of the Hallmark Christmas movies
  • paint one of those ceramic Christmas trees
  • go to Chris & Heather’s 20th Anniversary Calendar Show
  • make some holiday cocktails for Hasegawa Happy Hour

Let’s see how I do with my list. Anything special on your holiday wishlist?

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Plot 6…Good Lord What Was I Thinking?

plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningThe kabocha has taken over the plot. I’ve tried to control the growth but it’s impossible. It’s taking over half of the plot now. Every time I go to the garden, I have to rescue a few tomatoes from it’s strangling tendrils. I’ve tried to bring the long arms back around to the south side of the plot and to weave them in and out of the fences I bought (too late in the growing season to be very effective.) Ooof. kabocha plant, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningSo far, there are at least a dozen tiny kabocha and this one that’s grown really quickly at the base of the plant. Hopefully there will be a bumper kabocha crop this year…and a bumper tomato crop in spite of the encroachment. I have quite a few green tomatoes on the vines, but nothing red yet. And I’ve had to transplant my precious Juliet twice because of the kabocha. Every year we try a little experiment in the garden and this is the first time I’ve really felt like it’s not working. Sigh…it’ll all be okay. I hope. garlic harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, forest park grows, community gardeningIn happier news, I’ve been harvesting basil, rosemary, parsley, and lavender like an herbalist. And I picked our garlic this week–aren’t the purple ones great? I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing a bulb with my dad.

That’s the Plot #6 update for this week…how’s your garden coming along?

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Cocktail Perfected: The Rosemary Gimlet

rosemary gimlet, Hasegawa Happy Hour, cocktail hour, summer cocktailsWe don’t have any ripe tomatoes in Plot 6 yet but our herbs are flourishing like crazy. So far, I’ve made Greek orzo salad with our parsley, a round of pesto with our basil, and a cocktail with the rosemary.

I haven’t made a classic gimlet in a long time, and I thought rosemary would be a nice addition and what do you know? Someone‘s already done it! I love the balance of herbal and tart with a hint sweetness (though mostly herbal.) Rosemary used to remind me of fall, Thanksgiving turkey, roasted potatoes…but in a cocktail, it’s very fresh and summery.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Make this ahead of time so you have time to chill it before making the cocktails.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

~2 Tablespoons of rosemary, roughly chopped (Or for a lighter rosemary flavor, just add 2-3 stalks of whole rosemary into the sugar/water mixture.)

Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. This makes enough for 4+ cocktails.

The Rosemary Gimlet 

2 oz gin

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy on the lanai on a hot summer night!

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The Godfather

antipasto platter, antipasto, italian meats, italian cheese, the godfather partyMaybe you know this about me…I haven’t seen many movies. In fact, most movies made in this century, I’ve only seen because I’ve been on plenty of long plane rides. When the Oscars come around, most years I haven’t seen any of the nominees. Recently, Ida (Best Foreign Film) is the only one I can remember seeing. the godfather So it should be unsurprising that I’ve never seen The Godfather. The movie turned forty-five this year and TCM brought it back to the big screen on Sunday (and today! Go if you can!) I knew it would be the perfect way to experience this classic for the first time.

I decided to make an event of it and host a Godfather feast after the movie. We drank chianti and enjoyed the fabulous antipasto platter pictured at the top, caprese salad, spaghetti and meatballs, and cannoli while we talked about the movie and how crazy good looking Al Pacino was in the 70s. Al Pacino, The Godfather(Especially in uniform.)

I’ve seen quite a few of the Fandango/TCM Big Screen Classics and they are well-done and not widely attended (at least around my neighborhood.) The TCM people do a little introduction and closing with some history of the movie, which is always fascinating and helps put the classic in context. I’m checking out the rest of this year’s line up to see what other parties we can plan–E.T. is coming and I haven’t seen that since the 80s so it will be like seeing it again for the first time!

Have you seen any good movies lately? (Old or new!)

 

P.S. As usual, not a sponsored post. And pics of The Godfather courtesy of the movie…not my own camera. 🙂

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Plot 6 in 2017 

forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkWe’re back in the garden again!

I’m a little late in my gardening season posts…a little behind on posting in general. But here’s what is going on in Plot 6 so far this season:forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkLast year when we closed the garden, a woman who lives in the neighborhood gave a bunch of us garlic from her garden. I’ve never planted garlic before so I was excited to plant a few bulbs and even more delighted to be welcomed this spring with several garlic plants! It’s always fun to come back to something growing instead of just plain dirt, right? And unlike my chive and walking onions, they aren’t taking up too much space…that chive plant gets bigger and bigger every year. forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkUgh, and I really like the walking onions because they are tasty and grow into crazy alien-like beasts, but man…they are shading a whole corner of my plot! forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest park, lavender plantSo far we’ve planted a few herbs (lavender and rosemary from seedlings and thyme and basil from seed,) edamame, beets, daikon, kabocha, kale, and four types of tomatoes: Brandywine, Rutgers, Better Boy, and Green Zebra. I have at least two more tomatoes on my wishlist…which just goes to show I haven’t learned from my tomato jungle disasters of the past. #YOLO forest park community garden, plot 6, community gardening, forest parkHere’s the plot so far. It’s in its neat and tidy stage before things start growing out of control and the rabbits eat the tops of my edamame again. The joys of gardening!

 

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Cinco de Karen

Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusA few weeks ago, we threw a surprise fiesta-themed retirement party for our friend Karen. Her last day at her job was May 5th so we deemed it “Cinco de Karen.” We told her that Naoto and I were going to take her out to dinner, but instead, all of the guests were waiting for her in the lobby. (Because she lives across the hall from us, I thought it would be too risky for guests to come in, for fear she would leave her apartment for something and run into a random friend.) Karen was really surprised.  Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusThe apartment was decorated with papel picado everywhere. (Sadly, it was plastic and not the paper one I ordered…womp womp!) I bought a colorful table runner and added a few succulents to tin cans for the table. taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus taco piñata Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusOur friend Jackie made a taco piñata which was AMAZING! Seriously…is it not the cutest taco you’ve ever seen? (Plus it was filled with grown-up candies!) Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusI made a taco garland (Naoto is holding a piece of it above.) but we hung it in the living room where it didn’t get much air time. I didn’t want to compete with the big taco!
Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusAnd I made giant cacti out of cardboard, tissue paper, and spray paint. Of course I waited until the last minute so the morning of the party, I was outside on the balcony spray painting in the wind. Thank goodness for giant boxes to catch the overspray. (Idea from here.) Now I’m addicted to oversized party decorations–think of the possibilities! Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusWe drank (too many) margaritas and ate chips and salsa and homemade guacamole, beef and chicken tacos, Mexican corn salad, fruit, and a Mexican chocolate mousse pie. Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusCinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactusJackie made a little door in the piñata so we didn’t have to beat it up to break into it. Genius! Now the taco can live on! Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus Cinco de Karen, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, retirement party, piñata, cactus, Pleasant Home Book Club ladiesIt was such a fun night and I’m so relieved we were able to pull off the surprise. Congratulations to Karen as she starts a new career chapter!

 

P.S. Picture of “surprised Karen” by Peggy. Pictures of taco by Jackie.

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