Tag Archives: food

Plot 6, Where Are My Tomatoes?

plot 6, tomato jungle, forest park community garden, community garden, raised bedHere’s a look at our garden yesterday. I’ve resigned myself that we will never have a tidy garden. We’ll just call Plot 6 a free spirit and let it be.

Our tomato plants are growing tall and going strong but we’ve hardly had any red tomatoes yet! The green ones are there, but I’m ready for a big, juicy red garden tomato! (Ok, I just went back to the archives of the blog…usually the big tomatoes don’t start coming until August so I guess I should relax. Sometimes it’s nice to have a blog to jog your memory about things.) plot 6 first tomato 2018, Juliet tomatoWe picked our first Juliet on July 9th and then we didn’t have any red tomatoes again until yesterday. tiny tomato harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, juliet tomatoesWe’ve been cutting a ton of basil and parsley each week, so I’m going to make a tiny caprese salad with these guys later today. Naoto has been making pesto like a champ. And we harvested a big batch of garlic, too. We’re pretty set for any upcoming Italian recipes. edamame, forest park community garden, plot 6, soybeans And most exciting of all is our edamame has ALL SURVIVED this year! Not a single bunny nibble in sight! Now we regret not planting more! I’ll try to get a better picture of the edamame patch. The plants are really tall, tucked in between overgrown walking onions and some tomatoes. In fact, I believe it was the walking onions that have kept the bunnies away. Last year, I cut back the walking onions and the bunnies ate the edamame. Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I’m collecting tomato recipes in hopes that big tomato season is just around the corner. I started a Pinterest board over here to collect ideas. After this summer, maybe I can make a little tomato cookbook! If you have any fresh tomato recipes, I’d love to hear about them!

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Our Fourth

July 4th dinner, patriotic, independence dayJuly 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, raised bed gardeningIt was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! cherry manhattans, vintage glasses, july 4th, hasegawa happy hourNaoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink.  Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. fireworks over 290, circle bridge, forest park fireworksWe ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!) vintage postage, patriotic postage, galaxie safari, red, white, and blue

Oh! And here are those vintage patriotic stamps in action!

I’d love to hear about your Fourth/last Wednesday!

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

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Gyu-kaku

Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurantsNaoto and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday! We had plans to go to a new cocktail bar called Prairie School, but it unexpectedly closed for good the week before our anniversary. (It wasn’t even open a year!) I was super bummed. But then I read about Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ chain that came to Chicago a couple years ago. I knew Naoto would be into it–he remembers going in Japan–and I figured it would be something different and fun. It’s definitely not really a romantic place…it’s pretty bright and loud and open and you’re working together to cook your food, so if you’d rather have a more traditional special occasion with your partner, maybe this isn’t your place. That being said, a group dinner here would be a blast. (And of course it was perfect for us since we’re not really white tablecloth kind of people.) Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, lychee cocktail, Asahi beerWe started with an Asahi beer and a lychee martini while we pursued the menu for the best options for the two of us. You can order a la cart, or you can do different levels of prix fixe options. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, Gyu-kaku saladWe opted for the “samurai” menu that included starters of miso soup, salad (pictured above,) spicy tuna volcanoes, and beef bibimbap. And for grilling, Kalbi beef, miso skirt steak, rib eye, garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Oh and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was plenty of food for both of us. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThe servers give pretty good instructions about placement and timing for the various meats. No one wants to eat raw chicken.  Naoto did most of the grilling, but I helped with the vegetables. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThere are three sauces to accent the food, sweet, sour, and spicy. The meats are marinated but the sauces are perfect little accents to balance the richness of the meal. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, mochi ice creamOur dessert was green tea and strawberry mochi ice cream. A few bites of each was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Next time, I think we will probably order a la cart, mainly because there are different sides and meats we’d like to try in place of the prescribed choices with the prix fixe menus. They even have some summer specials that look really fresh and tasty. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, cherry blossom cocktail, asahi beer Cheers to the next twelve.

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Plot 6 in 2018

plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I can’t believe I haven’t posted about the garden yet this spring! We are all planted in our little plot 6 and happily waiting for things to grow. As usual, I swore I would only plant tomatoes and I would not experiment at alllll this summer…and then we planted a bunch of tomatoes and some other things…but no vining plants this year. No sireee. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I’m very excited to have a full-time partner in crime at the garden this year. Since Naoto isn’t working a million hours a week anymore, he has time to visit the garden with me. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6So far, we planted Juliet, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Black Krim tomatoes, rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, and parsley, and lima beans and edamame. Our garlic is going strong from last fall’s planting, and in spite of the fact that I pulled it all last fall, the walking onions have returned. I need to at least thin them again. They are growing into my tomatoes. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6We still have kaiware (Japanese radish sprouts) that we’d like to plant, but that’s it! We already have a Juliet on one of our plants, so I’m hoping this year we aren’t plagued by white flies and that we have a crazy bumper crop again…Naoto is already planning tomato-centric menus for later this summer!

I can’t wait.

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Tiki Birthday Party

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrellaOver the weekend, James, Naoto, and I threw a tiki-themed birthday party for friends, Karen and Jackie. I LOOOOVE theme parties (as you may know) and I thought it would be really fun to jump into summer with a tiki theme. tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis I did a simple table because we had a spread of fun food. I got the “centerpiece,” leis, napkins, and a couple of garlands from the Dollar Tree. I really don’t shop there often, but I went with my parents once and now it’s my go-to place for parchment paper and tissue. We went a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to see that they had a bunch of tiki party things. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post.) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisEven though it was a small gathering, I made us little festive place cards with some peacock card stock and little puffy pineapple stickers from Paper Source. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisI had these tropical leaves (an old Paper Source kit) leftover from a couple of summers ago, so I hung them up in the corner. They will likely stay up for the whole summer. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis, crab rangoonWe started the night with Blue Hawaiis and crab rangoon (purchased from a local thai restaurant.) James told me that flamingos are not tiki, but I couldn’t resist the neon pink flamingo stirrers (also from the Dollar Tree!)

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendstiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friends, presleyWe stayed in the kitchen and ate and drank Mai Tais while Naoto finished cooking the dinner. He and James were in charge of the menu and I was in charge of decorating, cocktails, and cupcakes. Collaborative party planning is the best!  tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki partyFor dinner, we had pineapple fried rice served in the pineapple, Hawaiian pizza, and an Asian slaw. I’m going to admit that the fried rice in the pineapple was sort of the catalyst for the whole party (thanks, Pinterest!) James and I watched a YouTube video to learn how to hollow out a pineapple and it was not as hard as it sounds, as long as you have a sharp knife and a little patience. (James executed it perfectly because I have neither a sharp knife nor patience.)

Naoto has really been into making his own pizza lately, so we decided he should make a Hawaiian version. And James made the slaw and he doesn’t use recipes. Everything was really tasty (which I can say because I only made the cocktails and the dessert!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis, gift wrap, paper source gift wrap, flamingo, pineappleWe ended the night with gifts, cupcakes, and a last cocktail, the Admiral Montenegro, which I cannot recommend enough if you like slightly bitter tiki drinks. (The cupcakes were not-so-photogenic but taste-wise, Martha didn’t let me down!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendsHappy Birthday, Karen & Jackie! XO

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Mango & Black Bean Salsa

mango salsa, mango black bean salsa, mango, black bean, red onion, lime, cilantro, fresh salsaBack when we were dating, Naoto and I had dinner at his coworker’s house. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner. What I do remember is Joyce and her husband, Doug, offered up mango salsa as an appetizer and…it was so good. You know how when you’re at someone’s house–especially someone you don’t know very well–you shouldn’t make a pig of yourself and eat the entire bowl of salsa? I think I broke that rule. I couldn’t stop…it just might be the perfect (non-tomato) salsa. It’s sweet and tangy and the textures of the mango and black beans and onions work together perfectly.

Monday night Naoto made the salsa for the first time in a long time. We have a photocopy of Joyce and Doug’s handwritten recipe in our recipe box…I think it’s the first shared recipe of our relationship. And this is why I love handwritten recipes! Just poking through my recipe box reminds me of Joyce and Doug and the beginning of my relationship with Naoto in a way that no link to an internet recipe ever could.

Anyway, Naoto prepared the salsa to put on fish and I had to restrain myself from eating the whole batch with tortilla chips before he cooked the cod. I think the salsa is really best with chips, but fish is probably healthier…either way, make this salsa!

Mango & Black Bean Salsa

1 1/2 cup black beans (canned, rinsed)

1 mango, finely chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 Tbs lime juice

1 Tbs canola oil

2 tsp brown sugar

Mix together; stir thoroughly; chill for 1 hour.

Serve with chips, or on fish if you’re feeling fancy.

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Mail More Chocolate

Chocolove chocolate bars, mail more chocolate, non-gmo chocolate, snacks for writing letters

Happy Weekend! Do you have any plans? I am going to my friend Jackie’s art opening on Sunday at Oak Park Public Library and spending the rest of the weekend getting ready for my own craft show next weekend. I’m a terrible procrastinator so it’s going to take some discipline for me to start this early. I have a couple of new Mother’s Day card ideas that I’d like to make for the show so, I need to start making them if it’s going to happen!

In other, mail-related news: I got a stack of mail themed chocolate bars for my birthday from my friend James. (He’s always on-theme!) The stamps and cancellations on the wrappers make them a perfect letter writing treat to send to a pen pal or a snack for a letter writing party. The candy bars are made by Chocolove in Boulder, Colorado and it looks like almost all of their bars have a little mail theme. Cute, right?

Have a relaxing weekend! See you on Monday!

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. 🙂

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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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