Tag Archives: food

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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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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