Amaretto Peach Up-Side-Down Cake

IMG_1986Hello all–  Summer peaches– they seem to be lingering in the market, along with those plums of all colors, and  ripened nectarines.  And as long as they stay sweet, I’m going to keep baking them into dishes.  I’m hoping for  a little baked peach oatmeal this weekend. And since it’s the weekend, maybe you have a little peach laden baking time as well…

Made this luscious dessert for an evening with friends.  It’s easy (no frosting involved) and fruity sweet with those little flirts of peaches peeking out from inside the sugary cake.  And pecans.  Cake is always better with pecans.  It seems like something a southern grandma would pull out of the oven on a summer afternoon…

1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans
2 large peaches, sliced to wedges
3 tab. amaretto
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. amaretto
1 cup buttermilk*
1  1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

IMG_1969Melt the butter in a glass 10″ cake pan (or a 9″square pan) in the microwave.  Then stir in the brown sugar is make a paste covering the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle the pecans over the brown sugar mixture and then arrange the peaches to cover the bottom of the baking dish.  Then sprinkle the 3 tab. of amaretto over the peaches.

Using an electric mixture, cream together the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes.  Next beat in the eggs, vanilla and 1 tsp. amaretto.  Then mix in the buttermilk.

Finally beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Spoon the batter over the peaches in the baking dish and pop it into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

When the cake comes out of the oven, invert it onto a heat proof serving platter, scraping any loose caramel or pecan that sticks in the baking dish, onto the cake.

Delicious warm from the oven or cooled– and always better with a scoop of whipped cream of ice cream!

*If you don’t have buttermilk in the fridge, substitute regular milk added to 1 tab. of cider vinegar.  Let it sit 5 minutes to thicken and you set.



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Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions & Pine Nuts

IMG_2019Hello friends– I’m eating the leftovers of this savory dish right now as I type of this post!  When I saw this recipe on MM’s yummy blog, I knew Larry would like it.  So I made a big pan full for a late supper last night.  It’s one of those cozy, honest kinds of food that taste just right for  a quiet evening tucked in at home.

MM is an Australian mom, living now in Sweden.  I think you might really like her healthy eating blog– Miss Marzipan!

1 cup rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup green lentils
1 red onion, chopped to bits (about 2 cups)
2 tab. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted*
salt & freshly

Cook the rice according to the directions on your package. (I simmer it with 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp. salt for 10 minutes)

Cook the lentils in 2 cups of water for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are tender.  Then drain off any extra water in a sieve.

While those two are cooking away, Heat the olive oil in a large pan and throw in the red onion.  Cook the onion bits 8 to 10 minutes until they are thoroughly soft and caramelized.
Then add in the cumin and and 1/4 cup water and stir to blend.  Turn off the heat.

When the lentils and rice are thoroughly cooked mix them into the onions in the large pan along with the cilantro and pine nuts.  Taste to see if you want to add a little salt & pepper.

Serve it up warm and hearty with a nice chunk of sturdy bread and a colorful salad.  Dinner!

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Super Chocolate Cake

IMG_1972Hey all–  Made this little chocolate cake for a party with all the teachers from school–kind of an end of summer snacking potluck in Becky’s welcoming backyard.  We sat and talked and nibbled through the pleasant evening, catching up after the summer away.  And in the end this cake had disappeared.  I call that a mild success– no leftovers to trundle home.

It’s just one little layer, but so dense and super chocolatey– sweet and satisfying.  I’ll be making it again…

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa**
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and 2 sugars.  Then beat in the vanilla, eggs and buttermilk.

Mix in the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.  And finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into a 9 or 10″ springform pan (or plain cake pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it up at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until it is firm to the touch.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4  cup cream (or half & half)
3 tab. butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
Chopped toasted almonds for garnish, optional

Mix the sugar, cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Boil it for 1 minute, stirring the whole time.  Take off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla.  Keep on stirring until the chocolate chips melt and then spoon it over the cake.

Sprinkle with a handful of chopped toasted almonds, if you like a little crunch with your chocolate…


*Out of buttermilk?  just use regular milk with a splash of cider vinegar– let it sit 5 minutes to thicken.
**Love the Hershey’s unsweetened dark cocoa–extra chocolatey.

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Food Faves in Chicago

IMG_1554Hello there– Did I mention what a wonderful week I shared with our Laurel in Chicago?? (of course I did!)– We’ll here’s a little P.S. to that previous post.  Wanted to tell you a few of the great things to eat that you can find in Chicago…

IMG_1550     10553462_10100749314434860_6510726160228527300_nLaurel knows I’m a sucker for Cute Coffee Shops– so the first morning we headed over to “Lovely: a bake shop,” and settled into their homey old fashioned space for some moist fragrant scones and the cutest (yep, cute!) pots of tea.

IMG_1648     IMG_1643

IMG_1632     IMG_1639We spent one entire afternoon wandering through the shelves of Eataly, Mario Batali’s two story Italian goods store– so much glorious food!  And it provides several spots to set yourself down to a lovely meal  (and that’s exactly what we did for a charcuterie lunch at the mozzarella bar).  The bottom-right photo is a gnocchi maker at work…

IMG_1787      IMG_1786 Of course, in Chicago, having a hot dog at a neighborhood place is a must.  One evening after a long session of painting/furniture construction in Laurel’s new apartment we walked down to Chopper’s– and a late supper along with a whole fleet of Chicago policemen who seemed to like this place as well.

IMG_0431     IMG_0438

IMG_0437     IMG_0435One warm evening found us sitting out on the patio at Mott Street Restaurant.  How can I describe this place?  It’s small plates to share like tapas, but ingredients and tastes borrowed in from various cultures–   Loved the pork stuffed cabbage with kimchi & sticky rice. Pictured:  bread with pickled red onion & cranberries + kale butter — and wok cooked Brussel sprouts with pancetta, maple brown butter and peanuts)

IMG_1595     IMG_1596We made a quick stop, as we came out of the blue line train, at Stan’s Donuts.  It was a terrible decision– blueberry fritters or nutella stuffed donuts… but we landed on a “pocket donut” stuffed with bananas and peanut butter and covered with chocolate.  Oh my!

IMG_1597Thanks Laurel Kate for being my resourceful eating buddy–I’m looking forward to more comestible adventures ahead with you!

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Peachy Avocado Salad

IMG_1261Hello all–  Love this bright salad– wakes up everything else on your dinner plate.  We’ve been throwing peaches in salads a lot lately– seems they’ve been especially sweet and juicy this year.  Those sweet peaches and blueberries are just right against the salty feta and that tangy tarragon dressing–smoothed out with luscious ripe avocado and those nibbles of edamame.  Summer perfect.

4 cups greens
1 ripe peach, pitted & cut in chunks
1 avocado, pitted & cut in chunks
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/3 cup herbed feta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. tarragon vinegar
1 tap. sugar
salt & freshly group pepper to taste

In a pretty bowl, layer the greens, peaches, avocado, blueberries, edamame & feta.

Then in a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper.  Pour it over the salad just before you’re ready to eat.  Enjoy!

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Chicago Super Seven

IMG_1569Hi blog friends–  Our daughter Laurel works for the photo website, Photojojo. About once a year, the employees pack up and relocate to an exotic location (Thailand, India, Costa Rica…) and spend a couple weeks on a “work-cation.”  They work some days and tourist  around in between.  It’s a whole company of people who know how to have fun (and take great photos while their at it)…

So when I visited my Laurel this past week we had a little work-cation of our own– She’s just moved into a sweet old apartment in Chicago, so we spent our days tracking down furniture and all she needs to kit out a kitchen–and did our share of eating and touristing as well.  What could be more fun than that?!

So here’s the super seven of a fab week with Laurel:

IMG_1553     IMG_1657     #1.  Let me just jump in right from the start– some fabulous eating!  Laurel does know how to find the best places!  (I’ll do a whole ‘nother post on all that yummcious food.)
Here Laurel takes her expert food pics.  And a incredible charcuterie lunch at Eataly.

IMG_1577     IMG_1576#2. We spent an afternoon trekking through down town Chicago–  joined the summer tourist crowds snapping pictures of the bean.  Why is that thing so intriguing?  And we explored the Chicago Cultural Center top to bottom, ending up under this glass dome.

IMG_1668     IMG_1768     #3.  And, of course, we shopped–thrift stores, good old Homegoods and 5 productive hours in Ikea!!  Gathered up all we needed to make a home sweet home for Laurel.  Then
we went to work.  If you need help, putting together any Ikea furniture together, give us a call.  We’re experts!  (even constructed a sofa.  Yikes!)

IMG_1711     IMG_1700#4. On Saturday, we hit the road for Milwaukee with Laurel’s friend John at the wheel.  It was great–from a community Farmer’s Market, to the most incredible Milwaukee Art Museum on Lake Michigan, on to the river walk and, of course, a Wisconsin brat lunch.

IMG_1606     IMG_1549    #5.  I have to say my very favorite moments were working mornings with Laurel.  We’d locate a comfortable table in a cozy coffee shop and and breakfast, while Laurel worked and I wrote on blog posts and read away the hours.

IMG_1637     IMG_1630    #6.  We spent an afternoon wandering through Eataly, Mario Batali’s food emporium, two floors of Italian groceries and several tempting spots to sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch.  We couldn’t resist the charcuterie and a glass of wine.  It was a food wonderland!

IMG_1546     IMG_1558#7.  As a California girl, I love the old style architecture of Chicago.  Laurel’s neighborhood is a collection of leafy streets lined with solid brick homes and beautiful old churches.

IMG_1578     IMG_1752. So here’s Laurel in front of her new home sweet home.  Thanks dear girl for all the furniture shopping, nonstop talking, salad making, apartment planning, sight seeing fun.  It was the best!!

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Dark Chocolate Banana Pecan Ice Cream

IMG_1330Hi there–  My Dad was the ice cream maker in my family.  We had a churn in a good green wooden bucket.  You’d drive down to the ice house, for a big thick paper bag of crushed ice and then race it home to pour into the bucket with handfuls of rock salt.  Then you’d crank and crank and crank out on the back porch.  We 4 kids would wait expectantly  as Dad cranked, hoping to get to lick the dasher when it came out of the tub.  It was the best!

Thank goodness I have that electric ice cream maker now, with a refrozen container.  It’s almost too easy.

Got this recipe from Christine years ago when our kids were small– and it’s still just as super delicious as the first time I tasted it in her backyard.  I’m going to have to make it at least one more time before we run out of summer!  Wish I could share a bowl with my Dad.

2 large bananas
1  1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pint milk (2 cups)
1 pint whipping cream (2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mash the bananas with a fork.  Stir in all the other ingredients except the pecans.  Pour the mixture into a half gallon ice cream maker.

Freeze the ice cream according the instructions on your ice cream maker.

When the ice cream starts to thicken, add in the pecans and finish the freezing process.

Serve it up and get ready to make more.  It will disappear pretty fast!

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