In July 2012, I posted a recipe for Gingered Tuna Salad that was inspired by this carved Japanese cat:


I’ve since learned that it’s not a cat.  Not even close.  Color me embarrassed.  It’s a Tanuki–a “magical fox-like dog with shape-shifting powers, trickster and spook, original evil, now benevolent modern-day icon of generosity, cheer, and prosperity found often outside Japanese bars and restaurants.”  I also learned that it’s made out of keyaki or zelkova wood.

The “fun-loving Tanuki” is characterized by a big tummy, straw hat, puzzled facial expression, and giant scrotum (no kidding), and he carries a sake flask and a promissory note.  This explains several of the features of my carved guy that I couldn’t identify, particularly the giant scrotum (no kidding).  It gives new meaning to the phrase “grow a pair,” and I’m afraid I can’t look at the little fella now without blushing.

The Tanuki is not just a mythical creature, it’s also a real animal, sometimes called the Japanese Raccoon Dog — “an atypical species of dog with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes.”  Once upon a time, they were hunted for their meat, fur, and their scrotal skin (of course), which according to Wikipedia, was “used as a malleable sack for hammering gold into gold leaf.”


Watcha hidin’ little fella?

So I was totally wrong about the Japanese cat.  Don’t you hate when you think something is one thing and it turns out to be something else?  For example, my neighbors have a prolific lemon tree in their front yard.  I may have, from time to time, “borrowed” a lemon or two from their tree:

Well, it turns out that the lemons I’ve been “borrowing” from my neighbors are actually limes.  Color me embarrassed.

Inspired by the Japanese cat Tanuki and the juicy lemons limes that are falling from my neighbor’s tree faster than I can steal borrow them, I baked a Pistachio Lime Cake.  The recipe is only slightly adapted from this recipe from the Tasting Room in Houston, originally published in the April 2012 edition of Bon Appetit.  This cake may look like a simple pound cake, but don’t be fooled — this is an extraordinary, tender, buttery cake, with a well-defined hit of citrus and subtle nuttiness from the pistachios.

Recipe type: Cake
  • 8 ounces butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting pan
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, divided use
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a 9x5x3" loaf pan* with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Shake pan over sink to remove any excess flour.
  2. Place butter in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy. Add sugar, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add juices and zests and beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled). Fold in baking powder, salt, and flour until just blended. Fold in ¾ cup pistachios.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup pistachios over batter. Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours. Transfer cake to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen. and unmold cake.
  4. *Can also be made in 4 mini loaf pans, and reduce baking time to approximately 1 hour. Excellent for gift-giving.


 Pistachios add color and crunch


 Steal borrow a few lemons limes and make this delicious cake


Happy 4th of July!  This week my inbox was flooded with recipes for foods in every shade of red, white, and blue, but one in particular caught my eye.  It was a blueberry and strawberry rhubarb pie that resembled a flag.  The recipe was from Tiny Pies in Austin.  I haven’t previously been there, but you can bet I will be sure to stop by on my next visit to Austin!

I adapted the recipe slightly, and used all strawberries instead of a mix of strawberries and rhubarb, because I couldn’t find rhubarb anywhere.  It was fun to make, easy as pie really.  :)

Recipe type: Cakes and Pies
  • I package refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts)
Blueberry filling:
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Strawberry filling:
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • Juice from ½ of an orange:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For blueberry filling: In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, and cornstarch. Add sugar mixture to blueberries and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
For strawberry filling: In a medium bowl, combine strawberries and orange juice. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices, and cornstarch. Add sugar mixture to strawberries and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
Place one pie crust in a 9" pie pan. Add blueberry filling to left corner of pie, then add strawberry filling to remaining area. Cut stars out of half of the second pie crust using a small star cookie cutter, and cut free-hand wavy stripes out the remaining pie crust. Add stars on top of blueberry filling, add stripes on top of strawberry filling.
Bake until fruit is juicy and bubbling, and crust is light golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool, allowing fruit juices to thicken.


Blueberry filling

IMG_4499Strawberry filling

IMG_4500 I used pastry cutters to keep the filling in place, but it really wasn’t necessary


 Stars and stripes

IMG_4505American Pie!


 My lovely assistant

I also made some Rice Krispie Treats for the holiday:


See the red and blue cereal?  That’s Fruity Pebbles.  While I sat waiting for a batch of muffins the other morning, I sorted out blue and red ones for my special treats.  Pretty sure I’m gonna want those 20 minutes back at the end of my life.  Especially since my dog Jasper ate most of them off the counter when no one was looking.  He apparently confused Rice Krispie Treats with Dog Treats.  :)