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


IMG_5289I found these figural linen cocktail napkins on ebay.

IMG_5290 IMG_5291This one has a wonky eye 

I think they were made in the 1950s.  I had these birds of a feather framed together, and they brighten up my laundry room.  (It’s not like I was going to buy original art to hang next to the washer.)

My family has always had a thing for hens and roosters, because our last name or some variation of it means “chicken” or “hen” in German.  I collected roosters for a while, starting in college, but there’s no real challenge to finding them — they’re everywhere — and I kept just a few when I got married.

When I was around 8 years old, I came across a book of riddles in one of my parents’ friend’s bathrooms.  They had those kinds of friends.  Anyway, one of the riddles involved a rooster, and I had no idea what was so funny about it, but when I told it to my parents (because they liked roosters) they about bust a gut laughing. From that point on, they would encourage me to tell it to their friends (“oh, go on, tell them your joke!”), who would also cackle with laughter.  Like I said, they had those kinds of friends.  Here’s the riddle, in case you’d like to teach your young ones to tell it for cheap laughs:

Q:  What’s the difference between a rooster, Uncle Sam, and an old maid?

A:  The rooster says “cock-a-doodle-do,” Uncle Sam says “Yankee doodle do,” and the old maid says “any cockle do.”

Again, they had those kinds of friends. [Note:  “cockle” is intentionally misspelled :)]

Well, just as some times you want cheap and easy wall art, or a cheap and easy laugh, some times you want a cheap and easy chicken dinner, and that’s what has inspired this Easy Chicken Pot Pie.  It’s tasty and satisfying factory-to-table fare that you can put together in about five minutes.  I was introduced to it when my friend Laura, herself a new mom, brought it over for my family after my daughter was born, and it was as appreciated then as it is now on busy school and work nights.  Cock-a-doodle-do!

Recipe type: Poultry, Main Courses
  • 2 9-inch pie crusts (I use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts)
  • 2-3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (I usually use rotisserie chicken)
  • 8 ounces frozen peas and carrots*
  • 8-ounces frozen corn
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Potato Soup
  • 1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • *Note: can substitute 1 pound of frozen mixed vegetables for corn and peas and carrots
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place one pie crust in a deep dish pie plate. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer filling to pie plate, and cover with remaining crust. Press edges of top and bottom crusts together, crimping decoratively. Cut 3 or 4 vents in top of crust. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until crust is golden. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

002 (4)

Spoon the filling into the crust  003 (7)

 Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape

005 (3)

Cheap and easy — like my parents’ friends