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When I was in junior high, one of my best friends was Terese Sievers.  She was sweet, smart (a whiz at math), beautiful, with perfect black hair; a fine person and a marvelous friend.  I spent a lot of time at her house: meals, parties, and sleepovers, her adorable little brother Todd waking us in the morning.  Among my favorite memories is the time we baked this cake together.  I had never baked with a friend before, and there was a definite specialness to it.  We worked with ease in her kitchen, so much so that it overshadows any memory of my first bite of cake.  Working together mattered more.

Though the memory of this cake is fine, it has very little to do with how I feel about it now.  I am hard pressed to find another chocolate cake that I like so well.  This is moist, rich, and always delicious, and certainly among the easiest to prepare.  I am not one for fuss in the kitchen – my Julia Child days having long past.  The hubster is a big fan as well, nearly always suggesting I make it when I am in the mood for chocolate.  Thankfully, too, I’ve adapted it so it is pretty healthy, as far as cakes go, with the rolled oats and whole wheat flour providing a good amount of fiber, but in secret agent fashion.  Let’s call it MI5 cake, shall we?

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

1 3/4 cups boiling water

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

1 stick butter, softened (8 tablespoons)*

2 eggs

1 cup flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips**

3/4 cup nuts (optional)

Pour water over oatmeal in a large bowl, and let stand 10 minutes.  Add both sugars and butter.  Mix well.  Add eggs.  Sift dry ingredients together, and add to oatmeal mixture, mixing well.

Pick a pan – 13×9 or Bundt

For the 13X9:  Grease pan well.  Add 1 cup of chocolate chips (and fruit if you are using it) to batter, pour into pan, and sprinkle remaining chips over the top.   Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched.

For the Bundt:  Grease pan well.  Mix in chocolate chips (and fruit if you are using it), pour into pan, smoothing the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched. Cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the pan.

The cake is great warm, at room temperature, on it’s own, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or frosted.  You really can’t lose.


*If you are itching to make the cake, but your butter is not soft, do what I do: use a cheese grater on the butter.  I also do this for pie crust.  Freeze the butter and put it through the grater.  It will still be cold and in uniform pieces.  I love uniformity in the kitchen!

**Use any chocolate chip you like, but know that white chocolate chips tend to melt entirely and form slightly unsightly cracks in the cake (this is why God created frosting).

***If you like dried fruit, this cake is the perfect vehicle for it.  I am rather fond of adding dried cherries or raisins (reduce the amount of chocolate chips by whatever amount of dried fruit you use), but was thinking that cranberries and apricots would work nicely, too.  If you like orange, you could also add the zest of one.  Oh the possibilities!

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Leftover roasted green beans and homemade pizza.

The hubster says the pizza is the best in town. I agree.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake. I added dried cherries and a cherry frosting. Also pretty great.

Crazy light during a pouring rain. There has been much of this!

William Temple House

in rainbows

Walking the labyrinth with some of my best pals. Hi Bert’s shoes! Hullo lovely Lori! And the hubster sallied too, of course, he is the best of the best.

Korean Spice Viburnum

Non sequitur:

Head over to Yardsss Bandcamp website and have a listen to Foma 3 or the whole shebang if you have the time.

It is most Excellent!

Hi peeps! I’ve got restaurants galore for you today. Interestingly enough, all the photos of actual food are of sweets (or their remains), which I can explain. I am the type who arrives at eating establishments hungry. I might order a cocktail to pass the time but not drink too much of it because I am one cheap date and generally enjoy an upright position. So I snap a photo of said cocktail or the general surroundings, also to pass the time, before the main event. When the food arrives, the camera is pushed aside, and I boogie down. Once happily sated, I take more photos, especially if I order dessert, because, damn it, it’s usually the prettiest course anyway.

Getting to the task at hand, this is Blue Star Donuts. “Donuts for Grownups,” is their slogan. Indeedy. You will not find a single speck of grape dust or Cap’n Crunch, but a well curated selection like lemon poppy seed, cream filled, blueberry bourbon glazed, and our choices: chocolate almond ganache, a hard cider apple fritter, and a divine original glazed. You will not be disappointed, either. The fritter and glazed are the best I’ve ever had, and the hubster, resident chocoholic, thought his was delicious, too. The coffee is top notch, staff friendly, and the view, early on a Saturday morning, entertaining. We saw lost tourists and dog walkers galore and a middle-aged man cuddling a teddy bear swaddled in baby blue. Keeping it weird in Portland.

Luce, billed as an Italian restaurant, always grabs us with their fish and seafood; the stuffed trout, seafood stew, and anchovies with mozzarella so snazzy, I have yet to try a morsel of pasta. It is the sweetest postage stamp of a place with fabulous service and shelves full of specialty wares like fine kitchen towels, scrub brushes, salt, and beautifully wrapped caramels. Try the buckwheat! As for our desserts, the hubster is eating their crazy-good eponymous chocolate cake, while I am about to devour a badass panna cotta with grapefruit syrup. Oh, Luce!

When we are old, the hubster and our canes will have a reserved table at Higgins Bar. Not solely for the food, mind you, but a resounding sense of place. We’ve been eating there for more than thirteen years, and in that time, the familiar comforts of dark wood, brass, and gleaming glass have yet to change, even our server is the same. He works mostly on his own, so there is no chance for chit-chat or the exchange of names, but to watch him zip about is extraordinary, all efficiency, knowledge, and grace.

Then there’s the food, from house made pickles and smoked meats to fresh from the sea oysters, perfect pitch soups, and, of course, stellar desserts. You really can’t go wrong. As usual, the hubster goes for chocolate cake, like a ding-dong of childhood elevated to exquisite heights, with, quite literally, the best chocolate malt ice cream known to man or woman. I had a scoop of cherry sorbet and pistachio ice cream, almost like spumoni when eaten together – have I ever told you that is my favorite ice cream, ever? A close second is the lemon coconut at the Walrus which I first tried way back when the hubster and I were dating. I would show you a picture of me eating it, were it not for the fact that I am intoxicated and really look it. Ah, youth! Back to Higgins, my frozen treats came with assorted yummy cookies: dark chocolate chip with orange, oatmeal raisin, almond, oh, and a fantastic cherry pate.

Welcome to Kir Wine Bar, another tiny place with food that is big on flavor, made in the most diminutive kitchen outside a food cart. But, as the saying goes, it’s not the size but what you do with it that counts. Delectable sausage pasta, gnocchi, smoked paprika pistachios, chicken pate, smoked trout on toast, I could go on. The lemon cake, pudding-like in consistency was just perfect. Oh, and the not-so-small matter of wine and their related spirits, Russell, the man pouring our pink Kir Royales, is encyclopedic in his knowledge, and ever so witty and fun, too. Everything he recommends dazzles, with the stand-out being the vermouth we had with our cake. Light years from your garden variety, the hubster and I thought it was citrus-y with a hint of cedar. Fantastic!

Are you still with me? We’re halfway there! This is Park Kitchen, an oasis on the North Park blocks. The cocktails are ambrosial (such a precious word, but true), with my favorite, not pictured, the PKNY, with rye, egg, lemon, orange, sugar, and ruby port. It really works! Like all of our favorite places, the staff is fantastic, and the flavors heavenly. Some stand-outs are the perogi, green apple and cheddar soup (like nothing I’ve ever tasted), flank steak with blue cheese, and my personal favorite: house cured anchovies, fingerling potatoes, coddled egg, and radish. Yowza!

The hubster and I are revisiting Twin Peaks, one of the wackiest and best gems television has ever known, in my humble opinion. If you don’t know it, Agent Dale Cooper, the dapper FBI agent sent to solve a heinous crime, is a pie and coffee man (he won’t say no to a donut, either), taking such pleasure in their consumption that this viewer can’t help but want some herself. To put it mildly, Dale would love the Pie Spot. We have yet to try their savory varieties, but if they are anything like the lemon vanilla bean, brown butter pecan, or chocolate hazelnut, we are in real trouble, peeps. The coffee is just right, too!

Cacao…chocolate, everything chocolate. Sip it, crunch it, read or talk about it, let it melt on the tip of your tongue. Not surprisingly, this is one of the hubster’s favorite places. He always orders a large drinking chocolate, usually the spicy one, and is blissfully happy. I have a sip or two and enjoy a piece or two, my favorites are the candied lemon peels, or, when they have them, a burnt sugar salted caramel, all enrobed in chocolate, of course.

This is it! We finally made it to our final destination, The Takahashi, probably the most oddly located restaurant with the creepiest exterior we frequent, but do not let that deter you. My table mates always tell me that the sushi is some of the best around. For me, however, not being of the sushi-loving persuasion, the tempura is the real stand-out, always that perfect crunch and impeccable flavor. Even better, their tempura menu is the most extensive I’ve ever seen and ordered in the same manner as the sushi. Shrimp, mushrooms, lotus, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, asparagus, oh, and the scallops, like butter melting in your mouth. Tempura heaven! I’m also a big fan of their udon noodles, so simple and delicious.

Oh my goodness, I’m so tired now, and hungry, too!

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I don’t actually know that this is a Lady Hawk, not being an ornithologist, and all, but a creature this regal needs a title other than it. She visited for her Sunday lunch, though we didn’t see her do anything but chase off a crow.

I hope you’re having a week full of wonder. We are hosting Lori and crew this evening for a Southwestern Supper extraordinare. It is 9:55, and I’ve already baked a cake, made dough for fresh tortillas, and have a pot of green chile and pinto beans bubbling on the stove. The house smells SO good!

We’ll be here for Thanksgiving, me and my favorite sous chef making dinner together. Roasted squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce, green beans, home made bread, crispy kale, cranberry sauce (the jellied kind, because it rocks, no matter what people say), and the hubster’s favorite pecan pie. I think there will be a fire, too, two humans and two felines cuddled in close proximity.

I hope you have a marvelous holiday and know that I’m most grateful for your gentle presence in my life.

Big Hug!

Update: Definitely not the same bird! The memory is not what it once was. A Sharp Shinned Hawk or juvenile Cooper’s Hawk are my best guesses. A new visitor nonetheless, huzzah!


Perhaps it is the fact that I had three siblings growing up.  Perhaps it is just my nature, but I love to share.  I love baking up a big batch of cookies or a Bundt cake and delivering plates of their yummy goodness to the neighbors.  It’s fun, and it feels good.  I like giving of myself in that way.  If I’ve got extra of anything, I really want someone else to have it.

So, not surprisingly, these tomatoes and cucumbers are  for sharing.  Later this morning, they will be heading to our favorite local bakery and cafe, Sweetness.  Since I’ve been doing my cleanse, I can’t actually eat anything there (or the tomatoes, sigh), but I can share the bounty in our garden.

Since I am sharing, let me share with you the deliciousness that is Sweetness.  First, the name.  It’s not just for the baked goods.  It’s a tribute to Walter Peyton of “da Bears.”  The equally sweet mother and daughter team, Gretchen and Kay, are big Chicago fans (check the bathroom out if you don’t believe me).  They’ve also got some very lovely ladies working for them, as well: Alana, Kathleen, and Jenny.

It is a rather homey place – bright and cheery, with a good music selection, and goodies galore.  Gretchen arrives early every morning to bake everything.  There are many, many delectable sweets, of course, savories, sandwiches, omelets, and different brunch menu every weekend.  The coffee drinks are nothing to sneeze at either.

My favorites, however, are the FoPo Sandwich (salami, capers, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, cheese, all on a challah roll that was made by Gretchen), and the All Day Breakfast Sandwich (a yummy mixture of cream cheese and eggs, cheddar, topped with bacon on that yummy roll again).  I top mine with a little hot sauce and am in heaven.

Now for the sweets.  Every cookie they make is delicious – big, the perfect balance of chewy and crisp, great flavors: snickerdoodle, ginger, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and the cowboy (nuts, chocolate chips, and oatmeal).  The coffee cakes are divine, the muffins, always dense and delicious, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

They’ve got a lot to choose from, and it is all so good!  If you’re in the neighborhood – give them a try, you won’t leave disappointed!  At least we never do.