Cherry Breakfast Bake

Cherry Breakfast Bake

Ugh, moving. Even though this most recent relocation is over, there is still quite a bit to do to make ourselves feel at home. Welcoming a new puppy into our pack has set back our settling in quite a bit, so I’m just now ready to share my last DC-baked meal. This cherry breakfast bake had been on my radar for a while, but it only came to fruition when I realized that I needed to use up the pound of frozen cherries in my freezer. I packed up and moved my homemade chicken stock and stash of freshly grated coconut, but most store-bought goods did not make the cut. My improvised breakfast turned out to be a real treat, a golden oasis that I returned to again and again as my apartment emptied and I needed to feel a little less alone.

Cherry Breakfast Bake

To make this satisfying breakfast treat, heat your oven to 425° F. Spread 1/3 cup of sliced almonds on a baking sheet, and toast them in the oven for a few minutes until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, whisk together 3 large eggs, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 3/4 cup of flour, and 1 pinch of salt.

Cherry Breakfast Bake

Heat a 10 to 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat, and melt in 4 tablespoons of butter. Add in 1 pound of de-stemmed, pitted cherries. Cook the cherries until they are warmed through and just start to break down. You can use fresh or frozen cherries, but frozen cherries take longer to warm through.

Cherry Breakfast Bake

Pour the batter into the skillet (there is no need to stir it), and transfer the skillet into the oven. Depending on the size of your skillet, cook the cherry mixture for 20-30 minutes until it is golden, somewhat rippled looking, and set throughout.

Cherry Breakfast Bake

Remove the skillet from the oven, and sprinkle over the toasted almonds and some powdered sugar. Even though I usually like lemon juice squeezed over these baked pancakes, the amount of cherries in this one added a tartness that stood well on its own.

Cherry Breakfast Bake

Slice the pancake up, and serve it out. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. They are fantastic reheated briefly in the microwave, and they’re even good cold or at room temperature. I hope this simple concoction gives you a full belly and sense of peace, even during the most hectic times.

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Shopping list:

  • Cherries- 1 pound
  • Sliced almonds- 1/3 cup
  • Eggs- 3
  • Sugar- 2 tablespoons
  • Milk- 3/4 cup
  • Vanilla extract- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Flour- 3/4 cup
  • Salt- 1 pinch
  • Butter- 4 tablespoons
  • Powdered sugar
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Train Tripping from Kyoto

Train Tripping from Kyoto

One of the best parts about traveling in Japan is the train system, which is so efficient and convenient that day trips are an absolute must. Kyoto and Osaka are surrounded by a bunch of fantastic day trip destinations, but my absolute favorite was Nara. The enormous population of peaceful, friendly, fearless, free-roaming deer make Nara one of the most special places we visited during our time in Japan.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

Unlike the monkeys that came with scaryish rules, the deer were tame and approachable. In fact, I’d encourage making eye contact with the deer, because their eyes are glorious…dark, deep, and enormous. I was hesitant to approach the deer at first, but they let us pet them, rub their antlers, and pose with them. They were dignified.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

Until they got around deer crackers. Several vendors set up shop selling a stack of deer biscuits (peanut butter flavored) for about $1. The deer LOVED the biscuits and would flock to anyone holding them. It was really fun to feed them, especially the babies. Some of the deer were pushier than others, and one even tugged on the back of my jacket when I ran out of the goods.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

In addition to the deer, Nara is home to the Daibutsu, or the Great Buddha, another incredibly impressive sight. You can’t tell from pictures, but the Buddha is enormous. Approximately five stories tall, and a person my size or smaller should be able to fit through the Buddha’s nostril. Apparently, the temple that houses the Buddha is the world’s largest wooden building.  To see the Buddha, you have to pass through a large gate, up a few steps and down a few steps. On the other side is a wide approach, flanked by grass, and masses of people (mostly school children) stream towards the temple. One lone deer stood in the middle of the path facing those who approached, and the stream of people parted around the deer and reunited on the other side. It was magical, especially because the deer are thought to be messengers of the gods.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

The deer are so special in Nara that they grace the man hole covers, along with cherry blossoms (far right). I love taking pictures of man hole covers when I travel, and the ones in Japan were extra special because each area or town had its own design. Here is a sampling from Takayama, Shibuya, and the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

But back to the day trips. Another fantastic destination is Himeji castle. Dating from the 1600s and recently renovated, the castle is an architecturally stunning fortress. The grounds are rigged with secret perches for shooting arrows and launching other defensive attacks. The inside of the castle is beautifully wooden, with places for weapons and many warrior hiding places.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

The views from the castle are spectacular.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

A less exciting destination is Naoshima. Billed as an art island, we had trouble finding the art. And when we did, it was underwhelming, at least for our tastes. Fortunately, our multi-hour hike around the residential fishing island was gorgeous. And getting utterly lost in such a place gave me one of the few opportunities to really use the Japanese I had spent so much time learning before our trip!

Train Tripping from Kyoto

It also wasn’t the easiest day trip and required a ferry ride. But at least we got to see some beautiful man of war jellyfish and other varieties. Sadly, their presence meant we couldn’t jump off of the island and swim to a more exciting destination.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

Some out-of-the-way destinations were worth the effort, like Koyasan. That trip, however, should include an overnight stay. Koyasan is the home of Singon Buddhism and is full of monasteries. There is very little to do in Koyasan, which makes it the perfect place to relax and experience inner peace. We stayed in a small and beautiful temple run by welcoming monks. Our room overlooked a manicured courtyard with a koi pond and another courtyard with a zen garden and bonsais. I couldn’t get enough of either view. Breathe in, breathe out.

Train Tripping from Kyoto

A large Buddhist cemetery is also in Koyasan and packed full of markers, statues, and sights. Although the cemetery itself is crowded with visitors, it’s easy to get off of the beaten path and experience some peace. We also happened upon a procession of monks, throwing cards on their way to a hall dripping with lanterns where they undertook a long and chanting prayer. We also participated in a 6 am prayer session back at our temple lodging with a few of the monks and other guests. A vegan Japanese breakfast awaited us in our tatami-lined room, where we soaked up the peace to fortify our journey back down the mountain and towards home.

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Cultured in Kyoto

Cultured in Kyoto

Spend a few days in Kyoto, and you’ll be exhausted but enriched. There are TOO many sights to see, most of which fall into the temples and gardens category. Most of these attractions surround the edges of the city, which makes it difficult to sightsee efficiently. The contrast between the lush temple areas and the low-rise city is stark, but there is beauty to be found in central locations too, particularly the sprawling shopping arcades, which are best saved for a rainy day, and Kyoto’s alley-like side streets that are packed full of restaurants, shops, and homes.

Cultured in Kyoto

The gardens in Kyoto are the best I’ve ever enjoyed. They are perfectly and painstakingly landscaped to exude calmness and natural beauty, a feat accomplished by gardeners on their hands and knees picking up individual, fallen cherry blossoms. The zen gardens are also showstoppers, which I did not expect after seeing the miniature ones people keep on desks and tabletops. The scaled-up expanse of meticulously detailed pebbles enforces a sense of peace on the soul. And how people maintain those displays without leaving footprints is a mystery I don’t care to solve.

Cultured in Kyoto

The same goes for bonsai trees. Gnarled trees many times my size are carefully trimmed and pruned over time to look balanced but always organic. Quite a contrast from the sculpted bushes that appear in European gardens. It’s not just temple grounds that feature such beauty. House after house features lovingly landscaped greenery. Do so many Japanese people have green thumbs and an artistic eye, or is there a very prolific landscaping service?

Cultured in Kyoto

One of my favorite walks in Kyoto was along Philosopher’s Path. It followed a tree-lined canal that reminded me of Georgetown…

Cultured in Kyoto

But with more cats.

Cultured in Kyoto

Lots of beautiful pagodas can be seen in Kyoto.

Cultured in Kyoto

And because most of the temples are uphill, the views are fantastic. This one is Kiyomizu-dera, one of the more popular sights.

Cultured in Kyoto

One of the coolest things in Kyoto is hiking to see the monkeys. They’re worth the climb. Along the trail, there are rules for interacting with the monkeys, and the first one is to avoid all eye contact. That’s especially off-putting when you reach the top of the hike and are completely surrounded by them. We fed the eager monkeys from inside of a caged building.

Cultured in Kyoto

Outside the building, the monkeys really are indifferent to people. The babies were so cute, and they spent lots of time grooming each other.

Cultured in Kyoto

We came across this Roman style, functioning aqueduct. It was really impressive and the architecture provided for great photos. An art class was there drawing it. One of my favorite gardens from all of Japan was tucked behind it.

Cultured in Kyoto

And of course, the bamboo- one of the sights I was most looking forward to visiting. The bamboo is more of a grove than a forest. There is one path that cuts through it, and it is incredibly impressive. The bamboo stalks are shockingly tall and wide. They must have been growing forever. Unfortunately, I can never look at bamboo the same way again after trying to eradicate it from my new backyard. Let’s just say, I was bamboozled!

Cultured in Kyoto

These small, moss-covered statues are another curious sight. There are hundreds of them covering a hilly area, and each statue has its own unique personality. They are all done in the same style, so the individuality is not obvious at first glance.

Cultured in Kyoto

As a sampling, these statutes held a pug, a ukulele, and boxing gloves. Another had a camera around its neck. I guess they’re not ancient…

Cultured in Kyoto

And if you take the train between Kyoto and Tokyo, be sure to sit on the side that has a view of Mount Fuji!

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