It’s been a while, folks, my last participation in Celia’s virtual get together was in February, so before I miss another month, here I am to invite you for a tour of our kitchen.

Starting with a super special gift that Phil gave me for my Birthday…


YESSSSS!  A Vitamix Blender, the Rolls Royce of blenders, in a gorgeous burgundy color! This thing is amazing!  We make smoothies that are REAL smooth, soups, sauces, no job is too tough for this baby.  Plus, I love the way the machine starts at a very low-speed, so even if you are blending hot liquids, that expansion, so common in all other blenders will not happen in a Vitamix.  I am totally in love with it!

In our kitchen…


One of the first smoothies I made in my Vitamix.  It was delicious, but believe it or not, I did not write down the recipe, kept throwing things in the blender, and of course regretted being so lax about it. It had coconut  and almond milk, protein powder, strawberries, a smidgen of agave nectar, and maybe a little orange juice too. Coconut flakes on top are a must, adding that little crunchy note.  I highly recommend that you play with these ingredients. But do a better job than I did, and take notes.

In our kitchen….


Gel coloring that shall be put to test in a future batch of macarons…. They are supposed to work much better than regular food coloring, because just a little bit adds a ton of color, so the delicate balance of the macaron formula is not compromised.  Now all I need is a quiet weekend to try my luck at macarons again.

In our kitchen…


A bottle of blood orange-infused olive oil… You cannot believe the smell of this product!  We got it in a store in Maryland, while visiting a couple of dear friends.  Apart from this interesting store (Olivins), we highly recommend a stop by Blackwater Reserve.  We saw many Bald Eagles flying in all their magnificent glory, and as we drove away, a couple of birds were feeding in a field by the side of the road.  We were far, but our friend Wanda managed to snap these shots.  Amazing, don’t you think?

IMG_0086 2IMG_0088

In our kitchen…


A colorful platter I fell in love instantly with… found at our town’s Tuesday Morning. In some past life I was probably a butterfly, as I have this irresistible attraction to colorful stuff…

In our kitchen, a new cookbook!


A friend of mine, having read one of my rants against the Food TV, urged me to tune into PBS and watch Christopher Kimball’s series, America’s Test Kitchen. It turns out that as a member of Amazon Prime, I can watch many of those shows for free. To make a long story short, I am officially addicted. It is all I hoped a cooking show should be. Less “show”, more “teaching”. Because where we live not all shows are available for free, I decided to get their book, which covers the whole 14 years of recipes. The only problem with watching the show, is the temptation to get the stuff they recommend.  I already fell for two things that got their top ratings:

First, a gadget to enjoy soft-boiled eggs “comme il faut”… the egg topper is amazing, works like a charm!  Fun to use, and does the job it’s designed for.


Second, a vegetable cleaver.  I had no idea I needed one, but after watching ATK, I realized life would not be complete without it.  The thing is VERY sharp, and I am not yet too comfortable using it, but slowly and surely I’ll get there (hopefully with all my fingers intact).


In our kitchen…

hamburgerBunsA batch of hamburger buns made on impulse on a Sunday afternoon. Very quick recipe to put together. You can find it here. I still need to work on shaping them a little flatter. Amazing how these babies plumped up during baking.

In our kitchen…


A bag of dried corn.  I suspect it will be hard for most people to guess what this ingredient will be used for, UNLESS you own a certain cookbook called Momofuku Milk Bar. My lips are sealed. I just hope to make this particular recipe soon and share here.

In our kitchen….


Achiote Paste.  This is a very important ingredient in some authentic Mexican dishes like Pork Pipian. Stay tuned…

In our kitchen…


Sometimes I like to have a smoothie for lunch or as a post-workout small meal. Protein powders can be pretty tough to digest, or leave an unpleasant after-taste. Not this one.  I don’t care for vanilla or chocolate-flavored protein powders, rather have pureed fruits or juices as the base of flavor.  This is a perfect product for my needs.

In our kitchen….


Isn’t this tea-infuser adorable?  You add loose tea to the metal strainer, and close it. It will float on the surface of your tea-cup, then you simply lift it and rest it inside the plastic container to dispose of the tea leaves later. I could not resist bringing it home from our Marshall’s store in town.

In our kitchen….


Special flours from I made a couple of gluten-free breads from Peter Reinhart’s book, and they often call for nut flours, not easy to find in grocery stores (yes, I do realize I could make my own if I had the inclination for it).  I got  a bag of walnut flour and a bag of cashew flour (shown in photo). does a great job with their packaging, super cute! I even got a freebie with my order, a small bag of chia seeds…  Great customer service!


As I wrote this last paragraph, three pairs of eyes were glued to me.  “Mom, you are NOT considering leaving us out this time, are you? You know that your readers don’t even pay attention to any of this stuff you brag about, all they do is scroll to the end to meet us…”  Could they possibly have a point? So, a little reluctantly, here they are. Why reluctantly, you might ask?  Two of them have caused us a considerable amount of grievance this month, to the point that we thought about selling them.  Cheap. Very cheap. As in  Free for a good home. Read on.

Let’s start with the only well-behaved one. Chief has been going through a fantastic phase, he still sleeps quite a long time each day, but goes through bursts of amazing energy, trying to chase his favorite toy, playing tug-of-war with it, and even attempting to run while going for a walk.  Amazing resilience in his 16 years and 3 months of life.


Here he is, enjoying the sunny backyard for a few minutes, before starting his opera singing to go back inside…


Buck shows great style and elegance…

FirstDanceMay I have the first dance, Mom?

But his brother has other ideas. What he lacks in elegance he compensates in enthusiasm…

ItsMyDanceThere is only ONE first dance, and it will be mine, all mine….  

Of course, when the moment calls for it, he can bring his style and poise too…


 Notice the paw placement, please… I was a lord in a previous life.
A lord, I tell ya…

Your elegance is debatable. At any rate, you cannot beat me in my awe-inducing control of the ball…


 (click to enlarge)

Which does make me a little tired…

Now, it’s time for a little detour, so let’s go out to the backyard, where a lot of emotion is waiting for you…

In our backyard….

A magnificent owl, staring at us very early in the morning…

Maybe she witnessed the horrific scenes that were waiting for me one fateful Saturday afternoon? Maybe she saw the skunk invading our backyard? Attacking Oscar? Attacking Buck? Hard to tell what the owl saw. All I can tell is what I saw, and it wasn’t pretty. A skunk is no match for a Jack Russell, and once Oscar was done vomiting and foaming in the mouth (feeling sorry for me yet?), he joined his fearless brother to help with the kill. A kill that took way too long, and I was unable to prevent, even though I did try my best. Let’s  not even talk about the state of my nerves during the development of this saga. Obviously, said saga had to happen while the man I married 15 years, 1 month, and 24 days ago was out hitting a small ball with a long stick. His cell phone set on vibrate so that no sound would interfere with his concentration during a long putt (insert Sally’s eye-roll to the skies above). But then, I am a Drama Queen. Can you wrap your mind around the unfairness of it all? I know, I know… you can hardly stand it.


Oscar guarding his prize.
Please note the small amount of foam still surrounding his mouth. 


In all fairness, the golfer arrived home and cleaned up the battle zone, dogs included. No, I did not have to call a lawyer, and yes, I was pampered big time the rest of the weekend. HA!

I hope you enjoyed this walk through the Bewitching Home…
Celia, thanks for hosting this wonderful

ONE YEAR AGO: P90X3, a Review of Tony Horton’s Latest Fitness Program 

TWO YEARS AGO: Pasta and Mussels in Saffron Broth

THREE YEARS AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure


It’s shocking but we are arriving at the end of April. Hard not to use a beaten up expression like “time flies”. It simply does. But, birds are singing, owls are making a ton of noise in the middle of the night, sun is shinning, and I am a happy camper, having stored all my sweaters, coats, and boots far away from my sight. As usual, the last Monday of the month brings with it Reveal Day: a showcase of posts made by food bloggers who participate of The Secret Recipe Club, and are paired in secret.  My assignment was the blog by Julie, Confessions of a Cooking Diva.  Don’t you love that name? Made me wish I had named my blog The Drama Queen Cooks…. Tongue in cheek, of course. As regular readers know, I am a level-headed, composed, unflappable individual. Julie is originally from Idaho but lives in Utah with a cuddly cat and a basset hound, a type of dog I find very cool with its incredibly sharp sense of smell. Julie shares with me a deep fear of baking, but admits that nothing scares her more than spiders. I’d have to settle for cockroaches as my number one fear, but we are basically virtual sisters.  I assembled quite a few recipes on my list of possibilities, like her One Pot Green Chile Mac & Cheese… her Caribbean Jerk Salmon Tacos… her Turkey Sausage….her Black Bean Burgers…. and her Apple-Pecan Cheesecake… But, my love for spices spoke loudly, so here I am to share with you an AMAZING recipe for cookies that marry a traditional gingersnap with chunks of white chocolate. Heaven. Pure heaven in cookie shape.

Gingersnaps White Choc Chips

(from Confessions of a Cooking Diva)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup molasses
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 + 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1+1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1+1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 eggs
3+1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄2 bag of white chocolate chips (I used 3/4 bag)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare baking sheets by spraying them with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Mix in the molasses, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt and spices until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Slowly add in the flour, half a cup at a time. Mix well. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 10 minutes. Then allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.


to print the recipe, click


Comments: Recently I read a book I’ve had for a long time but stayed sitting on a shelf, patiently waiting for me.  It is called BOUCHON BAKERY, a masterpiece of a pastry book, written by Thomas Keller & Sébastien Rouxel. My only criticism is its coffee table format, not very user-friendly.  But if you don’t mind that, it is well worth getting. The book goes well beyond recipes. In fact, it offers a deeper view of what it takes to start and maintain a bakery of the level of Bouchon. A lot of merit goes for the man in charge, Sébastien Rouxel, and his almost compulsive attention to detail. In Sébastien’s opinion, you cannot be a good pastry baker unless you are neat and organized, to the point that your bench is spotless clean at the end of the day, and as clean as humanly possible while you work.  As he says, being neat and organized doesn’t start when you get to work, it starts when you wake up.  That is quite a statement!  So, let’s say that I was under the spell of the book when I worked on this assignment.  My kitchen looked very professional, all ingredients lined up, detailed prep work.  I am afraid it won’t last, but it felt great…


As to the cookies, they are FABULOUS. It is important not to over-bake them, so 10 to 11 minutes and you are done. I baked them mid-afternoon on a Sunday and took them to the department next morning. They were still soft, with a bit of moisture and chew, which is the way I like a cookie. If you prefer a more snappy creature, bake longer.  The white chocolate goes very well with all those fragrant spices, that made our kitchen very inviting.  Too inviting, maybe?


 The ball can wait. I rather fetch a cookie!

 Julie, it was nice to “meet” you through this month’s adventure, our students and colleagues in the department sure appreciate your recipe very much, and so did I!  Have a great Reveal Day! And, if I may offer you a little gift, here it is. Print it and stick it on your fridge in case you need it.


As usual, my readers are all invited to dive into the collection of delicious recipes featured by my fellow virtual friends from Group D of  The Secret Recipe Club by clicking on the cutest blue frog in the world, right at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Turkey Chili with Almond Butter

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken




As I recently mentioned, Celia sent me a perfect birthday gift last month. I shared with you my first homework under the guidance of Josey Baker, a loaf of his Olive Bread. It was a super simple no-knead recipe. So simple that a 5-year old under the influence of too much candy and a cup of coffee stolen from Mom would be able to make without any problem.  The following weekend I baked a variation of that loaf with sesame seeds in the dough.  But, that time I decided to incorporate one cycle of folding at the end of proofing.  Just that single cycle of folding gave quite a bit more structure to the bread, so consider doing that if you like to experiment with his recipes. And, here it is…


Josey suggests coating the bread in sesame seeds before baking, but I did not do that because I find that many seeds go to waste as they fall off during baking. Also, I prefer the texture of the crust without them. The little seeds you see here and there are just saying hello from inside the dough. Be polite and say hello back to them, ok?

Sesame Loaf2

You can find the recipe, published with permission from Josey Baker, by following this link.




It was time for me to go the whole nine yards putting my sourdough starter to work after a long hiatus in the freezer. What could be better than a very unusual formula using black pepper and chunks of Parmigiano in the dough? I modified it slightly, using Asiago cheese instead, and adding almost twice the amount of cheese called for in his formula.  Part of it shredded, most of it in small chunks.  Take a look at my baby, as it cooled over the rack:

and the crumb…. did you notice the chunks of cheese in all their glory? how about the tiny pepper specks?



This was a pretty spectacular loaf of bread. I had never thought of adding black pepper to bread dough, but it provided a very mysterious taste, not clearly associated with pepper. That flavor intensified in the following days, by the way.  A winner. Definitely a winner. This bread baking adventure got me soooo excited that I baked another loaf next day, can you imagine that?  So, without further ado…



This was a special loaf because I baked it for a colleague from the Department of Biology. She is originally from Germany and often complains that it’s impossible to find great bread in our town. Ok, we do have a Panera, but I imagine she shares the same views we do on their breads. Barely ok.  Nothing to compare with those incredibly delicious, hearty breads from bakeries in Europe.  So, Phil thought we should surprise her by baking a special sourdough loaf as a gift.  Once my Black Pepper Asiago bread turned out so well, I immediately mixed another batch of dough, but kept it simple just to be safe. On a Monday morning, 5am, there I was baking this loaf, which stayed overnight in the fridge after shaping. As I said before, Josey provides all types of alternative schedules to allow you to bake bread.  You can find a slightly modified version of the recipe with a jump here.

I can tell you that nothing beats the smile of a person who is at the receiving end of a loaf of bread, still warm from the oven!  Especially when she had no idea it was coming. A great way to start our week…

I hope you enjoyed this triple bread series. Of course, I should thank Celia once again for her gift that ended up introducing me to Josey Baker’s world.

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Life is good!


ONE YEAR AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

THREE YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

FIVE YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto


You’ve got to admit I did a pretty good job on my promise to stop posting so many cauliflower recipes. It’s been more than 2 months since I brought up Brassica oleracea to your screen. I cannot hold myself back anymore, not when I made these A-M-A-Z-I-N-G “caulitillas” that even the husband professed to be delicious. That is saying a lot, as he is adamant about corn tortillas, preferably the yellow kind. But, ever since Iron Man Mike blogged on these babies I’ve been meaning to try them.  They are everything he told them to be.  Make these.  It is a little involved, but in a fun way. And the pay off is huge.


(from The Iron You)

olive oil for greasing baking sheets
1 head of cauliflower, riced and packed (3 cups needed)
3 eggs
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375°F (190°C), line two baking sheets with parchment paper and grease them with olive oil.

In a food processor rice the cauliflower, until you get a texture finer than rice. Measure to make sure you have 3 cups of the riced veggie.  Place cauliflower rice in a bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes, give it a stir and microwave for another 2 minutes. Place the cauliflower rice in a tea towel and twist it to squeeze as much moisture as you can. Do not skip this step, because the cauliflower must be dry to behave properly in the subsequent stages of cooking.

Place drained cauliflower rice back in the bowl and add eggs, salt and pepper and mix until combined. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheets into 8 fairly flat circles. A small offset spatula works wonders here.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes, then peel them off the parchment paper, flip them and bake for further 6 to 7 minutes. Heat a nonstick medium-sized pan over medium heat and place the tortillas into the pan pressing down slightly and brown them (1 minute per side).


to print the recipe, click here


Hard to find someone who loves a Mexican meal more than I do. Tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, I love them all!  But, as the years go by, it gets easier for carbs to turn into fat, so I love it when I find a lighter way to indulge in one of my favorite cuisines. The Paleo world offers quite a few lower-carb options for tortillas using tapioca and/or coconut flour mixed with eggs, and cooked on a non-stick skillet.  They can be quite tasty, but their texture is closer to that of a crepe. If you are searching for a wrap that will be closer to the real thing, look no further. They even look like corn tortillas, don’t you think?   We had some tortillas leftover and I enjoyed them two days in a row, without any detectable loss in flavor or texture. I advise you to bake the full batch, and then do the final browning on top of the stove only for those you intend to consume right away.  Store the rest in the fridge, well wrapped.

The “caulitillas“, paired with pulled pork and a few selected toppings made for a fantastic midweek dinner! Next time I intend to use them in chicken enchiladas, like those from Mike’s original post. Scrumptious!


And, don’t forget that if your cauliflower produced more than the three cups of riced veggie needed for this recipe, put the additional amount to good use: make a batch of roasted riced cauliflower with coconut oil, and save it as a tasty side dish for later.


ONE YEAR AGO: Majestic Sedona, Take Two

TWO  YEARS AGO: Secret Ingredient Turkey Meatballs

THREE YEARS AGO: Swedish Meatballs and Egg Noodles

FOUR YEARS AGO: Italian Easter Pie

FIVE YEARS AGO: Black Olive Bialy


Almost six years of blogging, and I shared THREE drinks with you.  Three. That is an average of one drink post for every two years. Would that mean we are a boring couple as far as alcohol is concerned? Not quite the case. Phil enjoys a shot of tequila every once in a while, caipirinhas, good quality vodka on the rocks (he likes a brand called Chopin), and the eventual dry Martini. Shaken, not stirred. It turns out that “I” am the boring alcoholic component in our relationship, as 99% of the time I stick to white wine. But, even a boring person will occasionally go for a walk on the wild side. Take for instance these Margaritas, made with one of the sexiest fruits in the world: blood oranges. I love them. Now, keep in mind we made this drink quite sour, with no sugar added to it. Most people will prefer a little more sweetness, so adjust to your taste with simple syrup or a little agave, as suggested in the recipe.

Blood Orange Margaritas
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

makes 1 drink

2 shots of blood orange juice
1.5 to 2 shots tequila of your choice
1 shot lime juice
1 shot Curaçao (or another orange liqueur)
1 drop vanilla extract (optional)
sugar to taste (simple syrup, agave) – we omitted

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Pour over crushed ice.  Take a sip, and open a big smile!


to print the recipe, click here


Many (too many) years ago, I could enjoy a festive drink before dinner, then switch to a glass of wine or two with the  meal. No major harm done, life next day would be normal.  Not anymore. I do not dare mixing types of alcohol, not even those that are supposed to “work”. You know, the famous saying: Liquor before beer, never fear…  Not for me. I now have a huge respect for alcohol, as a hangover will knock me in horizontal position until 5pm next day. For the record, the last time I had a hangover was after a 4th of July party in 2010. No desire to face another one. So, I have this fascination for beautiful drinks, but rarely indulge. When I do, that becomes my drink for the evening, no wine with the meal.

These Margaritas were so refreshing and light!  We like our drinks very sour, in fact this time they were almost too sour for Phil’s taste, but I thought they were pretty good. You never know how red a blood orange will be until you cut it open, so there’s always some excitement associated with them.  Only one grocery store in town carries them, and it’s the one on the other side of town (you know, a 10 minute drive instead of 5). I bought a few with the intention of preparing a blood orange vinaigrette, perhaps a blood orange pound cake, but Phil came up with the idea of a colorful drink, and that was it.  With a Mexican-type dinner, it was a delightful evening. The vanilla addition was something I saw as a tip somewhere a while ago, wish I could give proper credit. Just a little drop, don’t go wild with it, or it might overpower your margarita.

ONE YEAR AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

TWO YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FIVE YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle


This cake recipe was published in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and I wanted to make it right away.  I subscribe to several cooking magazines but they tend to accumulate by my bedside table, untouched. Then, a trip comes up and they go with me in the plane. I read and rip the pages that interest me, tossing the magazine before coming back home. I know that for some this might be a huge no-no, but ever since we moved from OK to KS and I donated my collection of Fine Cooking magazines, I stopped saving them. The cut out recipes are glued in a notebook, a system that works great for me.  Anyway, as I was reading that issue on a flight to Hawaii (yeah, you got that right…. we’ve been to paradise last month), this recipe screamed at me: MAKE ME! MAKE ME! MAKE ME! Glad I finally did, it’s a great cake, moist, tender, and not overly sweet, thanks to the natural tartness of raspberries.


(from Bon Appetit, March 2015)

Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups ricotta
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries, divided

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries all over the surface of the batter.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This cake was so easy to make that I got into hyperventilation from excessive confidence. Basically, there is no way out for me, cakes make me suffer, even when nothing goes wrong. I thought that the raspberries sitting on top of the batter looked awfully cute, but after a few minutes in the oven, I pushed some of them a little into the batter, just in case.  I bet it made no difference whatsoever, the cake experts might be shaking their heads at my naiveté.  Oh, well.

As you know, food blogging is a very social activity. We leave comments, we follow food bloggers we enjoy, sometimes for their cooking alone, sometimes for the “whole package”.  I love bloggers who are witty (hard to beat Maureen on that category) make me laugh, make me think, teach me something. I normally stay clear from sites that push endless surveys or advertisements. But, anyway, some bloggers seem to always cook stuff I want to make. One such example is Steve, from Oui, Chef.  He subscribes to the same magazines I do, so quite often I bookmark a recipe and, being the slow self I am, next thing I know, the recipe is on his site!  This is exactly what happened with this cake. Take a look at Steve’s post by clicking here.  Obviously, great minds read alike, bookmark alike, and bake alike.

This cake was absolutely delicious! I added a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top because I felt the raspberries would be happy. And everyone who tried this cake in our department seemed to be happy too.  Such a great simple treat to celebrate spring…  Make it, and tell me what you think.

sliceHow about a slice?

In My Kitchen, April 2014

TWO YEARS AGO: Whole-wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

THREE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

FIVE YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)