Those who follow my blog might remember we hosted a very special reception at our home a couple of months ago. So far, I only shared one of the recipes here, a focaccia that pleased me even more than my usual version. But my favorite appetizer by far was a carrot dip served over cucumber slices. A contrast of colors, textures, and flavors that pleased every single guest, in fact many asked me for the recipe.  If you are hosting a dinner party, please make a batch of these babies to open the evening. They are light enough that no one will feel overly stuffed before the real meal, and if you go the extra mile and pipe the dip over the cucumber, the presentation is quite stunning. Even if I say so myself…

Carrot Dip Cucumber

(inspired by this recipe)

tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
 cup water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
sliced English cucumber
black sesame seeds for decoration (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet.  Add the carrots and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the carrots are fully tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked carrots to a food processor and process until smooth. Stir the remaining tablespoon of oil and vinegar. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until the dip is chilled, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Pipe mounds of the dip over cucumber slices, arrange on a serving platter, sprinkle black sesame seeds on top.


to print the recipe, click here


Hello there!  We are not only cute, but Paleo-friendly too!  

And now for something completely different. Let me share a small drama associated with the preparation of this plate. Keep in mind that I was already quite stressed and running out of time to get it all ready for the guests. I used a disposable piping bag coupled to a plastic star-shaped piping tip. When I finished piping the last round, I went to the sink to recover, wash and store away the tip. Well, the tip would NOT come out of the bag. I pulled, and pulled, and twisted and pulled.  Just as I told myself I really did not need that grievance, the tip exploded off and behaved like a golf tee after a perfect driver shot: it twirled up in the air, up, up, then down down, falling next to my feet on the floor.  I suspect you know where this is headed. Buck was way faster than me. He grabbed it, ran away to his bed, and started munching on it. I was terrified that he would choke on the tip, but I know better than trying to stick my fingers inside the mouth of a feasting Jack Russell.  Granted, once the tasty carrot stuff was gone, he let go of the tip, good doggie that he is (yeah, right). The piping tool was laid to its final rest in the trash can, totally ruined. But, can you imagine the odds of that? Unreal.  My kitchen must be a really bewitched spot… And I was not even baking a cake this time!

Back to food.  This was definitely one of the tastiest appetizers I’ve ever made, there’s something about the mixture of spices and the sweetness of the carrots… wow!  I tried the dip on Ak Mak crackers, it is great that way too, but please match it with the cucumber slices for a real treat.  I guess we could call it a nobel treat…


Small platter

ONE YEAR AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

THREE YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey (three years already!!!!)

 Shrimp Moqueca


I got the inspiration for this salad from Lidia Bastianich. In a recent cooking show she came up with a refreshing celery-mozzarella combo to which toasted walnuts were added for crunch. Lidia mentioned something I fully agree with: celery is a very under-utilized veggie. I know many people don’t like it because of its fibrous and harsh texture. However, if you use the best celery you can find (no need to search for the gigantic creature of my recent past) at the perfect stage of ripeness, and slice it thinly, chances are most of your objections to this stalky creature will go away. Some chefs recommend peeling it, but I don’t see that happening in our kitchen.  I find celery refreshing, bright, and use it all the time. For this salad, I adapted Lidia’s basic idea to make a departure on the classic Caprese, a favorite with us.

Caprese Celery Salad

(adapted from Lidia Bastianich)

perfectly ripe tomatoes, sliced
fresh mozzarella, sliced
celery stalks, thinly sliced
toasted walnut halves or pieces
lemon juice
olive oil
Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Make a simple dressing mixing olive oil, lemon juice, mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Amounts are pretty flexible, I add a lot of lemon juice probably 50/50 with the oil. Make enough to coat all the pieces of celery and have some extra so you can drizzle all over the assembled salad. In a small bowl, mix the celery pieces with the dressing and allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and mozzarella to a serving platter,  place the celery and dressing all over. Scatter toasted walnuts, sprinkle salt to taste (Maldon flakes are a great option here).


to print the recipe, click here

We loved this salad so much, I’ve been making it regularly now. Toasted hazelnuts go very well too, and sometimes I make the dressing with walnut oil.  The combination of celery with nuts is superb, I hope you’ll give it a try.  Now that the weather is wonderfully hot, this type of salad is the side dish to go with almost any protein of your choice. Roast chicken, grilled meats, grilled salmon. No need for anything else if you ask me…

Lidia’s show has everything I’d hope FoodTV Network would offer, but it doesn’t.  In our town it is broadcast by PBS. I set our Tivo to tape it and maybe twice per week there is a new episode waiting for me. She is very knowledgeable, fun to watch, and as a bonus often suggests the perfect wine to pair with her meals. I was surprised to learn that one of her restaurants is located in Kansas City, a couple of hours from home. Something to keep in mind if we ever decide to go for a special weekend trip to the “big city.”

ONE YEAR AGO: Oh, my God! I think I saw something!

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Hoisin-Grilled Chicken and Soba Noodles

THREE YEARS AGO: The Manhattan Project

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carrot “Nib” Orzo

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Sticky Situation

SIX YEARS AGO:  The Garden


Once again it’s time to invite you for a tour of our kitchen, joining the great virtual event created by Celia, fantastic baker, superb cook, who blogs over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.   As I normally like to do, let me start with gifts…

From a very dear friend, a fantastic Rolls-Royce of a pan: an All-Clad skillet that does a superb job in many tasks, browning chicken pieces, sauteing mushrooms, making one of my regular types of lunches, sautéed ground beef or turkey with veggies (carrots, celery, zucchini). I use it several times per week, with a big smile each time.

AllClad1 allcladaction
From one of our departmental colleagues, the best gardener in Manhattan, KS, a huge batch of fresh dill… All portioned and frozen, amazing how well it freezes, we still had some from last year.

From our dear friend Cindy who came to visit last month, dried Barberries…. they have a very unique taste, and will be put to good use in a recipe I’ve had in my files for a long time

From our friend Steve, the traveler extraordinaire, two gifts brought all the way from Saudi Arabia…  my beloved saffron, and a package of their outstanding dates!  I always get very worried when he travels to Saudi Arabia, it is such a complex society!  I would be afraid of saying something wrong, doing something wrong and getting in serious trouble. So, it’s always great to hear that his plane landed back safely in the US.


From another colleague from our department, a huge batch of fresh sour cherries. Each year he invites us to go pick cherries from his trees.  We made a nice sour cherry sorbet last year, but this time I think I see a sour cherry pie in our future!


From Phil, a new rug for our kitchen, as a bottle of olive oil was accidentally broken on the old one and it resisted all our attempts to cleaning. It developed a stain that got worse and worse as weeks went by.  Who broke it? The resident food blogger. For the record, she was very sorry.



In our kitchen…


Phil’s love for fruit preserves is quite obvious… his favorite of this group was the Blackberry Preserves…. the glasses are beautiful with the handle, and we find all sorts of uses once the jam is gone.  These bottles were available at our Marshall’s store in town.

In our kitchen…


Another find from Marshall’s. A beautiful bowl, with a bit of a Moroccan flair.  I love the colors and its golden hue.

In our kitchen…


A large plastic platter that is perfect to take treats to the department. Very cheap, on sale at our grocery store. The bright yellow called my name, as you might suspect…

In our kitchen….


Phil loves to have a small square of dark chocolate with his cappuccino.  When his chocolate reserve is getting low, I like to surprise him with different brands of goodies, so he can try something different and maybe pick a new favorite…

In our kitchen…


The world’s largest celery stalk!  I apologize for the carbon footprints on this one, it came all the way from California to Kansas, but how could I resist bringing this beauty home?  Simply impossible.

In our kitchen….


Since we are in the subject of sins… Something I rarely buy, ready cut veggies. But, look at the perfectly diced zucchini!  It was on sale at our grocery store (Hy-Vee) for $2.20.  Life is too short to be virtuous all the time, don’t you think? A little culinary sin here, another there…  no big deal, right?

In our kitchen….

raspberriesA bag of freeze-dried raspberries… I have a great recipe in mind for this one… Stay tuned….  It is from a cookie book recommended by Karen, from Karen’s Kitchen Stories.  Did you know that cookbooks bought from recommendation of favorite food bloggers do not count against the “No new cookbooks in 2015?” Yeah. The amendment to the rule was made back in January. Sorry if I forgot to mention it.

In our kitchen….


This is probably an acquired taste, and will not please everyone. I’d heard of shirataki noodles as a zero-carb alternative for pasta, but until a few weeks ago I was unable to find it for sale in our neck of the woods.  Not the case anymore, two of our grocery stores have them all the time in three shapes: fettuccine, angel hair, and spaghetti.  You simply drain the liquid they are stored in, rinse the noodles well and warm them up.  They have a sort of strange smell as you open the package, but if you add a sauce or even just some butter and grated Parmigiano, it’s not bad at all. A good option for days in which I want to keep the carbs low.


I close this tour with our canine friends who absolutely
insist on barking hello….


Chief is going through another tough phase, but I managed to snap this reasonably ok shot of him. He says “Don’t worry, friends, before you know it, I am going to be back chasing squirrels, show them who is the boss around our backyard.”


Buck approves the new rug, and promises not to mark it, scratch it, butt-scoot it, or drop food on it (his Mom can take care of that part without his help).


How could Mom imagine I would do anything wrong to the new rug?  You can see I’m an angel! And, contrary to my brother, I know how to properly use a bed.


Oscar is a lot more creative with it. At the time this photo was taken he had just gotten his summer shave and seemed a little upset about it. Maybe folding the bed is a way to show his displeasure?


Well, the real displeasure is having to sit here waiting for our food. Why is Mom playing with her camera instead of feeding us? Have we been that bad? I don’t think so. The backyard has been pretty calm lately, as far as I can remember…


Yeah, I think she forgot all about the skunk by now…

Finally, I will share a little video from our visit to the research cows, 2 miles from home. The previous week I did not take my cell phone, and could not document the huge lick Buck got on the side of his belly from one of the less shy bovines.  It was priceless! This time he didn’t want to have anything to do with them, which is too bad, they absolutely love him!  Take a look by clicking here. It is short and sweet…  (I have zero patience for long videos, and I bet most people are like me).


That’s all, folks!  Celia, thanks for the virtual party, and I invite my readers to visit other kitchens around the world by stopping at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, Celia lists all the links to the posts on the right side of her front page.


ONE YEAR AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

THREE YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

SIX YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July




(Please send me an email at sallybr2008 at gmail dot com, so I can get your address and ship the book to you next week).

Thank you so much for all who commented, I was particularly touched by the first time “commenters” who said hello, it was amazing to realize that some people have been following my blog for several years, but stay in the background, so I was totally unaware of their presence.  Still, they all had wonderful things to say about the Bewitching Kitchen, giving me even more energy to go on sharing my recipes, stories, and eventual cake baking boo-boos.

I enjoyed reading all the comments, even if I opened an exception and did not reply to them.  As you may know by now, I make a serious effort to address each comment I get, maybe missing some that might pop up in old posts, often because I tell myself I’ll go back to them later, but… life interferes.

Life actually interferes a lot with the best blogging plans.  I still owe you a post about our trip to Hawaii last March. It will come, I promise. In the mean time, I leave you with a nice photo from that trip, the view from our hotel room at Turtle Bay. I think I need a little vacation soon!

Sweet memories….


Thanks again to all my readers, I still cannot quite believe I made it to six years! Unreal….