FIFTEEN YEARS!

A few months late, but finally here I am… The month of March brings with it several reasons to celebrate. It signals the end of the winter, in other words, it’s pure joy. But better than that, we got married in March… the 7th to be exact, and four short days later it’s my birthday!  Some people don’t care about celebrating their birthday. I don’t “get” that. I am totally into it. So there you have it, March is a triple joy month. This year was our 15th wedding anniversary, which of course feels special, although at the risk of sounding a bit cheesy, each anniversary is very special to me.

Sculpture

If we both had to pick a place to celebrate life the way we love it, Hawaii would be it. We love everything about it,  the sun, being outside, playing golf in amazing courses, jogging along the coast. The North shore of Oahu is the closest spot to paradise for us. It has none of the commercial, touristic stuff of Waikiki, it’s a more pure and wild experience. So, that’s where we went to celebrate the date. It was a rather short visit, but we savored each moment.

This was the view from our room’s balcony at Turtle Bay…
RoomView

One of the cool things we did was performing a major exorcism. An explanation is obviously needed. When I was 13 years old I went for a trip with my older sister Nyrma and her husband. They arranged a horseback riding session for me (the first of my life), but unfortunately it did not have a happy ending. It was with a group of teenagers from the hotel, most of them quite comfortable riding. To make a long story short, one of the teenage boys, trying to show off, started galloping real fast, and startled my horse.  All I remember is that my horse behaved like the one from Zorro, raised the front legs way up in the air, and took off like a maniac!  Soon we were far away from the group, I was hugging the neck of the horse for dear life, but then my saddle started to slip sideways! At some point I was pretty much hanging to one side, almost parallel to the ground, with my head passing just above the roof of cars parked on the side of the street. Yeah, the horse decided to gallop through town. I heard people on the sideways screaming “somebody help her! that little girl will fall”… Keep in mind that at age 13 I looked more like a 9-year-old… (sigh).  My crazy horse left town again, galloped some more, until he decided he’d had enough and stopped to munch on something by a tree. That’s when I finally fell off.  Let’s say that experience traumatized me quite a bit, and even though I love all animals, horses make me a bit nervous.  But I don’t like to sit on my fears. I’ve always wanted to turn the page and be able to ride a horse again. Thanks to Phil, I managed to finally go for it.

But first things first… I had to keep my composure  while getting close to the horses…. The instructor at the hotel made sure I got a very gentle horse (the thought of “famous last words” crossed my mind).

Horse_Sally

We were a group of 6 riders plus the instructor. I got to ride right behind her, and Phil following behind me. Talk about feeling safe… It was perfect. Midway through the ride,  I was comfortable enough to pose for a photo… The ride was slow, nice, and peaceful. Could not ask for more. Full disclosure: Phil said that when I first climbed on the horse my face was  as white as a Hawaiian cloud. Indeed, I toyed with the idea of jumping off and running back to the safety of our hotel room. But the horse was too tall and I did not want to risk breaking a leg or two. So I stayed up there, pretending all was fine. I’m glad I did. It felt great to overcome a major fear. Page turned. Next time, I want to go for a faster ride. HA!

P_S_Horseback

Another fun part of our trip was paying a visit to the famous Banyan Tree….

Banyan

I had high hopes of seeing Jonny Depp around, but no luck with that. No worries, I had my private George Clooney with me at all times. The tree is nothing short of magnificent. Everything you see in the picture is part of a single tree, it actually covers a huge area!

TheTree1

During the horseback riding, the guide led our group around the tree, but I took the picture the following day, when we went back for a walk around the area. They don’t like to advertise too much the location of the tree to try and protect it from vandalism, but if you find yourself near the North shore of Oahu, make sure to stop by.  Who knows, maybe Jonny Depp will show up and say hello…

As usual, we enjoyed great meals, mainly seafood in all its glory!

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But, the highlight of the trip was the celebration of our 15th anniversary!  Here is yours truly ready to party…

Ready

Our dinner at Pa’Akai was wonderful!  Sorry, no photos of our plates, it was such a romantic setting, I could not bring myself to break the atmosphere to snap photos. However, we did ask the waiter to take one of us as a souvenir of the special evening…

15th_Dinner

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Until next time, Aloha!

ONE YEAR AGO: Light Brioche Burger Buns

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Blues

THREE  YEARS AGO: Headed to Hawaii

FOUR YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Hidden Treasure

SIX YEARS AGO: Avocado Three Ways

AND THE WINNER OF MY GIVEAWAY IS….

…..

ANNE WALLACE!!!!!

(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….

RoomView

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

😉

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS SIX!

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!
(comments are now shutdown for this post)

Six years ago I composed a post and hit “PUBLISH” for the first time, with trembling fingers and the excitement of starting a new path. For six years I’ve shared recipes, photos, stories, reviewed cookbooks, fitness videos, baked a lot of bread, quite a few desserts, and invited you over many virtual tours of our kitchen. It’s been absolutely great!  During this time I’ve made connections with a number of food bloggers and readers that now feel like real life friends. That side-benefit of blogging I could not foresee on day one, and I love it!

As I prepared this post, I noticed about 25 wordpress drafts waiting to go live, and probably nearly as many folders in my computer of recipes and photos “to be blogged soon”. Come to think of it, I could quit cooking anything new for about 6 months and still keep the site going. I have no intentions of slowing down my cooking, but such a backup of posts definitely makes life easier. Who needs a hobby that is a source of stress? No, not me, not into it. However, in such a special day we must have cake, which all of a sudden places the stress threat on RED ALERT. Plus. I’m not talking a simple cake, but one defined by Dorie Greenspan as a “show-stopper”.  I tried my hands at her “Carrèment Chocolat”.  Here is the result of my labor of love, which ended up as Phil’s labor of love too.

Carrement Chocolat Cake2

HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY, BEWITCHING KITCHEN!

I will dedicate a special post for the making of this cake, let me just say that it was worth the stress and the many boo-boos made by yours truly, and fixed by her awesome husband.  Stay tuned.

A blog anniversary would not be complete without a giveaway to show appreciation for my readers.  You make blogging fun and rewarding. I am giving away a signed copy of David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table.  I take this opportunity to thank David for sending me a signed copy super fast… much appreciated!

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Portuguese cuisine doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Being Brazilian, I grew up under the influence of many such dishes, not only because of Brazil’s colonization, but because my Mom’s parents were both born and raised in Portugal. I have memories of my childhood and teenage years back home, when grandma (Vovo’ Florinda, who lived with us), would make “bolinhos de bacalhau” (salt cod fritters) and the smell made me want to turn around and go back to school.  I was a silly young girl, who twisted her nose at many classic Portuguese dishes. I feel bad because I never even tried one of her fritters. Shame on me! Maybe now that I am older and so much wiser (or as I like to put it… much older and a little wiser), I can do justice to Vovo’ Florinda‘s cooking by offering this book to one of my readers.  To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment in this post. Comments will be open until July 1st, and the winner will be announced the following day. If you’ve never commented before but have been following my blog, I would love to “meet” you, so don’t be shy anymore, and say hello! Contrary to my usual approach, I won’t reply to every comment in this post, so let me say upfront:  Thank you for taking part of my virtual celebration!

I invite you to follow me on the road to my seventh year of food blogging. I promise there will be cakes, breads, and dog tales. I’ve shown you this photo before, but I love it so much, I want to share it again… Plus, who knows how long Chief will be with us? Hard to tell… at almost 16 and a half years old, he still loves going for walks and staring at the road ahead. Like all of us do… The unknown, the possibilities. All there, waiting for us.

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A walk at sunset with the pups…


ONE YEAR AGO:
The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

FOUR YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

SIX YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

FORECAST CALLS FOR CAKE

A certain food blog will soon turn 6 years old.  The occasion calls for cake. After weeks of struggle, I settled on a recipe, and going over that hurdle brought a little peace into our home.  Friday night we were having dinner out and Phil asked me if I was ready to bake “the cake.” He asked me to repeat my answer on camera, and since I am fearless,  that’s what I did. 

He sent me the file by email with the subject: Famous Last Words…  HA! We shall see….

THE MAKING OF A NOBEL RECEPTION

As I mentioned earlier, we hosted a very important event in our home: a reception to honor Dr. Randy Schekman, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I actually have a little gift for my readers. If you want to listen to one of his seminars, click on this link. Randy opened this talk with amusing stories about his life and how he first became interested in science. This particular seminar was open to the public and will appeal to anyone. He is not only a great speaker, but also very personable. It was one of the best scientific visits we had in our department.

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Since the reception took place on a Monday evening, I could do most of the work in the weekend. Apart from store-bought items (crackers, cheeses,  charcuterie items, black olive tapenade, and fresh fruits), here is the list of what I prepared.

Cheddar Cheese Coins
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Dill Cream and Smoked Salmon
(from Evil Shenanigans)

Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Parmigiano Cheese
(from Suzanne Goin)

Smoky Eggplant Dip
(from Fine Cooking)

Moroccan Carrot Dip 
(inspired by this recipe)

Herbed Overnight Focaccia
(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Warm Spiced Almonds
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Meyer Lemon Baked Ricotta
(from Food Fanatic)

Chocolate Truffles
(from America’s Test Kitchen)

Fresh Strawberries with Cannoli Cream
(adapted from Baked Bree)

prep

I spread the preparation over the two preceding days, freezing focaccia (cut in squares), cheddar crackers, and mini-pancakes on Saturday.  That worked very well, I removed them all from the freezer at lunch time on Monday and refreshed them briefly in a 250 F oven a couple of hours before serving, or in the case of the mini-pancakes, before assembling them with the dill cream and the salmon. One hour before the reception started I baked the Bacon-wrapped dates and the Meyer Lemon Ricotta.

Saturday

Saturday afternoon… We are headed to the freezer!

 Of all things I made, the carrot dip was my favorite. I served it over cucumber slices and the contrast of colors and flavors was exactly what I aimed for.  A detailed report about this dish will be on the blog soon.  I also loved the baked ricotta, and the cheddar crackers.  The only disappointment was the smoky eggplant dip. That was the first time I had a Fine Cooking recipe fail me, and let’s say it was a major fail. I should have stuck with a regular hummus.  Oh, well…

Suzanne Goin’s bacon-wrapped dates: delicious! In fact one of the guests told Phil that he would like to stand by the platter and inhale them all as dinner.  They were a perfect mixture of sweet and savory, with the sharp bite on Parmigiano to crown it all.

Stay tuned for some Nobel Reception recipes coming soon to a food blog near you…

😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

TWO YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

THREE YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

FOUR YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

FIVE YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

AS GOOD AS IT GETS… IN SCIENCE

Once again our department will be hosting a very special seminar speaker, Dr. Randy Sheckman, from Berkeley, Nobel Laureate of 2013 in Physiology or Medicine, for his work on protein trafficking and secretion in eukaryotic cells.

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I am of course delighted that Phil accomplished all the negotiations needed to pull off this type of event.  It’s not easy, many hurdles must be dealt with.  But his power of negotiation is quite unique and hard to resist. For instance, the first time he hinted at the idea of us hosting a reception in our home in honor of Dr. Sheckman, my answer came  quickly: No way we are doing this. Forget it.  In your dreams. I don’t want to hear anything about it again. 

I inform you that said reception will take place at our home on Monday, and all faculty members interested in meeting Dr. Sheckman were invited to show up.

This weekend, yours truly will be found pacing frantically around the kitchen, preparing for the big event…  I have a few things planned, some a bit daring, some inside my comfort zone. I am actually super excited about it, and intend to have a great time getting ready for it!  Stay tuned for a full report sometime in the near future… (assuming my mental sanity is not compromised).