Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cannoli Cups

Not too long ago, I was at work when one of my students came into my classroom and asked if I wanted to participate in my coworker’s birthday celebration. I walked over to my coworker’s classroom and saw her cake and immediately was taken back to my childhood birthday celebrations. One of my coworker’s students had gotten her this beautiful cake that reminded me of the cakes my mother would buy for birthday celebrations from this Italian bakery, in little Italy, in Chicago. All of a sudden I got flashbacks of these beautiful cakes decorated with colorful flowers piped out of frosting and coated with what seemed like toasted coconut. But most importantly, these cakes were well known for their cannoli that was layered in between angel food cake and topped with a thin layer of fresh strawberries. Personally, as a child I did not appreciate the actual taste of the cake. In reality, all I wanted was one of the colorful frosting flowers, or better yet, a Barbie cake. I am not going to lie. Seeing my coworker’s cake really made me think of my birthday celebrations as well as miss my home town. I guess you can say that this moment was my inspiration for the recipe I am sharing with you today. Yes, I am sure you are looking at the picture and saying, “Well, where is the cannoli shell?” But I have no problem admitting to you all that I am not quite that talented, at least not yet. I decided to take the major ingredients of a cannoli and use them in a much simpler way.  As I type this post I am laughing at all the challenges that came my way when I made this recipe the other day. Although I have melted chocolate before, using the various methods to do so, I ended up burning the chocolate the first time. And I have no idea what I did the second time considering that the “melted chocolate” looked like a weird lookin’ paste. Uhm let see.. I spooned my mascarpone mix into a “small” zip lock bag and as I was piping the mix the bag busted open, due to not cutting a large enough tip to allow mini-chocolate chips pass through. At one point I was like, “Mother…. of Pearl!” is anything going to go right today?! So with that being said, I plan on returning to this recipe and challenging myself to make the cannoli shells, but for now, these little bite size pieces of goodness are hitting the spot just fine!

Cannoli Cups

Serves about 24


¾ cup of an 8 oz package of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp. vanilla extract.
½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 boxes of mini fillo-dough cups
½ cup strawberries, rinsed, and thinly sliced
½ cup regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips
Splash of milk or cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with fillo-dough cups. Bake cups for 5-8 mins and set aside when done. In a small bowl combine mascarpone, ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and mix together. Once cheese mix is well combined, fold in mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. Put mix into a large zip lock bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. In a small glass bowl combine regular size semi-sweet chocolate chips and splash of milk and heat in the microwave for about 40 seconds. Stir chocolate and see if it needs to be melted down more. If so, add an additional splash of milk. You want the chocolate to be really melted down, but be careful not to burn the chocolate. Set aside when ready.
  3. Take zip lock bag and cut off the tip of one corner. (Remember big enough to let mini chocolate chips through). Take one of the cups and fill it with mascarpone mix and garnish with sliced strawberries. Repeat step until all cups are filled and topped with strawberries.
  4. Take a fork and dip it into melted chocolate mix and drizzle chocolate over all cups. 

Me with my siblings at my 3rd birthday party. 
Look at the cake!

Source: L.Chavez. Sweet,Spicy, and Sassy original. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Green Eggs and Ham

Foodie Friends!

I am so excited to introduce my first guest blogger to you all. She is a fantastic mom of 3, cook, and....she's my big sister!


First of all, I would like to thank my sister for inviting me to guest blog.  When she asked me to blog about something delicious and original to inspire the everyday cook, I couldn’t help but think about what inspires me, as a cook, and that would be my kids.  I almost always make meals with them in mind.  They are finicky and picky eaters, but I refuse to make separate meals for them and I am not a fan of highly processed foods, either.  I took a page (metaphorically) from Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious, in which she incorporates pureed fruits and vegetables into everyday recipes to sneak those vitamins and minerals into picky eaters.  While I am still a proponent of exposing children to whole fruits and vegetables on their plate, let’s face it, if your kids are anything like my kids, they’ll nibble on it and call it a day.  I am fascinated with the concept of swapping out artificial colors and flavors with all-natural pureed foods.  While Jessica Seinfeld has many ideas for incorporating purees into food, my Green Eggs and Ham with pureed broccoli is original to me.  When my son, Devin, turned 3, he wanted a Dr. Seuss breakfast birthday party.  Instead of adding food coloring to the eggs, I added pureed spinach. I even added it to the deviled eggs.  But sshhhh, it’s our little secret.  Not even the adults were aware.  Today, I added pureed broccoli to the eggs.  You get the same effect with pureed spinach, broccoli or zucchini.  For a more full Dr. Seuss effect, mix and match plates, napkins and table cloth in black, red and white.  You can even add some of the pureed vegetable over the Canadian bacon to make it green, too.  This is a festive and healthy way to enjoy breakfast. 

Green Eggs and Ham

Serves 1

2 eggs
1/4 cup pureed broccoli (spinach and zucchini work, as well)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tb oil
3 slices of Canadian bacon

First, puree either broccoli, spinach or zucchini, your choice (see special pureeing instructions below). Oil the pan or skillet.  Beat two eggs in a bowl. Add the puree, salt and pepper, and continue beating until well incorporated. Scramble eggs on a skillet as usual. Place Canadian bacon on a pan or skillet to heat through. Serve eggs and bacon with toast or other favorite breakfast side dish.

Pureeing vegetables

Cut into florets
None if you purchase the kind that is triple washed from the bag
Trim off the ends and cut into 1-inch pieces
Steaming process
Steam for 6-7 minutes.  Florets should be tender but still bright green.
Steam for 30-60 seconds or cook in a skillet with 1 Tb of water for about  90 seconds or until wilted
Steam for 6-8 minutes
In a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes. Add a few teaspoons of water if needed.
In a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes
In a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.
In freezer zip bag in ¼ or ½ cup amounts. Refrigerate if using within a few days or freeze for longer storage.
In freezer zip bag in ¼ or ½ cup amounts. Refrigerate if using within a few days or freeze for longer storage.
In freezer zip bag in ¼ or ½ cup amounts. Refrigerate if using within a few days or freeze for longer storage.

Source: M. De la Vega, inspired by Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Pineapple Cake

Based on the hot and sunny weather outside, I guess it’s safe to say that summer is officially here! One thing I love about summer is getting together with friends and family for cookouts! Now, I can’t necessarily say I love cookouts or the sake of playing a good game of bags, because lord knows I am horrible at it. But I love them for the simple fact that there is always a variety of phenomenal foods to sample from. I get it. Sometimes, after a long day in the sun and being full from sampling various dips and pasta salads, dessert may not be on everyone’s mind. I personally think the best summer desserts are always the ones that incorporate fresh fruits; think of tarts with cream or custard and fresh fruit or yogurt and cream cheese dips that perfectly paired with seasonal fruit. Additionally, anything that can be kept cool like uh…..ICE CREAM is always a winner! This summer pineapple cake recipe I am sharing with you today is simple, delicious, and refreshing to eat after a hot summer day. I ‘borrowed’ this recipe from my mother and made some minor changes to it, considering that I wanted it to be approachable for all everyday cooks. What I love about this recipe is that it starts off with baking a simple yellow cake, but in the end the taste is everything but plain and boring. I know some of you may be hesitant to try a frosting that is made out of sour cream, but I can assure you after trying just once that you’ll be hooked! Keep in mind this dessert must be refrigerated so that the pineapple cake stays moist and the frosting stays cool and at a certain consistency. Next time you attend or host a cookout, bring this summer dessert. I am sure it will turn out to be a crowd favorite!

Summer Pineapple Cake

Serves 12


1 box yellow cake mix
1 16 oz of sour cream (at room temperature)
1 4 oz. can of crushed pineapple, plus juice
¼ tsp.vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

  1. Cook cake mix according to the box and pour batter into a greased 9x13 cake pan or two 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. Let cake cool completely. In a small bowl mix sour cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and set aside. (note: sour cream will change consistency. It should look like a thick glaze).
  3. Using a toothpick, prick small holes all over cake.
  4. Pour crushed pineapple and juice through a strainer and into a bowl. Squeeze as much of the pineapple juice out of the crushed pineapple as possible. Keep crushed pineapple in a separate bowl.
  5. Using a small spoon, slowly pour all of the pineapple juice over cake and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  6. Pour sweetened sour cream frosting over cake. Use a spoon to spread frosting if needed.
  7. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before serving. 

Note: To bake pineapple cake in mason jars follow the cake box recipe and fill each mason jar ½ way. Bake for the same amount of time you would for a regular cake pan. After it has baked and cooled, prick holes all over cake and pour pineapple juice over cake. Let the cake cool completely before adding frosting and crushed pineapple on top.

Source: Adapted from original cook, E.Martinez