Mucho Gusto

Harissa Pasta

Sometimes described as “North Africa’s favorite hot sauce,” the popular harissa pepper paste originates from the Mahgreb region– namely Tunisia. Its name hails from the Arabic verb “harasa,” meaning “to pound” or “to break into pieces.” In its pure essence, the beloved condiment is a pounded paste of various chilies, salt, spices, garlic, and olive oil. It can be used as a flavor base for curries and stews, and is a staple spicy condiment (perhaps reminiscent of its “cousin” Sriracha), traditionally enjoyed alongside most meals in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. 

Ever since tasting the fiery, tangy chili paste, harissa has become a staple in my daily cooking. As lover of all things spicy, I have tried adding it to just about everything– eggs, sauces, dips, vegetables– and can confirm it makes for the ultimate hot sauce, with a nuanced flavor profile– a tingling spice, but still packed with a smokey, peppery flavor. Boston’s authentic Middle Eastern and North African restaurants introduced me to the rich red chili paste, alongside decadent labneh and creamy yogurt dips to subtly offset the bite of the spice. Simply put, it was a heavenly harmony like none other– and I have enjoyed my fair share of hot sauces over the years! 

This prompted me to buy my own harissa paste, first from the BC neighborhood-favorite Café Landwer. This, in combination with my pasta-stocked pantry and my love for Instagram reel recipes, led me to the uncharted territory of “harissa pasta.” At first, I was skeptical– pasta with harissa paste? I thought of how my dad and Nonni taught me to make pasta– the Italian pasta purists who would undoubtedly question the seemingly unorthodox addition. But, true to the passion for food they instilled in me, and my own adventurous nature, I decided to coat my noodles in the romantically-red sauce anyway. Besides, how wrong could mixing two of my favorite foods go? It was by no means a recipe for disaster, but it was perhaps a recipe for the ambitious.

The innovative recipe proved to be a pleasant surprise, balancing the heat with flavors of thyme, olives, capers, red wine, and balsamic vinegar, as well as the creaminess of tangy Greek yogurt. Thanks to this recipe, I’m convinced that harissa is the creative complement to any tasty meal. Its garlicky profile is effortlessly brightened by the acidity of ingredients like tomatoes and citrus, so it is quite versatile, and its flavors can be mellowed or intensified as desired. It adds depth and complexity to any dish; mixed with flirty heat, it becomes an addictive dance for the taste buds (not to mention a great way to clear out the sinuses!) All jokes aside, harissa is “worth the hype.” Whether you are a proud participant in the hot sauce craze or working on building your spice tolerance, add harissa to your list and be prepared for an exciting experience– it’s as if you could taste the bright, bold sun.


  • 1 large onion, diced finely
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine
  • 3 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp thyme, fresh or dried
  • 2-3 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 tsp agave
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 box pasta, preferably long, wide noodles like fettuccine
  • 2 tbsp olives, chopped
  • 2 tsp capers, chopped
  • Parsley and Greek yogurt for topping


Begin by frying the onion in oil until soft and translucent. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and balsamic vinegar and let it simmer for five minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, harissa paste, and agave for a hint of sweetness. Stir well and add salt to taste. You can also add more harissa depending on your spice preference, but be careful to preserve the balance of the flavors. Let the sauce simmer on low heat while you boil water to prepare the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente. Right before adding the pasta to the sauce, add the olives and capers. Then, incorporate the pasta with a bit of pasta water and parsley. Mix it all together and top with a touch of Greek yogurt. Enjoy a plate piled high with spicy, garlicky, aromatic pasta! This recipe makes about four servings.

Recipe copied from “Sophia’s Harissa Pasta” on @fitgreenmind (Maya)’s Instagram page

Cover photo courtesy of Hint of Healthy

Mucho Gusto

An Ode to Yuca: Garlic Mashed Yuca

A small, white mountain of creamy, smooth, garlicky goodness sits atop my mother’s blue floral plate. Heaping spoonfuls of the sustenance are passed around the dining table—the meal cannot begin without the stellar accompaniment. It’s simple, comforting, and well-loved, like a grandmother’s handmade quilt. Looking down at our plates, the soulful food is a tribute to remind us of other homes, lands away, of customs and cultures we embrace, despite being out of reach. Sometimes, a white fluffy mound of savory, starchy, stick-to-your-ribs food is the best thing to reach the heart. We enjoy our beloved yucca dish in solidarity, grinning as we taste the flavors of a warm welcome home. 

You may have heard of this dish at your favorite local Cuban restaurant. I, too, have marveled at the magic of mashed garlic yucca with my dad at our favorite spot. Beautifully complementary, aromatic garlic and hints of salt zing my taste buds as the warm mashed consistency caresses them. Whatever excited debate or chatter we had going on before the unassuming dish came out has ceased as we savor in silence. Our wide eyes and full mouths hint that we can’t help but agree—this dish is superior to any mashed potato recipe we’ve encountered. 

Yucca is a root vegetable that my grandmother prepares often. As mentioned, this dish, in particular, is well-known in Cuban cuisine, but cooking with yucca has been a staple in Mama Silvia’s Guatemalan cooking for years, as it’s popular throughout Latin America. It’s a great substitute for potatoes, with a mild taste and starchy texture. Thus, it’s highly versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; at home, we frequently eat it boiled for a quick and easy side, but it’s also commonly roasted or fried. So, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, why not swap out the traditional bowl of mashed potatoes for something a little more interesting yet just as flavorful and comforting? With powerful punches of garlic sure to awaken the senses amidst buttery, savory yucca, this silky side just might become the star of the show.


  • 1 large yucca root, peeled and chopped
  • 4-5 cups bone broth
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, roasted and smashed
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper (more to taste)


Start by trimming the ends of the yucca root on a cutting board with a sharp knife. Then, cut it into quarters. It will require a bit of pressure, as it’s a similar experience to cutting a squash. The cross-section should show firm, white flesh. Stand the sections on their cut faces, trim off the skin, and cut off both layers. Once peeled, dice the yucca into small pieces and boil it in bone broth with garlic and salt. Meanwhile, roast the garlic in olive oil for the best flavor results. Once the yucca is boiled, it should be soft and tender for mashing. Mash the yucca as you would a potato. You can do this with a mashing tool, a fork, or a hand mixer for a creamy, whipped texture. Add the butter, garlic, and seasoning to taste as you mash it. Once mashed, add salt and pepper as needed, and top with a garnish of parsley, if desired.

Cover photo courtesy of:

Mucho Gusto

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

As I stroll through the aisles of Trader Joe’s with a heavy basket in hand, the artfully illustrated chalkboard displays with the colors of fall pique my interest. It’s that time of year again when new autumnal items hit the shelves for a limited time, and people just can’t seem to help but buy out all the bright orange pumpkin products. I can’t blame them, though—I, too, get excited every year when my favorite fall items make a return, complementing my fall festivities with pumpkin-shaped cookies, cinnamon-sugar donuts, spiced tea, candy apples, and other seasonal essentials. 

That being said, Trader Joe’s fans are loyal to their products, and for good reason. If you’ve been on the hunt for savory fall flavors but can’t seem to get to the store in time, this recipe is for you. This comforting sweet potato mac and cheese will fix your hankering for that butternut squash mac and cheese that seems to be sold out whenever you’re in the store. Even better, it’s lovingly homemade by you with real ingredients, making it a fun fall activity, and not to mention tastier!

Additionally, sweet potatoes level up the basic dish, adding another layer of depth to the flavor to tie it all together. Creamy and tangy, with a hint of sweetness, this recipe will add a sophisticated fall twist to the classic you know and love while still being rich and satisfying—a warm hug for the taste buds. There is nothing more fulfilling or rewarding than preparing this mac and cheese and holding a warm bowl in your hands on a brisk fall day, savoring each soft, cheesy bite of noodles. It’s also a great alternative if you’re sick of the pumpkin trend. This fall, spice up your basic mac and add a wholesome sweet potato to the delectably gooey pot of goodness. It takes a fair bit of prep, but the cheese pull will make it all worth it. 


  • 1½  tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups milk of your choice
  • 1½ cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, or a blend of cheeses of your preference
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet with a ½ tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt, and bake for about an hour, or until soft and tender. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. While the noodles cook for about 8 minutes, or until al dente, coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside. 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil and garlic, and mix in the flour for about a minute. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking. Cook until the sauce mixture is steaming and thick, but not boiling. Then, add the sweet potato to the saucepan. Depending on your preferred consistency, you can mash the sweet potato into the mixture, or use a blender,  food processor, or an immersion blender. It should be smooth, resembling a cheese sauce. At this time, you can also add thawed frozen peas or spinach for more veggies, if desired. Add the cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper to the sauce. Once well mixed, add the macaroni. Stir until the noodles are evenly coated, and everything is combined. 

Topping with breadcrumbs makes for a crispy, irresistible topping, but this is optional as well. Finish off the mac and cheese by topping with cheese and baking it in the oven at 400℉ for about 3 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy!

Adapted from Eating Well’s Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese Recipe

Mucho Gusto

Maple Cinnamon Matcha Latte

I sit in a honey-brown leather armchair melting into the rich, caramel material, as my friend Carlie and I wait for a table. It is my first time inside this lovely café. The bright windows let in the heated glare of a hot summer’s day, but I’m still in awe. I admire the funky modern light fixtures with octopus arms intersecting the lush hanging plants, the blend of mix-matched oak coffee tables and buttery leather chairs. Most notable are the vibrant, staggered chalkboards crowding the back wall, detailing the barista bar’s menu with quirky and colorful hand-made illustrations. It is the perfect backdrop for a movie, where love interests meet accidentally for the first time or where main characters have their brightest idea yet, driving the plot home. 

Perhaps most impressive is the ornate list of hand-crafted drinks. As a barista in a former summer job, I can appreciate the creativity and craft behind each one: a classic Americano, a simple vanilla latte, an interesting-sounding Mexican iced coffee, rose cardamom tea, and so on. Carlie and I are as eager as kids in a candy store, waiting to get our caffeine-fix. Once seated, we order innovative lattes, taking sips from each other’s and enjoying the ambiance and calming music of our newfound favorite café. This is no simple feat, as our tried-and-true, café in a quaint house recently went out of business, leaving a hole in our hearts ever since. Fondly known as Blue Max, the little house café was where we would gather, as if in the TV show Friends, to enjoy each other’s company over a bite and a comforting cup o’joe. But today, perhaps the gap can be at least partially filled. I can picture myself doing lots of great thinking in that chair by the window, fueled by this delicious emerald drink, also known as maple cinnamon matcha.

The creamy froth dances on my tongue, warming my throat on the way down. Its sweetness is almost nostalgic, like the warm milk and honey enjoyed by children. Each sip tastes like a spiced autumn hug. Ever since trying this matcha recipe at this café, I decided I had to recreate it at home. After all, it is the perfect drink to cozy up with in the fall! Subtly earthy with a hint of sweetness, this matcha latte will brighten up the rainy fall days that have covered the Chestnut Hill campus lately. With notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices coupled with the nutty, sweet maple, this drink warms the taste buds and the soul. Matcha adds an unexpected twist to a traditional fall beverage, giving this drink a unique look and taste which will surely brighten your day. So, this November, spice up your vibrant matcha tea in time for the holidays and the cold weather with this maple cinnamon matcha latte recipe!


  • 1 teaspoon authentic ground matcha tea powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼  cup water
  • 1 ½  teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1-2 cups oat milk


Heat water in a tea kettle on the stovetop with a cinnamon stick. Just before the water begins to boil, take the kettle off the stove, remove the cinnamon stick, and pour some of the water into your mug of choice. Only enough water to achieve a deep green mix is necessary, as this will determine how strong the concentration of the tea is. Froth and mix the matcha powder into the water, creating bubbles and froth. A matcha tea whisk provides the best results, but a small kitchen whisk will work as well. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract to the matcha and combine, forming a homogenous mixture. Steam the oat milk in a milk frother or steamer until a pipping hot, bubbly layer of froth forms on top of the warm liquid. Not all the milk should evaporate; instead, only the top layer should be creamy and foamy for the perfect latte. Pour the milk over the tea slowly in a swirling motion. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, as well as a drizzle of maple syrup, if desired, and enjoy!

Mucho Gusto

The Cookies with a Million Names

I gazed intently through the glass window of the bakery below our apartment, the way only a child could. My eyes fixated with wonder on the perfect little snowballs in the center of the display case, located at the ideal eye level for my youthful height. The anticipation heightened as I watched the kind baker scoop a dozen of the cookies into the box my dad ordered for our family. My mouth watered as I remembered the last time I tasted the scrumptious powdered sugar and the crisp, crumbly nuttiness of the interior. I couldn’t wait to experience another bite. For the time being, I had to be content with holding the box on my lap during the car ride home, though I didn’t wait for very long. With just one glance, my dad and I decided eating just one wouldn’t hurt; we dug out a couple of the tempting cookies in the car. I sacrificed the festive bow holding the box shut, and finally, we snuck the pillowy yet crunchy cookies into our mouths. With my dad’s iconic oldies music playing in the background, we enjoyed the bliss of these unique, freshly-baked cookies. Evidence of my impatience, the delicate dust of powdered sugar covered my lap and fingers, as it always did. The sandy cookie, however, with its melt-in-your-mouth consistency, made up for this. 

White, round, and smooth on the outside and buttery, crunchy, and nutty on the inside, these blizzard-coated cookies always remind me of a sweet celebration. While they go by many names—Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes or Swedish Tea Cakes, Butterballs, Polvorones, Viennese Sugar Balls, and Snowballs or Snowdrops, to name a few—these cookies are clearly a favorite in many cultures. In my family, no holiday or special event goes by without these tasty, tender treats from our favorite local bakery or my aunt, who is an excellent baker herself. While great for holidays, these addictive, rich cookies are great at any time of year! They are easy to make and require just six ingredients. Enjoy with a warm cup of spiced chai or a dark, hearty cup of coffee this fall—there is nothing more festive or homey at the same time!


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into mid-sized pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar, divided into ½ cup and 1 ¼ cup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the softened butter pieces, salt, and ½ cup powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer on medium speed. Incorporate the vanilla extract into this mixture. Then, add the flour and stir until the mixture is creamy. Add the chopped pecans. 

Now that the dough is prepared, use an ice cream scooper or tablespoon to form even balls of dough, one at a time. Shape about two tablespoons of dough into balls per cookie, adjust as needed, and place each ball on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 13 minutes until the cookies are firm and a tan or beige color, like shortbread cookies. Store the extra tray in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Let the cookies cool for about seven minutes. 

Add the remaining 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar to a small mixing bowl and roll the warm cookies until they are completely coated in the white powder (almost like snowballs!). This first layer should not be too thick, as part of the sugar will melt from the heat of the cookie. Let the cookies cool completely before rolling them in the powdered sugar a second time. Now, the cookies are ready to be eaten. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Mexican Wedding Cookies by Cooking Classy

Cover photo courtesy of Tried and Tasty

Mucho Gusto

Horchata (de Arroz y Canela)

When most people think of their favorite summer drink, they probably immediately think of lemonade. And how could they not? After all, it’s a sweet-and-sour, cross-cultural classic loved by all ages! As a kid, I remember summertime as the time for lemonade stands with friends, pouring my own hard work in every cup and tasting the sweet, child-like fun in between customers. 

Personally, a couple other icy cold drinks come to mind for me. My childhood was filled with lots of fresh lemonade, of course, (always homemade by my grandma and kept in big pitchers in the fridge) but it was also brimming with horchata, rosa de jamaica, and aguas frescas. These were the special summertime flavors crafted by my grandma for the whole family to enjoy after long days playing or working in the sun. As a child, seeing these fun drinks in the fridge made me even more excited for the future of my lemonade stand business… 

Like lemonade in America, horchata is a staple in Hispanic culture. The bright and crisp-tasting liquid’s history is rooted in Valencia, Spain, from ground tiger nuts. When I visited Valencia years ago, I remember having some of the best, yet most unfamiliar and unique horchata of my life—it had a much nuttier and richer flavor. The odd, small, and green bean-looking seeds were sold by vendors in canvas sacks up and down the streets, as was the drink. 

This popular, traditional beverage has variations in Mexico, the Americas, and West Africa, all of which evolved from this Spanish tradition. It goes by many names (horchata de chufa in Spain, kunnu aya in West Africa, and agua de horchata in Mexico) but is always delicious. Besides the original tiger nut version, the diverse drink can be made from melon seeds, sesame seeds, jicaro seeds, or herbs. It is a plant-milk based drink, served hot or cold, and my family’s version uses white rice, which is common in the Americas. Horchata de arroz is the most popular recipe in Guatemala, where my grandma is from.

You might be familiar with this style of horchata, as it is sold alongside tacos and burritos at your local Mexican taquería. Cold, creamy, and smooth, this horchata is full of fragrant cinnamon and a fruity vanilla sweetness, but is still somehow refreshing and light. I always think of this as drinking a melted coconut popsicle minus the coconut flavor and with an emphasis on the fresh milky and smooth consistency. This delicious cinnamon and rice milk drink is thirst-quenching and perfect for the hot, sunny days we have ahead of us. So, swap out the lemonade with horchata and experience the other side of traditional summer drinks while you bask in the sunshine. This sweet, blissful drink might even give you the sensation of being on a tropical island vacation. Each tasty sip will make you “Mmm” and “Ahhh.”

Ingredients: (makes a full pitcher-size serving)

  • 1 ½ cup white rice
  • 8 cups water
  • About 4 cups of milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •  ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk (or sweeten to your liking)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon


Soak the rice in a pot with 4-5 cups of water for about 8 hours. Without disposing of the water, strain the rice from the water. Transfer the water to another pot if need be. Grind ½ cup of the soaked rice in a blender and add  the conserved rice water from earlier. In a separate pot, boil an additional 4 cups of water with a cinnamon stick until it bubbles, for about 10 minutes. The water should be aromatic and brown in color. Pour the cinnamon water into the rice water. You can remove the stick now or continue to let it soak in the mixture and remove it later. Add the 4 cups of milk. The goal is to combine the water with enough milk so that it’s somewhat creamy, but not thick or overpowering. If the drink is diluted and thin, add more milk to balance the consistency of the mixture. If the mixture is thick and heavy, add more water. Add the vanilla extract and condensed milk to sweeten the mixture, and mix well. Pour into a large pitcher, store in the fridge, and enjoy a cold glass of horchata all summer long with family and friends! 

Cover photo courtesy of House of Yumm

Mucho Gusto

Peanut Butter Chip Oatmeal Cookies

On a school night, a hot summer night by the bonfire, or anything in between, there’s nothing better than a freshly baked cookie oozing melted chocolate. Ever since childhood, the cookie-eating experience is a fond memory that always warms my heart; the delectable, aromatic smell of vanilla and warm sugar fills my nose as I hold the soft yet crispy cookie in the palm of my hand. Every bite is bliss, especially accompanied by my Nonna’s caffè latte for dipping. I savor every last fallen cookie crumb, admiring how a few basic ingredients came together to form a sweet, comforting, homey treat. 

Chewy, gooey, caramelized cookies (topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream, of course) are not just a common craving, but probably my all-time favorite dessert. It’s no wonder why: from the nostalgic experience to the mouth-watering flavor, freshly-baked homemade cookies have a way of making everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. Not to mention, cookies are so versatile! From classic chocolate chip, to festive nut and cranberry, to candied caramel, and even everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, the flavor options are endless! So, with such limitless options, how do you make a decision? What should you put in your cookie? What if you’re in a hurry, or not much of a baker? This recipe has you covered!

Peanut butter and chocolate are just about the best combination I can think of, especially when you have a hankering for a sweet treat! Whenever my sweet tooth kicks in, I crave this iconic pairing.  Simple and tasty, these peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies will do just that. Not only do these cookies  take only 25 minutes to make, but they only require one bowl and ingredients you likely already have on hand. Plus, if you ask me, the chocolate chip versus oatmeal cookie debate is flawed—clearly, the best combination is when these cookies join forces to form a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, and this one even has peanut butter! It can’t get much better than that! Take your late night snacking or midnight dessert to the next level with this fun, quick, and easy cookie recipe; you will be dreaming about it after!


  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (extra for topping)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy salted peanut butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips (extra for topping)


Start by preheating your oven to 350℉ and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. As an alternative, you can also lightly grease the pan with cooking spray or butter. 

In a medium mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: oats, flour, sea salt, baking powder, and brown sugar. Mix until the dry mixture is homogeneous and light tan in color. Next, add peanut butter, vanilla extract, and egg, and stir until well combined. A sticky but compact dough should form. If the dough is too dry, add more peanut butter, or a splash of milk. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more flour. Now stir in the chocolate chips. 

After you finish making the dough, scoop the dough out with a spoon, making each scoop about 1 ½ tbs in size. Form the dough into little balls with your hands. Place them on your prepped baking sheet and press each ball down lightly to form the traditional disc-like cookie shape. 

Bake the cookies for about 6 minutes, and then take them out to add more chocolatey-goodness—top each cookie with a few more chocolate chips and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Pop them in the oven again so that the chocolate chips on top start to melt, about 4-6 minutes, or until they are golden brown and the edges are lightly crisp. The total baking time should be about 10-12 minutes. By the end, the cookies should have doubled in size. After removing them from the oven, let the cookies cool on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes. 

This recipe makes about 12 cookies. Share with friends and enjoy this easy, sweet treat whenever your sweet tooth kicks in!

Adapted from The Minimalist Baker’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cover image courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

Mucho Gusto

Mascarpone Stuffed Dates

Loved by many cultures and incorporated into many dishes and traditions, dates are one of my favorite foods. From snack time to dessert, their gooey, caramelized sweetness and jammy, chewy texture are always a pleasant surprise. On their own, they are a great source of natural sugar for whenever you want an energizing snack. I know dates can be a bit controversial (perhaps for their appearance and gummy texture), but they actually complement many foods really well. Some of my favorite unusual date combinations are sticky-sweet dates stuffed with any nut butter, PB&J, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, mixed nuts, or even tahini. When an exploding pocketful of flavor only takes a few minutes to prepare, why not cut your date down the middle and stuff it with goodies! It’s like the ultimate, upgraded version of Gushers—a favorite childhood snack you know and love, but a little more mature and complex in the flavor profile. 

With Easter coming up, there’s no better time to test out a new combination in your own home! These pomegranate-pistachio-and-mascarpone-stuffed dates are Floreani family approved, and I guarantee they will be a crowd pleaser in your own home too! With a harmonious balance of sweet date, rich mascarpone cheese, salty pistachios, and refreshing pomegranate seeds, this unique treat is an exciting flavor experience. This finger food is also fun to eat because of its diverse textures; each bite is filled with a nutty crunch, followed by a gush of mascarpone and gooey, chewy date, and finishes with a juicy pomegranate-seed-pop in your mouth! An interesting twist to add to your Easter appetizer plate or an upgrade to your charcuterie board, these dates are so simple to make and can easily be adapted to fit tastes of all ages. For a more savory take, wrap them in bacon or prosciutto; for a sweeter version, add drizzles of honey, maple syrup, and spices. Plus, with their unique colors and shape, they even look a bit like Easter eggs—tasty and festive!


  • 18 large Medjool dates
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature (can substitute cream cheese)
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ¾ tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, salted and roasted
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt


Start by preparing your dates. With a knife, slit the dates down the middle, enough to form a pocket, but without cutting all the way through the date. De-pit the dates. After letting the mascarpone cheese soften at room temperature, put it into a mixing bowl. Combine the mascarpone cheese with the lemon zest, orange zest, honey, and salt. Mix until it is smooth and uniform. Using a spoon, stuff each date with a generous scoop of the mascarpone mixture. The ratios of mixture-to-date can be varied to suit your preferences and the size of the date. Then, add the pistachios and pomegranate seeds to each date by hand, keeping the amount proportional to one another on each one. Top with a pinch of flaky sea salt and arrange on a platter. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. If you want the mascarpone to melt a bit, and the dates to be caramelized, put them in the oven at 375 °F  for about 4 minutes, or just until warm. Enjoy!

Adapted from Mascarpone Stuffed Dates with Orange, Pistachio, and Pomegranate

Cover photo courtesy of Spices In My DNA

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Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

Who doesn’t love pie? From the crunchy yet buttery, golden-brown crust, to the gooey cheese and aromatic, vibrant tomatoes—yes, cheese and tomatoes!—pie is the ultimate comfort food. I’m not talking about your grandma’s favorite dessert, but rather a Chicago classic: deep-dish pizza. We Chicagoans nickname this dish “pizza pie” for its signature thick, pie-like crust, straight out of the pie pan! This pizza is an absolute staple for any trip to the Windy City, and if you ask me, it’s the best—although perhaps I am a bit biased! I know New York is the city of dreams (and pizza), but as a proud Chicagoan and Italian-American, I must say that Chicago might have them beat with this popular city staple! Some may say that’s controversial, but I don’t think anyone can deny that deep-dish pizza is a unique, unforgettable dish. When I’m homesick, I crave this traditional slice of local comfort; when I am home, I still crave deep-dish pizza at least once a week! What’s not to love—it’s the same cheesy tomato and crust combo you know and love, but much larger and richer, in the perfect fusion of Italian and American cuisine! Plus, this pizza is special because it always means sharing time and food with friends and family; it’s a big meal requiring an hour or so to prepare, which allows everyone to gather around the table together and make memories. 

In the era of  COVID-19 and travel bans, it’s difficult to be adventurous, visit different places, and try new foods. However, thanks to this recipe, you can have an authentic taste of Chicago in your own home! You can enjoy the comforting warmth of a thick slice at your own kitchen table with your loved ones. Over winter break, my dad taught me how to make his beloved secret recipe, and it was the perfect cure for the quarantine blues. Topped with fresh, high-quality ingredients and a hearty heap of cheese, everyone loves this spin on pizza, and making it at home is always a fun activity. Take a bite, and welcome to my hometown, where “home, sweet home” is always a slice of pizza pie! 



  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • ½  cup olive oil, plus additional oil for the bowl


  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, well-drained and crushed by hand
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup white onion, diced finely


  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 green and/or yellow bell peppers, sliced
  • 3/4 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for topping and garnish
  •  2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish


To make the pizza dough, mix the sugar, yeast, and water together. Add the flour, salt, cornmeal, butter, and olive oil to this mixture, and combine for about two minutes. Next, let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes, allowing the yeast to bloom. Knead the dough gently for about seven minutes, until moistened, smooth, and elastic. If necessary, add extra flour to stiffen the dough. If the dough is too stiff, fix the ratio so that there is more water to hydrate the dough. Thoroughly oil a separate bowl, placing the dough inside, making sure it is evenly greased. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place overnight, if possible. However, a minimum of 30-40 minutes can work as well. By this point, the dough should have doubled in size. Punch the dough down and let it sit for another 15 minutes. 

While the dough rises, make the pizza sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the canned tomatoes, olive oil, seasonings, 1 tablespoon of basil, and the garlic cloves. Add about ¼ of the chopped onion to the mixture as well. Cook the sauce for about six minutes, stirring often. At this point, the sauce should be smooth and fragrant, and the onions should feel soft. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add more basil and olive oil to taste.

Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large, thin circle. The dough should be stretched evenly. Add flour as needed throughout the process to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Be careful not to dry the dough out, or it will break. Grease a large 12-inch cast-iron skillet, stretching the rolled-out dough over the pan, almost like a pie crust. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form a thick crust. Place the slices of fresh mozzarella on top of the dough to help bind everything together. Place this in the oven for a few minutes, or until the cheese has melted and formed a complete layer. Then, sprinkle the grated mozzarella, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, shallots, garlic, and Italian sausage on top of the pizza. Ladle the sauce on top and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. You can place foil on top of the pizza to prevent browning. Let the pizza rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pie-like slices. Enjoy! You’ll need a fork and knife for this one!

Adapted from Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza Recipe & Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

Cover photo courtesy of Saving Room for Dessert

Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Sweet Potato Chili

This is the fifty-seventh installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Sweet potatoes seem to be all the rage now; it may sound funny, but they are all over my Instagram feed (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!) I constantly see mouthwatering photos of sweet potatoes topped with pesto, pumpkin spice, or even nut butter. It can get a little weirder, too: I find sweet potatoes on toast (or acting as toast), or sweet potatoes as boats for eggs. I’ve discovered the power of sweet potatoes as an ingredient in morning oatmeal, or sweet potatoes sneaking their way into cakes. I even see sweet potatoes being perfectly cooked in a microwave! That being said, this picture propaganda always gets to me, and as both a foodie and a skeptic, I am always saving posts to eventually try the new recipes that I come across. So, as soon as fall began, I knew it was time to bring out the sweet potato recipes. I always have some around for cooking, as their wonderful taste, texture, and nutritional health benefits lead me to consume them pretty regularly. After all, who said eating vegetables had to be boring?

Sweet potatoes originate from Central and South America. Due to their versatility, they remain a popular staple ingredient in the cuisines of countries all over the world, including Africa, Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, Italy, and Spain. They create a nutritious, substantive meal, as they are full of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants such as carotene. Additionally, sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and starchy, which is perfect for fall and winter meals. They act as a great, neutral complement to almost any dish! You can play upon their molasses-like flavor and bring it out with cinnamon, or complement them with salt and spice next to a meaty main course. Plus, they are a must during the holidays! Incorporating them into side dishes and casseroles guarantees that everyone will reach for seconds. 

While I enjoy sweet potatoes year-round, there is nothing I love more than a hot bowl of hearty soup when the cold, wintry weather starts to set in. Pun-ily enough, the chilly outdoors often make me crave chili! Chili traditionally includes beans and some sort of tomato base. However, the unique addition of sweet potatoes to this dish diversifies the flavor profile. The delectable orange root vegetable stands out in this soup recipe, resulting in an interesting chili that is both smoky and sweet. 

Inspired by The Minimalist Baker’s recipe, this sweet potato chili recipe is the perfect bowl of warm bliss. With just five main base ingredients, this recipe is simple yet delicious! I love this sweet potato and black bean chili because it is a great example of combined cuisine; to me, this Tex-Mex dish is quintessentially American, but with a clear connection to Latin American roots through the ingredients. Black beans and sweet potatoes, the central ingredients of this dish, create a rich, smoky, and savory flavor. These starchy star ingredients make for a thick, balanced, full-bodied chili with notes of spice and natural sweetness. This chili is the perfect dish to warm the soul. With just five major base ingredients, this recipe is proof that delicious cooking can be easy, healthy, and quite literally, minimalist! I like to jazz it up by adding some of my favorite vegetables as well. Any ingredients you have on hand can be added to enhance this delicious pot of flavor! Enjoy different variations of it over and over again throughout this holiday season!


  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (16-ounce) can chunky tomato salsa (can be substituted with canned tomatoes and tomato paste if necessary)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving: 

  • 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves 
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion 
  • 2 avocados, chopped 
  • Tortilla chips 
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded Mexican-blend cheese or Cotija cheese 


In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook the onions down until they are soft and transparent. Add the sweet potato and the spices. If adding another starchy vegetable, like carrots, as in my case, add them at this point as well. Mix over the heat for about 3-5 minutes. 

Then, add the vegetable stock, water, and tomato salsa. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the beans and any other vegetables you want to incorporate, such as corn. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. The sweet potatoes and the beans will marinate in the soup and bring all the flavors out. 

When the chili is done, the sweet potatoes should be soft, smooth, and tender. The soup should be on the thicker side. This chili is best when left to rest overnight, or at least for a few hours before eating as this allows the flavor of the vegetables and spices to mix together and develop even further. While not required, this step is highly recommended for a tastier soup. 

Serve with any combination of lime juice, fresh cilantro, red onion, avocado, sour cream, and cheese. Tortilla chips also make for a crunchy topping or can be used as an edible spoon. The best bowl, in my opinion, includes all of these fixings!

While this recipe does not take too long to prepare, it is best to prepare ahead of time so you can sit back and relax while you wait, and enjoy time with loved ones! This recipe serves about 6-8 people. Happy eating!

(Recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker blog, est. 2012)

Cover photo courtesy of Delish