Month: November 2011

Thanksgiving Dessert: Pumpkin Coconut Mini Cupcakes

Thanksgiving Dessert: Pumpkin Coconut Mini Cupcakes

 This coming Saturday my community is holding a pre-Thanksgiving celebration for families in need.  I will be in charge of teaching the children how to bake and decorate cupcakes.  This is the recipe I came up with along with the finishing decorating look that screams the colors of fall.  Note to reader: These cupcakes are friggin’ delish and a perfect alternative to pumpkin pie for your T-giving dinner!

All photos taken by: Nicole Presley 

Ingredients for Pumpkin Coconut Mini Cupcakes:

3 – cups of sugar

4 – eggs

1 – 15 ounce can Libby’s Pumpkin Puree

1 – cup vegetable oil

2/3 – cup water

3 1/2 – cups all purpose flour

1 – teaspoon salt

2 – teaspoons baking soda

1 – teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 – teaspoons ground ginger

1 – cup shredded sweetened coconut

Ingredients for Cream Cheese frosting:

8 – ounces cream cheese (room temperature)

1 – cup butter (room temperature)

1 – teaspoon vanilla extract

2 – cups confections sugar (powdered sugar)


1/2 -cup dried cranberries

1/2 – cup pumpkin seeds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Line mini cupcake sheet with cupcake baking cups. Set to the side.

In a mixer combine sugar, eggs, Libby’s pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and water. Mix until well combined about 2 to 3 minutes.


Meanwhile in a medium bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger together. Once all dry ingredients are combined add in coconut and mix well.

Now add flour/coconut mixture to the pumpkin mixture a little at a time with the mixer set to medium low. Make sure to mix well.


Fill each mini cupcake baking cup with 1 tablespoon of mixture. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Once cupcakes cool…. make the cream cheese frosting.

In a mixer combine cream cheese and butter, and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add vanilla and mix till combined. Last add in confectioners sugar a little at a time till completely combined.  Spread cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds for a festive holiday look.  ENJOY!

Makes 72 mini cupcakes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Dessert – Candied Yam Korean Pear Squares.

Thanksgiving Dessert – Candied Yam Korean Pear Squares.

 I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with Korean Pears  before , but it can be quite a task if you’re doing anything other than eating them fresh.  I had it in my mind that I wanted to create a pear tart using asian pears for Thanksgiving, but the truth is Korean Pears don’t change much in texture if you bake them.  After experimenting in my kitchen lab with a few Korean Pears I came up with a final dessert that made my Momma swoon.  She said “Your little candied yam korean pear squares taste like a treat someone would offer you at a friend of a friend’s house during the holidays.  You would gladly take a square gobble it down, think it was unlike anything you ever tasted yet embodied all the sweet flavors of late Autum.  Then you’d sit there looking at your plate…. dreading you didn’t eat it slower. Wishing you could ask for another piece, but your manners get the best of you so you don’t.”  She said this as she served herself another slice in the comfort of her daughter’s home.

All photographs taken by: Mando Lopez

Ingredients for candied yam Korean pear squares:

2 – Melissa’s produce- Korean pears (peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)

2 – sticks of cinnamon

2 – cloves

1 – cup brown sugar

1 – tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 – cups water

3 – cups yams or sweet potato ( peeled and cut)

1 – stick of butter (melted) plus 2 tablespoons (room temperature)

2 – tablespoons orange juice

10 – graham crackers (each cracker has the ability to become two squares-20 squares total)

1 3/4 – cups whole pecans

1/2 – teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 – teaspoon ground ginger

1 – cup mini marshmallows

Let’s start with the Korean pears.

In a saucepan over a medium flame add 1 stick of cinnamon, cloves, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil.

In the meantime peel and cut your Korean pears.


Remove cinnamon stick and cloves from boiling brown sugar mixture, then add cut pears and boil for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pears can easily be pierced with a fork.  Remove from flame, and set to the side.  Reserve brown sugar liquid for a later use.

Lets’s move on to the yams.  Peel and cut yams or sweet potatoes.

In a large sauce pan filled with water halfway over a medium flame add a cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Then add yams and boil for 15 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through. Drain.

Place drained yams in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher. Then mix in 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter, orange juice, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar liquid that pears poached in, 1/4 cup brown sugar. Set to the side.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Let’s make a crust. In a food processor, add graham crackers, pecans, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and ground ginger. Pulse until crumbs are formed.


Remove 1/2 cup of crumb mixture for a later use and set to side. Then add melted butter to the remaining crumb mixture and pulse to combine.

Spray an edge brownie pan or a metal 8×8 pan with a non-stick spray, then fill with crust mixture. Using your fingertips press down to form crust to the bottom of pan.


Place crust in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then remove from oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next evenly spread in the layer of mashed yams.


Remove all Korean pear pieces from any remaining liquid and  place on top of mashed yams.

Place back in the oven for 25 minutes.  Then remove from oven and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of reserved crust crumbs.

 Then top with marshmallows.

Place back in oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Then turn off the oven and put under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until marshmallows turn golden brown. Remove from broiler and serve warm or cold.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My food interview with epic photographer Penny De Los Santos!

My food interview with epic photographer Penny De Los Santos!

If you love food and the journey that comes along with it, then it’s hard not to fall in love with Penny De Los Santos’ photos.  She tells a story through provisions.  Her portraits transport you around the world and leaves you standing in the middle of a plate.  Miss De Los Santos has a way of capturing food images that will have you salivating and practically make you believe you are tasting the dish.  Her joie de virve is apparent with the way she sees life through the lens. Grabbing precious moments with a click and encapsulating them for all time. In my opinion Penny is the creme de la creme of food photographers and will only continue to dazzle us with her images.  She works with National Geographic as a contributing photographer and is now the senior contributing  photographer for Saveur Magazine. She lent her talent to Creative Live with a 3 day photo seminar, for all to learn from. It doesn’t get any better than that.  Penny touches my heart with her work and spirit.

I had the pleasure of asking Penny a few food questions in mid- September.  Here’s what we talked about.

Photograph taken by: Ericka Sanchez

Me:  Since your “dream big and leap” move to New York City…. What foods or restaurants are giving you comfort in your new home town?

Penny:  I’ve been here just over a week.  So…. hmmm.  There is this place that I love, it’s called Buvette, it’s in the west village.  It’s a really wonderful French bistro.  It’s fantastic. I love it.  Then there’s a place called Commerce, I really love that place too. Then there’s a third place called Pearl Oyster Bar, oh and Prune.  I love Prune

Me: How would you describe your food photography style?

Penny:  My style, it’s an organic approach to food.  I try and illustrate food as real as it is, and as authentic as it is. 

Me: What makes you happiest about working with food?

Penny:  What makes me happiest working with food is the people that work with the food.  So, it could be the executive chef or the home cook or the family that gathers around the table.  The people that are connected to it.  That’s the connection… the people that connect us to the subject and what brings people together.  That’s what I most like about food. 

Me:  Do you ever eat what you shoot?

Penny:  God, I can’t tell you how many times people ask me that.  That’s a loaded question.  No and then sometimes yeah.  If I’m in Italy and I’m photographing someone’s homemade pesto that they learned from the recipe that their great great grandmother passed down from generation to generation, and I’m photographing it, then the next second they’re like “You got to try it.”  Then of course, you don’t say no.  So yes and no.  If I’m at a restaurant and it’s a high end shoot.  Then NO.  Not at all.  I’m there to work you know.  I guess it depends because then there are moments where the chef is like “Oh my God, I really want you to try this.” Then of course. You want to be a good guest in anyone’s kitchen.  Whether it’s a professional or in someone’s home. 

Me:  You’ve inspired so many people with your story-telling photography. What or who is inspiring you?

Penny:  I am a pretty big advocate for and a big fan of the master of photography. I always refer back to a lot of photographers… traditional street photographers. Traditional documentary photographers from the turn of the century who I feel really gave definition to a moment and really defined how pictures developed in this country specifically.  A lot of my inspiration comes from photographers that have been long gone. Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and some that are still living like William Eggleston.  I absolutely adore William Eggleston.  Wow, his pictures blow me away. These are the people who spend the majority of and have spent the majority of their life photographing humanity and life in the streets and everyday normal.  Not necessarily crossing an ocean to make pictures but walking down the street and photographing everyday life and seeing the uniqueness in that.  In the normal, which I think takes patience and instinct and a lot of looking. That’s what I LOVE,  that’s where I get a lot of inspiration. 

Me:  Do you like to cook?

Penny:  I love to cook , but I just moved to New York and I’ve been here not even 10 days and I think I’ve made a salad and coffee.  I haven’t cooked yet because I’m in the neighborhood where perhaps per capita, some of the best restaurants in the world are here.  I love to cook.  I grew up in a home filled with great food.  I look forward to when I’m settled down enough to cook in my new home. 

Me:  Being around food all the time, and in the presence of accomplished chefs and food stylists…. What’s the one cooking tip you have picked up along the way?

Penny:  Always buy the best olive oil you can find and spend your money on your finishing ingredients.  Really good salts, olive oil and buy all your ingredients fresh. 

Me:  Austin Texas is quite the food and music town.  Where do you recommend a person new to the area go eat?  Out of curiosity what’s your favorite venue to see a band play?

Penny:  OH MY GOD!  OKAY.  My favorite place to watch music?  Without a doubt is Stubbs and Emo’s.  Where to go eat?  I mean come on,  it’s Texas and it’s AWESOME.  So you got to do the food they do great and that’s Mexican and Barbecue.  The scale on both those types of food are huge.  You can go low brow on both or high end on both.  The opportunity to eat great Barbecue in Austin are endless.  For my money I’m going to Franklin’s Barbecue first and if I want really good tacos I’m going to La Condesa.

Me:  I love all your street food photos, especially the ones taken at night. Do you have a particular one you are especially proud of?

Penny:  No.  Every photograph is an observation.  It’s a moment.  It’s something I felt.  It’s something I saw and wanted to convey.  There’s no way there’s a favorite for me.  It’s an ongoing conversation. 

Me:  What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

Penny:  Barbecue and chicken fried steak.

Me:  Who’s house would you like to be invited over for dinner?  It could be anybody.

Penny:  Wow.  This is such a great question.  I wouldn’t want it to be stuffy.  I would want it to be someplace where I could make great pictures.  I’m always looking for photographs so…. it would have to be a photographers house or an artist’s house. (She takes a minute to think) The first person that comes to my mind is Julia Childs, but that’s so cliche.  Who wouldn’t want to have a meal with her? Who wouldn’t want to go to her house for dinner?  Without a doubt Julia Childs.  If I could bring her back, I would make her portrait.  I’d sit on the other end of her lime green counter top kitchen and would quietly make my photos while she cooked. 

Me:  What dish from your childhood do you crave the most?

Penny:  My Mom’s crispy tacos. (Editor’s note: Penny’s Mom is no longer with us, she passed away a while back).  I love crispy tacos, when I could find them.  But they have to be really good.  You don’t want to blow it on something mediocre.  If I could find good ones I’m there.  It’s something I’m constantly looking for.  The best ones are in people’s homes.  Restaurants use a massive deep fryer on the tortilla and it’s just not that hand fried tortilla.

Me:  Do you have a special project your working on now?

Penny:  I’m working on a book right now on Mexican street food.  I just traveled to 5 states in Mexico with two very well known Mexican chefs.  We traveled for two weeks.  We mostly photographed seafood.  Amazing. 

The Milk TWITTER PARTY!!!!!!

The Milk TWITTER PARTY!!!!!!


Who loves Milk?  How many of you are on Twitter?  Can I please see a show of hands? WOW!  That’s more than half the blog-o-sphere…..  Well with that being said….  LET’S HAVE A PARTY!!!!  Latina Mom Bloggers, The Positivity Ambassadors (which I’m part of), Toma Leche, and the Master of the Glass Half Full would like to invite you to a Twitter party.  We can chit chat about all our favorite milk based recipes, and talk about the benefits of milk too!  What do you say?  YES!  Great.  Let’s meet up November 16th 6 – 7:30p.m. PT (9-10:30p.m. ET).  This is going to be one heck of a milk bash….  Let me take a swig of my milk just to tell you about the prizes.


Oster Classic Beehive Blender with a Six Month’s Supply of Milk

Two (2) Six Month’s Supply of Milk

Tree of Life Yoga Kit with a Six Month’s Supply of Milk

NOOKColor & skin with a Six Month’s Supply of Milk


WHEN: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011, at 6-7:30 pm PT or 9-10:30 pm EST

WHERE: Twitter hashtag #Positivismo

WHO TO FOLLOW: Special Guest: @maestropositivo a.k.a. El Maestro del Vaso Medio Lleno (The Master of the Glass Half Full)

Panelists: @SassyScorpYM, @Eva_Smith, @michellerivera5, @daytrippingmom, @unknownmami, @shesnachomama, @darielacruz, @nibblesnfeasts, @yvonneinla, @spousesprite, @presleyspantry, @vidacoco, @colombianaenCA, @mamanoticias

RSVP: To be eligible to win prizes, you must RSVP at

Click here to enter.

OFFICIAL RULES: Please make sure to read the official rules at Latina Mom Bloggers.

* Six month’s supply of milk is calculated at 5 gallons per month for six months at $4 per gallon equaling $120 to be paid in the form of a gift card.

Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored campaign with the California Milk Processor’s Board and Latina Mom Bloggers.

*Twitter, NOOKColor, VividView, Oster and Tree of Life Yoga are the trademarks of their respective owners, and they are not affiliated with California Milk Processor Board.




Patina Alumni Dinner- November 2, 2011

Patina Alumni Dinner- November 2, 2011

For some reason Wednesday night the stars aligned in my favor and I was able to get a seat at the sought after Patina Alumni Dinner.  The one night event was the 22nd anniversary of the celebrated Patina Restaurant highlighting every executive chef that has worked the kitchen over the past two decades.  The list shines with nine of the best masters of the culinary arts today.  It was a night of sublime eating, every dish that came out of the kitchen was on par with a grand slam.  A hard act to follow but each chef held their own.

Joachim Splichal and Michael Otsuka grabbed the spotlight with hors d’oeuvres…. appetizing creations to whet the palate.  Joachim dazzled with potato chip sandwiches, scallops and american caviar.  Michael took over the reins with porcini and barley stuffed cabbage.  Followed by rabbit rack chop with fennel pollen, onion jam and prosciutto bread crumbs.

All photos taken by: Nicole Presley

On to the main menu…..

 Octavio Beccera wowed the dinner goers with a beautiful dish reminiscent of a floral bouquet.  Fall Terrine- rabbit, squab, and foie gras perched on top of persimmon, fig, green apple and sprinkled with pomegranate clusters and pistachio aillade.  This dish had me convinced that it was made by angels in a fall garden, but NO….. it was Octavio. He created complete bliss.

The next plate was a seasonal glazed vegetable mosaic by Tony Esnault.  To me it looked like Japanese anime food, soft on the eyes with colors that would make up the quintessential spring day.  I expected this dish to be cold, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover all the vegetables were warm.  Each piece of this lovely mosaic is flawlessly poached separately.  Once the vegetables each reached their optimum cooking time they were brought together like a stained glass collage.  This is a signature dish at Patina and could be found on the menu now.

Theo Schoenegger made Uovo in ravioli with white truffle butter and burgundy truffle shavings.

David Feau prepared Saint Pierre vent basque with squid ink, prosciutto and red pepper.

Then a gorgeous poached lobster made it’s entrance into the room.  Sitting atop of Mole Santa Cruz surrounded by butternut squash and fried kale, dressed to the 9’s in a lime brown butter sauce.  The crowd went wild.  Chef Eric Greenspan should have done a victory lap.

Walter Manzke made sure to please the press serving up his roast duck along side a tourte gibier in a salmis sauce.  This dish left my fellow food blogger friend The Glutster‘s tongue wagging (who was seated next to me).  Hadley Tomicki from Grub Street LA (who sat across from us) had left a few duck morsels on his plate.  The Glutster sniffed them out and requested Hadley’s last bite….  Literally.

 Sarah Koechling brought the dinner to a close nicely with her light as air Green Apple and Coconut Battera adorned with crispy meringue, one sweet marigold and matchstick green apples.  The combination of green apple and coconut is genius…. this dessert made me blush as I scraped my plate clean.


141 South Grand Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90012

213 972 3331


My boy sure LOVES Arroz con Leche! I do too actually.

My boy sure LOVES Arroz con Leche! I do too actually.

Do you remember all the great commercials on TV when we were kids?  Okay, maybe I’m dating myself by admitting this but every commercial had a catchy tune to it in the 80’s. “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid” or for you local Angelinos “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.”  Then there was, “I’m a pepper, he’s a pepper, she’s a pepper, we’re a pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a pepper too?” Ahhh memories…..

The one song that has taken up residence in my mind lately is that old ditty for milk….. “Milk it does, Milk it does the body, Milk it does the body GOOD, pass it on….What you say?  Pick you up anytime of the day.”  These are words I lived by growing up and I want to make sure my 2 year old son does too.  Milk is already a sure fire hit with him, he drinks 3 to 4 servings of milk daily in his sippy cup.  At a certain point I have to draw the line and incorporate milk in some other form.  What does a mom do?  Make Arroz con leche of course (Mexican rice pudding).   I certainly ate my share as a young girl and still do. Today I introduced arroz con leche for the first time to my boy and the results were better than great.

All photos taken by: Nicole Presley and Mando Lopez

Ingredients for arroz con leche:

4 – cups water

2 – cinnamon sticks

1 – tablespoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 – long grain rice

1 1/2 – cups whole milk

1/2 – cup raisins

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 – teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium sauce pan (with a lid) over a medium high flame add water, cinnamon sticks and vanilla.  Bring to a boil. Then add rice and mix well, bring water to a boil again.

   Once boiling lower flame to low/simmer and cover pan with lid.  Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from flame.

In a separate sauce pan heat milk and raisins over a low flame for 8 minutes.

Once rice is fully cooked add warm milk/raisins and mix well.

Last add the sweetened condensed milk and ground cinnamon. Mix well.

Serve warm or place in the refrigerator over night and enjoy cold. Either way works.


I’m so thrilled by my arroz con leche. The fact that my son is loving it leads me to share this news with the Master of the Glass Half Full, Simon Felix.  Lets find him on facebook here.  Or get really wild and tweet him on twitter here.  He brings great positivity into my life day after day, I think he’ll be pleased to hear this milk report.  Who knows? Maybe he’ll let other friends know about this arroz con leche recipe… A mom can only hope.

Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored campaign with the California Milk Processor’s Board and Latina Mom Bloggers. The recipe and opinions are my own. 

In the Snack of Time: Latin Recipes – Grilled Bacon Bean and Cheese Burrito!  In some circles it’s called a Chimichanga.

In the Snack of Time: Latin Recipes – Grilled Bacon Bean and Cheese Burrito! In some circles it’s called a Chimichanga.

When I elect to go for the gusto….there is no holding me back.  Yes I love bacon, but more than that I heart a slab of beans and cheese smeared in a flour tortilla.  Who doesn’t?  This is a sneak peek of what goes down in my kitchen on those nights when I live to eat with no restraints….. that falls under the category of soothing my soul.

All photos taken by: Mando Lopez and Nicole Presley

Ingredients for bacon bean and cheese burrito:

a package of bacon

1 – chile de arbol

3 – cups beans de la olla (if you don’t have time to make a batch “Sun Vista” pinto beans works well)

1 – teaspoon salt

1 – cup grated jack cheese

1 – cup grated cheddar cheese

flour tortillas

In a large pan over a medium flame, fry up your bacon till it is crisp and perfectly cooked. Then remove bacon from grease and dispose of half the grease.


Reserve the other half and while it’s still hot add the chile de arbol and beans.  Allow for beans to heat stirring occasionally.  Then add salt and with a potato masher start to smash beans to get a creamy consistency.


Next add jack cheese and cheddar cheese…. Mix well. Then crumble in bacon.  Reserve a few slices on the side.  Remove from flame.


Heat flour tortilla on each side over an open flame for 30 seconds on both sides.  Then add 2 tablespoons of bean and cheese to the middle of the tortilla and add a slice of bacon to the center of the beans.

Fold in outer ends, then roll to close.  Once you have your burrito/burritos rolled up heat a non stick pan over a medium flame and allow pan to get hot.


Place burrito in pan and grill on each side till tortilla is crisp.

Remove from flame and dig into HEAVEN!  I eat mine all by itself or with sour cream, avocado, salsa or tapatio.  Mmmmmmmm.  Enjoy!