Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

It’s freezing cold again! This weekend my kids asked me for “my famous” creamy hot chocolate, which I am sharing the secret here with you. The glass in this photo is really small, about 4 ounces—all you need is a small shot of hot chocolate with this recipe! Perfect for the freezing temperatures of the North East these days, and a nice way to  warm up!  Let me know how you like this recipe!


Creamy Hot Chocolate

Makes 4 small shots-hot chocolate

2 cups whole milk

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons organic cane sugar

4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1- Bring the milk, water and sugar to a boil over medium heat.

2- Add the chocolate, reduce the heat to low, and whisk constantly until it becomes thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Yes, right here it’s the secret to this creamy hot chocolate, you have to whisk non-stop it becomes dense and creamy.

3- Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Serve in small shot cups and enjoy!


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Vanilla Extract

Brazilian Vanilla Extract

One night last month I spent several hours baking all kinds of goodies: cookies, brownies, cakes, and so on. The one ingredient they all had in common was vanilla extract.

Vanilla is for baking what salt and pepper is for cooking— it enhances the flavor of everything! Vanilla pods are enclosed in beans produced by orchids, which only opens once a year, justifying their expensive prices. It is cultivated in a number of tropical countries like Madagascar, Indonesia, Uganda, India, and Papa New Guinea, but the most prized ones come from Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti.

When vanilla beans are harvested, it doesn’t really taste as we know it. The aroma develops later, during the drying and fermentation process. And the result is a bean that is soft and oily, slightly sweet, tasting almost caramel, with a far undertone of camphor, perfect for cookies, brownies, cakes and a world of baking.

Length matters: the longer, the better— the more flavor it will have.

A good vanilla bean, with its astounding range of familiar tastes, transports you to a mystical place. After hours of confectioning and flavoring everything with vanilla, I decided to step back and started to contemplate on how the extract is made. The answer is simple: essentially alcohol infused with vanilla beans or compound.

And then my typical self came out: why not try to make a vanilla extract at home? And with a Brazilian alcohol beverage instead? Cachaça of course! The national spirit of Brazil varies in flavor from floral to cinnamon, herbal to fiery, and it might just work great!

I made a trip to The Container store and bought a jar/ glass bottle with a cork top, like this

My experiment was easy and pleasureable. And now I can give a touch of Brazilian flavor even to the most American of sweets.

Brazilian Vanilla extract

Makes 1 small jar of 4 oz

2 vanilla beans, very moist and oily, split length-wise

½ cup (125 ml) cachaça

1- Sterilize the container by simmering in hot water.

2- Put the vanilla beans inside the glass jar and cover with cachaça, completely submerging the beans. If the beans are taller than the jar, cut it.

3- Close the bottle and let it stand in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks before using. The extract is done when is dark and fragrant.

Have fun making your own! And let me know about it!



Orange Papaya Smoothie

Vitamina de Mamão com Laranja


Today, for no specific reason, I woke up kind of sad. I know, you’re gonna say come on! There are so many bad things that could happen and didn’t, why on earth are you feeling sad? Get up and smile!

You’ll probably say that because you want to encourage me, but you also might say that because you are terrified of sadness. Didn’t smile today? Where is Valium? Want to cry all day? Call the therapist. Sad is bad, sad is contagious. Sad is not attractive. Sad doesn’t sell.

The truth is nothing really happened to make me sad. Everything is normal. But even when I am sad, things are also normal. Because being sad is just as legitimate as being happy. Sad is not depressed. Depressed is so much more serious than sad.

When I feel sad it’s because I am paying attention to my own feelings. It could come from being disappointed with someone, or being tired of the same old, or feeling vulnerable, or a million other reasons.

We all make an effort to run away or revert the picture but we seldom make the effort to face it and brave it. Of course it is much better to be happy than sad, but the greatest of all would be if we could just allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we are feeling.

Perhaps I am just too demanding on my self, always trying to maintain a certain level of euphoria. I know I feel sad when I don’t feel like cooking. I just need to retrieve, stay quiet, and be alone. I’ll be back. We all come back, usually stronger. Ready to face the next wave of sadness, whenever that might be. Hopefully not so soon.

Alleluia, I hear my stomach! It’s growling. It’s alive! I need to eat. The natural necessity of having to prepare something to feed myself might do the trick. What can lift me up in this morning? My husband went to Costco this past weekend and bought Papayas from Brazil. Bingo! Papaya is tropical, bright, buttery, and has a complex sweetness. The fruit never found big roles in dessert, but in Brazil, Suco de Mamão com Laranja (Papaya and Orange Smoothie) is as classic as it gets.

Off to the kitchen I go. Cooking is my medicine. What’s yours?

Vitamina de Mamão com Laranja (Orange-Papaya Smoothie)

1 small papaya, seeded and peeled (between 120-150 g of flesh)

1 cup orange juice (about 2 oranges)

Place the papaya and orange juice in a blender and puree until smooth. If you’d like a little less thick, adjust with orange juice. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.

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