Spicy Cocoa Black Bean Soup

Hudson and I spent most of our day yesterday huddled up on the couch because it was freezing in my apartment. For some reason, the heat wasn't working, and with temperatures outside in the 20s, it was not a fun day.

I did my best to warm the place up with food. Cranking up the oven to roast any roast-able vegetables I could find in the fridge.

I also put a pot of soup on the stove, and made mug after mug of coffee, only getting through about a third of each one before it turned too cold to drink.

When Eugene got home from work, he arrived to find Hudson layered under three blankets and shivering.

(Seriously, it was the saddest/cutest thing ever. A shivvering doggy!)

He got the super to come and check things out and by that night the heat was working again (actually I'm sitting here typing this with the windows open, because it's now working a little TOO well. ::sigh::).

The soup that I made was this Spicy Cocoa Black Bean Soup. A simple soup made a bit more interesting with the addition of cocoa powder and ancho chile powder, for a bit of rich and complex flavor. Just the thing to warm you up on cold winter nights.

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

Spicy Cocoa Black Bean Soup
Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (add more or less depending on how much spice you like)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 15oz cans low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions, peppers, and celery and sauté 5 minutes, until soft.

Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute, until fragrant.

Add the cumin, coriander, ancho chile, cayenne, and cocoa powder, and stir to combine well and coat all the ingredients.

Add the black beans and the broth, and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Lower heat, partially cover (so some steam can escape), and let simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Note: if you like a creamier soup, at this point you can puree about 1/3 of the soup using a stick blender or by removing a portion of it to your blender. If not, skip this step.

Stir in the corn and season with kosher salt and black pepper, to taste. Let simmer uncovered for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro, reserving some to sprinkle on top.

One-Bowl Cranberry Sauce Bread

Let's talk cranberry sauce.

Here's my thing about it. I love making it (so easy!) and serving it (so pretty!), but I don't really love eating very much of it.

I'll take maybe a tablespoon or so of it total with my Thanksgiving dinner, and then I'm pretty much good for the year on that.

So what to do with all the leftovers?

We bake, of course! Layered between cake. Baked into tarts. Spread on a wheel of brie that's tucked into puffed pastry. So much good stuff here.

And today I decided to make us some Cranberry Sauce Bread. When I told Eugene I was making this, he asked me what that meant, flavor-wise. So I told him: it's basically banana bread except with cranberry sauce instead of mashed bananas.

So easy!

This is a quick and dirty one-bowl kinda thing. Stir it up. Bake it up. And it won't be long before you're slicing up soft, sweet bread studded with pockets of tart cranberries.

I love this a little bit toasted with some melty butter and a sprinkle of good salt. Or a slice while running out the door during a crazy day.

With morning coffee. With afternoon tea. This is a great chilly wintertime snacky cake.

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

One-Bowl Cranberry Sauce Bread
Makes 1 9" loaf 
1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan, and set aside.

In a large bowl or the base of a mixer, beat together 1 cup of the cranberry sauce, oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and ground cinnamon. Stir well just until evenly combined.

Spread into the prepared pan. Dollop the remaining cranberry sauce on top, then bake about 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup

From the name, you can tell that this Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup has it all.

(Well...you know...soup-wise.

A little bit spicy.

A little bit sweet.

Incredibly, ridiculously, lusciously creamy.

It's serious velvety Heaven in a bowl, and perfect for those frigid winter days that are quickly and unrelentingly barreling our way.

[Note: if you're currently in Miami or Arizona or Melbourne or some other deliciously warm place, crank up that air conditioning and you'll know what I mean. Also, can I come visit? Please? I'll bring cake!]

I love butternut squash soup, but my usual objection is that some places tend to make it so sweet that it tastes like candy. I'm usually really hesitant to order it at restaurants for this exact reason. I prefer soups with a spicy, savory edge, and just a tiny hint of sweetness...so that's what I did here!

This one is really easy. The most complicated part is really just cutting up the butternut squash. It's not hard, really, but it takes a bit of muscle. I'll be honest and say that I usually buy fresh squash pre-cut from the store. It's a bit more expensive, but I'm much more likely to actually use it when I do it that way.

If I buy the full squash, it sort of sits and languishes for weeks until I have to throw it out because every time I look at it, I'm all like "Ugh! I don't want to deal with that!"

So I encourage you do what works best for you. Nothing more expensive than totally wasted food!

A quick ingredient note. The recipe below uses chicken broth and heavy cream, but you can also substitute vegetable broth and full-fat canned coconut milk for vegan and/or dairy free versions. Note that I would not recommend using a less-fatty milk like almond, soy, or boxed coconut milk, as that won't give you the same level of richness.

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading! 

Chipotle Maple Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely minced (use 2 for extra spicy soup)
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
1 teaspoon sweet smoked spanish paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups low or no-sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth works, too!)
1/2 cup heavy cream (substitute full-fat canned coconut milk for a vegan or dairy-free version)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Candied chopped pecans, minced fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions, garlic, and chipotles. Sauté for 2 minutes until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant.

Add the squash, paprika, salt, pepper, and stir to coat well. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer 15-20 minutes, or until squash is very tender.

Remove from heat and let cool 20 minutes, then add the cream and maple syrup, and transfer to a blender to puree in batches until very smooth. Return to pot and bring up to a simmer again.

Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

 Serve garnished with candied pecans and cilantro.

Easy Cuban-Style Ropa Vieja

Ropa Vieja has long been one of my favorite Latin dishes. It's a classic Cuban dish made from slow-cooked shredded flank steak stewed in a savory broth of tomatos, peppers, herbs, and spices.

It's savory and flavorful, without being spicy, and is absolutely wonderful served over rice with sweet plantains or creamy avocados on the side.

The name "ropa vieja" is Spanish for "old clothes." The idea being that the shredded meat is supposed to look like a pile of tattered old clothing.  An admittedly weird, and unappetizing simile, but it's so good so I'll forgive it.

The other thing I love about it is that, despite the incredible, complex flavor, ropa vieja is actually one of the easiest dishes ever to make. You really only have to combine a bunch of ingredients in a pot and let the stove do all the work. About 31/2 hours of gentle simmering, and the dish is ready to serve.

No babysitting, stirring or even much prep work required.

While most recipes require that you brown the meat and saute the ingredients in steps, I've never felt that those extra steps were really necessary.

I literally just put everything into the pot, and let it go. It's much easier and the final dish is still so rich and flavorful, all the while saving you extra time and clean-up.

Ropa vieja is also one of those recipes that can be made a couple days in advance. In fact, it's often even better when allowed to rest overnight in the fridge. 

With increasingly colder days upon us, this cozy comforting dish is one that you should definitely add to your repertoire.

P. S. If you like this recipe, you should also try my Cranberry Ropa Vieja, which is absolutely perfect for fall!

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

Ropa Vieja Recipe
Serves 8

3 tablespoons olive oil
2lb flank steak
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cubanelle pepper, thinly sliced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
3 cups low or no-sodium beef or veal stock
1/2 cup white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3 large bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup sliced spanish green olives with pimentos
1/4 cup capers
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, finely minced
Prepared rice, for serving

Place a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté the onions and peppers until soft.

Cut the flank steak in half, then season on all sides with the salt and pepper.

Add to the pot along with the tomatoes, beef stock, wine, sugar, cumin, oregano, paprika, bay leaves, and garlic. Stir to combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and let simmer for about 3 hours, or until meat is tender.

Use two forks to shred the meat, then add the olives and capers. Stir then let simmer 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Stir the cilantro in at the end.

Serve with rice.

The New Yorker (on Vacation) Cocktail

Last week, I had the privilege to spend a few days at the Grand Lucayan Resort on Grand Bahama Island as part of a culinary press trip.

This was my first time in Grand Bahama (and the Bahamas in general!), and I loved being able to explore and taste and experience a tiny bit of what that beautiful island has to offer.

I'll be sharing more about my trip soon, but I first wanted to share this special cocktail with you. On the third day of my trip, the other journalists and I were treated to a private island mixology class led by Prince, the resident bartender at Havana Cay--a gorgeous, cozy cocktail and Cuban cigar bar located on the resort.

Prince went through three of the most popular cocktails they serve on island, including the Bahama Mama (of course!), Goombay Smash, and the Hurricane.

He also talked about how one of his favorite things to do is create original cocktails for his guests. He asks them what they like, how they're feeling, and their favorite flavors, and then whips up a totally personalized specialty cocktail.

Hearing this, I knew I had to take advantage, and challenged him to make me a special drink. I requested a refreshing rum-based cocktail with sour citrus and tart flavors. He thought for a minute, then got to work behind the bar, adding a dash of this and a shot of that.

He shook it up, then served me a gorgeous bright pink drink you see right here.

I took a sip. It was wonderful!

He asked me what I thought, and asked for honest criticism, so I said that I'd actually love it to be even more sour, and recommended doubling the amount of lime juice while keeping all the other ratios the same.

Prince whipped it up again with my changes (mind you--everything was totally in his head without a single note taken!) and served it.

All the other ladies on the trip agreed it was a success, and he had us pick a name for the drink which he was now going to add to the bar menu.

We chose The New Yorker (on Vacation), after me (aka a New Yorker on vacation!).

I suggested serving it in a chic champagne flute with a twist of lime peel, then I took it outside to photograph.

The cocktail is now available on the menu at Havana Cay in the Grand Lucayan Resort.

If you visit and order it (and you should!), take a picture and be sure to share it with me!

And don't forget to tell Prince that I sent you! (He's a total sweetheart!)

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!  

The New Yorker (on Vacation) Cocktail Recipe
Makes 2 cocktails

2 oz banana rum
2 oz gold rum
1 tablespoon mango rum
3 oz cranberry juice
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 large fresh limes, juiced
1 tablespoon fresh pineapple juice
1 teaspoon Sour Apple Pucker (or other sour apple schnapps)
Fresh lime peel cut into strips, for garnish


Fill a large cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients except for the lime peel. Shake until the shaker is frosty, then strain into two flute glasses.
Garnish each with fresh lime peel and serve.

Life Lately, On Instagram

L-R, Top to bottom:

Rumpled hotel bed, animal print place settings, a champagne negroni cocktail, fishnet stockings and a cabaret show, my new (temporary!) blue hair, morning mugs of coffee, my current favorite--magnolia leaf bouquets, rum cake recipe testing, black and white manicure.

Follow me on instagram at @nandita2483

Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Rum Cake

It's no secret that when it comes to cake, rum cake is one of my favorites! Today I'm putting my rum cake obsession to the test by entering this gorgeous Cinnamon Vanilla Bean Rum Cake in a little online bake-off hosted by Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

I'm competing against my friend Jocelyn from the gorgeous blog Grandbaby Cakes, and you can help choose the winner by popping over to their site and voting for your favorite. [Edit: The contest is over. Thank you for your votes!]

Now about this cake! The contest asked us to each pick a classic recipe from BHG's archives and add our own twist. I chose a vanilla bean rum cake, and glammed it up with some spicy and super fragrant Vietnamese cinnamon and a decadent, booze, buttery Cinnamon Butter Rum Syrup to pour over the whole thing.

It takes a little patience to let the syrup soack in, but once it does, the resulting cake is absolutely luscious! Seriously SO worth the wait. (And I am not by nature a patient girl!)

I think this is a fantastic cake for the upcoming holiday season; one that most definitely would NOT be unwelcome on your Thanksgiving or Christmas table.

You can visit BHG for the rum cake recipe, and check out the boozy Cinnamon Rum Butter Syrup recipe below!

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!      

Cinnamon Butter Rum Cake Syrup
Pour this buttery, boozy syrup over a classic vanilla bean rum bundt cake, to turn it into something super special for the holidays. Get the original vanilla bean rum cake recipe from Better Homes & Gardens

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup dark rum

In a large saucepan with high sides, combine butter, water, sugar, salt and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a rapid boil for one minute, then lower heat and let simmer until reduced by about 1/3, stirring occasionally and keeping an eye on it so it doesn't boil over. Remove from heat and stir in the rum (it will bubble!). 
Pour the hot syrup over your cooled cake (NOTE: The syrup must be hot to absorb evenly into the cake.)
Let stand 4-8 hours or overnight to let the syrup completely soak in.

Tortilla Española Bites with Manchego

When it comes to holiday entertaining, there are a few dishes that I shamelessly love to serve over and over (and over!) again.

They’re solid favorites that are as easy to prepare, as they are delicious to eat. My go-to among these is Tortilla Española—a Spanish potato and onion omelet popular on tapas menus around the world.

This is a dish that is close to my heart, as it’s one that I grew up eating with my family. My mom would often serve it as a simple lunch on lazy weekend afternoons, and it was always the one thing she knew everyone would love.

As I grew older and started cooking for my friends, I realized that the dish also worked well as the perfect pairing for a glass of sparkling champagne.

This version here was inspired by the new Président® Don Bernardo® Manchego cheese—a nutty, intense aged sheep’s milk cheese that adds incredible flavor even in small portions.

Paired with a spicy cured Spanish chorizo, it’s the perfect way to add a festive touch to an otherwise simple traditional dish.

Though typically served in large thick slices, for parties I prefer to cut the cooled omelet into bite-sized squares that guests can easily grab and enjoy while sipping drinks or mingling.

The best part is that it is one of those dishes that’s even better made in advance, so I can bake it the day before, then cut and serve just before the guests arrive.

It saves me time, and assures that my guests have something a bit more substantial than crackers or nuts to nosh on while the rest of the meal is being prepared.

And because I’m never one to shy away from gilding the lily (it is the holidays after all!), I also created a simple Smoky Herb Cheese Aioli to serve alongside as a dip. For the sauce, I used Président®  Garlic & Herbs Gourmet Cheese —a soft and creamy cheese that’s packed with flavor.

I hand-whipped the cheese with a bit of mayonnaise and smoked paprika for a smooth and creamy sauce that is the perfect accompaniment to this easy holiday appetizer.

Want to create this recipe at home?

Hop on over to the ArtofCheese.com to download a coupon and enter to win $50 worth of President cheese in their Pinterest sweepstakes! Seriously SO worth checking out. You'll also find more holiday entertaining recipes and tips from some of your other favorite food bloggers.

This post was sponsored by Lactalis. I was compensated to write it, but all words, images, recipes, and opinions are totally my own. Thank you for supporting companies like Lactalis that make it possible for me to continue to create great recipes and original content for you!

Love Always Order Dessert?
Let's connect! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates. And if you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, please don't hesitate to e-mail me. Thanks for reading!      

Tortilla Española Bites with Manchego and Smoky Herb Cheese Aioli 
Makes about 24 appetizers 

For the tortilla:
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
12 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
 ½ package of Président® Don Bernardo® Manchego cheese, rind removed and diced
4oz cured Spanish chorizo, diced
¼ cup minced parsley or cilantro, for garnish

For the aioli: 
1 (5.2oz) Président® Garlic & Herbs Gourmet Cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a deep 10” or 12” ovenproof nonstick skillet or round baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Fill a large pot with 3 quarts cold water and season with kosher salt. Slice the unpeeled potatoes into ¼” thick round slices and drop into cold water. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil until all potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper for two minutes, then stir in the diced onions, Manchego cheese, diced chorizo, and cooked potatoes. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared skillet, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly puffed on sides.

Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes until the omelet pulls away from the sides of the skillet. Flip out onto to a cutting board and let cool completely before cutting into 1 ½” cubes.

To make the aioli: whisk together the softened gourmet cheese, mayonnaise, and smoked paprika. Chill until serving.

Garnish tortilla bites with minced parsley or cilantro, and serve with the aioli for dipping.