Feeding Family, Past and Present

As a little child, setting the Altar de Muertos felt almost like putting up the Christmas tree. In Mexican culture, el Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, reflects a fascinating and not-so-colloquial view on death. It portrays death as perfect and marvelous, as a spiritual transmutation worthy of celebration. It emphasizes that death is not only the ending of a person’s life, but also the ending of cycles, estates, and a rite of passage. 

October sets the scene for the Day of the Dead in November. All the houses horridly decorated, the visceral legends told, and the choosing of hair-rising costumes for Halloween appeal to the morbidity of life. Halloween is all about fearing death, but that narrative seems to be terminated when the Day of the Dead starts. Combining the Christian tradition of All Saints’ Day and the indigenous custom to celebrate death, it is believed that during the Day of the Dead the doors of heaven open for the souls of the deceased to visit their loved ones for twenty-four hours. The streets are full of lights and laughs. Families congregate at night in cemeteries and surround the tombs to tell stories. This time however, the stories are not about vampires avidly searching for your carotid, but of the time Uncle Alonso decided to bring two huge stuffed animals on the plane just to give them to my sister and I, or the time he let us eat guacamole without silverware to anger my mom. These 24 hours are not about torment and pain, but ironically about vivacity portrayed in singing, dancing, and feasting. 

According to the tradition, the dead endure an arduous journey back from the Land of the Dead to the Land of the Living. In order to welcome, honor, and refresh our loved ones, altars are beautifully set. This is no easy task, as it requires immense talents from cooking to decorating and painting. Every year, as the first of November approaches, the organized planning of the Altar de Muertos is crucial. In my family, each of us is assigned a specific job. For my little cousins, the path of the cempasuchil flower entertains them. With its bright color, the cempasuchil serves as a guide to the spirits. My grandma spreads salt all around the altar to protect our loved spirits from corruption in their passage through the realm of souls. My aunt, an amateur photographer, searches for the pictures of our dead. The process is meticulous as the pictures’ main purpose is to revive certain memories. Aunt Martha, the family artist, is in charge of the papel picado and the calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls).  These beautiful and festive decorations promote the celebratory nature and beauty of death. My mother, as a life-giver, places a cup of water on the altar, which symbolizes the origin of life. 

Image courtesy of The Curious Mexican

The final step is my favorite as my sister Roberta and I have to find the favorite foods of the family that passed away and prepare them. Attention to detail is key, as the character of our loved ones can be easily reflected in their favorite foods. Strong-willed but kind, my grandpa’s favorite food was mole. While mildly spicy and fierce, mole has a sweetness to it which accurately depicts my grandpa’s character.  

The food’s purpose goes beyond the characterization of the dead; it is also a tangible form of deep love. It feels like whoever is preparing your favorite food does so because she has taken the time to really get to know you. It is a sign of “I thought of you and wanted you to feel happiness.”Almost like when you come back to your college dorm after a failed midterm and your roommate, who paid enough attention to your favorite type of chocolate, bought you Ferrero Rocher to overpower the negative feelings with some endorphins. Similarly, just as my mom cooked my favorite chicken noodle soup whenever I had a stomach ache, on el Dia de Muertos, she cooks her sister’s favorite tortilla soup to commemorate her life. The message of food on the altar is strengthened by the idea that leaving the meals out throughout the night, will give the souls the opportunity to refuel and fill themselves with some delicious food that was cooked especially for them. Meanwhile, the family congregates around the altar awaiting their arrival with one cup of Mexican hot chocolate on one hand and a Pan de Muerto (sweet bread) on the other. 

Showing our love and care, and in honor of those who died, the Day of the Dead brings my family together. We sing, we dance, we feast. We commemorate. Because no one is really dead until someone stops uttering their names.

Cover photo courtesy of The Spruce Eats

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Eileen’s Banana Chip Muffins

This is the twenty-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!

Make if you have: bananas, chocolate chips, and rolled oats

Serves 12 muffins

Muffins are one of the best desserts to make when you want your kitchen to smell amazing. What better combination for muffins than bananas and chocolate chips? For this recipe, you can substitute the flour with an alternative such as oat flour or almond flour to make them gluten-free. 


1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk (or water)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 3/4 cup flour (I used oat flour to make it gluten free)

1/3 cup rolled oats

3 bananas mashed (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup chocolate chips

To start, preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Use your choice of oil or butter to grease your muffin tins. Combine the flour, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a bowl. 

In a separate bowl, mix the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, milk, and eggs. Use a fork to mash a banana and then incorporate it into the mixture. 

Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, slowly whisking to form a batter. Then fold in the chocolate chips and any other add ins you’d like!

Fill each muffin tin with batter about ⅔ of the way. Top them off with some more chocolate chips and a small sprinkle of oats. 

Bake the muffins for about 23-25 minutes. You can test if they’re ready by inserting a toothpick into a muffin and making sure it comes out clean

Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool. Enjoy!

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Ngan’s Raw Jicama Tacos

This is the twenty-fifth 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!

Make if you have: jicama, avocado, hummus

Serves 4-6

Quarantining has led some of us to some pretty extreme fad diets, one of them being the raw vegan diet. My friend Sophie and I tried this challenging diet for about a week, and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of recipes I was able to find and create in my own kitchen! One of my favorites ended up being these raw jicama tacos which are refreshing and decadent, and only take about 10 minutes to make!

Jicama (sliced)

1 can of black beans

1 can of corn 


Tomatoes (or pico de gallo)


Hummus (preferably the taco flavored hummus)

For optional cashew “sour cream”:

1/2 cup of cashews 

1/2 cup of cold water

Juice of 1/4 a lemon

⅛ teaspoon of cumin

⅛ teaspoon of garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon of onion powder

A pinch of salt

To create a flat “tortilla,” slice your jicama using a mandolin or attempt to thinly cut it yourself. I opted for the easy route and bought premade jicama wraps from Trader Joe’s. Next, I prepped all my ingredients: drained the can of black beans and can of corn, sliced the avocado, and diced up the tomato. The foundation of raw vegan diets is to not cook any of your ingredients, so that’s all you have to do to create most of your taco. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice and a pinch of salt on the jicama wraps for more flavor. Top with the hummus, beans, corn, tomato, and avocado. 


I took the extra step of making a cashew “sour cream” for the tacos. To do so, I soaked half a cup of raw cashews in water for two hours. After those two hours, I drained the cashews and transferred them to a blender. Next, I added the water, lemon juice, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and blended on high for about a minute. Then serve on top of your tacos. 

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Jessica’s Tofu Stir Fry

We are currently accepting applications for a summer session of Gusto! Applications are due on Friday, May 29 and can be found here. Questions? Email us at

This is the twenty-second 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!

Make if you have: Tofu, maple syrup, and soy sauce

Stir fry is always a delicious and satisfying meal; perhaps even more so when its homemade. This recipe uses tofu, and its versatility means you can turn to nearly any fridge/pantry components for pairing… vegetables, sauces, grains, etc.! Take this opportunity to explore your kitchen, and look for ingredients to enjoy with crispy and flavorful bites of baked tofu.


  • 1 container extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp tamari/soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder


Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, tamari, garlic powder, maple syrup, and vinegar. 

Next, press the tofu for at least 15 minutes and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Place them in the oil mixture and stir until each piece is completely coated. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the arrowroot powder into the bowl, and mix until all of the pieces are coated in it. Then sprinkle on the remaining teaspoon of arrowroot powder and gently mix just until the white powder is fully incorporated and no longer visible. 

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat before placing the tofu on top. Bake the tofu for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Make sure to keep an eye on it and stir 2-3 times during the baking process so that none of the pieces burn. 

Serve with your choice of rice, vegetables, and other toppings. Enjoy! 

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Prashanti’s Carrot Halwa

We are currently accepting applications for a summer session of Gusto! Applications are due on Friday, May 29 and can be found here. Questions? Email us at

This is the twentieth 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!

Make if you have: shredded carrots, ghee (clarified butter), milk, and sugar

Carrot halwa is a popular Indian dessert that combines shredded carrots with a variety of ingredients to create a warm, pudding-like treat. This recipe is a delicious way to turn your carrots into a sweet dessert!

4 cups shredded carrots

½ cup shredded khoya (reduced milk)

1 ½ cups milk

2 tbsp ghee

½ cup milk

¾ – 1 cup sugar

1 ½ tbsp ghee

¼ tsp cardamom powder

Handful of nuts (almonds, cashews)

Handful of golden raisins

To make the khoya, boil 1 ½ cups of milk for 5-10 minutes and then stir in 2 tbsp of ghee. Continuously stir while reducing the mixture for around 45 minutes. Then set the khoya aside to let it solidify. Use a fork (or your hands) to gently crumble the khoya. This recipe creates around ¾-1 cup of khoya- set apart ½ cup of the crumbled khoya to use for the carrot halwa. You can save the rest for later!

Coarsely chop the almonds and cashews and dry roast them in the oven for a few minutes. Once they’re ready and cool enough to handle, finely chop the nuts and set them aside to use as garnish later on. 

Saute the raisins in ½ tbsp of ghee for a few minutes- the raisins should absorb the ghee and look plump. 

Add the 4 cups of shredded carrots to a large pan on medium heat for 5 minutes. Make sure to continuously stir the carrots so they don’t burn. Then add ¾ cup of sugar to the carrots. The sugar should draw out the liquid from the carrots and make the mixture moist. Feel free to add an additional ¼ cup of sugar to make the halwa sweeter. Continue to stir the mixture as it reduces.

Add 1 tbsp of ghee and ¼ tsp of cardamom powder to the mixture. Continue to stir and let the mixture reduce for 5 minutes. Then add ½ cup of milk and let the mixture reduce for 2-3 minutes before removing it from the heat and letting it cool. Incorporate ½ cup of crumbled khoya into the mixture and combine until it is no longer visible. 

Add the finely chopped nuts as a garnish when ready to serve. Enjoy!

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Phoebe’s No Bake Energy Balls

This is the eighteenth 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!

Make if you have: peanut butter, honey, and oats

This recipe is a quick and easy way to make a grab-and-go snack. Chia and flaxseeds are filling and provide texture, while nut butter and chocolate chips combine to create a tried-and-true flavor pairing.


  • 1 cup oats
  • ⅔ cups shredded coconut
  • ½ cup peanut or almond butter
  • ½ chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed 


Start by combining all of the ingredients into a bowl. You can use a spoon to mix but it might be easier to use your hands once the dough gets a little hard to stir. We added some cinnamon for a little extra sweetness, so feel free to do the same or add another spice if you’d like. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it refrigerate for 2 hours. This is so that the balls are easier to form; they’ll be super sticky and hard to work with if you skip this step!

Once the dough is ready, use your hands to roll it into balls that are about 1 inch in diameter. 

Store leftovers in the fridge and enjoy!

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Jessica’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi

This is the seventeenth 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!

Make if you have: sweet potatoes, flour, and eggs

Who knew you could escape to Italy from the comfort of your own home with 3 simple ingredients? We can thank this gnocchi recipe for that. These little pillows of delight can be served with a variety of sauces, herbs, spices, or simply tossed in some butter and melted oil. The possibilities are endless!

Serves 2-4 


2 medium sweet potatoes 

1 large egg 

2-3 cups of flour

Salt to taste


First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Use a fork to poke a few holes in each sweet potato and bake them in the oven for around 40 minutes until they’re tender. Then set them aside to cool. 

Once they are cool enough to handle with your hands, peel the potatoes and mash them in a bowl. Incorporate the egg and stir until fully combined. Slowly sift in the flour and stir until a dough forms: add as much flour you think is necessary to get the right dough consistency

Roll the dough into a 1 inch wide rope and cut into 1-inch pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and use a fork to press into the dough to create a typical gnocchi shape.

Set a pot of salted water to boil. Once it is ready, put in the piece and cook them until they rise to the top. Feel free to add any oil, herbs, spices, or sauces before serving. Enjoy!

This recipe can also be used to make cauliflower gnocchi by replacing the sweet potatoes with a head of cauliflower. To prepare the cauliflower, bring a pot of water to boil over high heat and cook it for about 6 minutes until it is tender. Drain the cauliflower and allow it to cool on a clean towel. Then squeeze the excess water out of the cauliflower, mash it, and continue following the recipe above. 

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Valentina’s Carrot Cake

This is the sixteenth 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!

Make if you have: Carrots, pecans, macadamias

Baking brings friends and families together. The aromatic smells of vanilla extract and cinnamon combined with the visually pleasing and fruity decorations make this recipe both delicious and therapeutic. After all, there is nothing quite like making something sweet and sharing something sweeter. 

Ingredients for the batter:

– 3/4 cup of brown sugar

– 3/4 cup of coconut oil

– 1/4 cup greek yogurt

– 3 whole eggs

– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

– 1 cup of whole flour

– 1 cup of almond flour

– 1 teaspoon of baking powder

– 2 teaspoons of cinnamon 

– 1/2 teaspoon of salt

– 2 cups of grated carrots

– 3/4 cups of sliced pecans 

– 1/2 cup of toasted macadamias (sliced)

Frosting ingredients:

– 8 ounces of cream cheese

– 1/3 cup of pulverized sugar

– 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Extract

To decorate:

– 1/2 cup of sliced and toasted pecans

– 1/2 cup of grated and toasted coconut 

To begin, preheat the oven to 350 F and cover the cake container with a little bit of coconut oil.

Afterwards, in a medium bowl, start to mix the brown sugar with the coconut oil and the yogurt. Then, add the eggs, one by one, to the same bowl and mix well after each egg. Finally, add the vanilla extract and mix some more.

In another bowl, mix the two flours with the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon. Then, pour the liquids into the dry mix, using a spatula to fold the batter until smooth. After, add the sliced nuts and the carrots into the mix, using the spatula to fold the ingredients once again. Finally, pour the finished batter into the container and place in the oven for approximately 30 minutes (check 5 mins prior).

While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting by mixing the cream cheese, the vanilla, and the powdered sugar using a whisk. Mix well at a constant speed until it thickens. Let it rest in the fridge.

 When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and leave it covered in the counter for about one hour, so it cools.

After the cake is cool, cover it with half of the frosting and place it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Make sure to cover the cake with the rest of the frosting (like a second coat) so that all of the cake is covered. 

Finally, get creative and decorate the cake with the toasted pecans and with the coconut. You can also use the fruits of your choice to give the cake a little bit of color. I used one strawberry cut in four pieces. 

 Enjoy and share this recipe with your friends!

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Sylvia’s Broccoli Pesto

This is the fifteenth 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!

Make if you have: Broccoli, pistachios, walnuts, and linguine pasta

This pasta is the combination of the lightness and freshness of the farmers market with the heavy and flavorful Italian restaurant. The taste of broccoli brings back memories of healthier times outside while the pesto brings satisfying thoughts of warm home cooked meals. Buon Appetito! 

10 oz. broccoli (fresh or frozen)

1/3 cup of olive oil

Handful of pistachios

Handful walnuts 

1/2 lemon

Parmesan cheese

Linguine pasta (2 cups)

First, place the  broccoli into a medium pot of salted boiling water for three minutes. 

After the broccoli is done, take it out of the pot and place linguini pasta into the boiling water. Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes and save 1/2 cup of salted pasta water for the sauce later. 

Meanwhile, to begin the sauce, place half of the olive oil and all of the broccoli in a food processor, magic bullet, or blender.

Then, squeeze the lemon, add pistachios, walnuts, salt and pepper into the blender. You may also add a little parmesan cheese, to your liking. 

Afterwards, add some of the pasta water to thin it out. Only add the remaining olive oil if you want to make the sauce thicker. Then, turn on the food processor until the sauce is thick and blended.

Finally, drain the pasta completely and add the sauce to the pot with pasta and add some more parmesan cheese as a final touch.


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Valeria’s Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake

This is the fourteenth 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!

Make if you have: Ferrero Rocher truffles, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, Marie biscuits

Cheesecake itself is already delicious… but, why not combine with one of the best chocolates ever to make even more mouthwatering: Ferrero Rocher. This is a recipe that is perfect to celebrate any quarantine birthday coming up or simply just to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Disclosure: Total cook time is approximately 24 hours for the best results 

Makes one 8-inch cake


2 ½ cups of Marie biscuits

½ cup of unsalted butter

4 Ferrero Rocher truffles


32 oz of cream cheese (room temperature)

3 eggs 

6 egg yolks 

¾ cup sour cream

1 ¼ cup of sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

8 Ferrero Rocher truffles

For decorating:

1 cup of milk chocolate chips

1 ¼ cup of heavy whipping cream 

12 Ferrero Rocher truffles (amount may vary based on decoration preferences)

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and lining your 8-inch round pan with parchment paper. Next, use a food processor or blender to finely ground the biscuits, add the Ferrero Rocher truffles and the melted butter and mix until the whole mixture seems uniform. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and use the back of a spoon to compact all the mixture all over the bottom of the pan. Put the pan in the fridge while you make the filling. 

Grab a large mixing bowl and pour the cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to mix together all of these ingredients until the mixture is smooth and silky. While you are mixing, grab the pan from the fridge and put it in the oven for 10 minutes to give the cookie layer a bit of an extra crunch. Once the 10 minutes are over, remove the pan from the oven and pour the filling into the pan and place the whole Ferrero Rocher truffles in the filling. 

Firmly wrap two layers of aluminum foil around the bottom of the pan and cover the top loosely using foil also. This is to prevent any water seeping in from the water bath. Place the pan in a deep oven tray and add boiling water until it reaches halfway up the pan. Put all of this in the oven for 90 minutes or until it sets (it should be wobbly in the middle and firm in the edges). Once that is up, turn off the oven but let the cheesecake stand in there for one more hour. Then remove the cake pan from the water bath and put it in the fridge for it to cool down for at least 4 hours or for best results overnight to allow it to fully set. 

Once the cheesecake is set, it is ready to be decorated. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. In a medium bowl add the milk chocolate chips. Pour the warm heavy cream over the chocolate chips. Make sure the chocolate chips are fully submerged for one minute and then begin to mix the mixture with a whisk until it turns into a silky ganache. Allow the ganache to rest for about 10 minutes or until it hardens up into a spreading consistency. Using a spoon or spatula spread the chocolate ganache over the cheesecake all the way to the edges. Decorate by placing the Ferrero Rocher truffles into the ganache at your own discretion. Place the cheesecake into the fridge for 1 more hour or until serving. Remove the cheesecake from the pan before serving.