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

Mucho Gusto

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

Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Seasonal Sage Pasta

This is the fifty-third 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!

Inspired by his father and Italian roots, my dad has always had a passion for gardening and growing his own food. In our apartment, my dad has his own unconventional tactic to accomplish this goal: a terrace full of little green plants—his very own garden. He grows basil and tomatoes among other fresh herbs and vegetables, filling our terrace with pleasant herbal scents and vibrant colors of ripe vegetables. His prized plants were always the herbs, which we use for dinners nightly. In the fall and winter, a sprinkle of fresh, home-grown sage makes all the difference.

Full of vitamins, with lots of nutritional value, sage comes in many types: culinary sage, garden sage, common sage, and dalmatian sage. Sage has a unique savory yet sweet, peppery flavor that heightens the flavor of many dishes. Native to the Mediterranean, sage has been considered an essential herb in Britain for generations. Due to its origins, sage often appears in European cuisine. However, we know from its use in American Thanksgiving stuffing, Chinese herbal teas, British casseroles and sausages, and as an accompaniment for French roasts and shellfish recipes, it is clear sage is a diverse herb- important to many cultures. 

In Italy, sage is an essential herb in many traditional dishes. Sage is critical when making Italian tomato and cream based sauces, as it adds a strong aroma and earthy flavor. Sage is the perfect herb to add a sophisticated, savory flavor to any dish. This green herb especially complements robust dishes involving pork, squash, and creamy pasta. Sage also pairs well with brown butter, forming an iconic combination perfect for indulgent pasta dinners. Thus, this Italian pasta recipe is the ideal recipe, combining these delectable ingredients. 

I’m sharing my dad’s recipe for sage pasta, where the brown butter sage sauce is the star. This dish involves warm, tender pumpkin ravioli deliciously coated in a flavorful, aromatic sauce. It is the perfect, cozy recipe for the fall weather.


  • 1 stick high-quality European butter (Kerry Gold, for example, because there is less moisture in these, so they are richer), cut into small pieces
  • 1-2 handfuls walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 15 fresh sage leaves 
  • ½-1 tablespoons cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Tortellini or ravioli, cheese-filled or pumpkin-filled
  • Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pork sausage (optional)


Start by placing butter onto a pan, melting the pieces over low heat, stirring it occasionally to prevent hot spots. For best results, I recommend using a heavy pan, as it distributes the heat evenly. All the moisture will gradually evaporate from the butter, forming a brown buttery foam. Roast the nuts in the pan until they become golden. 

Next, add the sage to the pan. It is important to add the sage at the beginning of the cooking process so that its strong flavor becomes a staple to the recipe. Continue to stir the mixture for about five minutes. The sage should become crumbly and crispy. The key to ensuring the sage becomes crispy is to remove some of the sage from the butter, setting it aside until the very end so that you can add it as a crunchy garnish. That way, the sauce and the sage will share the same flavorful and aromatic elements. Now, add your choice of cinnamon or nutmeg removing the pan from heat. 

In a pot, boil water and cook the pasta of your choice for about six minutes or until it is al dente. We recommend a pumpkin ravioli to complement the seasonal flavor, but cheese-filled ones will be delicious as well. Remove the pasta from the water before adding it to the pan with the brown butter sauce. Give it a toss so that the brown butter brown sauce is evenly distributed.  

Now, it’s time to plate the dish!  Top the pasta off with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper, and a few extra leaves of crispy sage. 

This particular dish tastes great with sausage if you want to add an extra savory touch. Due to the butterfat, it is rich and hearty, making it perfect for the cold weather. Enjoy this recipe with your loved ones on a cozy night in this season— it is the flavor of fall!

Cover photo courtesy of Maya Floreani.

Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Platanos (Fried Sweet Plantains)

This is the forty-ninth 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!

Since moving back to school, I’ve missed my family’s home-cooked meals—nothing beats my mom’s and grandma’s delicious dinners. In particular, I miss our traditional Guatemalan staples: tortillas, beans, rice, and some form of cooked plantains. A perfect mix of salty, sweet, and savory, these ingredients pair well together, creating a hearty, satisfying food experience. When I was home, I would sometimes get bored of eating the same traditional side dishes with the same meals, but what can I say—distance really does make the heart grow fonder. In fact, I recently started craving the foods I would’ve sighed at a month ago. I miss my grandmother’s platanos, or lightly fried plantains, the most. Sticky, buttery, indulgent, these golden-brown delights are a comfort food my entire family reaches for at the dinner table. With their light, natural sweetness, platanos complement a rich meal and always make dinner a bit more interesting. 

Plantains may just look like strange, gigantic, starchy green bananas (I will admit, I thought this as a kid), but they are actually quite versatile, easy to cook with, and tasty. They are beloved in many cultures, especially in the Latin American community. In fact, plantains are so common that they are always a part of an authentic Latin American dinner in some way, ranging from Puerto Rican and Dominican deep-fried tostones to the deliciously sweet, caramelized plantains in my family’s dessert recipes. 

As I have learned from my grandma, there are countless recipes for cooking them depending on their ripeness: you can crisp them up or cook them until soft and chewy, have sweet ones with a sprinkling of sugar, or add a dash of sea-salt for homemade snackable plantain chips. The possibilities are endless, fun, and absolutely scrumptious! I am sharing this particular recipe for fried sweet plantains because it is the recipe we enjoy most frequently at home. Plus, it is a warm, comforting, homey dish perfect for the colder months we are now entering. Ultimately, platanos are a great recipe to make when you are pressed for time and need to whip up something fairly quickly. Their unique, customizable, salty-sweet flavor will be pleasing to all!


  • 2 plantains, yellowish and ripe, sliced
  • ¼ cup of vegetable or canola oil (approximately enough to cover half of the plantain slices)
  • A dash of salt, and/or sugar


Start by placing a medium-sized pan on the stove at medium heat. Add your oil of choice, and heat the oil until it is just about to bubble. Because you are lightly frying as opposed to deep-frying the plantains, you don’t need a ton of oil—just enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan. 

As the oil heats up, slice the plantains sideways, across their width. This is similar to cutting a banana into circular pieces to make banana chips/coins. For softer, mushier platanos, slice the plantains into thick pieces. For crispy, crunchy platanos, make the pieces a bit thinner. 

Next, add a few of the sliced plantains to the hot oil. Don’t add too many to the pan at once, or else you may accidentally burn them. After a couple of minutes, the plantains should turn a golden-brown or caramel color. When this happens, flip the plantains over and cook the other side. Do this until there are no more sliced plantain pieces left.  

Once both sides are amber colored, they have been fried to perfection and are ready to be taken out. Use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove the platanos from the pan and place them on a plate covered with paper towels. This step is important because the paper towels will soak up any excess oil. Make sure to spread the platanos out when placing them on the plate. In my experience, this will prevent the platanos from sticking together or forming a clump. Pat the platanos dry, add a dash of salt or sugar, and serve while hot! 

For an extra finishing touch, serve the platanos with sour cream mixed with sugar, an extra sprinkling of salt, or even a drizzle of honey! Each combination adds an exciting new element of flavor to the platanos. However, they are also just as delicious on their own! This recipe feeds about 4 people, so grab a handful before they are gone!

Photo Credits:

Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Cacio e Pepe Pasta

This is the forty-sixth 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!

Loved by kids and adults alike, buttered noodles are a timeless, homey classic. From the gooey, melty cheese to the perfectly cooked pasta, this simple dish is the perfect comfort food for all. I mean, who doesn’t love cheesy, buttery pasta?

It is no wonder why there are many versions of this iconic dish in different cultures. Coming from an Italian family, cacio e pepe is what my family likes to call our preferred version of buttered noodles. Whether we are in a rush or sitting down for a Sunday night pasta dinner party with the whole family, cacio e pepe is a tasty, satiating dish that we always welcome. I remember my excitement when my Nonna would whip up this decadent meal for me after a busy day of playing outside and helping my Nonno in his vegetable garden in the backyard. This dish also brings up fond childhood memories for my dad—he recalls coming home from school and seeing his favorite warm meal prepared with love by his mom, waiting on the kitchen table, ready to be enjoyed. This dish is a nostalgic staple for generations in our family, like in most Italian households. It is simple enough for a kid’s pallet but is still rich, savory, and satisfying every time—perhaps some would even say, the culinary equivalent of a warm hug from a loved one. 

Cacio e Pepe is similar to pasta in Bianco or buttered noodles. It is an ancient Italian dish dating all the way back to the Roman Empire. Legend has it that this recipe started as an easy, practical food for the shepherds because it was durable,  easy to carry, did not take long to prepare, and did not spoil quickly. As the name, which translates to “cheese and pepper,” implies, cacio e pepe is a simple dish. With just two main ingredients prepared carefully with the right cooking technique make this dish so delicious. While the recipe can vary from region to region, I’m sharing my dad’s recipe, which he learned from his northern Italian parents. No matter which recipe you follow, high-quality Italian ingredients are a must. Authentic to the style of the Romans, an abundance of freshly ground black pepper and imported grated cheese are critical to achieving the great flavor. Together, with the pepper, cheese, and pasta, the high-quality elements with bold flavors combine to form a harmonious, hearty meal. 


  • 1 lb of pasta, any of your choosing
  • ½ – ¾ stick of butter
  • 2 cups of pasta water
  • Approximately ½ cup 2% milk
  • Approximately ½ cup cheese, freshly grated, as desired
  • Salt and pepper, to taste, but heavy on the pepper

**It is also important to have a large, heavy saucepan for the best results; it will distribute heat gradually and evenly without burning the ingredients. 


Start by boiling a pot of water over medium heat. The water should be well salted, with at least one teaspoon. Once the water is boiling, add your pasta of choice. A rough-surfaced pasta is more desirable, as it can hold more of the sauce, but any type works for this versatile dish. Traditionally, tonnarelli is used, but long spaghetti works well too. Bow ties and shells can also be good for adhering to the smooth, creamy sauce. Cook the pasta over medium heat for approximately 6 minutes. Be sure to not overcook the pasta—you want it to be al dente, so it is okay to turn the heat off a bit prematurely while it still feels a bit hard. It should have a tender “bite” or snap when you are trying it. Once the pasta is cooked to perfection, set the pasta aside and save at least two cups of the pasta water. 

In your heavy saucepan, prepare the sauce—the star of the dish. Start by cutting the butter into chunks and placing the pieces in the saucepan under low heat. You do not want the butter to burn or brown the butter—just lightly melt it.  Add the pepper to the butter as it melts. Next, add the milk. Finally, add the cheese. Emulsify it slowly with a couple of ladles of pasta water, and mix it all together. Be careful when adding the milk to the sauce as it can easily overheat and curdle, causing the fats to separate from the water. Use this technique when making the sauce so that it becomes silky and smooth and has the proper consistency: Have the heat on a light simmer and gently stir the components together. Then, slowly add some high-quality grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese. 

Once the sauce is light yet rich, it is ready. Turn off the heat, add the pasta to the sauce, and toss.  Make sure to evenly coat the pasta. You can vary the ratios of cheese and pepper to your liking, but be sure to finish off the dish with lots of black pepper for serving; it should be visibly seen in the pasta. Ѐ finito! Buon appetito! 

This recipe feeds about 4-6 people. 

Photo courtesy of

Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Enchiladas

This is the forty-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!

That first, irresistible, crunchy bite will make or break it—no, literally, the delicious tostada vessel sometimes cracks, leaving your fingers stained beet-red and your plate a mess of enchilada toppings (which, when nobody is looking, you will probably lick clean.) At its simplest, it is a messy finger-food, but this unique enchilada dish is also exciting, vibrant, and celebratory. It includes the polarizing ingredients of pickled beets, capers, and hard-boiled eggs, yet it remains surprisingly delightful. With a complimentary combination of a crispy fried tortilla, tender meat, a tangy homemade tomato sauce, and piled high with fresh, crunchy vegetables, it is truly a satisfying, well-balanced meal in both taste and texture. Each layer of the dish is crafted and stacked with care, creating what I believe is a culinary masterpiece. These enchiladas are easily my favorite Guatemalan dish yet. 

Enchiladas have an expansive, rich history that dates back to the 18th century, making them a unique staple in many Latin-American households today and a cultural and gastronomical patrimony. Most families are loyal to their own recipes, so there are many different versions. Enchiladas vary from culture to culture as well. However, for traditional Guatemalan enchiladas, a couple key ingredients maintain the integrity of the dish, regardless of the variation. For example, the corn tortilla is essential to the authenticity of the enchilada. It is fried to perfection in order to create a crispy tostada, which is essentially a toasted tortilla. Guatemalan Rudy Giron explains it best: “If tostadas had a kingdom, La Enchilada would be the queen of the tostadas.” In addition, Guatemalan enchiladas are packed with refreshing vegetables, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “jardineras,” or garden planters. Besides a beautiful final product, the colorful vegetables are truly a fun way to eat your veggies! So, these Guatemalan enchiladas are the ultimate use of two native, historic gastronomic staples: corn tortillas and vegetables.

Besides its rich cultural history, this meal has a rich significance in my own life. Enchiladas are a special treat in my family, as both the labor put into them and the flavors that result are grand. I often ask my grandma, Mama Silvia, to make them for me, as not only are they tasty, but it is always such a wonderful experience to sit down at the table and enjoy them with my family. The memories behind the dish are fond—enchiladas were the last dinner I indulged in with my family before leaving for college for the first time. The whole family enjoys them on Christmas in Guatemala, accompanied by traditional celebratory fireworks and a warm, welcoming house booming with hearty laughs and singing. We ate them in quarantine to cheer us all up and to bid me farewell before heading back to college once again. When we make these enchiladas, everyone near and dear is always there, and together we are unified, thankful, happy, and full. No matter how big or small the gathering, this dish makes it a loving celebration. 

Sharing these Guatemalan enchiladas is truly a symbol of love in my family. They are made with heart, and it is a privilege to enjoy them. This recipe is passed down from generation to generation—my grandma learned from her mother in their country home in Guatemala years ago. Today, I feel honored and ecstatic to learn from my mom and grandma, and share my family’s recipe myself!


Enchilada Toppings

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 10-12 leaves of iceberg lettuce (1 per tortilla)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil per 3 tortillas
  • 1 tbsp cheese per tortilla (queso seco, panela, or parmesan), crumbled
  • ½ bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced
  • Sliver of onion, sliced, for garnish (optional)

Curtido (Vegetable Salad Mixture) 

  • 3 large beets, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup lima beans
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped
  • ½ lb green beans, chopped
  • ½ lb carrots, chopped finely
  • 1 cup Spanish onion, chopped finely
  • ½ head of cabbage
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 small jar capers
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato Salsa

  • 3 tomatoes
  • ¼ of an onion
  • 1 pepper Chile Guajillo
  • ¼ cup green bell pepper
  • ¼ cup red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup water or less
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Start by making the pickled beet-salad-vegetable-mixture. In my family, we call this classic mixture “curtido,” but it is also referred to as “escabeche.” It is the key of the dish, as it is the star that gives the dish a unique and tangy flavor. To make the curtido, steam the prepped vegetables (minus the onion) in a pot with boiling water. Be sure to start with the beets, as they will take the most time to soften. Then, add the rest of the vegetables. While the ingredients are steaming, cut the raw onion into slices and let it soak in a bowl with the vinegar and water. The vegetables will take 20-30 minutes to fully steam. Let the vegetables cool down, then dice them.  Combine these with the sliced raw onions resting in the vinegar water and add capers, salt, and pepper to the mix. Mix it up evenly as you would toss a salad. You can modify the ratio of vinegar to water as needed, but it should be about even—a bit tangy and tart but not overpoweringly acidic. This cold, pickled vegetable salad is best set aside and chilled in the fridge until ready for use. It can also be stored for up to a week to enjoy as a side-salad or even as a sauerkraut-like topping for your food. 

For the tomato salsa, simmer all the vegetables in a small amount of water, about a ¼ cup. Once they are cooked to a soft consistency, liquify the stew-like mixture in a blender until it is smooth and thick. Then, add salt and pepper as you wish.

In a separate pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat with salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, hard-boil the eggs as you normally would. Once they are cooked, chill the eggs while you prepare the other elements of the dish and slice them right before use.

In another medium pan with a bit of vegetable oil, fry 3 tortillas at a time. After 3 minutes of frying on one side, flip the tortilla to the other side for 3 minutes, until it is golden-brown on both sides. Then, place the fried tortillas/tostadas onto a plate with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

The final and crucial step is the assembly of the enchiladas. Your set-up should include: a bowl of the cold pickled salad, a plate of iceberg lettuce leaves, a plate of the sliced, chilled hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of cheese, a bowl of parsley, a bowl of room-temperature ground-beef, a bowl of room-temperature salsa, and the platter of tostadas. To assemble, start with a tortilla spread with a thick, even layer of the tomato salsa. Then, add the leaf of lettuce and top with the ground beef. Pile on a mountain of the pickled curtido salad for maximum flavor. Garnish with slices of hard-boiled egg, chopped parsley, and a sliver of onion. The final touch is a generous sprinkling of fresh Guatemalan cheese (queso seco). You can also use Panela cheese or Parmesan, if you prefer. 

This recipe makes 10-12 enchiladas. Enjoy! 

Mucho Gusto

Emily’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

This is the thirty-eighth 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!

This recipe is tradition for my good friend Emily, a Massachusetts native and foodie at heart. Whether on campus or miles apart, Emily and I always bond over food; we are constantly sharing different recipes and restaurant recommendations, and this recipe is no exception. This time, we thought we’d include Gusto in our exchange over a Finn family classic.

Emily has decided to share with us a traditional family recipe for buffalo chicken dip, a quintessential American comfort food. It is, of course, as perfect for game day gatherings as it is warm, homey, and comforting. This classic dish will also fit right in at your last few summer barbecues. It is no wonder why it is a fan-favorite, Sunday staple! 

It is easy and so tasty! From the gooey, bubbly cheese to the saucy, spicy, savory chicken with crunchy bites of chips and veggies, this quick, rich dip is delicious. As Emily perfectly explains, it creates that sense of American comfort and game day spirit wherever you are…

“We do not press play on the football game until I have my bowl of buffalo chicken dip on my lap.” 

She describes the setting: It is our favorite day of the week. The house is full of people, yet silent. Only the sounds from the TV fill the air, along with the aromas from the kitchen, where mom is preparing the family favorite. Everyone is cozied up on the couch, sporting navy, red, and white. As soon as the pan comes out, happy hands reach in from all directions, without ever taking an eye off the TV.  It is a dish that has been enjoyed many times, but it never loses its charm. 

Emily explains, “Born and raised a New England fan, I can affirm that football, food, friends, and family make the world go round. If there is a football game to be watched, there is buffalo chicken dip to be eaten. For as long as I can remember, my family, friends, and I all sat on the couch and ate this addicting dip together during every Sunday Patriots game. That is what makes it so special—there is no better mix than food and sports to bring us all together for some quality time.” 

Reminiscing on the dish, Emily tells me, “My family’s ultimate game-day snack is a warm, super cheesy pan full of thick buffalo chicken, ready to be dipped into with whatever crunchy, snack-vessel you like! Did I mention that it was cheesy?

This is not your typical chips and dip. This legendary combination of tangy, tempting flavors will have you hooked; and it has no better pair than a football game to watch, in between mouthfuls of course!”


  • 2 cups shredded, boneless chicken breast
  • ½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or the hot sauce of your choice)
  • ½ cup ranch dressing
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened 
  • 1 cup of blended cheese mix 

Emily’s Instructions

Total cook time: approximately 30 minutes 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating, prepare the chicken in whatever way you prefer. This part is entirely personal preference, and it’s what makes every batch of buffalo chicken dip taste a little different. In my family’s recipe, we season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then sauté it in olive oil for 7 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Once cooled, shred the chicken to measure approximately 2 cups. 

Spray a 1-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. The pan will be used as a mixing bowl to simplify the process and save time on the dishes, which means more time for eating! Spread softened cream cheese across the bottom of the pan. Next, add hot sauce and ranch dressing to pan and stir the mixture around, lifting the cream cheese to combine all ingredients. Add in the shredded chicken and the cheese mix. Once the chicken is coated with the cream cheese mixture, spread it across the dish using a spatula to form an even layer. 

The dip requires a couple rounds of oven time to get the right consistency. Start by placing the dip in the oven for ten minutes. After taking it out of the oven, add blue cheese crumbles on top. Then, put the dish back in the oven. If you, like me, believe “the cheesier, the better,” then I suggest taking the dish out of the oven five minutes after the blue cheese has been added. Then, sprinkle a bit more blended cheese mix on top. Turn the oven to broil, and let it cook through for five more minutes. The mixture should be melty and creamy at this point. 

The dip should have a total cooking time of about 20 minutes. However, this is flexible and up to personal preference. 

Once all the elements are baked to your liking, your delectable game-day dip is done! Fresh out of the oven, garnish with yet another sprinkle of cheese (I will confess I always do), and you are ready to experience a flavorful victory! You can serve a scoop of the dip with your favorite crunchy tortilla chips, refreshing veggies, or whatever your buffalo chicken dip is calling you to do! I love dipping carrots, celery, and cucumber. 

Nothing feels homier than sitting in my spot on the couch with a warm bowl of buffalo chicken dip watching football, but regardless, enjoy! It still tastes good without the football!