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Savory Pumpkin Cake (Torta Salgada de Abóbora)


Fall is here, and cooking with pumpkin is in full effect at my house! With that wonderful squash, I make everyday kind of dishes as well as more special dishes or “party” food.

Perfect for any occasion, this moist and fluffy savory cake can be sliced and served as an appetizer, or as a meal itself with a side salad - arugula would be great.

Last week, I made this recipe for a party. It was served sliced, at room temperature, as an appetizer. As per usual, I made a very traditional Brazilian version, using typical ingredients from Brazil - simply because I love to display (and introduce) those flavors to my American friends. People really enjoyed!

I used carne-seca (traditional Brazilian Jerk beef) for the filling, but do not think that you must do the same. This is a very versatile cake, and the filling can be any of your choice. I think that Bolognese, shredded chicken with tomatoes, or a mix of sautéed vegetables would taste wonderful!

The cake method could not be any easier: all ingredients are blended together, then the mashed pumpkin is folded in. That’s it!

With traditional Brazilian filling, or with your choice of filling, I can guarantee that this delicious savory cake will satisfy your fall cravings! Take a look…

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Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (Escondidinho de Frango com Leite de Coco)


Looking at the picture, probably not many people would believe that this is a very popular Brazilian bar food item. In fact, it’s one of my favorite appetizers! 

If you have been following my recipes for awhile, you may have noticed that I shared several different versions of this dish – two of them using shrimp, one using Brazilian jerk beef, and the latest with chicken and coconut milk. Yes, I do love this dish and all its versions! And yes, it is bar food that requires utensils… But I can explain.

In Brazil, bars are set up differently than here. Rarely people stand around just ordering drinks. These places, called “botecos”, are filled up with tables and chairs, and food is part of the experience. Food in the “botecos” is usually heavy, fried, and portions are big enough to be shared - exactly the kind of stuff people crave after consuming alcohol. So, everyone shares a bunch of different things. When I am in Brazil, having bar food at “botecos” is one of my favorite activities!

So, please meet my Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (Escondidinho de Frango com Leite de Coco). Normally, this dish doesn’t have coconut milk, but I decided to jazz it up for fun, and it turned out very tasty! 

Besides coconut milk, I added a bit of red palm oil for an extra layer of aromatics – and gorgeous color – but you can skip if you cannot find the exotic ingredient. The yuca purée tops the sauce, hiding the deliciousness – therefore, the name which literally translates to “Coconut Milk-Chicken Little Hidden One”. I decided to make it simpler and I rebaptized this version as Coconut-Chicken Brazilian Yuca Pot Pie (I think it looks like a cross in between a pot pie and a Sheppard’s pie). 

If you are short in time, skip the ramekins and assemble the dish into a large oven-proof dish. Invite your friends over to share, just as if you were in a Brazilian “boteco”. Bom apetite!

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Salmon Chowder with Yuca (Sopa Cremosa de Salmão com Mandioca)


Not sure why, but it took me a couple of years to share this recipe on my website. When I first created, I served it for guests at the Baptism reception of my youngest son, William. Since it was a huge hit, I kept making it repeatedly. I am glad I am finally sharing it at the most perfect and happiest time of the year!

Chowder is a such a classic American recipe. It is prepared at countless households during the holydays – both my Mother-in-laws have delicious chowder recipes that they make around Christmas time, and the whole family looks forward to it.

It was about time to put a Brazilian twist on this classic. So, I came up with my Salmon Chowder with Yuca, and I can say that it does not disappoint.

It has the classic creaminess and heartiness that everyone expects from a chowder, but the Brazilian twist lies on the yuca that adds an unexpected denser texture – if compared to potatoes – and a slightly sweeter flavor.

This soup can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated until ready to be served. Leftovers seem to taste even better after a couple of days, since flavors work their magic by just hanging out with it each in the cold… So, it is like a classic chowder that keeps on giving. Perfect for the holidays and the cold days ahead. Enjoy! Desejo a todos um feliz Natal e um Ano-Novo maravilhoso repleto de alegrias. Boas Festas! Happy Holidays!

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Brazilian Chicken Hearts (Coração de Galinha Frito)


Chicken hearts have been one of my favorite parts of the chicken, along with livers, since I was a little girl. We used to eat them all the time at home – my dad loves to roast big skewers of chicken hearts simply seasoned with salt. Rich and sweet, its taste resembles of a sweeter chicken thigh with chewer texture – but it is way faster to prepare than thighs. It is phenomenal.

In the US, chicken hearts are commonly served in the Brazilian steak houses, but they are quite versatile little things, and other ways to make and serve can be just as good.

They are very popular in the South of Brazil – where I come from – and it had been a long time since I was looking for a great, easy recipe to share… Until I came across Chef Geovani Bassani Lima.

Chef Geo, how he prefers to be called, is a Brazilian Chef who has been working in London since 2008. His pub, The Hampton, has achieved unforeseen success under his lead - winning the Good Food Award for three consecutive years, since 2015.

I love to highlight the story of fellow Brazilians who are, just like me, sharing with the world their passion for our culinary. And Chef Geo’s story is one worth sharing – and so is his recipe, which is featured at The Hampton’s menu.

Chef Geo’s recipe for chicken hearts was the one that I had been looking for! It is simple and incredibly flavorful. If you haven’t tried chicken hearts yet, I think that this might be the recipe you also have been looking for ;) Serve with a bold red – the Chef suggests a Malbec and I agree. Perfect to be enjoyed with your most fearless friends. Bom apetite!

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Pumpkin-Jerky Meat Croquette (Bolinho de Abobora com Carne-Seca)


One of my favorite things to do when I am in vacation in Brasil is to go to the countless bars by the beach. I love to order a "gelada" (really cold beer) and an appetizer. Brazilian bar food is something else...

Usually shared by everyone at the table, servers bring these appetizer plates along with full sets of silver wear, napkins and small plates - it is expected that people hold their finger food using a paper napkin or, many times, using utensils. Different, right? Also, nobody stands up while eating - common habit here in the US. Everyone seats down enjoying the moment. It is such a relaxing vibe!

I miss that atmosphere and food very much, so I must replicate it here ;)

There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of Brazilian bar food recipes. In Brazil, we have a variety of pumpkins available year around, but here in the US I must wait until the right time comes to share some of my recipes. And the time is right for my Pumpkin-Jerky Meet Croquette (Bolinho de Abóbora com Carne-Seca).

Creamy, with a hint of sweetness and a crunchy crust, this croquette is amongst my favorite choices of appetizers when I go to Brazil. It begs to be enjoyed with a cold beer, but it goes just fine with wine too!

I have shared before recipes with Brazilian Carne-Seca, which is a very flavorful meat like a gourmet jerky beef. It’s dried and salted, and it can be substituted for other Latin kinds, such as the Mexican dried beef. If you can find Brazilian carne-seca, be sure to trim the fat and soak overnight before using. I promise the extra time is worth it! Plan in advance and you can serve a unique Brazilian appetizer at your next gathering – maybe game night?

I promise that the flavor of my Pumpkin-Jerky Beef Croquette will transport you to the beach bars of Ipanema – especially if paired with a “gelada”. Bom Apetite!

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Canja (Brazilian Chicken and Rice Soup)


Canja is the ultimate Brazilian “food for the soul”. It tastes like a warm, mild, comforting, and delicious bowl of chicken, thick broth, and vegetables.

When someone does not feel very well, you bet that the Brazilian grandma will show up with a big bowl of Canja to cheer up the heart and to sooth the body… I think that Canja is for the Brazilians the equivalent of what Chicken and Noodle soup is for the Americans. It is like love in a bowl.

In Brazil, Canja has another reason to be so popular: it is believed to prevent hangovers! Early in the morning during the week of Carnaval, often restaurants serve Canja for patrons who have partied all night long. Many times, the grandmas who don’t do Carnaval anymore wait for the younger with a big pot of the soup ready to be enjoyed. After eating some Canja, everyone goes to bed – usually at around 6 am. I have done that several times myself! Canja helps people recover so they can party the whole week straight. Viva a Canja!

I had been thinking about sharing this recipe for so long… Finally, with my mom here visiting from Brazil I found the right opportunity… Last week we all got kind of sick around here. Sure enough, my mom made a big pot of this soothing Brazilian remedy. It was deliciously comforting.

This is her recipe in which the rice serves as the thickening agent – the rice almost loses its shape into the broth. There are other versions where the soup is more “brothy”, therefor they spend less time simmering over the stovetop. I definitely prefer the thicker version of my mom’s.

Don't wait until you get sick to try this recipe. Enjoy it today and feel the love :)

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Lentil Soup with Kale (Sopa de Lentilhas com Couve)


I feel like crying when I realize it is just mid-September, but I am already posting soup recipes… It has been a cold September here in Indiana and the soup crave has started. I love soups and having lots of it is definitely my favorite part of winter – the only pleasant part of winter in my opinion. Yes, I am a summer girl!

So to make those cold evenings cozier, I think this soup fits the bill just fine! It is hearty and simple, yet it is packed with tons of good-for-you ingredients.

Lentils and kale is a combination that has been used in Brazilian cuisine forever (beans and kale too). In fact, kale is a very widely used ingredient in Brazil since pretty much forever… I honestly think it is so funny how just recently (I would say maybe in the last 3 or 4 years?) kale has become a trendy ingredient in the US. It became a synonym of healthy food, hard-to-drink smoothies and green-anything culinary. But I am SO glad America discovered kale and I really hope people keep experimenting with this nutritious ingredient! So get warm and feel good with this easy-to-make soup.

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Roasted Mini-Pepper Boats with Salmon and Mango-Papaya Salsa


This cute and tasty Roasted Mini-Peppers Boats with Salmon and Mango-Papaya Salsa are the greatest appetizer for summer time. Easy-to-assemble and super healthy, they are the perfect finger food to be enjoyed around the pool (I made these cuties to a barbecue party around the pool and it was a crowd pleaser). They are refreshing and spicy, but you can adjust the jalapeno to taste, so use just one or two if you prefer less heat. Serve with chilled rosé.

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Cream of Chayote Squash with Bay Scallops


Velvety and light, this recipe is one of my oldest ones: I used to make this creamy soup a lot when I wanted to lose a couple of pounds (probably in my early twenties, while still living in Brazil). I have always loved food, and loosing flavor along with extra pound has never been an option in my life; so everything I cook, either if it is light, low-carb, gluten-free or none of these, everything must taste good! So don’t make this creamy soup just because it is light, but make this recipe because it is creamy, velvety and delicious! One last thing: if you have never tried chayote squash, this recipe is an easy way to introduce this vegetable to your family. I hope you like it!

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Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão-de-queijo)


Cheese bread is a Brazilian staple! Gooey and fluffly, this typical snack is a crowd pleaser: kids and adults love it! Many different versions are available, but this one is the easiest - and just equally delcious! All ingredients are widely available at the major grocery stores, including the tapioca flour. Serve warm, right off the oven. I dare you to have only one!

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Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Wasabi


This traditional recipe from Central and South America got an Asian twist with wasabi! It tastes really fresh and it is perfect for summer!

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Salpicão (Brazilian Chicken Salad)


Salpicão is what is called a typical chicken salad from Brazil. Just like a Waldorf salad in the United States, this traditional Brazilian salad may have some variations - but the main ingredients remain the same. Chicken, apples, raisins and a mayonnaise based dressing are usually featured in Salpicão. Now, the best Salpicão that I ever had also has pineapple, lime juice, green apple and Media Crema (Table Cream).

This recipe is extra moist and tasty because it is made with rotisserie chicken, and one of the “secrets” to achieve a good blend of flavors and great texture is to manually shred the chicken into really tiny pieces. The fuits must be cut into a really small dice. This “secret” was passed to me by the two ladies who have been making this recipe for the past 25 years: my mom and one of her best friends, Leila (I think Leila, who is my mom's comadre, started making it first and my mom quickly followed).

Crunchy, slightly sweet and creamy, this salad is often found on the large salad bars at Brazilian steak houses. Serve on top of croissant, crusty bread, or inside lettuce rolls. Often in Brazil, we top it with string potatoes and skip the bread. Salpicão makes for a great appetizer, or a light lunch. I hope you enjoy the ultimate Salpicão recipe!

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Pastel with Meat and Cheese Filling (Pastelzinho de Carne com Queijo)


Pastel is one of the most loved bar foods in Brazil. This small savory pastry is usually served inside small baskets and it is ordered by the dozen or half dozen; so friends gather around the bar table to munch on the Pastelzinhos (small Pastel) while chatting, drinking a cold beer, and having a good time.

The variety of fillings is endless, but one of the most popular is ground beef and cheese. Crunchy on the outside with a creamy, meaty filling, this typical Brazilian appetizer is often called “Empanada” in the US. Empanadas are usually baked, instead of fried; and the dough is different. But… I am "cheating" on this recipe and using store-bough empanada dough!!!  Store-bought dough is faster and easier to use (and it tastes great too, because if it didn’t I wouldn’t tell you to use it). Make sure you check my Hearts-of-Palm Pastel recipe if you want to make the authentic version with home-made dough. Enjoy this delightful appetizer with a cold beer!

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Shrimp and Yuca Bowl (Escondidinho de Camarão)


When I participated in the ABC show “The Taste” I had the honor to serve this traditional Brazilian recipe to four amazing culinary talents: Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lafebvre and Brian Malarkey. After trying the “bite” I served, they gave me great intake on ways to improve the flavors and texture of my recipe (especially Ludo). I was very appreciative and certainly took their advice seriously. So this is my ultimate version of this classic Brazilian appetizer, to which I added some extra spices and crunchy textures. Enjoy with a caipirinha, just like the Brazilians!

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Fig and Prosciutto Phyllo Appetizer


Sweet and savory at the same time, my flaky Fig and Prosciutto Phyllo bites have a touch of creamy mascarpone and a drizzle of honey. Its shape resembles ravioli and it is an easy-to-make finger food. Also, it can be made one day ahead, which makes it handy for the Holidays and large gatherings. I hope you and your friends enjoy!

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Cream of Mushroom with Orzo, Couscous and Red Quinoa


Orzo, couscous and red quinoa add an unexpected texture to this creamy soup. The Portabella mushroom is so meaty and delicious and it goes very well with the sage and fresh scallions. Finish with Parmigiano-Reggiano for a nutty bite. This a great "Meatless Monday" dinner! 

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Risotto Cakes with Tomato Compote


Risotto Cakes are the best way to use up risotto leftovers, but there are a lot of people who like to make risotto and keep in the fridge for the next day just to make these delicious patties! They are also versatile: serve as an appetizer, or as a side for steak, fish, chicken, veal or pork. My recipe is topped with an easy, tangy Tomato Compote, for extra moist. Tomato Compote is also quite versatile and can be served as a topping for chicken and fish too. I hope you enjoy!

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Pumpkin Crostini


My Pumpkin Crostini is creamy with a hint of sweetness. It is an appetizer that almost tastes like a dessert. The pumpkin is seasoned with dark brown sugar and spiced rum before roasted. The syrup that is formed in the baking pan is drizzled over the bread, but it is so tasty that it could even be used over pancakes. I hope you enjoy this easy fall appetizer!

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Spinach Salad with Caramelized Pumpkin and Goat Cheese


Pumpkin is such a wonderful, nutritious ingredient that can be added to sweet and savory dishes. In this spinach salad, the pumpkin is caramelized in the oven and paired with goat cheese, for a touch of tartness. Lightly caramelized almonds compliment this rich salad and add a crunchy bite. This salad is all about enjoying holiday flavors with healthy greens!

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Acarajé – Black-Eyed Pea Fritters from Bahia, Brazil


Acarajé is a traditional street food in Brazil, it is especially popular in the state of Bahia. This fritter is light in texture and bold in flavor: the red palm oil (where it is deep-fried) and the unique ingredients in the filling make the acarajé extremely distinctive. This is a little piece of some of the best things that Brazil has to offer! If you have been to Bahia, you know exactly what I am talking about. Enjoy!

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