Hazelnut Stracciatella


Forgive the lapse in blogging these days. As we all know sometimes we need to step back, reassess,and wait for inspiration to awaken. I never stopped cooking, but just needed to step away from telling the neverending story.
We have been travelling a bit ,and our journeys have taken us to Lisbon,Estoril,Stockholm and Rio De Janerio. I changed my tagline to ” Cooking with a Global Perspective” as that’s what I’ve always done and what best defines Coco Cooks.


Earlier in the year I was taken aback when a colleague/  chef belittled some of my cooking projects as to grandiose,time consuming,unrelatable, etc and asked “Why?”. Obviously he had no idea what I’m made of.Because that’s what’s set me apart and why my clients love me.Never let someone try to derail you or pigeon hole you as perfect your craft.Never let naysayers cast doubt on your essence and approach to life.So looking forward to creative days here at Coco Cooks,I give you a delicious Hazelnut Stracciatella in time for the holiday weekend.
Cooking is about adapting and improvising.Don’t get rigid and afraid to take a leap and experiment.
I used my go to recipe for stracciatella here from David Lebovitz .


My adaptation was the addition of hazelnuts. In Rio I had a lovely gelato in Inpanema after a sun soaked day, that was bursting full of hazelnut flavor and chocolate. As Certain Someone loves Stracciatella,I decided to merge both


My variation:
First you toast about 1 cup hazelnuts in a dry skillet. Toss constantly and be careful not to burn.
Then in clean kitchen towel roll the nuts to remove the skin.
In a food processor grind the nuts and sugar called for in the recipe. I added a splash of rum for kicks.
Add the ground nuts to the heated milk and cream ,and let sit covered for 1 hour to extract the flavor. Drain the nuts carefully using a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth,reserving the cream.  Squeeze out any excess liquid . Proceed with recipe  from there.

Perspectives and Influences: Italy and Brazil


A Tribute to A Woman Who Dared So Many To Be,To The Queen of All Daring Bakers, Lis

I never actually physically met Lisa Cifelli, or more known as Lis, a co founder of the Daring Bakers along with Ivonne, but it’s weird looking back on the far reaching influence she had on my own life.Lisa passed away suddenly  too soon this week. Her tenacity, spunkiness, and spirit caused a ripple effect in my life, formed through  my curiosity as I stepped gingerly into the Blogosphere in 2007. You see I wasn’t much of baker, that was my my late mothers thing. But being inspired by bloggers such as Tartelette, a few Wilton Classes, I found the then small group of the Daring Bakers, which was just starting to catch a giant wave . I signed up and began the far reaching adventure of baking, challenging , and perfecting my overall culinary skills. I always had the food bug, but the Daring Bakers instilled in me a healthy sense of competition,accomplishment , and wanting to tackle, the until then hit or miss,science of baking.  Month after month we posted  at the stroke of midnight, took creative license on recipe challenges from world renown authorities, photographed, commented,waited for  and plotted the next months announcement. It was a dizzying ride. The group grew and grew the world over. Many Daring Bakers became accomplished in the culinary fields branching into food styling, launching their own  culinary businesses, writing books,signing up for culinary school, going onto television, food writing, or growing their blogs into super blogs.

As with any good thing, one can outgrow it. The small niche group expanded to over the thousands, and those from  a close community can start to feel jaded, lost,overwhelmed,disinterested,non challenged, or their individual lives just got to be too much , along with the expense and growing waistbands.  I remember once on Twitter, some smart ass tweeted how he avoided Daring Baker posting days on Tastespotting and Twitter because it was everywhere. Have you ever seen a thousand links and  interpretations  of a Yule Log in a single day? It was a like a flash mob of gluten, sugar, butter , and spice.Today’s Daring Bakers is still going strong and barely recognizable to many of the older past members. Not to mention the off groups, and events that splintered off the Daring Bakers.

When Kelly informed us Lisa’s passing on Facebook, we reminisced and I remarked how refreshing it was to blog back then with a genuine passion and yearning for knowledge and sharing. Today’s  activity of blogging is a more slick , cynical  world that’s more consumed with PR, page views, followers,stolen content theft,expensive camera  apparatus ,advertising  fill rates,shares, link backs, the limelight, and seemingly less about having and sharing an authentic culinary experience.

I left the Daring Bakers after participating in 22 challenges. I suspect I’m missing a few.  That’s  basically two years of my life where I met many friends both on social media and in real life in locals all over the world ( Sweden, Austria,Italy,New York, Chicago, Toronto, the UK, San Francisco). I learned so much about myself, the science of baking, blogging, photography, culture, and what I really want in life through these challenges. I think the cookbook publishers, camera manufacturers, web hosting sites ,Amazon, culinary schools, King Arthur’s Flour,Kitchen Aid, and bakeware companies should give a nod to the late Lisa Cifelli for adding boost to their industries, and inspiring so many  people to Dare to Be. Without the challenges of  the Daring Bakers , I would never have become so emboldened to start my own catering business, write for Ebony Magazine, attend French Pastry School, meet fellow like minded strangers in locals across the world, and develop a confidence in my abilities. Thank you Lisa.  Aside from sharing some emails and random comments, you will never know the impact you’ve had on myself and countless others.

Next time you dust off your rolling pins, take out your cake pans, and preheat your oven in this ever increasing gluten, fat and sugar intolerant world, think of  feisty Lisa, the Daring Bakers, and the ripple  effect she and Ivonne caused in this pool of ganache we swim through called life. She welcomed and encouraged all culinary persuasions to interpret a challenge and share. We Daring Bakers didn’t always agree, but my how we rose to occasion. I remember when I emailed Lisa about leaving the group, she said the door was always open to come back.

Rest In Peace. You truly made a lasting impression in this world.

It was fun flashing back on these Daring Baker Posts I completed. These posts show many personal and culinary evolutions.I still use many of these recipes today. I just might attempt that Gingerbread House again this holiday season. Enjoy.

Bostini Creme Pie

Potato Bread Adaptations

My favorite post. The Yule Log and the Misunderstood Rabbit/Rat

Lemon Meringue Pie

Juila Child’s French Bread

Dorie Greenspans Perfect Party Cake

Cheesecake Pops

Opera Torte, My Second Favorite Post

Danish Braid or Wienerbrod

EclairsLavash CrackersPizza

Shuna Fish Lyndon’s Carmel Cake

Sweet and Savory Tuiles

Floureless Chocolate Cake and Adzuki Ice Cream

Lasagna From Scratch

Cheesecake , A Winner Till This Day

Strudel, Hosted by Yours Truly

Marshmallow Cookies

Vol Au Vents


Gingerbread Houses




Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Onions with Old El Paso® Enchilada Sauce

Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Onions with Old El Paso® Enchilada Sauce, Beyond Tacos

Where in the world has Coco Cooks been?  The answer to that is Portugal, Sweden, and adjusting to a new job, with a catering gig here and there. Life is good. And you will love this recipe for Old El Paso’s Beyond Tacos. It’s all about surroundings and who you surround yourself with. It’s an easy lesson, but sometimes learned the hard way.


Certain Someone and I started out our  European vacation this year in Estoril , Portugal. Our good friends , one Russian, and one Indian got married in a huge multi million euro villa by the sea . The theme was obviously Vodka Curry. Did I mention it was a two day ceremony encompassing both cultures? They turned the indoor pool into a dance club for the final reception.I’ve never seen a anything like it. I was busy doing the makeup for the bride during the ceremonies. The food of Portugal was outstanding and I became inspired. What little down time we had was spent on the beaches of Estoril, the Casino, and naturally eating our way up the coast.


After Portugal we went to our second home in Sweden. It’s been a few years for me, and it was great to see old friends and my extended family, in addition to Certain Someones parents. Our friends threw us a lovely crayfish party with beautiful fish dishes, cheeses, pies, and drinks. We ate , sang , and drank Schnapps throughout the night.  I love Sweden  and wish I could spend more time there.


Now onto this recipe…

Family meal time is the most important part of the day. And the most memorable meals are those filled with comfort and love. Onions and Peppers, stuffed with Mexican Cheesy Rice and meat, are baked to tender goodness with Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce. Serve Traditional Old El Paso refried beans on the side.I got my inspiration from the foods of the Mediterranean and Middle East with this. I love the technique of boiling onions, and peeling away the layers. then stuffing. It’s one of Certain Someones favorite meals.

Stuffed Peppers and Stuffed Onions with Old El Paso® Enchilada Sauce, Beyond Tacos
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 large onions
  • 7 smaller sweet peppers to stuff. Use various colors is possible for variety.
  • 1 ½ lbs ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, or turkey). I mixed beef and pork.
  • 1 Old El Paso Mexican Cheesy Rice Kit
  • 2 10 oz Cans of Old El Paso Medium Red Enchilada Sauce
  • ½ can ( 5 oz) water
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 can of Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans to serve on the side.
  • Chopped cilantro and paprika for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 °
  3. On a cutting board cut the root end off of each onion.
  4. Carefully cut vertically each onion on the side (root to tip) down to the center part (the halfway point, about 6 layers). Do not cut in half. The outside papery layer will be easy to remove, but leave onion intact.
  5. Drop each onion in boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and let cool until able to handle with ease. (Plunge in cold water to stop cooking and speed up cooling time).
  6. Once cool carefully peel each layer apart until you reach the smaller center/ core. The layers may not be as cooked towards the center, which is fine. Save and chop for filling.
  7. In a bowl mix ground meat and contents of the Old El Paso Mexican Cheesy Rice Kit. Add some chopped leftover onion from the cores of onion. Mix with hands until all is incorporated.
  8. Take a cast iron skillet or oven proof casserole and brush with olive oil.
  9. Take each onion layer and carefully fill with meat mixture and roil over and close.
  10. Stuff each pepper as well.
  11. Arrange in pan.
  12. Pour cans of enchilada sauce and water over stuffed vegetables.
  13. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  14. Bake for 1 hour. Carefully brush bastes each vegetable with the sauce and juices from vegetables.
  15. Remove foil and turn up oven temperature to 400°. Bake for another 15 minutes until bubbly and browned.
  16. Serve with heated refried beans as a side.
  17. Garnish with chopped cilantro and paprika .

You can find this and other great creative recipes on the Old El Paso website. Stay tuned for some great new holiday recipes.




Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw

It’s been a good bit of time since I last posted. In that time I’ve been traveling, working, catering, celebrating and creating recipes . Unfortunately it just hasn’t made it to the blog. Where to begin?


First Certain Someone spent a lovely week at Half Moon in Montego Bay to celebrate a friends wedding. It was the best experience Ive ever had in Jamaica. Imagine your own luxury villa, butlers, maids, sunshine, private beaches, and just being spoiled. We really  needed it. We will  heading to Portugal and Sweden soon for another destination wedding, and to catch up with family and friends.

I’ve been getting some great catering gigs from consulates, a European airline carrier, and just overall great clients. I’m so happy the word is spreading about Coco Cooks.

And last before we get onto the food. Certain Someone turned 40! We decided to have a belated birthday party at the house in July ( In the fashion of the Queen), as its hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules.

Recently Updated11

I made the whiskey bottle cake, and commissioned the label and cigar from a great friend who has amazing talent. Check her out if you need customized toppers for your cakes.




Now onto the recipe! Yes it another Old El Paso post. I was commissioned to do a total of 12 recipes for them, which are figured on their new website. While I don’t normally use prepared ingredients, I’m not naive enough as chef and career woman, that sometimes shortcuts and convenience are OK, especially when paired with fresh ingredients and creativity. Not everyone has the time nor inclination to make there own spice blends, salsa, tortillas, etc. So accepting the assignment and the challenge , where what motivated me. I love a challenge to think out the box. It’s grilling season and one can create all sorts of good things on the grill, or on an indoors grill, it you don’t have a gas or charcoal grill. I love the sight of grill marks . Check out the recipe and other great ones on the site.

Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • For Cabbage Mango Slaw
  • ½ head of small green cabbage sliced thinly or grated.
  • 1 carrot skinned and grated
  • 1 mango chopped into small pieces( no skin)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar
  • ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pineapple sliced
  • 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Old El Paso Hard and Soft Taco Kit.( Contains taco shells, soft tortillas, Taco Seasoning, and Taco Sauce)
  1. Preheat oven to 320°.
  2. In a glass dish or bowl marinate chicken with 1 packet of the Old El Paso Seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil contained in kit.
  3. In a small bowl add grated cabbage, carrot, chopped mango, cilantro, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly and set aside while grilling chicken.
  4. Using an indoor or outdoor grill, preheat to higher setting to obtain a good sear.
  5. Wrap the soft tortillas in the kit in foil and place in oven. Heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken to grill and cook several minutes on each side until done.
  7. While chicken is grilling, place hard tacos shells on a placing sheet and add to the oven with soft tortillas. Don’t overcook. Turn off oven after 5 more minutes and keep warm till serving.
  8. Remove chicken from the grill and let reat a few minutes.
  9. Add pineapple slices to hot grill and sear on both sides for a few minutes. Remove from grill.
  10. Slice chicken on the diagonal and serve on platter with chopped grilled pineapple slices.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  12. Serve with cabbage mango slaw, soft and crunchy tortillas, and sauce contained in the kit.