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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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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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Coxinha (Brazilian Chicken Croquette)


It's been a really long time since I've been wanting to share a recipe for Coxinha. I love this Brazilian traditional snack SO MUCH, that the recipe had to be more than perfect… So my recipe had to be perfected to the point of this being the best Coxinha recipe ever.

Well, first of all, if you are Brazilian or if you have ever been to Brazil, chances are that you know Coxinha. It is one of the most popular finger foods/appetizers/snacks down there. Recipes and sizes can vary quite a bit, but the one thing that all of the Coxinhas have in common is its “chicken leg” shape – in fact, Coxinha literally translates to “little chicken leg”. I am not going to lie, achieving that shape can be time consuming. Making Coxinhas is the perfect example of labor of love… Time consuming, but absolutely worth it!

I usually make Coxinhas when there is someone around who can help me. Then, it can become a lot of fun! This time, it was a total family affair… My parents were around, so my dad helped with the pictures and my mom helped with shaping the little chicken legs. In between sips of wine, watching the boys, and frying some batches in advance (we were so hungry and excited to try that we had to fry a few even before they were all ready) we had a great time during the process!

In Brazil, Coxinhas are sold at “lanchonetes” or “confeitarias” (snack stores), and at bars (as an appetizer to have while enjoying a cold beer). They are also served in birthday parties – usually a smaller, finger food style version. For me, hands down, the Coxinha from the “confeitaria” Edelweiss in Curitiba (where I grew up) had always been the absolute best one! Well, so far… I will never forget the face that my husband did when he tried a bite of the Coxinha I served him… It was like he had died and gone to haven at that second!! It turned out that amazing!!

This recipe turned out extremely well, and if I had Brazilian cooks and Chefs looking at it I am sure they would call it a “gourmet version” of Coxinha. I will explain: instead of the traditional requeijão (Brazilian creamy cheese), I used Mascarpone. During all these years of adapting Brazilian recipes to the American palate I learned that Mascarpone can be a wonderful substitute to requeijão – and it can be found at all major grocery stores at a very competitive price. Requeijão is hard to find in the US - and it can be quite expensive – but if you have requeijão on hand, you can substitute the mascarpone in this recipe (although mascarpone tasted better – sorry requeijão, but it is the true!).

I am very proud of this recipe. For that reason, I am sharing it today to celebrate the 30-day count down to the Olympic Games in Rio! It will be a beautiful celebration and I know that Rio will deliver!! So if you cannot go to Brazil to watch the games, call some friends and celebrate just like the Brazilians: make some Coxinhas together, sip on some Caipirinhas, and have a good time with it! Which could be a better occasion to get together and make some traditional Brazilian food? Yes, it will be a party!

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Brazilian Jerky Beef and Yuca Bowl (Escondidinho de Carne-Seca)


Do not be fooled by the rustic look of this traditional Brazilian recipe – this simple dish has an incredible amount of flavor!

Originally from the North Eastern region of Brazil, this delicious meal can be served as a full entrée or as an appetizer – sometimes prepared in individual small casseroles, which makes for a really cute presentation. These days, you can find it in restaurants and homes at all corners of Brazil.

Carne-seca is the equivalent of a very high quality jerky beef (take a look at the Cook’s Notes to learn more). It is basically a kind of dried and salted meat that has been used for centuries in Brazilian cuisine.

The real name of the dish is “Escondidinho de Carne-Seca”, which literally translates to “Jerky Beef Little Hidden One” – the carne-seca is “hidden” in between the two layers of velvety yuca purée. I thought that the literal translation would be a little crazy, so I am calling this recipe “Brazilian Jerky Beef and Yuca Bowl” – long name, but more comprehensive ;) I also have a version of this same meal with shrimp. If you are a fan of seafood, you should check this link for the recipe.

My husband says that this dish is like crack – extremely addictive! Sometimes the most rustic, simple meals have some of the most surprisingly incredible flavors. I hope you take a look and enjoy!

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Salpicão (Brazilian Chicken Salad)


Salpicão is the name given to a typical chicken salad from Brazil; and just like a Waldorf salad in the United States, it may have some variations in the recipe, but the main ingredients remain the same. Chicken, apples, raisins and a mayonnaise based dressing are usually featured, but the best Salpicão that I ever had also has pineapple, lime juice, green apple and Media Crema. 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. It 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 in 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 be here telling 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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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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Traditional Brazilian Cheese Balls (Pao-de-Queijo Mineiro)

cheese-bread-mineiro copy

This is the traditional recipe for Brazilian cheese bread (or cheese ball). It is a staple from the state of Minas Gerais and, just like my other cheese bread recipe, it is a favorite among kids (and adults)! Great for breakfast, as a snack or with any main course. Eat warm, just right off the oven. Cheesy, fluffy and delicious!

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Creamy Hearts of Palm Soup


Hearts-of-palm add a very delicate and distinctive flavor to this traditional Brazilian recipe. My version has cream and Parmesan cheese for a velvety and nutty finish. Enjoy!

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Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão-de-queijo)


Cheese bread is a Brazilian staple! Gooey and fluffy at the same time (hard to believe possible, right?) this typical snack is a crowd pleaser: kids and adults love it! Many different versions are available, this one is really easy (the batter is mixed in the blender!) and most ingredients are widely available in the US – there is not a substitute for tapioca starch, sorry!  Serve warm, right off the oven. I dare you to have only one!

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Chicken and Asparagus Mini-Pies (Empadinhas de Frango com Aspargos)


This creamy and crumbly savory mini-pie is a great appetizer for parties. The dough melts in your mouth and the filling is so flavorful! Everyone will love!

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Cod Croquettes (Bolinho de Bacalhau Fresco)


This appetizer is very popular in Brazil and it goes very well with a cold beer and some hot sauce on the side.

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This is a very popular appetizer in Brazil and the possibilities for fillings are endless! Besides the hearts-of-palm, my favorites are the classics: mozzarella cheese with herbs, shrimp with Catupiry, and ground beef with black olives. But you can use your creativity and experiment!

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Shrimp and Yuca Gratin Appetizer (Escondidinho de Camarão)


"Escondidinho" is bar food in Brazil and it can also be prepared with different kinds of meat like chicken, ground beef, and carne-seca - the Brazilian Beef Jerky.

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Tofu Moqueca (Moqueca de Tofu)


As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been experimenting with vegan cuisine since I went on a 21-day vegan/gluten-free cleanse. I have also previously shared how wonderful I felt during and right after the cleanse: my energy levels increased tremendously, I dropped a few pounds, and even my thoughts were sharper… I just felt really great overall! 

The cleanse is long over, but it made me decide to eat vegan at least a couple of times a week (I cannot do more than that because I get super bored!!). So, evidently, a few recipes have been developed along the way (and I promise to become better at posting them).

Since I started this process, I have tried many vegan and plant-based recipes and, in my humble opinion, not all recipes are necessarily vegan adaptable. Be aware when you see titles like “Vegan Alfredo” or “Cashew Ricotta”. Some recipes and some cuisine genres (especially Italian and French) should be left alone.

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Vegan Butternut Squash Quibebe with Garbanzo Beans and Coconut Milk (Quibebe com Grão de Bico e Leite de Coco)


The development of this vegan version of a traditional Brazilian dish (as well as, other traditional recipes from Brazil that I promise to start releasing soon) has a story behind it. In fact, it’s a story that makes me feel quite proud of myself.

At the beginning of last summer, my husband and I got to go on a fantastic vacation in Australia – which included visiting my sister and meeting my brother-in-law. We had an amazing two weeks down under – and the food and wine were among the highlights of the trip. For two weeks, we ate delicious food, we drank delightful wines, we saw beautiful places, and we did not exercise. It was awesome!

Although, when I got back to the US, I was feeling the consequences of my (very worthy) time of indulgences. I was swollen, bloated, and my energy levels were low.

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Creamy Rice with Shrimp and Hearts-of-Palm (Arroz Cremoso com Camarão e Palmito)


Velvety and creamy, with flavors of sweet shrimp and tangy hearts-of-palm, and just a hint of citrus, this recipe is one that I am proud to have created from scratch. I try to always solely post recipes that are delicious and, also, relate to my background; but occasionally, I dare to say that I created a simply incredibly flavorful dish, that also reflects some of the most amazing tastes of Brazilian cuisine. This time, it is the case.

I am not going to call my Creamy Rice with Shrimp and Hearts-of-Palm an easy recipe – it involves many steps, but they are all very achievable. I promise it is not difficult. Here is what I am begging you: MAKE THIS! YOU WILL LOVE IT!

Enough said.

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