Keeping it simple: What’s for dinner? Spicy mussels and chorizo!

One of my favorite summer dishes is mussels in white wine and garlic sauce.  A highlight of my travels is having the classic Belgian meal of ‘moules et frites’ (mussels and fries) in a classic Belgian beer garden restaurant, which opened in London in the mid to late 90’s – Belgo Centraal – and it is still there, in Covent Garden, if you ever visit!  I was lucky enough to frequent this restaurant when it first opened, and was seen as a cutting-edge modern and industrial space, and blessed to return with my husband just a few years ago when we visited London together.

If you love mussels, then there is no better pairing than crispy french fries and a cold (preferably Belgian!) beer.  Well, years later I was brave enough to attempt to recreate this at home, thanks to a very simple recipe I got from a dear foodie friend.  The result was delicious, and I was surprised at how easy it was to make.

The only thing is that it was too ‘plain’ for my Mexican husband — he is a man who eats a jalapeno with every meal and even wants to add hot sauce to Dominican food!  So, imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this fabulous recipe, that includes spicy Mexican chorizo as well as red pepper flakes to bring a little more heat in.  Needless to say, it was a huge hit!

Spicy Mussels and Chorizo, Recipe and Image via Martha Stewart

Spicy Mussels and Chorizo, Recipe and Image via Martha Stewart

For this recipe, and lots more one-pot dinners and simple dinner recipes, visit my ‘easy dinner ideas’ pinterest board and follow me on pinterest!  You will be inspired for sure, but also will probably leave very hungry and ready to try a new recipe!


sweetest mami

ps If you make this, do come back and let me know what you think of the recipe!


{the best chocolate cake ever}

{chocolate cake} by {how sweet life is}

Recipe courtesy of the lovely Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa

“This is the most fabulous chocolate cake that I’ve ever made,” says Ina Garten, host of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa. “It’s so easy and so moist and light. There’s buttermilk and a cup of coffee in the batter! The frosting is just buttercream and a little coffee.”

I made this cake for Victor’s birthday this year, and I don’t think he will ever let me make another cake again.  It was, by far, his favorite cake ever!  I plan to make this again for our Thanksgiving dinner, so I thought it would be nice to share the recipe again for those looking for non-traditional dessert ideas this year.

Double-Chocolate Layer Cake

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
For the Frosting:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
*If you do not have buttermilk, make your own:  Pour 1/2 tablespoon vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, and top off to the 1/2 cup line with whole milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes before using.  Voila!*
Make the Cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
Make the Frosting:
1.  In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute.
3.  In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
Assemble Your Cake:
1.  Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up.
2.  Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge.
3.  Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.

{cake assembly in progress} by {how sweet life is}

Make Ahead Tip:  The frosted cake can be refrigerated for 2 days.  Let stand for 1 hour before serving.
{Happy Baking!}
~the sweetest mami~

{fall} in love with baking…

The weather is still rather warm here in South Florida, so it’s been hard to really get into the mood for Fall.  Having said that, I turn to baking as my inspiration for warm and cozy days full of wonderful seasonal flavors.  Here are some pictures of sweet baked goods I’m hoping to make this Fall.

Instead of pumpkin pie, I plan to make this decadent pumpkin cake this Thanksgiving:

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
{via Food and Wine}

I just love warm apple crisp with a scoop or two of french vanilla ice cream…

Apple Crisp
{via Martha Stewart}

It’s been way too long since we made our own ice cream…this flavor is perfect for the Fall!

Caramel & Apple Ice Cream
{via Food and Wine}

I’ve been dying to make a simple bundt cake like this one, or a variation of zucchini bread, just to have in the mornings with a hot cup of tea…

Glazed Lemon Bundt Cake
{via Real Simple}

I hope you find a way to celebrate Fall as well, and enjoy it before the busy holiday season is upon us!

{happy baking}


~the sweetest mami~

All you need is love; Love is all you need. {one weekend, two cakes}

I am refreshed from the long weekend.  Glad I got to do so much, and enjoy time off with my sweet family.

I baked two cakes this weekend — Banana Fosters Rum Cake for my friend’s birthday on Saturday, and Natural Red Velvet Cake {Recipe courtesy of Sophistimom} for our Labor Day BBQ on Sunday.  The girls helped me along the way, and it took three days to complete both cakes from start to finish!





The weather was beautiful on Sunday.  We entertained, ate good food in great company and the girls and Lucas had a good time too!


The girls had so much fun, playing with bubbles and getting nice and dirty in our backyard.


It was a long weekend, all right, and we were grateful for the extra day of family fun.  The girls weren’t ready to go to bed after all the fun, but eventually they gave in.  The joy they had is written all over their face on Monday evening.


I hope you found a fun way to celebrate the long weekend, too, and enjoyed good food and company.  Even though summer is officially over for many of you, there are many more good times to come in the future!

~the sweetest mami~


ps The title of this blog is a fun and loving quote we posted at home this weekend.  We want to post a new one each week.  Hope you enjoyed it.  {courtesy of the Beatles}

Featured Recipe: Banana Nut Bread

Banana-Nut Bread
Makes two 9 by 5 inch loaves or six 6 by 2 ¾ inch miniloaves
If you use miniloaf pans, reduce the baking time to forty-five minutes.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup (about 4 oz) walnuts or pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk *see substitution below*
Nonstick cooking spray
*If you do not have buttermilk, make your own:  Pour 1/2 tablespoon vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, and top off to the 1/2 cup line with whole milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes before using.  Voila!*
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined.  Beat in the flour mixture.  Add the vanilla, banana, coconut, nuts, and buttermilk, and beat just to combine.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a toothpick or sharp knife comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely.
Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
I freeze one loaf, after cutting it into two or three sections, so I can thaw out small portions as needed.
{happy baking}
~the sweetest mami~

Featured Recipe: Nutty Carrot Cake

I made this cake for Victor’s recent birthday. It took a while to make (mostly due to my current pregnant state) but was a huge hit with everyone! I hope you enjoy this recipe.
Nutty Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Serves 8 to 10
Carrot Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrot, about 2 large carrots
2 jars (4 ounces each) carrot puree (baby food)
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped (reserve 1 cup for decorating)
Cream Cheese Icing
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
12 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles, and butter and flour each pan.
Toast the whole pecans for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Chop once cooled, for use in the recipe.
To make the cake:
Sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and kosher salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed for about 1 minute. Add the grated carrot, carrot puree, and chopped pecans and mix until just incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through the process for even baking. [Note: Mine were done in exactly 40 minutes, so set your timers accordingly to avoid overcooking.] Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool completely. Invert onto the wire rack after 15 – 20 minutes, and peel the parchment paper off once cakes are completely cooled.
Note: If you would like to save the cakes for frosting later, wrap each cake tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to frost them.
To make the icing:
Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together at medium speed the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and kosher salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps, about 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until light, fluffy, and well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
To assemble, place one cake, flat-side up, on a platter. Spread part of the icing over the top of the cake. Top with the second cake, flat-side up, and spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with the remaining 1 cup of chopped pecans, as desired.