Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Puppy Chow!

Mmmm...Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I mentioned in the previous post, baking in another country can be pretty challenging. There are new and different ingredients, odd utensils, and ovens that don’t really work. Yep. Ovens without temperature gauges. That would define most ovens in Mexico.

Yay for Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Yesterday, I was invited to a fiesta to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. Of course, I had to bring something with me, and I thought a dessert would be a welcome addition to the menu. I thought long and hard about what to show up with, and in the end I decided that banana bread would be a good option. Wow…did I think wrong! The batter came together beautifully, but it cooked into a big mess. Or rather, it didn’t really cook at all. The temperature gauge on my oven is terrible. and the oven decided to randomly shut off half way through the process. I didn’t realize that until much later.

Puppy Chow for Mexican Independence Day

The banana bread turned out to be a pile of mush. Soooo, I moved on to Plan B—I decided to attempt chocolate chip cookies. I have this recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I consider to be my no-fail recipe. In other words, if this recipe bombs then you are in a real baking dilemma. I was able to find all of the ingredients for the cookies with the exception of brown sugar—I smashed up piloncillo with a rolling pin as a close approximation. The dough mixed up rather nicely, and would you believe that the cookies baked up beautifully? Yes…they did and I have the pictures to prove it. They tasted yummy too, and I kind of enjoyed the fun bursts of piloncillo pockets in my mouth.

Puppy Chow

The cookies were such a success that I decided to make puppy chow, too. Even though they don’t have Crispix here in Mexico, I was able to find a similar variation called Quaker Complete. The puppy chow was also a success! I hope this means that I’m getting better at baking here in Mexico. But, I bet it’s probably just had a stroke of good luck. We’ll see…

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rice Krispie Treats...Mexican Style

Vanilla and Strawberry Rice Krispie Treats

One of the desserts that I always like to make for my friends and neighbors when I am abroad is Rice Krispie Treats. I think they represent a classic American treat, and I find that my foreign audience is usually pretty receptive to the new dessert.

Rice Krispies...can be found in Mexico

However, one of the many challenges of baking in a different country is finding all of the necessary ingredients. The last time I was in Mexico, I had the hardest time find old-fashioned Rice Krispies cereal. Can you imagine? Snap, Crackle, and Pop are such icons in the U.S., but in other countries they appear to be unknown personalities. This time around I had much better luck finding the cereal, and it now seems that almost every grocery store stocks the classic blue box.

Malvaviscos...Mexican marshmallows

The next obstacle was finding marshmallows. I have yet to find a bag of plain old marshmallows in Mexico. Now, I don’t mean to have you believe that marshmallows don’t exist here. Rather, they do indeed exist here. But, malvaviscos as they are called usually come in bags of several different flavors and many different sizes. The simplest version I could find was a bag of giant vanilla and strawberry marshmallows at Walmart. I decided to play with these two flavors and make a batch of Rice Krispie treats that were half vanilla and half strawberry. Today is my birthday, and I am taking this “American-Mexican” dessert to share with my Mexican neighbors. They have kindly invited me over to their house tonight for dinner in order to celebrate my birthday. I hope they enjoy this combination of flavors!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fresh Cherry Bread

Fresh Cherry Bread

It’s so sad to think that I’ve neglected this little space of mine for well over a month. But, I can certainly explain my absence. You see…I have been preparing to embark on a journey to Mexico that will last for nine months. I received a Fulbright GarcĂ­a-Robles scholarship for the 2009-2010 year to teach English at a Mexican university. I am insanely excited, but between working and getting everything in order before I go, I really haven’t had any time to bake:(

Pitted Cherries

However, just the other day I found a spare moment to bake this beautiful fresh cherry bread for you. I love black cherries, and it always seems that their season is too short. I guess that’s what makes them so delicious.

Pitted, Sliced Cherries

This bread is moist and buttery with the slightest hint of almond flavoring. The cherries don’t dominate the bread, but rather add a nice burst of flavor throughout.

Fresh Cherry Bread

Before cherry season comes to a close, go out and get some sweet, juicy Bing cherries and bake a loaf of this scrumptious cherry bread. It won’t disappoint.

Monday, July 6, 2009

S'mores Bars


We can all agree that s’mores are a truly perfected treat. Crunchy graham cracker, stacked with warm chocolate, a marshmallow toasted to perfection, and another square of graham…what can beat that?


Nothing really, but I have to admit that I am partial to almost all variations of s’mores—S’mores ice cream, s’mores granola bars, s’mores cereal—I just find it so hard to resist such an awesome trio of ingredients.


So, when I saw the recipe for these s’more bars, I knew I had to try them out. Listen to this… graham cracker cookie dough topped with broken Hershey’s bars, marshmallow fluff, and more graham dough…now that truly sounds like layered awesomeness. Come on, I know you want to bake up a batch of yummyness, so go ahead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Food Fair 2009

Every June, I look forward to volunteering at the Greek Food Fair. I enjoy seeing all the people from the church, and I especially love preparing and serving the food. My family has always helped out at the loukoumathes stand. Louka-what, you ask? If you are not Greek, this word is a mouthful, literally. Loukoumathes (luke-uh-ma-thes) comes from the Turkish word lokma meaning "morsel" or "mouthful." My Yia Yia refers to them as honey balls--deep-fried dough balls soaked in a sugar syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Louks 2009

The food fair goes for 4 days, and the dough for the louks is made fresh everyday. It rises for 30 minutes to one hour before it is spooned into the hot oil.

Louks 2009

This church is one of the few churches in the area that still spoons its louks by hand (instead of machine), a technique that I can honestly say is very difficult to master. (Any time I try, my louks end up looking like ugly blobs rather than round puffs of dough.)

Louks 2009

The dough must be fried to a golden brown color, so that the louks are crisp on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside.

Louks 2009

After the loukoumathes are cooked they are soaked in a sugar syrup immediately before serving.

Louks 2009

Then they are lightly dusted with cinnamon.

Food Fair 2009

Eat them while they are hot because loukoumathes just aren't the same eaten cold!

Louks 2009

Finally, no Greek food festival would be complete without traditional music and dancing.

Food Fair 2009

I urge you to find the nearest Greek food fair to you and grab an order of loukoumathes. Don't worry if you can't pronounce the word correctly...just ask for an order of honey balls...we know what you mean:-) But, watch out...these things are seriously addictive.

One final forks allowed. You should definitely eat these with your fingers. They will taste that much better.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

It's hard to believe that my first post involves chocolate. You see, I'm actually not that big of a chocolate lover. I know, I're in shock. Don't get me wrong I like chocolate here and there, but quite honestly it's not my favorite flavor.

Chocolate Sorbet

So, why the chocolate sorbet? Well my youngest brother happens to love chocolate and ice cream, so I'd thought he'd enjoy this treat. Dan reported that it was good, but a little too chocolate-intense for his liking.

Chocolate Sorbet

I took a little lick and my reaction was that it is comparable to a gourmet fudgesicle. I think this recipe would be great in popsicle-form. Just a suggestion...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recipe Index

Bars S'mores Bars Rice Krispie Treats Quick Breads Fresh Cherry Bread Drinks Agua de Chia Frozen Desserts Chocolate Sorbet Paletas de Mango Paletas de Sandia

On the Menu

Food Blogs A Whisk and a Spoon Baking Bites Cannelle et Vanille Cream Puffs in Venice Culinary Concoctions by Peabody Joy the Baker La Tartine Gourmande Milk and Honey Cafe Pittsburgh Needs Eated Smitten Kitchen Tartelette Tastespotting The Kitchen Sink Recipes What's Cooking?

About Hugs and Besos

Hi, I’m Nicole! Welcome to Hugs & Besos! About From the pictures, you can probably tell that the kitchen has been my hangout spot since I was little. I’m Greek, so I guess the whole love of food thing is in my blood. About One of the first things that I remember baking was Christmas cookies. My mom would always let me fill the pecan tassies with the brown sugar mixture. I think I ate more than I filled :-) About I also recall making homemade pizza. My dad used to give my brothers and me extra dough to push out on the counter and top with sauce and cheese. Yum! About My mom was (and is) great because she let me use the kitchen as long as I cleaned up after myself—pretty sweet tradeoff in my opinion. About I frequently asked for baking items for my birthday and Christmas—a rolling pin, a candy thermometer, some mini bundt pans, a dough scraper, and cookbooks galore! A big thanks to my family for putting up with these quirky requests. About CONFESSION: In college, I would often escape to the library, to read cookbooks. Kind of crazy, I know…but definitely worth it. About I am really a Spanish teacher by day and a baker by night, weekend, and summer. I just finished my first year of teaching after coming back from an ETA Fulbright in Mexico. Very exciting! About For me baking is my way to say, “Thanks! You’re the Best! and I love you!” Thus, my blog is called Hugs & Besos (besos means kisses in Spanish). I hope you enjoy all of the baked treats here. Don’t be shy. I would love to hear from you! XOXOXO, Nicole