The Best of La Cocina de Leslie in 2011

As 2011 is coming to an end, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the year's most popular recipes, from month to month.

Because of this rich and creamy Simply Irresistible Mexican Hot Chocolate Flan, I now spell romance F-L-A-N!

This recipe isn't for everyone, but it was one of the most visited of the entire year...Criadillas a la Mexicana.

My favorite pizza is this Mexican Pizza topped with homemade chorizo and jalapeño peppers.  Ay.  Dios.  Mio! 

Pork Tacos {Dallas Gas Station Style} from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain

Conchas from the very first She Made/Ella Hace with my good friend, Girlichef

Decadent Mexican Chocolate Brownies  made with Abuelita brand chocolate.

My signature dish...Crema de Brocoli (Cream of Broccoli Soup)

Cream of Broccoli

For the hottest month of the year in Mexico, we cooled down with a refreshing glass of Agua de Pepino (Cucumber Limeade)

My recipe for Arroz Verde was not only the top recipe in April, it is also the second Most Popular Recipe of the entire year.

Pecan Pie Bread Pudding  is a delicious alternative to Capirotada during Lent.

Chorizo Quesadillas

And last, but definitely not least...the #1 recipe in January and 2011 are my Enfrijoladas.

Thank you all so much for your continued love and support.   Best wishes for a very Happy New Year!  See you in 2012!  XOXO

"May you always have bread, so that you never know hunger.

And salt, so that life may always have flavor..."

- It's a Wonderful Life


I Can't Believe It's Not Pumpkin Cake!

Today is a very fun day in Mexico.  It's El Dia de los Santos Inocentes.  (The Mexican April Fools Day.)   Now I love a good prank or practical joke, especially if I'm the genius mastermind behind it all.  Because I've been a little busy lately playing around in my kitchen (which once again has running water and electricity) to properly plan a good prank,  I thought it best to surprise Hubby and the kiddies with a fun, quirky cake that none of us have ever tried.

And I knew just the cake.

Making this cake was a bit of a challenge.  My kiddies are used to hanging out in the kitchen, passing me ingredients, helping me grease and flour the cake pans and of course licking the bowl afterwards.  But not with this cake.  I didn't want them to find out the secret ingredient, because if they knew before hand, they probably wouldn't have even tried it.  So I had to wait until they were all too busy and preoccupied with distractions like cartoons, Christmas toys and video games on the computer.  And even then, I kept looking over my shoulder every couple of minutes to make sure they didn't discover the secret ingredient.

As I read and re-read the recipe, I knew that the smart thing to do would be to halve the recipe, in case the cake turned out to be a complete disaster.  But I couldn't ignore that little voice inside my head that kept telling me that this cake was going to be just as delicious as every other cake I've baked from my Southern Cakes cookbook and it would be really fun to play a round of "name the secret ingredient" with everyone for Dia de los Santos Inocentes.   So, I went against my better judgement and made the full recipe.

For the 25 minutes that the cake was in the oven, my stomach was in knots.   I couldn't help but think that this cake was going turn out to be a big, fat, horrible FAIL!

When I opened the oven door, I found a beautiful, golden and aromatic cake that looked and smelled just like Pumpkin Cake.

Now for the moment of truth... I had to pinch off a piece to see what it tasted it like.  (Pause.)  OMG!  It tastes like Pumpkin Cake.  I pinched off  another piece to make sure I wasn't imagining things.  (Pause.)  Yep!  Tastes exactly like Pumpkin Cake.

Once the cake had cooled, I topped it with a little  Cream Cheese Frosting, then handed out slices of cake to Hubby, the kiddies, my suegra, my sister-in-law,  two of my college student nephews and one of my neighbors.  I tried my hardest not to laugh as we all devoured our cake and was pleasantly surprised that no one had guessed the secret ingredient.  Truth be told, I never would have guessed the secret ingredient either.  And no one believed me when I told them what the secret ingredient was.  They all thought it was a Santos Inocentes prank.

So what was the secret ingredient???

Tomato Sauce.


The recipe was for a Tomato Soup Cake, but since I've never seen a can of Tomato Soup here, I used tomato sauce.  And the result was absolutely delicious.  No joke!!!

If you like Pumpkin Cake, then you'll love this Tomato Sauce Cake, that really should be called "I can't believe it's not pumpkin" Cake!

I can't believe it's not pumpkin (or carrot) cake! (Tomato Soup Cake)

I Can't Believe It's Not Pumpkin Cake!
(Tomato Soup Cake recipe adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/4 cups plain tomato sauce (or one 10-3/4 oz. can tomato soup) 
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup water

Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.  Mix with a fork until well combined.

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 1

Add in the tomato sauce, butter, eggs, vanilla extract and water.  (My kiddies didn't believe this was really a Tomato Sauce Cake until I showed them this photo. ) 

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 2

Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined and the batter is creamy.  (About 2 to 3 minutes.) 

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 3

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan/dish.

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 4

Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center.  (I couldn't resist pinching the cake over and over again, because it was so good!)  Let the cake cool to room temperature.

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 5

Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting by creaming together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and spreadable.  (If frosting is too soft, add more powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency.  And if the frosting is to thick, thin it out by adding a tablespoon or two of milk until desired consistency.)

Tomato Sauce Cake Prep 6

Refrigerate the frosted cake for 30 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!!!

Tomato Sauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


Introducing: Food of the Month Club

Attention foodies!  Something new and exciting is coming to La Cocina de Leslie in 2012!  And I would love for you to join me.

It's meme kind of thing called The Food of the Month Club and it's something I've wanted to do pretty much since I started this blog.

At the beginning of each month, I'll announce the Food of the Month.  All you have to do is cook up something fabulously delicious using the Food of the Month as one of the main ingredients and post the recipe on your blog sometime during that month.  At the end of the month, I'll post a Round-Up of all of the recipes with links to your blogs.

And the best thing about The Food of the Month Club is that it will feature easy to find  ingredients that many of us always have on hand in our pantry or fridge.

I hope you'll join me in this new adventure.

Be sure to visit La Cocina de Leslie on January 2nd to discover the very first Food of the Month!

How to participate:
1.)  Visit La Cocina de Leslie the 1st or 2nd day of each month to find out the Food of the Month.

2.)  Cook up something delicious using the Food of the Month as one of the main ingredients.

3.)  Post the recipe(s) on your blog. 

4.)  Link to this page in your blog post(s).  (You can also add the Food of the Month button to your post or sidebar.)  

5.)  Email your entries to me at by the 28th of the month.  Be sure to  include:
~your name
~your blog name
~permalink to your post
~a photo of your recipe or permission to pull one from your post

6.)  Visit La Cocina de Leslie on the last day of each month for the recipe round-up.  


Sugar Cookie Alfajores

My game plan for baking at El Rancho yesterday was to make the easiest cookies I knew how...Sugar Cookies and my Mexican Chocolate Chunk Cookies.  But as I was gathering all of the ingredients from my kitchen, I spied an unopened jar of cajeta sitting on top of my fridge.  Suddenly I was reminded of the gorgeous Alfajores de Maicena I featured in yesterday's Christmas Cookie Round-Up and thought they'd make for the perfect treat to serve at our pre-Christmas Eve family gathering.  So I grabbed the jar of cajeta and my container of shredded coconut and threw them into the box of ingredients I was taking to the ranch.  You know, just in case.

As I was preparing the sugar cookie dough, I couldn't get the Alfajores out of my head.  So, as soon as the cookies came out of the oven, I topped them with a little cajeta and they disappeared before I could even taste one.  (But at least I was able to snap a few pics.)

My kiddies liked them so much, they want me to bake another batch tonight for Santa Claus.  I think Mr. and Mrs. Claus will both be very happy with these Sugar Cookie Alfajores.

Alfajores cookies

Sugar Cookie Alfajores 
(Sugar Cookie recipe from Wilton)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cajeta
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Cream together the butter and sugar with a wire whisk or electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, until completely combined.  Stir in the vanilla.  Gradually add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well until blended.

Wrap the cookie dough in plastic and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours.  (This step is completely optional.  I didn't refrigerate the dough and the cookies turned out perfect.)

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet about 2-inches apart.  (The kiddies can help with this part.)  Flatten the cookies with the tips of your fingers or the bottom of a glass dipped in flour to prevent sticking.

sugar cookie prep

Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for one minute.  Turn cookies over.  Spoon 1 teaspoon of cajeta onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie, forming a sandwich.  Press the cookies together gently so that a little cajeta oozes out the sides.  Using your index finger, spread the cajeta along the sides.  Dip sides in shredded coconut.


Alfajores Christmas Tree


Christmas Adam Cookie Round-Up 2011

Today is a very special day at my house.  It's Christmas Adam.  (The day before Christmas Eve.)  It's a day of baking all kinds of goodies to share with our family and friends, and of course, a couple of cookies for Santa Claus.

Because Christmas cookies are meant to be shared, I thought I'd share some of my favorite cookie recipes from some very good friends of mine.  (I'll be baking a few of these myself today.) 

Happy baking and Merry Christmas Adam to all!

Christmas Adam Cookie Round-Up 2011:
(In no particular order...)

Dark Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies from Heather at Girlichef 

photo courtesy of Girlichef

Oatmeal Cream Pies from Monica at Lick the Bowl Good

Photo courtesy of Lick the Bowl Good

Tortilla Snowflakes with Cajeta by Vianney from Sweet Life

Photo credit Vianney @ Sweet Life

Icebox Cookies from Jenna at Newlyweds Blog 

Photo credit Jenna @ Newlyweds Blog

Peanut Butter and Jam Cookies from Nicole at Presley's Pantry

Photo courtesy of Nicole @ Presley's Pantry

Merry Berry Cookies w/ Pisco from Peru Delights
(The recipe is available on their free ebook.)

Choco-Mint Christmas Cookies from Ericka at Nibbles & Feasts

Photo courtesy of Ericka @ Nibbles & Feasts

Biscochos from Muy Bueno Cookbook

Macaroons with White Chocolate Peppermint Ganache
from Gerry at Foodness Gracious

Photo courtesy of Foodness Gracious

And for my Spanish speaking friends...

Galletitas de Bastoncitos de Menta con Dulce de Leche
from Mamá Contemporanea

Foto cortesia de Mamá Contemporanea

Alfajores de Maicena from Latin Food Lovers New York

Foto cortesia de Latin Food Lovers New York

Galletas para Regalar from Sazon Boricua

Foto cortesia de Sazon Boricua

What kind of cookies will you be baking this year?


She Made/Ella Hace: Ponche Navideño de Manzana

Growing up, Christmas with my grandparents was always Tamales, Buñuelos and Ponche.  Here in Mexico with Hubby's family, things are a little different.  The menu for our big Christmas Eve dinner changes from year to year.  One year we'll feast on my suegra's amazing Pozole.  And the next year might be an Asian inspired potluck.  This year the menu will include smoked turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, rice, Ensalada Navideña, crescent rolls and Ponche.

Over the years, the only constant has been Ponche.  Whether it's the festive Ponche de Jamaica made with hibiscus flowers, or the slightly tangy Ponche de Tamarindo that my sister-in-law makes every year, or my grandmother's Ponche de Manzana, Christmas wouldn't be the same without a steaming mug of fruit laden Ponche.

That's why Girlichef and I thought it was the perfect recipe to share for this month's installment of She Made/Ella Hace.

With my grandmother's recent passing, there was really only one Ponche I wanted to abuelita's.  The best Ponche in my book.  Gramm made her Ponche at least once a week in December and it was always a treat.

I've made a few changes here and there, like substituting apple nectar for apple cider and adding guavas and pecans for added flavor and texture.  But it still tastes just like Gramm's.  One sip was like a hug in a cup.

Ponche Navideño de Manzana
(Hot Apple Cider Punch)

  • 4 cups apple nectar or cider
  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 Apples (2 red/2 green)
  • 2 Pears
  • 6 to 8 Guavas
  • 6 oz. sugar cane, peeled
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • Tequila or Rum

Pour the apple nectar, juice and water into a 4-quart pot.

Chop the apples, pears, guavas and sugar cane into bite-size pieces.   Add them to the pot along with the cinnamon sticks and cloves.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 40 to 45 minutes or until the fruits are tender.

Remove from heat and stir in the raisins and pecans.  (Adding the pecans at the very beginning can make the Ponche bitter.)  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.  Ladle into coffee mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  Enjoy!!!

*For a grown-up version of this Ponche, add a shot of tequila or rum to each mug before serving.

Be sure to check out Girlichef's Ponche!

  Also linking up with: