Making dinner & dessert

California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the Basic Needs Initiative team virtually hosted their weekly Cooking with CSUMB show on March 11. Led by kinesiology professor Maria Bellumori and her partner, head coach of CSUMB’s Water Polo team Emily Schmit, they demonstrated how to make tortilla soup and sweet potato brownies. 

Choosing recipes based on ease and versatility, Schmit began the event by explaining to viewers the process of baking sweet potato brownies. After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, Schmit sliced a sweet potato in half, poking holes throughout it with a fork. She then microwaved it for approximately 15 minutes before letting it cool for around 20 minutes, then peeled and mashed it in a mixing bowl. 

“I save the skin,” Schmit said. “If you put it in the air fryer, it has the same consistency as sweet potato fries.” 

Combining ¼ cup of cocoa powder to the mashed potato mixture, Schmit tossed in two tablespoons of maple syrup and ¼ cup of unsalted almond butter to the mix. Mentioning to viewers a pinch of salt will be added to compliment flavors, a dash of cayenne pepper was also thrown in. Schmit and Bellumori appreciate chocolate with a hint of spiciness and said the combination is one of their personal favorites.

“Salt in sweets makes things taste sweeter without having to add more sugar,” Bellumori said. “Maple syrup and honey are great natural substitutes for white or bleached sugar, if you are looking for a healthier option.”

While the chefs blended the batter until smooth, viewers learned the brownie recipe is egg-free and permits for raw batter to be eaten straight from the bowl. Pouring the batter into a parchment paper lined baking pan, Schmit cooked them for 20 minutes or until the toothpick inserted came out clean. 

While the brownies baked, Schmit began slicing and dicing vegetables for the tortilla soup, as Bellumori minced garlic. Having seeded and chopped a green chili pepper prior to filming, Bellumori also prepared zucchini off-screen, which offered viewers a smooth and seamless demonstration and the chefs a hassle-free experience. 

“This soup is whatever you want it to be,” Bellumori said. “The two things you need to make it a tortilla soup are broth of some sort and salsa.”

Sauteing 1 diced onion in a large pot with the peppers, Bellumori incorporated vegetable broth, bay leaves, garlic and a jar of Trader Joe’s green salsa to the soup, bringing it to a boil and continuing to simmer it for five minutes. The zucchini, a can of black beans and a can of corn were combined, then the soup simmered for another five to 10 minutes. 

Turning off the heat, the chefs said it was time to garnish the healthy, vegetable-filled bowl of soup with a squeeze of lime juice and freshly chopped cilantro. Bellumori completed her bowl with slices of avocado and tortilla chips. 

“If you’re ever wondering what to do with your tortilla chip bag crumbles, save them for a tortilla soup topper,” Schmit said. “Or toss them with some salsa to eat it as salsa cereal.”

Otters who tuned in for the program were eligible to win $25 e-gift cards for groceries. On March 18, Cooking with CSUMB will be hosting a recipe demonstration of a breakfast smoothie with CSUMB recreation specialist Carlos Espinoza. 

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