Food Styling for Mario Lopez and Avocados from Mexico on NBC Live and Bethenny Shows!


Mario Lopez NBC Live

I recently did a fun food styling TV segment for Mario Lopez and Avocados from Mexico on the Bethenny show and NBC New York Live. The segment featured Mario discussing his new cookbook Extra Lean,  demonstrating how to use fresh avocados in your everyday cooking for delicious healthy meals. I made his Chicken Enchiladas with Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salsa for the show – it turned out absolutely delicious and was a hit backstage! I also made some gorgeous Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato Salad Bites for the Bethenny Show that were super cute and delicious. Here’s the recipes and some fun behind the scenes photos from the show!


Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas with Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa

Serves 3


6 corn tortillas
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 tbsp canned green chiles
1/2 cup mild tomato salsa, divided
1/2 cup low fat shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack recommended)
Chopped scallions
Hot sauce (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place in the oven to warm.
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onions and peppers. Season with salt and oregano and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add chicken, green chiles, 1/2 cup salsa, and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted.
  5. Remove tortillas from the oven and spray a 9 x 9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
  6. Place 1/4 cup of chicken mixture in a tortilla, roll up and transfer to baking dish; repeat with remaining tortillas.
  7. Top tortillas with Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa and cheese and bake for 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
  8. Garnish with chopped scallions, additional Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa and serve with hot sauce, if desired.


Black Bean, Avocado and Corn Salsa

Serves 4 – 8


1/4 cup vinaigrette salad dressing
1/4 cup sliced scallions
2 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp grated lime peel
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 fully ripened avocado from Mexico, halved, pitted, peeled and diced


In large bowl, whisk together salad dressing, scallions, cilantro and lime peel. Stir in beans, corn and red pepper. Add avocado; toss gently. Season with salt, if desired.

photo: Kristen Hess


Avocado, Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

Serves: 4 – 6


  • 2 Hass Avocados from Mexico, sliced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 pound mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 ounce bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • With a small knife or “shark”, cut the little stem end out of the tomato using a serrated knife, cut the tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices.
  • Slice the mozzarella 1/4 inch thick.
  • Alternate slices of Avocado, tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves like playing cards on individual plates.
  • Drizzle on the olive oil and vinegar.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

photo: Avocados from Mexico

Mario Lopez




Set and Mario Lopez photos: Kristen Hess


Spiced Moroccan Burgers with Green Harissa, Feta and Mint over Grilled Pita

Spiced Moroccan Burgers with Green Harissa, Feta and Mint

If you haven’t tried Moroccan Harissa before, listen up. It’s a lovely pepper sauce blend made with chili peppers, bell peppers, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt. That’s it. And it’s totally delicious.

Mina Green Harissa

Harissa is a staple of Tunisian and Moroccan cuisine, and it is the central condiment in kitchens in North Africa used as a spread, a dip or drizzled on top of nearly any dish. Versatile as it is, you can pair it with lamb or pork, fish, chicken or beef as a marinade or base for a Moroccan tagine dish. Drizzle some over couscous and grilled vegetables, or use it as a dressing for potatoes or dip some grilled flatbread or pita in it.

Mina Harissa

I first tried Mina Harissa Pepper Sauce last year when I met owner and creator Mina from Casablanca Foods at the Just Food Conference, and fell in love. They were giving away samples of their red pepper Harissa sauce that came in three different styles (Mild, Medium and Spicy). It had just the right amount of heat, and tons of flavor from the chilies, bell peppers and garlic.

Sun-dried tomatoes, feta and mint

They now have a new flavor made with green chilies and green peppers that is equally delicious with a medium spicy heat and tangy flavor. I was lucky enough to sample some of this new green goodness sauce and created a tasty, fun recipe to go with it – Spiced Moroccan Burgers with Green Harissa, Feta and Mint over Grilled Pita. The burgers are mildly spiced with cumin, ancho chile, onion, garlic and mint, then served over grilled pita and topped with the green harissa sauce, crumbly fresh feta, chopped fresh mint and sun dried tomatoes. They’re super easy to make, and super flavorful with the delicious blend of spices, fresh herbs and ingredients. Enjoy!

Learn more about Mina Harissa

Shop for Mina Harissa products online at Abe’s Market or

Spiced Moroccan Burgers with Green Harissa, Feta and Mint


  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic herb infused oil, for basting
  • 1/2 cup Mina Harissa Green Harissa Pepper Sauce
  • 2-4 sun dried tomatoes, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped for garnish
  • Dash of smoked paprika, for garnish
  • 2-4 pieces of pita or flatbread
  • 1-2 tablespoon garlic herb infused oil
  • Sea Salt, for garnish
  • Smoked paprika, for garnish


  1. Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef or lamb with the next 8 ingredients (through minced garlic).
  3. Gently knead the meat mixture together until ingredients are combined, and make 4-6 burger patties in the shape of an oval, brush burger patties with herb infused oil and set aside.
  4. To make the grilled pita bread: drizzle a tablespoon of herb infused oil on to both sides of the pitas and grill for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned and grill marks appear. Cook each pita separately (depending on the size of your grill pan).
  5. Remove pita from pan and sprinkle with sea salt and smoked paprika, cover with foil to keep warm while burgers are cooking.
  6. Add the burger patties to the heated grill pan, and cook approximately 4 minutes on each side (for medium) until grill marks appear and they are cooked according to your liking.
  7. To serve, place a piece of pita bread on each plate (either whole or broken into two pieces) and place burgers on top of the pita (or in the pita if you prefer).
  8. Top burgers with sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, green harissa sauce, fresh chopped mint, a dash of smoked paprika, additional salt and pepper if desired, to taste.

Spiced Moroccan Burgers with Green Harissa, Feta and Mint over Grilled Pita Bread

All recipes, photographs, copy and content on this post and website are copyrighted © 2010-2013 by Kristen Hess/The Artful Gourmet. Please do not use, share or distribute this content in any way without expressed permission from me first. I received a bottle of Mina Harissa Green Harissa Sauce for product sampling. All opinions expressed are my own and this is not a paid advertisement.

Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham

Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham

This is a super easy and tasty dish that I whipped up one night with some of the ingredients I had on hand. It’s a light and savory pasta dish made with large shell pasta, sauteed spinach, zucchini and ham with garlic and a creamy parmesan alfredo sauce, with a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Perfect dish for a weeknight dinner, with some crusty French or Italian bread, a green salad and glass of wine. You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!

Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6


  • 1 bag of medium-large shell pasta (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thin and halved
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach (leaves), chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup of cooked Virginia ham, diced (can sub cooked prosciutto or bacon)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons neufchatel or cream cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
  • 1 green onion, sliced for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta shells and cook according to package directions until al dente (about 8 minutes dried, 3 minutes fresh). Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water and set aside.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-large saute pan and add zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and cook for about 8-10 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and saute for another minute or so until garlic starts to brown. Remove zucchini-garlic mixture from saute pan and set aside in a medium-large mixing bowl.
  3. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan and heat for a minute or so. Add the fresh chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes, stirring through. Saute spinach about 3-5 minutes until wilted. Add the cooked diced ham and saute another few minutes until browned. Remove spinach and ham from saute pan and add to cooked zucchini in mixing bowl.
  4. To make the Parmesan Garlic Sauce:
  5. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add the garlic and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  7. Add in the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, another minute.
  8. Whisk in the milk, a sprinkle of sea salt and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add the Neufchatel and parmesan cheese; whisk until melted, about 1 minute.
  10. Combine the cooked pasta shells, 1/2 cup cooking water from pasta, sauteed zucchini, spinach and ham to the alfredo garlic sauce, stir thoroughly to mix ingredients for another minute or so.
  11. Sprinkle additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste into the pasta mixture. Remove from saute pan and place in a large serving bowl. Top pasta with chopped fresh parsley and green onions, and top with more parmesan cheese to taste.
  12. Serve the pasta with some crusty bread, a green salad and glass of wine.


You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!

Pure YUM.
Pure YUM.

Other Recipes you may enjoy:

Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

Pioneer Woman’s Pasta Primavera

What Katie Ate’s Conchiglia with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cream Sauce

Recipe Girl’s Spaghetti with Cremini Mushrooms, Lemon & Thyme

In Jennie’s Kitchen Pasta Carbonara

Summer in a Bowl: Vodka Cream Sauce Pasta w/ Fresh Basil, Mozzarella & Sundried Tomatoes

Summer Pasta w/ Vodka Sauce, Fresh Basil, Mozzarella & Sundried Tomatoes
Summer Pasta w/ Vodka Sauce, Fresh Basil, Mozzarella & Sundried Tomatoes

There’s a great little place in my neighborhood called Todaro Bros. – a small, locally-owned deli and grocery store that sells fresh and imported Italian food and other gourmet groceries. I usually stop in at least once a week to peruse their cheese department and sample some of their fresh house-made mozzarella, just for kicks (it’s that good!).


It’s impossible to walk in there and just buy one thing – I’m like a kid in a candy store! So I found these gorgeous sun-dried tomatoes marinated in herbs and oil and picked up some fresh basil, oregano, chives, tomato sauce, cream and pasta to make a fresh, tasty summer pasta dish. I made it with spaghetti but you could serve this tasty Vodka Sauce with virtually any pasta you wish. It’s tangy, velvety and full of flavor, and the fresh basil gives it a peppery flavor which is rounded out by the creamy fresh mozzarella and sweet sun-dried tomatoes. I also threw in a few pieces of crumbled cooked bacon into the sauce to give it an extra layer of flavor (which is totally optional but also totally worth it!)

Summer Pasta w/ Vodka Sauce, Fresh Basil, Mozzarella & Sundried Tomatoes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4-6


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small shallot, diced
  • 3-4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
  • 6-8 marinated sun-dried tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
  • 1 quart tomato sauce (store bought or homemade, pureed smooth)
  • 1 cup of vodka
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
  • Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh unsalted mozzarella, torn into medium pieces, for garnish
  • fresh basil leaves, whole or torn, for garnish
  • red pepper flakes (optional), for garnish
  • 1 pound package of cooked and drained pasta (spaghetti, linguine or penne)


  1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions (until al dente) and drain (reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water for later); set aside. Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat for about 15 minutes until crispy, drain and crumble.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or pot. Add garlic and shallots, saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add crumbled bacon and sun-dried tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for an additional 5 minutes and turn heat down to medium-low.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce and vodka into the same saucepan and let simmer (approximately 20 minutes) until the sauce thickens and cooks down. Stir in the heavy cream, fresh oregano and chives and let simmer on low for another few minutes until sauce is heated through.
  4. Return the pasta back to the large saucepot and ladle some of the sauce into it, along with a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water and toss to coat.
  5. Ladle coated pasta into serving dishes and top with additional vodka sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, mozzarella, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.

Summer In A Bowl.
Summer In A Bowl.

Top off the pasta with chunks of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, coarse Mediterranean sea salt and fresh ground pepper…and you’ve got Summer in a Bowl.

Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Mozzarella



Other Vodka Pasta Recipes you may enjoy:

Emeril’s Pasta with Vodka and Sausage

Pioneer Woman’s Pasta alla Vodka

Rachel Ray’s You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta

Shrimp Scampi Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

The temperatures are rising and the sun is shining which means one thing – Spring is finally here. For me, that means lighter flavors, fresh herbs, fruits and veggies from the farmers market, and seafood, seafood, seafood.


I decided to make a lovely Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce that is fresh, light and fairly simple to make (not to mention absolutely scrumptious!)

Sauteed Shrimp in Lemon Butter Sauce

I found some fresh, succulent jumbo shrimp and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with garlic, making a bright, velvety lemon butter sauce by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, and some white wine. I added a little extra butter into the sauce, threw in a few scallions and fresh garlic, and topped it off with some fresh parsley and a pinch of cayenne and red pepper flakes to give it some extra flavor and kick. If you want to make the sauteed shrimp and skip the pasta for a lighter dish, go for it – it’s totally amazing on it’s own or with a salad and some crusty bread (and a glass of white wine to accompany, of course!) Enjoy.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta in Lemon Butter Sauce

Yield: 4

This is a perfect dish for Summer, featuring sauteed shrimp in a lemon butter sauce, served over fettucine with fresh parsley and garlic.


  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sauce
  • 3/4 pound fettucine (or linguine, angel hair, spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp (about 12 jumbo or 16 large shrimp), peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, zest grated for sauce plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • pinch of cayenne
  • Garnish: parsley, lemon zest, red pepper, salt and pepper


  1. Drizzle the vegetable oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
  2. Prep all ingredients (chop garlic, parsley, green onions, zest and halve the lemons and squeeze juice, measure out oil, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes).
  3. Melt butter and olive oil in another large pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add parsley, lemon zest, wine, lemon juice, lemon slices, scallions and red pepper flakes; cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Stir and remove from heat.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked pasta and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve with additional chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve with a glass of white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) and a green salad or crusty bread.
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Shrimp Scampi Pasta


Spicy Seafood Risotto

Spicy Seafood Risotto
Spicy Seafood Risotto

In the spirit of Mardi Gras, I was in the mood to make something spicy with seafood and rice and thought I would do something different than make the typical Jambalaya or Shrimp Etoufee dish. In one of my Italian Cooking classes at The Institute of Culinary Education, we made a Shrimp Risotto which is a typical Italian-style rice dish. Delicious as it is, I wanted to make it with a twist, by adding some Creole seasoning, lemon, red pepper and mussels steamed in white wine to the recipe. It’s super creamy and flavorful, and takes a little bit of time and patience to make. But one taste of the savory shrimp mixed with mussels, lemon and wine with a spicy kick of Creole makes it all worth the effort.

The mussels take about 10-15 minutes to make, so you’ll want to get started on these when you have about 10-15 minutes left to cook the rice in the broth (or you can make them ahead of time and keep them on the burner on low to keep them warm so you can add the mussels to the risotto at the end). If you want to just eat the Shrimp Risotto with the Mussels in wine sauce on the side, you can do that too! Just add some crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of white wine and you’ve got yourself a big, fat, happy meal to celebrate Mardi Gras. Enjoy =)

Spicy Seafood Risotto


1/2 lb medium shrimp
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 parsley stems
2 tbsp parsley leaves, minced fine
6 cups of water
juice of 1/2 of a lemon, plus 1 tsp lemon zest
Pinch of saffron
1 cup canned San Marzano tomatoes, drained and pureed
Red pepper flakes
1 tsp Creole seasoning (Tony Chacere’s Creole Seasoning or Emeril’s Essence is great)
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c Italian short-grain rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
1/2 c white wine

Steamed Mussels (see recipe following)


Shell and devein the shrimp (reserve the shells). Cut each shrimp into thirds. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve.

In a medium saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add half of the garlic and the shrimp shells and saute until the garlic is fragrant and the shells turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley sprigs and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 6 cups of water, lemon juice and zest and the saffron; bring to a boil, reduce to heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Strain the broth and return it to the pan. Add the pureed tomatoes and season with red pepper flakes, Creole seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. Strain and reserve over low heat.

In a large casserole or skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the onion and remaining garlic and cook until it begins to get golden, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook until it’s slightly translucent.

Add the wine and cook until absorbed. Add a 4 ounce ladle of the shrimp stock and cook, stirring until the liquid is almost absorbed.

Continue adding broth and cooking until the rice is on the firm side of al dente, 25 to 30 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Shell the steamed mussels (see recipe following) and add to the risotto. Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Steamed Mussels

To prepare the mussels for cooking, sort through them and throw out any that are open or don’t close when tapped. Be sure to rinse and swirl mussels in a basin of cold water to rinse out any dirt or debris trapped inside them, but don’t let them soak too long or you’ll lose the natural sea flavor. With a brush, scrub the outsides well under running water, and pry off any barnacles with the back of a knife. Twist or cut off any beards or hair-like tufts and rinse again, keeping the mussels cold until ready to use.


2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 c chicken stock
lemon juice from 1 lemon
Pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 lbs fresh mussels


In a large saucepan or pasta pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine, chicken stock and lemon juice, and season with saffron, salt and black pepper. Add the red pepper flakes to taste, depending on desired heat (if using). Add the mussels to the pot and cover with a lid; increase the heat to medium-high. Steam the mussels, until they open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Remove mussels from the shell (or add them whole) to the shrimp risotto. You can also serve them in a big bowl in the wine sauce separately as an accompaniment to the risotto. Serve the with some crusty garlic bread and a green salad, along with a glass of crisp white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc is great!)

Makes 6 servings.

Recipes adapted from The Institute of Culinary Education, Techniques of Italian Cooking 


Other Risotto Recipes you may enjoy:

CD Kitchen’s Cajun Risotto

Smoky Mountain Cafe Cajun Risotto

Jamie Oliver’s Seafood Risotto (Risotto ai Frutti di Mare)

Emeril Lagasse’s Seafood Risotto

Anthony Bourdain – Seafood Risotto in Venice Video

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