Kitchen Spotlight: Actress cooks from the heart

2014-05-13T00:00:00Z 2014-05-22T14:35:26Z Kitchen Spotlight: Actress cooks from the heartEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

Actress Christina Nieves doesn't mind experimenting in the kitchen.

"I love cooking, especially when there's a festive reason attached," said Nieves. She enjoys cooking for any holiday whether it's St. Patrick's Day, Presidents' Day or others.

The actress is currently starring as Eponine in Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook's production of "Les Miserables." The musical runs through June 8. FYI: Call (800) 745-3000, (630) 530-0111 or visit drurylane.com.

"I love anything sweet - cookies, cupcakes, anything," Nieves said. "And I never met a brownie I didn't like."

Nieves said she tries to cook as much as her schedule allows. Since her family is from Puerto Rico, as she was growing up, Nieves said, she enjoyed a variety of the ethnic dishes her grandmother and other family members made.

"We ate traditional Puerto Rican and American foods," she said.

Dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, homemade cinnamon rolls on Sundays, rice and beans and ropa vieja, which is a Puerto Rican shredded beef dish, were popular items on the family table.

Nieves said her interest in cooking was sparked after she began living on her own.

The actress, who is getting married on June 9, the day after "Les Miserables" closes, said she and fiance Zach Kenney are real foodies.

"My fiance and I really love to eat. Food is important to us," Nieves said. "I'm a pretty adventurous eater."

When Nieves goes out to eat, she said, she's always willing to try something new. And whether she's cooking herself or eating out, she's always looking to try "different flavor combinations."

Nieves said she loves sharing meals with others and cooking for friends and family. "Food goes straight to the heart and it brings out the best in people," she said.

The following recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow Bars is from Nieves.

"I made it for the cast members during the first couple of days of rehearsals," she said.

CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW BARS

3/4 cup butter (softened)

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons baking cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 - 3 cups mini marshmallows

Topping:

1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups Rice Krispies

DIRECTIONS: In a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Spread in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until set. Sprinkle with marshmallows; bake 2-3 minutes longer or until melted. Place pan on a wire rack. Spread marshmallows evenly over the top. Cool completely. For topping, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until blended. Remove from the heat; stir in Rice Krispies. Spread over bars immediately. Chill until set. Yield: 3 dozen.

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