Get ready to cook classic Hispanic dishes!

This summer you can discover the secrets of preparing delicious Hispanic foods such flan, arroz con leche, and paella with Mariela V. Quesada Centeno,  a native of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Each week on Wednesdays, June 12-July 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Continuing Studies class members will cook dishes from different countries from the Spanish-speaking world in the kitchen at Lake Edge United Church, 4032 Monona Dr.

Mariela, a UW-Madison graduate student in public and global health, says she has been cooking since the age of five.  “Looking back, I realize my upbringing gravitated around the kitchen table, the markets stands, the green cart that came every day around 10 in the morning to our house,” she says.

“I grew up in a traditional household with my extended family, watching my grandmother, mom, and aunts walking back and forth from the kitchen to the laundry room. I never ate alone.”

Mariela adds that in these cooking classes she wants to offer “a safe environment for you and friends to share your life and experiences surrounded by the smells of tortillas, plantains, and rice and beans.

“I believe you learn a recipe, by making it, so my classes are hands-on. There is a lot of sharing and teaching each other, as well as music. The class flows with the energy of the participants and Spanish is spoken without stop. Don’t panic, English is also spoken!”

You can find more details about the Hispanic cooking class in the Continuing Studies online catalog; you can register there also.

 Here is one of Mariela’s favorite recipes:

Sweet Potato “Caramel”

2 cups of peeled sweet potato- cut in small chunks

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 cup of orange juice


Put all ingredients in a small pot and cook on medium heat.

Set aside before the sweet potatoes become mashed. You want to have some chunky pieces left.

This recipe can be eaten as a dessert or accompanying a pork or lamb dish.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?