Come Into My Kitchen

Kansas City entrepreneur Steve Nichols craves culinary adventure

Steve Nichols has an adventurous appetite. Nichols, 31, a Kansas City entrepreneur with a marketing consulting business, prepares vegetarian dishes borrowing inspiration from a global gastronomical perspective.

Nichols is in a long-term relationship with Brazilian-born Erica Cruvinel. He enjoys traveling and experiencing other culinary customs.

Q: You are part of the millennial generation — and seem to take a world view when it comes to life and food.

A: I definitely feel I am open to all kinds of multi-cultural experiences and foods, as both Erica and I appreciate Asian, Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean and South American flavors. I grew up as an only child to Geoff and Micki Nichols in Lenexa, and really have to say, while we usually ate dinner together, my parents instilled in me an entrepreneurial spirit.

There’s a certain amount of gratification that comes from making your own way, and my grandmother, Peggy Rusk, was talented in sewing and cooking, as she would make clothing for people and, at one point, owned a restaurant. Her parents were farmers, which is the ultimate entrepreneurial endeavor, because you literally reap what you sow.

Q: Was it a mutual love of food that brought Erica and you together?

A: I had graduated from the University of Kansas and Erica was a student when we met at a Portuguese event. From there, I think introducing each other to American and Brazilian food traditions helped us find common ground and an appreciation of each other’s life and history. Life is so much more interesting when you try new things — and that includes eating good food together. Erica is currently in Brazil studying for her doctorate in psychology — and I am planning a trip there in September, after she graduates in August.

Q: What precipitated your decision to become a vegetarian four years ago?

A: Being fit and healthy is an important part of my life and it’s important for me to eat low on the food chain — not just for ethical reasons — but also because I just feel physically better. As I am my own boss with my own company, I make a lot of food at home, because it not only makes economic sense, but I also know exactly what ingredients are in what I consume.

My “bachelor chow” includes pastas and salads. But when Erica and I are together in Kansas City, we like to make fondues and eat Middle-Eastern foods like hummus and falafel. I think sharing food is one of the easiest ways to get a taste of another’s culture, and express a point of view — whether you like salty or spicy or savory dishes. Erica has a sweet tooth and enjoys desserts.

Q: What exactly are brigadeiro, and how did you get this recipe to share?

A: Brigadeiro (brig-ah-dare-oh) is a bite-size Brazilian chocolate sweet made with condensed milk and cocoa. I enjoy making these exotic and delicious chocolate candies, which are a staple at all Brazil parties and social gatherings. Erica taught me how to make these, but she learned the recipe from her older sister, Eliane.

Erica introduced me to brigadeiro while we were visiting Juiz De Fora, a city in Brazil that is about three hours away from Rio de Janeiro. She took me to a candy shop called Relicario, which loosely translates to “a place where you keep things you cherish.” The candy shop sold all kinds and flavors of brigadeiro and it was an amazing experience.

Later, we ate more brigadeiro that her mother had made for us, because we were visiting. Now, when I go somewhere or take part in a celebration, I make brigadeiro. One important lesson I have learned — whether it be in food or life — is to savor the entire experience.

Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. E-mail her at to nominate a cook.


Makes about 1 dozen

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon water

1 (1.75-ounce) container chocolate sprinkles

In a large saucepan, stir sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder together over medium heat, using a large wooden spoon. Continue stirring for about 10 minutes, or until mixture comes together to form a dough. Take off heat and turn out chocolate dough onto a plate, and allow it to cool for an hour.

Meanwhile, into a small mixing bowl, whisk powdered sugar and water together to make a thin glaze. Set aside.

Pour chocolate sprinkles into a separate mixing bowl and set aside. In an assembly-line fashion, scoop out 1 tablespoon chocolate dough, roll it into a ball, cover in glaze and top it off completely in sprinkles. Place onto a tray covered in parchment paper.

Continue process until all dough is used. Place finished tray of brigadeiro into refrigerator and chill for at least 6 hours. Place into a resealable plastic container and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Per piece: 146 calories (30 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 24 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 62 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.