Dinners, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

The Diva is Going Live!

I have some very exciting news to share with all of you! Coming up on Wednesday, August 5 at 12:00 pm PST I will be doing my first ever cooking demo on Instagram Live as part of Sacramento State UNIQUE Programs’ summer virtual programming series. I would love for you to join me! This will be a completely FREE virtual event where you can tune in on Instagram and learn how to make an Italian Chicken Dinner and Cannoli Dip. That’s right, essentially a completely free one-hour cooking class! First thing is first though, go follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss out!

Diva di Cucina Cooking Demo

When UNIQUE Programs approached me about doing a cooking demo earlier this summer it was a no brainier. This is something I have always wanted to do so this offer was the push I needed to finally commit to a live cooking demonstration. Not gonna lie, I am pretty nervous but I am super excited to share a couple of my favorite recipes with everyone.

UNIQUE Programs is all about bringing innovative quality entertainment to the campus community at Sacramento State but with their events now being virtual they are able to expand their audience to a global level. How awesome is that!? Speaking of awesome, what do you think of these digital graphics their design team created to market the event? I love them! It was so funny to see me and my dishes illustrated.

The Italian Chicken dinner I will be making is one of my favorite go to recipes. It is super quick, easy, healthy, delicious and also so importantly, affordable! I am talking a delicious gourmet meal that can feed four for under $20! (That is assuming you have the pantry essentials such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and seasonings.) I know dinner parties are on hold but this is a great dish to make for guests once we are back to socializing or even for yourself if you want to meal prep for the week. You literally throw it all in the pan and bake it leaving you free to entertain guests, or in my case, make a dessert!

Italian Chicken Dinner

When selecting what dessert to make for you, I knew I wanted to stick with the Italian theme so I am taking my love for cannolis and my love for dessert dips and we will be making a Cannoli Dip! That’s right, a delicious creamy sweet dip with waffle cones for dipping! You know I had to put my own twist on things. This will literally take a couple of minutes to make and is so fun to eat.

Cannoli Dip

There will be no cooking show foolery here, I will be cooking in real time so you can make both these dishes right along with me! Below you can find ingredient lists for the Italian Chicken Dinner and Cannoli Dip in case you want to get all the ingredients ahead of time. If you are at work or unable to cook live with me that is absolutely okay too! Just tune in and be entertained and get some tips for when you want to make these awesome dishes another time!

I really want to connect with my followers in a more personal way so I truly hope you will tune in on Wednesday to join me in my first ever Instagram Live Cooking Demo. At the very least pop in and say hello! Make sure you go follow me on Instagram if you don’t already so you get a notification reminder that day when I go live. I look forward to chatting with you all and answering any questions you may have as we spend an hour together! See you then! Ciao!

Diva di Cucina Cooking Demo

Diva di Cucina Cooking Demo

 

Beverages

Recipe—Best Ever Piña Coladas

Recipe—Best Ever Piña Coladas

Back in April I posted some ideas for a family theme night to help liven up life at home during the quarantine. One of the first theme nights that we did was a Tropical Beach Party. Of course, no beach party is complete without a tropical drink of some sort. I made these amazing piña coladas and they were so easy! (A virgin one for the kiddo of course!) For a brief moment I was able to kick up my feet, close my eyes, sip my piña colada, and pretend I was on an island far far away.

What sets these apart from a lot of other piña colada recipes is, in lieu of some of the ice, I used frozen pineapple chunks. This keeps them thick and frosty while giving them a nice creamy texture and keeps them from getting as watered down as they melt. With only a couple of months left of summer, it is time for you to get out the blender, and whip yourself up a batch of these delicious piña coladas!

Notes: This recipe makes 3–4 drinks. For a little extra kick, pour a floater of Malibu Rum over the top. For a virgin/nonalcoholic option, just replace the alcohol with extra pineapple juice. You can find bags of frozen pineapple chunks in the frozen fruit section of your grocery store.

INGREDIENTS
3 c ice
1 cup pineapple chunks, frozen
4 oz pineapple juice
4 oz coconut cream
3 oz white rum
2 oz dark rum

GARNISHES (OPTIONAL)
shredded coconut
pineapple slices
maraschino cherries

STEPS

  • Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Add extra pineapple juice if needed.
  • Pour into a glass and garnish with the shredded coconut, a pineapple slice, and maraschino cherry.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

Summertime means my garden is going nuts and producing more tomatoes than we can get through in a day. No joke. I am sometimes getting 4–5 huge ripe tomatoes a day! I love it! You just can’t beat the smell and flavor of a tomato that has been able to fully ripen on the vine. Even if you go to the grocery store or farmers market, the smell of fresh tomatoes wafts through the air. That is the smell of summer!

The other day I was looking at a pile of 10–12 tomatoes on the counter that needed to be eaten within the day and I knew just what to do with them. Marinade them! The marinade for this recipe is out of this world! The red wine vinegar really brings out the flavors of the tomatoes and then you get all these great flavors from the fresh herbs and garlic. I mean seriously, just look at that layer of herbs over the top of the tomatoes!

Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

These make for a great side dish with some grilled meat or even as a salad. I served it with some garlic bread and it was so good to soak up all those yummy tomato juices, olive oil, and vinegar with the bread. This recipe is for sure a summertime staple as it is so easy to make and I am all about cooking with what is in season.

Notes:

  • The key to this recipe is making sure to marinade the tomatoes at room temperature for at the very least 2 hours. You MUST let them marinade! The tomatoes need time to soak up all the red wine and herb flavors.
  • Do not refrigerate as the texture and natural flavor of the tomatoes will change.
  • Consume within 6–8 hours of marinating.
  • If you want to prepare in advance, just make the marinade ahead of time and store in a jar in your refrigerator until 3 hours before you plan to serve. Then pour the chilled marinade over the tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS
5 or 6 extra-large tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
2/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c red wine vinegar
4 tbsp red onion, minced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp basil, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

STEPS

  • Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a shallow serving dish.
  • Combine all the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
  • Pour the marinade over the tomatoes.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or saran wrap.
  • Allow the tomatoes to rest/marinade at room temperature for 2–3 hours.
  • Enjoy!
Side Dishes

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

We are a family who is always on the go and frequently need a quick and easy side dish. If I am having the hubby throw some steaks on the grill there are times I want a side dish that is quicker than a baked potato and easier than mashed potatoes. This mushroom garlic couscous is so easy to make and takes 15 minutes max. I know plenty of folks that get tired with the same ol’ side dish and this one is a great addition to any meal, just add a cooked protein! Plus couscous seems fancy. 😉

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

Notes: You can make this with any couscous. The recipe is written using the measurements of a 5.8 oz box of Near East couscous which is my favorite. (This is not a sponsored post or ad.) Keep in mind if you use a different brand that the amount of chicken broth and olive oil required may vary. Adjust accordingly. You can also make this recipe with brown rice or quinoa for an equally delicious side dish. Just prepare the preferred grain per the package instructions using chicken broth, and stir in the sautéed mushrooms and parsley when done cooking.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp butter
2 c cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
5.8 oz box of couscous (I love Near East)
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • In a medium skillet melt the butter over medium high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 8–10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garlic to the skillet and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
  • Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. When done, remove from heat.
  • While the mushrooms are cooking, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and olive oil to a boil.
  • Once boiling, stir the couscous into the saucepan, remove from heat, and cover.
  • Allow the couscous to sit covered for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff the couscous using a fork.
  • Stir in the cooked mushrooms and parsley.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Sweet Treats

Recipe—Strawberry Cream Crumb Bars

Recipe—Strawberry Cream Crumb Bars

It’s summertime and I have strawberries on my mind! I could eat strawberry anything but these Strawberry Cream Crumb Bars are really something else. Growing up I loved loved LOVED those strawberry shortcake frozen dessert bars that have the crumbly shortbread coating on the outside. Anyone else ever have those? This simple recipe is those embodied in a dessert bar. Crumbly buttery cookie exterior with a sweet and creamy center. These are a perfect summer treat that everyone will love!

Note: These are delicious with any flavor of pie filling so feel free to use your favorite! These cut great with a pizza cutter when cooled. 

INGREDIENTS
1 c brown sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter, melted
1 c sour cream
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c strawberry pie filling

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with foil and spray with some nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Drizzle the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. (The dough should be crumbly.)
  • Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the crumbly dough for the topping and press the remaining dough edge to edge into the bottom of the foil lined baking dish.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until evenly combined.
  • Spread the cream filling over the crust.
  • Place dollops of the strawberry pie filling over the cream.
  • Using a spoon, gently swirl the pie filling and the cream together making sure not to over mix.
  • Sprinkle the remaining dough crumbs over the top evenly.
  • Bake for 25–30 minutes or until the tops begin to brown and the center is set.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely in the baking dish.
  • Once the bars have cooled, lift the bars by the foil out of the baking dish, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into squares.
  • Store the bars in the fridge until ready to serve.
Appetizers, Side Dishes

Recipe—Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame

Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame

You know how you have some food items that you literally just cannot get enough of? Like, you would eat every bit of it if you weren’t sharing and then when it is all gone you are using your fingers to get every last drop out of the bottom of the dish. That is me with this Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame. I literally would lick the bowl clean like a 5-year-old does with their ice cream bowl if I could get my tongue to the bottom of it. Too graphic? Sorry! The sauce is just so freaking good! It has just the right amount of heat that you feel a little burn but the creaminess of the sauce helps to tame it and you just keep going back for more.

I have been making this recipe a lot lately. It is a quick (I am talking less than 10 minutes start to finish) and easy side dish that goes great when I am making a stir fry or big batch of ramen but it also makes an awesome snack. Edamame is high in protein and fiber and is rich in vitamins and minerals, plus it is just fun to eat. It is probably a good thing that they have a shell because that is the only thing that slows me down when I have a bowl of these in front of me. 😉

INGREDIENTS
14 oz bag of frozen edamame in pods
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp chili paste (Sambal Oelek is my go to)
1/4 mayonnaise
1 tbsp soy sauce
sea salt

STEPS

  • Prepare the edamame per the package instructions, drain, and transfer to a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, sesame oil, chili paste, mayonnaise, and soy sauce.
  • Pour the sauce over the edamame and toss to coat.
  • Transfer to a serving dish a sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Brunch

Recipe—Chocolate Chip Scones

Chocolate Chip Scone

I can’t remember if I have brought it up on this blog before or not, but one of my first jobs in high school was working at a little mom and pop owned coffee shop in my small town. I loved it! So much so, that I frequently ponder what it would be like to throw my career out the window and open my own little coffee shop. There was just something so touching about being part of someone’s morning. Pretty much everyone was a regular and I knew what they did for work every day, I knew their families, and almost 20 years later I still remember several of their orders. I kind of have a crazy memory like that. LOL

While I started out as a barista for the first couple of months, I actually got the opportunity to start baking on the weekends too. I loved it! I would go in at 5 am on Saturday and Sunday mornings, crank up the radio, and had the whole kitchen to myself. I would bake dozens of assorted muffins, croissants, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and some of my favorite items were the scones. Chocolate chip scones to be exact. You have not lived if you have not had a scone fresh out of the oven. If they are done right, they are crumbly on the outside and just a little doughy in the middle, have just the right amount of density, and are a little sweet, but not too sweet (unless they are savory scones).

Scones are the perfect thing to make for special occasions, or even just on a lazy Sunday around the house. Making these for my family the other weekend brought back so many memories of that coffee shop. It is amazing how certain food can do that.

So, what food item do you associate with certain memories or a time in your life? Share in the comments below. I would love to hear from you. 😀

INGREDIENTS
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 c mini chocolate chips
3/4 c heavy cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  • Add the cubed butter to the mix and using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients. (The mixture should become very crumbly with no large chunks of butter remaining.)
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • In a small separate bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg, and vanilla.
  • Add the wet ingredient to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Transfer the dough mix to a cutting board and using your hands form the dough into an 8-inch circle.
  • Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 8 evenly sized triangles.
  • Brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream and then transfer to the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 14–17 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown.
Appetizers, Dinners

Recipe—Loaded Korean Beef Fries

Recipe—Loaded Korean Beef Fries

If your mouth isn’t watering just looking at this pic, then you must be dead. And if you are doing everything you can to keep from drooling on your keyboard or phone, then please, give this recipe a try. You will have no regrets. Absolutely calorie worthy.

This is actually a copycat version of the Loaded Korean BBQ Beef Fries from my favorite local food truck, Turnt Up Tacos and Tortas. The first time I had them, I was HOOOOOOKED!

I start off with a base of thin crispy fries and cover them in finely shredded jack cheese and then pile on a mound of my sweet and spicy Korean Beef and then top that with a cabbage and carrot-based coleslaw made with a creamy sesame ginger sauce and then don’t forget about that spicy sriracha drizzled over the top to give it a kick. The flavors are so freaking good, I tell ya! Mmmmm… mmmmm… mmmmmmmmm!

I have actually started serving this as a meal in my house with each person getting their own plate of loaded fries (yes, loaded fries as a meal, it even has most of the food groups) but you could absolutely make one big pile of loaded fries and share them with friends as an appetizer or shared plate.

Note: The sesame oil and ginger paste go in both the Korean beef as well as the creamy sesame ginger sauce so pay close attention when preparing.

INGREDIENTS
bag of frozen french fries
1 lb ground beef
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tbsp & 1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger paste, divided
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
3 c green cabbage, shredded
1/2 c carrots, shredded
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 tsp white sugar
1/4 c milk
2 c jack cheese, shredded
Sriracha sauce
2 green onions, chopped
sesame seeds

STEPS

  • Bake or fry the French fries according to the package directions.
  • While the fries are baking, cook the ground beef over medium high heat breaking it apart as it cooks.
  • Once the beef is cooked through, drain off most of the fat.
  • Add in the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger paste, red peppers, salt, and pepper.
  • Simmer over medium heat for a 4–5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • While the beef is cooking, put the cabbage and carrots in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, white sugar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the other 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste, and the milk to make the creamy sesame ginger sauce.
  • Toss about 3/4 of the creamy sesame ginger sauce with the cabbage and carrots and set aside the rest to drizzle over the top.
  • When the fries are done transfer them to the plates.
  • Top each pile of fries with the jack cheese, cooked Korean beef, and the coleslaw.
  • Drizzle the remaining creamy sesame ginger sauce and sriracha sauce over the top.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and finish off with green onions.
Brunch

Recipe—Strawberry Pop Tarts

Recipe—Strawberry Pop Tarts

Growing up, eating pop tarts was part of my morning school routine. They were quick and easy to throw in the toaster and chow down on as you were headed out the door. I thought they were the best! Now as a parent, I buy them for my son. Don’t go get all judgey on me here. He doesn’t eat them every day. I am a working parent with limited time in the morning and it is a child’s rite of passage to eat pop tarts. LOL

Recipe—Strawberry Pop Tarts

A couple of weeks ago I asked for a bite of his and I just have to say, they were not all that I had remembered them to be. Clearly my standards of quality food have changed over time. I started to think of what goes into a pop tart and realized I could easily make a copy cat version of my own. They were so simple and relatively quick to make. I literally just used refrigerated pie crust from the store and some strawberry jam and made a simple icing using powdered sugar mixed with a little water and vanilla. So basic and so easy!

It was fun to spend a lazy morning recreating something from my childhood and let me just tell you, they were so good, like way better than I would have ever imagined! Let’s be real, this is actually like eating pie for breakfast. The crust was so flaky and lite and the jam and frosting were the exact amount of sweet you would want for breakfast. Plus, they were just as good the next day and they looked super cute in my cake stand on the counter.

Next up, homemade toaster strudels!

Recipe—Strawberry Pop Tarts

Notes:

  • I was able to make a total of 8 finished pop tarts using the two pie crusts. I was able to cut out a total of 16 3” x 4” rectangles, 8 from each crust.
  • You can obviously use any flavor of jam you would like. I was a strawberry pop tart girl, so that’s what I went with. You do you.
  • The frosting will set on these within a couple of minutes of frosting so be sure and add sprinkles right after applying frosting to each..
  • Do not reheat your pop tarts by putting them in the toaster! They are delicious at room temperature, even the next day.

INGREDIENTS
1 package (2 sheets) of refrigerated piecrust at room temperature (I used Pillsbury)
flour (for dusting)
1 c seedless strawberry jam
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
water
sprinkles

STEPS

  • Cut out a rectangle template using cardstock or paper that is 3” x 4”. (You will use this as a template to cut out rectangles from the pie crust that are all the same shape and size.)
  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Dust a little flour over a large cutting board or work surface to help keep the pie crust from sticking when you are rolling it out.
  • Lay out one of your pie crusts on the floured surface and roll it out until it is 1/8” thick.
  • Place the cardstock rectangle template on the rolled-out pie crust and, using a knife, cut around the edges of it. Repeat this until you have gotten as many 3” x 4” rectangles as you can, transferring each one to the baking sheet as you finish them.
  • Take the scraps and roll them into a ball and roll that out to get more if you can. (I was able to get six initially and then rolled out the scraps to get two more, for a total of  eight.)
  • Place about 2 tablespoons of jam in the center of each rectangle and spread it out slightly leaving about 1/3” of clear space around all 4 edges. (If your jam is thick and hard to spread, warm it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and stir it.)
  • Roll out and cut the second pie crust in the same manner as you did the first placing the second batch of rectangles on top of the jam.
  • Use your fingers to gently press around the edges to help create a seal between the two layers of crust.
  • Next, use a fork to crimp around the outside edges and poke 3 sets of holes down the center. This will keep the jam from leaking out the edges.
  • Bake for 12–15 minutes until they are all a nice golden brown.
  • Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 3–5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool for another 10–15 minutes.
  • While the pop tarts are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and the vanilla. Add additional water a little bit at a time as needed until your frosting is slightly runny and whisk until there are no longer any clumps.
  • Spoon the frosting onto each pop tart and add sprinkles immediately. The frosting will set really quickly once put on the pop tart.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Beverages

Recipe— Knock You Off Your Saddle Lemonade

Knock You Off Your Saddle LemonadeA couple of weeks ago for my Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown I mentioned that I made a big pitcher of Knock You Off Your Saddle Lemonade. It was exactly what I needed at the end of the week. This grown-up version of lemonade has a little hint of ginger, the perfect amount of bubbles, and then of course a nice vodka kick. It was so refreshing! It makes a generous amount so I actually ended up delivering mason jars to the doorsteps of some of my favorite local moms on that Friday night. Pretty sure we all needed it and I may or may not have had a few glasses myself that night as well.

Since the recipe makes a whole pitcher, it is perfect to sip on throughout a warm summer day in the garden or by the pool, or to serve up at your next BBQ.

Note: If you want to make this ahead of time, combine the ginger water, lemonade, and vodka in advance but hold off on adding the ginger ale, sliced lemons, and ice to the pitcher until right before serving. You don’t want it getting watered down or for your ginger ale to go flat.

INGREDIENTS
small piece of fresh ginger (about 2″ in length), peeled and thinly sliced
2 c water
1 can (12 oz) of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
4 1/2 c ginger ale
1 1/2 c vodka
lemon slices
ice

STEPS

  • Put the sliced ginger and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Cover the saucepan and remove from heat.
  • Allow the water and ginger to steep for 30–45 minutes.
  • Remove the ginger and set the ginger flavored water aside.
  • In a large pitcher, combine the ginger water, lemonade concentrate, ginger ale, and vodka and stir well.
  • Add in the lemon slices and a generous amount of ice.
  • Serve and enjoy!