Recipe—Basil Pesto

I use pesto on a fairly regular basis but I have yet to ever make it on my own. I usually just buy the little tubs in the fresh pasta section at the grocery store because let’s face it, it is so much easier than making your own! Making it from scratch has certainly been on my “to do” list and since my basil plant just reached about 3 feet tall I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did! No store bought pesto can ever compare and it really ended up being much easier than I ever anticipated. This pesto was so good my son and I were licking the rubber spatula! I kid you not. It was quite the site. This pesto is great with your favorite pasta, as a pizza sauce, or even as a sandwich spread. Give it a try, you will find it is completely worth it!

Note: While the pesto is best fresh you can also store it in the fridge or freezer. If you decide to do this put the pesto in an airtight container and pour a 1/2” of olive oil on the top to preserve it. It helps keep it from becoming discolored.

INGREDIENTS
6 c fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
1/2 c pine nuts
1 c olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 c fresh parmesan, shredded (use the good stuff!)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

STEPS

  • Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice in a blender.
  • Blend until a nice thick paste is formed. You may need to stop and stir periodically. Add more olive oil if needed.
  • Add in the parmesan, salt, and pepper and blend until nice and smooth.
Advertisements

Recipe—Plum Crisp

I have been getting lots of purple plums in my produce boxes this summer and that has resulted in me having fun creating delicious plum desserts. I think I finally have one worth sharing, a tart plum crisp! The sweet crunchy crisp perfectly complements the tartness of the plum filling. Having an oat based topping makes this the perfect breakfast appropriate dessert. It really is like eating a warm bowl of oatmeal with baked plums. That’s right, I’m encouraging you to eat dessert for breakfast. You only live once after all!

Note: If you don’t have any fresh plums, or they are out of season, you can replace the fresh plums with two 15 oz cans of purple plums. Just be sure to remove the pits and drain them.

INGREDIENTS
10–12 sliced plums
1/2 c juice of choice (cranberry, pomegranate, or apple juice are great)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 c oats
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp light corn syrup

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • In a large saucepan, combine fruit juice, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch and mix until smooth.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat stirring frequently.
  • Add in plums and continue cooking and stirring for 1–2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  • Mix in butter and corn syrup until mixture is crumbly.
  • Place plum mixture into in a small baking dish. (9” pie dish or square pyrex are perfect size.)
  • Top plums with the crumb topping.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve warm or cold, and don’t forget the scoop of ice cream!

Recipe—Pear and Gorgonzola Crostini

Summer has just come to an end and that means pears are in season. Here is a great appetizer that will help get you in the mood for fall. It’s really elegant and really easy, perfect for a romantic night in or a night of wine tasting! The flavors aren’t ones you might think to typically use together but they really do complement one another nicely. Once you eat these warm delights you will be in the mood to throw on a scarf and go pumpkin picking. Welcome fall!

INGREDIENTS
1/2 c cream cheese, softened
1/2 c Gorgonzola
1/4 c butter, softened
baguette, sliced into 1/2” thick slices
2 pears, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 c pecans, chopped
2 tbsp rosemary. chopped
1/4 c honey

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • In a small bowl combine cream cheese, Gorgonzola, and butter.
  • Spread a thin layer of the cheese spread on each baguette slice.
  • Place one or two pear slices on top of the cheese.
  • Top pears with some crushed pecans and sprinkle rosemary on the top.
  • Place the prepared baguette slices on a greased cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 7–8 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and drizzle with honey.

Recipe—Pork Chops with Apples and Stuffing

Fall is just around the corner and I can taste it. Literally! I have been in the mood for fall for a couple weeks now and I’m loving all the seasonal recipes, this one especially. It is a seared pork chopped topped with apple pie filling and stuffing and finished of fin the oven to give the stuffing just a little bit of crunchiness. It goes great with some mashed potatoes and green beans. This is an all time fall favorite in our house and I love that it is really quick and easy. I use a little bit of cinnamon and rosemary to bring in some bold flavors. It’s like having apple pie with a side of pork for diner. What’s not to love!?!

INGREDIENTS
4 boneless pork chops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 c water
4 tbsp butter
6 oz box Stove Top pork stuffing
2 tbsp olive oil
21 oz can apple pie filling
cinnamon

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Season the pork chops with the garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  • Place the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the stuffing, cover, and set aside.
  • In a large skillet heat up the olive oil and sear the pork chops over medium high heat for 3–4 minutes on each side.
  • Place the seared pork chops in a baking dish.
  • Top pork chops with apple pie filling and place any extra around the pork chops in the baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Uncover the stuffing and gently fluff with a fork.
  • Place a mound of stuffing on top of each pork chop and put any extra around the chops in the baking dish.
  • Cover and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove foil and cook for an addition 10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Recipe—Personal Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

Pineapple upside down cake is one of those traditional all American classics that has been around forever, well at least since the 1920s. These personal versions are great for entertaining a small group and so easy to whip up and serve. One of the many great things about this recipe is that you can keep the items stocked in your pantry and whip these up in a very short amount of time. They are quick and so incredibly easy to make. I made them for our dinner party the other night and they were a real hit. My husband said he could have kept eating them and my 2-year-old son liked them so much he didn’t even have an interest in the ice cream I served with it. He just wanted the cake, or as he called it, “birthday.”

Note: This recipe is written to make 6 personal cakes using a Texas muffin pan. If you don’t own one of these you can use a standard muffin pan and substitute pineapple rings with pineapple chunks and adjust the baking time to 17–20 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
2/3 c sugar
4 tbsp pineapple juice (use the stuff in your can of pineapple rings)
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c butter
2/3 c brown sugar
1-20 oz can pineapple rings
maraschino cherries

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a medium mixing bowl beat together eggs, sugar, pineapple juice, and vanilla.
  • Using a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones and set aside.
  • In a small saucepan melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar until almost dissolved.
  • Grease a 6-cup Texas muffin pan.
  • Evenly distribute the brown sugar sauce in each cup.
  • Place a pineapple ring in the bottom of each muffin cup and a cherry in the center of the pineapple ring.
  • Pour the cake mixture into each cup until there is none left. They will probably be about 3/4 of the way full.
  • Place muffin pan in oven and bake for 22–25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
  • Allow to sit for 3 minutes.
  • Place a cutting board over the top of the muffin pan and quickly flip the muffin pan upside down.
  • If the mini cakes don’t release from the pan lightly tap the pan with a rubber spatula until it releases.
  • Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Contest Time!

Who’s ready for a contest?!?! In honor of my Facebook page hitting 100 likes it’s time to celebrate with a contest! I’m giving away these über cute cupcake measuring spoons! Every cook needs to have a nice set of measuring spoons, and with you these you will be cooking in style!

Here’s how the contest works. You have to do 2 things to be entered:
  1. Like my Diva di Cucina Facebook page. (If you already do, consider this easy step done!) https://www.facebook.com/DivaDiCucina
  2. Cook one of my recipes, take a picture, and post it to the Diva di Cucina Facebook page. This is not a photo contest so don’t worry about quality! Be sure to identify what recipe it is that you cooked. OR If you don’t want to deal with uploading a pic you can comment on 5 recipes that I have shared here on my blog. That gives you two possible ways to win! If you do both of these options then you will be entered into the drawing twice! Why not go ahead and double your chances?

Once you do both of these steps your name will be entered into a drawing and one winner will be selected to win this fabulous prize valued at $20! The only rules are that you must complete both of the above steps by Sunday, September 30 at midnight (that gives you 2 full weeks!) and you have to be a current resident of the United States.

A winner will be announced on Monday, October 1. I will contact the winner directly to get your mailing address to send you your prize. Can’t wait to hear your comments and see your pics! Best of luck to all of you!

Recipe—Jalapeño Popper Chicken

Today is the 5th and final day of my hot & spicy week! My jalapeño plant has been giving me more peppers than I know what to do with so this week I will be featuring five different jalapeño based recipes. I hope you enjoy each and every one! 

One of my all time favorite appetizers has got to be jalapeño poppers. I pretty much like anything with jalapeños but when you combine them with cream cheese and cheddar, oh my, it is good! This dinner recipe combines this awesome appetizer with a meaty chicken breast that ends up being so moist and tender. For this recipe I used crushed Ritz because I really like the crunchy buttery exterior but I really want to try it with Cheez-Its instead next time. I think that would be pretty darn tasty giving it that extra layer of cheesy crispiness.

Note: As much as I like my fried chicken this recipe has you bake it. If you aren’t concerned about cutting the extra calories you can certainly fry it up and then finish it in the oven for an even crispier exterior.

INGREDIENTS
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 jalapeños, deseeded and chopped
1/4 c cream cheese, softened
1/2 c cheddar, shredded
1 egg
1 1/2 c crushed Ritz crackers

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, cheddar, and peppers.
  • Using a small sharp knife carefully cut a pocket into the side of the thickest part of the chicken breasts.
  • Using your fingers work the cream cheese filling inside each breasts until they are packed full.
  • Secure the opening in each breast with a toothpick
  • Using a shallow bowl beat the egg.
  • Dip the chicken pieces into the egg and then the crushed crackers making sure to cover the chicken completely.
  • Place the chicken breasts in a greased baking dish.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. The cheese filling will be very hot!

Recipe—Crock-Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Today is day 4 of my hot & spicy week! My jalapeño plant has been giving me more peppers than I know what to do with so this week I will be featuring five different jalapeño based recipes. I hope you enjoy each and every one! 

This is everything you could ever hope for in a soup recipe. Quick, easy, and delicious! I love using my crock-pot. Not only because it makes dinner a total breeze but also because the house smells so incredibly good when you get home from work. If you are a fan of Mexican food then you will enjoy this. It’s not too mild, and it’s not too spicy, it’s just right. This soup is thick and creamy and warms you from the belly out. Try it with some of my jalapeño cheddar corn bread muffins for a perfect dinner. Heck now that I think about it, it would be perfect for some Monday night football this fall!

Note: If the soup is too thick for your liking add a splash of milk to the crock-pot before serving. If you have leftovers put it in a freezer safe container and save it for a rainy day. It reheats great!

INGREDIENTS
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
15 oz can whole kernel corn
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
2 chicken breasts
10 oz can enchilada sauce (I’m a fan of Las Palmas)
10.75 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 c milk

GREAT GARNISHES
shredded cheese
sliced avocado
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips

STEPS

  • In a large crock-pot combine black beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and peppers.
  • Place chicken breasts on top of veggies.
  • In a medium-mixing bowl whisk together enchilada sauce, soup, and milk.
  • Pour sauce mixture into the crock-pot.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 7–8 hours or on high for 3–4.
  • Remove chicken and using 2 forks shred into bite size pieces
  • Add chicken back into soup and continue to cook covered on low heat for another 25–30 minutes.
  • Serve in large soup bowls and top with some of the suggested garnishes.

Recipe—Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread Muffins

Today is day 3 of my hot & spicy week! My jalapeño plant has been giving me more peppers than I know what to do with so this week I will be featuring five different jalapeño based recipes. I hope you enjoy each and every one! 

Looking for a quick and easy side dish you can serve with your bowl of chili this coming winter? This is a great recipe I have been making for years. This takes the typical corn bread muffin and gives it a little extra kick.  In my opinion, there is no better complement to a fresh jalapeño than cheese. These go great with a spicy rubbed steak and some grilled veggies or even a side of your favorite soup. They are incredibly easy to make since you’re taking a box mix and just spicing it up with a couple simple ingredients. Perfect for busy moms, or dads, short on time.

Note: You can use any corn bread mix you prefer. I just really like Marie Callender’s. These proportions are perfect for a mix that makes a dozen muffins. You also don’t have to use the muffin pan liners as the recipe is written. I just find that sometimes the cheese adheres to the muffin pan and can make it difficult to get the little rascals out when they aren’t used.

INGREDIENTS
Marie Callender’s Original Corn Bread Mix, 16 oz
water
1 1/4 c shredded cheddar, divided
1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced
muffin cup liners (optional)

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Prepare corn bread mix according to instructions.
  • Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar and the diced jalapeños, making sure not to over mix.
  • Prepare muffin pan with liner cups and evenly distribute the muffin mix in each cup filling up about 2/3 of the way.
  • Top each muffin with a slice of jalapeño and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar on top of each.
  • Bake for 20–25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

Recipe—Shrimp Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cream Sauce

Today is day 2 of my hot & spicy week! My jalapeño plant has been giving me more peppers than I know what to do with so this week I will be featuring five different jalapeño based recipes. I hope you enjoy each and every one!

Looking to add some spice to your life? These shrimp enchiladas will do the trick! While the enchilada filling has a good kick to it, the jalapeño cream sauce balances out the heat nicely giving the enchilada a cooling creamy exterior. I love that these are packed with some serious veggies. The sweetness from the corn goes great with the roasted shrimp. It is probably one of my favorite flavor combinations. While these are a little more time consuming to make they are well worth it! Enjoy!

Note: I would like to advise that these do pack a bit of heat so beware. You can leave out the chipotle peppers and add a teaspoon of chili powder to tone it down if spicy isn’t for you.

ENCHILADA FILLING INGREDIENTS
2 lbs medium shrimp, cleaned and peeled
4 tbsp olive oil (divided)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 c shredded carrots
8 oz canned corn, drained
5 c baby spinach
8–10 tortillas
2 c jack cheese, shredded

JALAPENO CREAM SAUCE INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c chicken broth
3/4 c sour cream
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (I used 1 red and 1 green)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Place cleaned shrimp on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss to coat.
  • Place sheet in oven and bake for 8 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350º.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or wok.
  • Add the garlic and onion and cook over medium high heat until onions are translucent.
  • Toss the peppers, oregano, carrots, corn, and spinach into the skillet and cook until the spinach just begins to wilt and reduce heat to low.
  • While the filling mixture is cooking cut the shrimp into bite size pieces.
  • Add the shrimp to the skillet and toss to combine.
  • Remove skillet from heat.
  • In a large saucepan melt the butter and whisk in the flour until light gold in color.
  • Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and cook until simmering.
  • Stir in the sour cream, jalapeños, and garlic powder and simmer until nice and thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.
  • Warm the tortillas a couple at a time and place on a large flat surface.
  • Place a scoop of the shrimp filling on each tortilla and top with cheese.
  • Roll up each enchilada and place seam side down in a greased baking dish. Repeat this step until the shrimp filling is gone.
  • Pour the jalapeño cream sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas.
  • Put finished enchiladas in the oven and bake until tortillas are golden on the edges, about 20 minutes.