Recipe—Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Summer is approaching and that means its BBQ and party season! Whoop whoop! We seem to attend and host so many great BBQs and parties throughout the summer and I am always jumping at the chance to make something that will really wow people. However, I don’t always have the time to throw together a fancy smancy dish. This black bean and corn salsa has been a go to recipe of mine for years now and people always love it! It is completely different and super easy to make.

I pretty much keep all the canned ingredients in my pantry year round because you never know what will come up and when you may suddenly need an appetizer to bring. And a huge plus is it makes a lot, so I always leave a little extra at home to keep for myself for later on. I’m greedy like that. And if I haven’t already convinced you to try it, another plus is it stays good for at least a week in the fridge.

This salsa goes great just served with some chips but I have also found it is amazing in a baked potato, in a quesadilla, stuffed in an omelet, or even along side some grilled chicken or steak. Seriously, super versatile. Okay, now I am getting hungry and need a reason to go make some of this. Fiesta anyone?

I hope you enjoy this awesome recipe as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS
2 (8 oz) cans of Rotel Tomatoes and Chilies
1 (14 oz) can of Mexicorn (Mexican style corn)
1 (16 oz) can black beans
1 (4 oz) can green chilies
1 c diced sweet onion
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and peppers to taste

STEPS

  • Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir.
  • Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. (Yes, it is seriously that easy.)
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Recipe—Alfredo Sauce

DivaDiCucina_AlfredoSauce

One of my son’s first favorite foods was cheese tortellini smothered in alfredo sauce. I personally love alfredo sauce over fettuccine noodles and served with a grilled chicken breast and some broccoli. Either way alfredo sauce is a great indulgence to enjoy anytime. Who doesn’t love the thick creamy Italian cheese sauce over their favorite pasta? It is popular with people of all ages and can be extremely versatile. I have even used it as a white pizza sauce or poured over a baked potato. Homemade alfredo sauce is actually really easy and quick to make and so worth it. The quality does not compare to anything store bought. Give it a try! It will be a home run with the whole family!

Note: If you want a high quality sauce equal to that of one served in a restaurant (or better) use high quality ingredients. I recommend getting a fresh ball of mozzarella and a block of Parmesan over in the deli. You will notice the difference! Kraft will leave it gritty and we want it to be smooth.

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/3 c white wine
2 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 c parmesan cheese, shredded
3/4 c mozzarella cheese, shredded

STEPS

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and add olive oil.
  • Add the garlic and sauté for 1–2 minutes.
  • Carefully pour in the wine and heat until it begins to simmer.
  • Stir in the heavy cream and the white pepper and bring to a simmer stirring often.
  • Add in the Parmesan cheese and simmer for 8–10 minutes. By this point the sauce should be smooth and start to thicken.
  • Add the mozzarella cheese and stir frequently until smooth and completely incorporated.
  • Reduce heat to low and begin cooking your noodle of choice while the sauce simmers and continues to thicken.
  • Remove sauce from the stovetop and allow it to sit for a few minutes. It will thicken up a bit more.
  • Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

Recipe—Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

We have all probably bought an envelope of premade taco seasoning at the store one time or another. I used to get it almost weekly being that tacos are a regular dinner item in our house. One night I was out of the conveniently prepackaged mix and went into panic mode. Then I realized I probably already have all those same ingredients in my pantry. It took some finagling but this recipe is what I came up with. It turned out great! It probably has less sodium and fewer preservatives than what I was buying at the store. Best of all, it is cheaper to make your own. And who doesn’t like saving money these days?

Beef Tacos

Note:  This seasoning is great for chicken or beef. This proportion is for 1 lb worth of meat. Feel free to make a quadruple batch or more so that you have it ready to go in the future. If you make a large batch, use 3 heaping tablespoons of the premade seasoning per one pound of meat.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, add if you like it on the spicy side)

STEPS

  • Put all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix.
  • Cook one pound of meat in a large skillet until almost completely cooked.
  • Add in 1/4 cup of water and the mixed seasoning.
  • Continue to cook until meat is done and the liquid is cooked off.

Recipe—Peppercorn Crusted Steak with Bourbon Cream Sauce

Usually when we have steak in our house my hubby does his magic on the grille. The other weekend he was taking his first of many architectural exams. I wanted to surprise him with a nice steak fit for a king to reward him for all his hard work, without having him fire up the barbie. These really turned out to be some great skillet cooked steaks. The sauce was rich and creamy and really dresses up what is already a fabulous cut of meat. This recipe is perfect for a romantic dinner in or a special indulgence.

STEAK INGREDIENTS
2 New York steaks, rib eyes, or filets
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp yellow onion, minced
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 c beef broth
1/2 c heavy whipping cream

STEAK STEPS

  • Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper making sure to rub it in.
  • Heat a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat.
  • Carefully add the steaks to the pan and cook for 4–5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and flip the steaks.
  • Cook the steaks for another 4–5 minutes.
  • Transfer the steaks to a large plate and cover with foil.

SAUCE STEPS

  • Add oil to the skillet the steaks were cooked in.
  • Add garlic, onions, and peppercorns to the skillet and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.
  • Carefully add the bourbon to the pan to deglaze. It may ignite so stand back and poor in slowly.
  • Use a whisk to stir and break up all the bits in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the beef broth and the heavy cream to the pan and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Turn heat to low and simmer.
  • Cook sauce for 3–5 minutes until it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  • Plate the steaks and pour the sauce over the top of them.

Recipe—Shrimp Taco Cups with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce

 

The other night we were going to a friend’s house for a Mexican feast and I was put on appetizer duty. I wanted something besides plain ol’ bean dip that I could make ahead of time and assemble there, something light, refreshing, and elegant with a Mexican flare. These bite size shrimp taco cups were perfect! I must admit the sauce totally makes this dish. It is sooooo good! I think I will be making it in the future as a salad dressing. It would be great with a spicy chicken breast over a bed of greens. It just has so many flavors and each ingredient really shines through. Enjoy!

Note: Since these had to travel I was able to cook the won ton cups and shrimp at home and assemble them at my friend’s house. These are perfect if you are hosting a social gathering since all the prep can be done ahead of time and just quickly assembled once your guests arrive, which means more time for socializing! Perfect for the upcoming holidays.

CREAMY CILANTRO LIME SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
2 tbsp milk
2 oz. canned diced green chilies
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

SHRIMP CUP INGREDIENTS
24 small won ton wrappers
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
24 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 lime
1 c shredded cabbage

STEPS

  • To make the sauce combine all sauce ingredients except the cilantro in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Add in cilantro and pulse until combined.
  • Refrigerate sauce until ready to use.
  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Lightly brush wonton wrappers with olive oil and arrange in a mini muffin pan making sure to press down flat in the bottoms.
  • Bake for 5–7 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  • Toss the shrimp with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt, and chili powder.
  • Roast shrimp on a baking sheet in the oven for 6–8 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Remove shrimp from oven and squeeze the juice from the lime over the shrimp.
  • To assemble fill each wonton cup with a bit of shredded cabbage, add a spoonful of the sauce, and top with one shrimp.

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.

Recipe—Chinese Chicken Meatballs with a Sesame Garlic Hoisin Sauce

I saw a recipe for Asian meatballs made with pork and beef the other day and I thought that a great way to cut some of the calories would be to make something similar but with ground chicken. Two of my son’s favorite meals are chicken teriyaki and spaghetti with meatballs. You should have seen the size of his eyes when I told him we were having Chinese chicken meatballs. His eyes got really big and his mouth dropped open. I think he was excited for the marriage of two of his fave dishes. He really liked the sauce and gobbled dinner up. I served these over rice with steamed veggies but they would also make an excellent appetizer. I must admit the sauce really makes this recipe. It has so many different flavors in it. It really gets your taste buds going. This recipe is fairly quick and very easy. With the number of meatballs it makes it ended up being enough for two dinners so I have some in the freezer ready for a quick and easy dinner in a few weeks.

Note: Toss the cooked meatballs in a crock-pot and double up the sauce, heat on low and you have an awesome and healthy appetizer that will stay warm for hours.

MEATBALL INGREDIENTS
2 lbs ground chicken
2 tsp sesame oil
2 c panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c green onions, thinly sliced
salt
sesame seeds and sliced green onions for garnish

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
2/3 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground ginger

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • In a large bowl, mix together all meatball ingredients until well combined.
  • Using an oversized spoon scoop about a ¼ cup worth of the meat mixture and shape into round meatballs. (Mine end up being about 1 1/4″ in diameter. This will yield about 28–32 meatballs.)
  • Place the formed meatballs in a large lightly greased baking dish.
  • Bake for 20–25 minutes or until balls are lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside.
  • While your meatballs are baking put all your sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until well blended.
  • Pour the sauce over the hot meatballs and garnish with additional sliced green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

Recipe—Beef Wellington with a Red Wine Mushroom Gravy

Beef wellington with mashed potatoes covered in red wine mushroom gravy and green bean bacon bundles

Still trying to rack your brain about what you will be cooking up your sweetie for Valentine’s Day? If you’re looking for a meal sure to impress, search no further. Beef wellington is very elegant and full of flavor. This has become my favorite dinner for special occasions. It is certainly a little more time consuming to make, but it is relatively easy and well worth it. I was skeptical of the liver pate at first, but paired with mushrooms and fresh herbs, the flavor is rich and fabulous. If you have never had a “foodgasm,” this will certainly cause you to have your first.  My husband and I were moaning through the entire dinner when I made it for the first time.

Note: This dish can be made with individual beef filets if you are unable to find a small tenderloin roast. You can prepare the pastry wrapped meat a day ahead of time for an effortless meal.

BEEF INGREDIENTS
2–3 lb beef tenderloin roast
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c butter
4 tbsp brandy
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 (4 ounce) can liver pate
2 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY INGREDIENTS
1/4 c yellow onion, minced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 c red wine
1 (10 1/2 oz) can beef broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

PASTRY INGREDIENTS
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets at room temperature
1 egg, beaten

BEEF STEPS

  • Rub roast with garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Melt butter in large skillet.
  • Sear the roast in skillet over medium-high heat for 4–5 minutes on each side.
  • Pour brandy over the roast and be sure to evenly coat it. (Flame brandy if you are comfortable with doing so.)
  • Remove roast from pan and set aside uncovered.
  • In the same skillet, sauté chopped mushrooms for 4­–5 minutes and set aside. Allow mushrooms to cool for a few minutes.
  • Mix pate with cooled mushrooms, green onions, and parsley.

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY STEPS

  • Over medium heat, sauté yellow onion and sliced mushrooms using the same skillet.
  • Stir in flour and gradually add wine, broth, and bay leaf.
  • Stir until sauce bubbles and is thickened.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

PASTRY STEPS

  • Roll out pastry sheet and spread your pate mixture evenly leaving a one-inch border around the edge.
  • Place the cooked roast at one end of the pastry sheet and roll away from you.
  • Fold in the ends of the pastry being sure that the entire roast is covered.
  • Place seam side down on a cookie sheet or in a Pyrex dish.
  • Using the second sheet of puff pastry, finish off your wrapped roast with decorative elements if you’d like. I recommend using a festive cookie cutter. This extra step yields impressive results. Dough can be attached using beaten egg.
  • Brush pastry with the beaten egg.
  • Bake at 425º for 20–25 minutes, or until pastry is browned.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Transfer to cutting board and allow to rest for 3–4 minutes.
  • Slice roast and serve.

Recipe—Mango Salsa

I have traveled to the Hawaiian Islands several times and I can’t even begin to describe how incredible the regional cuisine is. Hawaii is known for it’s tropical fruits grown in rich volcanic soil and some of the best quality fish in the world. Every time I make this vibrant colored salsa it takes me back to the islands. It goes great served with just tortilla chips, but pairs incredibly well with grilled fish, shrimp tacos, and crab cakes. Another favorite way to dish it up is over warmed Brie served with Triscuits. It may seem like more of a summer recipe, but I enjoy making it year round. Mix yourself up a refreshing Mai Tai and pretend like you are on an island getaway while you are enjoying this tropical treat.

INGREDIENTS
2 mangos, diced
1 jalapeño, diced (deseed the pepper if you don’t want it to be too hot)
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt

STEPS

  • Mix together mangos, jalapeño, red bell pepper, green onion, and cilantro.
  • In a separate small bowl mix together lemon juice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until sugar and salt are dissolved.
  • Pour liquid mixture over salsa and mix well.
  • Cover and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

See my crab cake recipe here for a great pairing for this mango salsa (skip the spicy remoulade if serving with the mango salsa):
https://divadicucina.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/recipe-crab-cakes-with-spicy-remoulade/

Recipe—Baked Sea Scallops with a Mushroom Cream Sauce

Baked sea scallops over pearled couscous with a mushroom cream sauce and sautéed spinach with crumbled baked prosciutto. 

I am a lover of all things seafood. Whenever I see seared scallops on a cooking show my mouth starts to water. They always look perfectly seared, and of course the professional chefs make it look so easy. Being a fan of scallops, I wondered why I had yet to ever cook them myself. I think it is the fear of cooking such an elegant piece of meat and ruining it. Over the weekend I was feeling adventurous and thought I would finally give it a shot.

This recipe turned out to be so easy and it looked like something out of a fancy restaurant. The scallops just melt in your mouth. The rich sauce paired really nicely with the scallops. In fact the sauce was so good I think it would pair well with beef or chicken too. I served my scallops over couscous, but I’m sure it would go just as well with rice or pasta. This sophisticated dish is perfect for your next date night. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped
10 small white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 c heavy cream
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 dashes hot sauce
14–20 large sea scallops, patted dry
1 c breadcrumbs (I use Texas Toast croutons coarsely crushed)
1/3 flat leaf parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Place an empty baking dish in oven and preheat oven to 400º.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the shallots and mushrooms, cook 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 tablespoons butter and flour to softened shallots and mushrooms and cook 1 minute then whisk in wine, reduce 30 seconds.
  • Add stock and bring to a bubble.
  • Stir in cream and heat through.
  • Season sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and a couple dashes hot sauce, and reduce heat to low.
  • Heat a skillet over high heat.
  • Season the scallops with salt and pepper and dress with 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • Sear the scallops to caramelize 1–1 1/2 minutes on each side.
  • Mix breadcrumbs with chopped parsley.
  • Transfer the seared scallops to the heated baking dish and cover them with sauce and your breadcrumb mixture.
  • Finish scallops in oven about 7–8 minutes until brown and bubbly.