Appetizers, Sauces

Recipe—Salsa Fresca

Last year in my garden we were harvesting more tomatoes than we knew what to do with! We were having Panzanella Salad and Marinated Tomatoes almost every week. Once my jalapenos came in, I was all about that fresh salsa! Who doesn’t love that fresh salsa flavor!? Store bought salsa just does not compare.

This recipe is pretty much goof proof. You just add all the ingredients to the blender and blend. Yes, it really is that simple!

Just serve up with a side of some crispy salty tortilla chips or along with your favorite tacos or burritos. 

Note: If you over blend your salsa, it can become sort of frothy. If this happens, just cover and store in the fridge for a couple of hours and it should settle. Fresh salsa can last in the fridge covered for up to two weeks. The flavors get better and better with time.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 white onion 
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 jalapeno 
4–6 medium sized tomatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves
juice from 1 lime
pinch of sugar (optional, to balance the acidity of the tomatoes)

STEPS

  • Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno to a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to chop.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend to desired consistency. 
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to really come together. (Optional)

This salsa goes great with the following recipes:

Beverages

Recipe—Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots

Recipe—Chocolate Chip Cookie Shots

‘Tis the season for indulging in tasty adult beverages and lots of fresh baked goodies. This time of year, I just love having a sweet night cap for dessert cuddled up next to the Christmas tree. Don’t get me wrong, I would honestly make these dessert shots any time of year. I actually made a big batch and served them for dessert at my party over the summer. They were a total hit paired up with a tray of chocolate chip cookies.

This is one of my favorite dessert shots. Every drop packs a punch and you get a nice little bit of cookie on the edge with each sip. This recipe makes two generous shots so there is one for you and one for a friend. Or even better, one for each hand. Enjoy! 

Note: If you don’t have chocolate vodka, you can substitute regular vodka. If you plan on making these for a party, you can pre mix the alcohol but do not put into the shot glasses until you are ready to serve. Otherwise your cookie edge can get a bit soggy.  

INGREDIENTS
1/2 oz Disaronno amaretto
3 oz Bailey’s irish cream
1 1/2 oz chocolate vodka
2 chocolate chip cookies, crushed for garnish
chocolate cake frosting (for rimming the glasses) or light corn syrup

STEPS

  • Put a tbsp chocolate frosting or light corn syrup in a small bowl and add the cookie crumbs to a small plate.
  • Dip the rim of a shot glass into the frosting/corn syrup and then the cookie crumbs to coat the edge. Repeat with the other glass.
  • Fill a shaker with ice and add the amaretto, Irish cream, and chocolate vodka. 
  • Shake well and strain into the prepared shot glasses.

Recipe adapted from Mantitlement.

Dinners

Recipe— Quesabirria Tacos

I follow a LOT of foodies on social media and over the last year I have seen this trend of people posting photos of these delicious looking meat and cheese filled tacos served up with a dish of red sauce for dipping. This delicious looking meal is called birria or quesabirria tacos and now it seems like you see them everywhere! I scoped out some of our local Mexican restaurants and could not find anywhere that had birria tacos on the menu, but I had to have them! Sooooo… to Pinterest I went! 

I found quite a few recipes out there and of course every one of them was different, but none of them had me sold. Being who I am, I picked and pulled elements from several different recipes and came up with my own recipe. 

I was absolutely thrilled with how these tacos turned out. The meat was flavorful and juicy and the broth was so rich and just the right amount of spicy. I served my husband, son, and I each up with three tacos to start with but we kept going back to the grill for another one, and another one, and another one until we were about to pop. These seriously lived up to all the hype. I can honestly say, these were not only the best tacos I have ever made, but also the best tacos I have ever eaten!

Note: These are relatively easy to make but time consuming since you slow cook the meat on the stovetop. It is the perfect recipe to make on a rainy Sunday while you watch some football and just want to indulge in some good food. 

BIRRIA INGREDIENTS
3 lbs short ribs (bone in)
1 large white onion skin removed, halved and cut into 1/2″ thick slices
1 garlic bulb with skin on, top cut off 
2 carrots, cut into quarters
5 bay leaves
8 dried guajillo chiles, stems cut off and seeds removed
3 chicken bouillon cubes
2 tsp chili powder 
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

TACO INGREDIENTS
corn tortillas
jack cheese, shredded
white onion, chopped
cilantro, chopped
cotija cheese, crumbled

STEPS

  • In a large pot add meat, onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves, and dried peppers and cover with water. 
  • Add the chicken bouillon, oregano, cumin, and salt.
  • Bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat.
  • After 30 minutes of cooking, skim any foam off the top of the water.
  • Remove the peppers, onions, and carrots and place them in a blender.
  • Squeeze the garlic cloves from the bulb into the blender and add 1 cup of the liquid from the pot.
  • Puree the ingredients in the blender until smooth. 
  • Pour the vegetable puree back into the pot.
  • Add the lid to the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 3 hours stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  • Transfer the meat and bones to a large cutting board. 
  • Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones.
  • Using two large forks, shred the meat and set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.
  • Dip a corn tortilla into the broth left in the pot and place the tortilla on the griddle. 
  • Top the tortilla with jack cheese, chopped meat, diced white onion, and some cilantro.
  • Fold the taco in half and press down with the back of a spatula.
  • Continue cooking until the tortilla is golden and cheese is melted, about 2–3 minutes.
  • Flip the taco and continue cooking the other side.
  • Transfer the tacos to a plate or serving dish as you finish them. 
  • Garnish the finished tacos with cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese. 
  • Ladle some of the broth into a ramekin and top with fresh onions and more cilantro and serve with the tacos. 
  • Dip the tacos into the broth and enjoy each and every sauce-soaked cheesy bite. 
Soups

Recipe—Zuppa Toscana 

I have been sitting on this recipe for months now just waiting for the right time of year to share. After getting record amounts of rain in Sacramento this last weekend and it FINALLY feeling like fall, I think we are finally ready for one of the best soup recipes ever! Now I can’t even take credit for this soup recipe. My friend made this Olive Garden “copycat” soup for me back in July when I was recovering from a medical procedure, and I was absolutely smitten. I had to ask for the recipe and made it for my family less than a week later. It is now a family fave. I just absolutely love that spicy sausage with the rich creamy broth and the loads of kale. (Not gonna lie, the kale makes me feel like I am eating healthy.)

Note: If you are watching your carbs you can easily leave out the potatoes for a fantastic low carb soup. 

INGREDIENTS

12 oz pack of bacon, chopped
16 oz hot Italian sausage, ground
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
64 oz chicken broth
5 medium potatoes, cubed into 1/2″ squares
2 bunches kale, stems removed and leave chopped
1 pint heavy cream
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan

STEPS

  • Add the bacon to a large pot and cook over medium-high heat.
  • When the bacon is cooked to desired doneness, remove it from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the sausage to the pot breaking it up as it cooks.
  • Once the sausage is cooked through, drain off most of the grease leaving about 1–2 tablespoons.
  • Add the chopped onions and garlic to the pot with the sausage and cook stirring occasionally until the onion starts to brown, about 5–6 minutes.
  • Add the broth and potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Simmer the soup for about 15–20 minutes or until the potatoes are just fork tender. 
  • Add the kale, cream, salt, and pepper to the pot and simmer for another 5–10 minutes. 
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and top with parmesan. 
Sweet Treats

Recipe—Banana Cream Pie Dip

Banana cream pie is one of my top 5 favorite desserts, maybe top 3. It was pretty much the only late night craving I had throughout my pregnancy with my son. Maybe it is because it reminds me of the banana shakes my dad used to make me as a kid. That was kind of our thing. Friday nights watching M*A*S*H and drinking banana shakes. That. Was. The. Life!

This dip has everything I love about banana cream pie but in one very addicting easy to make dip. It is perfect for parties or just a random dessert. If you have been following me for a while now you may know I have a thing for dessert dips. I’ve posted recipes for Cannoli Dip, Sweat Cream Dip with Strawberries, Sweet Cherry Chip Dip, Funfetti Cake Batter Cookie Dip, and Toffee Apple Dip

Dessert dips are so quick and easy to make. So many people are intimidated by overly complex desserts but when all you have to do is mix a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, these really are foolproof. 

INGREDIENTS
3.4 oz box instant banana cream pudding
2 c milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c powdered sugar
2 c Cool Whip, divided
Nilla wafers or graham crackers for serving

STEPS

  • In a medium bowl, beat together the pudding powder and milk until well combined and set aside. 
  • In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer and beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. 
  • Fold the pudding mixture and 1 1/2 cups of the Cool Whip into the cream cheese mixture and stir until it is creamy.
  • Transfer the finished mixture to a serving dish and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of Cool Whip. 
  • Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for 30 minutes or more. 
  • Sprinkle with a few crushed wafers or graham cracker crumbs.
  • Serve with a side of Nilla Wafers or graham crackers.

If you like this recipe, then I highly recommend you check out these other awesome dessert dip recipes!

Cannoli Dip

Cannoli Dip

Cherry Chip Dip

Toffee Apple Dip

Dinners

Recipe—Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Queso Stuffed Chiles

There are some recipes that are summer staples, this recipe is one of those in our household. Zesty citrus grilled pork tenderloin medallions paired with cheesy grilled stuffed peppers. Looks and sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

One of the reasons we primarily make this in the summer is because that is when peppers are in season, and you can usually find pretty large ones at the store. The bigger the better when it comes to this recipe! That way you can pack them full of all the cheesy goodness. 

I absolutely love pork tenderloins. They are so lean and are actually a really great grilling meat. With this recipe, the meat is so flavorful and juicy, and takes on really great citrusy and smoky flavor as it plumps up on the grill. 

There are so many things to love about this recipe. It is relatively easy, looks amazing, tastes amazing, and all the components of this dish are cooked outside, so you don’t have to deal with a hot oven during warm summer nights. What’s not to love?

TENDERLOIN INGREDIENTS
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 lb. pork tenderloin

STUFFED PEPPER INGREDIENTS
3/4 c queso fresco, crumbled
3/4 c jack cheese, shredded
1/2 c cilantro leaves, chopped
1 small tomato, diced
4 anaheim or hatch chile peppers, sliced open lengthwise, seeds removed

GARNISH

1 lime, cut into wedges
additional chopped cilantro

STEPS

  • Combine the apple cider vinegar, oregano, orange juice, olive oil, and garlic in a large resealable bag. 
  • Add the tenderloin to the bag and marinade in the fridge for 2–12 hours.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the queso, jack cheese, cilantro, and diced tomato. 
  • Spoon the cheese mixture into each pepper half.
  • Preheat the grill to 400º.
  • Add the pork tenderloin to the grill and cook for 10–12 minutes. 
  • Flip the tenderloin and cook for another 10–12 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145º.
  • Remove the pork from the grill and allow it to rest.
  • While the tenderloin in resting, add the stuffed chiles to the grill and cook for 10–12 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melted. 
  • Slice the pork and serve with the grilled chiles and sliced lime and garnish with additional fresh chopped cilantro.

If you like this recipe, then I highly recommend you check out my recipes for The Most Awesome Pork Tenderloin Ever or Pork Tenderloin Sammies with Red Cabbage Coleslaw and Sriracha.

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Old Fashioned Strawberry Ice Cream

The other day as we were driving into our subdivision, we spotted a little pop-up fruit stand with the most vibrant red strawberries on the side of the road. They were so fresh and ripe that you could smell the sweet strawberry aroma from over 10 feet away. It literally just drew me in. 

It was the first really warm weekend of the year so making some homemade strawberry ice cream just seemed obvious. Fresh churned old fashioned strawberry ice cream is just an iconic summer treat and the key is ripe fresh strawberries. The kind that you can only find in the warmer months and that are a deep red throughout.

Now the trick to getting a really good creamy strawberry ice cream, is to make it with an egg/custard base. Strawberries have so much juice in them that your ice cream can take on an icy texture if you just use milk and cream. So, this recipe may be a bit more work than others, but it is so worth it. The final product will be so creamy and decadent. Absolutely worth it!

So as the weather really starts to warm up as summer creeps in, and you start seeing your market and fruit stands flooded with ripe strawberries, make sure to keep this recipe in mind. It is the perfect dessert to make this summer.

Note: This recipe requires that you make a custard egg mixture over the stove that needs to be completely chilled before being placed in the ice cream maker. The steps below guide you to put the custard in the fridge for 4–5 hours. However, if you don’t have the time, you can place the bowl of warm custard in a second large bowl filled with ice water and stir frequently. This will allow your mixture to cool within 30–40 minutes. Just make sure to keep it well stocked with ice.

INGREDIENTS
4 large egg yolks
3/4 c sugar, divided
1/4 c  brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 c heavy cream
1 cups whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 c strawberries, sliced 
1 tbsp lemon juice 

STEPS

  • In large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, brown sugar, and salt until it is nice and smooth and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan combine the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla and heat over medium heat until it begins to simmer. 
  • Remove the pot from heat and VERY slowly add the egg mixture to the pot while whisking the entire time. (By slowly mixing in the egg mixture and whisking continuously you are tempering the eggs but not cooking them.) 
  • Return the saucepan with the creamy egg mixture to the stove and heat through over medium heat.
  • Stir the mixture frequently until it just starts the slightly thicken. You do not want to overdo it or the eggs will begin to cook/scramble.
  • Once the custard mixture is done, transfer it to a large metal or glass bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a lid, and place it in the fridge for 4­–5 hours until it is well chilled. 
  • When you are ready to start making the ice cream, combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.
  • Using a metal masher, break up the strawberries until they are really saturated in their juices.
  • Add the mashed strawberries to the custard mixture, stirring to combine.
  • Pour the final ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to your device’s directions. 
  • Transfer the finished ice cream to an airtight container and store in the freezer. 
  • If you like this recipe, make sure to also check out my recipe for Blackberry Ice Cream, another favorite in our house. 
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Creamy Dill Red Potato Salad

Summer is upon us! Well not quite, but we are so close! I can literally smell it! The smell of grilled meat has infiltrated the warm evening air in my subdivision and I am itching for a good ol’ fashioned cookout.

One thing I absolutely love about summer BBQs are all the cold salads. Macaroni salads, potato salads, mmmmmmm… mmmm… mmmm! (I really should not write these posts when I am hungry because right now, I am salivating just thinking back to this potato salad.)

I have a go to potato salad that is loaded with bacon, olives, bell peppers, onions, and so much more and it is amazing, but sometimes I am looking to mix it up with something a little more simple and lighter. 

The red potatoes really come out fluffy and then the super creamy dressing is a little tangy from the vinegar and sour cream and then you have this delicious dill flavor. So simple and so lite. Perfect for these warm summer days!

INGREDIENTS
8 large red potatoes, diced
1 c sour cream
1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp dill
salt and pepper
4 green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Add 1–2 tablespoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the diced potatoes and boil for 10–14 minutes or until fork tender.
  • While the potatoes are boiling whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • When the potatoes are done cooking drain them in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add most of the green onions (saving a handful for garnish) and dressing and toss to coat. 
  • Garnish with the leftover green onions and a little bit of the dill.
  • Cover with a lid or saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The longer it rests, the better the flavors.

If you like this recipe, then I highly recommend you check out these other awesome salads that make for great additions to your BBQ menu!

Italian Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Orzo Pesto Pasta

Orzo Pesto Pasta

Sweet Treats

Recipe—Lemon Italian Ice

If you think a cold glass of lemonade is refreshing on a hot summer day, wait until you try this frozen treat, Lemon Italian Ice! There is no comparison. This is better, hands down. Your kiddos will think so too.

My son and I make this during the summer and it is the most refreshing thing I have probably ever had. The lemon mixture with fresh zest is just the perfect amount of tart and sweet and it is crazy how light and fluffy it is! Absolute heaven! 

I absolutely love how easy this recipe is to make. So easy that my 11-year-old does most of the work. I pretty much just zest the lemons and he does the rest. Plus, it is basically 4 ingredients. Fresh lemons, sugar, salt, and water. So simple and relatively healthy compared to other frozen treats.

So as the weather warms up and you are looking for creative ways to cool off, give this a try. It is sure to do the trick!

Notes: 

  • The trick to making this is to work quickly when you are processing the frozen cubes and keep the fluffy ice from melting. We had a container ready to go in the freezer and as soon as I emptied each batch from the blender to the container, it went back into the freezer. This really kept it light and fluffy and it never froze together. 
  • To get 1 1/2 cups of fresh lemon juice, you will probably need between 8–10 lemons.
  • This makes a pretty decent sized batch so you can easily get 6–8 servings out of it. 

INGREDIENTS
grated zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 c water

GARNISHES (optional)
fresh raspberries
fresh mint leaves

STEPS

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon zest, juice, sugar, salt, and water.
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved. 
  • Allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • Pour the liquid into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.
  • Put 6–8 ice cubes at a time into a food processor or blender and pulse until all the cubes are broken up and you have a fluffy mixture.
  • Immediately transfer the “fluffy ice” to serving dishes OR a freezer safe container to be enjoyed later.
  • Repeat this process with the remaining cubes.
  • Garnish your Italian ice with some fresh raspberries and mint sprigs.
  • Store the leftover Italian ice in the freezer in a tightly covered container. 
  • To serve later, remove the Italian ice from the freezer and allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes to help soften it up for scooping. 
Dinners, Soups

Recipe—Keto White Chicken Chili

Okay, you may be thinking, “Why is this Diva posting a chili recipe as the weather is warming up? Isn’t chili a cool weather dish?” Here is my response, this is probably one of the best keto meals I have ever had, and the flavors are so good that I absolutely eat this any time. Plus, it is just so easy to make, and in my opinion, an easy one pot recipe is welcome year-round.

I have been “doing keto” since June 2020 and am down 33 lbs. Yay me! Now don’t worry, this blog is not suddenly turning keto. I am just all about offering variety to my followers and I could not keep this recipe to myself, it is just too good! If you are a long time follower, you know my blog is anything but a keto or diet blog.

Now even if you aren’t on a ketogenic diet, you can absolutely enjoy this recipe as is, or what I do for my husband and son who are full on carbivores (I just made that up), is split the cooked chili into two batches after it is all cooked. One keto batch for me, and one carb loaded version for them. I have integrated carbs two different ways for them. One time I added a can of white cannellini beans to their chili and another time I served this over a bowl of cooked rice. Both of those options were very well received.

Hope you love this recipe as much as I do because it is definitely one of my new favorite “go tos”.

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 a yellow onion, diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, deseeded and chopped
1 1/2 c chicken broth
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
4.5-ounce can diced green chiles, drained

GARNISHES
avocado
cilantro
cotija cheese, crumbled

STEPS

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add the ground chicken breaking it apart as it cooks.
  • Season the meat with cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and continue cooking until it is almost cooked through.
  • Add the butter, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and jalapeño to the pot.
  • Sauté until all the veggies are cooked through and tender, about 5–10 minutes.
  • Add the broth to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes and then add the cream cheese, heavy cream, and green chiles.
  • Continue simmering for another 15 minutes stirring every once in a while, making sure that the cream cheese melts and is nicely integrated.
  • Garnish with avocado, cilantro, and crumbled cotija cheese.