Recipe—Spicy Black Bean Dip

Spicy Black Bean Dip

I might as well take on the title as Queen of Appetizers. It’s just what I do. I personally just love appetizers and finger foods and no party is complete without a nice spread. When it comes to throwing a party a good dip is a must on the appetizer menu. There is no need to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen to come up with something everyone will love. This recipe literally takes five minutes to make and is so easy! You spend more time measuring out the seasonings than anything else. Just toss it all in the blender and voila! You have a delicious bean dip ready to serve!

The flavors in this dip are amazing. It might look sort of blah but then you take one bite and zap, bing, bang! Flavor explosions happening right in your mouth! You have a nice kick from the jalapeños, a little zest from the lime and lots of other great flavors from all the seasonings. The first time I made this I was (no joke) licking it off the rubber spatula. This is great at room temperature, warm, or even right out of the fridge. Talk about diverse! Next time you are throwing or attending a party make this recipe. You will have lots of people asking for the recipe. No need to tell them it took less than five minutes to make. That can be our little secret.

INGREDIENTS

2 large cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño, deseeded, deveined, and chopped
1/2 c fresh cilantro
1 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
water

GARNISHES

cotija cheese, crumbled
a couple of slices of fresh jalapeño

STEPS

  • Place all of the main ingredients except the water into the blender or food processor and blend until well mixed.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of water and continue blending until nice and smooth. If necessary, continue adding water 2 tablespoons at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Transfer to a bowl and garnish with some crumbled cotija cheese and slices of fresh jalapeños.
  • Enjoy with some tortilla chips now or place in fridge until ready to serve.
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Recipe—Mini Key Lime Pies

Mini Key Lime Pies

I have never eaten nor have I ever made key lime pie. However, I always think it looks beautiful and absolutely delicious! You may recall in one of my last posts that I mentioned for Easter I went with a tea party theme and did small bites. I wanted something very festive so I decided to finally wing it and do something totally different. I ended up with the cutest and most delectable little key lime pies. They were amazing! They were perfectly tart and had just the right amount of creaminess. And they were just so cute! If you follow my lead and get the premade crusts and whip cream this recipe takes no longer than 3 minutes to make and 15 minutes to bake. Who doesn’t have time for that? With summer warming up this really is the perfect refreshing dessert to enjoy on a warm day.

Note: I opted to make mini pies but you can just as easily make one big pie with this recipe. Adjust the baking time to 23–25 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
12 mini graham cracker pie crusts (I found Keebler ones in the baking aisle)
4 egg yolks
3/4 c key lime juice
zest from one lime
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c sour cream
whipped cream
1 lime sliced and then cut into quarters (optional)

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a medium bowl combine the egg yolks, lime juice, zest, condensed milk, and sour cream and whisk until well smooth.
  • Place the pie crusts on a large baking sheet and top off each with the filling.
  • Bake pies for 18–20 minutes and allow to cool before moving to the refrigerator.
  • Chill the pies in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.
  • When ready to serve top each pie with a dollop of whip cream and a little slice of lime.
  • Enjoy! (And good luck eating just one!)

Recipe—Herbed Cucumber Bites

Herbed Cucumber Bites

I have been wanting to host a tea party type of event and this year Easter was the perfect occasion. We were just having a couple of people over so I did all sorts of small bites. So fun and classy! The cucumber rounds were one of my faves! They were so light and refreshing and reminded me of the typical cucumber sandwiches you would have at a tea party, minus the rye bread. These are definitely the perfect snack for bridal showers, baby showers, or an afternoon tea.

INGREDIENTS
8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c fresh dill (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tbsp dill pickle juice (just the stuff form the jar)
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pepper
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
parsley to garnish (optional)

STEPS

  • In a medium bowl beat together the cream cheese, dill, pickle juice, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and green onion until smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag.
  • Pipe the herbed cream cheese mixture onto each cucumber round.
  • Garnish each cucumber with a sprig of parsley on top.
  • Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge until ready to enjoy.

Kitchen Tip—Fun Individual Veggie and Dip Cups

Veggie and Dip Cups

Back in December I threw a little party for my son. We invited over a couple of his closest friends. Keep in mind this was a group of 4–5 year olds. I wanted to have kid friendly food that they would enjoy. I made mini burgers, little fruit kabobs with marshmallows, a fun neon green punch, and a couple of other things. Now being a mom who insists on a balanced meal I knew I needed to get some veggies in there. I wanted to do something different so that the kids would actually want to eat them. So here you have Individual Veggie and Dip Cups!

The kids thought they were awesome! They loved having their own little cups. I bought a pack of these small plastic cups at a local party store, did a little squirt of ranch in the bottom and added in sliced carrots, cucumbers, and celery. How great, right?!?! Not only were these fun to eat but it also prevents the kids from double dipping. Have you ever watched kids go to town on a table of appetizers? They will bite and dip and repeat. Heck, I have even caught adults doing that! So regardless of the age of your party guests this is a fun and great way to serve veggies as an appetizer. A crowd pleaser for all ages!

If you like this idea you should check out this one too!

DivaDiCucina_IceCreamScoops

Pre-Scooped Ice Cream—A Party Time Saver

Recipe—Big Ol’ BBQ Meatballs

BBQ Meatballs

Looking for a family friendly recipe that both you and the kids will enjoy? Then search no more! Don’t have kids, no worries. Everyone loves these regardless of age! My 4 year old  loves helping to crush all the saltine crackers. I just put them in a zip loc bag and he goes to town with his toy hammer. (Cooking is a family affair in our house.) These big ol’ bbq meatballs are huge on flavor and so easy to put together. The brown sugar in the sauce helps to glaze the balls giving them a nice even coating of the sweet and tangy sauce. Yummy! These are the perfect comfort food as the weather cools off. I served these as a main dish but I could totally see making these smaller and serving them up as a party appetizer. Hope you enjoy these sticky saucy balls as much as I do!

Note: The sauce for these balls ends up being super sticky so I HIGHLY recommend lining your cooking sheets with parchment paper to help with cleanup. Otherwise you are going to have a super sticky glaze all over your baking sheets, which will not be very easy to clean up. If you do not have parchment paper then I recommend spraying your cookie sheets with a nice coating of cooking spray.

INGREDIENTS
2 lb ground beef
small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers, crushed
3 eggs
salt
pepper
3 tbsp honey mustard
3/4 c ketchup, divided
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 c bbq sauce
3/4 c brown sugar

STEPS

  • Preheat your oven to 400º.
  • In a large bowl combine the ground beef, onions, crushed crackers, eggs, salt, pepper, honey mustard, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, and the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Using your hands combine all the ingredients until well blended.
  • Grab a handful of the meat mixture and roll into 2″ balls.
  • Place the balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (see above note) and repeat until you are out of the meat mixture.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are baking mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of ketchup, bbq sauce, and the brown sugar.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven after 20 minutes and top each ball with a spoonful of the sauce.
  • Place the meatballs back in the oven for another 10 minutes to allow the sauce to melt and coat the balls.
  • Remove from oven and serve.

Recipe—Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

A long time ago in a land far far away, I posted a recipe for Lemon Crackle Cookies. (Okay, it wasn’t that long ago nor that far away.) They were awesome! Perhaps the name Chocolate Crack Cookies would be more appropriate for this recipe since you will not be able to stop eating them! Since the base for my crackle cookies is a box of cake mix they are perfectly fluffy, super moist, ultra fudgy, and easier to make than any cookie should be. This recipe is very straightforward and easy. Anyone can make them. Really. I promise! While they may look complicated all you are doing is rolling the dough into balls, coating them generously with powdered sugar, and then baking them. They do all the fancy crackling while baking. Give them a try. Everyone you share with will be very pleased you did.

INGREDIENTS

2 (18.25 oz) boxes Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix
4 eggs
2/3 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c powdered sugar

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • In a large bowl mix together dry cake mix, eggs, and oil.
  • Put the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or plate.
  • Form small balls with the dough and then roll them in the powdered sugar. Be sure the cookies have a really thick coating of the sugar if you want them to have that crackle look.
  • Place at least 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 7–9 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.
  • Allow cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cutting board or cooling rack.

Recipe—Pesto Chicken Kabobs

Pesto Chicken Kabobs

Over the past year or so I have been using pesto more and more. Last summer we got a massive amount of basil from our garden, which yielded lots and lots of tasty homemade pesto. I was able to freeze tons and use it throughout the whole year. Awesome! I have found that pesto actually makes a really great marinade. Recently I am totally hooked on pesto chicken kabobs. Not only are they super fun to eat but they cook in a fraction of the time. Perfect meal for this coming summer.

Pesto Chicken Kabobs (Uncooked)

Tip From the Diva: When using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 10 minutes before putting all your goodies on them. It keeps them from catching fire and are much easier to handle. Genius right?

INGREDIENTS
3–4 chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces/cubes
salt and pepper
1/2 c pesto
half of a red onion, cut into 1” squares
red bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces
yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” pieces

STEPS

  • Season the cubed chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Place in a container and toss with the pesto.
  • Allow chicken to marinade for at least 30 minutes. (I like to let mine soak up all the flavors for 7–8 hours.)
  • Thread the meat and the veggies onto the skewers making sure to alternate and discard the leftover marinade.
  • Grill skewers for 10 minutes, turning as needed, or until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

Recipe—Off the Chain Cheddar Crackers

Off the Chain Cheddar Crackers

A couple of my totally awesome work buddies are trying to kick off one of the greatest businesses Sacramento could ever gain (that is of course, in my opinion). It is called Off The Chain Bike Bus Tours. Bike buses are growing in popularity and I would LOVE to see one brought to Sacramento! Come on, riding a pedal powered bike throughout Sacramento with 15 of your closest friends, making stops at your favorite bars and restaurants, enjoying the scenes, all while burning calories. How much better could it get!?!?

This my friends, is a bike bus. Rad, right?

This my friends, is a bike bus. Rad, right?

If this company takes off they will look to expanding to several other cities around the United States. Support them and you may see one pop up in your neighborhood!

If this company takes off they will look to expand to several other cities around the United States. Support them and you may see one pop up in your neighborhood!

Since this business will launch in November I am already planning my first bike bus outing. I envision a day of hopping from bar to bar and peddling around town with all my best friends. Being the experienced drinker I am, I know that will require some solid carbs, such as these fabulous homemade cheddar crackers. I made these the other day and they went perfectly with ice-cold beer. (I’m sure they’d go great with a soda pop or water too if that’s your cup of tea.) These crackers are light, fluffy, buttery, and cheesy and are absolutely perfect if you are just sitting around having drinks with family and friends or even for a picnic, Sunday hike, or beer bus tour around Sacramento.

BikeBusFun

Can’t you just see yourself cruising around town on this?!?!

 

INGREDIENTS
3/4 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of paprika

STEPS

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Cover and refrigerate dough for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Shape the dough into 1″ balls and place a couple of inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Press down with a fork leaving hatch marks on top.
  • Bake for 12–14 minutes or until the edges just start to turn a nice golden color.
  • Leave on baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Note: These crackers will stay fresh in an airtight container for several days.

Recipe adapted from Chef in Training.

Recipe—Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

 Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

As I announced a few weeks back after my break from blogging I started a new job back in August. It’s always a rough transition moving out of your comfort zone into something totally new. New environment. New responsibilities. New coworkers. Eek! It can be kind of nerve racking! Well the way I deal with nerves is food. Yes, I am an emotional eater! So I made a batch of these wonderful delicious bars but I couldn’t bear to eat them all so what did I do, I took them to work to share with my new co-workers. Way to bond and score some points at the new gig, right? Well these were a hit and I apologize that the recipe is 5 months late getting to you. Good news is I am still at my job so I must have made quite the impression with my tasty treats or maybe it’s my mad skills.

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter, melted

CHEESECAKE INGREDIENTS
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

COOKIE DOUGH INGREDIENTS
5 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp sugar
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c flour
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 325º.
  • Line a 8” x 8” baking dish with foil making sure there is enough to go up all four edges of the pan.
  • In a medium bowl mix together all of the graham cracker crust ingredients.
  • Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking pan using a spoon or backside of a spatula making sure that it is firmly packed.
  • Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
  • While the crust cools beat together all of the cheesecake ingredients on low speed until smooth.
  • Pour the cheesecake mixture into the baking dish and set aside.
  • In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt until well combined and smooth.
  • Add in the flour until well incorporated.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Sprinkle small clumps of the cookie dough over the top of the cheesecake mixture making sure to cover most of the dish.
  • Bake until the cookie dough looks cooked and the cheesecake has set, about 25–30 minutes.
  • Move the dish to a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
  • Chill in the fridge for a few hours.
  • Remove the entire “bar” from the baking dish by holding onto the edges of the foil and lifting it from the pan.
  • Slice into small squares and eat up.

Recipe—S’More Snack Mix

S'More Snack Mix

S’more snack mix please! Last year I made a Valentine’s Day Snack Mix that was a total hit with my followers and also my little man’s little buddies at school. Well it’s that time of year again and I was trying to come up with something fun. All kids love Teddy Grahams so those were a given ingredient. What goes better with graham crackers than M&M’s and marshmallows? This was a no brainer! I had to make s’more snack mix. This is a perfect treat whether or not it’s Valentine’s Day. I’m thinking I will make a big batch for our next summer camping trip (with traditional M&M’s of course). You can just serve it in a large bowl (perfect for a party) ORRRRR you can make your own Valentine’s Day snack bags to pass out!

DivaDiCucina_SMoreSnackMix3

Last year I had a couple people contact me requesting that I share my valentine snack bag design so that they could print and make their own. This year I thought I would just go ahead and include it right here on my blog. That’s right! You can download a pdf of the cute cards I designed and print and make your own! How fun is that?!? A special homemade bag of snack mix for the kiddos to share with their friends! You’re welcome.

Click to Download PDF

Click to Download PDF

I hope you enjoy this fabulous mix as much as me and my munchkin do! I wish all of my followers a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with lots of love and happiness.

xoxox
The Diva

S'More Snack Mix

Note: This recipe makes enough to fill 24–26 snack size Ziploc bags or 1 large bowl. IF you don’t want to print and trim these on your own just take the pdf file to Kinkos or Staples and they can do the work for you. 😉

INGREDIENTS
3 (8 oz) bags Honey Teddy Grahams
10 oz bag mini marshmallows
2 (12.6) oz bags Valentine’s M&M’s

STEPS

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix.

STEPS TO CREATE THE VALENTINE’S DAY SNACK BAGS

  • Make snack mix as directed above.
  • Distribute mix into snack sized ziplock bags.
  • Click on the above picture of the Valentine’s Day tabs.
  • Save the pdf to your computer.
  • Print out however many pages you will need to a heavy card stock.
  • Cut out the valentines along the black trim marks.
  • Fill in the “To” and “From” portion of the valentine.
  • Fold each valentine in half.
  • Staple along the top of the ziploc bag.
  • Wellah!

 

If you like this recipe, perhaps you will LOVE this!

Valentine's Day Snack Mix