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:

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. 
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.

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

Soups

Recipe—20 Minute Sausage, Spinach, & White Bean Soup

20 Minute Sausage, Spinach, & White Bean Soup

Hello cold weather! It is finally starting to feel like winter out here in California. Just this week we finally have some back to back days of rain and some serious wind going on and I freaking love it! It’s the kind of weather that just makes you want to wrap yourself in a heavy blanket and eat hearty bowls of soup all day long. This soup recipe is awesome because there is so much good flavor and it is really filling, and best of all, it is one of those meals that you can have on the table in 20 minutes. You do not have to be a well-versed chef to make this. You are basically just adding ingredients to a pot and letting your stove do the rest of the work. Sounds like the perfect lazy rainy-day meal to me!

Note: If you have a busy week ahead, chop the onion, carrots, and celery over the weekend and store in a container or a zip loc bag so they are ready to go!

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 c chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
3 c baby spinach

STEPS

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  • Add the sausage to the pot and cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
  • Add the garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the pot and cook for another 3–4 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
  • Add the broth, beans, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and allow it to simmer for 8–10 minutes.
  • Add the baby spinach to the pot and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.
  • Ladle into bowls and enjoy!
Cooking Demos

Diva is Going Live with Another FREE Cooking Demo!

Hey everyone! With weather finally cooling down and Thanksgiving just around the corner, is everyone finally feeling those fall vibes? I know I am! You may recall that over the summer I partnered up with UNIQUE Programs and did an Instagram Live cooking demo. Apparently it went well because they have asked me back to do another! So with that said, I am excited to announce that coming up on this Wednesday, November 18 at 12:00 pm PST I will be going live once again and this time making a fall feast! This will be a completely FREE virtual event where you can tune in on Zoom and learn how to make my Apple Pie Pork Chop and Individual Pumpkin Pie Mousse Cups. That’s right, essentially a completely free one-hour cooking class! 

You can tune in via Zoom using this link (https://csus.zoom.us/j/86190043772) our you can enter the Zoom ID from the graphic below. There is no need to sign up or create an account.

Fall Cooking Demo

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! I have provided a list of the ingredients below for both dishes if you want to make sure you have everything on hand. If you are at work or unable to cook live with me that is absolutely okay too! Just tune in, say hi, be entertained, and get some tips for when you want to make these awesome dishes another time!

The pork chop recipe I will be making has all the staples of a tasty fall dish. It is a pan seared herb crusted pork chop topped with apple pie filling and stuffing and finished off in the oven to give the stuffing just a little bit of crunchiness. 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!?! I have been making this recipe for years! Not only is it delicious but it is super affordable.

My pumpkin pie mousse cups aren’t even on the blog yet so you are going to be the first to get the recipe. (Don’t worry, it will be posted soon!) This dessert is so easy to make and has all the flavors from a traditional pumpkin pie. I love it though because it is light and fluffy and doesn’t require any baking.

GIVEAWAY ALERT! Also, UNIQUE Programs will be doing an awesome giveaway on Tuesday so make sure you go follow them and me on Instagram if you don’t already. You may just be able to get your hands on some kitchen products from my new online boutique! 😉

I really love connecting with my followers in a more personal way so I truly hope you will tune in on Wednesday to join me. At the very least pop in and say hello! I look forward to chatting with you all and answering any questions you may have as we spend an hour together! See you then!

Apple Pie Pork Chop

Pork Chop Recipe

  • boneless pork chops
  • garlic, minced
  • fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • butter
  • Stove Top pork stuffing
  • olive oil
  • apple pie filling
  • cinnamon

Pumpkin Pie Mousse

Pumpkin Pie Mousse Cups

  • graham cracker crumbs
  • butter
  • sugar
  • heavy whipping cream
  • vanilla
  • powdered sugar
  • cream cheese
  • pumpkin puree
Brunch, Dinners

Recipe—Sausage & Cheddar Quiche

Sausage & Cheddar Quiche

I love breakfast! Yes, I do! I love breakfast! How about you!? 

I will say however, that breakfast is a meal I don’t get to really prepare and enjoy often enough. Monday–Friday usually consists of something quick and on the go so sometimes I make breakfast for dinner just to get that breakfast fix. One thing I love about quiche is it is really perfect for any meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Add some fruit and potatoes, you got breakfast. Add a green salad, now it’s lunch or dinner. 

This quiche is really as easy as they come, especially with a premade piecrust. I know quiche might seem intimidating to make but I promise there is no need to be scared! It really isn’t complicated and is well worth the effort it takes to make. Plus, sausage and cheddar are just a classic breakfast combo that you can’t beat.

Sausage & Cheddar Quiche

INGREDIENTS
1 sheet of refrigerated piecrust at room temperature
8 oz mild or spicy breakfast sausage
5 green onions, thinly sliced
2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 c half and half
6 large eggs
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground mustard

STEPS

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  • Unroll your piecrust and line a pie dish with a single sheet and set aside
  • In a non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the sausage until no pink remains. 
  • Add the green onion to the skillet and cook for another minute. 
  • Drain excess fat from pan.
  • Spread half of the sausage mixture in the pie crust and sprinkle with half of the cheese. 
  • Spread the remaining sausage mixture over the cheese.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together the half and half, eggs, salt, pepper, and ground mustard.  
  • Pour the egg mixture evenly over the sausage and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. 
  • Place the quiche into the oven and bake for 45–50 minutes or until the center is set when gently shaken. 
  • Remove the quiche from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before cutting into it and serving. 
Dinners

Recipe—Grilled Hawaiian Sticky Chicken & Pineapple

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken & Pineapple

Aloha! Summer is coming to a close and most vacations are currently on hold. So if you can’t get to a tropical island, then let’s bring the island life to you!

Back in April when we were about a month into sheltering in place at home, my family and I came up with an idea to do a weekly family theme night. We were doing them every Friday just so we had something fun to look forward to at the end of the week. The first one we did was a Tropical Beach Party. The primary focus of our theme nights was our menu but we found lots of other fun details to incorporate. We ended up watching Lilo and Stitch while sprawled out on beach towels on our living room floor.

For this specific dinner I made my Grilled Hawaiian Sticky Chicken and Pineapple. It was so good! The key is definitely marinating the chicken for the entire day to really let all those flavors soak into the meat. You get this delicious combination of salty, sweet, and smoky. Cooking it low and slow on the grill gives the chicken and pineapple a nice caramelized exterior and then you brush them with honey at the end so you end up with this sweet sticky exterior that brings out so much flavor. The pineapple manages to get even sweeter and even picks up a bit of a smoky flavor from the grill. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it. I served it up with some of my Tropical Macadamia Nut Ricewhich is packed with island flavors of toasted coconut and macadamia nuts. If you really want to take this meal to the next level then break out the blender and try my Best Ever Piña Coladas. So, for now, home may not be as good as Hawaii but at least with this meal, the only thing you will be missing is the sand between your toes.

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken & Pineapple

Note: The trick with grilling this recipe to is to do it over a lower indirect heat and making sure not to have it directly over the heat source. The glaze can easily burn if you try and cook it hot and fast. If you are not the grilling type then you can absolutely cook it in a pan on the stove top.

INGREDIENTS
4 chicken breasts
1/4 c pineapple juice
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c brown sugar
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
fresh pineapple, cut into long spears
1/4 c honey
green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • In a small bowl whisk together the pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, garlic, and olive oil.
  • Place the chicken and marinade in a large Ziploc bag and mix to ensure all the chicken breasts get covered with the marinade.
  • Marinade in the refrigerator for 2–24 hours.
    About 30 minutes before cooking, remove the marinated chicken from the bag and place in a shallow dish. Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Preheat the grill to 350º.
  • Add the chicken to the grill making sure you cook it over indirect heat. (See above note.)
  • Cook the chicken for 7–10 minutes per side or until the internal temperature reaches 160º.
  • During the last 10 minutes of the chicken cooking, add the pineapple spears to the grill also making sure to cook it over indirect heat.
  • Turn the pineapple every 2–3 minutes making sure to get some nice grill marks on them.
  • When the chicken and pineapple are done, transfer them to a serving dish and lightly brush with the honey, and sprinkle with the green onions.
Cooking Demos

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