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—Low Cal Cincinnati Chili

 

Cincinnati Chili

It’s the dreaded time of year where I make an effort to eat healthier with the hopes I can fit into the same shorts I was wearing last year. Don’t get me wrong, I love spring and summer, it is just such a disappointment when you go to put on your super cute shorts and they just don’t quite fit like they did the last summer. Blah.

This year I am determined to get better at cooking healthier meals that I, as well as my family, want to eat. I find that I frequently get into salad ruts. I am trying to get it out of my head that you can eat more than salads and still eat healthy and satisfying meals. So one thing I have been doing is substituting lean ground turkey and chicken for beef in more recipes. I made this Cincinnati chili with ground turkey and it turned out amazing. My husband and son didn’t even know it wasn’t beef. Point for mom!

The meat is cooked in so many spices that no one would know it wasn’t beef unless you told them. I love that this recipe is super flavorful and also satisfying and that it makes the whole kitchen smell amazing! Plus the leftovers for the next two days made awesome lunches at less than 450 calories a pop. #winning

Note: I am not from Cincinnati, nor have I ever had authentic Cincinnati chili. I know there are individuals who are very particular about their Cincinnati chili and how it is prepared. I am not claiming this as “authentic” Cincinnati chili, I am just claiming this to be a damn good recipe.

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped (divided)
15 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 c water
spaghetti noodles
cheddar cheese, shredded

STEPS

  • In a large pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Place the ground turkey in the pot and cook for about 8–10 minutes making sure to break up the chunks with a spatula.
  • Add in most of the chopped onion and cook for 3–4 minutes. (Note: Save a couple tablespoons of the onion for garnish.)
  • Once the onion has had a chance to cook add in the tomatoes, beans, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, chili powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and water.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Partially cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
  • Add water as needed to keep the mixture “saucy.”
  • Serve the sauce over cooked noodles and garnish with shredded cheddar and some chopped onions.

Recipe—Lamb Meatballs Over Couscous with Feta

Lamb Meatballs Over Couscous

Some of you may remember from my Lamburger post quite some time ago about my dad living next to a sheep farm. (If not, go check it out, seriously amazing recipe and a fun little story.)

Well as a house-warming gift my incredible dad and stepmom gave us an ice chest full of all sorts of wonderful cuts of lamb and even some pork! That is probably the best and most practical housewarming gift you could give a person right? Okay, maybe the best housewarming gift you could give a foodie. Daddy knows me all too well. Thankfully there was lots of ground lamb in the mix so I have been able to make this awesome dish a couple of times recently.

The lamb meatballs have a super unique flavor with the chopped up bits of apricot which keeps them super moist. I serve them over a bed of couscous with a little Athens salad made up of cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion. I love how light and refreshing the entire meal is! Seriously a fave recipe of mine and it just looks so darn pretty on the plate! Plus this recipe takes less than 25 minutes to make. #winning

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground lamb
1/3 c dried apricots, chopped
1/2 tsp coriander
1 small red onion, half finely chopped and half thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup couscous
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/2 feta, crumbled

STEPS

  • Turn the oven on to broil.
  • In a bowl combine the ground lamb, apricots, coriander, the finely chopped red onion, salt, and pepper and mix until well combined,
  • Form the meat into 1 1/4″ balls and place them in a baking dish.
  • Place the dish in the oven on the middle rack and cook for 8–10 minutes.
  • While the lamb meatballs are cooking, prepare the couscous per package instructions.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper.
  • Once the meatballs are couscous are done it’s time to plate.
  • Place a nice size scoop of the couscous in the center of the plate and top with 3–5 meatballs.
  • Place the sliced tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion on the plate next to the couscous.
  • Drizzle the lemon olive oil dressing over everything on the plate and then finish off with the crumbled feta cheese.
  • Dinner is ready to serve!

Recipe adapted from Real Simple.

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—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.)

Recipe—BBQ Chicken Calzones

 BBQ Chicken Calzones

One of my favorite pizzas has got to be the BBQ Chicken pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. I know I know it is totally not traditional pizza. I guess I just like how light it is and that it is completely different. They have this perfectly thin crust, light on the cheese, and then you get a flavor packed punch from all the BBQ sauce and then the unexpected cilantro. Somehow it just works!

I decided to try and duplicate this recipe but opted for calzones just for something different. They were awesome! And best of all the recipe made more than enough for the three of us so I was able to freeze them and had another nights worth of dinner for later that month.

This recipe was incredibly easy to make and I even brought my little guy in the kitchen to assist. He had a blast helping to assemble them! I don’t think this recipe took us more than 40 minutes. I spent about 20 minutes prepping and putting them together and another 20 to bake them. While they are baking throw together a quick salad and dinner is done!

 BBQ Chicken Calzones

Note: If you plan on freezing some, be sure to freeze them uncooked. I place the uncooked calzones on a wax paper lined baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid I place them in an airtight Ziploc bag. This keeps them from sticking together. When you are ready to enjoy them just place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 375º for about 20–25 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
1 can refrigerated pizza dough (I like Pillsbury)
1 c bbq sauce
1 rotisserie chicken shredded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 c mozzarella, shredded
1/4 c cilantro, chopped

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Cut your pizza dough into 6–8 pieces.
  • Lightly flour a cutting board and roll a piece of the dough out into a nice even circle. You want to get it pretty thin.
  • Add a spoonful of the BBQ sauce to the rolled out dough and evenly spread it around using the back of a spoon. (Avoid the edges so that the dough will stick to itself when you go to close them up.)
  • Add a nice little pile of the chicken to the center of the rolled out dough and top with a few slices of the red onion, a sprinkling of the cheese, and a couple pinches of the cilantro. (Make sure none of the filling is near the edges.)
  • Carefully fold the calzone in half and go around the outside edge rolling it up tightly so none of the toppings come out when baking.
  • Place the assembled calzone on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Continue assembling the rest of the calzones and placing them on the baking sheets. (Note that you will probably need two sheets to hold all of them.)
  • Once they are all assembled and loaded up on the baking sheet, bake them for 15–20 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown.
  • Remove the sheet from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Optional: Serve with an extra side of BBQ sauce or ranch if you’d like.
  • Enjoy!

If you like this unique pizza recipe then you should give this one a try too!

Shrimp and Pesto Pizza

Shrimp and Pesto Pizza 

Recipe—Tangy Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Cream

Tangy Shrimp Tacos

I am a sucker for tacos! I love tacos. Doesn’t matter what you fill them with, it is all good in my book. If there is meat and some sort of fresh produce in the tortilla you really can’t go wrong.

These are some of my favorite tacos during the summer because they are relatively easy to make and they are so light and refreshing! The tangy citrus slaw goes great with the spicy chipotle cream. I have made these when having company over for dinner and served them with my cilantro lime rice and some black beans for an awesome dinner. Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner so be sure to mark this recipe and give them a try. And for the ultimate meal, don’t forget the mango margaritas!

Note: The shrimp can be cooked in a skillet or over the grille. It is personal preference. If you decide to grille just skewer the shrimp on a kabob and cook for 3–5 minutes at 400º.

SHRIMP INGREDIENTS
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 c tequila (I prefer white)
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 lb shrimps, peeled and deveined

COLESLAW INGREDIENTS
1/4 c lime juice
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dijon mustard
4 c red cabbage, chopped
salt and pepper

CHIPOTLE CREAM INGREDIENTS
1 c sour cream
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

ADDITIONAL ITEMS
10–12 corn tortillas (I am a huge fan of white corn)
Avocado
Cilantro

STEPS

  • Place the shrimp in a large bowl whisk together the kosher salt, honey, lime juice, tequila, garlic, cumin, chili and powder.
  • Once the marinade is well mixed add the shrimp and toss to coat.
  • Place the bowl of shrimp in the fridge to marinade for 30 minutes.
  • While the shrimp is marinating prepare the coleslaw by whisking together the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, and mustard.
  • Add the red cabbage to the dressing and mix until well coasted.
  • Season the coleslaw with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place the coleslaw in the fridge.
  • While you are waiting on the shrimp to finish marinating prepare the chipotle cream sauce by placing the sour cream and chipotle peppers into a blender and blend until you have a nice creamy sauce with no chunks. (If you like your food more on the spicy side taste the sauce and add more peppers accordingly.)
  • After the shrimp is done marinating, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the shrimp and all the marinade from the bowl to the hot skillet and cook for 3–5 minutes stirring occasionally until all the shrimp are opaque all the way through and are pink/orange in color.
  • Warm the corn tortillas either one by one in hot skillet or all at once in the microwave.
  • To assemble the tacos place a scoop of the coleslaw and 3–5 shrimp (depends on size) in each tortilla.
  • Top each taco with some of the diced avocado.
  • Finish off each taco by drizzling some of the chipotle cream over the top and topping of with a little of the fresh chopped cilantro.
  • Serve with a lime wedge and enjoy! Tacos up!

Looking for more recipes like this? Maybe you will love these!

Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos

DivaDiCucina_ShreddedBeefTacos

Crock-Pot Shredded Beef Tacos

DivaDiCucina_ShrimpEnchiladas

Shrimp Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cream Sauce

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—Stewed Italian Sausages with Peppers

Italian Sausage with Peppers

Perhaps it’s the Italian in me but I absolutely LOVE a good Italian sausage with peppers and onions. Ta-sty! This is a recipe I tried awhile back when I was trying to trim down on my carb consumption. You can use any Italian sausages but I really like Aidells Italian Style Chicken Sausages. They are flavor packed and the chicken helps cut down on some of the calories from the traditional pork or beef. The whole family loved this recipe! For those not watching their carbs, I served it with some crusty French bread and it was a perfect meal! Quick, easy, and delicious. That’s my style!

Note: The sausage and veggies are absolutely awesome in a sandwich too. Just grab a pack of sandwich rolls, load ’em up, and chow down!

Aidells Italian Sausage

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds Italian sausage (I love Aidells Italian Style Smoked Chicken Sausage with Mozzarella)
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
salt
1 c dry red wine
1 c fresh parmesan, grated

STEPS

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add the sausage and cook turning frequently until they turn a nice golden color and are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Transfer to the sausages to a large plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet along with all the veggies.
  • Cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 12–14 minutes.
  • Season the veggies with salt and add the sausages back into the skillet.
  • Add the wine to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue to cook for about 4 minutes or until the wine has reduced by about half.
  • Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and serve.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine.

 

Recipe—Asparagus and Feta Salad

Asparagus and Feta Salad

California is one of the leading producers of asparagus in the United Stated. Asparagus is so big in California that the city of Stockton even throws an entire festival in honor of asparagus. True story! I grew up eating asparagus on a regular basis. (By the way, I am 33 and still crack up that it gives you stinky pee. I don’t think I will ever grow up.) I could eat asparagus every day. There are just so many ways to prepare it but I think I have found my favorite way to eat the lovely green spears, grilled asparagus and feta salad. Man this was awesome! My husband and I devoured the whole bowl so if you are cooking for more than 2 people just go ahead and double or triple the recipe. Trust me you will eat it all! There was just so much flavor in the salad and it was so light and refreshing. Perfect for spring or summer. We just served it with a simple grilled chicken breast seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper and it was the perfect complement. This my friends, is good eating.

Want to know more about asparagus? Then check out this old post and you will be an asparagus pro!

Asparagus and Feta Salad

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch thick asparagus, ends trimmed
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
zest from one lemon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

STEPS

  • Preheat the grill to about 325º.
  • Place the asparagus in a baking dish and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the asparagus on the grille making sure that they are perpendicular to the grates so that they don’t slip through.
  • Close the grill and cook for 3 minutes.
  • roll the asparagus over and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Remove the asparagus and transfer to a cutting board.
  • Allow the asparagus to cool for 5–10 minutes.
  • Cut the spears into 1–2” pieces.
  • Place the cut asparagus into a medium bowl and toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and half of the feta.
  • Top the salad with the remaining asparagus and serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Once Upon a Chef.