Dinners, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

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

 

Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

Summertime means my garden is going nuts and producing more tomatoes than we can get through in a day. No joke. I am sometimes getting 4–5 huge ripe tomatoes a day! I love it! You just can’t beat the smell and flavor of a tomato that has been able to fully ripen on the vine. Even if you go to the grocery store or farmers market, the smell of fresh tomatoes wafts through the air. That is the smell of summer!

The other day I was looking at a pile of 10–12 tomatoes on the counter that needed to be eaten within the day and I knew just what to do with them. Marinade them! The marinade for this recipe is out of this world! The red wine vinegar really brings out the flavors of the tomatoes and then you get all these great flavors from the fresh herbs and garlic. I mean seriously, just look at that layer of herbs over the top of the tomatoes!

Summertime Marinated Tomatoes

These make for a great side dish with some grilled meat or even as a salad. I served it with some garlic bread and it was so good to soak up all those yummy tomato juices, olive oil, and vinegar with the bread. This recipe is for sure a summertime staple as it is so easy to make and I am all about cooking with what is in season.

Notes:

  • The key to this recipe is making sure to marinade the tomatoes at room temperature for at the very least 2 hours. You MUST let them marinade! The tomatoes need time to soak up all the red wine and herb flavors.
  • Do not refrigerate as the texture and natural flavor of the tomatoes will change.
  • Consume within 6–8 hours of marinating.
  • If you want to prepare in advance, just make the marinade ahead of time and store in a jar in your refrigerator until 3 hours before you plan to serve. Then pour the chilled marinade over the tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS
5 or 6 extra-large tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
2/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c red wine vinegar
4 tbsp red onion, minced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp basil, chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

STEPS

  • Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a shallow serving dish.
  • Combine all the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
  • Pour the marinade over the tomatoes.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or saran wrap.
  • Allow the tomatoes to rest/marinade at room temperature for 2–3 hours.
  • Enjoy!
Side Dishes

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

We are a family who is always on the go and frequently need a quick and easy side dish. If I am having the hubby throw some steaks on the grill there are times I want a side dish that is quicker than a baked potato and easier than mashed potatoes. This mushroom garlic couscous is so easy to make and takes 15 minutes max. I know plenty of folks that get tired with the same ol’ side dish and this one is a great addition to any meal, just add a cooked protein! Plus couscous seems fancy. 😉

Recipe—Mushroom Garlic Couscous

Notes: You can make this with any couscous. The recipe is written using the measurements of a 5.8 oz box of Near East couscous which is my favorite. (This is not a sponsored post or ad.) Keep in mind if you use a different brand that the amount of chicken broth and olive oil required may vary. Adjust accordingly. You can also make this recipe with brown rice or quinoa for an equally delicious side dish. Just prepare the preferred grain per the package instructions using chicken broth, and stir in the sautéed mushrooms and parsley when done cooking.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp butter
2 c cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
5.8 oz box of couscous (I love Near East)
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • In a medium skillet melt the butter over medium high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 8–10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garlic to the skillet and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
  • Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. When done, remove from heat.
  • While the mushrooms are cooking, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and olive oil to a boil.
  • Once boiling, stir the couscous into the saucepan, remove from heat, and cover.
  • Allow the couscous to sit covered for 5 minutes.
  • Fluff the couscous using a fork.
  • Stir in the cooked mushrooms and parsley.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Salads

Recipe—Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella salad is essentially just an Italian tomato and bread salad. This is one of my all-time favorite summertime dishes. It is so easy and comes together in minutes. You can make this with pretty much any tomatoes, just make sure they are juicy and ripe. Heirloom are always a good safe bet. Traditional panzanella salads don’t have mozzarella but I am a girl who LOVES her cheese. Call me a rebel. This salad is all about taking simple ingredients and bringing them together to create a fresh and flavorful dish perfect for those warm spring and summer nights out on the patio.

Note: This salad pairs perfectly with grilled steak and some red wine. My favorite is the Rombauer Vineyards Barbera. 

INGREDIENTS

4 c tomatoes, chopped
1/2 c fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c shallots, thinly sliced
8 oz mini mozzarella balls
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic, minced
4 c sour dough bread, cut into cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
balsamic glaze
salt and pepper

STEPS

  • Place your chopped tomatoes, basil, shallots, and mozzarella balls in a large bowl.
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and add garlic cooking until the garlic is nice and fragrant.
  • Add the bread cubes to the skillet and toss to coat in the melted garlic butter.
  • Toast the bread cubes on all sides until they are golden and crispy on the outside.
  • Add the toasted bread cubes to the bowl.
  • Toss the “salad” and season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and finish with some balsamic glaze.
  • Serve and enjoy!
Dinners

Recipe—Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta

Recipe—Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta

Right now, I am drowning in youth sports. My son is currently playing soccer and baseball which takes up about 5–6 days a week and sometimes we have both on the same day. I lost my sanity a few weeks ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it! It just means that I need to be diligent in my menu planning and have some recipes that allow me to have dinner on the table quickly. We certainly have nights where dinner consists of sandwiches, Kraft Mac N Cheese, or takeout, but I try and cook a real dinner at least 4–5 nights a week. That means whatever I am making needs to be quick!

This recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make and costs about $15, assuming you have the basic stuff on hand. It is so simple, fast, and tasty! My family loves this recipe!  The chicken comes out so juicy and flavorful after simmering in the creamy lemon sauce. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Recipe—Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta

INGREDIENTS
4–5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/4 c flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb penne
1 c chicken broth
3 lemons, 2 for juicing and 1 sliced
3/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c capers
parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • Place the flour in a large Ziploc bag and add chicken breasts.
  • Toss the chicken breast in the Ziploc bag until they are all evenly coated in the flour.
  • In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Place the chicken breasts in the skillet.
  • Cook the chicken for 6–7 minutes per side or until cooked all the way through.
  • While the chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta per the package instructions.
  • Add the broth, juice from two lemons, sliced lemon, heavy cream, and capers to the skillet with the chicken.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring the sauce to boil and reduce heat to medium-low heat.
  • Continue cooking the sauce until it has thickened up, about 3–4 minutes.
  • Transfer the chicken breasts to a plate or cutting board.
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the sauce, tossing to coat all the noodles.
  • Serve the pasta on plates and top with a chicken breast.
  • Sprinkle the dish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—Mexican Street Corn Salad

 

Recipe—Mexican Street Corn Salad

I made this salad last month for a final end of summer hoorah BBQ and let me just tell you, it was delish! The olive oil mixed with vinegar and lime juice creates a zesty vinaigrette dressing and just pairs so nicely with the sweetness of the corn and the saltiness of the quest fresco and then don’t forget the smoky flavor from the paprika. It hits all those flavor points your mouth desires.

This recipe goes great with grilled meats or any Mexican dish. Tacos, enchiladas, you name it. It is cheap, easy, and so quick to make. Like really quick. This recipe literally took me 5 minutes from start to finish.

Note: You can make this with fresh corn on the cob or canned. It is great both ways. If you are using fresh corn you will need about 6-8 cobs of corn. Cook them as you normally would, whether that be on the grill or in a pot of water. Then allow the cobs to cool completely and cut the kernels off the cob and prepare the salad as directed. 

INGREDIENTS

3 (15.25 oz) cans whole kernel corn, drained
1 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 c green onions, chopped
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 c queso fresco, crumbled
paprika

STEPS

  • Place the corn kernels, tomatoes, and green onions into a serving bowl.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice.
  • Pour the dressing over the corn and stir to coat.
  • Top with the queso fresco and a sprinkling of paprika.
Dinners

Recipe—Italian Chicken Dinner

If you have tried this recipe before you may have noticed an update. After making this recipe dozens of times I recently started adding Italian sweet peppers and it really takes this to the next level. I have updated the photo and recipe to reflect this change. Hope you enjoy!

Recipe—Italian Chicken Dinner

I first tried this recipe about two months ago and have since made it at least 6 times tweaking it a little bit each time. IT HAS BECOME ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVES! We are actually having it again this week. It is perfect for this summer fully utilizing all those fresh tomatoes and basil. Most of my recipes are for a main dish or a side dish but this one is actually an entire meal. All of the components of this dish are just amazing! You have a flavorful juicy roasted chicken breast, sweet caramelized tomatoes that are literally bursting with flavor, and then the salty creamy fresh mozzarella with a nice little kick of heat from crushed red peppers, and then of course to balance it out you have some hearty brown rice simmered in chicken broth. Is your mouth watering now? Mine is! All these flavors are just so amazing together! Depending on the brown rice you get, this dinner takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and it is worth every minute of it!

Note: You can use fresh mozzarella in any form. I have used both the sliced mozzarella log as well as the little mozzarella balls. This makes a dinner that will serve 3–4 people. 

INGREDIENTS
1 c uncooked brown rice
2–2 1/2 c chicken broth (amount depends on the brown rice you purchase)
3 c cherry tomatoes
10–12 Italian sweet peppers, tops cut off
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian seasoning
salt & pepper
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c fresh basil leaves, chopped

STEPS

  • Cook the brown rice per the package instructions but substitute chicken broth for water.
  • While the rice is cooking preheat the oven to 400º.
  • Place the cherry tomatoes and peppers in a large baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat.
  • Season both sides of the chicken breasts with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and place in the baking dish.
  • Bake the tomatoes, peppers, and chicken for about 25 minutes or until the tomatoes have just started to burst and the chicken is done.
  • While the rice, chicken, and tomatoes are cooking prepare the mozzarella.
  • Place the mozzarella in a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and salt.
  • Once all the components of the dish are ready, plate the rice, chicken, blistered tomatoes, peppers, mozzarella, and top with chopped basil.
Appetizers

Recipe—Steak & Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Last weekend I hosted a wine tasting party, which is so much fun by the way! Each person brought an appetizer and a bottle of wine so it was minimal preparation required on my part and didn’t break the bank. Thanks to all my amazing friends that came if you are reading this! It was such a blast! We had a total of 13 bottles of wine and an amazing spread of food.

Since I was holding the party around dinner time I knew I needed an appetizer that was hearty and filling. Steak came to mind since it would pair so nicely with a good hearty red blend. These appetizers may look very simple but the flavors were so amazing. The goat cheese is whipped together with cream cheese, olive oil, and red pepper so it is creamy and smooth with a mild kick. I was able to prepare everything earlier in the day and then assemble right before anyone arrived. And let me tell you, they were pretty darn popular among the ladies.

Steak and Goat Cheese Crostini with Pesto

Note: These can be served hot or cold. I served them cold for the sake of convenience. I was able to do all the prep in the morning, stored the cooked steak and goat cheese spread in the fridge, and put the toasted crostini in an unsealed Ziploc bag. I then assembled them right before the party.

INGREDIENTS
1 baguette, cut into 1/4 slices
10–12 ounce New York strip steak
4 oz goat cheese, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt & pepper
chili powder
garlic powder
1/2 c pesto

STEPS

  • Preheat the oven to 425º.
  • Place the baguette slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheets.
  • Brush each slice with olive oil and season with a light sprinkle of salt. Flip each slice over and repeat.
  • Toast the baguette slices for 12–15 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.
  • While the baguette slices are toasting, season both sides of the steak with salt, pepper, a sprinkle of chili powder, and garlic powder.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the steak.
  • Cook the steak for 4–6 minutes, flip, and continue to cook for an additional 4–6 minutes.
  • Remove the steak from the pan and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • While the steak is resting, use a hand mixer to whip together the goat cheese, cream cheese, red pepper flakes, and two tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Thinly slice the steak and set aside.
  • To assemble, spread about one teaspoon of the whipped goat cheese on a slice of toasted bread, top with a slice of steak, and a dollop of pesto.
  • Enjoy!

 

Recipe adapted from Domesticate Me.

Salads

Recipe—Fiesta Salad

When most people think of salads they think of a big pile of greens topped with a handful of other veggies and dressing. Well this is not your ordinary salad. It consists of avocados, tomato, cilantro, and a sweet onion all tossed in a lime olive oil dressing. No lettuce here! I always make this with my Rio Grande Spice Rub New York Steaks and Cornbread Muffins. Seriously amazing! I also love this recipe with a nice piece of grilled fish. This simple salad is made up of fresh summer ingredients and is so light, and refreshing. Perfect for those nights you want a quick and easy side dish but just don’t want to fire up the oven.

Note: Since avocados can become mushy and brown quickly, wait to add the avocadoes until right before serving.

INGREDIENTS
2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half OR 2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
kosher salt to taste
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c lime juice
2 avocados, chopped (see note above)

STEPS

  • In a medium bowl combine the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, salt, olive oil, and lime juice. Toss to combine.
  • Add the avocado last and gently stir it in.
Dinners

Recipe—Low Cal 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.