Family Theme Nights

Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown

Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown

Yee haw! It is time to round up the family for another installment of Family Theme Night. This week I am giving you all the deets you need to throw together a Country Hoedown for the family. Until I sat down and started planning out our own menu for a western themed feast, I had NO idea how many recipes I actually had on my blog that leant themselves to this theme. A western theme is always a great reason to fire up the BBQ but if you are not the grilling type, or you want something that can be done in the kitchen, don’t worry! I still have so many great recipes for you to try. Just check out the fabulous list I compiled for you below.

Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown

For our western night we had fun doing target practice with Nerf guns and playing cards. We sipped on good ol’ fashioned root beer and drank Knock You Off Your Saddle Lemonade (recipe coming soon!) from mason jars. I danced to country music in my kitchen while cooking my Jalapeño Popper Mac N’ Cheese in a cast iron skillet and served it up in a metal pie dish with some of my homemade chili, corn on the cob, and ribs. And then of course finished it off with some cherry pie, because why not. I am still working that meal off but it was so worth it!

Knock You Off Your Saddle Lemonade

Jalapeño Popper Mac N’ Cheese

Country Feast

If you do participate in any of the theme nights please be sure to post your pics and tag me on Instagram @DivaDiCucina and use the hashtag #DivasThemeNight. I would love to see how you and your family incorporate any of the themes and put your own twist on them. Please also share any other ideas you have or links to other country or western themed recipes you enjoy in the comments below.

I hope you have as much fun with this as my family and I!

Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown

FOOD IDEAS
Click on the name of the food item below to be directed to a page with that recipe. Please note some of these link to recipes shared by other awesome food bloggers which will redirect you to their sites.

Appetizers
Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball
Bacon Jalapeño Poppers Wrapped in Puff Pastry
Spicy Black Bean Dip
Southwest Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce
Western Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

Drinks
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade
Red Wine Sangria
Summertime White Sangria
Western Sling
Root Beer or Sarsaparilla

Main Course
Crock-Pot Pale Ale BBQ Chicken Sandos
Big Ol’ BBQ Meatballs
Oven Roasted Tri Tip with Veggies
Peppercorn Crusted Steak with Bourbon Cream Sauce
Bacon Cheddar Chicken
Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken Jalapeño Popper Sammy
BBQ Bacon Wrapped Pork Chop with Grilled Onions
Pork Tenderloin Sammy with Red Cabbage Coleslaw and Sriracha Sauce
Crock-Pot Ranch Pork Chops
Easy Oven Baked Ribs

Side Dishes
Cracked Corn and Cheese Cornbread Muffins
Chili (The Classic Kind)
Jalapeño Popper Mac N’ Cheese
Broccoli Salad
Classic Macaroni Salad
Crunchy Apple Bacon Coleslaw
Crunchy Pea Salad
Potato Salad
Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread Muffins
Macaroni N’ Cheese
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Loaded Baked Cauliflower

Dessert
Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars
Banana Split Pie
Blackberry Ice Cream
Individual Blueberry Cheesecakes in Mason Jars
Strawberries & Cream Poke Cake
Strawberry Pie
Apple Pie Bites
Individual Peanut Butter Mousse Pies in Mason Jars

 

Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand to show your friendly intentions.

Family Theme Night—Country Hoedown

Beverages

Recipe—Dalgona Coffee

Dalgona Coffee

Unless you have been living under a rock these past few weeks, you may have seen posts about Dalgona Coffee, the viral coffee drink popping up all over the internet. Dalgona Coffee is a whipped coffee drink that started in Korea and has taken the internet by storm. After seeing the beautiful drink posted to my friend’s social media I knew I had to give it a try. After all, it has been about 5 weeks since my last Starbucks drink so I have just been drinking the good ol’ drip and this looked like something I could pull off at home relatively quickly and easily.

You essentially just whip together instant coffee, sugar, and hot water until it becomes a beautiful fluffy little cloud of sweetened coffee and put that over some iced milk. While most of the recipes call for instant coffee I am a girl who likes REALLY dark and bold coffee so I went with instant espresso instead. It’s the Italian in me! Let me just say, it gave me perfect little mid-day jolt I needed.

Note: The total time to prepare is about 3 minutes. Way quicker than if I got my espresso machine out and fired it up.

Instant Coffee

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp instant coffee or espresso
1–2 tbsp sugar (depends how sweet you like it)
2 tbsp hot water
milk (or milk substitute of choice)
ice
cinnamon or sweetened cocoa to sprinkle on top (optional)

STEPS

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the instant coffee or espresso, sugar, and water.
  • Using a stand-up mixer or hand mixer on medium speed, beat together until it is nice and fluffy and holds some shape. (Took me about 3 minutes.)
  • Fill a glass about half way up with ice and milk.
  • Add the whipped coffee to the glass and finish with some cinnamon or sweetened cocoa.
  • Sip and recharge.

 

 

Family Theme Nights

Family Theme Night—Take Me Out to The Ball Game

I don’t know about you, but my family is going through some serious baseball withdrawals right now. In early April we were supposed to be in LA celebrating my husband’s  birthday and cheering on our boys in blue down in Dodger Stadium. This time of year, I am supposed to be carting my kid around to late night baseball practices and be spending my weekends in the bleachers cheering him on. But we are obviously not, and we are trying our best to be okay with that. It is in everyone’s best interest that we are instead, safe at home. So why not make the best of it and satisfy those ball park cravings from the comfort of our own home.

For the second installment of Family Theme Night we went with a “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” theme and I’m not gonna lie, it was a pretty fantastic way to spend Friday. The best part of all, it was simple and cheap. You do not have to spend a fortune and spend hours prepping to incorporate a family theme night into your week.

Family Theme Night—Take Me Out to The Ball Game

We had some popcorn, lemonade, a hot dog bar, and watched Little Big League while sitting in lawn chairs in our living room. It was anything but fancy but my guys LOVED it! It was the perfect ending to another week in quarantine.

Hot Dog Bar

Family Theme Night—Take Me Out to The Ball Game

If you do participate in any of the theme nights please be sure to post your pics and tag me on Instagram @DivaDiCucina and use the hashtag #DivasThemeNight. I would love to see how you and your family incorporate any of the themes and put your own twist on them. Please also share any other ideas you have or links to other baseball themed recipes you enjoy in the comments below.

I hope you have as much fun with this as my family and I!

FOOD IDEAS
Click on the name of the food item below to be directed to a page with that recipe. Please note some of these link to recipes shared by other awesome food bloggers which will redirect you to their sites.

Appetizers
Garlic Parmesan Wings
Pizza Rolls
Hot Soft Pretzels

Drinks
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

Main Course
Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes
Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken Jalapeño Popper Sammy
Chicken & Waffle Sliders
Crock-Pot Pale Ale BBQ Chicken Sandos
Hot Dogs
Nachos
Loaded Garlic French Fries

Dessert
Churro Chex Mix
Copycat Cracker Jacks
Churros
Snow Cones
Ice Cream

Family Theme Night—Take Me Out to The Ball Game

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—Ground Pork Tacos with Corn Salsa & Cilantro Lime Crema

Okay, here we go, first recipe post of 2020! I feel like it should be something super extreme and mind blowing since you have all been waiting for so long but here we are in the middle of a pandemic and that just seems unrealistic. How are you all doing? Are you cooking at home more than ever? I know I am. I’m trying to use this as an opportunity to eat at home more and save some moolah.

These pork tacos were one of the first meals I made when we went into official “lock down” a couple of weeks ago. When all this really started I did an inventory of what we had in our box freezer and noticed we had TONS of ground pork so I wanted to do something different with that. Ground pork is just not a typical protein to cook with since it has such a different flavor compared to ground beef or ground turkey.

Not to go tooting my own horn or anything, buuuuuut these turned out so freaking good! There are so many great flavors wrapped up in the tortilla. You have the sweet corn salsa, the tangy cilantro lime crema, and then the savory pork cooked in a tomato sauce that has a nice little kick to it thanks to the jalapeño. Nothing too crazy heat wise, my ten-year-old chowed down on them. If you are looking to spice up your typical “Taco Tuesday” give these a try.

Hang in there folks! We are all in this together! Huge virtual hugs (and more recipes) coming your way! xoxox—Diva di Cucina

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CORN SALSA
1 tbsp olive oil
15.25 oz canned corn
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1/3 c cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CILANTRO LIME CREMA
1/3 c sour cream
2 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp water

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PORK
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground pork
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
6 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp cumin
1/3 c water
salt and pepper

OTHER INGREDIENTS
tortillas (I loved these with white corn tortillas)
cotija cheese
cilantro, chopped

STEPS FOR CORN SALSA

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat and add the corn.
  • Cook the corn for about 5 minutes stirring every minute or so.
  • Transfer the corn to a medium sized bowl and add the remaining corn salsa ingredients.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir and set aside.

STEPS FOR THE CILANTRO LIME CREMA

  • In a small bowl, whisk together all the cilantro lime crema ingredients and set aside.

STEPS FOR THE PORK

  • Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan the corn was cooked in and turn up to medium-high heat.
  • Add the pork to the skillet and break apart using a spatula.
  • Once the pork has started to brown, add in the jalapeño, red onion, and garlic.
  • Continue to cook until the pork is all brown and cooked through and the onion and peppers are tender.
  • Mix in the tomato paste, cumin, and water and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook for another 2–3 minutes allowing the sauce to thicken up.

TACO ASSEMBLY

  • Warm up your tortillas and top each one with a scoop of the meat, a scoop of the corn salsa, a drizzle of the cream, some cotija cheese crumbles on top, and finish it off with a sprinkling of cilantro.

Enjoy!

Kitchen Tips

Meal Planning 101

Hello there my lovely followers! It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. Okay, more like 15 months. That is just far too long but as you can imagine, life happens. First and foremost, I wanted to let you know I am in fact alive and well. I have been busy working full time managing a design studio, doing lots of freelance design work, carting my son around to sports which he does about 10 months out of the year, and squeezing in as much family time as I can during our down time.

But here I am, dealing with all the craziness that has come along with the COVID-19 pandemic. I am currently safe in my home with my family. My husband and I are both thankfully still working (from home), and trying to also juggle the schooling of our 10-year-old son. With so many events and youth sports cancelled, I find myself with more free time than I ever remember having. (At least since becoming a mom.) I am trying to make the best of it and just enjoying playing games with my family, doing puzzles, binge watching shows, finally finding the time again to get back to running a few days a week, sitting down and having at least two meals a day with my family, and in all that, trying to carve out a little extra time to get back to blogging. I am determined to let some good come out of all of this.

I absolutely love sharing recipes with all of you, so much so that I am literally getting teary as I am trying to post this. They are happy tears though. I hope that I can get you at least an email a week to bring a little sunshine your way.

So, what better post to come back with than, how on earth I manage my busy schedule and getting meals on the table. It is all about meal planning! It is the only way I can get through the week. When people ask me how I manage to cook as much as I do, I tell them it is all about meal planning. It seems like such a simple task but I realize so many people don’t even know where to begin. So, consider this my beginners guide to meal planning.

I am going to share with you my tips, tricks, and even a handy shopping list you can print and use at home. This is the same one I use myself every week. I have it organized by categories that follow the flow of most grocery stores. I absolutely hate it when I feel like a pin ball at the grocery store bouncing back and forth from one end of the store to the other. Organization and order is key!

It has been about four years of me using this list and I noticed that as soon as I started spending the 30 minutes doing my meal planning each weekend I was saving so much money by not eating out as often and not buying things I didn’t need, I reduced our wasted food to almost nothing, and best of all, eliminated so much extra stress! It is an easy routine that takes some time to adopt but so worth it once you get into the groove.

Meal Planning Grocery List

MY TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MEAL PLANNING

  • Print out several of my shopping lists at once. I do about 10 at a time. You probably won’t be as consistent if you are only printing out one at a time. If they are nearby and ready to go, you are more likely to use them.
  • If you find yourself running low on or finishing off any items, add that to the shopping list throughout the week. For example, if my husband finishes off the oregano, he just writes it on the shopping list clipped to the fridge. This helps keep you stocked on the essentials and you aren’t trying to rack your brain trying to remember what it was you finished off earlier in the week when you do go to sit down and write out your list.
  • When you are ready to do your planning for the week, look at your calendar and write in your evening commitments so you know what you need to plan around. If you have to work late, or your child has a game, plan to do quick and easy dinners those nights or maybe even takeout.
  • Clean out your fridge each weekend of anything that has gone bad or you know you won’t use. It is good to know what you do have in there.
  • Do a quick inventory of what you have that you need to use. For example, if I have half a bag of shredded cabbage or a handful of tortillas from a few days ago that I know will go bad if I don’t use it soon, I try to plan a meal around that early in the week. This helps you cut down on waste and can save you money.
  • When doing your planning, look at what recipes take common ingredients. For example, last Sunday I wanted to make pork tacos for dinner and those took cotija cheese, chopped red onions, and sliced jalapeños. I decided to make juevos rancheros for breakfast that day since they shared so many of the same ingredients. I was able to prep and chop all my ingredients for dinner while I was doing it for breakfast so come dinner time, I already had all my ingredients ready to go and I got two meals out of those ingredients.
  • Use leftover ingredients from one meal as part of the next one. I will cook twice as much broccoli as I need for a dinner, and then make a broccoli and egg quiche the next day or grill extra chicken for dinner on Sunday, to go on my salads for lunch throughout the week.
  • Plan your meals around seasonal produce. You will get the best quality ingredients and the best prices.
  • Make a shopping list every weekend for the week ahead. Once you have all your meals planned for the week, start filling in the bottom portion with what grocery items you need to make them. Having an organized and written shopping list keeps you on track at the grocery store. You are more likely to buy items you don’t need and spend more money if you go to the store and just try and wing it. Plus, you then only need to make one trip to the store a week.
  • Keep your dinner menu for the week on the fridge and check it each day. That way you remember if you need to defrost any meat, get anything marinated, or load up the crock pot before leaving for the day.

Meal Planning Dinner Menu

 

PREPPING FOR THE WEEK

  • Chopping and slicing can quickly become one of the most time-consuming parts of any meal. If you have a busy week ahead, consider washing and prepping all your produce on Sunday. I will wash and chop broccoli, onions, peppers, zucchini, pretty much any veggie ahead of time and then just put them in Ziploc bags in the produce drawer of the fridge.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for a marinade, combine all your marinade ingredients in a mason jar ahead of time. Before you leave for work in the morning just pour the marinade into a Ziploc bag with the meat.
  • If you are making a crockpot meal that calls for seasoning and liquid ingredients, combine all those together in a Tupperware or mason jar over the weekend or the night before so that in the morning you just have to dump it over the meat into the crockpot. I do not want to be spending my morning trying to open cans and measure seasonings when I am already running late for work.


OTHER TID BITS

  • Make a double batch of any of your recipes that freeze well. One for now and one for later. My enchiladas freeze awesome! I will make a triple batch, eat one batch fresh and freeze two more. It isn’t that much more work to just double a recipe if you are already taking the time to make it once. Then later on you have a quick dinner that you can just toss in the oven. Soups, lasagna, and baked pasta casseroles also freeze great.
  • Keep foil baking dishes on hand. They are great for your freezer meals! I love the 8” x 8” square foil dishes. They hold 4 enchiladas perfectly and slide right into a gallon Ziploc bag.
  • Purchase meat in bulk and separate into meal size portions. Huge money saver!
  • Invest in a FoodSaver so you can package items in a way that allows them to last a long time.
Grocery List Thumbnail
Click on the above image to save a printable pdf of my shopping list.

 

Is there anything I missed or do you have any advice? I always love hearing ideas from other people.  Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Appetizers, Beverages

Recipe—Bloody Mary Shooters

Bloody Mary Shooters

I recently hosted a bridal shower brunch and of course we had bottomless mimosas but I also made these super cute bloody mary shooters that are the adult equivalent of grilled cheese and tomato soup. I used a spicy bloody mary mix so it had a nice kick but then you take a bite of that crispy mozzarella stick to cool down your mouth. Just the best combination ever! Plus, how cute are they?!?!

This recipe makes 12 but I recommend you make double from whatever you think you will need. Just trust me on this one. These will disappear!

Bloody Mary Shooters

Note: I made these using 2 ounce shooter glasses. If you use 2 ounce glasses this recipe will make 12 portions. You can find the mozzarella sticks in the freezer section of your local grocery store.

INGREDIENTS
12 mozzarella sticks
14 oz your favorite bloody mary mix
10 oz vodka
celery greens

STEPS

  • Bake the mozzarella sticks per the package instructions.
  • In a pitcher, mix together bloody mary mix and vodka.
  • Distribute the mix evenly among the shot glasses.
  • Garnish with a sprig of celery greens and lay a mozzarella stick across the top.
  • Dip, bite, sip, repeat.