Dinners, Salads

Recipe—Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

During the hot summer months my body craves lighter refreshing meals and I just hate running the oven when it is 105º outside. We eat a lot of salads and tacos to keep it quick and simple, but it is always fun to mix it up with some new flavors. 

I just absolutely LOVE this peanut sauce with all the other ingredients coming together. You have this flavor medley of peanuts, garlic, and ginger which are so good together and then you get this nice sweetness from the mangos and a little kick from the jalapeño, and that is all just in the sauce and toppings! Don’t forget about all those flavor packed veggies and shrimp in the layered in the lettuce cup too.

This recipe is incredibly versatile. While I myself enjoyed these as lettuce wraps, my husband and son had theirs in a flour tortilla as more of a fusion style taco (they like their carbs) but this would make an amazing entrée salad too if you just wanted to chop up the lettuce and use the sauce as a dressings. Either way, you will not be disappointed!

Note: These take less than 15 minutes to cook and assemble but there is a little bit of prep time needed to slice and dice all the veggies. If you have a busy week ahead, you can absolutely prep ahead of time by chopping up all the veggies and storing them in some sealed containers or bags.

PEANUT SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp rice vinegar 
2 tsp coconut milk  
3 tbsp soy sauce 
2 tbsp honey 
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic, minced

SHRIMP LETTUCE WRAP INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil  
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 zucchini, julienned
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp crushed red pepper  
1/2 tsp cumin 
1 jalapeños, seeded and sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 mango, diced
1 head butter leaf lettuce, leaves separated 

STEPS

  • In a small bowl whisk together all the peanut sauce ingredients until smooth and set aside.
  • In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the onion, carrots, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until they begin to soften, about 3–4 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, zucchini, and soy sauce to the skillet and cook until the shrimp are golden and almost cooked through, about 3–4 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, ginger paste, crushed red pepper, and cumin and cook for another 1–2 minutes.
  • Remove the skillet from the stove top and set aside.
  • To prepare, scoop some of the vegetables into the lettuce cups and top with a few of the shrimp. 
  • Garnish with a couple of jalapeño slices, some green onions, and diced mangos and then drizzle with the peanut sauce.
  • Grab a napkin or three and enjoy!
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:

Appetizers, Side Dishes

Recipe—Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame

Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame

You know how you have some food items that you literally just cannot get enough of? Like, you would eat every bit of it if you weren’t sharing and then when it is all gone you are using your fingers to get every last drop out of the bottom of the dish. That is me with this Creamy & Spicy Garlic Edamame. I literally would lick the bowl clean like a 5-year-old does with their ice cream bowl if I could get my tongue to the bottom of it. Too graphic? Sorry! The sauce is just so freaking good! It has just the right amount of heat that you feel a little burn but the creaminess of the sauce helps to tame it and you just keep going back for more.

I have been making this recipe a lot lately. It is a quick (I am talking less than 10 minutes start to finish) and easy side dish that goes great when I am making a stir fry or big batch of ramen but it also makes an awesome snack. Edamame is high in protein and fiber and is rich in vitamins and minerals, plus it is just fun to eat. It is probably a good thing that they have a shell because that is the only thing that slows me down when I have a bowl of these in front of me. 😉

INGREDIENTS
14 oz bag of frozen edamame in pods
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp chili paste (Sambal Oelek is my go to)
1/4 mayonnaise
1 tbsp soy sauce
sea salt

STEPS

  • Prepare the edamame per the package instructions, drain, and transfer to a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, sesame oil, chili paste, mayonnaise, and soy sauce.
  • Pour the sauce over the edamame and toss to coat.
  • Transfer to a serving dish a sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Appetizers, Dinners

Recipe—Loaded Korean Beef Fries

Recipe—Loaded Korean Beef Fries

If your mouth isn’t watering just looking at this pic, then you must be dead. And if you are doing everything you can to keep from drooling on your keyboard or phone, then please, give this recipe a try. You will have no regrets. Absolutely calorie worthy.

This is actually a copycat version of the Loaded Korean BBQ Beef Fries from my favorite local food truck, Turnt Up Tacos and Tortas. The first time I had them, I was HOOOOOOKED!

I start off with a base of thin crispy fries and cover them in finely shredded jack cheese and then pile on a mound of my sweet and spicy Korean Beef and then top that with a cabbage and carrot-based coleslaw made with a creamy sesame ginger sauce and then don’t forget about that spicy sriracha drizzled over the top to give it a kick. The flavors are so freaking good, I tell ya! Mmmmm… mmmmm… mmmmmmmmm!

I have actually started serving this as a meal in my house with each person getting their own plate of loaded fries (yes, loaded fries as a meal, it even has most of the food groups) but you could absolutely make one big pile of loaded fries and share them with friends as an appetizer or shared plate.

Note: The sesame oil and ginger paste go in both the Korean beef as well as the creamy sesame ginger sauce so pay close attention when preparing.

INGREDIENTS
bag of frozen french fries
1 lb ground beef
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tbsp & 1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger paste, divided
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
3 c green cabbage, shredded
1/2 c carrots, shredded
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 tsp white sugar
1/4 c milk
2 c jack cheese, shredded
Sriracha sauce
2 green onions, chopped
sesame seeds

STEPS

  • Bake or fry the French fries according to the package directions.
  • While the fries are baking, cook the ground beef over medium high heat breaking it apart as it cooks.
  • Once the beef is cooked through, drain off most of the fat.
  • Add in the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger paste, red peppers, salt, and pepper.
  • Simmer over medium heat for a 4–5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • While the beef is cooking, put the cabbage and carrots in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, white sugar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, the other 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste, and the milk to make the creamy sesame ginger sauce.
  • Toss about 3/4 of the creamy sesame ginger sauce with the cabbage and carrots and set aside the rest to drizzle over the top.
  • When the fries are done transfer them to the plates.
  • Top each pile of fries with the jack cheese, cooked Korean beef, and the coleslaw.
  • Drizzle the remaining creamy sesame ginger sauce and sriracha sauce over the top.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and finish off with green onions.
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!

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.
Dinners

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen Bowls

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen

Last year for our anniversary dinner, my husband took me to this swanky restaurant in downtown Sacramento. Their special of the night was a spicy pork ramen bowl. It is totally not something I would typically order but that chilly October night, it just sounded so good. And it was. The spicy broth warmed me right up and it was just so rich and flavorful. Not at all what I had expected. I thought it would be similar to a beef broth but it had so much depth to it.

Ever since then, I have been experimenting with perfecting my version of a pork ramen bowl. I think I have the delicious meal pretty much dialed in. The broth is flavorful and the meat so juicy and tender. This dish warms you from the core out and is a perfect dinner as evenings start to cool with the seasons.

Note: This recipe will make between 4–6 ramen bowls.

Recipe—Crock-Pot Pork Ramen

INGREDIENTS
3 lb boneless pork shoulder
salt and pepper
6 c chicken broth
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp miso broth concentrate
8 tsp chile garlic sauce (4 for the broth, 4 for finishing)
2 tsp ginger paste
2 c shiitake mushrooms
large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles (dispose of flavor packets)
4-6 boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1/2 c green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Season the pork with salt and pepper and place in a crock-pot.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the broth, soy sauce, miso broth concentrate, 4 teaspoons chile garlic sauce, and the ginger paste.
  • Place the mushrooms and sliced onions around the pork shoulder in the crock-pot.
  • Pour the broth mix into the crock-pot.
  • Cook on high for 4–5 hours or low for 7–8 hours.
  • When ready to serve, carefully transfer the pork from the crock-pot to a cutting board.
  • Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes and then shred using forks.
  • While the meat is resting, cook the ramen per package instructions and drain completely.
  • Distribute the noodles among 4–6 bowls.
  • Top each pile of noodles with a scoop of the shredded pork.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and mushrooms from the crock-pot and place around the bowls.
  • Using a ladle, top off each bowl with broth from the crock-pot.
  • Add two boiled egg halves to each bowl.
  • Place a teaspoon of the chile garlic sauce on the top of each pile of meat.
  • Garnish with green onions.
  • Serve with chopsticks and enjoy!
Dinners

Recipe—One Pot Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

One Pot Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Every once in awhile you find a recipe that is perfect for entertaining, this is it! There is nothing fancy about it but it is delicious and it will feed an army. No joke, this recipe can feed anywhere from 6-8 people. Or in my case, made 2 dinners for 3 of us, which I have no complaints about. I would eat leftovers of this recipe every day. The flavors just get better and better while all those yummy flavors fuse together. This recipe is so filling and hearty which is great PLUS it all comes together easily in one large pot which means fewer dishes to wash. And who is going to complain about having fewer dishes? NO ONE!

Just serve this dish along with a big green salad and you will have some happy and lucky folks sitting at your table.

INGREDIENTS
olive oil
1 lb chicken, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
12 oz andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
salt & pepper
large yellow onion, chopped
red bell pepper, chopped
yellow bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
6 oz can tomato sauce
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 c long grain white rice
32 oz chicken broth
3 green onions, chopped

STEPS

  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot and add sausage.
  • Cook sausage for 3–4 minutes and then add chicken.
  • Continue cooking for 8–10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Transfer the cooked sausage and chicken to a bowl or plate and set aside.
  • Add another 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pot and add in the onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic.
  • Cook the vegetables for 6–8 minutes or until they are tender.
  • Place the chicken and sausage back in the pot and add in 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, thyme, basil, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, rice, and chicken broth.
  • Stir the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Once the pot starts to boil, cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.
  • Allow the jambalaya to simmer for 30–40 minutes. (Check it after 25 minutes and add an additional 1/2 c of water or broth if all the fluid is already absorbed and give it a good stir to ensure it isn’t burning to the bottom of the pot.)
  • Remove the jambalaya from heat and allow it to sit for 3–5 minutes.
  • Transfer a heaping spoonful to a plate or bowl and topped with the chopped green onions.
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.