Appetizers

Recipe—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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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.
Appetizers

Recipe—Herbed Cucumber Bites

I have been wanting to host a tea party type of event and this year Easter was the perfect occasion. We were just having a couple of people over so I did all sorts of small bites. So fun and classy! The cucumber rounds were one of my faves! They were so light and refreshing and reminded me of the typical cucumber sandwiches you would have at a tea party, minus the rye bread. These are definitely the perfect snack for bridal showers, baby showers, or an afternoon tea.

INGREDIENTS
8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c fresh dill (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tbsp dill pickle juice (just the stuff form the jar)
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pepper
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
parsley to garnish (optional)

STEPS

  • In a medium bowl beat together the cream cheese, dill, pickle juice, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and green onion until smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag.
  • Pipe the herbed cream cheese mixture onto each cucumber round.
  • Garnish each cucumber with a sprig of parsley on top.
  • Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge until ready to enjoy.
Appetizers, Kitchen Tips

Kitchen Tip—Fun Individual 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!

Pre-Scooped Ice Cream—A Party Time Saver

Appetizers, Sauces

Recipe—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.)
Salads, Side Dishes

Recipe—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!

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.

Salads

Recipe—Dad’s Beet, Carrot, and Feta Salad

My dad has always been an incredible cook. He manages to take the most simple ingredients and turns them into something wonderful! This is a salad that he first made for me last year and it is now one of my favorites. It took him a few minutes to throw it together and yet it turned out to be delicious and it had a gourmet quality to it. The carrots and raw beets are just slightly sweet, perfectly crunchy, and the feta adds a wonderful salty, tangy, creamy quality. Yum! This is the perfect salad going into spring. Since all of the vegetables are raw it will hold up and remain crunchy for several days when stored in the fridge allowing you to enjoy it more than once, that is, if you even have leftovers. Enjoy!

Note: My beets appear pink in the photo because I used chioggia beets which vary in color from the more common red beets. You can use any kind of beet you can get your hands on for this recipe. However, I do think red beets give you the most beautiful color.

INGREDIENTS
3 fresh beets, washed, peeled, and shredded
4 large carrots, shredded
1/2 c Italian dressing
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

STEPS

  • Combine the shredded beets and shredded carrots in a large bowl.
  • Pour the Italian dressing over the veggies and toss to combine.
  • Top with feta cheese and fresh parsley.
  • Chill until ready to serve.