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—Fiesta Salad

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.

Fiesta Salad

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.

Recipe—Herbed Cucumber Bites

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.

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—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.

Recipe—Off the Chain Cheddar Crackers

Off the Chain Cheddar Crackers

A couple of my totally awesome work buddies are trying to kick off one of the greatest businesses Sacramento could ever gain (that is of course, in my opinion). It is called Off The Chain Bike Bus Tours. Bike buses are growing in popularity and I would LOVE to see one brought to Sacramento! Come on, riding a pedal powered bike throughout Sacramento with 15 of your closest friends, making stops at your favorite bars and restaurants, enjoying the scenes, all while burning calories. How much better could it get!?!?

This my friends, is a bike bus. Rad, right?

This my friends, is a bike bus. Rad, right?

If this company takes off they will look to expanding to several other cities around the United States. Support them and you may see one pop up in your neighborhood!

If this company takes off they will look to expand to several other cities around the United States. Support them and you may see one pop up in your neighborhood!

Since this business will launch in November I am already planning my first bike bus outing. I envision a day of hopping from bar to bar and peddling around town with all my best friends. Being the experienced drinker I am, I know that will require some solid carbs, such as these fabulous homemade cheddar crackers. I made these the other day and they went perfectly with ice-cold beer. (I’m sure they’d go great with a soda pop or water too if that’s your cup of tea.) These crackers are light, fluffy, buttery, and cheesy and are absolutely perfect if you are just sitting around having drinks with family and friends or even for a picnic, Sunday hike, or beer bus tour around Sacramento.

BikeBusFun

Can’t you just see yourself cruising around town on this?!?!

 

INGREDIENTS
3/4 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of paprika

STEPS

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Cover and refrigerate dough for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • Shape the dough into 1″ balls and place a couple of inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Press down with a fork leaving hatch marks on top.
  • Bake for 12–14 minutes or until the edges just start to turn a nice golden color.
  • Leave on baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Note: These crackers will stay fresh in an airtight container for several days.

Recipe adapted from Chef in Training.

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

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.

Recipe—Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. My hubby is not a big fan of sweet potatoes. However, we get them pretty frequently in our weekly organic produce delivery so I am always looking for creative new ways to prepare the sweet tasting tuberous root. When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. It was the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Even thought there is no actual meat in it you can certainly fool yourself into thinking there is. It is delicious, thick, hearty, and filling. We served it with a grilled tri-tip and my husband ended up chopping up his tri tip and mixing it in. He is truly a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Give this a try next time you are looking for a super food side dish to warm you up.

Note: For a completely vegan version of this recipe sub vegetable broth for beef broth.

INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4–1/2 tsp cayenne (depends on how much kick you like)
2 (14.5 oz cans) diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained
2 (15 oz cans) black beans, drained
2 c beef broth

STEPS

  • In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sweet potatoes, onion, and bell pepper until the onions become translucent, about 8–10 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne.
  • Sauté for about 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, beans, and broth stirring until well combined.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30–35 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the chili is the desired consistency.

Recipe adapted from Alida’s Kitchen

Recipe—Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

It is FINALLY starting to feel like winter in California! We have been having 60–70 degree days in December and January. Not normal! Don’t get me wrong, I love nice weather but one of my favorite things about Cali is that we usually have 4 very distinct seasons. I love being bundled up with a cozy scarf and boots on a cold winter day with a big bowl of soup and it has just not been that kind of winter. Well we just got our first spell of rain in what feels like months! This led me to go into full on soup mode.

Broccoli cheddar soup has always been one of my all time favorite soups. It is so rich, creamy, and filling. (Exactly what you need after you made your new year’s resolutions right?) Well give yourself a cheat day and serve this up with an old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwich for a real winter treat. A perfect warm up for a cold winter day!

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c butter
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 tsp thyme
3 tbsp flour
3 c milk
3 c chicken broth
1 c heavy cream
2 heads broccoli, chopped
1 c cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 c parmesan, grated
salt
white pepper

STEPS

  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and thyme and cook stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent, about 4–5 minutes.
  • Add in the flour and mix until well combined and it starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk in milk, broth, and cream.
  • Stir in the chopped broccoli and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 8–10 minutes.
  • Add in the shredded cheeses and stir until smooth and melted, about 2 minutes.
  • Season to taste with the salt and white pepper.
  • Serve and top with additional shredded cheddar if desired.
  • Serve immediately.