You Need Mexican Food.

Yes, I know it’s practically New Year’s and everyone is scouring the internet for New Year’s Eve appetizers, drinks and fancy desserts. To be honest, hubby and I don’t really do all that fancy shmancy stuff. We stay home. It’s heaven. We watch the Twilight Zone marathon on tv, play cards, eat snack food or cook steaks, drink lots of champagne and most times, fall asleep before midnight. I love it and look forward to it year round. I’m sure a big fancy party would be nice, but frankly, after all the Christmas festivities and driving all over the place to be at so many different celebrations…we need a little break. AND you may recall the lovely picture of me holding 4 gorgeous kinds of delicious cheeses?? Well, I’ve made a New Year’s Eve date with those cheeses and I simply can’t wait. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. :)

So, the point of all this rambling is to let you know that I won’t be posting New Year’s Eve recipes here today. Nor will I be posting a list of my favorite recipes from 2010 like so many other bloggers are doing. Today, I’m posting….Mexican food. Yes, that’s right. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Immediately after Christmas and the holidays, the one thing I crave above all else is Mexican food. Think about it- we’ve all been eating party food, ham, turkeys, dressing, cakes, and grandma’s fudge for weeks straight. I don’t know about you, but I need a little variety after all that holiday food. And Mexican food is just the ticket. Hubby and I went last night and ate Mexican food and it tasted SO good! So, since I thought some of you might be needing a little variety this time of year, here are my very favorite Mexican food recipes. Do yourself a favor and try some this week- I promise, you’ll be so glad you did.

Mexican Casserole -my mom’s famous recipe that never seems to get old. So easy to make and assemble and always a crowd pleaser!

Grilled Chicken Fajitas -if you love fajitas, you’ll love these! The chicken is so flavorful and juicy- these are my very favorite fajitas. If it’s too cold to grill where you are, don’t worry- feel free to use an indoor grill pan or even just a skillet.

Salsa Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas -AKA: “knock-your-socks-off enchiladas”; these are hands down, the BEST sour cream enchiladas I’ve ever had! You simply must try them!

Pulled Pork Tacos -throw everything in a dutch oven, let it do its thing, and you’ve got moist, tender pork tacos that are bursting with flavor. These are my very favorite tacos! Even my husband, the taco connoisseur said these are some of the best tacos he’s ever had!

Stacked Enchiladas – my Daddy’s grandmother’s recipe and a family favorite. I make these every year right after Christmas. They’re so easy and so, so good!

Homemade Salsa and Guacamole -whatever you choose to make, don’t forget the homemade salsa and guacamole! These come together in literally minutes, and so worth the extra effort! Forget that jarred stuff!

Now, GO and make yourself some tasty Mexican food! Happy New Year!!! :)

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Thick and Hearty Beef Stew…

Well, Christmas is over (sad…) and I hope that everyone enjoyed a safe, happy and joyous time with friends and family. We certainly did! It would have been just about perfect except I caught a terrible 24 hour stomach bug that’s been going around and it really put a damper on our Christmas Day- no worries though, we still had a wonderful, joyous holiday! My sweet, thoughtful husband put 4 kinds of aged cheese in my stocking this year, along with a BIG bottle of Mexican vanilla! He also got me a new set of pots and pans- bye-bye 4 year old, scratched up non-stick pans! Woo!

But now, it’s back to blogging and I’m so excited to share this stew with you! The weather is cold and rainy here (and blizzard-y pretty much everywhere else in the US!), so we need a good, hearty stew that will help to melt away the cold! This one is absolutely delicious- I saw it on Jamie’s blog, My Baking Addiction and was intrigued by the use of A-1 sauce, so I immediately made it. Normally when I make stew I like lots of liquid, so I guess technically what I’ve always made is ‘soup’. After trying this one, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back! It really exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to make it again.

Thick and Hearty Beef Stew
-adapted from My Baking Addiction

1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth (I like to use reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 or 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
9 or 10 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon A-1 steak sauce

Toss the beef and flour in a bowl until the beef is coated. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat; add the beef and cook until nicely browned. Set aside.
Deglaze pot with red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Pour in the beef broth and add in the beef, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Stir in potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onion, Worcestershire, ketchup and A-1. Cover and simmer 1 hour more.

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A Very Merry Christmas!!!

…from my family to yours! I hope you all enjoy safe, wonderful, and happy holidays!

Love,

Amy, Joel and Izzy

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Quick and Easy Peppermint Brownies…

You may remember a different batch of minty brownies I did a while back, but I decided just one recipe wasn’t enough! With Christmas being JUST around the corner, I’ve sure been seeing a good amount of peppermint brownie recipes floating around the blogosphere. Since I just can’t resist the chocolate/peppermint combination, I decided I needed to make a batch. However, I was in a hurry and cheated by starting with a box mix (judge all you want to but personally, I think the boxed kind are some of the best; especially when you’re in a hurry!), then added my beloved candy cane flour to the mix and sprinkled crushed peppermint over the top. Delicious. Christmasy. Just what we needed that night! And quick, to boot!

Peppermint Brownies

1 box brownie mix (or your favorite brownie recipe), prepared according to the box, but not yet baked
**1/3 cup candy cane flour
1/2 cup crushed peppermint, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9 pan. Stir in the candy cane flour. Pour into greased pan and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup crushed peppermint. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Sprinkle with more crushed peppermint, if desired. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

**Basically, when you crush your peppermint, sift out the fine powder (or ‘candy cane flour’, as I call it), and you’ll be left with enough to mix into the batter.

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Cinnamon Pound Cake…

If you love cinnamon, be sure to bookmark this recipe because it’s just bursting with it! This cake is one of my very favorite things around Christmas (and winter)- my mom used to make it every single Christmas and the whole family loved it. Now my sister and I both make it for our own families every Christmas. It’s wonderful for parties if you don’t want to take the same old cookies or candy, but still want something quick and easy (and of course impressive).

This cake is incredibly moist and just FULL of warm cinnamon flavor; a real treat during the holidays! Perfect after a delicious meal with a cup of hot coffee. If you’re looking for that perfect Christmas morning breakfast treat, this would be delicious! And it keeps beautifully, so feel free to make it a day or two before! This cake is Christmas to me and I just love it. In fact, I’ve posted it before, but it was a looong time ago and the pictures were just awful. I decided to feature it again, so that it might get the attention it deserves! Thanks Mommy, for a delicious recipe! :)

Cinnamon Pound Cake
-my mom’s recipe (I’m not sure where she got it from originally)

4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 yellow butter cake mix (don’t use white cake mix – it has to be butter)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup canola oil
1  8-ounce container sour cream
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle half of the mixture in the greased bundt pan – shake it all around to coat the entire pan. Mix cake mix with pudding, oil, sour cream, eggs and other half of cinnamon/sugar mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until springy. Cool for 20 minutes before taking out of pan.

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Christmas Cookie Fail (yes, another one…)

Yep. I’ve done it again. Severe cookie fail. For your information, it is QUITE hard to use a cookie press if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s your first time. I learned this the hard way. My spatula broke. These cookies BROKE my spatula. My grilled cheese spatula.

However, I fully intend to get the hang of this cookie press business….eventually.

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Zesty Tortilla Roll-Ups…

I love just about anything with a cream cheese base. Cheese balls, dips, cheesecakes, spreads…I love it all. That’s why I went nuts for these little tortilla roll-ups that my friend Callie introduced me to (sorry the photos are so crummy- I had only a few seconds to snap a couple of pictures before my party!). She brought them to my house for a party and I pretty much ate half the platter by myself. Then I turned right around and made some myself to take to another party! I LOVE them! And the party guests loved them too- they got gobbled up in no time! The ranch seasoning really adds great zestiness and the green chiles give it a nice zing! These are SO good! Perfect for parties!

Zesty Tortilla Roll-Ups
-adapted from my friend Callie’s recipe

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 package (1 oz.) Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix
2 green onions, chopped
1  4-ounce jar diced pimiento, drained
1  4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained
1  4-ounce can chopped black olives, drained
1 squirt lime juice
1 package large flour tortillas

Mix all ingredients together and spread in an even layer on tortillas. Roll them up and chill for at least 2 hours. Slice just before serving.

*These are best enjoyed the day they’re made. The tortillas will get a little soggy after a few hours, so if you need to make them ahead of time, just make the filling and keep in the refrigerator until needed, then assemble the day of.

**This would also be great by itself as a dip- just serve with Fritos or tortilla chips! Yum!!


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My Favorite Christmas Cookies…

Cookies are such a huge part of Christmas. They’re fun to bake, fun to decorate, fun to take to parties, to give to your friends, to leave for Santa and most importantly, fun to eat! I feel like I’m baking cookies constantly these days, just because I enjoy being in my kitchen so much at Christmastime! Here’s a list of my most cherished (most delicious!) Christmas cookie recipes. Whether you’re looking for that perfect cookie to leave for Santa (a very big decision!), need a recipe for your cookie exchange or you’ve got a major Christmas cookie craving and need a cookie QUICK, this list is for you!

Monster Cookies - full of oats, peanut butter and M&Ms, these are always on my Christmas cookie list! However, the recipe makes a floppity-gillion cookies, so you’ll most likely need to half the recipe. Unless you’re hosting a party for all of Connecticut.

Chocolate Mint Puddles – soft, chewy, minty and oh-so chocolaty. I adore these!

Peppermint Kisses – my new favorite Christmas cookie! I took Dorie Greenspan’s delicious sugar cookie recipe and dressed it up with a little peppermint and white chocolate…absolutely irresistible!

Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies – I’m not a fan of crunchy gingerbread cookies, so these are right up my alley! Soft and chewy, with just the right amount of spice- and GREAT for decorating!

Peppermint Chocolate Truffles – these aren’t technically cookies, but they’re so delicious and easy to make that I just had to share them! These would look just gorgeous on a big platter for your next party- they’re so pretty!

M&M Cookies – these are the cookies my sister and I always left for Santa. Even though my dad kept suggesting we leave buttermilk pie for Santa (why would we do that?!), we always knew that Santa would have preferred these. ;)

Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies – these are rolled in crushed peppermints and baked, so they have a wonderful, chewy crunch to them! A HUGE hit with my coworkers!

I hope you’re able to find a recipe or two you’d like to try this Christmas- they’re all husband, kid and coworker tested (and approved!), so I know they’ll be sure to impress! MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy baking!

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Chocolate Mint Puddles, Revisited…

Prepare yourself for the world’s most delicious cookie! I’ve made these every Christmas for over 4 years now…they’re SO good! In fact, they’ve been featured on here before, but they were included in a post with 3 other types of cookies, so I decided to revisit them and give them their very own post! They deserve it! They’re originally called Chocolate Peppermint Cookies or something like that, but I changed the name to ‘Chocolate Mint Puddles’ a few years back because I thought it was totally fitting (it must have caught on too, because since then, I’ve seen quite a few bloggers adopt the name too!). If you’re a chocolate/mint addict like me, you’ll absolutely love these. They’re a bit more work than the average cookie, but totally worth it! Make these for your next cookie exchange or party- everyone will go nuts for them!

Chocolate Mint Puddles
-allrecipes.com

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (4.5 ounce) packages chocolate covered thin mints (Andes mints)

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, butter and water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips until melted and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. Roll cookie dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, be careful not to overbake. When cookies come out of the oven, Press one mint wafer into the top of each cookie and let sit for 1 minute. When the mint is softened, swirl with the back of a spoon or toothpick to make a pattern with the green filling of the mint wafer. For smaller cookies, break mints in half.

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Oreo Peppermint Bark…

Joel and I sort of have an unhealthy addiction to Oreos. We love them. We even had an Oreo bar with a milk fountain at our wedding. :) Yep, addicted. Which is why I use Oreos in baking/candy making every chance I get. Especially the holiday Oreos- the orange filled ones at Halloween, the pastel ones at Easter/Spring and the red ones at Christmas- which I what I used for this Oreo peppermint bark (at Joel’s suggestion). We had a big party with all of our friends last weekend and I made a big tray of this stuff- it was a huge hit! People can’t resist peppermint bark around the holidays anyway…add crushed up Oreos to the mix and they REALLY can’t resist it! I’ll definitely be making this year after year!

I was giddy at finding this giant block of Ghiradelli candy making chocolate at Sam’s! I see lots more candy making in my future!

Oreo Peppermint Bark
-Sing For Your Supper original

1 pound dark chocolate bark
1 pound white chocolate almond bark
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
10 Oreos, roughly chopped (I used the festive holiday ones!)
1/2 cup crushed peppermints

Melt the dark chocolate bark in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Pour out onto a large sheet of wax paper and smooth it out into one even (thin) layer with a spatula (an offset spatula works perfectly for this). Let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, until hardened. Next, melt the white chocolate bark.
When the chocolate is hardened, stir the peppermint extract into the melted white chocolate bark. Pour over the dark chocolate layer and spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula.
Sprinkle the Oreos and crushed peppermints in an even layer over the top. Let sit until completely dried and hardened, about 20 or 30 minutes.
Break into pieces and serve. Enjoy!

**As always, feel free to use regular dark and white chocolate instead of bark (candy coating). I just prefer to use it because it dries so quickly and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.


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