Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Tostadas

Here's a fun and tasty meal for your Merry Christmas table. It's festive and pleasing to the eye, it can't help but bring a smile.  This is simply a fun meal, so easy to make.

All you do is cut flour tortillas into Christmas tree shapes and top with taco meat and decorate with tomato, bell pepper, olives, scallion onions and cheese. That's it.  It's all about presentation.

Christmas Tree Tostadas

1 pound hamburger
1 package taco seasoning mix
6 flour tortillas
1 green bell pepper, remove seeds, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup green scallions, sliced small
6 ounces sliced Pepper Jack cheese, cut into strips
6 ounces sliced Cheddar cheese, cut into strips
3 cups shredded lettuce
Sour cream (garnish)
Taco sauce or salsa (garnish)

Skillet fry hamburger with taco seasoning mix, according to package directions.

Cut tortillas into 4 to 6 tree shapes and place on baking sheet. With a spoon, spread 1/3 cup cooked hamburger mix evenly over each tortilla. Leave a 1/2 inch border of tortilla all the way around each tostada.

Decorate each tortilla/meat "tree" with green pepper, tomatoes, and olives so each one looks like a decorated Christmas tree. Arrange cheese on top in a zigzag pattern to make a garland.

Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve each tostada with 1/2 cup of shredded lettuce (spread around the base of the tree as a skirt). Serve sour cream and taco sauce separately.  Serves 4 to 6

Christmas should be a time to enjoy good food, the season's joy and each other's company, shouldn't it? This recipe is sure to bring a smile.

That's what's on my mind this Merry Christmas day here at Being Grand. Follow @AlexandriaMarx on Twitter, Like this post on Facebook. Merry Christmas.

Adapted from CDKitchen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rudolph Christmas Cookie Recipe

Here's an easy cookie make with no flour and no sugar.  It's a decorative looking treat laid out on a Christmas platter, and it's fun to make.  I'm not a big fan of candied cherries, so I omit them, but the cookie does look cute with the cherry. I especially like the white chocolate drizzle. It's a keeper. Make a batch and serve to all your Sunday afternoon football watchers.

Rudolph Christmas Cookies
3/4 cup of raisins
3/4 cup of sliced almonds
3/4 cup of shredded coconuts
2 cups of crushed cornflakes
3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
6 ounces of white chocolate
1/2 cup of candied cherries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking tray with non-stick tin foil.

In a large bowl mix together: raisins, almonds, coconut, cornflakes, and sweetened condensed milk. Make cookies by placing a scant 1/4 of a cup the mixture onto the foil lined oven trays. They won't spread out so you don't have to put them too far apart.

Cut the candied cherries in half and put 1/2 of a cherry on each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 14-15 minutes or until light golden.

Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing from them from the tray.

Put the dark chocolate into a small bowl and melt it in the microwave.

With a knife, spread the chocolate into a thin layer on the bottom of the cookie. Let the bottom chocolate completely harden before flipping them over

Put the white chocolate chips into a small baggie. Set the baggie of chocolate chips into a bowl of hot water to melt.

Snip the corner of the baggie. Squeeze the chocolate into a funnel shape and drizzle it on the top of each cookie. (If any cherry has fallen off, use the melted chocolate as glue to reposition the cherry!)

Makes 20 cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Merry Christmas.  That's what's on my mind today. Are you Being Grand? Follow @AlexandriaMarx on Twitter, or Like this post on Facebook. Happy thoughts!

* Adapted from: Nestle and

Saturday, December 20, 2014

5 Lessons My Father Told Me Before He Passed

My father taught me many lessons before he passed away out of my life forever, lessons about parents, sons, daughters, family, friends, even people I didn't know.

Whether it's getting together for Christmas dinner, watching sports at home, taking a cooking class, visiting your child's school, going to work or the grocery store, we face people and situations every day.  We can't even die without people to bury us. That's something to really think about.  People are everywhere, all the time. 

At least one person is present when you're born. People are the ones responsible for providing food for you. People provide you with clothing, handle your money, your house, your car, your health, your job.  People make you laugh and cry.  People make you feel safe and afraid.  Some protect you, others attack you.  People give you the happiest moments in your life, other people terrorize you. 

Now, the point of this thought is to think about all the people around you.  The good, loving caring people.  The ones who frighten you and the ones who wrong you, too.

You simply can't get away from people.  My father had little to say about other people, yet he said so much.  Here are 5 of the lessons my father taught me. 

1. Accept life on life's terms. Don't be an angry person.  Don't threaten others and wave your grievances like a flag.  It doesn't work to solve whatever the problem is.  Bad behavior makes people afraid of you, angry with you, want to get away from you.  It puts people on the defensive and eventually causes you more grief. 

You can't change what people do, especially after they do it.  Rarely can you change how one person feels, let alone change the world.  Whether you accept it or not, history tells us that the world evolves, changes on its own.  It takes time.  Why ruin your today?  Why spend even a moment of your precious time on earth feeling angry and afraid?  Use the time you have in your life to bring joy into your day, every day.

2. Avoid feeling lonely.  You're never really alone, although it sure feels that way sometimes, doesn't it?  You are surrounded by people, and people feel lonely for lots of reasons.  Some feel socially uneasy or awkward or too fat or too ugly, too old, too tired and weak. Some feel hopeless, unappreciated, neglected, misunderstood.

If you feel alone, visit with someone who might feel alone. It could be a relative, neighbor or someone you don't even know.  When you help someone feel less alone, you're never alone.

3. Don't jump to conclusions.  People often think the worst of other people.  Maybe they don't think highly of themselves, and come to conclusion that others don't either.

Consider that maybe some conclusions you reach are just plain wrong.  My father used to tell me, "If you're not getting the response you want, look at yourself.  What you give is usually what you get.  If you want a different response from people, look at what you're doing -- and not doing."

4. Don't retaliate.  It's smart to defend yourself, but it's not smart to attack someone. When a person "gets even with another person," it starts a chain reaction.  Nothing good ever comes from retaliation.  My father told me, "Life is a rubber band. What you do and say bounces right back on you." 

5. Don't be critical of people. This holiday season remember that people have feelings and failings.  No one is perfect, and not everyone feels the same way you feel. People might feel neglected or unloved, lonely, sad, discouraged, unmotivated, hopeless, pressured by this or that, stressed.  People sometimes act out about something when they're really upset about something else.

My father told me that I should accept people I care about for the parts of them I love, overlook everything else.

There's one very important person in your life. That person guides everything you do, everyone you meet and everything you say. That person is you.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Do good deeds, say nice things, be the person you wish everyone else would be. Sooner or later, the message of how to treat each other spreads and grows and blossoms.

It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen. Good behavior, kindness, respect and consideration are catchy. Yes, that was one of the first lessons my father taught me, and it was one of the last.

My father used to say, "Words and deeds are all we have."  You would have liked my father.  He would have made you feel as though you were the most important person he's ever met. I know he would have liked you.

Have a very happy holiday, and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

That's what's on my mind today here at Being Grand. Follow @AlexandriaMarx on Twitter, or Like this post on Facebook. Happy thoughts!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chili Con Carne Slow Cooker

The phrase “slow-cooker recipe” sometimes conjures up thoughts that the recipe is not always synonymous with healthy.  Foods cooked in a slow cooker are often rich, calorie-laden and indulgent.  What's wrong with that picture?  Sounds yummy to me.  Sometimes, even the most dedicated and health conscious mouth needs some yum.  While slow-cooking does insure maximum flavor, that by no means implies that you can’t eat healthily, too.

This recipe made in a slow-cooker that my son got me for Christmas a couple of years ago, means preparing it keeps the "cooking stress" level low. You can prep your dish early in the day, turn on the cooker, and forget about it until dinner time. Who says healthy eating has to be lots of work?  Hallelujah!

Chili Con Carne Slow Cooker Recipe

8 slices bacon, chopped medium
3 1/2 lbs boneless chuck roast (trimmed and cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup onion (chopped)
3 jalapeƱo chiles (stemmed, seeded, minced)
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
6 (6 inch) corn tortillas, torn into 2 inch pieces
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 chipotle chiles in adobo (chopped medium)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cups pinto beans (drained and rinsed)

Cook bacon in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until crisp (about 8 minutes). Add to slow cooker, reserving fat.

Dry the beef with paper towels, season with salt and pepper. Add 2 teaspoons of bacon fat to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of beef (about 10 minutes) and add to slow cooker.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, repeat with 2 teaspoons of bacon fat and remaining beef. Add to slow cooker.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons of bacon fat return to medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion, jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer then pour into slow cooker.

Combine the tortillas and 1 cup of the chicken broth in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high until mushy, about 2 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir into the slow cooker. Add the remaining 4 cups of broth, chipotle, sugar and beans to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low (9-10 hours) until meat is fork tender. Before serving stir in cilantro and lime juice, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with bowl of sour cream to garnish as preferred.

Makes about 12 nice bowlfuls.  513 calories per bowl of delicious. Yikes!

This recipe is soooo good on a cold winter day cozy snuggled by the fireplace watching a good movie.

That's what's on my mind today.  Merry Christmas.  Have a day filled with smiles Being Grand? Follow @AlexandriaMarx on Twitter, or Like this post on Facebook. Happy thoughts!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fudge Brownie Gift

Christmas is the best time to make, bake and give brownies as a special homemade gift.  This recipe for chocolate fudge brownies with chopped pecans makes such a mouth-watering bite, it's almost a sin.

What makes this recipe special is how deliciously dense with rich chocolate it is.  It's different that the cake type that's more flaky.  This is the real deal.

Oh So Yummy Chocolate Fudgie Fudgie Brownies

14 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 cups of sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of flour
1 pinch of salt
1 cup of pecans - chopped

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 inch by 8 inch by 2 inch pan with tin foil. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Cut butter into pieces. Place the butter into a large microwave safe bowl and melt it in microwave. With a whisk, blend in unsweetened cocoa. Add sugar and mix well.

In another bowl lightly beat together eggs and vanilla extract. Add egg mixture to the cocoa mixture and blend together.  Mix in flour and salt.  Fold in walnuts.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. To test for doneness insert a wood toothpick into center of brownie dish; it should have some moist crumbs attached to it. Do not over bake.

Remove brownie dish from oven, cool completely on a wire rack. Flip brownies onto cutting board to cut.

Cuts into 8 squares.  Serve warm with scoop of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce; top with whipped cream, maraschino cherries and sprinkles of nuts.

Wrap in plastic wrap, store in an air tight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. These brownies also freeze beautifully! After cutting into squares, freeze in individual sandwich freezer bags.

Brownies make an awesome gift.  Simply wrap 2 or 3 cut squares with cellophane and tie with festive bow; or stack in glass jar and add your own personalized label and ribbon.

That's what's on my mind today. Are you Being Grand? Follow @AlexandriaMarx on Twitter, or Like this post on Facebook. Happy thoughts!