Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend was filled with homework and Christmas decorating. Since I’ve managed to hurt myself again (hello shin splints), I haven’t run since last Sunday’s Turkey Trot. This sideline is only partially welcomed because it’s the end of the semester so I have a few projects that I’m trying to finish up. Other than that, though, I’ve been eager to get back out and run since I just got a new pair of running tights, compression socks, AND a rolling stick! I’m hoping at some point later this week I can get back out there, since the Disney Half Marathon is only a month away.

As I mentioned, Saturday was full of homework and Christmas decorations. Since we go grocery shopping on Sundays, food was scarce, and it left me hungry. Thankfully I was able to make up for it on Sunday.

We started the day at our favorite breakfast spot, Le Peep, where I ordered my typical breakfast burrito. This thing is massive, as it’s stuffed with beans, cheese, salsa, onions, peppers, eggs, and your choice of meat (I went no-meat). It’s then topped with more cheese and chili (no chili for me!) and served along side their famous “peasant potatoes” which are unbelievably delicious home fries. We then headed over to the grocery store to stock up for the week, and I got back to my homework. The fiancé took some time to do a little window shopping for where we want to go on our honeymoon, and we have no idea. All we know is that we want to go somewhere warm and tropical-like, and we don’t have the intention of doing much aside from laying around pool/beachside and eating delicious food. So, if anyone has any suggestions I would gladly welcome them! But keep in mind, we’re getting married in September, and that unfortunately is hurricane season for most of the Caribbean.

For dinner, I decided to make Mexican Stuffed Peppers. Growing up we had stuffed peppers with ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, and sauteed onions frequently. Since I’ve tried to commit myself to really not eating meat, I opted for a vegetarian friendly version, with a Mexican twist, of course. I was inspired by Abby’s Don’t Unstuff These Peppers and decided to make my own! And let me tell you – they were delicious. The perfect amount of spice (for me), the semi-crunch of the cooked green peppers, and everything else I love about Mexican and Southwestern styled food (onions, black beans, corn, etc.). They’re also surprisingly filling. I had it with my usual side salad and was pleasantly satisfied. I wound up making four, so the fiancé and I had ourselves a pretty sweet lunch lined up for Monday, too!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers
– Serves 4 –

4 medium sized green peppers
1 small yellow onion
1 cup white rice
3/4 can of black beans (of a 14 oz can)
1 4.5 oz can of sweet corn
1/2 cup chunky salsa
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp Adobo
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cook rice according to package instructions.
3. Wash green peppers, leaving them a little damp (the moisture will help them get soft when they bake)
4. Dice onion and sauté in a heated pan with the 2 Tbsp of oil until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add spices and sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes
5. Add black beans and corn to onion mixture, followed by rice once it’s completely cooked, and cook for about 5 minutes
6. While the mixture is cooking, slice the tops of the green peppers, and remove the seeds and core
7. Once the bean, corn, and rice mixture is warm all over, mix in salsa, making sure to coat everything
8. Using a spoon, transfer the mixture into each pepper filling to the top
9. Place the peppers in a sprayed casserole dish, and bake for 25-30 minutes until peppers are soft and filling is heated through

Deliciousness in Downtown Westfield: Xocolatz

To celebrate my Mom’s birthday, and also our engagement, my fiance (I’m so excited to get to say that now!) and I joined my family in Westfield for brunch this past Sunday. We went to my family’s favorite restaurant, Xocolatz.

Most restaurants can be classified into different categories; based on food, overall vibe, type of restaurant, or other factors. Every so often, however, there are restaurants that don’t fit a particular mold. Xocolatz in is one of those places.

The restaurant itself is adorned with historic pictures of Westfield as well as other cute and spunky décor, like a placard letting patrons know that if their children run rampant, they’ll be served espresso and promised a pony.

Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on Sundays, the restaurant is always crowded. Reservations are recommended, but despite the crowd, you never wait long. Because it’s such a local favorite, it isn’t quiet and intimate; it’s bustling and bright.

The waiters and waitresses all wear black and don’t write down your orders. Although they don’t have a paper and pen crutch, the waiters and waitresses seem to be spot-on. Your orders are served in a timely manner and are always correct, and they’re quick to make sure your beverages are at a comfortable level.

The ambiance is great, but the stand-outs are their dishes, as the menu is expansive for a small to mid sized restaurant. Often times restaurants that boast larger menus have mediocre food; a jack of all trades but a master of none, if you will. This isn’t the case with Xocolatz. While their menu isn’t pages long, the different types of food that are offered really do have something for everyone. The dishes often combine a Spanish flair (fried plantains, chili, etc.) but they also have other favorites including daily quiches, quesadillas, chicken parmigana sandwiches, tropical hamburgers, seafood dishes, and daily specials. The specials rarely repeat, and you can count on something new and exciting every time.

The food itself is extremely fresh; the salsa tastes like the tomatoes and onions were just cut and combined, the bread tastes freshly baked, and seafood dishes are far from “fishy.” The combinations are different, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

They serve a special brunch menu on Sundays, and while they’re BYOB, if you bring the champagne, they’ll provide the orange juice for mimosas. And though you might be dining at the restaurant during their specified brunch hours (11am to 3pm), you can always order off of their lunch menu if brunch isn’t your thing. Since they are open Monday thru Sunday, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try everything!

While we were there, I went for the Oaxaca breakfast burrito, filled with chili, onions, peppers, cheese and eggs. It was served with a simple green salad and avocado. It was absolutely delicious! My fiance, also an avid Mexican/Spanish food lover, went with the Tex-Mex omlette, so we could share. The omlette was stuffed with onions and peppers, cheese, and jalepenos.  The omlette was served with breakfast potatoes and toast. Each of the dishes were served with some sliced fresh fruit as well. The other notable dish ordered by our group was my mom’s dish. She ordered savory crepes that were stuffed with onions, goat cheese, and spinach with eggs served over them.

Everything we ordered was absolutely delicious. I’ve had brunch, lunch, and dinner at Xocolatz and have been extremely impressed every time.

Check out the delicious nomz below, and head over to their site to look at the menu and their daily specials. If you’re in the area, definitely go!!