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Throw a Mexican fiesta

Sandy Smith is a food writer, editor, recipe developer, and pastry chef. She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her awesome family of painfully honest, unfailingly supportive taste-testers.

Tasty recipes from south of the border

You don't have to wait for Cinco de Mayo to delight your family and friends with a Mexican-themed dinner party. Mexican-style food and beverages are perennial party favorites -- and they're easy to customize to the occasion, regardless of whether you're hosting four people or 40.

Salsa

Plan on serving plenty of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres -- they're half the fun. A make-your-own-taco bar is always a hit, as are top-your-own enchilada and tostada bars. For kids and teetotalers, beverages can include punch and a selection of Mexican sodas (check the ethnic foods section of your grocery store for these). For adults who wish to imbibe, whip up some frozen margaritas or pitchers of fruity sangria.

Desserts don't have to be complicated. Rice pudding, ice cream and cookies are all good choices to end your fiesta on a sweet note.

Beverages

Watermelon Margaritas

Berry Peach Sangria

A Trio of Sangrias

Appetizers

Guacamole with a Twist

Homemade Salsa with Tortilla Chips

Spicy Corn Salsa Muffins

Main Course

Taco Bar

Chicken Chimichangas

Chili Tostadas

Mexican-Style Steak

Spicy Tex-Mex Stew

Desserts

Avocado Lime Cheesecake

Mexican Rice Pudding

"Hot" Chocolate Sundae: Stir 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper into 1 cup hot fudge sauce. Drizzle over scoops of chocolate ice cream.

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