Pinning and Planning – December 23

Honestly, I wasn’t going to post a Pinning and Planning post since two days of this week’s menu would be consumed with Christmas dinners.  But then I had a thought that perhaps my readers would want to see what Allan and I had planned for our Christmas dinners.

We spend Christmas Eve with my family which is typically a meatless meat per my mom’s request.  It’s an Italian-American Catholic thing.  Over the years, Allan has slowly added some meat dishes into the mix (chicken cutlets or Italian sausage) and no one has complained, although my mom, my sister and I still elect to remain meatless.  (Some really rude joke come to mind.  Keep it clean, guys! lol)

Growing up, our meatless Christmas Eve meals consisted on shrimp marinara, but Allan isn’t the biggest fan of shrimp and so years ago, he decided to serve eggplant parmesan.  Now fifteen years later, everyone expects the dish on Christmas Eve.  No lie, Iron Chef Allan makes the most delicious eggplant parmesan and I can’t stomach restaurant eggplant parmesan anymore.  I’m always disappointed because it doesn’t taste as good as Allan’s, which really is a thing of beauty and I’ll have to post a photo of it for you.

Of course, there is nothing light about Allan’s eggplant parmesan and you could probably bake the eggplant to save on calories and fat, but it’s Christmas and Christmas calories don’t count, right?  It’s a Christmas miracle!  Thank you, Baby Jesus!

We serve our eggplant parmesan with spaghetti topped with marinara sauce and there’s always a huge tossed salad.  So, those who are concerned with calories can pass on the parmesan and save room for the Yule log cake Allan always bakes (another photo worthy masterpiece).  My oldest daughter has requested cheesecake too.

On Christmas Day, we’re entertaining Allan’s family and for the Taylor Clan, Iron Chef Allan will prepare a somewhat traditional British Christmas dinner of roast lamb and a small turkey with all the trimmings, potatoes and stuffing.  His family loves Brussels sprouts so I think I’m going to try my hand at Healthy Homemade’s Brussels sprouts because she promises that her recipe will make the pickiest person a fan.  There will also be roasted parsnips and mince pies for dessert.

The food fest continues the next day with Boxing Day.  Iron Chef Allan always prepares huge sweaty British breakfast complete with scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, fried bread, baked beans, potatoes and English breakfast sausages.

Since the Day-After Turkey Soup was such a hit in our house will eat that for dinner on Boxing Day, if we have any room for food.

I imagine it’s going to be a week of yummy leftovers.  I can be healthy again when January first rolls around next week.

S – Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta Marinara and Salad and Yule log for dessert

M – Roast Turkey and Lamb with Mashed Potatoes, Sage Stuffing, Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Glazed Winter Veggies, Parmesan Asparagus and Mince Pie for dessert

T – Sweaty Breakfast and Day-After Turkey Soup for dinner

W – Leftovers

Th – Leftovers

F – Pizza

What things are you cooking up for Christmas and the rest of the week?  Will it be a lotf of leftovers for you too?  Link up and share the delicious dishes you are pinning and planning to serve this week.

Plan your menu for the week and if you have some favorite food pins, add those too. Then, link up and share your post. If you’re not on Pinterest, send me an email and I’ll send you an invite.



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Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup

PhotobucketWhen I planned this week’s menu, I was craving this soup. Maybe with all the icky, sick germs in my house, my body needed the immune-building homemade penicillin that chicken soup always seems to provide.

I first found this ridiculous easy recipe in Rachel Ray Every Day, but over the years, I’ve tweaked it a bit by finding a way to reduce the fat without losing all the creaminess.  I also use less gnocchi than the original recipe.

It’s been a while since I last made it, but one taste and I remembered how much I love it and it’s always a hit with the family too.

With the nasty cold weather expected this weekend, bundle up and stay warm and then get this soup started for dinner tonight.  With this soup, you can prepare it ahead of time and then throw the gnocchi in just before you serve it.  The leftovers reheat and freeze nicely too, so you’ll have it for another cold, winter day.

Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup
(Adapted from Rachel Ray)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and tender green parts split lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
5 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup non-fat milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into small chunks
1 package gnocchi
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 Tbsp dry sherry
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions
In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream and milk, lower the heat and simmer until the soup bubbles at the edges.

Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken and gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and sherry.  Serve hot.

Makes  4-6 servings.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

While here, don’t forget to toss some cookies at The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap!



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Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Pinning and Planning – December 16

With Christmas only 10 days away and one more week of school left full of holiday children’s parties and playdates, I was already feeling a little overwhelmed.  Then, the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary unfolded and everything seemed so trivial.

Though I’m finding it difficult to focus, I need to be here for my family.  I need to keep on running, planning dinners and play dates to keep things as normal as possible for my family.  I need to keep the magic and joy in Christmas.  And each of us needs to hug our babies a little tighter.

S – Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Stoup

M – Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon and Capers on a bed of couscous

T – Anniversary Dinner

W – Cumin Lime Zucchini Quesadillas

Th – Chicken Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Ravioli (BOGO this week at Publix)

F – Pizza

What things are you cooking up this week?  Link up and share the delicious dishes you are pinning and planning to serve this week.

Plan your menu for the week and if you have some favorite food pins, add those too. Then, link up and share your post. If you’re not on Pinterest, send me an email and I’ll send you an invite.



Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Holiday Sampling at Datz

Last Wednesday, Christmas came early when Chef Jason and our friends at Datz prepared a holiday tasting for the Tampa Bay Bloggers.

As usual, Datz rolled out the red carpet with chilled cocktails ready and waiting for us.  This holiday cocktail, Wreck the Halls, mixes 360 Madagascar vanilla vodka, Kahlúa peppermint mocha and Adult Chocolate Milk, which made our evening very merry and bright.

For our first course, we sampled Flatbreads topped with fig, pear, goat cheese and arugula.  The combination of tangy fruits and goat cheese with the crispness of the flatbread bundled a bit of Christmas flare in every bite.

Then, we nibbled on new-to-me dish, Poutine.  The gooey, gravy goodness and the fries were a meal in itself. (After all, chips and gravy is a British delicacy.)  Toss in some cheese curds and a fried egg on top and now you have a complete dinner.  But ours didn’t stop there.

Next, we noshed on Corn Fritters with Powdered Sugar and Jalapeño Maple Syrup.  The heat and sweetness of the jalapeño maple syrups finished the fritters off perfectly.

Photo credit to Datz

Our holiday sampling quickly became a feast once the main course arrived, Black Tea-Spiced Baby, Free Rage Chicken with Asian Pear Chutney served with Curried Vegan Winter Stew.

 Just when we thought we couldn’t possible eat another bite, Chef Jason saved the best bite for last: Battered and Fried Oreos.  It was deep fried slice of heaven.

But our evening didn’t end with dessert.  To wrap up our tasty evening, the Tampa Bay Bloggers and I participated in a Secret Santa Swag Swap.  Upon arrival, we placed our gifts under a slim Christmas tree, a beautiful centerpiece.

Jina of Behold the Turtle took home my Turbie Twist.

I scored some lovely lingerie from Raffi of Running Betty.  Thanks to this sexy little number, I’ve been added to Santa’s naughty list for sure.

The evening was epic, but don’t take my word for it.

For more reviews of our Datz holiday sampling and our fun Secret Santa Swag Swap, visit my fellow Tampa Bay Bloggers.

Running Betty

My Fascinating Life

By the way, the Tampa Bay Bloggers are so tasty, we were featured in the menu just below Eddie Vedder.  Yep, we’re as hot and juicy as Eddie.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Healthier Holiday Table with Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cups

ACS-BadgeWhen the American Cancer Society asked me to contribute a recipe for A Healthier Holiday Table, I was honored.  After watching my aunt lose her life to cancer, it became my goal to educate myself and others about ways to live in a word without cancer and ultimately celebrate more birthdays.

Here are a few easy steps to reduce your risk so that you and your loved can celebrate more birthdays together:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Here are ideas on how to eat healthy and get active.
  • Did you know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk? The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Here are two resources filled with ideas for upping your fruit and vegetable consumption through the day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products. Here are some innovative ways to add more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to your day while watching your refined carbohydrates, sugar, and fat intake.
  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. Some studies have linked eating large amounts of processed meat to increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers.
  • Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men. Alcohol raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and the colon and rectum.
  • Stock your kitchen with a variety of foods that you can throw together for healthy meals in a hurry. Keep these foods on hand for fast meals on busy nights.
  • Did you know that being physically active can reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate?  The Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. Here are some tips to help you fit exercise into your busy schedule.

However, holiday office parties and last minute marathon shopping can often make it difficult to adhere to the previous checklist.  By preparing quick and easy healthy meals, you can maintain a healthier table during the holidays.

My Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cup recipe is perfect for potlucks and since these egg cups freeze nicely, they’re great for quick breakfasts on the go.  Simply store them in freezer-safe food storage bags and heat them up when you want a healthy breakfast bite in a pinch.

Spinach Chicken Sausage Egg Cups
Ingredients
2 slices whole grain bread
½ cup baby spinach
2 Tbsp reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 link al fresco Country Style Breakfast Chicken Sausage, quartered
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp non-fat milk
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut two circles in each slice of bread.  Lay one circle in each prepared muffin cup.

Lay one to two leaves of baby spinach on top on each bread circle.  Add a few pieces of sausage and a few sprinkles of cheddar cheese.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites and skim milk.  Add cayenne, salt and pepper.  Pour a quarter of mixture into each muffin cup.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm.  Serve with avocado slices and tomato like from Pearland TX.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Pinning and Planning – December 9

We kicked off the holiday season with our Advent calendar on December 1.  Each day in December, my family and I participate in some type of Christmas activity which in turn, changes our daily routines and dinner plans.   Also thrown into the mix are Christmas parties, dinner dates and other fun holiday hoopla.

A few nights last week, my family had dinner without me due to some blogging obligations.  Basically, I left them to the Dad’s devices.  I believe they ate baked potatoes one night and mac ‘n cheese another.

This week will be just as busy, but the dinner will be a little bit better.  At least I hope so.

M – Skinnytaste’s Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken with Mashed Cauliflower

T – Dinner out

W – Ground Turkey Tacos

Th – Skinnytaste Cuban Sandwich Quesadillas

F – Pasta

What things are you cooking up this week?  Link up and share the delicious dishes you are pinning and planning to serve this week.

Plan your menu for the week and if you have some favorite food pins, add those too. Then, link up and share your post. If you’re not on Pinterest, send me an email and I’ll send you an invite.


Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Leftover Cranberry Sauce Muffins

PhotobucketI’m going to do it.  I’m just going to come right out and shame my mother in front to of the whole blogosphere.

See, on Thanksgiving, my mom prefers the nasty cranberry jelly from the can.  We grew up with the condiment on our Thanksgiving table.

When Allan cooked our first Thanksgiving meal with my family, he made cranberry sauce from scratch.  My mom tried it and could stomach it.  She missed her perfectly cylinder-shaped cranberry sauce.  Every Thanksgiving since then, my mom has brought her own cranberry sauce in the can.

That, my friends, is a true story.

This year when my mom and I were discussing the Thanksgiving menu over the phone, I told her that Allan would be making his own cranberry sauce and I asked her if she would be bringing the can again.

“Of course, because I like it.”

“Mom, you know that stuff is horrible and bad for you right?  Have you ever read the ingredients?  I bet there aren’t even real cranberries in it.”

“Wait.  I’ll read it to you,” she replied as she searched for the can in her pantry.  “Here we go,” she said as she proceeds to read the label.  “Oh wow.  The first ingredient is corn syrup.”

“See, mom.  I told you that stuff is horrible.  You should eat cranberry sauce with real cranberries.”

“But I don’t like the taste.  It’s too tart.”

“That’s because you’re tasting real cranberries and there’s no corn syrup masking the flavor.”

“You’re probably right.  All right I’ll try Allan’s but tell him to not go crazy with the ginger and I’m bringing my own can again.”

I relayed the order to Iron Chef Allan and just as we promised, Allan made a more palatable, no ginger added cranberry sauce for my mom.

This was the first year she didn’t bring the can.  I was so proud of her and even more so when she ate some real cranberry sauce.

However, we had TONS of cranberry sauce leftover.

So, I had this brilliant idea to use the leftover cranberry sauce in muffins.  My kids love muffins and the cranberry sauce would definitely not be left sitting in my fridge.

They came out incredible!   These Leftover Cranberry Sauce Muffins are by no means low-fat, but after eating 2000 calories in one sitting the day before, I don’t think a few more fat grams (actually 13 grams) would matter.

Ok, so maybe it does matter.  You could try substituting the eggs with a couple of egg whites, applesauce or plain non-fat yogurt to lighten up the recipe, but I can’t guarantee the results, because these little fluffy fattening muffins were delicious.  They are a new day after Thanksgiving tradition for us along this the Day-After Turkey Soup.

By the way, this is the last week I’m sharing uses for leftover Thanksgiving food.  Promise.

Leftover Cranberry Sauce Muffins

Ingredients
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups cranberry sauce

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a muffin pan or line with paper liners.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a standing electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.  Add vanilla and sour cream and mix until well incorporated.

On a low setting, add dry ingredients in three parts until batter is smooth.

Remove bowl from mixer.  Gently fold in cranberry sauce.

Using a small ladle, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Bake for 18-24 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool in pan for five minutes.  After five minutes, remove muffins from pan and continue cooling on a rack.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week! 


Don’t forgot to toss your cookies here!

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Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+