Pinning and Planning – December 30

After a month of trying not to overindulge, I feel like it was a losing battle.  I feel so bloated, globby and lumpy much like the Lumpy Space Princess from Adventiure Time.  “Oh my glob!  Don’t be hating on my lumps!”   

But I truly hate the lumpiness.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been unable to run for two weeks due to a nasty chest cold and I’ve not been able to burn the extra unhealthy calories. 

Well, the party is over!  The sweets and globiness have got to go!  It’s time to get back on the healthy track again; time to cut back on the carbs and attempt to eat better again.

A commitment to healthy eating again starts on Day 1 with our traditional New Year’s meal, a pot of lentil soup.  This tradition was passed onto my mom by her best friend.  Supposedly, lentil represent coins and with a bit of green such as spinach, it brings a promise of wealth in the new year.  Also in the way of tradition, we eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, a Spanish custom that promises a month of good fortune with each grape.  Hey, I’ll take all the good luck I can get!

And thankfully, Publix still has lots of wonderful veggies, fish and legumes on sale to help with the healthy and wealthy part of our resolutions and commitments.  Saving pennies means keeping pennies in my pocket while keeping the calories and carbs off my plate.

S – Lamb Curry (still lots of leftovers in the freezer from Christmas)

M – Lentil and Spinach Soup with Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Salad

T – Sweet Potato Crusted Tilapia with Fingerling Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

W – Skinnytaste’s Chicken Rollatini Stuffed with Zucchini and Mozzarella with Mashed Cauliflower

Th – Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

F – Dinner out

Here’s to lots of luck, health, wealth and good fortune to you and yours in 2013!

What things are you cooking up this week?  Are you eating less carbs 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.



Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

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When Christmas {Train} Comes to Town

Like most toddler boys, Little Lion Man is obsessed with trains.  Although when my oldest daughter was his age, she loved trains too.  In fact, because she loved Thomas and trains so much, we saw The Polar Express in the cinema when she was close to his age, however, she was a timid toddler and a few of the scenes frightened her.

But it didn’t frighten my Little Lion Man.  He hollered out, “Whoa!” when he watched the Polar Express cascade down the mountainside like a roller coaster.

Since Little Lion Man loves locomotives, we boarded the 7 ½ gauge CP&G Railroad at Crews Lakes Wilderness Park for a ride on the Christmas Train to the “North Pole”.  When Little Lion Man spotted the little engine chugging down the track, he had a similar reaction to The Polar Express. “Whoa!  Mama, it’s a train!”

Winding along tracks through the woods, reminded me of a similar train in England years ago.  On that train ride long ago, Allana met my friend, Suzie, her mum and Father Christmas.

But I digress.

Over the track and through the woods to Santa Claus we go went, but Little Lion Man wanted nothing to do with the big man in red.  He preferred to watch the trains arriving at the station.

After a quick photo opportunity and an even quicker word with Santa to remind him of the toys to bring, we were back on our way home.

At the end of the day, that little train ride brought a great deal of joy to one little boy.

And the rest of us had fun too. 

Merry Christmas!

What Christmas music is moving you this season?

Visit Xmas Dolly and Jade Louise Designs for more Music Monday.

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

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.



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!



*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Tampa Theatre Dazzles at Christmas

When my sister and I attended a showing of Holiday Inn last year, the Tampa Theatre instantly became a new Christmas pastime.  This year, I enjoyed the new holiday tradition with my girls when we were invited to attend The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Since the 1920s, the magnificent Tampa Theatre has been entertaining and dazzling audiences for generations and my daughters were no exception.  With its gorgeous Mediterranean style décor, they felt like princesses strolling through a starry-lit castle.

The royal red carpet treatment continued when my princesses chose balcony seats.  They loved experiencing the sights and sounds of a movie from new heights.

Just like in its early days, an organist serenades the audience before the featured presentation.  For an extra special treat, Mrs. Claus made a guest appearance and shared stories with the audience.

To pay tribute to a golden era gone-by, the organist led the audience in a few sing-a-longs before the featured presentation.

Before the movie started, I slipped away to the concession stand for the usual cinema snacks of popcorn and soft drinks, but the Tampa Theatre also serves non-traditional libations such as beer and wine.  While at the concession stand, I spotted a vintage replica blown glass ornament of the famous flashing Tampa Theatre marquis.  Since the proceeds of the ornament benefit the restoration and maintenance of the theatre, I added an ornament to my popcorn and beer tab.

As for The Muppet Christmas Carol, I had never seen the film before, so it added an element of something new for all of us.  Although the sound had some technical difficulties (which is completely understandable for a theatre nearly a century old), we still enjoyed the movie.  Michael Caine made the perfect Scrooge and the Muppets delivered all the musical, silly, loving charm would expect from any Muppet movie.

My girls loved the movie, but the beauty and overall experience of the Tampa Theatre makes any movie even more magical.

Each December, the Theatre offers a Holiday Classics Movie Series on the big screen, with the opportunity to sing along to carols with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ before each show, in the unmatched elegance of the city’s historic movie palace. Tickets for the Holiday Classics Movie Series are $9 for adults and $7 for children, seniors, military and Tampa Theatre members at the box office, or online at TampaTheatre.org ($2 convenience fee applies).”

*My family and I received a tour of the Tampa Theatre and tickets to The Muppet Christmas Carol in exchange for my honest review.  My opinions and love for the Tampa Theatre are real and my own.*

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+

Everything But The… Cookies

PhotobucketEither my oldest daughter is obsessed with food as I am or she is one very creative kid.  We’ll go with the latter.  Either way, she does have some delicious and ingenious ideas when it comes to cookies.

We’re huge ice cream fans, especially Ben & Jerry’s, however, we only splurge on the Cadillac of ice cream when it’s on BOGO at our local supermarket.  Thankfully, that hasn’t happened in a while.  Though my taste buds miss the ice cold delicacy, my thighs can do without it.

Then, one day in a sad we-miss-Ben & Jerry’s moment, Allana says, “You know what would be really good?  An Everything But The… cookie.”

“Oh my God.  That’s genius!”  I felt a twinge in my thighs when I said it.

Then in like an ironic twist of fate, I woke up in the middle of the night with a Charlie horse in my right quad.  My thigh was already Jonesing for the chocolaty goodness.

These ice cream inspired cookies came out better than Allana and I imagined.  I just hope my thighs don’t beg for them in the middle of the night again.

Everything But The… Cookies
Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, cold
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup pretzel sticks
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup Heath English Toffee Bits
½ cup Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Using a standing electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar.  Then add eggs one at a time and beat until well blended.  Mix in vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add flour to wet ingredients a little at a time and mix on a low speed until well combined.  Mix in pretzel sticks and almonds.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in chocolate chips, Heath bits and mini peanut butter cups.

Drop about a tablespoon amount of dough onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for five minutes.  Then, move cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately three dozen.

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

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



*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+