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.

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

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

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!

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Turkey Cookie Craft

PhotobucketThanksgiving has come and gone and though most of my readers are focused on another a holiday in the midst of Black Friday frenzy, I wanted to share an edible turkey craft that I made with my seven year old’s class while Thanksgiving is still fresh on the brain digesting.  You will want to bookmark, pin and file away this edible turkey craft idea for next Thanksgiving.

After Halloween, I bought several bags of candy corn on clearance with the specific purpose to make some kind of edible craft with my kids.  Funny enough, as one of the homeroom moms, I was in charge of a craft for our Thanksgiving feast.

With a quick Google search, I tried to remember how to make an edible turkey with Oreo cookies, however, the Oreo turkeys I found weren’t exactly what I wanted.  So, I decided to combine a few of the ideas I found and I came up with this.

Of course, the kids gobbled up the fun.

Turkey Cookie Craft
Golden Double Stuff Oreos
Nutter Butter Bites
Harvest Mix Candy Corn
Pretzel sticks
1 tub of white icing
1 tube black decorating icing gel
1 tube red decorating icing gel

Gently add the turkey’s tail feathers by wedging in the four brown-colored candy corn into the Oreo middle between the two cookies.  (You could also gently remove the top cookie.)

For the turkey’s legs, snap one pretzel stick in half and gently add the sticks into the opposite end of the candy corn.  (If you pulled off top of the Oreo, add a small amount icing and reapply the cookie.)

Add a small amount of icing to backside of a Nutter Butter Bite and “glue” the cookie to Oreo.  Add a small amount of icing to a yellow candy corn and “glue” it to the mini Nutter Butter.

Using the black decorating icing gel, add two eyes.  Then, add a wattle using the red decorating icing gel.

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

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Thankful for Good Food {Thanksgiving Food Blog Hop}

It’s no secret that I love food and I eat way more than I should for my size which is why I run why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  For me, Thanksgiving is a free-for-all, eat-anything -you-like-as-much-as you-like-because-the-calories-don’t-count kind of day.

Since Camille and I share the same love for food and all things Thanksgiving, Run DMT and Growing Up Gabel have teamed up to host for a Thanksgiving linky party, Thankful for Good Food.  Every day leading up to Thanksgiving (November 1 – 22), we would love for you to link up and share some of you favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Anything goes for this cornucopia blog hop of great Thanksgiving dishes!   Add your favorite side dishes, gravy, desserts or even the best way to cook a turkey.  Share them all and link up as many times as you’d like!  Think of our blog hop as your Thanksgiving online cookbook/menu planner.

So what will you bring to the table? 

Thanks for linking up and sharing and Happy Thanksgiving!

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Little Hocus Pocus Radioactive Ghost for Halloween

Everybody scream!  It’s almost Halloween!

Our maddening October is winding down, but honestly, I feel like this busy month has left me a ghost of my former self.

All right, maybe I’m exaggerating a little for the sake of a Halloween Music Monday post.  But it sure was a clever play on words to fit those two songs into the mix unlike this one.  I honestly can’t think of anything for this Imagine Dragon song except that I really like it.  So why not add Radioactive to a Halloween playlist?

And of course every great Halloween playlist should include Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Halloween because it’s a classic.

Whatever songs are on your Halloween playlist, may they be spellbinding, spine tingling tunes that move you down to your soul and keep you trick-or-treating for the long haul.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Halloween Treat

Despite being shattered from a long week and camping with the Girl Scouts the night before, I conjured enough strength for our annual adult Halloween party and I’m so glad I did.  As usual, the party was a real scream treat.

It seems we weren’t the only ones with crazy a schedule this year, because our party was a lighter than normal, but that didn’t stop it from being a truly bewitching time.

Like previous years, most of the costumes were creative and fun, although Marcia needed a little help with hers.  During the party, Marcia confessed to not liking Halloween or dressing up even though her husband Patrick loves it.  I told Marcia, “You have to find an angle to make Patrick’s costume work for you.  You work around his costume.   For example, you could be his hostage.  You just have to think outside of the costume box.”

Speaking of thinking out of the box, no one knew what I was supposed to be until I explained it to them, which only made my costume more comical.

My iCarly inspired sushi costume was so cheap and simple to throw together starting with a white cami and skirt for the rice.  The maroon throw pillow, which was meant to resemble raw tuna, was wrapped and pinned to dark green ribbon and finished with a pair of Chinese restaurant chop sticks.  The ginger and wasabi were rolled scraps of material hot-glued to a dollar store headband. See, so simple and cheap!  Allan’s psycho sushi chef costume ordered from amazon was the costly costume!

Plus, my sushi costume was almost as comfortable as last year’s Amy Winehouse ( minus the wig, of course).  It’s funny how my costumes get more and more casual each Halloween.  This sushi costume was so comfy that I’m totally weating it trick-or-treating with the kids.  I wonder if anyone will know what I supposed be then?

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

A Devil Drops It Like It’s Hot and Runs the Night

This weekend, I’m participating in the Frankenfooter Living Dead Challenge, a two-part race comprised of a 5K on Saturday night followed by a half marathon on Sunday morning.  Since the course is on the very same trail my running group runs every week, I have a home team advantage, however, there’s still an element of fear for me because I’m a little nervous about running the 5K on Saturday night in the dark.  I just hope all my training in the dark wee hours of the early morning has prepared me for running in the dark, dark woods.

It’s no secret that I love Halloween and despite my fear of the dark and my issues with last year’s race, I’m still so excited to participate in this Halloween themed race.  I love dressing up, although I don’t need a Halloween race for an excuse to do so but at least I won’t be the only wearing a costume like so many other races.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I’m dressing as the Sun Drop girl for the 5K and I found the whole ensemble at the Sun Drop store online, so I dropped some cash it was hot, yo.  This costume might be way too hot to run in but it definitely be fun. 

I finally figured out my half marathon costume.  Let me give you a hint.

Do you get it?

I will be the devil with the blue dress.  For the costume, I’m wearing a blue running top, blue shorts, a blue tutu, red horns and possibly a tail.  I say “possibly” because I haven’t decided if I really want to deal with a tail smacking me in the ass for 13.1 miles.

By the way, our adult Halloween party was a blast.  Here’s a taste of my sushi costume, but there’s more photos to come later.

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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Halloween Problem (Monster)

Halloween will be a three part party this year.  Part one starts this Saturday evening with our adult Halloween party.  Part two and three take place next weekend with the kids’ Halloween party for my mom’s group followed by the Living Dead Challenge (5K and half-marathon race).

Allan and I stepped up to be this year’s ghost hosts with the most for the adult Halloween party.  In preparation for the party, I’ve been searching and scrolling through Pinterest to find frugal, fun ideas for food and decorating.  At this point, I need to channel the ghost of Julia Child because I would love to make a graveyard cake, witch fingers or some other spooky snack, but I don’t think I will have time.

But more importantly, I still need to throw my costume together.  I ordered Allan’s sushi chef costume the other day, but I am still trying to find all the necessary pieces for my sushi costume.  I didn’t have any luck at Goodwill the other day, but I plan to stop in again this week.

And I’ll need to do all that between doctor visits, preparing a fall festival basket to be raffled off at my kids’ school, packing for a camping trip and running 12 miles on top of all the usual business such as homework, dinner, after school activities, etc.

As you can see, I have so much going on right now.  The Halloween party is just the monster problem escape I need and a perfect excuse to drink have fun with my friends.

For the next two Music Mondays, I will be sharing my favorite Halloween tunes.  I would love to hear what Halloween songs move your spirit.  Link up and play along…if you dare.  Muhahahahahahaha!

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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Halloween Head

It’s only October 1st, but my house was decorated a week ago.  I’m worst than the kids when it comes to the holidays.  Halloween is no exception.  My head is full of Halloween already.  Yep, I’ve got a Halloween Head.

I’ve already decided on our couple’s costume for the adult Halloween party.  I actually decided on it months ago after watching the iCarly Halfoween episode.  That’s right. My costume was inspired by a children’s television show.  I will be sushi and Allan will be my sushi chef.

I also need two more costumes for the Living Dead Challenge at the end of the month.  It’s the Frankenfooter Half Marathon, but with an added challenge.  For the Living Dead Challenge, I will be running in the 5K the evening before the half.  That’s why I need two costumes.  I’m leaning towards the Sun Drop girl for the 5K, but I’m still not sure about the half.  Maybe a devil?  My friend, Chrissy, is dressing as Wonder Woman, so I’m considering another superhero costume, like Batgirl or Supergirl.

If you aren’t familiar with the Sun Drop girl, here’s a small taste.  She’s definitely me or more like she’s channeling me because that chick stole my moves.  No one can drop it like it’s hot or pop it like this mother runner.

For the next four Music Mondays, I will be sharing my favorite Halloween jamz.  I would love to hear what Halloween songs move your spirit.  Link up and play along…if you dare.  Muhahahahahahaha!

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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Aunt June’s Struffoli (Honey Balls)

PhotobucketI don’t know what my obsession with balls is lately.  First my MIL’s potato balls and now I can’t get my Aunt June’s sticky balls out of my brain.

Aunt June would make her famous honey balls for every special occasion and they were always a hit.  (Since my mom and her sister are NYC girls, you have to respect the ball and pronounce it as “bawls”.)  Basically, Struffoli consists of small dough balls fried and slathered in honey.  So simple and yet something about these balls always made mouths happy.

I have such fond memories of holidays gathered around Aunt June’s dining table and everyone huddling over a large bowl of honey balls.  My sister and I would always scrape extra honey off the bottom of the bowl before popping a ball into our mouths, which of course, is the proper way to handle my aunt’s balls.

Aunt June passed away two years ago this September after a battle with lung cancer.  Tomorrow I run 5 Miles for Moffitt in her memory.  Today, I share her Struffoli recipe with you in her memory.

Aunt June’s Struffoli (Honey Balls )


2 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

¼  tsp salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ stick unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Canola oil for frying

1 ½ cups honey

Multi-colored sprinkles (Rainbow colored nonpareils)


In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Add the butter and pulse  a few times until crumbly. Add the eggs and vanilla.  Pulse until sticky.

Remove and form into a ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough until ¼ inch thick. Using a knife, cut each piece of dough into ½ inch wide strips.

Then cut each strip into ½ inch squares. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball about ½ inch in size.   Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess.

Using a small fryer, pour enough oil to fill about a third of the way and heat oil to 375°. Fry the dough in batches until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate line with paper towels to drain excess oil. Once cooled, transfer balls to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat honey over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally (about 3 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the honey on top of the fried dough.  Stir until evenly coated in the honey. Allow the mixture to cool for 2 minutes.

Serve in family style in a large bowl or scoop a few honey balls into cupcake liners. Decorate with sugar sprinkles and allow to set for 2 hours. Struffoli can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for at least a week.

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

*Also submitted at*

Sweet Tooth Friday

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+