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+

Tinsel and Lights and Happy Hanukkah

The other day I heard a Christmas song and the singer’s enchanting voice unhinged a memory.  I saw myself driving on a country hillside road on a long commute to work.  Almost as clear and haunting as the vision, her voice gave goose bumps similar to the ones that appeared when Allan and I first started dating and we would listen to Everything But The Girl’s Acoustic on long car rides while holding hands.

Tracey Thorn, the lead singer of Everything But the Girl, has released a Christmas album entitled Tinsel and Light.  The first song I heard off the album is the very same song that transported me to a time before parenthood.

I realize when artists go solo they despise being linked to their former band life, but Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel and Lights does just that.  The entire album reminds me everything I loved about Everything But The Girl but sprinkled with Christmas goodness.

You can listen and download entire the album on amazon.

While searching around YouTube and the internet for Tracey Thorn and Everything But Girl, I found this really fun interactive Tracey Thorn Advent Calendar full of videos, music, photos and Christmas cheer.

And on the subject of downloads, here are two you can’t pass up because both downloads benefit great causes.  Matisyahu released a new song for Hanukkah appropriately entitled Happy Hanukkah.  All proceeds go to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Download and donate here.

Then, download O Holy Night  performed by Ladywell Primary School from iTunes to help raise money for meningitis research in young Caden’s name.

For the next two Mondays leading up to Christmas, I will be sharing my favorite Christmas songs.  I would love for you to join in the merry music making by linking up and sharing your favorite holly jolly holiday tunes.



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Music Monday: It Feels Like Christmas

Even before the calendar flipped to December, my family and I were already all sparklejollytwinklejingley for Christmas during Thanksgiving.  Thanks to the Straz Center, my family and I experienced the joy and magic of Christmas a little early with the help of our favorite elf and star of Elf The Musical, Buddy.

And speaking of elves, a funny little Elf on the Shelf found a home in our tree on the first day of December.

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I know what you’re thinking. I swore I would never buy one because I said these elves symbolize everything that is wrong with Christmas, not to mention how incredible creepy, clown-like, Chuckie-wannabe these elves are.   Therefore, this holiday I’ll be eating humble pie instead of Christmas pie which is best served cold because this little North Pole transplant likes the cold.  Don’t judge me because there will be more photos like these.

Giggles went for a joyride.

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The next he snapped some photos of the tree.

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On Friday evening, we visited Christmas Town more than once.  My family and I once again experienced the wonder of Christmas with the help of Busch Garden’s Christmas Town.  The wondrous icy sensation of Snow World melted our hearts, but the truly heart-stopping, good cheer happened for me at Cheetah Hunt.  Nothing beats humming and singing a happy Christmas tune just before you’re catapulted into the atmosphere at high speed.

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I’ve been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney to…..NIGHAAAAAAAAAA!  OH MY GOD!

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However, while stopping Snow World at Busch Garden’s Christmas Town, we witnessed a travesty.  As my girls and I waited patiently in line to play in the snow, we watched two pre-teen boys beat the living ice cubes out of Frosty the Snowman.  The bad boys ripped off Frosty’s broomstick arms and beat him repeatedly until his head broke off.  As Frosty’s poor decapitated head lay helplessly on the ground, his attackers ripped off his carrot nose and violently stabbed him in the neck with his own nose.

I couldn’t believe the horrible scene unfolding in front of us.  “For love of God!  Stop beating Frosty!  All he ever wanted to do was wish everyone a ‘Happy Birthday’.”  Then, my girls chimed in to shout at the cruel children.  “Leave Frosty alone!”

Good Lord.  I can never look at a snowman the same way.  It will take years to heal from this and just when I finally could look at clowns and dolls without cringing.  And while we’re compiling a list of creepy creature, add living statue angels to the list.

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Then, my girls and I enjoyed one more Christmas moment when we visited the Tampa Theater for The Muppet Christmas Carol.  I had never seen the movie before so the film was a first for all of us.  Michael Caine played the perfect Scrooge.

Stay tuned for more posts to follow about each of these wonderful Christmas events!

Does it feels like Christmas or does the thought of Christmas having you cringing?  Are you in the Christmas mood yet or are you a Scrooge? 

What Christmas music is moving you this season?



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

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Day-After Turkey Soup

PhotobucketMy MIL makes a mean leftover turkey soup.  When only the skeletal remains of a once beloved bird were left standing on Thanksgiving, I longed for my MIL’s homemade Scottish penicillin.

It baffles me that my husband, having been raised by a lineage of great cooks, lacks an appreciation for soup made from a turkey carcass.  He just doesn’t like it.  Or maybe he only likes it when he makes it.

Bingo.

This Thanksgiving, we got to the vegetable root of the matter when I begged Iron Chef Allan to make leftover turkey soup.  (Secret ingredient: turkey carcass.)  He accepted the challenge and found a recipe from the Food Network that he could stomach.  The recipe calls for leftover vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and green beans although he used roasted root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, celery root, pearl onions and carrots).

The soup simmered for most of Black Friday and the whole house smelled fabulous.  No bones about it.  The final product was spectacular and the best part, it was Iron Chef Allan approved.

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Day-After Turkey Soup
(Borrowed from Food Network)

Ingredients
2 quarts chicken broth
1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 more stalk, minced
2 bay leaves
3 cups dark turkey meat
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves

Directions
Put chicken broth, turkey carcass, onion halves, carrot halves, 1 celery stalk and 1 bay leaf in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 1 ½ hours. Finely dice the remaining onion, carrot and celery and reserve.

Dice the turkey meat. Make sure meat pieces are no larger than the size of a soup spoon. (If preparing soup the next day, be sure to store leftover turkey meat in an airtight container before placing it in the refrigerator, top with 1 or 2 ladles full of broth to keep meat moist.)

Before straining broth, remove large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve, covered with wet cheese cloth. Discard the solids. Transfer broth to a bowl set in a bath of ice water, which will cool the broth quickly and help keep it fresher longer. This can be done the night before and stored in the refrigerator until the next day.

In a large soup pot, heat garlic cloves in the olive oil. Allow to brown slightly and add minced carrots, celery, and onion. Sweat over medium-low heat until softened, about 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover vegetables.  Add the chopped sage to the soup pot along with the turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for 5 to 7 minutes.

Let simmer for 5 more minutes.  Serve over rice or with drop biscuits.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week! Remember to visit our Thanksgiving food blog hop too!



*Also submitted at*

Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Run DMT Second Annual Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap

Maestro cue the music.

*cough*

Eh hem.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
When flour needs some sifting
And batter mixed with an ingredient of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s yum, yummiest season of all!
Oven timers will be dinging and mom will be singing
As she samples them all!
It’s yum, yummiest season of all!

There’ll be cookies with chips
And some will call to be dipped
And some are powdered with snow
Sometimes you feel like nut
But sometimes you don’t but you choose
To present them with a bow

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Oh the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  It’s time find your favorite cookie recipes or maybe share some new ones in Run DMT’s Second Annual Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap. I know that the title of the cookie swap linky party is a bit of a mouthful, but then so are the cookies I will be stuffing in my face all month long.

Simply post a cookie recipe or any sweet treat on your blog.  Be sure to included add The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap button to your post and link back to this post.  Then, swing back here to Run DMT and add your link to the linky list.  It’s that simple!  Can’t you just taste the fun already?!  Cookies and comment love is a tasty pair.

It’s all the fun of a regular Christmas cookie swap without all the extra calories.


Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Pinning and Planning – November 18

Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week?

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Last year we happily passed on hosting because we were traveling over to the east coast for the Space Coast Marathon.   Although I don’t have a marathon to burn off all those Thanksgiving calories this year, I’ll still try a get a few miles in before we feast.

Iron Chef Allan is excited to be cooking again this year.  He really missed it last year and all the leftovers in our fridge.  Despite his excitement to be brining a turkey again, he hasn’t planned the menu yet.  That’s not good.

No worries!  It will all come together once he buys the turkey.  Nope, he hasn’t bought the bird yet, but like I said, that’s not my job or my concern.  My job is to plan the rest of the menu for the week and while I’m pinning and planning, maybe I’ll offer Iron Chef Allan Skinnytaste suggestions for our Thanksgiving menu.

This week, we’ll try eating a lighter since the Thanksgiving will make up the calories and the carbs for the lighter days.  Plus, Allan always prepares a Black Friday Brunch, a welcomed sight and a great way to refuel after fighting the crowds for hours.  However, for the past couple years, I’ve skipped out on Black Friday and just shopped online throughout the season.  Funny enough, I always found the same deals or better online after Black Friday.  See, sometimes the early bird doesn’t always the worm, but this one will still get a brunch either way.

Once we’ve had enough Thanksgiving leftovers (Is there even such a thing?), I’ll probably make my turkey enchiladas once again.

S – Lentil Soup with Spinach

M – Black Beans with Spanish Rice

T – Tampa Bay Blogger Meetup at Taps

W –Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili

Th –  Thanksgiving

F – Brunch and leftovers for dinner

S – Turkey Enchiladas

What things are you cooking up this week?  Have you planned and shopped for you Thanksgiving dinner?  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.