Plan Your Meals and Save Time

Sesame Chicken and Bok choy
Sesame Chicken and Bok choy

I get it.  Not everyone wants to slave in the kitchen.  I don’t either.  As much as I love to cook, I can’t afford to shell out too much time preparing meals for my family.  The way our lifestyle goes, I really only make dinner.  Not bad, I know.  Breakfast for me typically consists of coffee and something light like a piece of toast or some eggs.  The kids usually get milk and fruits and cereal.  Daddy gets his smoothies for breakfast and lunch, while we eat leftovers for lunch at home.  Very, very simple.

Chicken Pesto Kabobs
Chicken Pesto Kabobs

Now, I understand not everyone has a meal schedule like we do.  However, this simplified eating schedule can really work for most people.  I also want to add that we do snack throughout the day, mostly fruits or cheese or whatever else we have at home.  If you noticed, we try to keep it fairly healthy when we can.  But believe me, I never skimp out on dinner.  Oh yeah!

So, how do we begin?

Mexican Tamales
Mexican Tamales

Start off by examining your current eating lifestyle.  What do you like to eat, and what do you eat most of?  Do you like to experiment with taste culturally?  How many times do you eat a day?  Do you prefer hearty dinners or hearty breakfasts or lunches?  How much time are you willing to spend in the kitchen?  How many days a week are you willing to commit to cooking?

Answer these questions, and you should have a better idea on how your eating week should look like.  I usually print out a weekly menu calendar for my planning.  It helps to look at the amount of time you’re planning for with a bigger perspective, making sure not to have repeats or close encounters.  I typically plan for two weeks at a time.  Also, I find that we are out most weekends, so I don’t plan to cook on those days.  Five meals a week is cake, especially if you’re up to trying new things.  I’ll give you a sampling of what I normally do.

Orange Beef with Broccoli
Orange Beef with Broccoli

American.  Mexican.  Irish.  German.  French.  Filipino.  The beautiful concoction of cultures that is our family.  Mondays are usually Latin night.  Tuesdays are wonderfully Italian (just because we love Italian!).  Wednesdays are our Filipino or anything Asian days.  Thursdays are devoted to experimentation, which includes Irish, French, and German since we aren’t so familiar with their cuisines.  We might go Indian or Arabic depending on my mood, really.  And of course, Fridays are generally American.  Barbecue, anyone?  By the way, I switch the days all the time.  No rules!

After that, the hard part of thinking is really done.  All that’s left to do is some creative recipe research.  I always go online for ideas.  I also like to find recipes that only take about 30 minutes to make, depending on what it is and how much time I’m willing to give.  Short and extremely efficient is how I want to cook.  Some of the websites I use include Yummly, Pinterest, Allrecipes, and the Food Network.  Allrecipes actually has a mobile app that can pinpoint you to the closest store that has the most sales of the ingredients you need.  Impressive shopping tool!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala

Try shopping for days ahead of time.  I wish I can do food shopping for a whole week, but with two babies on my side all the time, I find that I really can only do two to three days worth of shopping when I go.  The amount of time you will save from thinking to shopping to executing in the kitchen will surprise you when you plan ahead of time.  It sure has helped with managing my schedule between taking care of the family, my business, and everything else in between!

Good luck to you and hope this helps!  If you’d like any more ideas, feel free to ask! 🙂

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If You Liked It Then You Should’ve Put An Egg On It

Runny.  Yolky.  Yellow.  It just makes everything so much better.  Here are 10 of the many dishes that are just so much better when topped off with an egg.  Enjoy!

  1. Salads.  Sprinkle that with some chopped up hard-boiled egg.SA7563A
  2. Sandwiches.  Make it over-medium for a juicy bite.Open-faced-Barbecue-Sandwich-with-Fried-Egg
  3. Classic burger.  Nice and over-easy will never go wrong.pic002-L
  4. Fried rice.  Sunny side up and runny all the way.fried-rice-egg-bowl
  5. Ramen noodles.  Crack a raw one into that steamy broth and let it poach itself to perfection.img_3112
  6. Steak.  Any which way you have an egg with a steak is sublime.54493412
  7. Pancakes.  Eliminate the butter and syrup and replace them with a runny egg.  Delicious!piece-de-resistance-pancakes-eggs-dawn-on-the-amazon-cafe
  8. Tacos.  Top off that taco with some crumbled hard-boiled yolk and savor the silkiness.  Or just scramble it up.SpinachBreakfastTaco_0073
  9. Pasta carbonara.  With a poached egg, it almost should be part of the recipe.20110317-127355-dinner-tonight-poached-egg-carbonara-thumb-518xauto-147566
  10. Fried chicken.  What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Either way, they belong together naturally.jalapeno-cheddar-waffles-fried-chicken-recipe-egg-on-top

Photos courtesy of the following sites:
eatingwell.com
blog.yummly.com
gusandgabriel.com
pbs.org
tokyoterrace.com
steak-enthusiast.com
dawnontheamazon.com
aeb.org
seriouseats.com
betsylife.com

Me vs Mother Nature

Mother Nature is a serial killer.

I admit.  I haven’t read the book.  The movie was good enough to excite me about reading the book.  It’s usually the other way around.

I never really pictured mother nature as a killer; albeit she really is, come to think of it.  From typhoons to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, yeah, she’s a pretty solid killer.  I never saw it that way though.  I always pictured her as the fountain of youth, the salving balm, the powerful healer.  Maybe it’s the romantic in me.  Nevertheless, she’s always got something up her sleeve, and it seems we are never truly prepared for whatever it is.

We had another emergency room rush again last night.  My 6-month old son had been feverish most of the day, and his fever just happened to spike at 104°F after dinner.  I guess I followed the protocol in calling the MD.  I typically don’t worry about these things until I’m told to go to the hospital.  My son had just recovered from a resistant cough and cold, and being a preemie, I suppose there were serious concerns about possibly contracting bronchiolitis or whatever other respiratory diseases that threat kids these days.  MD freaked out, so I rushed to the ER.  Daddy followed suit, worried as a father should be.

He had no other symptoms.  His appetite was okay.  His lungs were clear.  His ears had no signs of infection.  His mouth wasn’t showing any evidence of baby teeth coming through just yet.  He was still feverish after a second dose of acetaminophen, but it was beginning to subside.  No diarrhea.  No vomiting.  He’s otherwise a healthy baby boy.  The next course of action was to test for whatever he might have.

Turns out, he has influenza.  The abominable flu.  Does anyone else find it hard to believe that up to this point of our existence, there still exists no cure for the most common illnesses?  I get it.  Suppress the fever.  Treat the cold.  Appease the muscle ache.  Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait the flu out.  Oh wait!  We’ve got something.  It’s medication.  To cure it?  No.  It doesn’t cure it; it just makes the flu run its course faster.  So sorry, but you’ll just have to let the flu do its thing.

So many smart people in the world, just not enough to outsmart mother nature, eh?

Sadly, I believe I’m getting the flu as well.  It’s just a crazy thought.  As much as we claim ourselves to be advanced in many academic aspects of technology and medicine, mother nature still seems to have the upper hand.  She’ll bring you down, and she’s the only one who can bring you back up.  Here’s to the next few days of no sleeping and cranky babies.  Hope you enjoy this one, Mother Nature.  I want to say I’m on to you, but I’m too weak to even try.  Just don’t turn us into zombies, please.  Brad Pitt might be busy.

World_War_Z_2586063b

Mother Nature is a serial killer.  No one’s better.  More creative.  Like all serial killers, she can’t help but the urge to want to get caught.  But what good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit?  So she leaves crumbs.  Now the hard part, while you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are.  Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor.
And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She’s a bitch.
-Max Brooks
from World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Photos courtesy of virtualborderland.wordpress.com & telegraph.co.uk

How to Live Happily on a Single Income

It was a difficult choice for us as a family.  I gave up my overnight mediocre hospital job to be a full-time mom.  This was November of last year.  I had just found out I was pregnant again.  I went to school during the day and worked at night.  When I wasn’t doing either, I was sleeping.  I felt such a disconnect from my own daughter.  It was terrible.  We then decided to pull her out of her expensive daycare, so she can stay with me at home.  It’s the best decision we ever made.  But then at the same time, it meant that we would have to live on a single income.  It meant that we had to do some  serious budgeting.

It’s been almost 9 months now.  With two kids of our own, plus my beau’s eldest daughter, plus two adults, it’s a real challenge.  But we’ve definitely re-configured our lifestyle to whatever is appropriate for us.  Here are some ideas on how to make it and be happy with less money coming in.

1.  BUDGET.  We never have a set budget because there are always things coming up, and we don’t have a contingency account because…we just can’t afford it.  But a rough budget every month can detail out the priorities versus the non-priorities.  Light bill versus date night.  Obviously.

2.  GO FREE.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Yes, we know.  But the beach is free and so is the downtown music on Friday nights.  Our community also offers free movies at the amphitheater on certain nights.  Get to know what goes on around your community, and you might find some interesting events that don’t cost a penny. Better yet, organize an event at the local park.  Go fishing.

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(free movie screening outdoors. free!)

3.  DINE IN.  I can’t say how much dining in has saved us so much money.  We like to eat out.  We like to eat, in general.  When we didn’t have kids, my beau and I used to spend hundreds on just drinks alone.  Ridiculous!  But even fast food gets expensive.  Dining in has also allowed us to practice in the kitchen and really get to know the craft of cooking.  Watch some Chopped or Top Chef.  Be inspired.  It can be fun and just as delicious!  I made fresh pasta for the first time the other night, and I can proudly say that it was so delicious, I’ve sworn to never surrender to boxed pasta again!  Or at least for now.

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(homemade calzone. yumm.)

4.  SHOP WISELY.  There are so many suggestions out there on the web on how to shop or when to shop or how to use coupons.  I use coupons here and there.  And as much hassle as it is to shop at Walmart, some of their prices are better than other stores.  Not all the time though.  You can figure out what works for you.  Right now, we buy as we need.  That’s what works for us.  We don’t bulk up on groceries like we used to because we found that most things went bad from not being used.

5.  BE OPEN TO HELP.  My mom cooks us food all the time, and if you’ve ever tasted my mom’s cooking, you can agree with me never to say no.  The grandparents buy the kids clothes and diapers and formula here and there.  If we need babysitting, we call on family or friends to help out.  If you are surrounded by people who are willing to share their time and effort with you, you are lucky.  It may not always be about money, but every bit counts.

6.  CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK.  It’s true.  It really doesn’t matter how much you own.  Be happy with what you’ve got.  I’ve got my family and we are all healthy.  I’m happy with that.  Sure…I might get that new laptop I’ve been wanting…hopefully soon.  It’s just gotta be on the budget.  Ha!  And it’s just gotta pay for itself somehow.

7.  LIVE SIMPLY.  SIMPLY LIVE.  Simply said.  Simplicity is key.  It doesn’t equate to boring.  It means, go find happiness in other things besides “things.”  You figure it out.

Enjoy your day and  enjoy life!  Happy Friday folks!  I challenge you to do something free tonight! 🙂

Home-bound Adventures

This post was going in a completely different direction before I decided to take a turn.  I think it was the tequila sunrise.

We all know the cliche: life is an adventure.  It’s supposed to be exciting, a roller coaster ride, a thrill.  Is this in general terms?  Is every single day supposed to feel like the ultimate joy ride? Does everyone look for that kind of kick in life?  Or are we, as people, just driven to want more than just the ordinary?

The extraordinary.  I always search for it.  In many things I do and feel, I want to see and go beyond.  I know the vast universe is the biggest stage, and I play a role, somehow, in giving it poetic justice.  My life is supposed to be one out of many remarkable acts.  For sure, life did not take the magical turn I thought it would.  But every single turn leads somewhere.  And where I’m at now, I truly believe, is where I ought to be.  And that is home-bound, relatively.

Home, in this context, is not a freestanding occupied domicile.  It’s more of where-the-heart-is type of thing.  I can’t just take a weekend trip to New York or a week for a road trip to the West coast.  I can’t just go hiking in the Appalachian or backpacking across Europe.  I would love to go cliff diving or learn how to sail across the Pacific.  I would love to swim the depths of the Marianas or heck, jump ship to the ex-moon of ex-planet Pluto.  Eventually, I will.  Or maybe I will not. There are multitudes of adventures to trek, and many of them are small yet equally satisfying.  Discovering a secluded beach spot or an upcoming talented author.  Realizing that Indian food is pretty amazing and finding out there’s a great hole-in-the-wall eatery next door.  Learning how to be a bartender from your own kitchen since a cocktail costs more than dinner.  Reading an old novel again and again and finding that it takes you to a different place each time.  Driving down Ocean Drive and inspiring yourself with all the possibilities of success.

I cheat on this adventure thing every day because having children, for one, is probably the biggest and craziest adventure of them all.  I learned tonight that my 18-month old loves whole wheat couscous.  Couscous!  Who would’ve thought?  It may seem humdrum but to me, that just opened up a whole can of nutritional wonders.  It’s pretty awesome!  Yes…to me, it really is.

And here is when I say that it is all about the attitude.  Take life by its horns, even with the everyday stuff.  No day should be uneventful, no hour uninspired.  If traveling, get out of the comfort zone.  If finding a career, aim for the one you hold on a pedestal.  If doing anything at all, go above and beyond and more.  See simplicity and all the hushed beauty it hides.  When loving someone, go crazy!  Let someone love you back just as wild.  Let these kinds of endeavors wrap themselves around our ordinary lives.  Ordinary, by all means, is only an expectation.  Stop.  We are all sharing the biggest stage; how does one shine?  Be extraordinary and expect only the same.

I’m a home-bound adventurer…and I’ve got the world in my hands.  What’s in yours?

5 Habits for a More Productive Day

I don’t follow a daily work schedule.  My schedule basically runs all day, everyday.  I’m a stay-at-home mom and not just from 9-5; I’m a mom, literally, for 24/7.  It’s not employment, but if I got paid for the amount of hours I seem to be working each day, I’d have quite a bit of extra cash on me.  Yep.  My kids can’t afford to pay me.  Ha.  No, really.  I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to headline my children’s growth and learning.  And as much as I enjoy playing and learning with them, I also have many other responsibilities and to-do’s.  Sometimes I find myself utterly overwhelmed with all the animation going on in our house.  It gets pretty hectic between an infant and a toddler alone.  Sometimes it takes us all two hours just to get ready to go out.  Two hours!!!!!!  Imagine…

Everybody has an opinion about moms or dads who decide to stay at home to take care of their kids.  That’s alright.  The purpose of this post is not really anything about staying at home or going to work.  I’ve simply come up with suggestions on how to juggle a bustling day better.  I found that I need to be more productive, so that at the end of my whole family’s day, I can say that it was not wasted.  This can benefit anyone who’s ever felt that way.  I’m sure it can only do good.  Sly wink here.

So here are 5 healthy habits anyone can develop (whether you’re a nine-to-fiver or not) in order to get the most out of the day.  Besides, we do have 24 beautiful hours in a day.  That’s remarkably long.  Where does it all go?

1. Get an early start.

Set the alarm.  There’s nothing like drinking coffee to actually awaken the senses at 6 am.  Or maybe even 5 am.  I know some people who do.  This is particularly challenging for people who stay at home.  If the day ahead  isn’t as hectic, then by all means indulge in the luxury of sleeping in.  Otherwise, get it started!  Wake the kids up early; that way, they go to bed earlier.  If exercise is part of the routine, do it in the morning.  Then, go ahead and break your fast with something substantial for the rest of the day.  Do it all before 8 am and then have the rest of the day to play with as you please.  As the saying goes, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!”  Put that to test.

2. Set an allotted time for chores.

And delegate, if possible.  Chores are important up to a certain point.  And they surely don’t all have to be done by one person, all in one go.  Nope.  Set aside an hour or two, whatever works, towards doing house upkeep.  Whatever gets done, gets done.  If things don’t get finished, don’t stress.  Finish tomorrow.  I know this can be difficult at times especially if ‘clean freak’ is the feeling of the day or if the in-laws are coming over for dinner.  The point is not to fret about chores.  If after the allotted time there are things left undone and free time conveniently pops up later on in the day, decide how that free time should be spent.  Here’s the trick of the trade: don’t let it pile up.  Once caught up with the laundry and the dishes, stop putting it off for later.  Therefore when it’s time for daily time allotting, it really will only take about an hour to touch the house up with a little dusting here and there.  Don’t stress.

3. Don’t try to do so much in a day.

When doing a to-do list, try not to do it all in one go.  I do this all the time.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for lists!  I make page-long lists of stuff that I’d like done, and my lists are never fully scratched off.  As we all know, Rome was not built in a day.  Try to go for quality over quantity.  So instead of going to the beach and the museum and the mall and meet up for lunch, pick a few out of the list and then just enjoy.  Enjoy and take your time.  It isn’t worth doing if it isn’t satisfyingly pleasant.  Like I said previously, don’t stress especially not over a to-do list.

4. Plan ahead.

Yes.  Despite its shortcomings, it helps to do a list–a not-so-long one.  If you want a day to just kick it and do nada, then go for it.  Otherwise, plan your day ahead.  Think about it the night before so time is not wasted thinking about what to do the day of.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Just make a plan that can be kept or broken depending on how the day starts and how it goes.  No stress here.

5.  Sleep.  Or don’t sleep.

Every person’s need for sleep varies.  Some people can go about it with only four hours of sleep.  Some people need all eight.  Get to know your brain and figure out how much it needs to be fully functional.  It wouldn’t make sense to sleep less and not be able to perform up to par.  If you’re one of the crazy cool ones who only need two seconds of sleep (see my previous post on Salvador Dali) to have complete cognitive awareness, good for you.  Go on and sleep for two seconds and then wake up to do something magnificent.  Or do something equally awesome such as reading or writing or listening to music.  No stress.  Take a break because tomorrow is going to be another grand productive day.

There it is.  Try it.  Tell me if it works.  If it doesn’t work, then time to revise.  Otherwise, enjoy the extra time at hand and life in general.  Don’t stress.

Rainy Summer Days

It’s one of those days when it feels like a Norah Jones album playing on repeat next to a whiskey short.  Monday came so soon.  Not waiting to see if plans were drawn or set.  Not waiting for the rain to run away with the weekend.  Monday came exhorting a reprise.  “Just another rainy day,” it claims.  Effortlessly lagging, it would’ve been a good day for sleep.

Instead, it turned out to be a good day for something warm and fuzzy, besides the ethanol.  So, my kitchen deliciously conjured and mind you, purposefully, a can’t-go-wrong, all-American, timeless classic family recipe: Grandma’s Chili.

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It stirred more than just our cold, hungry bellies upon the reception of warm food.  It indubitably stirred our hungry souls…

…so much that I’m hungry for more.  No.  Not for chili.  Just for more.

Consequently, in hoping words will fill in the blanks, I wrap myself in this until dreams come:

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Calling it a day at 22:30.  Goodnight.