03 May 2012

Building the Recipe Box

The first recipe I would like to share to add to your menu building collection is one of my family's standby's.  Super simple and tasty too!  

Fish Cakes
Serves: 2-4    Time: 30 Minutes or Less  Difficulty:  Easy

2 cans tuna - drained
1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs*
1 egg
Onion (chopped dried or minced fresh)
Garlic (powdered or minced fresh)
Oil or butter
Your choice of seasonings (some ideas follow)

Put tuna, bread crumbs and seasonings in a bowl.  Add egg and mix well.  Heat skillet over medium to medium low heat with about 2 tablespoons of oil or butter in bottom.  Use damp hands to press mix into patties and place in skillet.  Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until they brown and crisp a bit on the outside.  May take longer on lower heat, but will ensure that the egg cooks through. 

Seasoning Ideas:

Dill Lemon

Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried dill, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest (or you could substitute lemon pepper), salt and pepper, add to fish mixture.  Serve with lemon wedges.


Use paprika, salt, pepper, thyme - all to taste - add to fish mixture.

Indian Inspired

1/2 to 1 teaspoon prepared curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, salt, pepper, add to fish mixture.  Serve with yogurt sauce.  

Or you can always use the standby Old Bay!  The options are endless! 

*Bread Crumbs

They sell bread crumbs in all grocery stores, as we know.  A trick I use is to keep a storage keeper in my freezer and put heals of bread or leftover bread bits in it.  When I have a fair number of bread bits saved up I crumble them up and let them dry a bit, then pop them in my food processor and whiz up my own batch of bread crumbs.  I then put them in their own container back in the freezer.  Less waste, money saved. 


Canned Salmon or any flaky leftover fish can be used to make these patties. 

You can add "goodies" to the mix!  (Just don't get too carried away or your patties will fall apart.)
      minced celery 
      minced sweet peppers
      crushed nuts
      carrot shreds

Serving Suggestions:

Slice tomatoes and fry in the same pan, serve with or over!

Place over seasoned left over rice and add a frozen veggie, now it is a meal!  


The "Dreaded Question"

Today, I will finally get to putting up the first of a series of posts that I have been intending for, well, years now.  When I am on top of my week and things go as planned (a rare thing these last several months) I create a Weekly Meal Menu.  This is one of the most useful things I have found to do, it saves time, frustration and money.  I can do all of the weeks shopping in one trip and I never have to deal with the age old question of "what to make for dinner."  There are so many benefits from this simple act, I really want to jump for joy when I keep up with getting it accomplished! 

There are so many benefits it is really astounding! I can plan meals so that they use up the excess ingredients I purchase for a particular meal, which leads to great per serving savings.  My menu can take into account the days when I need a quick meal because we have evening plans or days when it would be beneficial to put together a slow cooker meal, such as days when we are out of doors for the majority of the day and it is a joy to come in to the delicious scent of a meal that has practically prepared itself!  You can even benefit nutritionally from planning your meals ahead of time!  If you only buy the necessary ingredients for that weeks menu, you will have less excess in the house and you can go as far as planning on fitting certain nutritional needs into your menu.  I have found this especially helpful with a toddler that gets their nutritional needs met more on a weekly scale rather than a daily one.  And I have found that it is impossible to mindlessly snack when you literally have no random junk food in the house.  Your shopping is more focused, and so your eating is more focused.  You also tend to stick to the plan better, which means you are spending fewer meals simply grabbing something easy.   So you save on money and nutrition!  The benefits are really quite boggling.

You can make your weekly menu as detailed or as simple as you prefer.  I like to try and plan each meal and snack as best I can, because in my busy world it is helpful to have a plan that lays it out for me, especially on the days when I can't think straight and need a piece of paper to tell me what to do next.  I also tend to find myself in less of a bind when I have preplanned snacks on hand and either the schedule changes or my daughter has an off food day.  I know that whatever she decides to eat that day is going to be healthy and that the plan can easily be switched up or adapted to fit our needs in a mere moment.  I can make a meal earlier or later in the week easily, I have all the ingredients already on hand or I can skip a meal entirely and simply move it to the coming weeks lineup in the event we get a last minute meal invite that we just can't pass up or we have to be elsewhere in an emergency.  I feel more flexible because I have a plan, rather than the chaos and frenzy of the weeks when I don't have a plan.

The coming posts will get down to the nuts and bolts of the meal plan, in that I will be sharing my own tired and true recipes that will help in meal planning.  I will also add tips and ideas as they seem fitting.  My hope is that less and less you will find yourself facing the dreaded question of "what to have for dinner tonight."  Happy eating.

13 January 2012

Time to Wake!

How often we find ourselves at the end of our day and wonder how we could possibly not remember what we had for breakfast and where the twenty dollar bill we had earlier got to, how often. Frightening really, the times we come to our destination and find ourselves musing about the drive, as we don’t remember a single turn of it. Is it possible that we are missing characters in our own lives? Quite possible, it seems to me. More importantly, how can we replace these vague moments and forgotten turns, with something more lucid and engaging, even ultimately more satisfying? Possibly the best term I can fill the void with is “Conscious Living.”

Conscious Living is a way I remind myself to be a player on the stage of my own life, to live in the moment and savor more of life at every opportunity. Simply choosing to be more aware and conscious of the life we are moving through can have benefits beyond even the awakening experience. As we move into a New Year, symbolically filled with potential and new opportunities, I would challenge any and all to live consciously. Wake in the morning and resolve to pay more attention, act with more purpose, and be accountable in your own existence.

There are so many examples of how Conscious Living can change our little worlds it is hard to know where to start! So many ways we will benefit from the extra thought put into an action or decision, so many ways we could potentially save time, money, even heartache. The most simple and mundane example could be getting behind the wheel. There are studies that indicate that we would have vastly fewer vehicle accidents if we could eliminate even part of distracted driving. Some interesting studies can be found at www.nhtsa.gov, the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As individuals how easy would it be to simply choose to be more aware behind the wheel? We could all easily practice more present moment thinking, choose to pull over to use cell phones (there actually was a time when we all survived without them), never eat behind the wheel, leave 5 minutes earlier to eliminate distraction from being late, dress before we leave our homes, and the list could go on and on. What would we benefit from these simple (though difficult for many) acts? On the somewhat insignificant end we might see better traffic flow. Bigger possibilities might include lower car insurance premiums, even if they are only for you as the individual who improves your driving record, but maybe as big as better premiums overall! On the earth moving end of the spectrum, we could lose fewer loved ones as we see fewer accidents on our roadways. This is Conscious Living in action, and all it takes is a simple decision to be present in your own life moments.

There are so many other ways that choosing to live consciously can find us in better places. I hear so many times how people cannot figure out where their money goes. I can tell them exactly where it goes. It goes into the cup of coffee they “had to have today, because today was just ‘one of those days.’” They needed it, but how quickly the moment is forgotten. How quickly the fact that most days are “one of those days” is also forgotten. Then there was the snack that was picked up with the cup of coffee because breakfast was forgotten in the hurry out the door. After that there was the quick bite at noon, because who has time to pack a lunch these days? By the end of the day twenty dollars, and probably more with the convenience of credit and debit cards, has slipped though tired fingers mostly unnoticed. How easy it would be to save a few hard earned dollars if we just thought about each one of those transactions. Simply waking up in the morning and pledging to think about your actions through the day could be an enlightening experience for many and if that enlightenment led to even a few small changes, perhaps it could even be a life changing experience. Maybe more money could be found in the budget when you put a cap on the unconscious spending you do throughout the day.

How many projects would go better if we put just a tiny bit more thought into them? If we simply live in the moment and think about what we are doing. Numerous trips to the store could be avoided, messes and damage lessened, just for a bit of thought and planning. We would probably forget fewer things as we leave our homes and we would probably lose fewer things while we were out! We would probably find that we are capable of very good decisions when we put a little thought into the equation. Our diets might even improve if we live a bit more consciously! We might find ourselves eating something new, rather than simply plodding along in the same rut, because we never think about what is outside of the rut. We might ultimately eliminate that irksome moment in each day when we anguish over what to make for dinner, because we have already given it due thought!

There is even the off chance that you might find life just that little bit more beautiful when you choose Conscious Living. Maybe you will be aware enough of your surroundings to notice the intensely beautiful sunset on your daily commute home. Perhaps you will actually hear the wit blossoming in your young child as you actually pull yourself out of the stupor to listen to what they have to say. You may even find an incredible person staring back at you when you look in the mirror with a new consciousness. We can all be amazing individuals if we only take the time and make the effort, but we must be aware, alive and conscious to really do that!

As you live more consciously you may find that you have more time, because you put some thought into your morning routine, were conscious of the time and your needs. You may find you have more money, because you saw that beautiful sunset and you didn’t need that “pick me up” to get through another day. At the very least you should know where that twenty dollars went! You may find you are more happy, because your interactions are more vivid and real and more meaningful. So many wonderful things are out there just waiting, but only for those aware enough to notice them.

I challenge each person who might read this to just think about what you have read. Just by thinking about it, you have been more conscious even for a moment. Let consciousness become part of your daily life, start to live in a more vivid and clear world. The best part is that Conscious Living won’t cost you anything, all it takes in the power you have inside you already. All it takes is a decision, a decision to bring your world into focus! You might be surprised at the good things you have been overlooking! Live Consciously!