Saturday, January 31, 2009

Planning a Valentine's Day date? Avoid the hype!

This year, Valentine's Day is on a Saturday. It's a perfect opportunity to have a special date with the one you love and show them that you care in a budget-minded and personalized way. I've always been a fan of homemade and thoughtful gifts. Here are a couple options for easy Valentine Dates that are affordable and very easy for people that aren't into cooking extravagant meals.

"Sweetie" Valentine Daytime Date Option:

Spend the afternoon at a local museum, ice skating, or matinee movie with a special lunch for your sweetie.

  • Bake: That morning or night before, bake cookies, cupcakes, or a pie. Think easy - chocolate chip, chocolate cupcakes with fun frosting, or apple pie.
  • Prepare a panini sandwich lunch. You don't need a fancy panini maker. Take day-old bread, brush with olive oil. Between the bread add sliced apples, sliced cheese, and turkey lunch meat and a bit of honey mustard. Cook on a medium high skillet until brown on both sides, flipping once. Make sure the cheese is melted. Serve with a cup of tomato soup (it's red after all!)
  • Serve the lunch before you leave for your date.
  • Personalize a blank card with a message from the heart.
  • Kiss
  • Head out for your fun activity. Why not make it a surprise!

"Honey" Valentine Evening Date Option:

Spend an evening with a relaxing massage, dinner & dessert by a fire. (It's still winter in most places, so staying inside for the night is really cozy!)

  • Massage your honey. Set up candles, use some oil and give your honey a relaxing massage.
  • Give them a nice card with a personal message.
  • Serve a simple dinner and enjoy dessert
  • Relax with some wine and music or a movie by a fire.
  • Dinner: Roast Chicken with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli with french bread
  • Wine of your choice (think Viognier, Chardonnay, or sparkling wine)
  • Brownies with sliced strawberries for dessert

Shopping list:
  • Bottle of wine
  • Bread loaf of choice
  • Cooked rotisserie chicken
  • Yellow Potatoes (2 lbs)
  • Broccoli bunch
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Milk
  • Strawberries
  • Brownie mix
  • Can whipped cream


  1. Chill the wine.
  2. Bake brownies in the morning. While brownies are baking, wash strawberries. Slice and put in the fridge.
  3. Preheat oven to "warm" setting. Put precooked chicken in a baking dish and reheat while cooking the rest of meal.
  4. Add water to a medium pot and put heat on high to boil (for broccoli)
  5. Peel, chop potatoes and put into a medium pot, filled with water just over the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender (15-20 mins).
  6. While potatoes are coming to a boil, wash broccoli and cut into florets.
  7. Your pot of water for the broccoli should be boiling. Drop florets into the water and cook until bright green (3-5 mins). Drain. Do not overcook. It will continue to cook. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and butter to taste and put the lid on the pot to stay warm.
  8. Drain potatoes and add back into the hot pot. Use potato masher and mash the potatoes. Add 1 tbs of butter, 1/4 cup of sour cream, salt and pepper to taste, and milk until you get the potatoes consistency that you prefer.
  9. Pull chicken out of the oven and carve.
  10. Slice bread and serve with olive oil or butter.
  11. Serve the chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.
  12. For dessert, serve up the brownies with sliced strawberries and top with whipped cream.

This meal will be fast and easy to make and you don't have to be a fancy chef to make it for your honey.

Busy lives...managing to stay focused on health

A few years ago, I worked as a financial planner, working extremely long hours in a 6-day per week schedule. I left my house at 6:30am to workout before work and got home after dinner at 8:20pm on Mondays - Thursdays. I got home at 6pm on Fridays, then again on Saturdays 9-1pm. It was a very challenging time of my life. I had to take naps on Sat and Sun afternoons just to get by and try to be a good partner to my husband. I did this schedule for 2 whole years and I still carved time in my schedule to prepare my meals for me and my husband. I spent 3-4 hours on Sunday cooking for the entire week. I preportioned the meals and stored them in the fridge for the week. I learned a lot from that experience. The most important lesson is that I valued my health more than ever. The health of my relationships with my family and friends and the health of my body.

My coworkers at that time took bets on how long I would maintain this schedule and still cook and bring in my own meals. I brought in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to give me fuel for the day. They lost their bets! I often received offers from them as well, to cater their meals. People tried to pay me for some meals on the spot! It was very funny. In the end, I left my job there to go back to a regular work schedule returning to my previous career in high-tech marketing. However, today, I still have the busy schedule. My commute to the office is almost 3 hours total, each day. And one thing is for sure. I still won't sacrafice my core values - relationships (husband, siblings, family, friends) & and my good health.

The fact is that in this life, you get one body. And many diseases and health issues can be avoided by prevention. I work hard to protect my good health by frequent exercise, balanced nutrition, sleep, and drinking lots of water. I wear sunscreen and have never smoked cigarettes. I'm not preachy about it, it's just the way I chose to live my life.

Along the way, I get tons of questions from friends and family about tips of staying organized to live a healthy lifestyle. Now, let's get started....

This blog is designed to give you helpful and practical strategies to help you organize and prioritize your time and budget to maintain good health. So many people feel defeated when they look at a diet book or cook book because their budget can't take the strain, especially in this economy, for expensive ingredients and kitchen tools. Imagine what you can do with your life if you felt energized after a meal or snack instead of getting stuffed or sugar bombed by eating fast food or processed foods!

Please send me your ideas and tips as well. There is always more to share.