Archive | April, 2013

Couponing Update: Last week’s CVS haul

29 Apr
It's that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

It’s that time of year again: Summer Stock Up time!

About a year and a half ago I started my couponing, and last spring I decided to try to stock up for summer on things we go through most, so that I would not have to shop for those items over the summer.

This year, it’s springtime again and I’ve decided to do the same thing. As time has gone by, I have gotten a better handle on things we go through a lot of and things that last a long time.

For example, last year I found out that 48 rolls of toilet paper lasts way longer than just through the summer, but body wash we go through almost weekly. So this year I’m making adjustments in my stockpile. Recently I’ve gotten good deals on women’s deodorant, dish detergent, and a few other things. Last week, however, I had a particularly good “haul,” so I thought I’d share it with you and tell you how I did it. People often ask me for a quick tutorial, so this may help anyone who’s thinking about couponing.

Today’s post is about a CVS trip, and it’s probably the place I shop the most often because of their great store sales, their fantastic stackable coupons, their super Beauty Club, and their awesome Extra Bucks.

Going into CVS, here is what I had:

a $4 off $10 worth of body wash which I’d gotten out of the CVS machine. CVS brand body wash is $2.37 each or 2 for $4.00 normally. That week though in the CVS flier, it was Buy one get one half off. I had to buy 7 to get to $10, but then I got $4.00 off.

5 manufacturer’s coupons for Old Spice men’s deodorant for 20 cents off. The deodorant was on sale in the flier for $2.29 that week. So I’d be getting mine for $2.09 each.

1 CVS machine coupon for 20 cents off Palmolive dish soap. The soap was on sale in the flier for 99 cents already. Normally it’s more than $1.00 at CVS.

7 manufacturer’s coupons for $1.00 off two bags of Chex Mix. The Chex Mix was on sale at CVS that week four bags for $5.  Each bag is more than a single  serving, so it makes a great lunchbox snack if you put it into ziploc bags, and it is great for a playdate or after school snack. During the summer it’ll be great for beach snacks, assuming it lasts that long!

I also discovered that day that Chex Mix comes in Chocolate Turtle flavor. I had to remind myself that each bag was more than one single serving or I might have eaten the whole bag.

My total cost that day was $30.

I got:

7 bottles of body wash
5 deodorants
1 Palmolive dish soap
14 bags of Chex Mix

So, in total, 27 items for $30.

If you are new to couponing, the lessons to take away from today’s post are the following:

Be sure to examine *all* of your couponing and sale options. Use the CVS machine coupons, and remember you can scan your card multiple times a day until it tells you there’s nothing more for you.

Look closely at the flier because oftentimes the fliers and sales coincide with the store and manufacturer coupons. Remember that you can stack CVS store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Only buy what you use, unless it’s totally free and you can donate it. Don’t spend money on things you can’t use, just because it’s on sale.

And finally, use as many manufacturer coupons as you can. Having multiple numbers  of coupons is great when stores run sales such as the one I got on Chex Mix and deodorant this time around.

Happy Saving!!

My new addiction: Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake

26 Apr
Nutella is not new, but there's this great little treat that I make with it, which I'm addicted to!

Nutella is not new, but there’s this great little treat that I make with it, which I’m addicted to!

For the longest time, I knew that Nutella existed, but I never bought it.

Yes, seriously. It was not on my all-the-time shopping list.

That was in my old life. My pre-Nutella addicted life.

Recently, Elizabeth came home and said how her good friend had a Nutella sandwich for lunch at school. It got me thinking. There’s so many things you can make with Nutella, and it might be a great treat for the kids’ lunches and mine, on occasion.

Let me just say, it’s a slippery slope, that Nutella. One lunchtime treat has led to many jars of Nutella in my shopping cart.

I love it for breakfast, for lunch, with strawberries, with bananas, with peanut butter and for a late night snack.

I think about it all the time.

And I keep finding bigger jars of it. I first started out with a small jar. I’d buy two at a time. Then I found an even BIGGER jar at Target. I’m on my second one of those. But I hear there’s an EVEN BIGGER jar available at BJ’s. I’m afraid to go see. I’d join just to buy it.

So one day, my friend Paula sends me a link she’d found to a Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake. She found it on a blog called Kirbie’s Cravings.

Four ingredients. One of them being Nutella.

Check.

Check. Check. Check.

I had all four ingredients.

I’ve made a mug cake before from a different recipe for a coffeecake, and didn’t love it. Never posted it.

This, I love.

I think I’ve made it four times in two weeks or so.

It takes all of five minutes to mix up, if that.

It takes all of one minute and 30 seconds to cook in my microwave.

I kid you not.

So today, for my Friday post I share with you my newest addiction: the Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake from Kirbie’s Cravings.  Now pay attention when you read her blog post about this cake. She has taken a lot of ingredients out of her original recipe, which used to be over 1000 calories. Now it’s just over 500 calories. That’s still a lot. But knowing it *used* to be more, doesn’t that make it sound like a bargain?

Yes!! It does!

And she recommends sharing it.

I don’t choose to go that route.

She also recommends waiting to eat it until it cools.

I don’t do that either. I can barely get it out of the microwave and I’m getting my spoon.

I recommend topping it with whipped cream or something like that. My whipped cream is fat free. In fact, most of what we eat is low fat or fat free, so I don’t really feel terrible eating this on occasion.

Multiple occasions.

Here’s the recipe. Try it out!

Four Ingredient Nutella Mug Cake

from Kirbie’s Cravings

Ingredients:

4 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Nutella
3 tbsp fat free milk

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into an oversized mug. Mix with a small whisk until batter is smooth. Cook in microwave for about 1 minute. Sharp knife inserted should come out clean and top of cake should look done rather than gooey. If cake is not cooked in one minute, add an additional 20 seconds. Let cake cool in mug completely before eating.

Totally Addicting.

Totally Addicting.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Brussel Sprouts

24 Apr
Until the other night, I had never had brussels sprouts.

Until the other night, I had never had brussel sprouts.

Ewwww….brussel sprouts!!!

Isn’t that what everyone always says? When people want to come up with the grossest vegetable to make you eat, isn’t it always brussel sprouts?

I guess I’d always just taken their word for it because in my whole life I had never had a brussel sprout until two nights ago. I think I just always assumed they’d be gross because everyone says so. It wasn’t until recently when someone said, “They’re just like baby cabbages,” did I realize that I might actually like them, as I like cabbage.

I took the next step: I bought some at Aldi’s.

Then I forgot I had them until my daughter was home sick, watching Cupcake Wars on TV and one of the challenges was to incorporate brussel sprouts into the recipe.

GASP!

“I have those in the fridge,” I said to Elizabeth.

We decided to give them a try. I looked up recipes and came up with this one for roasted brussel sprouts. Sounded basic, easy, and delicious.

Don came home from work that night and said, “I was talking to someone at work about how to cook brussel sprouts, and she said we should roast them with salt, pepper and olive oil.”

Well that was funny, same recipe I’d come up with.

So we tried them.

I loved them.

I was the only one.

Don liked them, Liz could take or leave them, and Caroline and Alex didn’t like them at all.

Bummer.

However, because I loved them I am posting the recipe. I had the leftovers again, the very next night.

I’d love to know though, how do you cook your brussel sprouts if you are someone who makes them? Please share any good recipes or tips with me.

And, a couple of things to note: Don parboiled them in the microwave first, just to jump-start the cooking. And, he also sprinkled garlic on them before roasting, along with the salt and pepper.

They do look just like little baby cabbages.

They do look just like little baby cabbages.

 

ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS from AllRecipes.com

Ingredients

Original recipe makes 6 servings Change Servings
1 1/2 pounds Brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, yellow leaves removed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt (we used regular)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  2. Place trimmed Brussels sprouts, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly, and shake to coat. Pour onto a baking sheet, and place on center oven rack.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, shaking pan every 5 to 7 minutes for even browning. Reduce heat when necessary to prevent burning. Brussels sprouts should be darkest brown, almost black, when done. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt, if necessary. Serve immediately.

Monday Musings: Bookworms and Books

22 Apr
Having a place to show off what they've read adds to the feeling of accomplishment that kids get when they finish a book.

Having a place to show off what they’ve read adds to the feeling of accomplishment that kids get when they finish a book.

When my oldest daughter Caroline was in the first grade, her teacher started a classroom bookworm on the wall. She used construction paper circles and each time a student finished a book, the bookworm got a new circle added to his body.

At the end of the school year the circles got sent home with the students. My daughter came home and put them on her bedroom wall, starting a bookworm at our house. Every so often, she’d add to it.

When my second daughter was in the first grade we had the same teacher and her circles came home with her too. This time our bedroom set up was now with bunk beds and Elizabeth’s circles wrapped around the room, up near the ceiling.

My youngest…same story! Same teacher, same circles, and our bookworm got longer and longer. Last year at her seventh birthday party Alex’s friends even added circles to it of books they had read. It was so cute to see the handmade circles and the little kid handwriting on them, showing off the books they’d read.

This week however, the bedroom underwent major renovations, getting a new paint job and a new floor plan. In preparation for that, we had to take down the old bookworm. My kids were heartbroken, especially Alex. I felt bad, but it couldn’t really be helped. The circles had to come down and they were old and worn out so they didn’t even come down in one piece.

Coincidentally, last month I came across some vinyl decals for walls at Walmart. They came three to a pack and they were even dry erase and came with a marker! As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have them. I had to make a new bookworm! So I bought the circles. They were $2 for the three pack and I loved the bright colors they came in. They brightened up the kids’ playroom/office and gave anyone who wanted it, a place to show off what they’ve been reading lately.

To that end, I thought Id’ share part of a list I came across last week. You can see the list in its entirety by clicking on the link and see the book covers of each book on the list as well. It’s a list of “The 25 Books Every Kid Should Have on Their Bookshelf.” How many of them do you have on your bookshelf? Although we’ve read a lot of them, there were many we have not. Maybe they will become part of our bookworm in the future.

Top Ten: The 25 Books Every Kid Should Have on Their Bookshelf

1. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

2. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

3. The Pushcart War, Jean Merrill

4. The Sweetest Fig, Chris Van Allsburg

5. Matilda, Roald Dahl

6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

7. Dealing With Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

9. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

My moment of silence

19 Apr
The events of this past Monday in Boston have left me truly speechless.

The events of this past Monday in Boston have left me truly speechless.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Cheeseburger Pizza

17 Apr
A great pizza option for get togethers!

A great pizza option for get togethers or dinner any time!

A few weeks back, I was having the typical “What are you having for dinner?” conversation with my friend Paula. When she asked me what I was having, I said, “I have no idea. What are you having?”

Her answer: Cheeseburger Pizza.

Now we have homemade pizza all the time. We make plain, mushroom, cheese, olive, bbq chicken and even Hawaiian pizzas. But, we’ve never made a Cheeseburger Pizza, as simple and delicious as it sounds.

I had everything but the dough: pizza sauce, non-fat mozzarella cheese, and ground turkey. I could easily have Cheeseburger Pizza for dinner at my house too!

And so we did. I picked up my dough on my way home from work and that night we added a new, fun pizza choice to our repertoire and we were dinner twins with my friend who was having the same thing at her house.

Everyone liked the new pizza and I’d do it again for sure. I think it’d be fun for a get together with friends and I also think you could add other toppings to it, and still keep it healthy: some fresh diced tomatoes or some olives might be great, too.

So today’s WFDW is not a recipe per se, but a menu suggestion and a question for you to go along with it: What is your favorite fun pizza to make at your house? Leave a comment and let me know!

Monday Musings: A tribute to Mom and a new perspective on motherhood

15 Apr
Congratulations Mom!

Congratulations Mom!

Friday was my mom’s last day of work.

Ever.

For 32 years she has worked for the same corporation, through location changes, job title changes, changes in upper level management, and much more. She was one of the only “original” members of the staff, and they had to create a “Thirty-Two Years of Service” award for her, since no one else had ever been with the company as long as she has.

Thursday night her colleagues held a gathering in her honor and Don and I were asked to be there. Of course we said yes! I was excited to celebrate with her and to see the people I’d gotten to know from my visits to her office over the years as well. My dad had retired nine months ago, and I was excited that my mom would be joining him so that they could embark on this next part of their journey together.

What I did not expect however, was for this night to be such an eye-opener for me, such a look into my mom’s life as a young mother back in the early 1970’s and 1980’s and as a valued co-worker to the company for the next 32 years. I was struck by so many things as I listened to her talk to people and tell the story of how she got  this job, when she hadn’t even been looking to go back to work at the time.

I am continually amazed as a mother and as a parent, at the perspective I gain into my parents’ years as young parents. I think of them whenever my kids are sick and I remember how sick my brother, in particular, was when he was young. I think of the times we got chicken pox together and strep throat together, every time a stomach bug wipes out my family all at once. I thought of them managing the Blizzard of 1978 as we recently managed Blizzard Nemo of 2013.

But last Thursday night, my perspective was a new one, as I put myself in my mom’s place as a young mother and I realized what hadn’t hit me til that moment: how similar our stories were.

My mother graduated from a secretarial school after high school, prior to having children. She worked for two of the mayors of the city I now live in, as it was the city she and my dad grew up in and lived in for a time as well. When she had me, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mother, as many moms then (and now) did. At some point when we were little, she became an “Avon Lady,” a home-based business owner, circulating catalogs, taking orders, meeting with customers and delivering orders. I remember being a runner with my brother, jumping out of the car, running up to doors and leaving the catalogs in bags hanging on the door handles, as she drove from house to house.

Mom and me at my birthday in August 1977.

Mom and me at my birthday in August 1977.

Although I finished up a four year college program after high school, I too, left my job and took on a home-based business when my kids were born, my path mirroring my mother’s. Although slightly different along the way, we ultimately ended up in the same place. I had gone back to work teaching when my oldest was just nine weeks old and stayed there for two years, but started the home-based business when she was one year old, a year before I left my job, in order to get the business up and running. I kept my home-based business for eleven years through two more pregnancies, only closing up shop just two years ago this summer. I had three children, rather than two, but I worked hard during the days, nights and weekends, working my business in between having babies and caring for toddlers and preschoolers. I took orders, filled orders, wrote newsletters, hosted meetings, taught classes, spoke at regional events and more, all while raising my children. It was very difficult, but it was very worthwhile and very much like what my mom had done with the two of us in tow, all those years ago.

One day my mother received a phone call, around the time her children were in elementary school. I was nine, my brother was seven, (similar in age to the ages of my younger two children today). A friend asked her to cover her job for a number of months while she went out on maternity leave. As I listened to my mother tell the story on Thursday night, she relayed how surprised she was to get the call, and how she had not been looking to return to work.

“I set out conditions. I couldn’t leave before they were on the bus and I had to be home when they were getting off the bus. I needed school vacations and summers off and if they were sick, I couldn’t work,” she told a colleague the other night.

Done.

Although our paths have differed, our stories are very similar.

Although our paths have differed, our stories are very similar.

Again, as I listened, I realized how similar our journeys as mothers were. When my third daughter was just three, I was volunteering at a school event for my oldest daughter. My middle was in preschool at the time. At that event I was “discovered” taking photos for the school scrapbook by the editor of our local paper. She asked to see my photos, loved them, asked me if I could write (to which I said I could), and offered me a job as the education reporter, right there on the spot. I had not been out looking for a job, I had just been coming in to volunteer my time. I had three very young children, two of whom were not even full-day elementary school aged yet.

I laid out conditions: I would not work full time. If they were sick, I couldn’t work. I needed to be home whenever they needed me, including summers and vacations. I had to be able to put them on the bus and take them off the bus, drop them off at preschool and pick them up at preschool. And because I had one more child than my mother had at the time of her job offer and because my kids were much younger than hers were at the time, I also had to be able to take them all with me any time I had to cover a story and there was no one home to take care of them, since most of them were not school aged yet.

Done.

My mom never left her job that was supposed to be temporary. As the years went on, she worked longer days, taking less time off, because we were older. As my children have gotten older I too, have taken on a bigger work load, even taking on writing for an additional newspaper, working longer, fuller days and weeks when I can.

My mother proved to be a valuable asset to the company because of her strong work ethic, her honesty and her Type A personality. She moved up. She went to college for twelve years, earning an associate’s degree and then a bachelor’s degree, ranking first in her class at Providence College when I was pregnant with my first daughter in 1999.

I’ll never forget watching her carry the flag into the graduation ceremony, leaning over the railing to see her better. I was 28 and she was 52. I was so proud of her. A woman next to me asked if we were twins.

“No,” I answered. “That’s my mother!”

But I realize now, that oddly enough, although not twins, our stories as mothers are similar. They’ll obviously never be exactly the same, but our core values are the same, our goals as mothers, career women and our work ethic are the same. I can only hope that our paths will continue to be similar as I have learned so much about the type of mother that I insist on being, from her.  I know now more than ever that so many reasons I am the way I am both at home and at work are because of the way she was as a mother and an employee, and because of the things she held dear to her heart.

Us.

Jen and Chris on the rocks as kids

Cupcake Wars and Heart Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

12 Apr
It was worth the hours of time and work that went into the Cupcake Wars last weekend!

It was worth the hours of time and work that went into the Cupcake Wars last weekend!

Last weekend my younger two girls and I participated in a nearby town’s fundraiser, Cupcake Wars. We originally signed up for it in January and it was supposed to take place in February, but we got snowed in by Blizzard Nemo and it had to be rescheduled.

We were lucky with the timing of the original event, we could utilize the Valentine's Day decorations that were in stores then!

We were lucky that with the timing of the original event, we could utilize the Valentine’s Day decorations that were in stores then!

The new date was last Sunday, April 7. We were signed up as an Elementary team and our team name, in honor of our new nutrition requirements was “Heart Healthy and Loving It!” Since the original date was to be the week before Valentine’s Day, we connected the heart healthy with the love theme and I bought all my table decorations at the dollar store before Valentine’s Day.

We chose to make Red Velvet Cupcakes, but we had to healthify the recipe to make it as lowfat as possible. Even our frosting was healthier than the original version. I searched and searched online for a relatively simple recipe since we need to make 100 cupcakes for the Cupcake Wars.

That’s right, I said One Hundred Cupcakes.

I now know just how many cupcakes 100 cupcakes actually is. And, it’s actually a ton.

I found a basic recipe online and we modified it to be as low fat as possible. The recipe needed to be doubled, twice, so quadrupled really. In total we made over 125 cupcakes on Saturday.

I had the girls doubling their measurements at the same time. Measure once...

I had the girls doubling their measurements at the same time.

I quickly realized several things. The first thing I realized was that I could not make a quadruple recipe all at once. I had nothing big enough to mix in or mix with. My Kitchen Aid mixer cannot handle more than a double recipe and for this recipe, it could barely handle that.

The second thing I realized is that my kitchen is small enough that I had to really be efficient in how I did things or it’d be an explosion with ingredients, measuring tools and the like, everywhere.

The third thing I realized was that this was going to be a very long process and since it was supposed to be the girls baking more than me doing the baking, I needed to capture their attention in the beginning before they ran out of steam.

Finally, I realized I had no place to store 100 cupcakes frosted, so I needed to frost on Sunday morning before we left for the event.

Lots to think about, lots to plan out.

To start, we took out our ingredients and measuring tools for the cupcakes and I had each girl measure out what we needed and then I put all the ingredients and tools away.

I mixed both batter and frosting in this at points during the day. It's a lobster pot.

I mixed both batter and frosting in this at points during the day. It’s a lobster pot.

Next, I found the biggest bowls and pans I had and I mixed what I could in my Kitchen Aid, creaming the butter and sugar and eggs and then transferring it to bigger bowls for mixing and scooping.

I’d bought an extra muffin tin back in February, as well as silicone heart shaped muffin cups. I knew that I could fit both muffin tins in the oven at the same time while I had the kids scooping into the heart shaped cups and then when the tins came out, the trays of cups could go in. It was like an assembly line. We must’ve done that four times.

I was wishing right then for a double oven.

It was an exciting morning as we got ready to go and finished up frosting and decorating our cupcakes.

It was an exciting morning as we got ready to go and finished up frosting and decorating our cupcakes.

But, ultimately it all worked out, and Sunday morning it was “all hands on deck” for frosting and decorating. I’d bought the biggest boxes I could find at a local cake baking supply store. Each box held about 65 cupcakes so one was full and one was about half full.

At one point, Caroline said, “Even if you don’t win, this has been a great experience,” and I had to agree. We hadn’t even gotten there yet, but I was already pleased with the girls and their hard work.

Once there, we set up our table. The girls had made a poster showing all the things they’d used to make the original recipe healthier and we put that up next to our table. We were pleased with how our theme and our display came together. I felt confident that the cupcakes tasted good and our set up looked good. We walked around and talked to everyone, took pictures of all the displays, planned out which cupcakes we’d be going back to purchase and taste.  And then we waited for the doors to open.

Our poster showed people the things we'd done to healthify our cupcakes.

Our poster showed people the things we’d done to healthify our cupcakes.

Utilizing those cookie selling skills from Girl Scouts!

Utilizing those cookie selling skills from Girl Scouts!

The Cupcake Wars sold out in just two hours, less than the four hours planned. It was amazing to watch as the cupcakes went, one by one. I was happy as I sat back and watched my two younger girls utilizing the skills they’d learned during the many hours spent set up at Girl Scout Cookie selling booths. I watched them speak to the customers, I watched them keep their table set up and looking full at all times. I was happy with this new, added experience that they were getting. To me, that alone was worthwhile.

The girls ended up tying for first place in the Elementary division. They were thrilled and I was happy for them. It taught them that their hard work and efforts were all worthwhile and it taught them that people still like healthy. There were several judges from all around the community where the contest was held, and we were glad they liked our cupcakes as much as we did!

To finish up, I thought I’d share with our Heart Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe. The modifications we made are all things that you can easily find. We had a copy of the recipe on our table for people to take in case they wanted to bake their own at home. I will say, I quadrupled the frosting, but we had A TON leftover. A double recipe of frosting would have been more than sufficient.

7

HEART HEALTHY AND LOVING IT

Heart Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes and Frosting

Ingredients

Makes 24-30 cupcakes

1 1/4 cups white flour
1 1/4 cups wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or Smart Balance Baking Sticks, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup egg substitute (1/4 cup equals one egg)
1 cup nonfat sour cream
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 ounce red food coloring
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 eight ounce package non-fat cream cheese softened

1/4 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or Smart Balance Baking Sticks, softened

2 tablespoons nonfat sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

(By using nonfat cream cheese the frosting will come out runny. Therefore we added in extra confectioner’s sugar and some flour to thicken it up until the taste and consistency were to our satisfaction.)

Our table display

Our table display

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: “Fake Alfredo” Sauce

10 Apr
The kids could choose which veggie they wanted to throw into their fake alfredo meal. Here's one with peas on top.

The kids could choose which veggie they wanted to throw into their fake alfredo meal. Here’s one with peas on top.

When we first began our search for low-fat and non-fat menu options, my friend Debra sent me a recipe for a “fake” Alfredo Sauce that she’d seen online but hadn’t had a chance to try. I decided to try it this week.

It is very similar to last week’s Cauliflower Soup recipe, and starts out being made the same way. But, you throw in some extra ingredients to give it a completely different flavor. Caroline didn’t love it, but Elizabeth did, and surprisingly, so did Alex. I loved it. I’d definitely use it again, although personally I’d like it with less nutmeg in it.

Does it taste just like real Alfredo Sauce? Nope. It’s a good sauce though, and very healthy. Surprisingly, after eating it last night for dinner, I saw another fake Alfredo Sauce recipe today on Fat Free Vegan, and she said she’s seen several in her travels too. So check hers out also!

I served this over cheese tortellini. I also threw in sauteed chicken and shrimp. The kids chose whether or not they wanted to add in broccoli or peas for a veggie. There was something in the dish that everyone would like.

INGREDIENTS

- 1 lg head cauliflower
– 3 C vegetable broth
– 3 C water
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 Tbsp butter
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp white pepper
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1/4 C Plain 0% greek Yogurt **(I added another 1/4 cup).
1. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Bring the vegetable broth + water mix to a boil over medium high heat and add cauliflower. Cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes.
2. While cauliflower is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes until fragrant.
3. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with some of the broth then add the sauteed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and white pepper and puree until very smooth. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender.
4. Add the yogurt and cook over low heat. Serve over pasta – OR use as a cooking sauce for baking chicken.

Monday Musings: And then there was the time….

8 Apr
Many of our stories are told at family gatherings.

Many of our stories are told at family gatherings, a chance for several generations to be together, a chance for memories to be shared and created.

“Tell me a story!”

“Remember the time….”

“What about that day when….”

My kids have always loved hearing stories from when we were kids, stories from when our parents or their parents were kids, even stories about themselves when they were babies. They laugh at the funny ones and they’re mesmerized by the stories about people they never met or of days before their time.

They liked these stories so much that at one point many years ago, I’d typed up all the ones we could think of, and I put them into a word document that I called, “And Then There Was the Time….”

My goal was to add to them as I remembered more or heard more, or as things happened that we wanted to remember in the future. At one point though, I had a computer crash and that’s when we found out that Carbonite, the system we were using for backup “on the cloud,” had lost everything too. So that document, along with so much else, is gone.

But, the stories remain, nonetheless. They are in our memories and in our hearts and the girls still ask for them and laugh about them and they know some of them so well themselves that they can retell them now.

We’ve always placed an emphasis on the sacredness of dinnertime in our house, and so many times our dinner conversation turns into us telling them a story from the past. Larger family gatherings are perfect for telling stories. I grew up hearing the stories about my dad’s dog, Trixie and all the crazy things she did when he was a kid, a teen and even when he was  dating my mom.

In fact, I recently read a quote from chef Charlie Palmer, owner of restaurants in Manhattan, Las Vegas and San Fransisco. When asked by Family Circle magazine whether despite his busy travel schedule his family (four boys ranging from 14 to 18) still has big family dinners, his answer was this:

“Absolutely. In fact, my wife Lisa and I go out of our way to make sure of it…..The conversations that go on would never happen if we weren’t all around the table.”

I have to agree with Charlie.

Recently a friend posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times article, “The Stories That Bind Us” that told of the importance of knowing one’s family stories, and the importance of telling family stories–the good and the bad. You can read the article yourself, but in a nutshell, it speaks to the importance of developing a family narrative. The article cites several studies, which all point to the same thing:  “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

The article goes into the fact that families who have a strong foundation, a strong knowledge of their family history were better able to get through tough crises.  It even recommends developing a family mission statement of sorts, in other words, letting everyone in your family unit know what your core values are, what your family stands for. And I think we’ve done that over the years.

No matter what your take-away from this article is, mine is simple, and I have had a sign over my door for years which states it: Home is where your story begins. As my family leaves each morning, that sign reminds them that it all starts here. The strength they have with them each day is formed here and whatever they do when they leave this house, they carry with them the core values we’ve instilled in them here. Of all the framed sentiments I could have chosen for the wall, I chose that one because I truly believed it and I live by it still.

The article sums up these important points:  “The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

And so, keeping that in mind, we’ll continue to spend time together as a close family unit, telling and retelling our stories. We’ll continue to ask those in other generations to tell their stories, so that they are in our hearts, minds and memories.

And hopefully, it’ll continue to be a strength that bonds our family together, because we know that no matter what:

Home is where your story begins

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