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This week I tried some of those drugstore deals and learned some things along the way. We use the Thermacare products in our house frequently. When I saw that I could get a Register Reward from Walgreens when I bought 2 I was happy. I also had 2 $3 off 1 2 count or larger product. Perfect. Took my coupons in, bought my products and got my register reward. Total out of pocket for that was about $6 for about $12 worth of stuff.

I figured if I would go back later in the week and get a couple more. Wrong. Doesn’t work that way. I was certainly allowed to buy the product (no harm there), but it did not generate a second Register Reward. It turns out since I tried to pay for the new Thermacare products with the Rewards I had earned earlier in the week, the register kicked it back. No rewards. 1 per family. I learned my lesson. Read the fine print. I still bought them because we use them. I just know now that the drugstore is only going to let me get a couple.

I also had to add a small item because their coupon policy states that you need to have as many items as coupons even if you are stacking them. I only had the 2 Thermacare and something else I wanted and had a coupon for. That was only 3 items. I had 2 Register Rewards (which apparently they count as a coupon), a Walgreen’s coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon. The grocery stores don’t do this so I was a little surprised, but store policy is store policy. Make sure when you do these that you get a copy of the store coupon policy before you go. That way you will have less issues at the register.

I would love to hear from some local shoppers who also coupon and if any of you have figured out how to do these drugstore deals.

Chicken Pot Pie is one of those homey, full-of-goodness meals that can bring a family to the table.  It’s easy to customize- fill it with your choice of meat (chicken, turkey, or beef) and the vegetables you know your family will love.  Store-bought and frozen versions can be loaded with saturated fats and preservatives, but it’s easy to make your own.  One bite and you’ll know your efforts were worth it.  I’ve tried out recipes over the years, but recently found one that I’ll hand down to my daughters one day.  It can be made traditionally, or gluten-free, and is delicious either way.

A moist and filling Pot Pie

This first photo gives an idea of what the inside of the Pot Pie looks like. The top was fluffy with a slight crunch to the crust, and the inside was creamy and thick.  The recipe comes straight from The Gluten Free Gourmet, and is called Bette’s Best Chicken Pot Pie.

Pot Pie Filling:

  • 2 small chicken breasts (about ½ lb.)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • ½ c. diced carrots
  • ½ c. sliced celery
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • ½ c. frozen peas
  • 1 c. peeled, diced potatoes (about 2 small potatoes; this wasn’t in the original recipe but I added it in because I think Pot Pie needs potatoes)
  • 3 T flour (regular or gluten-free)
  • 2-3 T water
  • ¼ c. cream (I used milk)
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, sauté or poach chicken breasts until cooked through.  Remove from pan, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.  Place chicken stock in pan and bring to a boil.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes, and cook for 15 minutes.  Add chicken and peas and cook for five minutes longer.  In a small bowl, mix flour and water to make a thin paste.  Thicken stock with flour paste, cook on low one to two more minutes.  Add cream, season as desired with salt and pepper.  Spoon into a greased, 2-quart round casserole.  Preheat oven to 350, and prepare Pot Pie crust.

Pot Pie Crust:

  • 1 T sugar
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. rice flour (if not making gluten-free, substitute flour)
  • 1/3 c. potato starch flour (if not making gluten-free, substitute cornstarch)
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1/3 c buttermilk

Mix sugar, butter, and egg together.  Sift together dry ingredients, add to sugar mixture, alternating with buttermilk.  Spread evenly on top of Pot Pie.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is lightly browned and liquid bubbles around the edges (see below).

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy (gluten-free) cooking!

ImageOn Hudson Valley Parent’s website, you will find some great party ideas. But handling 15 kids for an afternoon was never my cup of tea. (I apologize to all you super moms who love the thrill of a great party.)

As you read my story, you may have a story of your own you would like to share.

I remember my son Paul’s 8th birthday party.

Here was the birthday party plan:

1.  No more than 5 kids. The number was arbitrary but that seemed to be the amount I thought I could handle.

2.  It should be easy to organize.

3.  Shouldn’t need a lot of preplanning

4. AND MOST IMPORTANT…my son, his friends and I should have fun.

You may ask, “why did I create these very restrictive rules?”  My answer is simple: I was going to school to complete my master’s degree and commuting to Westchester at least three days a week. Some days I was so tired that I would pull off at the Sloatsburg rest stop just to take a quick power nap.

Now on to my son’s great party. It was May and a beautiful day. I look five kids in my station wagon to Bear Mountain Park. I was living in Monroe, so it was a short trip. Because it was early in the season, the park wasn’t crowded which gave us plenty of room to spread out.

I had balls and bats, Frisbees, kick balls…anything that was light and fit in a large duffle bag.  Bear Mountain has some big open spaces that allowed the kids to play any game they could imagine. They had fun playing and I was hysterical watching them organize themselves. I provided the venue and they created the activities without my interference.

Now it is food time. By now you realize that my menu was simple, Sandwiches, cupcakes with a candle and some candy bars did the trick.

The kids helped me put all the stuff back in the car and we then went for a short hike up one of those legendary Bear Mountain trails. I huffed and puffed, but the kids had a ball. We found leaves that we saved, and I brought throw-away cameras so they could all take pictures to remember the day.

It was a full day and I was ready to drive back home.

An unexpected ending to a great birthday party

The kicker…I couldn’t find my keys. Although the car is no longer around, those keys are probably on one of those Bear Mountain trail sites.

Friends came to pick us up so it wasn’t a total loss, but to this day I always carry a spare key with me.

After that our parties remained simple but not necessarily outdoors. As you can imagine, fast food places, although not considered healthy, was just up my alley.

Have a birthday party story to share?  We’d love to hear it.  If you like this blog, please share, and feel free to comment.

 

Chili is one of my favorite meals, for many reasons.  To start with the obvious, a bowl of flavorful, warm-cooked goodness can’t be beat.  Chili comes together quickly and makes the house smell inviting.  Everyone in my house is always happy with chili night.  To go with the less obvious, it is naturally gluten-free, and our recipe required no substitutions or alterations when we switched over.  Lastly, my own two little chili secrets: I fill it with vegetables, triple the recipe, and freeze the two extra two batches in freezer-safe bags.  On a busy afternoon in the near-future, I will be thrilled to have a healthy, home-cooked meal waiting for me in my freezer.

 Hearty, healthy chili

My husband, who does precious little of the cooking but tends to have very discerning tastes (I love him anyway!), found this recipe online when he decided our chili recipe was boring.  I have to admit, we’ve enjoyed this one since we switched to it last year.  I’ve made a few changes to make it a little healthier and family friendly.  Those who know me well know that I almost never cook a recipe as is.  Recipes are just jumping-off points, right?

To start with the meat, I brown and drain a pound of lean ground turkey in place of the shredded turkey.  I skip the green pepper (no one in our house is a fan) although next time I think I’d substitute red pepper.  Since we don’t like our food spicy, I halve the ground cumin and chili powder, and omit the red pepper flakes entirely. Of course, adjust this to your family’s tastes.  Rather than two cans of kidney beans, I go for variety- one can of kidney, one can of either pinto or a white bean, and a can of black beans.  Drain and rinse your beans if they’re canned.  Lastly, and for my favorite part, I add the vegetables.  Grate in two medium zucchini (peel them first, or use yellow squash, if you think your family will pick out the green) and add in 1/2 cup of pureed butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato.  Serve over brown rice, with sour cream and shredded cheese, and I promise, everyone will eat it up.  My husband’s friend came over recently when we made this, and afterwards he admitted that although he didn’t usually like chili and was hesitant to try it, he loved the meal and asked for the recipe.  Success!

One word of caution.  If you are gluten-free, double-check your ingredients.  Although everything in this recipe should be naturally gluten-free, I was dismayed to find that some canned beans, bags of dried beans, cans of diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and spice containers stated, “Processed on equipment shared with wheat,” or “Make contain traces of wheat.”  When we became gluten-free, I switched some of the brands that we were using, and made calls to companies to make sure their products were safe.  An easy fix, but worth your time to ensure safety.

To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy g-f cooking!

Well, she actually texted it to me.  My oldest.  About five years ago.  It was around early spring and time to figure out what my girls were going to do over the summer.  I had one rule: that it had to be something more than sitting at home.  It was really easy.  It could be anything my girls wanted to do.  Take up a new sport, learn sign language, advance in their swimming skills, dust off the acoustic guitar and take a lesson.  But my oldest was probably 15.  The age where they don’t want to do anything their parent suggests, no matter how good an idea it is. 

(Summer camp really offers a host of new activities.)

In the past, my girls readily went anywhere I took them.  To Vacation Bible School, to the local summer enrichment program at the Monr0e-Woodbury schools where they took arts and crafts classes, or drawing, or a learned to swim program.  (In fact, it’s where they DID learn to swim.)  So, this summer, I had a battle ahead of me.  “You’re not going to sit around and let your brain go to mush,” was my cry.  And her response was, “Mom, you can’t make me.”  And I really felt like a bad mother.  Here I was, forcing my daughter to “have fun.”  She just wanted to sleep late and be on the computer.  But I was not having any of that.

Finally, after suggesting topic after topic, which she flatly refused, I said, putting my foot down, “Then you are going to go to the local summer camp, run by the town.”  It was called YAC (Youth Athletic Camp, I think.)  She stamped her foot and stormed away.  Later that day, while I was out with my youngest and she was at a friend’s, she texted me that phrase.  It stopped me cold.  “They’re just words,” a mom friend told me.  “She feels she can say that because she’s not in your face.”  So, I tried to shake it off.  I texted back something like, “I didn’t get you a cell phone so you could text me messages like that.”  And that was all.  The initial shock passed, but the words remained in my head.  She’d never, ever said that before.  My friend added, “And don’t forget, she’s a teenager.” 

Fast forward to July 5th or 6th.  The day camp started.  I dropped my youngest daughter at the arts and crafts class, and then dropped my oldest at YAC.  She got out without a word.  My attempt at a friendly goodbye was interrupted by the car door slam.  In guilt, I drove away.  I took a deep breath, and felt my heart beat faster.  These are the hard days of parenting, when your child can fight back against the decision of the parent.  She knew my rules, she had plenty of opportunity to choose a summer activity, but she decided to, as I call it, “play me,” and see if I would give up.  She should know me by now.

I held my breath all day, waiting for more emotional texts about how I was the cruelest mother on the planet and how come so-and-so didn’t have to go to camp.  And so on.  But, you know, around 2 pm or so, my cell phone buzzed.  A new text arrived.  Seeing it was from “camp-girl,” I sighed and read these words, “MOM! ur rite, I like it”

I felt my throat tighten, and the biggest relief ever came over me.  How hard it must’ve been for her to admit it, yet type it.  And how hard it was for me not to text, “I told you so.”  Instead, I typed the words, “Im glad. :)” 

P.S.  My oldest made a ton of friends that summer, and has since become a counselor at the camp, and even now — at 19 — she  plans on returning each summer until she gets going in her career. 

For a rundown of the best camps in the Hudson Valley and some great stories on choosing a camp, click here.   

I have been interviewing people for a job opening we have at Hudson Valley Parent. Many are parents and some are parents of young children.

I remember those days when my kids were young and I was going to school.

When I first mentioned to my husband that I wanted to go back to school full-time, he looked at me like I had two heads. “Back to school? Are you crazy?” he said. At that point I had two kids…one in kindergarten, which was full time at that point and the other was two.

So I held off thinking that I would do full-time school when my youngest started kindergarten. Wouldn’t you know, it the district instituted half-day programs.  Eliot was going to kindergarten fewer hours than when he went to nursery school.

Another year past and now both my kids are going to school full-time and I am in school too getting my bachelor’s degree. 

The next years become trickier.  I am working and trying to coordinate school drop-offs, after school programs, dinner and then fit in whatever plans my husband had. Needless to say those first six months on the job were hell and nothing seemed to go right.

Needed a job-kids-husband solution. Here’s what I did. (It may not be right for you, but it helped me survive.)

1. I gave up housecleaning. I kept things somewhat neat and that’s about it. My husband didn’t even notice, and you can be sure the kids didn’t care.

2.  I didn’t cook most meals. Simple take out was fine for us for that first year. Each of my sons “cooked” a meal of their choice. My six-year-old did pigs –in-the-blanket in the toaster oven with Mac and cheese as a side for his first meal. You can laugh all you want, but both my kids have turned out to be very good cooks.

3.  For emergencies my kids came first. That was the rule I lived by. So if someone forgot his homework, so what? If they missed the bus, they took a cab. But if someone was sick I was there with no questions about what came first.

4.  My kids could play after school activities if they could find a way to get there. I worked 45-minutes from the house. There was no way I could take them, but I was always willing to take them and their friends home after the program. If they could find a way there, I would drive everyone home. My kids became very resourceful, and they only picked the after school activities that were important to them.

Those are my four rules. Do you have rules that you live by to balance work and family life?

I loved going away to summer camp. The only reason I stopped is that I got too old. You know what I mean, I either had to become a head counselor or find something else to do for the summer.

So when I had kids, I assumed they would love going away as much as I had. What a mistake.

The first summer I tried day camp for Paul; he was three years old. I was pregnant and about to deliver my second son. I thought he would enjoy playing with other kids, enjoy swimming and enjoy crafts. Every day Gus from the camp would come in his car to pick up Paul. My son stood there crying and Gus would  pick him up and put him in the car.  Paul screamed like he was being accosted. (Apparently, once he got to camp he was fine, but leaving the house was a trial by fire.)

One morning I was feeling so guilty, that I was about to terminate this “great day camp experience” when my son came up to me before Gus arrived. “Mom,” he said. “When Gus comes and I cry, I don’t want Gus to pick me up.”

“Okay,” I said. And that ended our trial by fire mornings.

Who’s to say that three-year-olds don’t know how to press our buttons?

Just a little shortie today…..I went to ShopRite on Saturday to pick up some more cereal. They had a ton right by the front door. How convenient! The sale was 4 boxes of General Mills cereal for $6. I bought 2 Cinnamon Toast Crunch (normally $3.49) and 2 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (normally $4.39). I also picked up 4 cans of Chef Boy R Dee Ravioli. Those run $1.12 each. I had 2 coupons for 50¢ off 1 for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. These doubled. I had 1 coupon for $1.00 off 2 Honey Nut Cheerios. Not doubled :(. Then I had a 50¢ off 4 cans for the Chef Boy R Dee. This doubled. Between the sale price, ShopRite Price Plus card discounts and my coupons I paid $5.52 for my groceries. I saved $17.00 on that trip. I am more motivated than ever to keep this up. We have lots of cereal for the boys and my wallet is that much fatter. 🙂

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to post here, but I’m happy to be back among fellow Hudson Valley Parents.  My family had a number of health problems to sort out, and this took much of my time and energy for the last few months.  I’d never stopped photographing my food, though, and knew I’d be back.  The biggest change I bring to the table is that we are now gluten-free.  In September, my daughter and I were diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is a genetic intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and contaminated oats.  Given that I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, mastering a new method of cooking was a challenge I gladly accepted, especially since it meant healing my daughter.

As this blog goes forward, I am keeping an emphasis on healthy, uncomplicated, creative family meals.  Everything featured here will be appropriate not just for the gluten-free cook, but for all.  Feel free to make whatever substitutions are best for your health and lifestyle, whether it be traditional flour in place of gluten-free flour, non-dairy substitutes in place of dairy, or whatever tickles your fancy.

And sometimes, we want a meal that requires no substitutions.  The other morning at breakfast, we were in the mood for something different.  I perused my fridge, and found an almost-empty carton of OJ, a few bananas who’d seen their hayday and then some, and the yogurt I’d made the day before.  I thought for a minute, and then pulled out the blender.  We were tickled how this turned out; to quote my husband and daughter, “It was the best smoothie ever.”

A Sunny Smoothie

In a blender, combine 1 c. vanilla yogurt (I used Greek), 1 c. orange juice, 1 1/2 c. frozen mango chunks, and two bananas.  Sprinkle generously with cinnamon (about one teaspoon) and blend until smooth.  This was a nice and thick, sweet but not over-the-top, and really filling.  It’ll definitely be a part of my smoothie repertoire from now on.

If there are any readers out there who are gluten-free, have Celiac Disease, or any type of gluten-intolerance, I’d love to hear from you.  Each day is a learning experience on this new journey, and I’ve found that we gluten-free fanatics tend to stick together.  To see what’s happening in our kitchen, or to share what’s going on in yours, please stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy g-f cooking!

I put together one of my coupon trips last night and did pretty well. Between 2 major grocery stores I managed to buy $246.94 of groceries for $112.64.

It took me about 5 hours to put the trips together just to start with so beware, it does take time and effort. I buy at least 2 newspapers a week for the manufacturers coupons they offer. I also print some from 3 major coupon websites. I use coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com. You can search for the products you want and print only the ones you need.

These coupons can be used in conjunction with the store coupons. This is called “stacking” and is what will help you to get the most bang for your buck. I also used 2 different “loadable” websites. You register your store card, go through the coupons you want, add it to your card and clip nothing. Just add the product to your list and it comes off at the register. One is Cellfire.com and the other is SavingStar.com. The combination of careful planning, some clipping time and a detailed list saved me $134.30.

As for what I bought, everything is stuff my family uses. I don’t buy it just because it is discounted. I got a several jars of spaghetti sauce, 4 feminine products, several boxes of cereal and eggs just to name a few. I also did not clear any shelves and followed the limit guidelines. This saves time and possible issues at the register.

I also must thank the blogger that I follow for all of the great info I get from her or I would never be able to do this. Kudos to livingrichwithcoupons.com for her awesome matchups. Check her out. Like her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter.

There are also several other bloggers that I follow. Go to one of my earlier blogs and you will see a list at the bottom of bloggers to check out.

I happened to be on yahoo this morning just before I wrote this and read this nice little piece. Check this link out for some rules and regulations of couponing.

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