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Healthy Living: Spinach Parmesan Muffins


If you’re like me, eating healthy gets a little bit harder during the winter months. I’m a summer fruit fanatic, so there’s never a shortage of healthy options in my house during the hot months. Winter is a bit more of a struggle for me. There are still plenty of healthy choices, but I tend to lean more toward comfort food when the days shorten and there’s a chill in the air.

These ‘muffins’ are the best of both worlds. You get more than a day’s worth of vitamin A in one muffin and quite a bit of folate and vitamin C as well. Not only do they freeze well, but I eat them for breakfast with a scrambled egg white.

You can use mature or ‘baby’ spinach in this recipe. If you use frozen spinach, make sure to thaw it completely and wring as much moisture out of it as possible before using. The pinch of nutmeg really brightens the greens in this recipe, too, so don’t leave it out.

Spinach Parmesan Muffins
Makes 12

Ingredients:
12 oz fresh spinach
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, or low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
2 large eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Pulse spinach in three batches in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add ricotta (or cottage cheese), Parmesan, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Coat 8 cups of the muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the 8 cups (they will be very full). Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn out onto a clean cutting board or large plate. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 141; Fat: 8 g, Cholesterol: 123 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Protein: 13 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sodium: 456 mg, Potassium: 560 mg



Product Talk: Canned pumpkin


Devil’s Food Pumpkin MuffinsI bet canned pumpkin flies off the shelf more in November than in any other month. I have no scientific evidence or statistics to back this up, mind you, but it’s a gut feeling I’d be willing to back up with money that this is correct.

I use pumpkin all year long because I love it. Ironically, I don’t eat pumpkin pie. Ever. But I love pumpkin in just about anything else. Recent favorites are in pancakes, waffles, trifles and hot breakfast oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal. My children cringed when their breakfast cereal came out a happy bright color recently, but with the addition of some cinnamon, cloves and allspice, it was like a pie in a bowl, more or less.

One of my favorite things to do with pumpkin is stump my friends. No, this isn’t a trick or treat, just a great way to make a fun favorite a little healthier – and leave my friends guessing. If I don’t tell them, and even after I do, they never suspect that pumpkin is the secret ingredient in these decadent muffins.

Devil’s Food Pumpkin Muffins
Serves 12

Ingredients:
1 box Food Club Devil’s Food Cake Mix
1 (14.5 oz) can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Directions:
Empty dry contents of cake mix into large bowl. Add can of pumpkin (nothing else). Mix together until well blended.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spoon mixture into a well-greased cupcake pan or cupcake liners.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 198, Calories from Fat: 44, Cholesterol: 0 mg,Sodium: 292 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 37 g,Dietary Fiber: 1 g, Sugars: 25 g,Protein: 3 g

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Ask Leigh


Question: I have seen spaghetti squash in the produce section at Brookshire’s, but I have no idea what to do with it. Is it really like pasta? Could you give me a suggestion?

Answer:  My mother used to cook spaghetti squash for us growing up. She used it in place of pasta during those times she and my father would go on various lower-carb diets.

I think it’s delicious, and really, the hardest part about cooking with spaghetti squash is cutting it in half to cook!

This recipe is from my mother, and it’s a family favorite of my own now.

Herbed Spaghetti Squash 

Ingredients:
1 (2 to 2 1/2 lb) spaghetti squash
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chopped basil
1 Tbs chopped chives
1 Tbs chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, in a baking dish. Add enough water to come 1/2-inch up the sides of the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a paring knife. Turn squash over and cover with foil again and continue to cook another 15 minutes, until the squash is very tender.

Remove from the oven, uncover, and allow to cool slightly. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and discard. Using a fork, gently pull the strands of squash away from the peel and place the squash strands into a mixing bowl. Heat a skillet. Add the butter, spaghetti squash, herbs, salt and pepper and toss thoroughly but gently to heat and combine. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

NOTE: Also great with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled over. Serves 4.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 161 g, Total Fat:  11.8 g, Sodium  39 mg, Carbohydrates 15.8 g, Protein: 1.5 g

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Posted in: Produce


Shop the Sale: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya


If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new things to do with chicken breasts. Chicken is delicious, versatile and inexpensive, especially when, like this week, it’s on sale at Brookshire’s.  My kids love chicken, even in non-nugget form.

Sometimes it is a challenge for me to come up with new ways to prepare this wonderful lean protein. This has been a recent favorite this fall. I usually throw in some shrimp, too, just for good measure. This recipe is easily doubled to feed a crowd and it freezes well, too. For something a little different, skip the rice and serve it over a baked potato.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
1 lb cajun or andouille smoked sausage, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
1 lb chicken breast meat, cubed
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp creole seasoning
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice

Directions:
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and bell pepper and saute until translucent.  Add garlic and a pinch red pepper (or more if you like heat) and saute until garlic is fragrant.

Add sausage and chicken and cook until chicken is mostly white. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, broth, creole seasoning and uncooked rice.

Cover and reduce heat and cook 45 to 55 minutes or until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Nutritional Information: Calories 634;Calories from Fat 193; Total Fat 21 g; Cholesterol 144 mg; Sodium 1391 mgp; Total Carbohydrates 54 g; Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 8 g; Protein 49 g



Healthy Living: Election Night Butternut Squash Soup


Butternut squash is in season and that makes me happy, very happy. I love butternut squash soup and have even managed to get my kids to eat it and love it, too.

Butternut squash, besides being delicious, is loaded with vitamin A — 1 cup of cooked squash has 457 percent of the recommended daily allowance. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. And like most vegetables, it’s fat-, cholesterol-, and sodium-free. Yay squash.

I plan on making this soup for tonight. It’s election night and I have to work late. But I’ll pop the soup in the crock pot to keep it warm and to keep me, and my co-workers, happy on what’s bound to be a late night.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 (2 lb) butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup nonfat milk
Nonfat sour cream (optional)
Chopped fresh chives or green onions (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Spray 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Place squash cut side down in prepared dish. Pierce each squash half several times with toothpick or skewer. Bake until squash is tender, about 45 minutes.

Using large spoon, scrape squash into processor; discard peel. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and nutmeg and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to heavy large saucepan. Mix in milk and enough broth too thin to desired consistency. Stir soup over medium heat until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with dollop of sour cream and chives, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories 84; Calories from Fat 2; Total Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 1 mg; Sodium 173 mg; Total Carbohydrates 20 g; Dietary Fiber 3 g; Sugars 5 g;Protein 3 g



Product Talk: Sweet Potatoes


Texas-Style Sweet Potato Soup It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the wonderful flavor of sweet potatoes when NOT prepared in the traditional super-sweet casserole – hidden under marshmallows or corn flakes or tons of brown sugar and pecans. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the buttery brown sugar topping my mom makes every Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I would eat that more than one day each year!

I was actually eating in an Italian restaurant when I saw sweet potato ravioli on the menu. It was prepared with sage and browned butter, similar to how I have seen butternut squash and pumpkin. It was delicious!

The ravioli dinner made me curious to research other ways to eat sweet potatoes, and I ran across a version of this sweet potato soup recipe from my friend Courtney. She had given it to me a few years ago, and honestly, I forgot I had it until now.

The healthiest way to enjoy a sweet potato is plain, of course. And honestly a plain baked sweet potato has tons of flavor without adding any butter or brown sugar. One regular-sized sweet potato will add about 100 calories to your day’s diet – and less than one gram of fat. It’s loaded in Vitamin A and healthy carbs too.

The soup recipe below also works great if you’ve baked a few extra sweet potatoes. Just skip the boiling part and add the cooked, peeled potatoes when you add the broth.

Enjoy!

Texas-Style Sweet Potato Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:
5 lb sweet potatoes, cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup pickled sliced jalapenos
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup half-and-half (fat free works too)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place sweet potato quarters in large pot. Add water to cover, and boil until potatoes are softened. Drain water, and peel potato skins when cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, melt butter in another large pot. Add bacon, onion and garlic. Sauté on medium-low heat until bacon is cooked through. Add chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and puree with a hand blender – or blend in a regular blender in small batches. Stir in jalapenos, cumin, cilantro and half-and-half. Taste for salt and pepper. Heat through and serve warm.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 751, Total Fat: 27.7 g, Sodium 1298 mg, Carbohydrates 111.0 g, Protein: 17.0 g



Ask Leigh


Question:  My mother used to make a delicious pot roast with Coca-Cola. She also made a wonderful chocolate cake with it. Can you use any soft drink or does it have to be a regular Coca-Cola?

Answer:  My favorite cake in the world might be a chocolate sheet cake made with Coca-Cola…I am betting that’s the same chocolate cake you mention here! I’ve never had a roast using a carbonated soda in the marinade, but you made me very curious! I found several delicious-sounding roast recipes – and yes, they all called for a regular cola.

I played around in the kitchen to see what would happen if I used a diet soda. It didn’t work. But I remembered that a couple of summers ago I marinated some flank steak in Dr. Pepper (didn’t have anything else!) before grilling, and everyone loved it. I thought I’d share my recipe with you – and these would work great with regular Coca-Cola too. Enjoy! 

Dr. Pepper-Marinated Flank Steak Nachos
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 lb flank steak
24 oz Dr. Pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 (9-oz) bag of your favorite, sturdy large-sized corn chip
2 cups refried beans
2 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese

Optional toppings: Sour Cream, sliced pickled jalapenos, favorite salsa

Directions:
Combine flank steak and Dr. Pepper in a non-reactive container and refrigerate at least 6 hours in refrigerator.

When it’s time to make the nachos, heat your gas or charcoal grill to high heat. Combine salt, brown sugar and pepper in small bowl. Remove steak from Dr. Pepper and rub spices into meat. Grill steak 3-4 minutes on each side until medium-rare. Do not overcook. Let steak rest 5 minutes before slicing.

To make the nachos, preheat oven to 350. Place corn chips on cookie sheet, in one layer. Combine black beans with cumin. Spread small amount of black beans over each chip. Sprinkle cheese over chips. Slice flank steak against the grain into ½-inch wide strips. Cut again into bite-sized pieces. Distribute meat over nachos.

Bake 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Remove and serve with toppings.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 528, Total Fat: 26.4 g, Sodium 1223 mg, Carbohydrates 43.3 g, Protein: 30.1 g

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Posted in: Entertaining


Family Matters: Holiday Traditions


There are certain traditions my boys expect to occur during the holidays or the earth just might spin off its axis.

The boys love to eat white chocolate popcorn and watch “Elf,” even though they might not admit it in public. I try to act nonchalant when they ask to watch it, but inside I’m dancing because I will watch that movie every time it comes on TV. It’s like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Sweet Home Alabama” for me; I simply can’t stop watching once it starts.

We also have made a point to ring the Salvation Army bell together (yes, they get school volunteer hours), and it always turns out to be fun even though getting them there requires nothing short of threatening to cancel Christmas.

Last year, my older son and I were working our shift in front of Brookshire’s when I noticed his hands weren’t moving but the bell was still ringing. Yes, Virginia, there is now an App for the Salvation Army bell, and of course, he had found it.

One of my personal favorite Christmas traditions is setting up our nativity scene for the first time each December. The set I use now was given to me when my older son was born, and it is one of the few material things I hold dear.

A nativity scene is a wonderful idea for a baby gift – and not one most people think about giving. It has always been a time for me to stop and think about Mary as a mother – and of course her baby son, Jesus. As a mother of boys now myself, I just don’t know how Mary did what she did.

Christmas Popcorn
Serves 8

Ingredients:
8 cups popped popcorn with no salt or butter (air-popped works best)
2 oz high-quality white chocolate or almond bark, chopped
1 tsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Place popped popcorn in a bowl large enough to “toss” with other ingredients. Melt white chocolate or almond bark with butter in the microwave on low, stirring every 30 seconds. Drizzle over popcorn and toss well. Add berries, buts and salt. Toss again. Spread on aluminum foil or waxed paper to set. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.   

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Snack Serving (made with air-popped popcorn): 114, Total Fat: 6 g, Sodium 233 mg, Carbohydrates 15 g, Protein: 2.0 g

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Posted in: Family Matters


Shop the Sale: Boneless Rump Roast


It is almost impossible for me to think about cooking a rump roast without thinking about cooking it on a Sunday afternoon after church. And the odd part of that is, I didn’t even grow up in a house where Sunday lunch or dinner was part of the main event of the day.  But I just can’t get away from the thought of a Sunday roast.

However, I don’t want my Sunday roast to be just any Sunday roast. I am always experimenting with different ways to cook this cut of meat, on sale this week at Brookshire’s. And I’ll be honest, when rump roast is on sale, I’ll stock up, because then I can pop a roast in my slow cooker Saturday night to be ready by the time I get home from church on Sunday.

This recipe, on the other hand, isn’t a slow cooker version. This recipe incorporates another of my favorite cooking technique — grilling. It also incorporates another fun ingredient, beer. Beer helps break down connective tissue, making your meat melt in your mouth. It also adds a great depth of flavor to your food.

Grilled Beer-Marinated Rump Roast
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (12 oz) can or bottle beer
3 1/2 – 4 lbs beef rump roast
2 cups hickory wood chips

Directions:
In 1-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil, stirring frequently, until onion is tender; remove from heat. Stir in chili sauce, salt, pepper and beer.

Place beef in shallow glass or plastic dish or resealable food-storage plastic bag. Pour beer mixture over beef; turn beef to coat with marinade. Cover dish or seal bag and refrigerate, turning beef occasionally, at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

Cover wood chips with water; soak 30 minutes. If using charcoal grill, place drip pan directly under grilling area, and arrange coals around edge of firebox. Heat coals or gas grill for indirect heat.

Remove beef from marinade; reserve marinade. Insert spit rod lengthwise through center of beef; hold firmly in place with adjustable holding forks. Insert barbecue meat thermometer so tip is near center of beef, but not touching spit rod. Drain wood chips. Add about 1/2 cup wood chips to medium-low coals or lava rock.

Cover and grill beef on rotisserie over drip pan and 4 inches from medium-low heat about 2 hours for medium doneness (160° F), brushing occasionally with marinade and adding 1/2 cup wood chips to coals or rock every 30 minutes. Remove spit rod, holding forks and thermometer. Discard any remaining marinade. Cover beef with foil and let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 275; Calories from Fat: 80; Total Fat: 9 g; Cholesterol: 105 mg; Sodium: 310 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Protein: 40 g

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Healthy Living: Kid Friendly Energy Bars


It’s right in the middle of soccer season and we have a tournament coming up this weekend. That means a 7:30 a.m. game in a town an hour away.

The early game is the first of three on Saturday and probably one of five for the weekend, unless we lose on Saturday, of course.

My 9-year-old son plays in a pretty competitive league and he’s a pretty competitive kid. In other words, he’ll play his heart out in all his games.

All the parents take turns providing snacks for the after the games, and I have snack duty after that first, early game Saturday.

I’m going to make these energy bars so the boys get off on the right foot and have stamina for the rest of the day. Each bar has six grams of protein and only 12 grams of sugar.

These would also be good for Halloween, in place of candy, for kids that you know.

Kid Friendly Energy Bars
Makes 20 bars

Ingredients:
2 cups oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup sun dried apricots
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Toast the oats and almonds under a low broiler, allowing them to begin to turn a light golden brown before removing. Set aside to cool.

Combine apricots, cherries, currants, and blueberries in a food processor. Pulse to mince, being careful not to allow it to paste up.

Add minced dried fruit, oats, almonds, and sesame seeds to a large bowl and mix well. I use my hands to gently roll the mixture, getting the dried fruit to separate from itself and blend with the oats.

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add the 7-grain cereal, stir thoroughly, and remove from heat. Allow it to rest in the pan for 2 minutes. Add peanut butter, honey, salt, and vanilla to the pan and return to a medium low heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes. You want the mixture warmed throughout and well combined. The mixture will begin to glisten and roll off the sides as you stir it. Do not overheat the mixture, as you will need to be able to handle it.

Add the peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Work it with your hands to combine well.

Firmly press the mixture into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Don’t be shy about it. You want to compress it into the bottom of the dish so that the top becomes level. I use a flat metal spatula. Allow the dish to rest at room temperature for two hours or longer. The longer you wait, the firmer the bars will be when you cut them.  Cut into bars and enjoy. The bars should be firm enough to retain shape, but will give to pressure.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 232; Calories from Fat: 75; Total Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 114 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 34 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 12 g; Protein: 6 g



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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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