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Dine In: Butternut Squash-Stuffed Shells

Butternut Squash-Stuffed ShellsThis has been one of the best weeks in recent history for a variety of reasons, but principal among them was finding out that my parents are coming to visit for Christmas!

Most years, I only see my parents once during summer vacation in Sandbridge, Virginia. On extra-special bonus years, I might get another visit in. This appears to be one of those years.

I’m already planning my menu for the four whole days they’ll be visiting.

I come from an Italian family, and my mom’s stuffed shells are the best ever. Mine are never as good as hers, so I’m not even going to try to duplicate the recipe this time around. Instead, I’m going to honor the dish with a variation on the traditional take on stuffed shells.

This is a recipe full of interesting flavors. The butternut squash is slightly sweet, especially after it has roasted and caramelized. The spinach, with its touch of acidity, offsets the sweetness of the butternut squash while the creaminess of the ricotta is balanced by the texture of the pine nuts. Then, the lemon brings it all together with a lovely brightness.

This is a great dish for a fall Friday night or to put in your holiday repertoire this year.

Butternut Squash-Stuffed Shells
Serves 8

2 cups roasted butternut squash
olive oil, for tossing
1 box jumbo pasta shells
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 egg
1 tsp lemon zest, grated
4 Tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup butter
10 sage leaves (if you can’t find sage, substitute oregano or basil)
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon

Peel and chop the butternut squash, and then toss in olive oil. Roast at 425° F for 15 to 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Meanwhile, cook your jumbo pasta shells according to directions.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups ricotta, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, spinach, egg, salt and pepper. Combine well. Add the roasted squash and grated lemon zest.

Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of the mixture into each shell, and place in a single layer in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour 4 tablespoons of melted butter over shells. Bake shells at 400° F for about 20 to 25 minutes.

While the shells are baking, make your sauce.

To make the sage brown butter sauce, melt the 1/2 cup butter in a sauté pan until it’s golden-brown, bubbly and has a nutty fragrance. Add at least 10 sage leaves and sauté until slightly crisp. Remove from heat and add the fresh lemon juice.

Remove shells from oven, pour sauce over shells and sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 527, Calories from Fat: 292, Fat: 32 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (17 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 344 mg, Potassium: 370 mg, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 20 g.

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Family Matters: DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)DHA isn’t just another acronym in the alphabet soup of all things baby.

DHAs are vitally important for growth and development!

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina.

Fat is a major structural component of the brain, and DHA plays a role in that structure. Some researchers believe that consuming recommended levels of DHA may help support brain health. DHA has also been shown to help support heart health.

All varieties of Omega-3s are important, but research shows that DHA may supply the greatest number of distinct health benefits. DHA has a huge impact on brain and visual functioning as well as its role in supporting heart health. DHA provides a nutritional boost for baby’s growing mind and body, supporting brain and eye development and function. It has also been shown to support brain and heart health in all stages of life.

The best way for your baby to get enough DHA is to choose DHA-fortifi¬ed foods like Horizon Organic Milk with DHA. Horizon Organic Milk with DHA Omega-3 has the same wholesome, creamy and delicious taste that all Horizon milk is known for but supplies a vegetarian source of DHAs.

Make sure your baby is getting enough DHA with Horizon products fortified with this vital supplement.

Family Matters: Magic 9 Months

Magic 9 MonthsDevelopmental pediatricians say nine months is a critical month in baby’s growth.

They are doing all kinds of amazing things at once! Baby will be able to stand holding onto furniture, roll over on the floor, and commando crawl or look like he’s getting ready to crawl. He’ll be developing more fine motor skills, and will be able to pick up progressively smaller objects in a pincer grasp. He will start having favorites, and will show visible excitement at the sight of certain foods or special people.

Nine months is a pretty magical age, but remember, there is a wide range of development. However, if your baby isn’t doing any of the things mentioned above, have a chat with your pediatrician and have them take a look at your little one. My younger son was doing just fine with his fine motor skills but showed no signs of pulling up, standing or moving. A simple evaluation showed that he had low-muscle tone, and a few weeks with a physical therapist had him right back in shape and hitting typical milestone markers.

Family Matters: Rolling Along

Rolling AlongWhen your baby is about five months old, life gets interesting! I’ll never forget leaving my older son on my bed and coming back to find he’d rolled over! I dodged a bullet on that one. He could have rolled off the bed. Talk about scary!

Luckily, the first roll doesn’t usually result in a traveling barrel roll but safety first, always.

Rolling from front to back is probably the first way baby will roll over. It’s a bit easier to get that momentum going when they can use their legs and arms to propel them over. Rolling from back to front is a different motion and set of muscles, and usually comes after the front-to-back roll.

My older son was about four months old when he rolled over for the first time, so it’s never too early to start making sure you don’t leave them alone on a bed or on any other elevated surface. To encourage rolling, place a favorite toy just out of their reach to the side and let them try to get it.

Shop the Sale: Mexican Steak Salad

Mexican Steak SaladThe days are getting shorter, dusk is coming earlier and my new solar-powered porch lights are making me want to spend more evenings on the back patio. Well, that and it’s not 100 degrees every night any more.

As much as I can complain about the summer heat in Texas, I do love the more mild autumns and winters. I REALLY love the fact you can comfortably grill outside all year long in the South, minus maybe a handful of days.

I like this steak salad because it combines my favorite food group, steak, with a more healthy salad, making it a hearty meal. The acid from the lime juice offsets the rich fattiness of the steak and the queso fresco provides a pop of flavor without a lot of added fat.

I also like this steak salad because boneless sirloin strip steak is on sale this week at Brookshire’s. The boneless sirloin really benefits from the marinade, so don’t skip that step!

Mexican Steak Salad

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs garlic, minced
1 lb boneless sirloin steak strips
1/4 small red onion, sliced
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tsp
1 small head romaine lettuce, torn
1 small head butter lettuce, torn
1/2 cup cilantro
1 cup queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, sliced
3 Tbs lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Mix the soy sauce with cumin and garlic. Marinate the steak in the soy sauce mixture for 30 minutes. At the same time, soak the red onions in ice water for 30 minutes. (It takes away the “bite” of the onion.)

Preheat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the steak 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes, and then slice against the grain. Follow the same directions for a gas grill.

Toss the steak with the romaine, butter lettuce, cilantro, queso fresco, onions and avocado. Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil with the lime juice, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour over salad and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 384, Fat: 26 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 52 mg, Sodium: 663 mg, Protein: 29 g, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Sugar: 2 g, Fiber: 5 g, Iron: 3 mg, Calcium: 140 mg.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

Healthy Living: Pumpkin

PumpkinsIt’s that time of year for all things pumpkin.

I know you’ve seen the jokes about Pumpkin Spice everything (have you seen the new pumpkin spice M&M’s candies?), but pumpkin deserves the hype it gets this time of year.

Pumpkin (not the spiced latte version) is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Technically a gourd, pumpkin is low in calories but abundant in vitamin A and flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein, xanthin and carotenes.

Pumpkin is recommended by dieticians to control cholesterol and help in weight reduction (again, not the candied variety). Pumpkin is full of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, and has a lot of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a great source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. Pumpkin seeds are also a wonderful source of protein, minerals and vitamins. Nutritionally, 100 grams of pumpkin seeds account for 559 calories; 30 grams of protein; 110 percent RDA of iron; 4,987 milligrams of niacin (31 percent of RDA); selenium (17 percent of RDA); zinc (71 percent) and no cholesterol.

Pumpkin can be baked, braised, stewed, simmered, pureed, steamed, roasted and eaten in almost any way you can imagine! If you haven’t already hopped on the pumpkin bandwagon, take a hayride with this awesome vegetable this fall.

Product Talk: Swiss Steak

Swiss SteakLast Saturday night, Paul said those words I love to hear, “I’ll cook tonight.”

I mean, I love cooking, but I really love when he cooks. Everything he makes is mouthwatering.

Last weekend, he said he was going to make Swiss Steak. I’d never had it before, nor have I ever cooked with tenderized cube steak. Also called tenderized round steak, this meat is sold packaged in your butcher shop at Brookshire’s, or the butcher can tenderize it for you. It’s simply a round steak or sirloin made tender with some serious pounding. My boys called it “the meat with holes” when they were younger. The holes don’t go all the way through, mind you, but you can still see those indentations where it’s been tenderized. It’s usually sold in filets or cutlets, and is good for a myriad of recipes!

Back to the Swiss Steak. It came together quickly and simply, and it was so delicious! We had enough for leftovers the next day (and the next). This is a great recipe for fall as it’s warm, hearty, savory and economical.

Paul’s Swiss Steak

2 lb cube steak, tenderized
4 Tbs Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
2 Tbs black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup white onions, chopped
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes

Remove cube steak from packaging. Sprinkle liberally with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and black pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat a thin layer of oil in a cast iron skillet until it shimmers and begins to pop. (Make sure to get the oil hot enough, so your meat doesn’t just absorb it all.) Place steak in the pan and brown quickly, no more than 2 minutes per side. Remove steak to a platter lined with paper towels to drain. This might take several batches.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place steak in a pan (can be in a single layer or doubled up). Top with slices of white onions; cover with tomatoes. Cover pan with lid or wrap tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake for 1 hour.

Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or something similar to catch all those delicious juices.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 291, Calories from Fat: 85, Fat: 9 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 90 mg, Sodium: 89 mg, Potassium: 380 mg, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 35 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

Dine In: Mashed Potato Pancakes

Mashed Potato PancakesOn Monday, you’ll read about the Swiss Steak that Paul made for dinner last weekend, so I apologize that these posts are coming in a little out of order. You see, to go with the Swiss Steak, we made mashed potatoes, and because we had leftovers the second day, we made the first day’s mashed potatoes into mashed potato pancakes.

They were delicious, but I think we’ll both readily admit there was a steep learning curve involved. Turns out you can’t just smash the day-old mashed potatoes into patties and drop them in hot oil. I mean, you can and we did, but I think there is a better method out there. In fact, I know there is.

You start with cold, day-old mashed potatoes, but then you need a binding agent, like egg. We used cheese, which is a delicious add-on, but it wasn’t enough to hold the potato pancakes together. We didn’t dredge the potatoes in anything, but it turns out, that would have given them a crispy, golden crust.

Ours were still good, but these are even better! We had them with leftover Swiss Steak, but I even had one again the next morning, topped with Canadian bacon and a fried egg. The golden yolk ran down over that potato pancake, and it was a little bite of heaven.

Mashed Potato Pancakes

2 cups mashed potatoes, cold
1 large egg, lightly beaten
6 Tbs all purpose flour
2 Tbs onions, minced or grated
2 Tbs green onions
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 250° F. Keep the potato pancakes warm in the oven when you’re done frying them.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and the egg. Then, add the onions, chives or green onions and cheddar. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Combine well.

In a large heavy skillet like cast iron, heat 1/8 inch of the oil over moderately high heat until it is shimmering but not smoking. Press a heaping mound of potatoes into a patty and place in the oil. Fry until they are golden-brown, about 1 minute per side. When they are golden, place on a platter lined with paper towels and keep them warm in the preheated oven.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 146, Calories from Fat: 44, Fat: 5 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 39 mg, Sodium: 253 mg, Potassium: 275 mg, Carbohydrates: 20 g, Protein: 6 g.

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Family Matters: Cooking = Responsibility

 Cooking = ResponsibilityAs my girls have gotten older, I found how helpful they can be, if given the opportunity to do something on their own. They get home from school before we get home from work, so they know if they wait for us to cook supper that it will be late when we eat. Therefore, they have taken on the responsibility of cooking a few nights a week. My rule is that I don’t care what you cook because I will eat it! It’s just nice getting home and not having to go straight to the kitchen.

When I buy groceries, they tell me what items they need for what they are planning on cooking that week. They check the weekly grocery ad and let me know what is on sale (budget shoppers!). They have learned that Pinterest has lots of recipes, or they look through our cookbooks (I know, who uses those anymore!). The twins are 16 now, and they cook just about anything you can imagine. I always tell them how great the food was and how much I appreciate them.

We make cookies for a boys’ home as part of a church ministry, and I came home the other night to them having made 8 dozen cookies. They were not all perfectly round nor did they look like the cookies I would have made, but they tasted great. What a blessing to me (who was exhausted) and to the boys receiving them! Letting your kids grow in responsibility reaches outside your home…what a great lesson!

What a blessing it is that my children do not feel the need for someone to wait on them hand and foot, but they step up and act responsible in helping. If we all pitch in on things that need to be done, then there’s more time we can spend as a family doing things together. Most children are willing (definitely able) to cook, clean and even do laundry if parents would let them. Don’t worry that it may not be the best meal you ever ate or chores may not be done exactly like you would have done it. Let your children learn responsibility; it is good for them and it helps them grow!

What a comfort I have in knowing my girls can cook, clean, plan ahead and work through matters on their own. They will be responsible adults which is a great virtue to have in college, at work, in church ministry and in your family. I count my blessings daily, and I give thanks for my girls and the responsible young ladies they have become!

Shop the Sale: Beef and Broccoli

Beef and BroccoliConsidering my son’s current affinity for white rice, I try to work it into as many dishes as humanly possible. While Luke is a sweet boy, he’s a picky eater. He likes rice, approximately two vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) and meat.

That doesn’t always make cooking easy.

This dish satisfies all his requirements AND is made in the slow cooker (which makes me happy). In addition, chuck roast is on sale at Brookshire’s this week, so really, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Beef and Broccoli

1 lb boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 cup beef stock or beef broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbs sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 (12 oz) bag frozen broccoli florets
white or brown rice, cooked

Whisk together the beef stock, soy sauce, dark brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic in the crockery of a slow cooker. Place beef strips in the sauce, tossing to coat. Cook on low setting for approximately 6 hours.

When your beef is almost finished, remove about 4 tablespoons of the sauce from the slow cooker, and whisk it with cornstarch. Stir it back into the slow cooker and add broccoli. Turn heat to high; let cook for about 30 more minutes, or until sauce is thickened and broccoli is cooked through. Serve over rice.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 563, Calories from Fat: 316, Fat: 35 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 117 mg, Sodium: 2090 mg, Potassium: 402 mg, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 14 g, Protein: 34 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

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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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