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Family Matters: New Year…New You


As we celebrate the New Year, let us all take a few minutes to reflect on the past year and look ahead at what we want to accomplish this year.

Whether you focus on marriage, family, friends, work, or life in general, there are things we can do (without much effort) that would make a difference in all of areas of our lives.

Think about compassion, patience, generosity, respect, kindness, self-control, integrity, gratitude, faithfulness and, most importantly, love.

When is the last time you showed compassion, had patience, expressed generosity, practiced respect, acted out of kindness, used self-control and upheld integrity?  What about showing gratitude, faithfulness and expressing love to others?

Everyone likes to receive these types of things, but we ourselves often fall short of extending them to others on a daily basis.  There are no greater attributes we can teach our children or accomplish as a family than having a passion to make the world around us a better place to live.  We are all extended mercy and grace daily, and we receive blessings we never acknowledge.

My prayer, for you and your family, is that you to find joy, hope and the courage to be different and to make a difference, in the lives of others this year. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family.



Shop the Sale: Naturally low-fat chicken breasts


If you overindulged both diet-wise and budget-wise over the holidays, it’s time to get back on track. So we are helping out with some terrific buy-one, get-one-for-1-cent deals this week at your neighborhood store.

And that includes some staples that will help both your wallet and your waistline, like Pilgrim boneless skinless chicken breasts. Buy a package, get another for a penny. And because the skin – by far the fattiest, most calorie-laden part of poultry – has already been removed, you start out with a lean, protein-dense main ingredient.

Need some inspiration? Search for some on our recipe database, on our newly redesigned website.  You’ll find hundreds of easy, delicious recipes to jumpstart your menu planning, like this chicken and brown rice pilaf , ready in just 20 minutes!

Or, here’s a simple baked chicken recipe that gets lots of flavor, but not too much fat, from Parmesan cheese and garlic. Pair with rice pilaf, a green vegetable, and fruit for dessert, and you won’t break the budget OR your diet.

Parmesan-lemon chicken
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, minced or pushed through a garlic press
Juice of three lemons
6 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded or grated, divided
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add minced garlic and saute until soft, two-three minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. Add lemon juice, four tablespoons parmesan, parsley, chili flakes if using, and a dash of salt and pepper. If mixture is too thick, thin with a little water or chicken broth.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in pan and pour butter-lemon-parmesan mixture over them. Bake for about 20-25 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining two tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 165 to 170 degrees.



Healthy Living: Smart snacks


Losing weight and getting fit always seem to be at the top of everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. After a month of holiday merrymaking, even if you’re not actively trying to lose weight, you’re probably ready to start returning to a healthier way of eating.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up little treats like the occasional snack.

In fact, I just ran across an idea from our friends at Kellogg’s that could help you snack and STILL lose weight: Substitute their healthy Special K snacks for higher-fat, higher-calorie snacks, and you could save from 246-306 calories per day.

Over a week’s time, that adds up. In fact, it would be enough of a calorie savings for the average adult to lose at least half a pound.

Their plan goes like this: The average adult, ages 20 to 70+, eats an average of 486 calories per day in snacks, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Healthy Special K snacks – like multigrain snack crackers, strawberry fruit crisps, or sour cream and onion cracker chips – contain an average of 105 calories per serving.

So, even if you eat two Special K snacks every day, you’d still consume an average of only about 210 snack calories. Choose the lowest-calorie snacks, like Special K cereal bars, which contain only 90 calories per bar, and you’ll save even more calories.

Cutting calories, eating a balanced diet and exercising is the time-honored way to lose weight, of course. But, by the way, even the American Dietetic Association believes snacks have their place in a healthy diet for most people. Their caveats:

• Snack only if you’re truly hungry. Don’t eat out of habit or boredom.

• Treat your snacks like nutritious mini-meals, and include their calories in the day’s overall calorie limit.

• Exercise portion control. You should always serve yourself an individual portion, rather than eating directly from the container, which makes it easy to overeat. Individually wrapped snacks are the way to go if you lack willpower.

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Posted in: Healthy Living


Product Talk: Darling clementines


Don’t confuse a clementine with an orange.

Yes, they’re part of the same family; a clementine is just a tiny type of mandarin orange, small enough to eat in just a few bites. But they are very sweet, juicy, have virtually no seeds and a very thin edible membrane. Plus, their thin peel just slides away with almost no effort. They are the perfect citrus fruit for kids – small enough to fit in little hands, and so easy to peel that children can do it themselves.

Only a few years ago, clementines weren’t that easy to find in supermarkets. Up until about a decade or two ago, most clementines we got here were imported, often from Europe, where their growing season is short and sweet.

But  once U.S. consumers started getting their hands on clementines, the demand grew. U.S. growers began planting more, especially in California. Today, at Brookshire’s, we carry two main brands of clementines:

Bagu: These are Spanish-grown clementines, and come in a five-pound wooden crate. Consistently sweet, and you’ll almost never run across a seed. Their season, however, is shorter, lasting only through January or February.

Cuties: California-grown, these are mandarin oranges, available in three-pound bags. Cuties have been developed to have a slightly longer harvesting season, and will likely be available through April. (Later in the season, Cuties are actually Murcott mandarins, which have the same small size, sweet flavor, thin skin and virtually seedless interior as the clementine.)

Which type you like better is largely a matter of taste. I’m partial to the Spanish ones, because I think they’re slightly sweeter, but either type makes a great snack or light dessert, especially this time of year, when you may be trying to atone for weeks of holiday indulging.

As a matter of fact, clementines are a great fruit to add to your diet. They are low in calories and high in Vitamin C. Eat three of them (and believe me, that’s not hard to do) and you will take in only about 100 calories, but you’ll meet your daily recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.



Dine-In: New Year’s Eve snacks


I’m going to sound like an old fogey, but I don’t really like going out on New Year’s Eve anymore.

Actually, what I’ve always preferred –  even back in the day when I could actually stay up past midnight without feeling it the next morning – is just staying in with friends. Now that’s become our family tradition. All the guests bring an appetizer or two, we make a fire, turn on some music, and bring in the New Year the best way – with good friends and good food.

If that’s more your speed, too, here is a very simple but flavorful dip recipe for your New Year’s Eve spread. It goes well with vegetables (sliced raw carrots, broccoli and bell peppers) but I prefer it with pita chips, bagel chips, or hearty crackers.

Chipotle Green Onion Dip
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3 green onions, green tops only, sliced thin
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
3 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 teaspoon  grated lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Transfer dip to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until flavors are blended, at least 1 hour. Serve cold. (can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

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Posted in: Dine In


Family Matters: Beech-Nut Stage 2.5 baby foods


As every parent and grandparent knows, babies change so fast it’s hard to keep up, and it’s all completely on their own schedule. One week you’re elated when you catch a rare smile from your baby; then the next, she’s giving you belly laughs. One week, he can’t sit up on his own; in no time, he’s crawling and climbing. And you can never predict a baby’s development based on what his sister or brother achieved at the same age.

The same is true with your baby’s eating habits. Babies may seem to go almost instantly from breast milk or formula to solid foods, but as you probably know, learning to eat solid foods is a huge milestone for infants, best accomplished in small steps, and taken at the child’s own pace.

That is why Beech-Nut has expanded their “stages” of baby and toddler food, and has introduced a new “intermediate” stage of solids, Stage 2.5. The longtime baby-food maker now offers six stages, geared to the specific needs and likes/dislikes of babies and toddlers, from about 4-6 months to 24 months and up.

As you’d guess, Stage 2.5 foods are meant to be introduced after Stage 2 foods (fairly smooth foods, either single ingredient or simple combinations) and just before Stage 3 foods (more complex infant foods with slightly more texture.)

These Stage 2.5 foods are designed for babies who are ready for slightly more texture than the plainer Stage 1 and Stage 2 foods, and are intended to help babies explore more  complex, sophisticated flavors. The flavor combinations include a mixture of things your baby may have already tried and enjoyed, like apple and pears, with slightly more unusual flavors like zucchini and mango. To help babies’ sensitive palates adjust to the new flavors, Beech-Nut often combines the new flavor with at least one familiar one, so you get combos like apple, mango and carrot; banana and mixed berries; squash and apples; and sweet potato and zucchini.

Of course, exactly when and how you begin introducing solid foods to infants depends on their individual development, your feeding preferences, and your doctor’s advice. Beech-Nut recommends Stage 2 foods for babies 6 months and older, so they suggest you consider adding in the Stage 2.5 foods when your baby is about 8 months or so.

But aside from age, you can also judge your child’s readiness for Stage 2.5 by his or her behavior and development. You can give these foods a try when he or she eats most or all of the solid food offered at any given meal, and even indicates a desire for more; is beginning to have some success with self-feeding; is able to easily chew (or gum!) the foods you’ve already been feeding; and/or has begun sprouting teeth.



Shop the Sale: Pita Pal Hummus


Our buy-one, get-one offer this week on Pita Pal hummus is really outstanding: You’ll be supporting a Texas company that makes its products from scratch. You’re getting a super deal. (Just $3.99 for the first container, and the second one I And, oh, yeah, this is terrific hummus, too.

Pita Pal hummus is so good because of the way they make the Mediterranean-style chickpea dip. They use all natural ingredients, and avoid genetically modified ingredients, monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial colors and artificial flavors.

Plus, the natural creaminess of this hummus comes primarily from tahini, a sauce/dressing made from ground sesame seeds. The only oil used is a small dollop of extra-virgin olive oil, placed on top of each carton as a natural garnish.

That means on average, Pita Pal hummus has less fat and calories than many other commercially prepared hummus spreads, and most other types of dip.

A two-tablespoon serving of the original flavor has 60 calories, two grams of fiber and three grams of fat. Let’s see your regular dip compare to that. (Actually, we’ll do it for you: A similar amount of sour-cream based onion dip has 100 calories, 7 grams of fat, just 1 gram of fiber, and more sodium, to boot.)

For this BOGO offer, you have five flavors to choose from: Original; Jalapeno Cilantro; Roasted Garlic: Sesame Pine Nut; and Spicy Red Pepper.

Serve your favorite flavor with pita bread, bagel chips, pita chips, or your favorite kind of chips or crackers. It’s also a good addition to wrap sandwiches, in place of mayonnaise or dressing.

One last note: As a Texan-owned company, creating its products in Houston, this company is part of the Go Texan program, run by the Texas Department of Agriculture. So you’ll be supporting a regional business that honors the agricultural traditions of the South.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


Product talk: Versatile stocks


At the holidays, lots of cooks use stocks and broths for their favorite traditional dishes, especially gravy and stuffing. But I have never understood why more people don’t use chicken or beef stock in their cooking all year long.

Learning how to make and use good stocks were some of the first skills I learned in culinary school. That’s because slowly simmered stocks add a lot of flavor to dishes, without adding many calories, too much salt or even much expense. I promise you, they are a secret ingredient in a lot of your favorite restaurant dishes.

Even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of boiling bones and vegetables and making your own stocks to use or freeze, there are a lot of good, prepared, commercially available stocks that are now available. (Emeril even introduced a line of them a few years back.) At home, I always keep beef, seafood, chicken and vegetable stock on hand. They are a must-have for risotto, paella, and just about any sauce that goes with beef, chicken or fish, but you can also use them for lots of other things:

Start homemade soup with stock instead of water for a shortcut that pays off big. You will be able to use a shorter cooking time but the resulting soup will still have deep flavor.

Use stock to cook rice pilaf, or grains like quinoa or barley, or even just plain rice: Again, stock intensifies the flavor, and creates better taste and aroma even in boring, blander grains. Choose a flavor of stock that complements the dish you’re serving with the rice or grain.

Use it to thin soups, soups, stews, gravies and chili instead of water: For intensely flavored dishes like chili, I prefer vegetable stock, which doesn’t clash or overpower spicy dishes.

Mashed potatoes or vegetable purees taste better if you use chicken or vegetable stock for all or part of the cooking liquid. This tricks works especially well with potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots  and other root vegetables. This also allows you to use less butter or cream and still have a rich-tasting dish.

Roasting veggies? Toss them in stock and just a little olive oil first. Again, you can get away with less fat if you use stock as a cooking liquid

Save the leftovers: If you don’t use the whole container, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week. If you don’t cook often, or in large quantities, freeze leftovers in a zippered plastic bag or even in an ice cube tray, so you will have just enough to use the next time you’re in the kitchen.



Dine-In: Pepperoni Cheese Mini Muffins


This time of year, I love serving finger foods whenever guests pop in. They’re easy to serve and easy for guests to eat, especially if they’re balancing a drink and a plate after plucking goodies off a buffet.

But I’m picky about what new dishes I try: They need to be delicious, of course, but I also look for things that are a twist on the familiar, that are fun to eat, and that are a snap to put together.

This recipe, which I taught at a cooking class last month, fits the bill on all counts.  You can whip them up in just minutes, they bake quickly, and you probably have all or most of the ingredients on hand already. A good-quality prepared pasta sauce will work just fine for the dipping sauce, too.

Pepperoni Cheese Mini Muffins

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup diced pepperoni, tightly packed
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBS granulated garlic
1 TBS dried basil leaves
1 TBS dried oregano leaves
warm marinara sauce for dipping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray mini muffin cups with non stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients  and mix well.  Drop mixture by teaspoonfull into the muffin cups.  Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm with the marinara sauce.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Family Matters: Tamales for Christmas!


One of my favorite Christmas memories is of a book my mother always read to us, Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto. Every year, my brother and I would look forward to hearing the story of Maria and the trouble she ran into when making tamales with her family for Christmas dinner.

Actually, what my brother and I really looked forward to were the tamales themselves! That night, we would always get to eat some delicious, steaming hot tamales.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but tamales have been a Christmas tradition in Mexico and in American families of Mexican descent for many years. And, many other American families, like mine, have now made them part of their holiday traditions as well.

Tamales are traditionally made of a corn meal, or masa, shell, holding a spicy meat filling. They are carefully wrapped up in a corn husk and then the whole thing is steamed, so the tamale comes out moist and hot. Traditionally, the filling is pork or chicken mixed with some chiles, but you can also find beef or even vegetarian versions.

Why they have become a holiday tradition is a little less clear. My best guess, and one I’ve heard from others, is that making tamales is so much work, people only want to go to all the trouble if they’re serving them for a special occasion. Many families have an annual tamale-making day, set aside for several generations to share the labor of making enough tamales for the whole extended family.

If you don’t have a family or friends to share the work, you can still enjoy this Christmas tradition. Just pick up a few dozen tamales at your neighborhood Brookshire’s. They’re already steamed and ready for you and your family to enjoy, so you don’t have to miss out on this wonderful Christmas tradition.

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Posted in: Family Matters


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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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