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Healthy Living: Childhood Favorite


Growing up one of my favorite foods was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I loved the combination of the crunchy peanut butter and the sweet grape jelly.  You could bet that everyday my school lunch consisted of a delicious PB&J. Even though I loved a PB&J after high school I was content with not eating another peanut butter and jelly sandwich again. Over the last few months PB&J sandwiches have become my go-to lunch when I need something quick. I have made a few NuVal Trade ups from what was in my lunch in high school. Now I use Nature’s Own 100% Whole Grain Sandwich Rounds (NuVal Score 39), Barney Almond Butter (NuVal 36) and sliced banana (NuVal 91).

The main ingredient in a sandwich is of course the bread. The bread aisle can be difficult to navigate because you have to watch for added sugar, trans fat and sodium. The average NuVal score for bread and rolls is a 27 with the scores ranging from 1 to 96. The higher scoring bread products are whole grains with high fiber and lower amounts of sodium. Here are some higher NuVal scoring breads:

  • Sara Lee Delightful Wheat Bread – NuVal Score 35
  • Pepperidge Farms Whole Grain 100% Whole Wheat Bread – NuVal Score 36
  • Mrs. Baird’s 100% Sugar-Free Whole Grain Wheat – NuVal Score 37
  • Mrs. Baird’s 100% Whole Grain – NuVal Score 37
  • Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat – NuVal Score 38
  • Sara Lee Delightful 100% Multi-Grain – NuVal Score 41
  • Pepperidge Farms Whole Grain Hearty Oatmeal – NuVal Score 42
  • Nature’s Own Double Fiber – NuVal Score 46

The next step is the peanut butter. The average NuVal score for nut butter is a 23. Jif Regular Peanut Butter scores a 20 and Jif Reduce Fat Peanut Butter scores a 7. If you’re looking for a higher score check out Barney Almond Butter (NuVal Score 36) and MaraNatha Almond Butter (NuVal score 56). Skip over low scoring jellies and try preserves or even sliced fruit, like a banana (NuVal 91).

With some simple trade-ups and PB&Js can turn into nutritious sandwiches!

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Posted in: Healthy Living


Product Talk: Autumn’s Perfect Apple Salad


My family has certain must-have foods during the fall season. From pumpkin bread to butternut squash soup, we each have our favorites that rise to the top of the menu when cool weather finally hits our part of the country.

One of our relatively new favorites to enjoy each fall is the Honeycrisp apple. Although they are perfectly delicious eaten by themselves, I like to add them to my green salads for a bit of crunchy sweetness. This recipe is a great combination of spicy pecans, apples and just a tangy mustard vinaigrette.

Enjoy while Honeycrisps are in season!

Green Salad with Honeycrisp Apples and Spicy Pecans
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 2/3 cups pecan pieces
1 large Honeycrisp apple
2 tsp lemon juice
1 head Boston lettuce, chilled, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 head red leaf lettuce, chilled, torn into bite-sized pieces
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place butter on baking sheet with sides. Heat in oven until melted. Stir in pecans. Toss together the salt, cinnamon and cayenne, and sprinkle evenly over pecans. Stir to coat pecans. Bake for 15 minutes or until pecans are aromatic and golden brown. Cool in baking sheet on wire rack. To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar and Dijon mustard. Whisk in olive oil, salt and pepper, until slightly thickened. When ready to serve, cut apple into thin slices and sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine lettuces, apples and feta cheese in large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad. Top with spiced pecans.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 400, Total Fat: 39 g, Saturated Fat: 10 g, Sodium 664 mg, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Protein: 7 g



Dine-In: Beer Bread


Beer BreadA few weeks ago I hosted a ‘Girls Night IN’ on my back porch. It was one of the first cool nights of the year and I fired up my new, cast iron chiminea and set out the porch furniture (previously relegated to the garage so the dogs wouldn’t spend all summer chewing it to pieces).

I relegated the DOGS to the garage for the evening (so they wouldn’t spend the entire night trying to get treats from the table) and my friends and I sat outside and enjoyed the fire and some good company.  Oh, and some really good food, too.

This beer bread recipe was the hit of the evening, if I do say so myself. In fact, it’s so good that we sat around long after we had proclaimed we were finished eating and  picked at the bread until it was all gone.

Don’t forget that the alcohol burns off, leaving just a hint of the flavor behind.

Eat the bread right after it comes out of the oven; you won’t be sorry that you burned your fingers a little eating it so quickly.

Beer Bread
Serves 6-8 (or four hungry women)

Ingredients:
3 cups flour, or self-rising flour (sifted)
3 tsp baking powder (omit if using self-rising flour)
1 tsp salt (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 (12 oz) can or bottled dark beer
1/2 cup butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Mix dry ingredients and beer. Do NOT over mix.
Place 1/4 cup butter in the bottom of a loaf pan and place in oven to melt. When butter is bubbly and browning, remove from oven and add dough to pan.Slice remaining 1/4 cup butter and place on top of dough.

Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories 422.1;Calories from Fat 143;Total Fat 16 g;Saturated Fat 10 g; Cholesterol 41 mg;Sugars 9 g; Sodium 707 mg;Total Carbohydrate 59 g; Dietary Fiber 2 g;Sugars 9 g; Protein 7 g

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

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Family Matters: Patchwork of Memories


We all go through daily routines of things “we must get done” in order to feel like our day was a success.  In reality, sometimes we find out too late that it is really time with our family that matters the most and where our time should be focused.

My dad recently passed away and my days now are not as busy as they used to be, because some things don’t seem to matter like they did.  I constantly encourage my kids to treat each day like it may be their last – speak kind words, help others, be a good friend, give a hug, share your faith and always tell those you love how much they mean to you.  We get so busy and wrapped up in things that we fail to speak the words “I love you” to those we care for the most. Words are powerful and can make a difference in the lives of people around you.  You may not think you need to hear it, but be assured there is someone you come in contact with each day that those three simple words are exactly what they need to hear.

I was very close to my dad and talked to him every day, and I always made sure the last thing he heard was “I love you”.  I was (and will always be) a “daddy’s girl” and my life is forever changed without him in it.  I have great memories and stories to share but I wanted something more that would give me a sense of him being with me always – unlike photos that fade and memories that grow vague over time.  I had a quilt made of my daddy’s shirts and it will be a keepsake to be passed down for years to come.  It will keep me warm, bring me comfort and will help me feel closer to him.  When others see it, it will only look like a quilt, but to me it is a patchwork of memories…each square a beautiful reminder of my dad.

I spent the last two weeks of my dad’s life at his hospital bedside caring for him.  I did not know it at the time, but looking back I know now, that it was a precious “gift from God” and I will be forever thankful for that special time.  The last words he heard me speak were “I love you”, so I have no regrets.  My family matters and I let them know daily…what about you?

Focus on your family and tell them what they mean to you.  Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you are given with them.

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Posted in: Family Matters


Family Matters: Cool Weather Treats are for the Birds


The house I grew up in – and the one I have lived in for the past eight years – have walls across the backs that are floor-to-ceiling windows, opening up lovely views to the backyard. In fact, my most recent house was built to “copy” the window wall of my childhood home.  

The kitchen table sits just in front of one of the windows, and of course, I have all kinds of bird feeders and bird baths to be able to enjoy the playful sounds and actions of hummingbirds, robins, sparrows and even a squirrel or two. There were many a mornings as a child that the sound of “Bob White” was my alarm clock. Now, the woodpecker alarm clock…I could have lived without. 

Bird watching may sound like it would be boring, but it’s actually quite interesting for young kids as well as adults once you get going. You might want to invest in a bird book and a decent pair of binoculars too, just to enjoy the scene in a bit more detail – or to identify a rare sighting. 

I had an indigo bunting visit one morning and wasn’t sure what it was until I could see closely through my binoculars and ask my father what it was I was seeing. The indigo bunting is now my favorite bird, I do believe. 

Offer the birds of your yard a variety of seeds, and you will have a variety of visitors – all throughout the year.  During the cooler months (and few cold days we have!), birds need extra fat to help them survive.  Try this easy peanut butter bird seed ball recipe with your kids or grandkids and you’ll enjoy your backyard all year long! 

Cool Weather Bird Treats 

Ingredients:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup crushed eggshells
1 cup vegetable shortening
Cornmeal as needed to hold mixture together

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except cornmeal in a bowl. Add enough cornmeal to be able to form into small balls. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. When ready to feed the birds, hang balls on a garden stake or on bird feeder. 



Shop the Sale: Lasagna


Today is my birthday, so in honor of turning a year older, I’m going to share with you the recipe for my very favorite birthday dinner.

Growing up, it was a special treat to be able to select our favorite meal for our birthdays. Mom would prepare it exactly according to specifications, along with our favorite birthday dessert, and we’d eat dinner in the dining room, reserved for major holidays and family birthdays. We’d gather around the oblong table, set with my mom’s wedding china, elegant with candles in carefully polished silver candlesticks, and laid with a crisp white tablecloth (clearly, with five children, my mom was a glutton for punishment.) What I’m trying to say is, I always felt like a princess on my birthday.

The birthday honoree got to sit at the head of the table and was the center of attention when mom or dad paraded in with the piece de resistance – the birthday cake (or in my brother Andy’s case, birthday pie, his choice).

I think most years I had a double chocolate birthday cake – chocolate cake wedged under a heaping mound of chocolate buttercream (all homemade of course, no box in sight). Also most years, I picked lasagna for my birthday dinner.

I doubt my mother ever wrote down a recipe for lasagna, so I’ve had to adapt it ove the years. I’ve finally come up with a version that I love. The recipe calls for Angus ground chuck, on sale this week at Brookshire’s. What perfect timing!

Lasagna
Serves 12

Ingredients:
1 box (16 oz) lasagna noodles
6 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sliced Provolone cheese
16 oz mozzarella cheese, divided
1 egg
1 lb Angus ground chuck
1 lb Italian sausage

Sauce:
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can tomato paste
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil

Directions:
For the sauce: (it’s best if you start this several hours or a day ahead, to let simmer). Heat olive oil over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes or until it begins to soften. Add garlic. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

When it’s time to prepare the lasagna, boil noodles in a large pot of water, adding salt AFTER water begins to boil (if not, it was scar your pot). Cook noodles al dente (firm in the middle). Remove noodles from water, drain, lay on clean towels to cool.

Brown ground Angus and sausage. Drain fat. Set aside. Combine ricotta, Parmesan, egg and half the mozzarella.  When noodles are cool, spread each noodle with about 1 Tbs of cream cheese. In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread one cup of sauce. Layer noodles, cream cheese side up.

Spread with about one and half cups of the ricotta mixture. Top with one-third of the meat mixture. Cover with sauce. Repeat three times. Finish with sauce. Top the remaining half of mozzarella cheese.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Finish baking for 15 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Nutritional Information: Calories 907; Calories from Fat 501;Total Fat 55 g; Cholesterol 192mg; Sodium 1744mg; Total Carbohydrates 43 g;Dietary Fiber 4 g; Sugars 9 g Protein 58 g



Healthy Living: Grilled Okra


My friend, Nicholas, sent me an excited text not too long ago.  “Hey – I have a great idea for your blog,” he said.  Well obviously I wanted his great idea, because if it excited him, it was bound to interest others.

“You know how most people fry okra,” his text continued, “Well I made a healthier version.”

I was all over this.  Do tell, I texted back.  I was especially curious because, I have to admit, okra has never been my favorite vegetable. I like it in gumbo, but beyond that I don’t really cook with it.

However, it’s super mega healthy and has a lot of great benefits, including (according to nutritionandyou.com):

• Okra is just 30 calories per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is a rich source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins; often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
• The rich fiber and mucilaginous content in okra pods help in smooth peristalsis of digested food particles and relieve constipation condition.
• The pods contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotenes, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the green vegetables with highest levels of these anti-oxidants. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
• Fresh pods are the good source of folates; provide about 22% of RDA per 100 g. Consumption of foods rich in folates, especially during the pre-conception period helps decrease the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
• The okra pods are also an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-C, providing about 36% of daily-recommended levels. Research suggests that consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop immunity against infectious agents, reduce episodes of cold and cough and protect the body from harmful free radicals.
• The veggies are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. The pods also contain good amounts of vitamin K.  Vitamin K is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening of bones.
• The pods are an also good source of many important minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium.

It didn’t take him long to text back, “I grilled it!”
Yum! What a great idea.

He sliced it in half lengthwise, then tossed it with a teeny bit of extra virgin olive oil, and slapped those babies on a grill over medium  heat.

I can’t wait to try it myself.



Product Talk: Butter Toffee Popcorn


I was so excited to find out that Brookshire’s now carries a line of Microwave Popcorn.

Popcorn is a food group, after all.

Gracing the shelves of a store near you are now boxes of Original Butter, Extra Butter, 98% Fat Free and Kettle Corn. Popcorn is a great snack at any time and sometimes a meal when the kids aren’t home. Did I say that out loud? Yes, yes I did.

Fall is one of my favorite times to make toffee popcorn, like caramel corn but with more of a candy coating and buttery flavor. Over the years, I’ve found that microwave popcorn works best for this recipe, as popping your kernels in oil sometimes doesn’t produce a good popcorn for the coating to adhere to. Plus using microwave popcorn makes the whole process faster.

You can be sure I’ll be stocking up.

Butter Toffee Popcorn
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
2 bags Brookshire’s Original Butter Microwave Popcorn
2 sticks butter
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Grease two large rimmed baking sheets and set aside.

Pop the popcorn according to package directions. Vent bag and let cool.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring. Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for 3 minutes. The mixture will be slightly thickened. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will bubble so be careful. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix slightly until the popcorn is evenly coated.

Turn the popcorn out onto the baking sheets, spreading into an even layer. Bake the popcorn for one hour, stirring and tossing every 20 minutes. Move the bottom tray to the upper rack and vice versa each time you stir. The popcorn will deepen in color and harden a bit as the caramel bakes and sets. Cool the popcorn to room temperature. Store in an airtight container. I’ve found the popcorn will keep, stored tightly, for 1-2 weeks.

Nutritional Information: Calories 386; Calories from Fat 181; Total Fat 20 g;  Cholesterol 49 mg; Sodium 444 mg; Total Carbohydrates 53 g; Dietary Fiber 1 g; Sugars 39 g; Protein 1 g



Ask Leigh


Question:  On the last visit to my doctor for an annual check-up, she told me I needed to increase the fiber in my diet? Any suggestions?

Answer:  When I think about adding fiber to my diet, I think of foods I don’t usually like to eat very often! I like oatmeal and I like raw broccoli, but I don’t want to eat them every day.  

A few foods you may not have thought of that are good sources of fiber include refried beans (1 cup gives you 13 grams of fiber), avocado (one-half is about 7 grams of fiber), and chunky peanut butter (2 Tbs gives you 3 grams). The recommended daily intake is between 21-38 grams, depending on age and gender. This isn’t easy to get in our fast-food diet! 

And to make sure we’re talking about the same thing, there are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber is what is found in oats, beans and a few fruits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps to slow down how fast sugar enters our bloodstream – and some evidence shows it may help lower bad cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and help prevent hardening of the arteries. 

A quick fiber-rich dinner I like to make for my family is a simple black bean burrito. I use fat-free refried black beans and whole-wheat tortillas. Just top ‘em with cheese, lettuce, tomato – anything else you like and you’ve got a delicious, easy dinner that also helps you reach your daily fiber intake.

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Posted in: Nutrition


Dine-In: Friday Night Football Food


Slow-Cooker Beef Italian Ragu Friday night in the fall means football night for my family. Well, so is Thursday night, and counting all of their after-school practices and, of course, what we watch on television, “football night” spreads to every other night of the week!

To be honest, I don’t watch a lot of football unless my boys are out on the field – or the SEC is stomping someone else. I grew up in the southeast, and as far as I can tell, there isn’t any other conference that can stand up to what I see in the SEC.

For all of my fellow Ole Miss fans, Hotty Toddy!

Ok, well, at least Ole Miss can say it is the only school in the country that had a New York Times article devoted to the university for its excellence in tailgating. We win the party every time.

Tonight, I am having some friends over to eat supper before we go to watch our children play in our high school’s football game. And I wanted to have something warm and filling for the boys when they come in tired and starving after the game.

The easiest thing for me to do is to pull out my slow cooker before leaving for work Friday morning, and it means I won’t make a huge mess cooking before my friends come over, which I tend to do. (By the way, I want to give a shout out to the person who thought of the slow cooker liners you use and throw away, leaving not much of a mess at all. What a timesaver!)

This Slow-Cooker Beef Ragu is an Italian-derived recipe that came about from throwing together what I had in the fridge and pantry. It is really simple, and the sauce makes a delicious “gravy.”

My teenage boys always ask for me to serve this beef dish over egg noodles or Italian polenta, otherwise known as “grits” in the South.

The leftovers (if we have any!) also make wonderful sandwiches.

Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Beef Italian Ragu
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 (4-lb) beef chuck or rump roast
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:
Combine onion, garlic, tomato paste and Italian herbs. Season roast with salt and pepper to taste, and cut in half. Place onion mixture in the bottom of a large slow cooker, and set roast halves on top. Pour beef broth carefully around sides. Cover and cook for 9 hours on low heat. Let cool in the cooker for 15 minutes before shredding with two forks. Stir in vinegar just before serving.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 528, Fat: 32 g, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Protein: 51 g

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

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


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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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