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Product Talk: Yukon Gold potatoes


Restaurant consultants and food writers are calling 2012 the “Year of the Potato.” Well, personally, I think pretty much every year is the potato’s year, at least in the United States. Year in and year out, we eat more potatoes than any other vegetable.

Of all the potatoes out there, however, the one that is probably getting the most attention right now is the Yukon Gold. And there’s a good reason for that. These yellow-skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes are naturally buttery and creamy, and are good just about any way you cook them.

You may have just heard of these golden potatoes in the last few years, as chefs and restaurants have discovered them, but they are not all that new. In fact, in much of the rest of the world, yellow potatoes have been the gold standard for centuries.

In the U.S., however, we have traditionally preferred potatoes with white flesh. That began to change only about a generation ago, after Canadian researchers developed the Yukon Gold by crossing North American white potatoes with yellow varieties from South America.

The result was a yellow-fleshed potato with skin so thin you don’t really have to peel them, and a tender flesh that is especially good for pan-frying, boiling, and mashing.

That probably has a lot to do with the unique texture and starch content. Yukon Golds do not have quite as much starch as a traditional baking potato like an Idaho or a russet, but they have a little more starch than a red potato, which is often boiled or mashed. They cook fairly quickly, so you do have to watch them, as they can get too soft and fall apart if overcooked.

Also, unlike some potatoes, they don’t turn grayish when cooked. In fact, they often turn a little more golden, so your mashed potatoes will have a pretty golden hue, even if you don’t use much butter to flavor them.

Which, right there, is part of the reason potatoes are popular again in some circles. Now that the “low-carb” diet fad has died down, more people have realized that potatoes can actually be pretty good for you, as long as you don’t overload them with fat and salt. (A medium uncooked potato has only about 100 calories, but good chunks of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.)

And that is where the Yukon Gold really stands out. You may find you that Yukon Golds have a richer flavor and creamier texture than other potatoes, so you can get by with less butter, cream, cheese or bacon in your favorite potato dishes.

 

 



Dine-In: Tex-Mex chicken casserole


One of the only downsides about being a chef is that no one ever wants to invite me over for dinner.  I guess everybody assumes that I’ll go all Gordon Ramsey on them, criticizing their chopping technique and refusing to eat anything that doesn’t meet chef standards, whatever those may be.

The reality is A. I’m always happy when someone else does the cooking and B. I eat pretty much anything, as long as it’s good. In fact, at home, we eat a lot of simple dishes, especially in the winter – soups, casseroles and even one-dish meals. Even a chef doesn’t want to spend hours cooking every night.

This casserole is one of those simple dishes, a kind of Tex-Mex take on chicken lasagna. It has a lot of flavor, but uses short-cuts (canned beans, prepared chicken broth and cooked rotisserie chicken) so you can get dinner on the table without laboring too long in the kitchen.

Tortilla Casserole

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cans (15.5-ounce) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 cups tortilla chips (3 ounces)
2 cups Mexican style cheese, shredded (such as asadero or quesadilla; Monterey jack will also work)

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and bring to simmer.

Stir beans, tomatoes, and chipotle into sauce and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, ¾ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.

Spread 1 cup tortilla chips over bottom of 8-inch baking dish and top with 1 cup chicken mixture. Spread 2 more cups tortilla chips into dish and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Spread remaining chicken mixture into dish and top with remaining tortilla chips. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top.

Bake until cheese is golden brown and casserole is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro before serving.



Family Matters: National Children’s Dental Health Month


According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as many as half of all children will be affected by tooth decay by the time they turn 5 years old. Tooth decay starts as soon as your baby’s teeth begin to appear – so it’s important to start proper dental hygiene as soon as your baby starts teething.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages parents to have a “dental home” by their baby’s first birthday. But there are things you can do at home to maintain your baby’s beautiful, healthy smile.

  • After feeding your baby, wipe his or her teeth with a soft damp towel or brush them with a soft toothbrush. When bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar, it produces an acid that can produce tooth decay, so it’s especially important after any meal containing sugars, even “good” sugars like fruit.
  • One of the biggest causes of tooth decay is putting your baby to bed with a bottle. Don’t do it! The peace and quiet now could result in dental problems later on. Also, avoid giving your toddler sugary drinks, like juice, lemonade and soda, in his or her sippy cup.
  • Calcium, along with plenty of vitamin D, will help your children’s teeth stay strong and their gums stay healthy. The majority of Americans get most of their calcium from milk and milk products. Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products to reach the proper levels of calcium. Children ages 2 to 4 should consume 2 cups of these products; children ages 4 to 8 should consume 2 1/2 cups; and children 8 and up should get 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Because our bodies need Vitamin D to properly absorb calcium, look for products that are Vitamin D enhanced, too. 
  • Fluoride plays an important role in keeping tooth enamel hard. Most Americans, including babies and toddlers, now get plenty of fluoride from fluoridated water. However, if your family’s water is not fluoridated, or you drink bottled water, talk with your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride treatments or supplements. 

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so there’s no better time than now to get on the right track with your baby’s dental care.



Shop the Sale: Brookshire’s Bacon


Like a lot of chefs, bacon is one of the few foods I could probably never give up. Nothing really can substitute for it, and I use it in everything including sweets. (Candied bacon? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

So I will be stocking up on Brookshire’s own bacon this week, thanks to the special (2 packages for $7) deal we have going.

Because we use so much bacon in my house, I often cook two or three packages at a time, drain it, crumble it and freeze it. Then, we’ve got instant, homemade bacon bits, ready to thaw out quickly for salads, baked potatoes, omelets or to use in recipes like this dip. It’s good with crackers, chips or, if you want to be a little bit healthier, raw veggie sticks.

By the way, this may be one of the few recipes I’ve ever made in which you could possibly over-caramelize the onions. If the onions are too caramelized, the dip will be a little too sweet in my opinion. So, do not over-cook them.

Bacon Onion Dip
Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:
6 medium onions, julienned (cut into long thin strips)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 – 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained, crumbled
2 cups sour cream
2 1/4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/2  tsp. Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Directions:
Peel onions by cutting of top and bottom (root and stem ends).Remove skin and julienne as finely as possible.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over med. high heat. Add onions and season with salt. Reduce heat and gently cook the onions down until translucent and golden brown. You will need to stir onions frequently, as the longer they cook the easier they will burn. This step should take at least 30+ minutes up to about an hour. If it takes longer all the better. Once cooked set aside to cool.

When onions are cool, chop finely.

Mix all ingredients (including onions) in medium bowl. Serve immediately or chill.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


Healthy Living: Tea for your health


It makes sense that January is National Hot Tea Month. When the weather’s cold, and you’re possibly fighting off the cold and flu bugs that are making the rounds, a nice cup of hot tea sounds especially appealing.

But it turns out that tea is actually good for you all year long. A growing body of research has linked the consumption of tea to health benefits that may include weight loss, cancer prevention, and strengthening of the immune system. A big factor is that tea contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties, which help stave off many chronic diseases, including heart disease.

Also, if you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, tea is a wiser choice. The average cup of black tea (what’s in regular tea bags) has under 60 milligrams of caffeine, half what you are likely to get in an average brewed cup of coffee.

What’s more, the specialty tea market has also grown dramatically over the last decade. So even if most of the tea you drink is of the iced variety, like many Southerners, you may find that some of the newer flavors or blends of tea taste good hot, too.  And while almost all tea has some health benefits, each has a little something different to offer.

Green tea: This is the tea that’s gotten most of the attention health-wise. It is a mild, almost grassy tasting tea that has been linked to lots of good things.  It may fight diabetes and strokes, lower cholesterol, burn fat and slow down some signs of aging. If you don’t like the taste of green tea plain, try one of the many flavored varieties now on the market.

Black tea: Black tea doesn’t have as high a level as antioxidant as green tea, but its consumption has also been linked to the prevention of heart disease, stroke, some cancers and more mild maladies such as tooth decay. And, many drinkers prefer its clean, mild flavor, especially because this is the kind of tea most of us have grown up drinking.

Herbal teas: Strictly speaking, most herbal teas aren’t actually tea at all, but rather a mixture of dried herbs. Many of these herbal teas have long been used as home remedies or simply to promote good health. Chamomile tea, for instance, is often considered a natural way to help relax; so is lavender. And hibiscus tea, known as jamaica in Spanish-speaking countries, offers Vitamin C and antioxidants, and has been linked to lowering blood pressure.



Product Talk: Exploring Hispanic cheeses


Cheese is an important part of Mexican and Latin American cooking –but not just any cheese. There’s a whole world of specialty Hispanic cheeses out there. Mild crumbly cheeses to garnish a salad. Creamy, rich, meltable cheeses for sauces and pasta. Hard, intensely flavored cheeses to perk up any dish.

Smart U.S. cooks are finding out just how versatile these cheeses are, too. They not only make your Mexican dishes more flavorful and authentic, but they are a good, value-conscious substitute for many other kinds of commonly used cheeses. Here’s a starter guide to some of the most commonly found Hispanic cheeses – look for these varieties in the market section of your local store.

Asadero: Traditionally used in queso fundido – a kind of Mexican fondue that is similar to the chile con queso that’s popular in the U.S. It’s smooth, has just a bit of a bite, and melts easily, so it’s a good substitute for any melting cheese like Monterey jack, Colby-jack, fontina or American cheese.

Cotija: This is a firmer, stronger-tasting cheese that is typically crumbled or grated. Often called the “Parmesan cheese of Mexico,” it can be sprinkled over pasta or refried beans, over salads, or used to flavor tostadas or tacos. It’s salty and flavorful so you don’t need to use very much. Use instead of Parmesan, Romano, grana padano, or other hard, stronger cheeses.

Manchego: Creamy and meltable, with a nuttier, slightly stronger flavor than many of these other types. It’s good in sandwiches, pastas, or simply served with bread, crackers or olives. Mexican-style manchego is softer and milder than most Spanish-style manchego cheeses.

Panela: Mild and soft, this fresh cheese is often crumbled into tacos and burritos, or is good as a snack. It’s so mild that children will eat it like string cheese. It doesn’t melt well, though.

Oaxaca: The state of Oaxaca, in the southern part of Mexico, contributed this mild cheese, which is sometimes referred to as Mexican string cheese, as you can separate it into strands before eating or cooking. It’s somewhat similar in taste and texture to mozzarella, and good in quesadillas or even pizza.

Queso Fresco: A mild, crumbly cheese that’s often used atop beans, salads or tostadas; it doesn’t have the bite of cotija. You can substitute it for feta, which has a similar texture, but queso fresco doesn’t have quite as strong a taste as that traditional Greek cheese.

Quesadilla: A very mild, meltable cheese, perfect for grating and using in quesadillas, but also good in sandwiches, panini, or even melted on cheeseburgers. You may also find this cheese in a jalapeno flavor; it’s got the same texture but a hint of heat. It’s a great substitute for American, Monterey jack or Colby cheese.



Dine-In: Oven-roasted beef stew


This time of year just calls out for a nice big pot of soup or stew, something to warm you and the whole house while it cooks. This recipe gets a deep color (and a rich flavor that’s more sweet-savory than spicy) from a big dose of sweet paprika and roasted red peppers.

This takes a little work upfront, prepping and sautéing the vegetables and spices. But then it roasts slowly in the oven, with little attention needed, so it’s a perfect dish to try out on a lazy weekend afternoon.

Hungarian Beef Stew
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast
Kosher Salt
1/3 cup sweet paprika
1(12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 large onions, diced small (about 6 cups or 2 lbs.)
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups or .5 lb.)
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup sour cream, optional
Fresh Ground black pepper
Cooked egg noodles

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle meat evenly with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and let stand 15 minutes. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

Combine oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in large Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pan, about 2 minutes.

Add beef, carrots, and bay leaf; stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is almost tender and surface of liquid is 1/2 inch below top of meat, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven and if needed add enough beef broth so that surface of liquid is ¼ inch from top of meat (beef should not be fully submerged). Return covered pot to oven and continue to cook until fork slips easily in and out of beef, about 30 minutes longer.

Skim fat off surface and add sour cream, if using. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Family Matters: New Year’s resolutions


If your New Year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more are already going by the wayside, here’s an idea: Enlist your family to help.

It will help you stay on track if everybody’s on the same routine. And chances are, they could use a little boost, too. About one-third of American children and teenagers are now overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. And even if your children do not have a weight problem now, the habits you help them learn in childhood will help them stay fit and healthy as adults.

Rethink meals:  An easy fix is to reduce fat where you can: Buy lean meats, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk. Cut back on fatty snacks. But that’s easier said than done, especially with kids in the house. Instead, look for healthier substitutes that everybody likes (“light” microwave popcorn instead of chips; yogurt instead of ice cream.) Try cutting the amount of meat you serve in half, replacing the empty space on the plate with whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

Revamp your cooking: Take the kids to the grocery store and let each one try one new “healthy” food – whole wheat pasta, maybe, or a different kind of apple. Rely on NuVal scores to make choosing healthier foods easier – these scores are listed right on the store shelves, and the closer the score is to 100, the better that food is for you. Make it a family mission to look for healthy recipes to try or ways to reduce fat and calories in family favorites. You can often reduce the amount of fat in a recipe by about ¼ without really noticing it at all. (This, however, does not apply to baking, where recipes are more precise.)

Cook together: It’s often stated that kids are more likely to try new foods that they have helped cook. But it’s also important for them to learn their way around in the kitchen, so they don’t rely on junk food and restaurants when they head off to college. It will also help them see just how much fat and sodium goes in some favorite dishes, and understand proper serving size. Since portion control is a big part of weight management, this is an important tool.

Get off the couch: Studies have shown that children tend to imitate their parents when it comes to exercise. So make it a family activity. Challenge them to an active video game – most kids will love beating their parents at Just Dance or Wii bowling. Dust off those bikes in the garage and go for a leisurely (or quick) spin. Look into family membership rates at the Y or another fitness facility; more gyms are now offering fitness classes even for younger children, to get them in the exercise habit early.

Get outside: Raking leaves, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, stacking firewood – all kinds of outdoors chores burn calories and give you a teachable moment about the value of hard work. (And you’ll save money if you’ve been paying a service to do these chores, too.) Or, even simpler: A simple walk around the block or in the neighborhood park costs nothing, and is a good time to catch up on everyone’s day.



Shop the Sale: New fish sandwich


What’s for lunch today? How about our brand-new fish sandwich? It’s on special this week at stores with full-serve and self-serve delis.

Just in time for Lent, which starts next month, we’ve introduced this ready-to-eat sandwich in our self-serve warmer, next to our chicken and pulled pork sandwiches.

Served on a soft warm sandwich bun, this is a filet of Alaskan pollock, a flaky, firm-bodied whitefish that is somewhat similar to cod, but tastes milder and more delicate.  The filets are coated with crispy panko bread crumbs, a style of Japanese bread crumb, which creates a crunchy crust that stays light and not greasy.

We make them fresh throughout the day, so they are ready when you are, whether for a quick lunch on the go, or to take home for dinner for the family. (Pick up some potato salad and cole slaw while you’re there, and dinner is done.)

This is a seasonal offering; we’ll only be making them through April. Starting today and for the next week, you can get 3 for $5 – so bring a friend or office buddy, and tell them lunch is on you.

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Healthy Living: Lighten up your cooking


Eating healthier does not mean giving up all your favorite foods.

And it doesn’t mean you have to learn a whole new set of recipes. In fact, you can “lighten up” many of your favorite foods with just a few quick tricks. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Use less oil in baking recipes. If a cake calls for 1 cup of oil, you can get away with using just 2/3 cup.
2. Let soups and stews cool, which allows the fat to rise to the top and solidify. You can then more easily skim off this fat with a spoon. Then, just reheat to serve.
3. Decrease the amount of sugar in recipes by 1/4 to 1/2. Try to never use more than 1/4 cup of sweetener per cup of flour. To compensate, cut back on sour flavors and use a bit more of sweeter flavors like vanilla and cinnamon.
4. Season your dishes with herbs, spices, lemon and flavored vinegar instead of high-fat and high-sugar sauces.
5. Add beans, vegetables and fruits to your favorite dishes to boost the nutrition and flavor, as well as stretch out the number of servings. Adding half a cup of black beans to a serving of your favorite soup will add just over 100 calories, but about 7 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein to the dish – a very good tradeoff in my book.

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Posted in: Healthy Living


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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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