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Family Matters: Balance


I don’t know about you, but there are times I really struggle with balance in my life. Right now is one of those times.

The beginning of the school year is always hectic. There are new class routines for my two boys, getting back into the habit of doing homework and studying math facts, spelling and vocabulary and starting activities again. Luke plays soccer. This year Curt wanted to try karate. In the meantime, I’m short-staffed at work and have been very involved in planning and executing an awesome event that takes place this weekend – Girl Power.

In short, all balance in my life has gone right out the window.

I have to actually remind myself to stop, slow down and not get (too) stressed out.  Because when I’m stressed, my kids are stressed, and that’s not good for anyone.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve found has helped my family achieve balance during the hectic, chaotic times:

1. I use the crock pot several times a week. With karate at 6 p.m. and soccer at 6 p.m. and not leaving work until after 5 p.m., if I hold on to any hope of getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, it’ll be something I’d prepared in the crock pot. Plus my house smells so good when we walk in that I’m convinced the added bonus is aromatherapy.
2. When I can’t use the crock pot, I’ve decided that tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are a perfectly acceptable dinner.
3. I read the Brookshire’s circular and the Shop the Sale blogs and make my grocery list so not only am I saving money, but saving time by only shopping once during the week.
4. I turn off the car radio during my late afternoon commute and either ride in silence, which helps me unwind, or plug my iPhone into the car’s radio auxiliary and only listen to music – no talking. (Recent favorites: Amos Lee, Mumford & Sons, Iron and Wine, the soundtrack to The Hunger Games, The Decemberists and The Civil Wars).
5. Family Reading Time! The boys are required to read AT LEAST 20 minutes a night, so we turn off all electronics and all spend time with our books. We usually all end up curling up on the couch together and it’s quiet, it’s cuddly and we can all escape into our books together. (It’s also a good way to wind down before bedtime).
6. Remembering not to sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done. But in all actuality, washing the bed sheets can wait until the weekend and not every piece of mail has to be attended to immediately.
7. Oh, and did I mention tomato soup?



Ask Leigh


Question: How long can you keep spices in your kitchen shelves? Do they ever go bad?

Answer: It’s not so much that the spices might “go bad” and make you sick in some way. It’s more likely that old spices just lose their flavor and potency. Although I will say that seeds can go rancid, so you definitely want to pay attention to how long you keep those sesame and poppy seeds.

First of all, spices need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place – away from the heat of the stove or any moisture. Heat and light will actually rapidly affect the shelf life of spices. And don’t store them in the refrigerator either; the humidity can harm them as well.

So if you store your spices correctly:

  • Most ground herbs and spices keep their flavor about a year.
  • Whole spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon sticks, are good up to three years if you keep them tightly closed.

What I’ve started doing is keeping a Sharpie pen in my spice drawer. When I buy a spice, I just write the date of my purchase on the jar. Otherwise, I tend to forget when I’ve bought them, and years fly by.

And in the end, if you have any question as to if they might have “gone bad,” toss them!

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Posted in: Cooking


Shop the Sale: Autumn Salad


Fall is definitely in the air.

I’m ready to wear my tall black boots, go on campouts, crunch the leaves on the local walking trail and hike at the nearby state park.

I’m also ready to use apples in as much of my cooking as is humanly possible.

This week, Northwest Honey Crisp Apples and Fresh Express Salad Blends are on sale at Brookshire’s, so it’s the perfect time to toss together an Autumn Salad, full of fall’s bright flavors and colors. You can add chicken to make this a main course meal. I like this with a poppyseed or raspberry viniagrette, but you can certainly use the salad dressing of your choice.

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

Autumn Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:
1 bag Fresh Express Salad Blends
3 Northwest Honey Crisp apples, chopped
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup red grapes, sliced

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together. Add your favorite salad dressing. Enjoy.

Nutritional Information: Calories  185; Calories from fat 57; Total fat 6 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 9 mg; Carbohydrates 32 g;  Dietary fiber 7 g; Sugars 18 g; Protein 3 g



Healthy Living: Breakfast Outside the Box


We all know – and hear regularly – that breakfast is an important meal never to skip, especially for our growing kids. Study after study has shown that kids who eat breakfast are much more likely to perform better in school and stay focused throughout the day. One study I read even suggested that children who eat a good breakfast are much less likely to develop childhood obesity. Breakfast is a powerful tool!

But if you’re like me, I have a hard time getting enough protein first thing in the morning. and my kids would much rather eat a biscuit with butter and jelly than to concentrate on the protein needed to help them concentrate throughout the day. One son doesn’t eat eggs; the other one doesn’t drink milk. It’s a constant struggle to find good, low fat protein sources we all will enjoy for breakfast.

I’ve had to think outside the cereal box for new ideas, and often this means opening the breakfast menu to items they might eat at lunch or dinner. This might sound unusual, but mine love a leftover taco or plate of chicken and pasta for breakfast! I’ve even reheated Chinese fried rice on occasion.

If you’re looking for some creative protein ideas for breakfast, you might try refried beans spread on whole-grain tortillas or as odd as it may sound, I know some kids who love hummus on whole grain tortilla chips for their early morning energy.

I’ve made these healthy black bean quesadillas for my children for breakfast – and no one even noticed or complained about the spinach. You can add eggs or salsa if your family likes those ingredients, and don’t be shy about using any leftover chicken or potatoes from dinner the night before. Breakfast doesn’t have to only be from a box!

Black Bean Quesadillas
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 cups baby spinach leaves
4 (8-inch) whole-grain tortillas
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
 

Directions:
Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add spinach leaves and cook for two minutes or until wilted. Remove from pan and set aside.  

Spray skillet lightly again with cooking spray and allow to reheat to medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in bottom of skillet and cook for 1 minute.

Add spinach; sauté 1 minute or until spinach is wilted. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe pan with a paper towel. 

Coat pan with cooking spray; place over medium heat until hot. Place one tortilla in pan. Cook 1 minute or until bottom of tortilla is golden. Sprinkle ¼ of spinach, beans and cheese over one side of tortilla. Gently fold tortilla in half and flip over to cook for 1 more minute. Repeat with remaining tortillas and spinach, beans and cheese. Serve warm.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 292, Total Fat: 10.6 g, Saturated Fat: 6.2 g, Sodium 196 mg, Carbohydrates 32.2 g, Protein: 18.6 g



Product Talk: Food Club Black Beans


I love beans. Black beans in particular.  Stop with the jokes. NOW.

Beans are great for protein and lend themselves well to ‘Meatless Monday’ dishes.

Plus they’re just delicious.

This dish combines the hearty flavors of black beans with a southwestern style casserole the whole family is sure to love.

Food Club Black Beans are savory and a great addition to any meal.  In most recipes,  you’re instructed to drain and rinse your black beans. Definitely drain them, but I’d challenge you not to rinse the beans. The residue makes for a thicker sauce.

Southwestern Black Bean Casserole
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 (15 oz) cans Food Club black beans, drained
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
4 low-sodium, whole wheat tortillas OR 6 corn tortillas
12 oz salsa
1 cup shredded 2% cheese
Salt to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drain beans and set aside. In the meantime, in a medium skillet, add oil, heat over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add black beans and broth and continue cooking approximately 3 minutes. Add cumin, black pepper, salt and cilantro. Stir to combine.

Spray the bottom of an 8×8 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Add a tortilla, ¼ cup black bean mixture, ¼ cup salsa and ¼ cheese; continue layering until all ingredients have been used. Top casserole with remaining  ¼ cup cheese.

Cover casserole dish with foil and bake approximately 20 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and continue cooking 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories 259; Total Fat 5 g; Saturated Fat 2 g; Cholesterol 4 mg; Sodium 436 mg; Carbohydrates 40 g; Dietary Fiber 9 g; Sugars 4 g; Protein 12 g

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



Dine-In: Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers


Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers Sometimes my brain works in strange ways.  Try to follow me (it’s OK if you don’t. I don’t always understand my train of thinking after-the-fact).

I love stuffed peppers; I’ve blogged about them before.  And I love chicken fajitas. (I’ve never blogged about those before).

Somehow, somewhere, I came up with the idea of marrying chicken fajitas and stuffed peppers.

Are you following me? If so, you’re much faster than I am.

I guess the common denominator is the peppers. You use peppers for fajitas and peppers for stuffed peppers. As my 10-year-old would say, “Duh.”

I love this combination because it’s a festive meal for a Friday night with the family and can be prepared in a slow cooker if you choose.

All you need to start with is a base recipe of Salsa Chicken, which is so easy and so delicious and so versatile. Prepare a virtual vat of Salsa Chicken to have handy for recipes like Fajita Chicken Stuffed Peppers, chicken soft tacos, enchiladas and nachos.

Salsa Chicken
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4-6 boneless, skinless, frozen chicken breasts
1 (16 oz) jar medium salsa or picante sauce.

Directions:
Place both ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook, on low, for about 6 hours. Remove the chicken, leaving all the other juices in place. Shred chicken with two forks. Place back in slow cooker on low for two hours.

Chicken Fajita Stuffed Peppers 

Ingredients:
One batch Salsa Chicken (4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 1 16-oz jar salsa)
4 large green bell peppers, cored and seeded, with just tops removed
1 large onion, diced
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 small can chopped green chilies, diced
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces

Directions:
Remove the tops from green peppers. Core and seed, leaving the flesh of the peppers in tact.

Combine chicken, onion, cheese, cream cheese, green chilies and torn tortilla pieces. Stuff mixture into green bell peppers.

Place in slow cooker for 3-4 hours or oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

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

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Family Matters: A Three-Dog Family


I’m not sure how it happened, but we went from being a family with one old Lab outside dog to suddenly having three dogs, one of which weighs 100 pounds and lives inside within three feet of wherever I am in the house.

Our newest family member is a funky, feisty Jack Russell Terrier/Blue Heeler mix named Buddy. Buddy is the one who just found his way into our home in the blink of an eye, as if he were meant to be with us all along. My younger son, Smith, was avoiding doing his chores – preferring to surf the local dog shelter website. Smith has a huge, tender heart and feels certain we should adopt every single homeless dog and cat in the tri-state area.

Somehow within the next hour, we were on our way to the dog shelter, “just to take a look around.” It didn’t matter that I told Smith we were NOT coming home with another dog. As soon as Buddy saw Smith, and Smith saw buddy, well, that was that. And I don’t have the heart to keep apart a boy and a  new puppy that obviously fell in love instantly.

It’s been an adventure keeping up with three dogs and two teenage sons – all of whom eat so much it blows my mind and my budget! Every now and then I try to make a big batch of these Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Cookies. The dogs love them, kids love to help make them, and their cost is much friendlier on my monthly budget.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tbs peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Process all ingredients in a the bowl of a food processor until dough forms, pulsing occasionally and scraping sides. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work area and knead a few times into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes.

Place cookies close together on baking pans to bake. The cookies don’t need much space between them, as they don’t spread. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Turn cookies over, and return to oven to bake for an additional 15 minutes, until cookies are hard.  Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 100 1-inch cookies

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



Shop the Sale: T-Bone Steaks with Compound Butter


If you’ve never had a sizzling T-bone steak covered with a dollop of savory, flavorful butter, you’ve been missing out.

At first glance, putting butter on a steak seems like overkill. After all, butter is for rolls and for baking, right?

Not anymore.

There are so many way to enhance the flavor of your steak with a few simple compound butters. Compound butter is easy to make and imparts flavor and juiceness to any steak or cut of meat. Basically you just mix ingredients into your softened butter. I like to use salted butter, but that’s your choice. You can mix almost anything into your compound butter. I’ve provided one simple recipe, but I like to use this as my base recipe and jazz it up with blue cheese or hot sauce or chopped jalapenos.

T-bone steaks, on sale this week at Brookshire’s, are already juicy and flavorful, thanks to the particular cut and to the bone. With a T-bone,  it’s almost like getting two for the price of one as the T-bone has both the strip steak and the tenderloin, separated by the bone. As meat closer to the bone tends to be juicer, this steak is already rich and full of flavor. The compound butter will, as Emeril says, “kick it up a notch.”

Grilled T-Bone Steaks with Compound Butter
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 large T-bone steak
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, diced
1 tsp dill
1 tsp lemon juice

Directions:
Combine butter, garlic, rosemary, dill and lemon juice. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until firm.

Prepare a grill over high heat. Sear your steak on both sides, about 1 minute per side.

Reduce heat to medium. Continue to grill until steak reaches desired doneness.

Remove steak from the grill, let it rest at least five minutes befores slicing.

Place a tablespoon of butter on top of the steak right before serving. It will melt and add delicious flavor.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 1,006; Calories from Fat: 554; Total Fat: 62 g; Carbohydrates: 64g; Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 49 g

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



Healthy Living: Back to School Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip


School has started and once again I face the annual challenge of reading, writing and arithmetic with my kids, plus the added test of providing them with a healthy, hearty lunch every day.

I don’t know if your kids are like mine, but they’d eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day if I let them. Not that there’s anything wrong with peanut butter – it’s chock full of protein to keep their tummies full throughout the day, and it’s a good choice served on a whole grain bread – but honestly, I get bored making the same lunches day after day after day. I’ve started to swap out whole grain bread for whole grain pita pockets. The boys love ham and cheese in a pita pocket with mustard and they even make ‘mini’ pitas now so my boys don’t waste food (and there’s no crust on a pita so Luke can’t refuse to eat it!). They also like ‘mini meatball subs,’ meatballs and marinara with slices of provolone cheese in a whole grain bun. They don’t mind if they’re served cold. Sometimes we make our own “Lunchables” with whole grain crackers, slices of cheddar cheese and chunks of roasted chicken I have left over from a dinner.

Getting a serving of fruit or vegetables into a lunch box is one of the most important parts of the meal, to me. My boys love bananas, clementine’s, grapes, strawberries, carrot sticks with hummus and, of course, apples.

Last year I tried this delicious dip for apple slices, which soon became a big hit around our house – and in their lunch kits.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip
One serving is about two ounces of dip and 1/2 cup fresh fruit

Ingredients:
4 oz honey flavored Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbs honey (use local honey if possible – it’s said to reduce histamines which cause allergy flare-ups)
2 Tbs of peanut butter
2 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Chill in the refrigerator for 15+ minutes or serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Information: Calories 145; Calories from Fat 86; Total Fat 10g; Cholesterol 17mg; Sodium 88mg; Total Carbohydrates 10g; Dietary Fiber 1g; Sugars 9g; Protein 6g

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



Product Talk: Barbecue Seasoning


Last night I got home from work late, as it is more often than not these days. I didn’t want to cook anything, but I’d already eaten my way through all the leftovers I had from earlier in the week.

I stopped by Brookshire’s on my way home because I knew that I’d find something delicious in their prepared foods department. But I found myself wandering over to the butcher and meat counter to see what they had.

As always, they had a bounty of delicious looking, ready-to-cook meats. I saw one I didn’t know anything about, so I asked the very helpful gentleman behind the counter.

“Can you tell me about that one,” I said, pointing to a scrumptious looking roll of chicken and bacon.

“That,” he said, “Is the Chicken Tickler.”

I laughed. (Good name)

“It’s a butterflied boneless, skinless chicken breast, wrapped around a whole jalapeno pepper stuffed with cheese, and rolled up, covered in barbecue seasoning and then wrapped in bacon on the outside.”

I was sold.  But I’d never heard of barbecue seasoning. Sauce? Yes. Seasoning, not really.

McCormick’s Grill Mates indeed has a spice they call “Barbecue Seasoning.” The helpful gentleman behind the meat counter took me to correct aisle and showed me.

It’s a blend of  brown sugar, salt, tomato, garlic, onion, red bell peppers, parsley, paprika and hickory smoke.

Let me just tell you, it was delicious on the baked Chicken Tickler and I bought some to use to flavor all my meats when I grill them. It’s a brilliant way to season your meat before adding barbecue sauce at the end of the grilling process (if you add sauce too early, it will just burn). Found on the spice aisle, and on delicious ready-to-cook products on the meat counter, McCormick’s Grill Mates Barbecue Seasoning is sure to become one of my new favorites.



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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.

Product Talk

Each Monday we feature a new or interesting product.

Healthy Living

Tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, every Tuesday.

Shop the Sale

On Wednesdays, get a tip or idea on using an item in the circular.

Family Matters

Ideas for the whole family come to you every Thursday.

Dine In

Stop fighting the crowds, save money and dine in, every Friday.

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