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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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Posted in: Shop the Sale


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


Family Matters: Caring for kitty


Cats may seem like the perfect, low-maintenance pet. You give most cats plenty of fresh food and water, a clean litter box, and a couple cozy places to nap, and they are perfectly content.

But cats need health care too. Cats are somewhat less likely than dogs to be taken to the veterinarian annually, according to an AP-Petside.com poll, conducted last fall. So it’s even more important for owners to pay close attention to their cat’s weight, behavior and overall health, so you can catch any minor problems before they become bigger ones.

According to the experts at Nestle Purina Petcare, cats’ needs change over time faster than humans do. After all, since a cat’s average life expectancy is anywhere from 12-15 years, one human year translates into several cat years.

So they suggest owners pay attention to several facets of their cat’s health, to help maintain a long, happy life for your four-legged family member. (And, yes, if you’re a dog owner, these tips also apply to your canine friends!)

Weight-watching: Chubby kitties may look cute, but even an extra couple of pounds can create health problems for a cat. Ideally, a cat should have minimal abdominal fat and just a slight fat pad over their ribs.

Should your cat be a little pudgy, you can begin to control its weight by cutting back on any treats, especially if you have been slipping them forbidden people food, and making sure you are feeding the correct amount as directed by package instructions. If you’re already doing everything right, you might need to start feeding a cat food with less fat and/or fewer calories, such as Purina Cat Chow Indoor Formula or Purina ONE Healthy Weight Formula.

Energy level: Consider your cat’s daily routine. Yes, it may seem they sleep 23 hours out of 24, but the healthy cat also spends time playing. If yours seems sluggish, make sure you offer regular interaction. If the cat doesn’t have any interest in activity, especially those that it formerly enjoyed, consult a veterinarian.

Bad kitty: Cats that suddenly develop behavior problems, such as the occasional missed litter box incident, are most likely just bored. Add a new toy or two, and additional interaction, and see if that helps. However, behavioral problems can also be age-related or health-related.  Cats over age 7 should be switched over to a senior pet food formula, so they receive the nutrients they need for their age. Otherwise, you may want to consider a trip to the veterinarian, to rule out any health-related issues.



Product Talk: Home-grown milk


When I say that Food Club milk, produced right in Brookshire’s hometown of Tyler, Texas, is some of the best you can buy, I’m not just bragging.

I’m talking about the awards it has won – most recently, at the dairy products championship at the World Dairy Expo, in Madison, Wisconsin, a kind of Super Bowl for milks, dips, yogurts and cheeses. There, we competed against some of the biggest producers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and took third place for our 1 percent milk. (And we placed even higher with our blueberry yogurt, sour cream, and sour cream ranch dip, all starting with our great milk – but that’s a story for another day.)

And I’m also talking about the high standards we hold for every drop of milk that comes through our plant.

It starts with our suppliers. We work with a dairy cooperative that provides our plant with farm-produced milk, most of it from the dairy farming areas around Texas. Because of our relationship with these dairies, some of them small family operations, we receive only the highest-quality milk they produce.

We test all of our milk before it arrives in our plant, to weed out any that contains several different antibiotics or high microbial counts, which would indicate unhealthy cows or unsanitary procedures on the farm, among other things. We want our milk to be natural and healthy, so we don’t accept milk that shows traces of these substances.

Once it arrives at our plant, we process it using our state-of-the-art technology. Then we rush it on to our stores so you get it at the peak of freshness. And because we keep the whole process in-house, we are able to offer our Food Club milk at a value-conscious price.

But don’t just take my word for it – or even the word of those judges at the World Dairy Expo. Our Food Club milk comes in comes in fat-free, 1%, 2% and whole milk, as well as chocolate milk, buttermilk and Bulgarian buttermilk. (Those last two are terrific for baking.) Pick up the variety your family drinks and give it your own taste test.

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Posted in: Product Talk


Dine-In: Mini Hot Dogs


I am so excited about this weekend! It’s going to be all about sports. I am going to my favorite baseball team’s fan fest, a basketball game and a hockey game. There is one food I must have while watching a sports game – a hot dog. Last year when the Packers played the Steelers I made these mini hot dogs and they were a hit.

According to a 2008 poll conducted by the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council,  63% of fans listed hot dogs as the food they could not live without at the ballpark. The same poll reported that 88% of sports fans have eaten a hot dog in the past year or will eat a hot dog in the upcoming year at a sporting event.

So do your part in helping the hot dog reign supreme at your next sports-watching bash.

Mini Dogs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
2 (16.3 oz) pkgs refrigerated biscuit dough, halved
1 (14 oz) pkg mini cocktail franks, heated
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/2 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  Pull each biscuit half in an oblong shape like a hot dog bun. Place mini hot dog buns on baking pan; bake 13 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let buns cool.

Make a lengthwise slit into buns.  Place warm cocktail franks into mini buns. Top with mustard, pickle relish and cheese.



Shop the Sale: Ciabatta at home


Ciabatta artisan bread is a traditional Italian sandwich bread that has become popular the last few years in the United States.

Ciabatta has a thin crust with a light, airy, moist interior. It’s frequently used for panini sandwiches, the classic Italian pressed sandwich, and it’s also a perfect bread to pair with hearty soups and pastas.  It’s also delicious just served warm, with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping; you may have enjoyed it this way at an Italian restaurant.

Often, however, you have to enjoy this bread in a restaurant or at a specialty bakery. It’s hard to make, even for experienced home bakers.

But now you can enjoy fresh, traditional ciabatta bread at home – even if you are not a master baker. Our Full Circle Ciabatta bread and rolls are ready for you to take home and bake in 10 minutes or less for home-baked goodness.

And this week, it’s on sale at Brookshire’s, along with several other favorites from our Full Circle line, so there’s no reason not to enjoy some fresh-baked bread.

Like all our Full Circle breads, our Ciabatta is all-natural with no trans fats. You can bake your ciabatta bread the day you bring it home, or freeze it for later use.

Several other Full Circle breads are also offered at special prices this week, including French baguettes, country white, and honey whole grain. So you can feel like a professional baker, right in your own kitchen.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


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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

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