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The Importance of Playtime


The Importance of PlaytimeWhen I was in elementary school, the clock would tick the seconds by toward one of my favorite times of the day – recess. I would immediately run outside and scope the scene: four square, tetherball, basketball, jungle gym, field games, swing set, rocking horses and more – so many fun possibilities.

We moved around a lot while I was growing up, so I was fortunate enough to experience different cultures and different playgrounds. Some were massive with tons of activities; others were very simple. One was next to a graveyard.

In seeing these various playgrounds, I sometimes felt badly for the kids who didn’t get to experience the large playgrounds with the oodles of games to play. Now that I’m older, I notice that kids the same age as I was then would prefer to sit on the bench or not even leave the building and play on their phones instead. Where I was learning Cat’s Cradle with string, they’re on social media posting how-to videos about things above their years.

Children will continue to find ways to better themselves through technology, and I admire that. However, they also need to look up and experience real life! Put the phone down, grab a ball and get some Vitamin D!

Though I have no children of my own, my nieces and nephew are extremely important to me. Playtime is essential for them, and there is always an opportunity to learn (yes, even while playing). I love teaching them neat things like how to build a Rube Goldberg machine or give a “Did you know?” like how tortoises can live longer than humans. Children are more alert when they play, so they’re more prone to remember things later on.

Playtime develops things like social skills and hand/eye coordination, and it helps them to stay fit. It promotes confidence, creativity, optimism, stress relief and many other forms of cognitive development needed for a happy and healthy kid. This helps a lot with schoolwork!

Next time you see your child on their phone or in front of the television, give them an activity to do outside. Then, join them! You need this, too!

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Posted in: Kids


Dine In: Stuffed Mushrooms


Stuffed MushroomsOn some Friday nights, I just don’t feel like cooking an elaborate meal, but luckily “appetizer night” always works well in my house.

These stuffed mushrooms are always one of my favorites. You can also vary this recipe easily, swapping out sausage for bacon or red onions for green onions, or adding hot sauce, bleu cheese and a variety of other ingredients.

They cook up quickly in the oven, and they are great with a meat and cheese board, an antipasto platter or just by themselves.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients:
8 oz large button mushrooms, stems removed and brushed clean
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
4 Tbs green onions, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Combine the cream cheese, bacon, green onions, and salt and pepper.

Remove stems from mushrooms and brush clean. You might need to scoop out some of the mushroom gills if the caps aren’t big enough to hold the filling. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in each mushroom.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Place mushrooms on a baking sheet, and bake for approximately 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 266, Calories from Fat: 197, Fat: 22 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 62 mg, Sodium: 743 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 15 g.

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Family Matter: Dogs Home Alone


Dogs Home AloneBack-to-school can be a lonely time for your pet. It is for my dog, Astro. All summer, he’s had the luxury of having the boys home all day to play with him and to let him in and out at his whim.

When the boys go back to school, Astro is left to his own devices in the yard or in the house. Truth be told, he has to stay outside because it’s not always guaranteed I can come home in the middle of the day to let him out for a play and potty break.

Ease him into the back-to-school routine by leaving him in a quiet house for increasingly extended periods of time as it gets closer to school resuming. This might be hard if you have kids in the house, but hey, school supply shopping takes a few hours, at least.

You might use a white noise machine or leave your radio on set to a classical (soothing music, no heaving metal head banging for your pet) while you’re gone.

Make sure there are not too many temptations around the house of objects he could easily destroy. You might consider gating him into one room or area.

Fill a Kong toy will all kinds of toys to keep your pet occupied during the day. If your pet is outside, leave ropes, balls and other toys in the yard for fun and to help keep him occupied.

If your dog will be outside, fill a bowl with a few toys, then add water and freeze. Leave the ice block outside in the yard for him, and he will uncover the toys as the ice block melts during the day.



Family Matters: Bird Toys and Play


Bird Toys and PlayJust like kids, birds like to play, too!

Birds develop a fondness for play in the “child and adolescent” years between the time they are fledglings and the time they reach sexual maturity.

Provide your bird with plenty of outlets for his play.

They tend to like things that move and make noise. Birds also love a mirror. Place a non-breakable mirror in their cage or somewhere near their cage for them to enjoy their reflection.

Ladders, swings and bells are also fun for birds. Ladders are great because it gives them a chance to exercise, and swings fulfill a need for proprioceptive movement. Bells are a great cause and effect toy, as they will learn to ring them and enjoy the resulting sound.

Paper balls might also be a fun toy for your bird. Wad up a piece of scrapbooking paper, and place it in the bottom of his cage. You can also place a few on top of his cage and make him reach for them. Paper strips from your shredder are also fun for your bird. He’ll spend hours tearing at them. Paper cones and cups, slightly smashed, can occupy birds for hours. Place several around his cage.

Toys on strings suspended from the top of their cages can also give them something to bat around in space.



Family Matters: Cats Home Alone


Cats Home AloneCats are pretty self-sufficient, and they can easily be left home alone all day. However, they can get lonely, too.

If your cat is accustomed to having plenty of company, ease them into a back-to-school routine by leaving the house for several hours at a time.

You might want to leave a white noise machine or radio on that’s playing soothing music in your home while you’re gone, so your cat feels like it has company.

If your cat has a particular spot where he likes to sleep, put a stuffed toy or a hot water bottle (one he can’t puncture with teeth or claws) in the area, so he’ll have something to cuddle next to. Some pets respond well to an old-fashioned alarm clock, one that ticks, wrapped in a blanket or towel.

Make sure your pet has a clean litter box while you’re gone during the day, so he won’t choose other areas to potty while you’re gone.

Of course, make sure he has food and water available as well.



Family Matters: Small Animal Toys and Play


Small Animal Toys and PlayYour small animal, like a gerbil, hamster or guinea pig, loves to play in his cage! Despite the fact that you see them sleeping a lot, these animals, who seem to get a burst of energy in the evening, love a good romp through their habitat.

Provide tunnels for gerbils and hamsters to run through and hide. They will even sleep in these tunnels, where they feel safe and secure.

Balls are great for inside your small animal’s cage. Make sure the ball is size-appropriate for your pet, so he can enjoy it without swallowing it or having it be too overwhelming. Make sure it’s made of a durable plastic or other material that he can’t chew and shred.

Big plastic exercise balls are also fun for smaller pets. Hamsters love to be inside the ball and have free range to run around your house. Make sure they are on the floor, not a table or surface where they can fall. Also, make sure they are supervised when in the exercise ball, so they don’t get stuck under furniture or chased by larger pets.

An exercise wheel inside the cage can be a great option for a hamster or gerbil for exercise as well.

Many small pets love to chew, so visit your local pet store for a block of safe wood made specifically for your type of small pet that they can gnaw on to their heart’s content.



Shop the Sale: Pork Chop Potato Bake


Pork Chop Potato BakeMy kids like anything I make in the slow cooker that has a creamy, cheesy sauce.

I have a go-to recipe for a creamy pork dish minus the cheese, but I generally serve it over rice. Sometimes, I like to shake things up and serve meals over potatoes instead. Wild and crazy, huh?

I love this dish because you can make it in the oven or in the slow cooker. I’m a fan of the slow cooker, myself.

I also love it because boneless pork chops or a boneless pork loin (you can cut your own chops from it!) are on sale this week at Brookshire’s. This is on my grocery list, for sure.

Pork Chop Potato Bake

Ingredients:
6 boneless pork loin chops
2 white onions, chopped
2 Tbs butter, divided
4 cups potatoes, thinly sliced
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter or grease a casserole dish, or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to bubble, brown pork loin chops in the pan until they are golden on each side, about 1 minute per side. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same skillet, sauté onions until they are soft. Add the soup and whisk in the milk. Set aside.

Slice the potatoes thinly using a mandoline. Spread potatoes in a single layer in the casserole dish and top with pork chops. Pour the soup and onion mixture over the pork chops. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese; cook until cheese is melted and bubbly.

To prepare in a slow cooker, follow recipe up through sautéing the onions and making the soup sauce. Butter the crock of the slow cooker, and place potatoes on the bottom. Top with pork chops. Pour in the sauce. Cover and cook for 8 hours on high. Sprinkle with the cheese and let melt. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 479, Calories from Fat: 207, Fat: 23 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 137 mg, Sodium: 520 mg, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 43 g.

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Healthy Living: Zucchini Lasagna Rolls


Zucchini Lasagna RollsI may have mentioned (97 times) that I’m eating low-carb.

I resisted trying to modify any kind of pasta dish because, let’s face it, pasta is pasta, and I’m Italian and we don’t mess with pasta.

However, this dish is an exception. I didn’t really go into it thinking of it as a pasta dish; I went in with the full knowledge I was eating a vegetable, not a piece of pasta. I also knew that swapping out the pasta for a veggie was so much healthier for me.

I grilled my zucchini on the grill instead of in the grill pan because I love the smoky flavor that you get from a grill. You can do either. I also rewrote the original recipe will full-fat ingredients. If you want to substitute lower-fat ricotta, cottage and mozzarella cheeses, you can certainly do that as well.

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

Ingredients:
8 oz ricotta cheese
4 oz cottage cheese
3 Tbs parmesan cheese
2 Tbs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs fresh basil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper, to taste
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 8 (1/4-inch thick) slices
1 mild Italian turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
For the filling, stir together ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt, garlic, red pepper and black pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

For the zucchini, spray slices with nonstick cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Prepare grill pan to medium heat. Grill zucchini for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until flexible but still firm. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Spray a casserole or other dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread 1/4 cup marinara evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Blot zucchini dry. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the zucchini, and spread in an even layer. Top with a tablespoon of cooked sausage crumbles. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Place seam-side down in prepared pan.

Top with remaining marinara and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 184, Calories from Fat: 97, Fat: 11 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 33 mg, Sodium: 597 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Product Talk: Brookshire’s Preserves


Brookshire’s PreservesThe end of summer is the perfect time to enjoy Brookshire’s Preserves.

Filled with chunks of fresh, ripe fruits and preserved at the peak of freshness, Brookshire’s preserves are full of sweet flavor.

Brookshire’s Preserves are made with fruit, sugar and a gelling agent. Locally, people often interchange the terms “jams” and “preserves,” although I tend to think of preserves as chunkier, filled with more whole pieces of fruit.

Brookshire’s offers a variety of preserves, including raspberry, apricot and strawberry. Use them on a sandwich, as a spread for crackers, in the filling of a cupcake or in a baked fruit dessert. You can even melt them down and use as a barbecue sauce or include in a barbecue sauce recipe. Found by the jellies, Brookshire’s preserves are simply delicious.

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Posted in: Product Talk


Dine In: Chili Hot Dog Bake


Chili Hot Dog BakeI’m trying to eat a low-carb diet.

This isn’t always easy.

Case in point, my family went out to dinner last night to a local pizza place where the crust is sublime. Best crust ever. Do you know how hard it is to scrape the pepperoni and cheese off your pizza and abandon the crust at the side of your plate? It’s excruciating.

So is eating a salad when your family is pile-driving pizza.

It’s been worth it, though. I’m getting my weight back to a healthy level, and I’m eating a ton more veggies because veggies are good carbs, if you didn’t already know.

One of the things that helps with a low-carb diet is eating more fat. Now, this sounds counterintuitive. Eat fat to lose fat, but it actually helps you stay full longer, so you don’t eat as much or snack as often.

This recipe has a lot of protein and fats to give you energy and to keep you full. Use a hot dog like Hebrew National, made with a lot of great ingredients, to make this recipe a little “cleaner.”

This comes together quickly on a Friday night, and you can serve it topped with some extra diced onions.

Hold the mustard.

Chili Hot Dog Bake

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 cup onions, diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup water
8 all-beef hot dogs, sliced lengthwise and cut in half
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Combine the ground beef, onions, bell peppers and garlic in a large cast-iron skillet. Sauté until beef is browned. Drain the fat.

Add in the spices, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste and water. Stir to combine, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Lay hot dogs in the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with the chili mixture. Top with cheese. Bake at 400° F for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 440, Calories from Fat: 255, Fat: 28 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 118 mg, Sodium: 1447 mg, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 35 g.

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



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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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