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Dine In: Tuscan-Roasted Asparagus


Tuscan-Roasted AsparagusOne of the things I’d love to do in life is live in Tuscany for several months and take cooking classes with people who speak nothing but Italian.

It’s on my bucket list, right near the top. Unfortunately, on top of another list is “braces for two.”

I might not get to Tuscany any time soon, but I can dream about it. My brief visits there have imprinted the smell of fresh basil, simmering tomatoes, fragrant lemon and earthy rosemary into my memory, and I’m determined to get back there someday.

In the meantime, I’ll distract myself with Tuscany-inspired recipes, using fresh ingredients! This dish would be a lovely side to a grilled main course or a perfect potluck dish to bring to a Fourth of July celebration. You can serve it warm or at room temperature.

Tuscan-Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, woody ends removed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 large beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Lay asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place tomato slices on top of asparagus spears. In a small bowl, whisk extra virgin olive oil with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Drizzle over tomatoes and asparagus. Sprinkle basil and parmesan on top, and roast until cheese begins to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 98, Fat: 5 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 9 mg, Sodium: 137 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 9 g.

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



Family Matters: Right or Left Handed


Right or Left HandedIs your baby right-handed or left-handed?

I could have told you from a few months old that my older son was destined to be a lefty. Now, through no intervention on my part, he’s quite ambidextrous, but definitely left-dominant.

Some experts will tell you that lateralization doesn’t happen until 4 or 5 years old, but I think (and I’m not an expert) that kids show signs much earlier.

What hand does he use to feed himself? Which hand does he use to throw a ball, stack blocks or turn the page of a book?

Around 9 months, babies can cross the midline, meaning that they can reach across their bodies with their right hand to pick up something on the left side, or vice versa. They won’t be able to distinguish right and left for a long time, but you might get an early hint from how they approach a staircase (dominant leg will lead), pick up their Cheerios or grab a Crayon.

You really don’t want to encourage one or the other. There’s not a benefit or detriment to a dominant side; it’s just nature. Let baby work with both to discover what he prefers.



Family Matters: Express Baby’s Creativity


Express Baby's CreativityDid you know that as young as a year old, your baby may be on her way to becoming a baby Picasso?

Right about this time, your baby can scribble on paper, and you should encourage her to do so! She’s imitating what she sees you and her older sister do.

You should encourage her to scribble on paper, giving her different colors, and to mark on the sidewalk or an exterior wall with chalk.

Provide thick, sturdy crayons or chalk with a huge piece of paper (ask for an end roll from your local newspaper office; they’re often free) to let her express her creativity.

You won’t see intentional shape or objects, but baby will love making her mark.



Family Matters: Prepping for a new baby


Prepping For a New BabyBringing your baby home from the hospital is a huge deal and a life changing event, but there are lots of things you can do to make the transition smooth.

First of all, have your car seat installed in your vehicle before baby is even born. The hospital will not let you leave without it. Find a certified seat installer, possibly at your local police station, who can help you get it in correctly for baby’s first ride home.

Secondly, prepare older children and pets. Older children can visit you in the hospital when baby is born, but pets cannot. Talk to your older children about the baby, let them help prepare his room, set safe boundaries on items like a baby swing or bouncy seat, and maybe have a special gift to the older child “from” the new baby.

Get your pets ready by setting boundaries for any of baby’s equipment and getting him used to the smell of baby blankets or baby’s clothes after they’ve been washed.

Next, have all of your baby clothes and linens washed and ready to go weeks before baby is expected to arrive. The LAST thing you want to do when you come home from the hospital is baby laundry, and baby might need four outfits/sleepers that first day. This is also a great project for older children to help with.

Be realistic. You might not be able to go back to your pre-baby routine immediately. The house likely doesn’t need a deep-cleaning right away. The dishes can wait, or you can ask a partner or children to help. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says this, and every new mom tries to get things accomplished during naptime. Give in. Sleep.

Adjust relationship expectations, too. Communicate with your partner about being tired, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed or anything else you are feeling so that person can help you through it. If you’re noticing that you cry more easily or feel blue, some of that is normal. Feelings of great sadness that extend beyond about 6 weeks should be discussed with your doctor, though.

Give yourself grace. If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d do nothing those first weeks but enjoy my baby. That’s not always realistic, but I’d try harder to accomplish that goal!



Shop the Sale: Creole Chicken Thighs


Creole Chicken ThighsChicken thighs are easily the most underrated protein you could possibly cook. They’re inexpensive and full of flavor. They also stay juicy, and they’re so versatile.

They’re on sale this week at Brookshire’s, so you can’t go wrong with picking up a package (or three) to feed your family for a few meals.

Chicken thighs are considered a dark meat, but to me, they don’t have the same flavor as, say, the leg. They’re a lighter dark meat, if that’s really possible.

Chicken thighs cook quickly on a grill, in a stew or soup, or in your oven.

This recipe practically bursts with Creole flavor. Cook the chicken with the skin on; it will seal in the juices and flavor. I love the white pepper in this recipe. You can really taste the latent heat after you take a big bite!

Creole Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken thighs (about 5 to 6 pieces)
2 tsp Creole or Cajun spice, like Tony Chachere’s
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475° F.

Rinse chicken thighs, and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the spices and mix well.

Sprinkle both sides of each chicken thigh with a generous amount of the spice mixture, and gently rub into the skin. Place chicken thighs on a baking sheet. If you wish, place them in the refrigerator overnight; it is not necessary to cover them.

Bake chicken thighs in preheated oven starting at 475° F for the first 20 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 400° F.

Bake until the skin is crispy, the thighs are no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 30 minutes or until chicken is 165° F internally.

Serves 5 to 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 438, Calories from Fat: 152, Fat: 17 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 202 mg, Sodium: 558 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 66 g.

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



Blueberry-Raspberry Smoothie


Blueberry-Raspberry SmoothieBreakfast is very important to me, and sometimes I don’t get the nutrition I intended. Smoothies, though packed with nutritional value, can be very expensive to purchase themselves. I love making them at my house, varying the ingredients each time to see what comes out of it. This particular smoothie I’ve made repeatedly because it’s so good (and friends keep requesting it).

Blueberry-Raspberry Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 dollop whipped cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups soy milk
1 handful fresh baby kale or spinach
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 cups ice

Directions:
Place all ingredients in blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy!

Calories Per Serving: 153, Fat: 5 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 6 mg, Sodium: 95 mg, Carbohydrates: 22 g, Fiber: 3 g, Protein: 6 g.

Serves 3

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Posted in: Nutrition, Produce


Healthy Living: Grilled Foil Packets


Grilled Foil PacketsOne of my good friends recently lost about 12 pounds.

I asked him how he did it.

His reply, “I grill pretty much everything. The fat cooks off the food, but the flavor stays in.”

I didn’t run it by a dietitian, but it sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Speaking of the grill and eating healthy, I’ve been pretty obsessed with grill packets lately.

Basically, you take any combination of protein and veggies, wrap them in a foil packet, and grill them! I like doing this with seafood because it cooks up so quickly, but you can do it with chicken, pork or beef. I’d recommend cutting them into chunks or strips, though, to make sure they’re cooked through.

Some healthy combinations I love are salmon with asparagus and lemon, shrimp with bell peppers and lime, chicken with broccoli florets, and seasoned tilapia with zucchini. You can really use any combination.

Here’s the premise:

Choose a protein and some veggies. Toss lightly with extra virgin olive oil, and season with whatever you like. I like lemon pepper seasoning, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, almost all of the McCormick Grill Mates, or just sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The olive oil will help when you remove the food from the foil. Place an individual serving on a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the top and side of the dish, leaving a little space. Seal tightly on every end. Grill for several minutes, and then flip (make sure the foil is tightly sealed so nothing leaks and causes a flare-up). Grill until cooked through. Let packets rest before opening them.



Product Talk: Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups


Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color CupsOne of my favorite things as a child was when we’d have ice cream cones for our cold, tasty treats. I don’t know why I thought ice cream tasted so much better in a cone, but it just does. It tastes even better in a cone that’s a fun color, like Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups.

Now, I know there’s a debate over whether an ice cream “cup” is supposed to be called a cone, but if you can hold it in your hand and eat it, I call it a cone, even if it’s not pointed at one end.

These ice cream cups are just FUN. I saw them in the freezer at Brookshire’s packed in with the ice cream not too long ago, and my son, who was with me, practically demanded we buy them. Fine with me!

Now, he claims that he can taste flavors among the green, pink and brown cones. I’m not so sure about that, but they do make a festive presentation for your ice cream.

These cups add fun and flair to family gatherings, cookouts, parties, pool time or just dessert after dinner on a hot summer night.

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk


Dine In: Ice Cream in a Bag


Ice Cream in a BagOne of my sons’ favorite things to do in school, mainly in the lower grades, was to make ice cream in a bag.

I know they did it in preschool, again in kindergarten and probably even in first grade since they both had the same wonderful, bubbly, creative teacher.

Ice cream in a bag sounds weird, but it’s super fun for kids (adults too!), and it is a tradition we repeat every summer on the back porch.

We’re going to do it again on Friday night after dinner.

Seriously, there’s nothing better than a good sit on the back patio with the dog chasing crickets around in the yard, the solar lights flickering and everyone I love gathered in one place.

You can add extra goodies to this recipe. Just be aware that it might alter the way it freezes a tiny bit. Each bag makes an individual serving.

Ice Cream in a Bag

Ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 Tbs salt
2 quart-sized zipper-lock plastic bags
1 gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic freezer bag

Directions:
Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in one of the quart-sized bags.

Seal the bag tightly, pressing out excess air. If you leave too much air in the bag, you might have a mess on your hands during the shaking process.

Place the quart-sized bag inside another of the same size to help prevent ice or salt from leaking into your mixture. Place the double-bagged mixture into the gallon-sized bag and fill with ice. Then, sprinkle salt on top.

Press out excess air and seal the bag. Wrap the bag in a towel; shake the bag vigorously for 5 to 8 minutes or until the “ice cream” has formed.

Pour into a chilled bowl and eat immediately.

Serves 1

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 112, Calories from Fat: 23, Fat: 3 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 58 mg, Carbohydrates: 18 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 4 g.

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

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Family Matters: A Movie and More


A Movie and MoreAfter a very long day at work, I went home ready to plop on the couch and do nothing, but I was approached by my teenage twin daughters to take them to the movie. Wow, that was the furthest thing from my mind, and I expressed this to my kids. I could tell they were disappointed, and after a long discussion back and forth (wearing me down), I agreed. After all, they chose a “chick flick” as we call them, something with love and romance…couldn’t get any better, right?

We saw one of the best movies I have seen in years. I cried through almost the last hour with both girls laughing hysterically at me (telling me to blow my nose) and vowing to never sit with me again! After the movie, we proceeded outside where the laughter continued once they saw my red swollen face and absolutely no makeup left. The crying to my surprise was such a stress relief that I had not expect after my long day at work…it was refreshing and something I totally needed.

We continued to talk in the car and at home. Now, weeks later, we are still talking about the movie and what we got out of it. There were some good life lessons in the movie and topics for family discussion, which added up to even more than what I anticipated out of the night. As I reflect back on the instant they asked me to take them to the movies and my immediate response, I am so thankful that I changed my mind. I did not get just another movie; I got so much more out of the time I spent with my daughters.

Every day, there are moments we can’t get back. Don’t deny yourself and your kids just simple times of hanging out and visiting…you will never be so glad you did something in your life. You, your kids and your family as a whole will benefit from the laughter, tears and great conversations that come out of your quality time together. The next time you’re exhausted and want to say “no” to your kids, just reconsider for a moment what you might be missing. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for your time with family!



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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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