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Family Matters: Baking Up a School Project


Baking Up a School ProjectBefore a recent school holiday, my son came home with an assignment for his world geography class that he was supposed to execute during the break.
In the vein of kids everywhere, he lamented having to do homework (insert eye roll here) over a school holiday (insert more eye rolls).

The project was to create a Christmas wreath from a country of his choosing, and it had to include salient points like prominent geography, language, religion, culture and holiday traditions. He informed me that he chose Switzerland.

I couldn’t have been move overjoyed.

When I lived in Germany, I spent quite a bit of time during the holidays in nearby Switzerland because Swiss Christmases are the stuff fairytales are made of. I also ate more than my fair share of hefekranz, a holiday treat.

The Swiss, and the Germans (and Austrians), bake these sweet breads for Christmas and for Easter. Translated literally, it means “heavy wreath.”

My son decided that he would bake a hefekranz as his “wreath” and add the other required elements in as pictures pasted to wooden skewers.

It was an all-day project. Considering it was HIS project, I was just around to make sure nothing went wrong. He had to execute it, beginning to end, by himself, and he did.

He learned to measure flour properly, leveling off the measuring up with the flat side of a butter knife. He learned to zest a lemon, sprinkling the fragrant yellow into the dough and being careful not to zest the bitter white part of the lemon peel. He learned how lukewarm water activates yeast, but if the water is too hot, it kills the live cultures.

He learned to knead, braid and glaze, all over the course of a Sunday when he punched down dough and waited for it to rise again. He learned that being patient, very patient, is often the best way to coax dough into a rope. He gained new appreciation of the Swiss that day, along with the necessity of reading directions carefully before beginning to bake. He learned that baking is a science and not something to undertake haphazardly.

I learned that he has a lot more patience and tenacity than I gave him credit for. I learned that I passed my skill for making a mess in the kitchen onto the next generation. I also realized the project (which I had kind of been dreading) was actually a great day to spend in the kitchen with my son.

You don’t have to bake a hefekranz this holiday season to spend some time with your children and learn something new. They will love it, and I suspect that you will, too.



Shop the Sale: Bourbon Molasses Glazed Ham


Bourbon Molasses Glazed HamHolidays are for ham!

I’ve made them in off seasons, but they always seem to taste best around a holiday table laden with family and friends.

It’s not easy to find variations on recipes for whole ham, especially when they’re so delicious precooked without having to do anything to them.

This simple recipe roasts in your oven while you enjoy companionship by opening gifts, sharing stories, laughing and enjoying each other.

Don’t worry, the alcohol cooks off. You’ll also have leftovers. The Hormel and Brookshire’s hams are on sale this week, so you can buy a few extra stocking stuffers!

Bourbon Molasses Glazed Ham

Ingredients:
2/3 cup bourbon
1 cup local honey
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup orange marmalade
nonstick cooking spray
1 (11 lb) sliced Brookshire’s or Hormel Ham
1/8 cup whole cloves

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine bourbon, honey, molasses and marmalade in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Cook for 15 minutes until well-combined and sugars have dissolved. Set aside.

Score a diamond pattern on skin of ham with a sharp knife. Press cloves all over surface of ham. Pour half of bourbon glaze over ham. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, uncovered, until ham reaches 130° F internally.

While the ham cooks, baste occasionally with additional glaze. Remove ham from oven. Tent with foil. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 10

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1012, Calories from Fat: 386, Fat: 43 g (15 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 284 mg, Sodium: 6515 mg, Potassium: 1583 mg, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 38 g, Protein: 83 g.

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



Healthy Living: Winter Fruit Salad


Winter Fruit SaladFresh fruits and veggies define the summertime months, but you don’t have to, nor should you, give up your fruits just because the weather is colder.

Fruits provide some vital nutrients that help you through the winter months, most notably vitamin C, which helps you fight off colds. They also provide vitamin A, an important antioxidant; zinc, which also helps prevent colds and fights germs; and vitamin D, which we usually get from sunshine.

I’ve found fruit salad, using fruits that are suited to the winter for becoming ripe, is a great way to get vitamins and nutrients when the skies are gray and cloudy. This is almost like sunshine in a bowl.

You can even skip the “dressing” and just eat this medley of super fruits plain.

Winter Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
2 red apples, cored and diced
2 pears, cored and diced
4 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented
3 kiwifruit, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tbs pure maple syrup
1 Tbs fresh lime juice

Directions:
Combine all the fruit in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together lime juice and maple syrup. Pour dressing over salad, and toss to coat. If delaying serving, toss dressing with fruit immediately before serving.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 317, Calories from Fat: 35, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 6 mg, Carbohydrates: 80 g, Fiber: 13 g, Sugar: 56 g, Protein: 4 g.

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



Product Talk: Marie’s Salad Dressings


Marie’s Salad Dressings

My favorite salad dressing in the entire world, aside from my mom’s homemade version, is Marie’s Chunky Blue Cheese. It tastes just like my mom’s, with big chunks of blue cheese in a mild, creamy dressing.

If I’m going to use salad dressing, it’s going to be Marie’s.

Marie’s makes a whole line of salad dressings, which are all delicious and very handy considering I’m the only one in my family who eats blue cheese. My older son loves Creamy Chipotle Ranch. My boyfriend likes Balsamic Vinaigrette, and my younger son likes the regular Ranch. I also enjoy the Asiago Peppercorn!

In addition to salad dressings, try the Coleslaw and BBQ Coleslaw dressings. They make putting together your slaw fast and simple.

As Marie’s likes to say, “Mother Nature brings the crunch; we bring the punch.”

Found near the bagged salads in the refrigerated section, Marie’s brings the punch to any undressed salad or slaw.

 



Dine In: Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


Spinach-Stuffed Chicken BreastsBack in my single days, my friends and I would go out to eat on Friday nights, and we’d almost always get an appetizer of bubbling, warm, cheesy spinach dip with pita chips.

We’d talk and laugh and eat so much spinach dip that we often weren’t hungry for dinner after we finished.

I still love to go out on Friday nights, but I also love to stay home, especially this time of year when the stores, restaurants and roads are packed to overflowing, and you sometimes wait as long for your meal, or to get a table, as it would just to make the same thing at home.

I tried to come up with something recently that would channel the flavors of the spinach dip that I loved in a date night dish that would be perfect for a Friday night at home.

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts, about 3/4 lb
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Italian cheese blend
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
16 oz jar marinara sauce, or homemade
parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat until shimmery and fragrant.

Add spinach and parsley; sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic; cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside.

Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise halfway through until they open like a book. Pound until each is about 1/4 inch thick. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta, Italian cheese blend and spinach mixture; add salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture onto the middle of the flat chicken breasts and roll, securing with a toothpick.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet until shimmery and fragrant. Brown chicken on all sides. Place in oven, and cook for 35 minutes. Pour marinara sauce over the chicken, and cook for another 10 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese, and broil for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 843, Calories from Fat: 406, Fat: 45 g (14 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 190 mg, Sodium: 1339 mg, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 20 g, Protein: 69 g.

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



Family Matters: Dog Ear Infections


Dog Ear InfectionsDogs can get ear infections, too.

Just like humans, a dog’s ears can ache and cause them quite a bit of misery.

Canine ear infections are often caused by bacteria or yeast. Ear mites, unkempt or excessive hair, moisture or ear wax, foreign objects, allergies and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can all contribute to your dog developing an ear infection. Another risk factor is due  to the fact that a dog’s ear canal is mostly vertical (unlike the human ear which is horizontal), and it’s easy for debris and moisture to be retained in the ear canal.

Signs of an ear infection in your dog include:

  • Scratching of the ear or area around the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Rubbing of the ear and surrounding area on the floor or furniture
  • Head shaking or head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

Luckily, ear infections are easily treated. Your vet might prescribe an antibiotic and a topical ointment.

To help prevent ear infections, keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Check them frequently for debris, mites or the sign of anything unusual.



Family Matters: Chinchillas


ChinchillasAmong small animals that make good pets are chinchillas!

Chinchillas are related to squirrels and originally hail from Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile. They were originally prized for their very soft fur.

While small and the perfect size for an indoor cage, chinchillas require a lot of exercise and dental hygiene because their teeth continue to grow during their entire life span. The temperature in their cage should also always be between 60 and 70° F. While they need lots of light, their cages cannot be in drafts or direct sunlight.

Chinchillas stay clean by taking dust baths frequently, so you will need to provide a special dust made of fine pumice for them to use a few times a week. If they get wet, they need to be dried immediately so their fur doesn’t grow fungus or get infected. However, their thick fur resists parasites like fleas, and it reduces loose dander. A chinchilla is a good choice for an owner with allergies, as they are hypoallergenic.



Family Matters: Quiet Your Bird


Quiet Your BirdScreaming and screeching can be a problem with many pet birds and a deterrent to keeping a feathered friend as a pet.

However, there are several techniques that can be used to help quiet your pet bird.

First of all, just know that birds are naturally noisy creatures. They need to be loud to communicate with their flock. Sometimes, they’ll screech at sunrise or sunset or if the room has filled with people. Sometimes they scream or screech because they are ill or not feeling well. Fear, a change in environment or a change in caregiver can also make your pet bird screech.

As a bird owner, your goal should not be to eliminate bird noises but to reduce them to a more tolerable level. Yelling back at your bird, hitting the bird or the cage, leaving him isolated, spraying her with water, or withholding food will not help control your pet’s screaming, but it will serve to only increase the stress on the bird and make the screaming worse.

When your bird stays quiet, a reward, like a toy, a treat or something he loves, is the best motivator. Speak to your bird in a quiet voice and have a regular command or prompt, like a soft shushing noise, to indicate that he should quiet down.

If the bird is screaming when he’s left alone, provide a radio or other soft background noise for comfort and distraction.

Be consistent with your rewards and training, and it will pay off in a quieter, calmer bird.



Family Matters: Exercise for your Cat


Exercise for your CatWhile cats have the reputation for napping, the truth of the matter is really that they need a good amount of exercise.

Exercise for your cat improves muscle tone and decreases appetite, but it also helps increase their life span.

You probably don’t want to walk your cat on a leash (although they can be trained to do so), so you have to get creative with other ways to keep your cat moving.

Provide a tower for your cat to climb. Jumping up onto it or down from it, or climbing up, keeps your cat active.

Play with him. Rolling a ball back and forth across the floor and letting him chase it, or throwing a favorite toy for him to pounce upon, are fun for both you and your cat.

Play with a flashlight or laser pointer. Your cat will have fun chasing the light (don’t point it into his eyes!).

Drag a small toy by a string and have your cat chase after it.



Mi Blog Hispano: Quequitos de Tamales


Quequitos de Tamales¡Que ricos son estos días festivos! Ya se siente el aire navideño y andamos todos de prisa preparándonos para las fiestas con nuestras familias. He estado buscando recetas de aperitivos para tener en nuestra fiesta navideña, ya que mi mama y mi tía estarán cocinando los platillos principales. Me gusta ver la revista que Brookshire’s publica de “Celebrate Cooking”. Está llena de recetas e ideas para la temporada. Encontré una receta fácil y perfecta para hacer como aperitivo. Son unos quequitos de tamales, o como le llaman en la revista “Mini Tamale Pies”. Al verlos se me hicieron tan curiosos y perfectos para comer mientras esperamos la comida principal.

Aquí tienen la receta completa. ¡Espero que les guste!

Quequitos de Tamales
Prep: 20 minutos
Cocción: 1 hora
Sirve: 12

Ingredientes:

Para La Masa:
1 1/2 tazas de masa harina
1/2 taza de caldo de pollo
1/3 taza de aceite vegetal

Para El Relleno:
1 cucharada de aceite vegetal
1 lb de carne molida de res
1 cebolla amarilla, en cubitos
2 dientes de ajo, bien picados
1 paquete de “taco seasoning”
3/4 taza de agua
1 1/2 tazas de queso rallado
3/4 tazas de crema
2 cucharadas de cilantro

Instrucciones:
Caliente el horno a 350⁰ F. Combine los ingredientes de la masa en un cuenco mediano; mezcle bien. Tape el cuenco con envoltura de plástico; póngalo a un lado.

En un sartén grande, caliente el aceite en fuego mediano. Agregue la carne molida hasta que esté bien cocida. Agregue el sazón de “taco seasoning” y el agua; deje hervir. Reduzca la temperatura. Sazone con sal y pimienta. Deje hervir a fuego lento por 5 minutos, revolviendo ocasionalmente con la cuchara. Ponga a un lado.

Divida la masa entre las 12 cavidades del molde para quequitos. Presione masa en una capa delgada para que se acomode uniformemente en la cavidad. Agregue el relleno en cada cavidad ya con masa. Meta al horno por 20 minutos.

Agregue queso sobre el relleno. Regrese el molde al horno y deje por otros 10 minutos. Deje reposar por 5 minutos. Use un cuchillo chico para separar las orillas de los quequitos del molde. Agregue crema y cilantro en cada quequito antes de servir.



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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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Ideas for the whole family come to you every Thursday.

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

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