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Family Matters: Christmas Baking


Christmas BakingOne of my favorite memories of childhood is helping my mom with the Christmas baking.

Our house always smelled good at holiday time, and there was never a shortage of baked treats to eat. In fact, lunch on Christmas Day was usually Christmas cookies sandwiched between a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and the Christmas dinner.

You’d know when the season would start because my mom would make her cinnamon raisin bread. We’d take bundles of those loaves of sweet deliciousness in our arms, and we’d carry them to neighbors and to our teachers who looked forward to them every year. I was back home visiting last year, and someone even asked, “Does your mom still make that raisin bread?” Indeed, she does.

One of the best parts of the raisin bread was helping her knead the dough, punching it down, and wrapping the golden-brown loaves in aluminum foil to deliver to loved ones.

Baking with kids is so much fun. It’s great quality time to spend together over scents of yeast, cinnamon and heaps of sugar.

I loved learning how to knead dough until it was no longer sticky but not yet tough, how to punch it down when it had doubled in volume, and how to never open the oven door when it was baking. I got to talk to mom, too. Sometimes, in a household with five kids, one-on-one time was hard to come by, but I could always count on baking together.

We also baked Christmas cookies, usually three or four varieties, but the highlight of the cookie-baking experience was always the Saturday when we made the sugar cookies. It was an all-day endeavor, and it became a tradition that my mom continues with some of my nephews who live nearby. We’d make the dough the night before, so it would have a chance to chill before we rolled it out and cut the shapes. They included candy canes, stars, trees and even Santa, himself. Then, each kid would get a baking sheet and some decorations, and they could decorate to their hearts’ content. My brother was the painstaking one who’d line up individual sprinkles on the cookies in intricate patterns. My other brother was a dumper: the more colored sugar he could get on a cookie, the better. I was somewhere in between. My favorite part was really creaming together the butter and the sugar to make a light yellow, fluffy cloud of cookie base. It was also being in the kitchen with my mom.

Kids can help with so many Christmas treats. Make a memory and a tradition today by picking out a project to make with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and roll in Christmas-colored sprinkles. Bake pumpkin bread or pecan pie. Whatever you choose, food, family and fun make the holidays special.



Shop the Sale: Turkey Talk


Turkey TalkIt’s time to talk turkey, since the big day is coming right up.

First of all, go ahead and buy your turkey this week since they’re on sale at Brookshire’s.

Secondly, don’t forget to take it out of the freezer in time. Been there, done that. Give it three to five days to thaw in the refrigerator, depending on the size of the bird.

Last year, we smoked our turkey. This year, we’re going to roast it, but we’re also going to brine the bird.

Brining is simply soaking the bird in a solution of salt and some acid (and a little sweetness) to lock the juices into the bird before cooking. It’s like marinating the turkey because your bird will absorb the fluids and flavors by osmosis. Brine your turkey for 18 to 24 hours before roasting it for best results.

Your brine can consist of almost anything, but you want to make sure to use 1 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar for every gallon of brine you make. You’ll probably need at least two gallons to cover your turkey.

You can flavor your brine with slices of citrus like lemons or limes; with sliced apples; with lots of fresh herbs like sprigs of rosemary and sage or chunks of ginger; or with cloves of garlic. You can use cider or broth in place of the water (although if you’re using cider or something sweeter, I’d only replace half of the water).

After you’ve mixed all the ingredients together until well-combined, submerge your turkey, and place in the refrigerator. Some people feel safe brining in a clean cooler, but I don’t trust Texas weather to keep it cool enough. You can use a roasting bag, a large stockpot/baking pan or whatever vessel is large enough to hold your turkey and the brine and still fit in the fridge.

For extra-crispy skin when you roast the bird, remove from brine the night before Thanksgiving and let dry. Rub with butter and herbs; replace in the refrigerator, UNCOVERED, overnight. Bring to room temperature for an hour before roasting.



Healthy Living: Perimeter Shopping


Perimeter ShoppingI ran into one of my uber-healthy friends while grocery shopping this morning. In addition to the fact that she’s beautiful, fit and ENJOYS eating celery, I was wearing scuzzy clothes and didn’t have on any makeup. Of course, that’s pretty much the law when you leave the house in a state of disrepair. The best I had going for me is that I was clean.

However, makeup and T-shirt aside, I found myself wanting to hide my shopping cart from her. Oh yeah, I had salmon, broccoli, zucchini and grapes, but I also had frozen waffles and ice cream. Hey, they are for my KIDS, okay?

Then, I started thinking that I should probably shop so that I don’t feel the need to hide my cart when a healthy eater walks by. My next thought was that I should do a better job of emphasizing healthy choices to my kids.

I put the frozen waffles back. My son will be just as happy with Greek yogurt for protein and dairy, and a banana for fruit and fiber. The other son can have real scrambled eggs instead of a frozen breakfast pastry.

I left the ice cream because I think it’s fine for growing, active kids to have a treat every once in a while.

One of the best ways to shop in a healthy way is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresh fruits and vegetables are stored, along with the meats and dairy. I really do love walking through the Brookshire’s produce department and seeing the beautiful displays of colorful fruits and veggies.

Maybe next time I run into her, I won’t feel the need to hide my cart.

I’ll try to be wearing some makeup as well.

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Product Talk: Louisburg Honeycrisp Apple Cider


Louisburg Honeycrisp Apple CiderLouisburg Honeycrisp Apple Cider reminds me of picking apples on Carter’s Mountain and being able to taste the cider pressed right after the apples came out of the field.

Louisburg Cider Mill aims for exactly that flavor. It captures the freshness and bright sweetness of a honeycrisp apple, and bottles it for Brookshire’s customers.

The Mill in Louisburg, Kansas processes apples at the peak of freshness, so your cider tastes like it was just poured from the tree itself.

“Our cider-making method dates back 2,000 years, and it still produces the best quality cider,” the Louisburg Mill website says. “We continue our old-fashioned methods in the manufacture of our many other products as well.”

Look for Louisburg Honeycrisp Apple Cider near the honeycrisp apples in your Brookshire’s produce department. This cider is delicious at room temperature, chilled or even served warm, with a cinnamon stick for stirring.



Food Watch: Prepping for Natural Disasters


Prepping for Natural DisastersOn a venture to visit friends during what seemed to be a light rain, I came to find how unprepared you can be going into natural disasters. My drive was great until I reached the road before theirs. My phone made a resounding alarm that made me jump: “TORNADO WARNING IN THIS AREA. TAKE SHELTER NOW.” I looked toward the direction in which I’d be going, and I saw dark, swirling clouds starting to rotate around each other.

Once I arrived, everyone was on their phone trying to figure out what was going on. The wind picked up, and then it was silent. Next, quarter-sized hail showered down around the house, followed by a torrent of wind and rain. At that moment, we decided to run to the storm shelter. We went to the storm shelter twice that night – six of us along with the family dog – and the realization of how much we lacked set in.

It was a great opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of storm shelter use. However, since I work in grocery, I thought mostly of what foods could keep for extended periods of time to not only prepare for such an event, but to help keep you alive if you were trapped. Food should have a long shelf life with little to no cooking required, and it must meet the needs of all family members (including pets).

Canned meats and vegetables can keep a few years on average depending on the product. Highly acidic canned goods like fruit and juice store well for less time (12 to 18 months). Water can also last quite a long time.

Thankfully, Brookshire’s has a plethora of high-quality canned products that will help you stock up if need be. I really like their vegetable assortments, which are picked at the peak of freshness and come with a handy pop top. No can opener needed!

Also, consider how your food is stored. If you’re preparing for a natural disaster, make sure that your food and water are stored away from the outside door, away from the elements. Keep these items elevated and, if possible, in a storage area of their own.

You most likely won’t need to hide in your storm shelter for years at a time, but you never know when a natural disaster may hit. It’s best to prepare in advance, and that will be one less thing to worry about when the time comes.



Dine In: Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts


Bacon-Balsamic Brussels SpoutsI was slicing the stems off of some Brussels sprouts last week, planning to toss them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper before I roasted them, as I usually do.

Then, I got an idea for something a little different. I very well may have seen it somewhere else, but it struck me as an original idea at the time.

I added in a little bacon and some balsamic vinegar. Oh my goodness, the result was amazing. The bacon added smokiness, and the balsamic cut the sometimes bitter flavor of the Brussels with its sweetness.

The veggies end up roasting in some of the bacon fat that’s rendered, and the result is a delicious, filling dish.

This would make a great side dish for a medium-rare ribeye, grilled to perfection and served on your back porch next to a roaring fire.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Spouts

Ingredients:
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 slices bacon, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Whisk the olive oil with the balsamic, salt and pepper. Pour over Brussels sprouts. Stir in chopped bacon. Spread on a baking pan, and roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 2 to 4 (as a side dish)

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 210, Calories from Fat: 118, Fat: 13 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 475 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 12 g.

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



Family Matters: Age Appropriate Birds


Age Appropriate BirdsSome birds are great companions for older adults, and some birds are tailor-made for kids.

If you are bringing a bird into a household with small children, some experts recommend a canary or finch as being the best bird for kids.

Why is their song a little sweeter?

Well, they don’t desire a ton of human contact, so they’re better for kids who aren’t adept at handling a bird. Canaries have a sweet voice, which children tend to like. Canaries can be kept by themselves, but you’ll need to buy a finch in a pair, so he has a friend.

Another kid-friendly bird is a cockatiel, which are not hyper and whistle well. These birds don’t like staying caged for long, so an older child might be better-suited to taking him out and playing with him.

Parakeets are great for older children, too, because they have a sophisticated vocabulary, and they are not too large. Plus, they don’t mind a smaller cage, which is well-suited for a child’s room.

The Pionus, a type of parrot, is another good choice. They are sweet, friendly and rarely bite.

Finally, a Meyers parrot is a quiet, calm variety of parrot. They don’t bite often, and they can form a loving relationship with a lot of different people.



Family Matters: Homemade Dog Treats


Homemade Dog TreatsI love making treats for my pup.

Now, let me just say first that dogs don’t NEED food as treats. This is a human emotion that we impose upon them. They are just as happy with extra playtime and cuddling. (Maybe humans should be, too). If you do give them treats, homemade ones are fun for you and your pet (check with your vet before giving your pet any human food).

Peanut Butter-Banana Frozen Treats

Ingredients:
2 over-ripe bananas
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup peanut butter

Directions:
In a bowl, mash bananas until smooth. Whisk in remaining ingredients, and stir until well-combined. Pour mixture into ice cube molds, and freeze. Let your pup enjoy!



Family Matters: Feeding Your Rabbit


Feeding Your RabbitWe went to the state fair recently and spent some time walking around the rabbit exhibit. There are so many breeds and types of rabbit, each seemingly cuter than the next.

Rabbits make good small pets. They can live either inside or outside, and they don’t require a lot of exercise. They certainly don’t make much noise. You can even litter-train them.

One of the best things about bunnies as pets is that they can eat so much human food. No Doritos, mind you, but a bunny should be able to eat small portions of the following things:

  • Arugula
  • Beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Carrot greens
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Dandelion greens
  • Green peppers
  • Romaine lettuce (NO iceberg: they can’t digest it)
  • Mint
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Radicchio
  • Swiss chard
  • Cauliflower
  • And SMALL amounts of: Kale, broccoli, carrots and collards


Family Matters: Handle With Care


Handle With CareCats aren’t called man’s best friend. That title is reserved for dogs.

Cats get a bad rep sometimes, as being more aloof and standoffish than other types of pets. Training your cat to be friendly is a great way to forge a fabulous bond with your feline friend.

Handle them with care. Cats don’t like to roughhouse like dogs often do. Touch, hold and pet your cat gently from an early age. They will be more responsive, loving and touching if they feel you can be trusted to treat them gently.

Your cat can be taught to come when you call him. Use a gentle voice to repeat their name, and reward them with a small treat when they respond to their name and to your command.

Be affectionate with your cat, and keep him close to you, whether that’s letting him sit on your lap while you watch TV, letting him take a nap beside you or letting him walk over you when you’re sitting at your desk. You may want to wrap him in a soft blanket and cuddle him close to you as well. Take care when you’re picking him up, as that interaction will set the stage for how much he lets you cuddle.



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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.

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

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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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