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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 available at Brookshire’s. This is on my grocery list, for sure.

Pork Chop Potato Bake

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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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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

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

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.

Family Matters: Leaving Your Toddler with a Caregiver

Leaving Your Toddler with a CaregiverHow do you know if your toddler is ready for a Mother’s Day Out or preschool program?

Well, kids show readiness in different ways. Does your toddler socialize and thrive in play groups? If so, they might be ready for a Mother’s Day Out program one or two days a week.

Is your toddler shy and quiet? He might also benefit from some socialization with other kids one or two days a week to start.

Start by visiting the facility you’re considering for his first away-from-home experience. Make sure it’s clean, friendly and that the teachers gel with your desired attributes. Find out how they discipline and what kind of snacks they offer. Also, ask about the daily schedule and routine, and make sure the facility is licensed.

Let your child interact in the room. It’s fine if he doesn’t seem thrilled at first; chances are great that he’ll warm up to it.

You might have to visit more than once before you leave him for the first time.

The first time my son stayed with another caregiver, it was in a childcare center at our local gym. I wanted to work out. It turns out that my workout for that day was going up the stairs to the gym before I was called back to childcare to pick up my crying toddler. We tried again the next day and the next. It took him about 3 weeks to be able to stay there for an hour. Then, he became the kid who didn’t want to leave when I arrived to pick him up. Point being, it might take a little work on your part, but your child will likely learn to love his playtime with friends.

Family Matters: Traveling with Baby

Traveling with BabyTraveling with a more alert baby can be a challenge at times. They love new scenery and adventures, but they don’t have quite the tolerance for it that adults have.

If you’re driving, make sure baby can see out the window. He’ll like to watch the trees go by. Pack a bag full of his favorite toys; he’ll need them for distraction on a road trip. If baby is eating solids, pack some of his favorite snacks. Who doesn’t love a car snack? Make sure you have his favorite blanket or stuffed toy for the car, as well. You might find that baby loves to hear his favorite music on the car stereo system or to see a familiar video on your car entertainment center. Mom and Dad might grow weary of Baby Einstein playing, but it sure beats a squalling baby. Make sure you have plenty of water, milk or juice so that he stays hydrated. Stop frequently if you need to. Bring a picnic blanket for the lawn at a safe rest stop or other area, so baby can move around a little when you stop.

If you’re flying, don’t forget that bag of toys! Baby wants to move around and wiggle, but there’s not much room for him to do so on an airplane. For his sanity and yours, you might want to consider getting him his own seat. That gives him a little more room to spread out (or to lay down if he has to nap). Baby books and toys like beads, rings or anything else that is attached and can’t be easily lost are great options. Bring his favorite snacks and plenty of fluids to keep him hydrated.

Family Matters: Traveling with a Newborn

Traveling with a NewbornSummer means vacation, even when you have a new little one!

Traveling with baby doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take some planning.

If you’re driving with your infant, consider a pull-down shade for the window closest to baby’s seat (that should be right behind the driver). Baby’s sensitive skin can get sunburned through the glass of the window. Make sure you’re diaper bag is well-stocked with all the essentials you’ll need in the car, including extra diapers and wipes, a bag for disposing of dirties, a burp cloth, formula and bottles if your baby uses them, a pacifier if needed, infant Tylenol and any other medications your baby takes, a teething toy, and a familiar blanket or lovey.

Baby might be comforted by having a parent ride in the back seat with him, at least during portions of the trip. Don’t be tempted to take your baby out and hold him if the vehicle is in motion. If your baby is fussy and upset, stop at a restaurant or safe rest stop where you can get out, stretch your legs and get baby some fresh air.

If you are flying, pack all of the above in a diaper bag. Consider feeding your baby during takeoff and landing, as pressure changes can hurt their ear drums. Keep a pacifier on hand to give them something to suck on as well, for the same reason. Try to schedule flights during your baby’s naptime; he might sleep the entire flight. If you are carrying a car seat with you for your destination, make sure it is properly installed in your vehicle after you arrive.

Mi Blog Hispano: La Avena – Un Desayuno Nutritivo

La Avena – Un Desayuno NutritivoAl pasar los años nos damos cuenta que nuestros cuerpos necesitan menos azucares y más proteínas y comidas saludables.  Dejamos los cereales dulces y decidimos por algo más nutritivo como avena o oatmeal, como le dicen en inglés.

De chica nunca me gusto comer avena.  Mi mama la hacía y llegue a probarla, pero simplemente no me gustaba.  Me quede con la idea de que la avena no tenía sabor.

Hace poco vino a visitarme mi hermana con su familia y compre avena porque les gusta comerla.  Ya que se fueron, quedaron algunos paquetitos.  Una mañana andaba a la carrera y con hambre.  Vi aquellos paquetitos y decidí hacerme una avena por lo rápido que es, y ¿qué creen?  ¡Me encanto!  Me quede pensando cuanto tiempo dure sin comer esta deliciosa y simple comida.  Ahora la como casi todos los días por la mañana, y vieran lo bien que me siento.  Les ofrezco a mis hijas pero no les gusta, y me recuerdan a mí cuando era chica.  Les digo que no saben de lo que se pierden, y que un día les va a encantar.

La avena es una comida bastante simple y sencilla de preparar, y tiene unos beneficios tremendos.  Ayuda a adelgazar, ayuda al corazón, contiene fibra, disminuye los niveles de colesterol y azúcar en la sangre, y algunos estudios enseñan que hasta nos protege contra el cáncer.  Al conocer esto de la avena decidí hacer un cambio y desayunar avena entre semana.  Yo compro la avena instantánea (Instant Oatmeal) de marca Brookshire’s por que esta sabrosa, viene en diferentes sabores, también porque me sale más barata que las marcas populares.  Mi esposo también empezó a comerla más.  A él le encanta agregarle nueces y plátanos para darle un poco más de saborcito.

Les recomiendo comer más avena para ayudar a cuidar su salud.

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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.

Family Matters

Ideas for the whole family come to you every Thursday.

Dine In

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

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