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Dine In: Blackberry Cobbler


Blackberry CobblerLast weekend, my boys and I drove to Pittsburg. Texas, that is. At the peak of blackberry season, there’s an orchard there that allows you to pick your own blackberries. You can eat while you’re picking, but the orchard claims no responsibility for belly aches!

Trust me, it would be easy to eat your body weight in blackberries. When you go out into the orchards, the first thing that hits you is the fresh, bright aroma of the fruit. The trees, during peak season in July, are heavily laden with the succulent berries, almost bowed over from the weight of the fruit.

Blackberries, like blueberries, are natural insect repellants, so there’s no need to spray insecticide in the orchard (thus allowing you to snack and pick!).

We didn’t do a lot of snacking, but we did devour the dessert we made that night with our freshly picked bounty.

Blackberry Cobbler

Ingredients:
4 cups blackberries
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tbs butter, melted
vanilla ice cream, if desired

Directions:
Heat oven to 375° F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square (2-quart) glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray. Place blackberries in dish; drizzle with lemon juice.

In a medium bowl, stir egg, sugar and flour until mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle over fruit. Drizzle melted butter over topping.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly. Cool 10 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 368, Fat: 13 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Sodium: 114 mg, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Dine In: Oven Baked Feta Cheese Dip


Oven Baked Feta Cheese DipThere are so many Friday nights when, I admit it, I don’t want to cook.

I’m tired from working all week. My kids are tired. We’re all tired.

Sometimes that means pizza. Sometimes that means a snack dinner.

This recipe is simple and quick to put together. You can add chopped, grilled chicken to make it more of a main course.

Oven Baked Feta Cheese Dip

Ingredients:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven at 400° F.

In a small oven-safe baking dish, layer the crumbled cheese, covering the entire bottom of the dish.

Sprinkle the minced garlic on top of the feta cheese.

Spoon the tomato sauce, covering the entire cheese and garlic mixture.

Mix together the mozzarella cheese and the cheddar cheese; layer on top of the tomato sauce.

Bake it in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Serve it warm with a side of flatbread or tortilla chips.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 203, Calories from Fat: 137, Fat: 15 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 56 mg, Sodium: 672 mg, Potassium: 110 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 13 g.

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Dine In: Mexican Skillet Lasagna


Mexican Skillet LasagnaWe’ve had an unusually rainy and cooler summer this year, “cooler” being relative of course, so there have been Friday nights that call for a cozy meal inside instead of something grilled outside.

I found this meal on Pinterest. It’s half lasagna, half Mexican and all deliciousness. One of the best parts is that my kids can help make it after I get home from work on Friday night and can’t wait to curl up on the couch with them to watch a movie.

The original recipe called for ground beef, which you can definitely use, but I substituted turkey to make it a bit healthier. I used two jalapeños (because I love spicy), but the recipe calls for just one.

Mexican Skillet Lasagna

Ingredients:
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups red enchilada sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 lb ground turkey
1 can corn, drained
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
10 whole-wheat lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Directions:
Heat oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeño. Cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink. Drain fat.

Stir in the corn; season the mixture with cumin, chili powder, oregano and salt.

Scatter pasta onto meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juice and enchilada sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Allow the mixture to simmer uncovered for the final 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Allow the mixture to stand uncovered for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is thickened. If desired, you can throw it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown on top. Serve with fresh avocado slices and cilantro.

Serves 6-8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 557, Calories from Fat: 165, Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 68 mg, Sodium: 895 mg, Potassium: 713 mg, Carbohydrates: 66 g, Fiber: 14 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 34 g.

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Dine In: Fourth of July Strawberries


Fourth Of July StrawberriesMy friend, Amy, is one of those people who makes cute food for her kids.

You know the kind I mean.

Her hot dogs transform into an octopus.

Her sandwiches have cute faces on them with grapes and carrots.

Her cucumber spears are caterpillars and she always, always has celebratory foods for each holiday.

I’m lucky, some holidays, if I get traditional foods on the table, let alone something that screams “festive.”

That is going to change this Fourth of July. Amy sent me a super easy recipe that should have a huge “wow” factor on the picnic table.

It’s so simple that I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it in years past.

I might have to try it at Christmas, too.

Fourth of July Strawberries

Ingredients:
1 pint strawberries, washed and dried
6 oz white chocolate
blue sugar, edible glitter or sprinkles

Directions:
Place blue sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave on 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir until the bowl is no longer warm. Then, microwave for 30-second intervals at 50 percent power, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely melted. Dip the lower two-thirds of the strawberries into the melted white chocolate. Then, dip the lower third of the strawberries in the blue sugar or spoon it onto the strawberries. Place on wax paper until completely cooled.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 203, Calories from Fat: 84, Fat: 9 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 6 mg, Sodium: 26 mg, Potassium: 172 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 28 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Greek Cucumber Salad


Greek Cucumber Salad with Lemon and FetaI’ve been craving a good Greek salad for weeks now. My favorite Greek salad comes from a restaurant near my former office. I loved walking down at lunchtime and sitting on the patio with a heaping bowl of greens and feta cheese.

I hadn’t found a good Greek salad in the new city where I work yet, but I had a business lunch scheduled at a bistro near my office last Friday. I had hoped that a Greek salad would be on the menu there. It was!

Now sadly, it was a bit disappointing. The dressing was delicious, but I had to hunt to find cheese (and I LOVE cheese) and the olives were bland. Plus, they used white onions instead of a red one, and that just overwhelmed the salad.

Coincidentally, when I arrived back at work and checked my email, someone had sent me this recipe! I decided that since my Greek salad for lunch was such a disappointment, I’d try again at dinner. It’s the perfect meal for a summer Friday night at home. This salad hit the spot, plus it calls for leaving the feta cheese in a large slab. No missing cheese in this recipe!

The friend who sent me this recipe has a “spiralizer,” one of those new gadgets that you’ve seen everywhere that turn veggies into “noodles.” You can use a food processor or just a really sharp knife, too.

Greek Cucumber Salad with Lemon and Feta

Ingredients:
1/2 seedless English cucumber (about 7 oz)
1/4 green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
5 kalamata olives, pitted
1Tbs red onion, sliced
1/2 fresh lemon
1 oz fresh feta, sliced thick
1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, minced

Directions:
“Spiralize” the cucumbers using the chipper blade of a Paderno spiralizer. Cut the strands into smaller pieces, about 5-6 inches long, so it’s easier to eat. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can just dice the cucumbers with a knife into small cubes.

Place the cucumber in a large work bowl along with the bell pepper, tomatoes, olives and red onion. Squeeze half of the lemon over it. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and toss with fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Place on a plate, top with a slice of feta and finish with remaining olive oil.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 225, Fat: 16 g, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 7 g, Sugar: 1 g, Sodium: 697.5 mg, Cholesterol: 25 mg.

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Dine In: Bacon Cheese Stuffed Portobellos


Bacon Cheese Stuffed PortobellosI’ve mentioned before that we spend a lot of time sitting on our back porch, especially on weekends. It seems like some of our best family conversations happen on that porch (or in the car, but that’s another post).

On one recent Friday night, my older son asked me, “Mom, what do you want me to be when I grow up?”

I was caught a little off guard, but I answered, “Whatever makes you happy.”

He wanted to know if I wanted him to make a lot of money.

I told him no, I wanted him to do something he was passionate about because if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I forget who said that, but it was someone famous.

He said he’d think about it.

I told him he didn’t have to decide today. He’s only 12, after all.

It did make me think, wondering if I talk too much about money or about how much things cost. When it came down to it, I decided that I didn’t because material objects are not what we value in my family.

Instead, we value things like laughter, going to church together, and cooking and talking on the back porch. To us, that’s priceless.

Bacon Cheese Stuffed Portobellos

Ingredients:
5 slices bacon
6 portobello mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp onion, chopped
3/4 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Crumble and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove mushroom stems. Set aside caps. Finely chop stems.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook and stir the chopped stems and onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, stir together the mushroom/onion mixture with bacon and 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix well. Spoon into mushroom caps.

Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Top mushrooms with remaining cheese and sprinkle with parsley.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 376, Calories from Fat: 254, Fat: 28 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 123 mg, Sodium: 1310 mg, Potassium: 125 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Dine In: Peanut Butter Pound Cake


Peanut Butter Pound CakeThis is baking as I type, and I wish your computer screen had a scratch-and-sniff feature because I assure you, you’d want one for this cake!

Peanut butter is always delicious, and when paired with pound cake, it’s even better. The fun thing about pound cake is that it’s so versatile and this cake is no exception.

Tonight, I am having friends over and grilling dinner, which we’ll enjoy al fresco on my back porch. I planned for a lighter dinner, so we can indulge in a decadent dessert. After the cake bakes and cools, I’m going to slice it into thick pieces, and tonight I’ll put them on the grill to warm them up, then serve with ice cream.

Peanut Butter Pound Cake

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
10 oz swirled milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325° F. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.

Beat butter, sugars and peanut butter at medium speed until fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to butter/sugar mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, until done. If necessary, cover top of cake with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Garnish, if desired, with confectioners’ sugar.

Serves 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 435, Calories from Fat: 170, Fat: 19 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (9 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 90 mg, Sodium: 224 mg, Potassium: 194 mg, Carbohydrates: 60 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 34 g, Protein: 10 g

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Dine In: Spicy Mustard Shrimp


Spicy Mustard ShrimpI had big plans one recent Friday night. I was going to get home from work, put some shrimp on the barbie and relax on the back porch.

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans.

It rained.

No, more accurately, it monsooned. (Ok, I know that’s not a word).

I quickly Googled shrimp recipes I could cook inside and found this gem. The mustard sauce is a perfect pairing for the shrimp.

Spicy Mustard Shrimp

Ingredients:
2 tsp canola oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard  
1 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
2/3 cup green onions, (3-inch) diagonally cut  
1 cup mango (about 1 medium), peeled and diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped  
4 lime wedges

Directions:
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add mustard and pepper sauce to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in onions; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in diced mango. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 181, Fat: 4.5 g (1 g Saturated Fat, 2 g Monounsaturated Fat, 2 g Polyunsaturated Fat), Protein: 26 g, Carbohydrates: 10 g, Fiber: 2 g, Cholesterol: 172 mg, Iron: 3 mg, Sodium: 247 mg, Calcium: 82 mg.

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Dine In: Stuffed Poblano Peppers


Stuffed PeppersA few weeks ago, I was craving Mexican food in the worst way.

I was sitting at my desk, dreaming about creamy enchiladas or a crispy quesadilla, and I just knew that we had to forgo pizza that Friday night in lieu of a Mexican meal.

In addition, I was feeling a little creative and didn’t feel like digging up a recipe, so I decided to make one up. The result was delicious, and we enjoyed stuffed poblano peppers on the patio with mock margaritas.

I love poblano peppers. To me, they have just enough heat to jazz up the dish but not overwhelm your taste buds. I charred mine first, but you could steam them, too. 

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Ingredients:
4 large poblano peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can green enchilada sauce or salsa verde
8 oz sour cream

Directions:
To char peppers, hold over a gas flame or over the grill until the skin on the peppers blisters and begins to darken (you can also do this on the top rack of your oven, under the broiler). Remove from the direct heat, place in a brown paper bag and let stand for 10 minutes.

Remove from the bag and peel the top layer of flesh off. Slit the peppers lengthwise; scoop out seeds and pith.

Brown ground beef; drain fat. Add cream cheese, cheeses and spices; stir until creamy.

Stuff one quarter of the meat mixture into each pepper and press to close.

Place, seam side down, in a baking dish covered with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, combine enchilada sauce and sour cream over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy. Do not let boil.

Pour sauce over peppers. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, or until bubbly. 

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 703, Calories from Fat: 430, Fat: 48 g (28 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 212 mg, Sodium: 1040 mg, Potassium: 848 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 55 g.

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Dine In: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa


Grilled Salmon Avocado SalsaMy family has gone on a chicken strike.

Apparently, I make it too often, even though I try my best to vary the recipes I use.

They love pork, but honestly, I get tired of that, too.

We never, ever, get tired of salmon, however.

This recipe has pretty much all my favorite things. I can’t get enough of avocados this spring so to make an avocado salsa brings me closer to heaven, I think. We love to grill, and we love Friday nights on the porch.

Plus, between the salmon and the avocado, this recipe will be chock full of “good,” heart-healthy fats.

Try it this weekend!

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:
2 lb salmon, cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp black pepper

For the avocado salsa:
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
juice from 2 limes
1-2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
salt, to taste

Directions:
Mix the salt, chile powder, cumin, paprika, onion and black pepper together; rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and this seasoning mix.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium.

Combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño and salt in a bowl and mix well; chill until ready to use.

Grill the salmon to desired doneness (salmon tastes best with a pink center and is perfectly safe to eat).

Top with avocado salsa.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 419, Calories from Fat: 224, Fat: 25 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 100 mg, Sodium: 689 mg, Potassium: 1116 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 45 g.

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