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Dine In: Pumpkin Pie Cake


Pumpkin Pie CakeI don’t care what the calendar says; as soon as school starts, it’s fall! Fall means all things pumpkin. Major chains are selling pumpkin coffees, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin cookies and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Pumpkin in quintessentially fall, from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pies. I remember growing up in Virginia where it was actually cool by the time school started and enjoying pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake and, of course, carving pumpkins then roasting the seeds to eat!

This recipe sounded amazing as it embodies all your favorite flavors of pumpkin pie in a cake!

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Ingredients:
1 can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pkg yellow cake mix (gluten-free works as well)
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup nuts, chopped

Topping:
2 (12 oz) ctn whipped cream cheese frosting

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Add the pumpkin, eggs, milk, sugar and spices to a stand mixer; mix well. Next, mix in the cake mix and butter. If you choose to use nuts, mix those in at this point as well.

Pour the mix into two 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Once baked, let them cool completely.

Carefully remove and release them from the pan once they are fully cooled.

When cooled, add a thin layer of frosting on top of one cake, then place the other cake on top of the icing, making a 2-layer cake.
Serve immediately or serve chilled.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 554, Calories from Fat: 270, Fat: 30 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 104 mg, Sodium: 524 mg, Potassium: 260 mg, Carbohydrates: 67 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 48 g, Protein: 8 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Goulash


GoulashI decided today that it is fall.

I can’t wear boots yet. The calendar hasn’t said it’s officially autumn yet, but it feels like fall. Football is on, soccer season has started, school is in full-swing and one of my friends in Colorado posted a picture of it snowing today. I’d say it’s close enough.

I want to make a big pot of something yummy and soothing this weekend, true comfort food. I adore soups and stews, and I leave them simmering on the stove for hours. They smell delicious, and they certainly let me suspend the belief that it’s fall inside, if not outside.

I couldn’t decide what to make, so of course, I polled my Facebook friends. My friend, Dianna, suggested this:

Goulash

Ingredients:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced (optional)
1 (15 oz) can small dice tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups dry macaroni, cooked according to package directions
salt and pepper, to taste
cheese for topping, if desired

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni. While pasta cooks, brown the ground beef that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Drain beef well and remove meat to a bowl. In 1 tablespoon oil, cook the onion and bell pepper (if using), until softened. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add the ground beef back to skillet. Cover and cook about 15 minutes. Remove lid and add cooked macaroni. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Toss well and add cheese, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 437, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 101 mg, Sodium: 862 mg, Potassium: 985 mg, Carbohydrates: 47 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 11 g, Protein: 43 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Breakfast Egg Rolls


Breakfast Egg RollsWhy are breakfast egg rolls making an appearance on a Friday blog, you may wonder? Because I made them over the weekend and froze a bunch for a quick and easy school-morning breakfast, that’s why!

The egg rolls can be baked or fried. I baked mine at 425° F until the wrappers were golden-brown. I let them cool completely before freezing them.

The sausage gravy was the proverbial icing on the cake for my older son. My younger son wanted to dip them in queso. That worked, too. Next time, I think I’ll add some diced onion and green bell pepper and sauté it with the sausage. Maybe a jalapeño and a little bit of hot sauce for a spicier version, too. I’ll also try it with sausage INSIDE the egg roll.

Obviously, you can easily adjust the amount on this recipe by making more filling and using more wrappers.

To reheat, microwave for about a minute on high.

Breakfast Egg Rolls

Ingredients:
3/4 lb reduced fat ground sausage
4 Tbs flour
4 cups milk
3 cups shredded hash browns
3-4 eggs
2 Tbs water
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Directions:
Brown sausage in a skillet. Remove 1/2 cup to a mixing bowl. Add flour to the skillet and brown a little in the sausage fat. Slowly add milk and stir several times while it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm while making egg rolls.

Mix eggs with the water and scramble the eggs. Cook eggs in a small frying pan just until set. Add to sausage. (Don’t cook all the way through; they will finish cooking when you make the egg rolls.)

Add the potatoes and cheese to the bowl with the sausage. Add 1/2 cup of the sausage gravy mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to blend together.

To make egg rolls, take an egg roll wrapper and put about 1/3 cup of the potato sausage mixture just below the center. Fold over one half to make a triangle. You should have about a 1/2 inch of the bottom part of the wrapper still exposed. With your finger, brush a little water along that edge to help seal the egg rolls. Fold in 2 sides forming the egg roll shape. Then, roll up egg roll.

To fry the egg rolls, heat oil to 325º F. Drop egg rolls into hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden-brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with a bowl of sausage gravy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 567, Calories from Fat: 292, Fat: 32 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 178 mg, Sodium: 836 mg, Potassium: 606 mg, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 9 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Feta Spinach Grilled Cheese


Feta Spinach Grilled CheeseWe used to have pizza almost every Friday night for dinner, but this summer, we’ve largely gotten away from that habit.

We’ve replaced pizza with sandwiches. We’ve done make-your-own subs, meatball and provolone subs, steak sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches with bacon and avocado, flatbreads, gyros, veggie pita pockets and all manners of grilled cheese.

I won’t lie: this recipe was a hard sell for my two boys. It has spinach and WHITE cheese, not some of the yellow cheeses we were accustomed to using in our grilled masterpieces, like cheddar. However, after tasting these, which I literally cooked on the grill, they’ve been hooked. I’ve also made this recipe adding one ounce of goat cheese in addition to the feta and mozzarella. Delicious.

Feta Spinach Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:
1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 lb frozen cut spinach
pinch of salt and pepper
2 ciabatta rolls
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 oz feta cheese
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s warm and gives off an aroma, add garlic and stir for one minute. Add spinach, salt and pepper; sauté until spinach is just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Combine feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and red pepper flakes. Stir in spinach and combine well. Spread between ciabatta rolls.
Reheat skillet and toast sandwiches, about 2 minutes per side until golden-brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 343, Calories from Fat: 165, Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (9 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 43 mg, Sodium: 582 mg, Potassium: 68 mg, Carbohydrates: 20 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 23 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad


Lemon Orzo Chicken SaladFamily vacation at the beach entails 19 people in one house under one roof for a week. We love it, but let’s face it: even the closest of families can be so confined.

This year at the beach, it’s rained almost every day, further compounding our “togetherness.” We’ve played games, taken a trip to the local aquarium, had a dance off, played hide-and-seek with the kids (which ended badly with a downed shower curtain rod), watched movies and made T-shirts. There have been funny moments, and there have been a few tense moments.

However, there is always harmony during mealtime. Prep time constitutes happy hour. Then, we feed the kids. After the kids are full, they are dispatched to the “kids’ room” for Legos, pool or Toss Across while the adults eat.

The adults have taken to eating on the porch if the weather is conducive. This summer salad has the perfect, beachy flavors. Salty air, optional.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 cup orzo, uncooked
3 cups grilled chicken breast, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pre-chopped red onion
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
6 Tbs (1 1/2 oz) goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Combine orzo, chicken and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 274, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 215 mg, Potassium: 488 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 38 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Dominican Rice and Beans


Dominican Rice and BeansAs often happens when my large, extended family convenes, we do what all families do: give each other a hard time.

This week, while we’re all at the beach together, the “hard time” factor is ratcheted up a notch…or two.

We each take turns making a meal for each other during the vacation week. My sister-in-law, Juli, and brother, Andy, grilled shrimp and beef for tacos or fajitas, and Juli made rice and beans.

“These aren’t Mexican,” my brother, Jim, pointed out as we sat down to eat, completely counterintuitive to the Mexican meal Juli and Andy were trying to prepare.

Jim has spent quite a bit of time in Latin America, unlike the rest of us who rely on Pinterest and the Food Network for our exposure to other cuisines.

Luckily, Andy and Juli have a good sense of humor and the “correction” on the name of their dish was forgotten as soon as it was tasted.

This dish of beans, rice and pork cooked in one pot is indeed Dominican in origin. The “peasant food,” so to speak, is filling, easy to cook and great for a crowd.

Dominican Rice and Beans

Ingredients:
8 oz red kidney beans
1/2 lb smoked ham or bacon (coarsely cut into cubes)
4 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
1/2 green bell pepper (coarsely chopped)
3 sprigs cilantro (coarsely chopped)
3 medium onions (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups white rice (well rinsed)

Directions:
Soak beans overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours in a large container with enough water to generously cover. 

Drain water, transfer beans to a large stockpot and cover with 5 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the ham or bacon pieces, partially cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of water and continue cooking for 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a sofrito. In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and half of the onion, and process to a coarse paste.

In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the sofrito mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, salt, black pepper, tomato, vinegar and remaining onion to the beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir or the mixture will break up and take on a gluey consistency. The dish is done when the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 371, Calories from Fat: 59, Fat: 7 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 16 mg, Sodium: 671 mg, Potassium: 682 mg, Carbohydrates: 62 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 15 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo


Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine AlfredoIt’s no secret I love buffalo chicken. Buffalo chicken ANYTHING, that is. I made buffalo chicken breakfast burritos not too long ago. I can trace the affinity to all things spicy back to when I was pregnant with my first son. We’d ordered a pizza one night, and the delivery driver accidentally dropped off chicken bites with buffalo sauce that he claimed he couldn’t take back to the store.

I ate every last one and licked the sauce out of the plastic container. Oh yes, I did.

The love affair is now 13 years in the making and it hasn’t subsided. I don’t think I’ve licked sauce from anything since that moment, but I can’t be certain of that either. Weak moments, you know.

This recipe combines the best of both worlds for me and my kids. They love fettuccine alfredo. I love buffalo. We all win.

Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients:
1 lb fettuccine pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb chicken tenders
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs milk
1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
2 Tbs butter
1 cup half-and-half
3 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bleu cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine egg and milk in a bowl. Add bread crumbs to a separate bowl. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge chicken in egg mixture, followed by bread crumbs. Cook in skillet until evenly browned, about 6-8 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your chicken. Set chicken aside and keep warm.

Melt butter in the same skillet, slowly pour in half-and-half, and stir in mascarpone cheese until it is fully incorporated. Whisk in parmesan cheese, bleu cheese and buffalo wing sauce. Let sauce cook for 1 minute to thicken.

When pasta is ready, drain and combine with buffalo sauce. Serve with chicken tenders.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 660, Calories from Fat: 245, Fat: 27 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 139 mg, Sodium: 929 mg, Potassium: 294 mg, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 40 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp


Skinny Bang Bang ShrimpThere’s a Chinese food place near my house that has a drive-thru. It also has dinner specials. Furthermore, the food is irresistible. I love it.

I can’t control how their food is cooked, with fats and oils, so I try to recreate some of their specials at home to remove some of the temptation of driving through on a Friday night and plopping on the couch, laden with heavy sauces and too much rice.

This shrimp dish is a copy of one of theirs, removing much of the fat and replacing it with flavorful and healthier options like Greek yogurt.
You can make these on a grill or in the oven.

Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp

Ingredients:
1 lb shrimp (about 50 shrimp), cooked or uncooked, shelled and deveined
10 skewer sticks (optional)
3 Tbs plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbs chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 Tbs sweet chili sauce
1/2-3/4 Tbs sriracha sauce

Directions:
If you’re grilling on a grill, be sure to soak wood skewers for about 30 minutes in cold water so they won’t burn easily.

Combine yogurt, onion, sweet chili sauce and sriracha in a bowl and stir well. Set aside.

Place 5 shrimp on each skewer.

If shrimp are raw, grill on each side for 5-8 minutes, or until opaque and cooked through.

If shrimp are pre-cooked, place shrimp skewers on a baking sheet and bake at 350° F for 5-10 minutes, or grill for about 2 minutes on each side over high, direct heat.

Brush each hot skewer liberally with the sauce on both sides. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 156, Calories from Fat: 17, Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (0.6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 239 mg, Sodium: 367 mg, Potassium: 213 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Seafood


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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Posted in: Dine In


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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