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Dine In: Crawfish Cornbread


Crawfish CornbreadSome Friday nights are just made for comfort food.

Last night was one of them.

One of my best friends has had a run of bad luck recently. He doesn’t love his new job. He and his girlfriend broke up. And, he was in a car accident yesterday. (He wasn’t hurt, thank goodness). So it’s not a stretch to say that he hasn’t been in the best of moods lately.

The car accident was the straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back. This called for comfort food, and I was happy to oblige because I think cooking is my love language. He loves anything Cajun and he really loves crawfish, but I wasn’t dumping pounds of mudbugs all over my kitchen table in the middle of a booming thunderstorm and tornado watch, so crawfish cornbread it was! It meets all my requirements for comfort food: warm, cheesy and casserole-like. He loved it, especially with the brownies I made for dessert.

I found frozen crawfish tails in the freezer section of Brookshire’s. Saved me a ton of work!

Crawfish Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 oz) jar diced pimentos, drained
1/3 cup vegetable oil 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (15 oz) can cream-style corn
1/3 cup chopped jalapeño peppers
1 lb peeled crawfish tails
1 pinch seasoned salt, or to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 pinch garlic powder, or to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F, and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Stir together cornmeal, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, onion, green pepper, pimentos, vegetable oil, cheddar cheese, cream-style corn, jalapeño peppers, crawfish tails, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper and garlic powder until the mixture is well combined. Pour the crawfish mixture into the cornmeal mixture, and stir together. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cornbread is lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 209, Fat: 10.8 g, Cholesterol: 86 mg, Sodium: 534 mg, Carbohydrates: 18.6 g, Fiber: 1.5 g, Protein: 10.4 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Seafood


Dine In: Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pasta


PastaWhen we had our children 17 months apart, we didn’t go out much. Go figure.

Every Friday night, the boys’ dad would bring home take-out. I’d get a break from cooking, and he’d get a break from helping me clean up. That was pretty much heaven to the parents of two babies, both of whom had jobs other than the sweet children.

When the kids got a bit older, we’d venture out every now and then, every once in a GREAT while, mind you. Taking two kids under three years old out to dinner isn’t always fun. Plus, they often can’t eat what’s on the menu, so you either have to pack them food or find something to order they’ll like.

One Friday night, we were at a fairly well-known national restaurant, and we ordered spinach and artichoke dip for an appetizer. Our older son, not known for his proclivity for green veggies, kept reaching for it. We finally gave him a taste and he ended up eating most of the rest of it, with a spoon.

I found this recipe for a pasta that mimicked the dish he loved that night, and it’s been a family favorite ever since. 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pasta

Ingredients:
8 oz penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan), grated
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
8 oz spinach, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Start cooking pasta as directed on the package. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a few minutes while stirring. Add the milk and cook while stirring until it thickens up, about 1-2 minutes. Add the cheese and cook while stirring until they melt, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the artichokes and spinach, and cook while stirring until the spinach wilts, about 1-2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 497, Fat: 20 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (11 g Saturated Fat, Cholesterol: 97 mg, Sodium: 488 mg, Carbohydrates: 59 g, Fiber: 7.4 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 24 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Fettuccine with Bacon


DineIn_FettuccineBacon_228x173It was a cold, snowy Friday night in a small chalet in the shadow of the Zugspitze.

The Zugspitze, the highest mountain peak in Germany, towers above the town of Garmisch and is part of the mountain range that divides Germany from Austria. It’s the stuff “Sound of Music” dreams are made of and a very romantic location for a weekend getaway in a fairytale chalet.

The chalet we stayed in that weekend was quintessential Germany, heavy beams, whitewashed stucco walls, fluffy down comforters, a roaring fire and hissing radiators.

In the dining room, a heavy wooden table dominated the center of the room in front of the two-story stone fireplace, and visitors and locals alike snuggled into the table with steins of robust beer and hearty conversation.

You didn’t really get a choice of meals at that chalet, but everything the matron of the house served was amazing. Our first night there, she made fettuccine alfredo with smoked bacon (no doubt it was freshly cured) and I craved it every night afterward.

This recipe comes as close to that night in the German chalet as any other I’ve tried.

Fettuccine with Bacon

Ingredients:
1 (9 oz) pkg refrigerated fresh fettuccine (or 9 oz dried, increase cooking time)
2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 oz) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt and reserved 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley and pepper.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 339, Fat: 11.7 g (5 g Saturated Fat, 3.8 g Monounsaturated Fat, 0.7 g Polyunsaturated Fat), Protein: 17.3 g, Carbohydrates: 38.4 g, Fiber: 2 g, Cholesterol: 22 mg, Iron: 0.5 mg, Sodium: 833 mg, Calcium: 291 mg.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Spicy Shrimp with Chiles


Spicy ShrimpSometimes keeping it simple on a Friday night is the best way to go, especially now that spring is springing and I’d rather spend time on the patio with my good friends and my kids than slaving away in the kitchen.  

I don’t mind slaving away in the kitchen, mind you, but some Friday nights I’m just worn out.

In my quest for all things spicy, I came across this recipe. It cooks up quickly and it’s figure-friendly.

I tested it out on a recent patio night and my friends loved it. I would have added more chilies, but then again, I like things hot!

With this recipe, it’s important to cook the shrimp in batches. If not, it almost steams and your result is a chewier shrimp. 

Spicy Shrimp with Chilies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 dried chilies, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and half of the chilies; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high; When hot, add half of the shrimp. Cook undisturbed for about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook until opaque throughout, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil and remaining chilies; cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining shrimp to the pan and cook, undisturbed, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over, add the garlic and cook until the shrimp is opaque throughout, about 1 minute. Return the first batch of shrimp to the skillet, mix well so that the garlic is evenly incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the shrimp. Add the parsley and toss well.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 147, Fat: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 3 g, Fiber: 0 g, Protein: 23 g, Sugar: 0 g, Sodium: 171 mg, Cholesterol: 172 mg.

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Posted in: Dine In, Seafood


Dine In: Chocolate Stout Cake


Chocolate Stout CakeMonday is St. Patrick’s Day and as we all know, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

Taking it another step, Guinness beer is the patron drink of the Emerald Isle.

This stout actually has a really cool story.

The Guinness family started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. On Dec. 31, 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per year for the unused brewery. Ten years later, Guinness first exported his ale; he shipped six-and-a-half barrels to Great Britain. Throughout history, the Guinness company has only made three different beers, but more significant is their contribution to society. Designed to be very much the “working man’s” beer, the Guinness company was said to be committed to providing jobs and bolstering the economy and supporting civic efforts.

This cake combines Guinness beer (or another stout, but let’s use Guinness in honor of the upcoming holiday) and chocolate for a rich flavor.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Ingredients:
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
6 oz good semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 Tbsp heavy cream
3/4 tsp instant coffee granules

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter or spray a Bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their Bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!) Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a heavy, large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.

Ganache:
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 494, Calories from Fat: 239, Fat: 27 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 88 mg, Sodium: 438 mg, Potassium: 144 mg, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 41 g, Protein: 5 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Strawberry Pie


Strawberry PieCooking for someone for the first time is always nerve-wracking. Wouldn’t you agree, especially when you’re kind of hoping to impress that someone? “They” say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and “they” say that for a reason. Cooking for someone is a gift of love. It takes time, energy, preparation and attention to detail, and it’s just plain fun.

My someone special loves strawberries. In fact, he ordered a strawberry cake on one of our first dates, and we had an “argument” over whether the frosting was natural or artificially colored. He won that one; the frosting on that particular cake was made with the juice from macerated strawberries. Him: 1, Me: 0. However, I leveled the playing field with this simple, classic strawberry pie. You can make the crust homemade or buy an already-prepared one!

Him: 1, Me: 1.

Strawberries and Cream Pie

Ingredients:
Crust:
2 refrigerated pie crusts, softened
7 oz almond paste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 egg white

Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Topping:
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
8 fresh whole strawberries, if desired

Directions:
Heat oven to 400° F. Unroll 1 crust on work surface. Into medium bowl or food processor, crumble almond paste. Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch and the egg white. Mix or cover, and process until smooth. Spread on crust to within 1 1/4 inches of edge. Unroll second crust; place on top and pat together gently. Place stuffed crust in an ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Seal edges; flute. Cover edge with foil; fit second pie plate inside first pie plate on top of crust.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove top pie plate; gently prick crust surface over filling about 15 times with fork. Bake uncovered about 15 minutes longer or until crust is light golden-brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan, mix granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Stir in strawberries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until filling thickens. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, stirring once, until cool.

Just before serving, spread strawberry filling in crust. In medium bowl, beat whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Spread on top of pie. Garnish with strawberries.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 271, Calories from Fat: 120, Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 18 mg, Sodium: 50 mg, Potassium: 182 mg, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 26 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Curt’s Pull-Apart Pizza Bread


Pizza BreadFor the past year or two, my two boys have been helping plan out weekly menus, but for the past few months, I’ve been trying to let them cook the meals they’ve chosen.

We’ve had some successes and some near disasters, but it’s been a fun learning process.

The disaster: Curt and Luke made an enchilada bake. It called for several spices, and I let the boys get them out of the pantry, measure out the proper amount and add them to the meat and sauce mixture that was simmering on the stovetop. Well, let’s just say I didn’t monitor closely and curry was accidentally substituted for cumin. We ate it, darn it, but it did have a…let’s say…unique flavor.

Curt knocked it out of the ballpark last Friday night. He made a pull-apart pizza bread from a recipe we found on Pinterest. It said it served six. I think in my house that must mean three. However, Curt did note it would also make a fun appetizer. Curt, who is 12, prepared this all from start to finish, making it a fun family treat for a Friday night.

Curt’s Pull-Apart Pizza Bread

Ingredients:
2 cans refrigerated biscuits, each biscuit cut into fourths
12 oz pepperoni, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp oregano
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine biscuit pieces and pepperoni. Pour olive oil over, and sprinkle with garlic salt and oregano. Stir gently to coat all biscuit pieces. Add cheese and toss to mix (using your hands is probably easiest).

Preheat oven to 350° F. Pour mixture into a Bundt pan. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with marinara or pizza sauce for dipping. 

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 709, Calories from Fat: 433, Fat: 48 g, Trans Fat: 1 g (18 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 2197 mg, Potassium: 323 mg, Carbohydrates: 36 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 34 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Lazy Cake Cookies


Cake CookiesI have to admit, this recipe had me at “lazy.”

Sometimes on Friday nights, I’m worn out but I still want the evening to be special. There’s nothing better than cuddling up with my boys on a Friday night and enjoying our time together after a busy week.

The Olympics are still on and we’ve been having a grand time watching the different events. My younger son already has a bit of hero-worship going on for snow boarder Sage Kotsenburg, and I’m quite entranced by the 15-year-old Russian figure skater whose name I’m not even going to attempt to spell.

As we were watching the other night after dinner, the boys said they were hungry for dessert. I had nothing in the house, but after a quick Google search, I found these. They were quick, easy and delicious, and the boys helped me make them. They were so good warm! Next time we make them, hopefully they’ll last long enough to serve with ice cream.

Lazy Cake Cookies

Ingredients:
1 box of yellow or white cake mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together and bake in a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray at 350° F for 20 minutes.

When cooled, cut into squares.

Serves 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 417, Calories from Fat: 196, Fat: 22 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 55 mg, Sodium: 374 mg, Carbohydrates: 51 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 33 g, Protein: 5 g

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Valentine’s Day Stuffed Portobellos


Stuffed MushroomI’m having a serious love affair.

This Valentine’s Day, my sweetie is big and strong, dark and swarthy. Boy is he hot!

He’s also my grill.

I finally got a real grill recently, after years of cooking on a small, propane camping grill. The poor little grill lost burner after burner until it reached the point I’d have to grill our four burgers one at a time over the one corner flame.

So, needless to say when I got the real grill, I’ve been spending every available minute with it on the porch. I’ve even grilled breakfast several times. I’ve grilled in the rain; I’ve grilled late at night. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of my grill and I think my love will just grow hotter.

These Grilled Stuffed Portobellos would be a great Valentine’s Day meal, appetizer or side dish for you and your sweetie – whoever (or whatever) they may be!

Grilled Stuffed Portobellos

Ingredients:
4 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
4 oz whipped cream cheese
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
4 slices bacon
hot sauce
salt and pepper
2 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Cook bacon. Cool.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook spinach and garlic in olive oil until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, feta cheese, salt and pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Crumble back into cheese mixture. Stir in spinach and garlic, and combine thoroughly.

Spoon one-fourth of mixture into each mushroom cap.

Heat grill to medium. Place mushroom caps on direct heat, and grill until mushrooms soften but are still firm, about 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 172, Calories from Fat: 95, Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium: 654 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 14 g

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Denver Omelet Nachos


NachosI know the Super Bowl is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try something fun another day of the year.

Obviously, the Denver Broncos played in the Big Game this year (as of writing deadline time, outcome undetermined). I was searching for foods that would reflect both teams and, frankly, having a hard time with Denver.

By their own admission, the only things Denverites could claim were the omelet and game meats.

I’ve had the Denver omelet 9 million times. What kind of fun appetizer food is that?

However, I thought those would taste good on nachos (borrowing from a local restaurant breakfast favorite, chorizo breakfast nachos).

The Denver Omelet Nachos were born. We’ve never eaten them for breakfast, but we did partake for dinner.

Delish!

Denver Omelet Nachos

Ingredients:
8 cups tortilla chips
6 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups ham, diced
2 large green bell peppers, diced
1 large onion, diced
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Sautee peppers and onions in a nonstick skillet sprayed with nonstick spray until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ham; stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and scramble until soft-set.

Place tortilla chips on a large baking sheet. Cover with egg mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

Preheat broiler to high.

Place under broiler until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 435, Calories from Fat: 190, Fat: 21 g (9 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 306 mg, Sodium: 1130 mg, Carbohydrates: 33 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 29 g

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