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Dine In: Chile Relleno Soup

Chile Relleno SoupThere was a time when I made it my mission to taste every chile relleno at every Mexican restaurant in a 100-mile radius.

I think I was pretty successful; there’s really no more relleno dishes left that I haven’t taste-tested. I know to avoid the soggy, greasy dish at one certain restaurant. I know that at another, the golden, crisp goodness and gooey cheese is what I’m going to eat before I even open the menu.

I’ve tried making chile rellenos at home, with varying degrees of success.

However, this soup highlights the essence of the dish, without having to deep-fry anything.

The best part is that you can eat it at home on your back porch in front of a roaring fire on a lazy Friday night. No reservations or gratuity required.

Chile Relleno Soup

4 poblano peppers
4 Tbs butter
1/4 cup onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
3 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Roast the peppers over a gas flame or in the oven under the broiler on high heat until pepper skin is charred and blistered. Put peppers into brown paper bag, and close bag. Let steam and cool for about 20 minutes. Rub the skin to remove as much char as possible. Then, remove seeds and pith; finely chop.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook until foamy. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and poblano peppers. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add in the chicken broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the chicken, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Incorporate cream cheese and cheddar cheese into the broth, whisking until smooth. To serve, divide into bowls, and then top with remaining cheese. Serve immediately with finely diced tomatoes and minced fresh cilantro, optional.

Nutritional Information: Calories from Fat: 341, Fat: 38 g, Carbohydrates: 10.24 g, Fiber: 2.64 g, Protein: 41.11 g, Cholesterol: 183 mg.

Dine In: Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Slow Cooker French Onion SoupA few weeks ago, I had lunch at my favorite local bakery and café, a place I eat so frequently that everybody knows my name. It helps that my BFF’s daughter is the manager there, too.

I went in for lunch, and the owner greeted me and suggested that I try the French Onion Soup.

To be totally honest, while I like French Onion Soup, it’s never something I crave or choose off a menu.

She brought me a little cup of soup, and I was hooked. I even went back later in the week for some more, and now I’ve made them promise to alert me on days they are serving the magical soup.

Their French Onion Soup is a secret family recipe. No amount of cajoling could get them to give it up. However, I do know one of the major ingredients, so I set off to find a similar recipe featuring red wine. I also know it’s slow-cooked for hours.

French Onion Soup is definitely a meal that you can dress up for a stay-at-home date night or serve as a hearty fall family dinner.

I can’t wait to make it at home, and then enjoy the leftovers all weekend long.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large yellow onions, slivered
8 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1 loaf French bread, sliced into 4 thick slices
6 Tbs butter
1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, sliced

Combine bay leaf, garlic, onions, beef broth, wine, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or more.

Spread butter on 4 slices of bread. Ladle soup into four oven-proof bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of bread, butter-side up, and then add a slice of Gruyere cheese. Broil on high until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 648, Calories from Fat: 351, Fat: 39 g (22 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 108 mg, Sodium: 2470 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 32 g.

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Dine In: Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Chicken Cordon Bleu CasseroleGrowing up, the gold standard for a fancy meal was Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I figured if we were having that dish, it was a special occasion. This all stems from my parents taking me to a French restaurant for an early birthday, at age 10 maybe, and that clearly made a huge impression on me. Also, that was the first time I had Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I think I requested it for every birthday after that.

Chicken Cordon Bleu is still a pretty snazzy meal in my book, but it’s faster to make in casserole form!

You can purchase a rotisserie chicken to make this dish quickly as a great date night dish for a Friday night.

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

6 cups cooked chicken, shredded (from 2 lb chicken)
6 oz ham, diced
4 oz butter, melted
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white wine, optional
2 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz Swiss cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken in the bottom of the pan, and top with pieces of ham.

In a food processor, combine butter, cream cheese, white wine (optional), mustard, lemon juice and salt. Blend until thickened. Pour over chicken and ham in the baking dish, and top with slices of Swiss cheese.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until hot and bubbly.

If desired, broil under high heat for 2 minutes to get cheese golden.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 605, Fat: 39 g (22 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 226 mg, Sodium: 928 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 57 g.

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Dine In: Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider

Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple CiderFall is the time for porch parties, fires in the chiminea and cooking out under the stars!

I’ve prided myself on learning how to build a fire in my chiminea near the back porch without having to use lighter fluid to get it started because lighter fluid is yuck. I really don’t want it stored in my garage, and I really don’t want to smell the fumes, however short-lived, in my fire.

I feel kind of like the Girl Scout I never was. Do Girl Scouts learn to build fires? I don’t know, but it’s probably a skill everyone should have. You never know when you’re going to be stranded and need to stay warm. Forget this is the South. Pretend you are camping. Or without electricity for days at a time (that happens in hurricane season). Or just learn to build a fire so you can enjoy the ambiance on your back porch on a Friday night after a long week.

I use pinion wood. It smells SO GOOD. Why does no one make a pinion wood candle, I wonder? Probably because you can get the scent from the aforementioned fire in the fire pit on your back porch. The wood needs to be super dry. I stack it on its end, forming a “tent” with the logs. Inside the tent, I pile my kindling and my super-secret fire starter. OK, so my super-secret fire starter is a cardboard toilet paper tube stuffed tightly with lint from the dryer. Yes, really. It is an amazing fire starter. Thank you, Pinterest.

Then, I light it. Voila! It creates a beautiful fire for a cozy porch party.

While relaxing on the porch, you need something to sip.

This is a great fall beverage you can prepare ahead of time, so it’s ready to sip when you’re ready to sit.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider

1 liter pure unsweetened apple juice
2 cups pure unsweetened orange juice
1 liter unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 cup sugar, stevia, honey or other sweetener (to taste)
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Pour all juices into the crockery of the slow cooker. Stir in sweetener, cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.

Serve with skewers of oranges and cranberries.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 166, Calories from Fat: 2, Fat: 0 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 5 mg, Carbohydrates: 40 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 34 g, Protein: 1 g.

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Dine In: Baked Parmesan-Garlic Salmon

Baked Parmesan-Garlic SalmonI love finding new ways to eat salmon. I mean, it’s hard to beat my favorite salmon recipe, which is grilling it with dill, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of lemon juice. However, this method might be a tie for favorite.

It reminds me of being at the beach, and we all know that anything beach-related is good, even though we just celebrated the first day of fall.

The butter in this recipe keeps the fish moist, and the garlic and parmesan add a rich flavor. As always, you do NOT want to overcook the fish, so stay on the lower side of the cooking times. You can always put it back in the oven if you need to.

Date night will be a breeze with this simple recipe. Some roasted asparagus and a salad would be a great accompaniment.

Baked Parmesan-Garlic Salmon

1 1/2 lbs salmon
3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375° F. While the oven is heating, cut a piece of aluminum foil long enough to wrap around the salmon and form a packet.

Melt the butter. Add lemon juice, garlic, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Place the salmon skin-side down on the foil, and brush liberally with butter mixture. Top with fresh parsley. Fold the foil around salmon, sealing well.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Vent the top of the foil, and broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven. Plate the salmon, and sprinkle with additional fresh parsley or parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 308, Fat: 19 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 98 mg, Sodium: 429 mg, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 33 g.

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Dine In: Date Night Asiago Asparagus

Date Night Asiago AsparagusI love asparagus, but my significant other, not so much.

So, when I was dying to have it as a side dish recently alongside a hunk of burning (ie, grilled) meat, he was kind enough to say he’d make it for ME, and could we please have a salad, too?

Well, I decided to try to change his mind about asparagus. While I generally just steam it, this roasted version is amazing.

Of course, what’s not to like about a dish with cheese and bacon, when it comes right down to it? Don’t overcook these veggies; the asparagus should still be crisp-tender when it comes out of the oven.

You can always prepare this in advance, and roast the asparagus while the meat is grilling.

Date Night Asiago Asparagus

1 1/2 lbs asparagus, trimmed
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
4 slices bacon, cooked, drained of fat and chopped

Preheat oven to 425° F. Place asparagus in a large, greased casserole dish. Toss with olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt, pepper and minced garlic. Toss to coat thoroughly. Roast, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Sprinkle half of grated cheese all over asparagus. Then, add chopped bacon, and top with more cheese. Roast for 10 more minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 454, Calories from Fat: 318, Fat: 35 g (15 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 82 mg, Sodium: 1347 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 29 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In

Dine In: Date Night Greek Lemon Chicken

Date Night Greek Lemon ChickenWhen Friday nights don’t involve football or driving the Mom taxi, I love a date night dish that can be prepared in one pan.

This Greek chicken is bursting with flavor, is healthy and good for you, and comes together in just a few minutes. Definitely marinate this overnight to let the lemon permeate the chicken. It’s so delicious that way. You can marinate the chicken as you’re preparing the rest of the meal, but the flavor is more intense if you do it overnight.

You can buy cauliflower already riced and packaged. It’ll be near the prepared bags of salad in your store, or you can buy a head of cauliflower and pulse it in your food processor. It’s that simple. You can also skip the cauliflower entirely and serve this with a side of orzo.

Date Night Greek Lemon Chicken

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lbs)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 Tbs Greek seasoning
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts
12 oz cauliflower rice
1/2 lemon, sliced

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, Greek seasoning and salt in a small bowl. Pour into a gallon-sized, zip-top plastic bag. Then, place chicken in the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

When it’s time to eat, heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sear the chicken, skin-side down, for 5 to 6 minutes without moving. Flip the chicken, reduce heat to medium-high, and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic and onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and artichokes, stirring frequently. Add the cauliflower rice; cook for 5 minutes. Add the lemon slices, chicken and any juices from the chicken. Heat through and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 477, Calories from Fat: 181, Fat: 20 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 151 mg, Sodium: 1027 mg, Carbohydrates: 21 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 55 g.

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Dine In: Power-Packed Pasta

Power-Packed PastaMy sons are both running competitive cross country this year with their respective schools, and I couldn’t be more excited for the change in pace from the Saturday soccer games we’ve (gladly) attended for the past 10 years.

Their first meet is coming up, and we’re going to be prepared by carb-loading the night before, for energy, because it never seems like teenage boys have enough fuel to get them through the day, let alone an athletic event.

For the night before a race, a cross country runner should eat a meal high in carbs and moderate in fat and protein. They should also drink a lot of water, or “camel up” as the saying goes.

Since our meets are on Saturdays, Friday nights are the perfect time for a power-packed meal.

Power-Packed Pasta (i.e. Spaghetti and Meatballs)

1 lb whole-grain spaghetti

1 lb lean ground beef
2 Tbs whole milk
2 Tbs parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbs panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs parsley, chopped
1 Tbs dried oregano

1 white onion, diced
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (48 oz) can tomato sauce
2 (14.5 oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
1 (4 oz) can tomato paste
fresh parsley, oregano and basil, to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Start your sauce first. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When it starts to become fragrant and shimmers, sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, and stir for 1 more minute. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and all spices. Stir together. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to medium-low to let simmer.

While your sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs. Preheat oven to 400° F. In a small bowl, combine milk and breadcrumbs. In a large bowl, place ground beef, cheese and spices. Add in moistened breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly. Shape into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Bake at 400° F until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add meatballs to sauce immediately.

Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil. Add whole-grain spaghetti; cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well. Serve with sauce and meatballs, with a side salad and garlic bread.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 524, Fat: 12 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 123 mg, Sodium: 1616 mg, Carbohydrates: 69 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 38 g.

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Dine In: First Week of School Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

First Week of School Slow Cooker Chicken SoupThe first week of school did me in.


Between wrangling school supplies, gym clothes, homework, backpacks, instruments, equipment and early mornings, I’m done with a capital “D.” Done.

It was imperative that I serve an easy but healthy meal to cap off the first week of school.

This chicken soup fit the bill perfectly. It slow cooks all day, so you don’t have to wrangle dinner, on top of everything else Friday afternoon. It’s also Paleo, low-fat and full of flavor. Don’t skip the bones or the skin; they add flavor and nutrients to the soup. If you can make a clean cut, you can even cut through the bone with a cleaver (like I said, clean cut so there’s no shards in your soup), so the bone marrow can leach into your soup and infuse it with flavor and health benefits.

It’s a great meal for a Friday night or any school night.

First Week of School Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs basil
1 Tbs oregano
2 organic chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
2 organic chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups filtered water

Layer onions, celery, carrots and chicken in the slow cooker, ensuring chicken is bone-side down on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with spices and apple cider vinegar. Add water to cover the vegetables, and come up to the midway point of the chicken, between 3 to 4 cups.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Remove meat; discard skin and bones. Shred the chicken meat, and add back to the slow cooker.

Add more seasoning, if desired; heat through and serve.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 462, Calories from Fat: 153, Fat: 17 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 202 mg, Sodium: 704 mg, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 67 g.

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Dine In: Buffalo Chicken Casserole

Buffalo Chicken CasseroleSometimes, I need a buffalo chicken fix like nobody’s business.

It happened not too long ago on a Friday night when my kids weren’t home. My sweetie and I had the option to go to a nice restaurant for an adult meal at a place where there were no video games or TVs playing sports, where they put wine glasses on the table, and where they don’t hand you a roll of paper towels to clean your hands.

Did we do that? No.

“Um, can we go get wings?” I asked.

Wings it was; my sweetie is quite accommodating that way. I pile-drived through a basket of spicy buffalo wings, and I don’t even think I came up for air. Yes, there was a roll of paper towels on the table.

When I saw this recipe, I knew I was going to pile-drive through it, too. It’s a super fun recipe for a Friday night, and who doesn’t love fun on Friday? I know I do!

You can adjust the heat in this recipe; I tend to make it hotter.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

6 small chicken thighs
6 slices bacon
3 medium jalapeños, seeded and pithed
12 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F. Debone chicken thighs, and season with salt and pepper. Bake chicken thighs at 400° F for 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Chop up bacon slices, and cook until crisp. Just before the end of cooking, add jalapeños to the pan; cook until soft. Drain fat.

Return the pan to the stove (turn off heat). Add cream cheese, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Mix together until smooth.

When chicken is cool to the touch, remove skins. Place in a casserole dish, and top with cream cheese mixture. Then, add a layer of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Return to 400° F oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 711, Fat: 462 g (24 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 222 mg, Sodium: 1165 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 55 g.

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