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Dine In: Italian Sausage Sliders


Italian Sausage SlidersWe’re about to go on our annual beach vacation: one week of fun, family and food. The food is important. My whole family stays together in a beach house, and we all take a turn cooking.

This year, it’s very important to my younger son that he is an integral part of the process. From choosing the menu to helping with prep work and cooking, he has been talking about what we’re going to make for our meal for weeks now (he is MY son, after all).

We talked about it for a long time last night. It’s not easy to plan a meal that will satisfy 20 people, not take forever to cook or clean up (because who wants to spend all vacation cleaning up when there’s “Night Beach” to be had?), and doesn’t cost a fortune (it’s not cheap to feed 20 people).

We knew that we wanted to grill on our night to provide a meal. No one else was planning a grill night, and goodness knows grilled food tastes great after a day on the beach, plus it smells great mingled with sea air.

We vetoed the idea of doing ribs. It’s a great idea, except for the fact that I like to cook them on low heat in the oven for hours and finish them on the grill. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of maintenance when there’s boogie boarding, sand volleyball and sunning to do. Luke then suggested sliders, and we all loved the idea. We can do a variety of different kinds with different condiments. He approved this recipe, which sounds a little different from your basic burger.

Italian Sausage Sliders

Ingredients:
2 lb Johnsonville® All Natural Ground Sausage (or links removed from casings)
1 lb ground beef
16 small slider buns or mini sandwich rolls
condiments, including provolone cheese, marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, giardiniera (marinated chopped vegetables and olives), sautéed onions, roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms and cheddar cheese

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine sausage and beef. Using your hands, blend the two meats together and form into one large ball. Use a spoon or a small measuring cup to gather up  3-ounce balls and press into patties.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes then flip; continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Test for doneness. Internal temperature should be 160° F.

Slice the buns and top the sliders with your favorite condiments.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 248, Calories from Fat: 76, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 42 mg, Sodium: 643 mg, Potassium: 114 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 20 g

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Dine In: S’mores Bites


S’mores BitesMy friend Leslie is one of the greatest people I know. She’s smart, thoughtful, hilarious, hardworking, dedicated, strong and brave. She’s a great mom and a great friend, and she has a true servant’s heart.

She also goes bonkers over s’mores. One of my favorite Leslie experiences was one night on my back porch when I think we were enjoying a Girls’ Night In. We’d made dinner, lit a fire in my chiminea and were going to roast marshmallows for traditional s’mores. Leslie finished preparing hers first and dug right into the chocolaty, gooey, crunchy treat; the look of complete ecstasy sent us into gales of laughter.

Since then, we’ve swapped recipes for anything s’mores related that we can find!

This is one I’ve found recently and can’t wait to try.

S’mores Bites

Ingredients:
7 whole graham crackers (equals 1 cup)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
6 Tbs butter, melted
2 (1.5 5 oz) milk chocolate candy bars (like Hershey’s)
12 large marshmallows

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Finely crush the graham crackers into crumbs, using whatever method you want. I used my slap chop, but a food processor would work or putting them in a plastic bag and smashing.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and melted butter into a small bowl.

Evenly divide crumb mixture into each cup of a 24-cup mini muffin pan, greased slightly before using. Press crumbs down to form shallow cups.

Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until edges are bubbling.

While that’s baking, break the candy bars into the divided rectangle pieces. Also, cut the marshmallows in half using a pair of scissors that has been sitting in cold water.

Remove the pan from the oven and place one chocolate rectangle into each cup.

Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup.

Return to oven for 2 to 4 minutes or until marshmallows are just slightly softened.

If you’d like the tops to be brown, turn the oven to broil, and broil the s’mores bites for 1 to 2 minutes.

Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.

Do not freeze; preferably eat within 3 days of making.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 234, Calories from Fat: 106, Fat: 12 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 15 mg, Sodium: 76 mg, Potassium: 6 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 25 g, Protein: 3 g

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Dine In: No-Bake Lemon Icebox Cake


It’s funny how your tastes change as you get older, or maybe they just change with different phases in life.

When I was younger, I was all about chocolate. The more chocolate, the better. I wanted chocolate cake with mocha frosting for my birthdays. I chose a chocolate soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate every year at the ice cream shop on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach. If I was going to eat a piece of candy, it was going to be a Hershey’s Kiss over a bag of Skittles.

Now, I still love chocolate, don’t get me wrong (although I’m more apt to eat a small morsel of dark chocolate these days than pig out on chocolate cake), but over the past year or so, I’m all about citrus. I love the fresh smell, the taste and the vibrancy of anything citrus.

I love this lemon icebox cake, especially in the summertime! Its flavors are bright for the summer; you don’t have to turn on your oven, and it’s cool and refreshing – great for an every night dessert or a special Friday night meal. Next time I make this, I might make it with lemon AND lime. I also make this dessert in a trifle bowl; it’s as pretty as it is delicious.

No-Bake Lemon Icebox Cake

Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 1/2 lemons
2 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
34 lemon shortbread cookies
1/2 cup milk
whipped cream and strawberries, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with plastic wrap and set aside. In a large bowl, whip cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Stir in heavy cream and whip 1 to 2 minutes, or until filling starts to thicken. Dip each cookie one by one into the milk and line the bottom of dish with cookies to cover (cut cookies in half to fit in properly). Pour 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture over cookies and smooth the top. Repeat layering of cookies and cream until you have 3 layers of each. Cover the top with plastic wrap; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight. Cut into squares, and serve with whipped cream and strawberries.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 408, Calories from Fat: 235, Fat: 26 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (17 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 202 mg, Potassium: 56 mg, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Fiber: 0.8 g, Sugar: 21 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs


Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs	One elementary school teacher, perhaps Mrs. Riley in the second grade, told us that the way to remember how spelling “dessert” was different from spelling “desert” was that “dessert” has a second “s” because you always want seconds of desserts!

That theory worked for me.

That’s why these patriotic dessert kebabs don’t just stop at “red, white and blue.” They go for the bang with the addition of brownie bites! Two desserts on a kebab can’t be a bad thing, right?

Aside from this dessert being so simple, it’s almost not fair; it’s so cute, super sweet and so delicious that it’s not even funny. I like it because it appeals to adults, kids and everyone in between. They’re easy to prep ahead of time for a party, low maintenance at an event, portable and easy to eat at a picnic, cookout or Fourth of July fireworks show!

They’re also easy enough for your kids to make, as long as they don’t resort to sword fighting with the wooden skewers (that would happen in my house).

Use any combinations you want on the skewers and enjoy!

Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs

Ingredients:
1 pint blueberries, washed and dried
2 pints strawberries, stems removed
1 (12 oz) pkg jumbo marshmallows
1 pan brownies, cut into 1-inch squares
wooden kebab skewers

Directions:
Assemble fruits and desserts onto a wooden skewer in a red, white, blue and brownie pattern!

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 249, Calories from Fat: 77, Fat: 9 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 120 mg, Potassium: 117 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 18 g, Protein: 2 g

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Dine In: Chili-Lime Cod


Chili-Lime CodMy doctor told me to eat a low-fat diet.

Of course, when I hear “low-fat,” I translate that to “low-flavor.”

However, that isn’t remotely true.

You can eat low-fat with loads of flavor, and this fish is the perfect example. I was tired of eating lean pork and chicken. I love fish, so I decided to give this a whirl.

The lime and spices brighten up this fish so much that you totally forget you’re eating low-fat, plus it’s really high in protein.

My family has not always been receptive to eating fish, but they loved this recipe. White fish isn’t too “fishy” for them, and the spices remind them of their favorite Mexican meals. Plus, I got to eat low-fat with big flavor, so this recipe was winning all around!

I left out the butter in this recipe, but you certainly don’t have to!

Chili-Lime Cod

Ingredients:
2 lbs fresh cod fillets
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
1/4 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced

Directions:
Heat oven to 450° F. Coat oven-safe pan with oil or cooking spray. Place cod in pan. Sprinkle chili powder, herb and salt. Roast 5 to 7 minutes or until opaque. Melt butter in small saucepan. Add cumin and lime juice; cook for 1 more minute. Before serving, drizzle butter mixture over cod.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 485.6, Calories from Fat: 133, Fat: 15 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 226 mg, Sugar: 0.4 g, Sodium: 951.4 mg, Carbohydrates: 3 g, Fiber: 0.6 g, Sugar: 0.4 g, Protein: 81 g

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Dine In: Parmesan Tomatoes


Parmesan TomatoesJust in case you missed me talking about our beach trip from two months ago, let me revisit the amazing experience for you!

We ate at Gaido’s Famous Seafood Restaurant. “Famous” by their own standards and famous by the fact they’ve been around since 1911. I love things with history, historic homes, churches and definitely a business with longevity and tradition. Gaido’s has that in spades. The restaurant has been passed down through the generations, and it has survived storms, depressions and economic downturns by consistently providing delicious food and stellar service.

Of course, I also loved dressing up a bit for dinner, the pressed white tablecloths and the decorum of the service.

Paul had Parmesan Tomatoes as his side dish. I wanted to taste them, but I also wanted to devour my roasted asparagus.

Luckily, I could recreate the recipe at home on a recent Friday night, minus the sea air and the waves crashing across the seawall.

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

Ingredients:
4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450° F.

Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 91, Fat: 6 g, (2 g Saturated Fat, 4 g Monounsaturated Fat), Cholesterol: 4 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Protein: 3 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sodium: 375 mg, Potassium: 363 mg

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Ice Cream Cupcakes


Ice Cream Cupcakes	Every night after dinner without fail, my boys ask, “Mom, can I have a dessert?”

If they ate a decent amount of nutritious food, the answer is always “yes.”

They favor ice cream, and I usually have assorted ice cream snacks in the freezer for desserts. They love ice cream sandwiches, frozen ice cream candy bars, ice cream cups, you name it. If it’s frozen and tasty, they love it.

So, when I saw this recipe in a magazine, I knew we’d be trying it. The original recipe called for a layer of ice cream on the bottom, but I thought it made more sense to put a “solid” layer on the bottom, and it worked out well that way. Easier to hold and eat!

Ice Cream Cupcakes
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 cups ice cream, any flavor
3/4 cup pretzels, crushed
3/4 cup Oreo cookies, crushed
1 bottle Magic Shell ice cream topping
6 cupcake liners

Directions:
Mix pretzels with 1/4 cup Magic Shell; spoon into the bottom of 6 paper cupcake liners.

Freeze for 30 minutes.

Let ice cream soften. Spoon a generous scoop full on top of pretzel mixture. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Mix crushed Oreos with Magic Shell. Spoon over ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Serve and enjoy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 250, Calories from Fat: 96, Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 24 mg, Sodium: 371 mg, Potassium: 149 mg, Carbohydrates: 36 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 4 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Lobster Bisque En Croute


Lobster Bisque En CrouteSo, about that gala I went to a few weekends ago…

Are you tired of hearing about it yet? I’m sorry, but the whole evening was so magical. I’ve been thrilled to relive it over and over on my dining room table, minus the stunning flower arrangements, crystal chandeliers and napkins folded like a tuxedo over a menu card.

Maybe I could try that at home, but I’m not sure my kids would really appreciate a menu card at their place setting before each meal.

But back to the gala…

The meal opened with a velvety lobster bisque en croute, which is a fancy, gala-esque way of saying soup with a lovely pastry topping.

It was marvelous. The creaminess of the bisque played perfectly off the acidity of the tomato, and the lobster was just little chunks of heaven in the soup. The pastry layer, which was baked on top of the bowl, was light, flaky, buttery and magnificent.

Despite the fancy name, this recipe is really quite easy to make.

Enjoy!

Lobster Bisque En Croute

Ingredients:
2 oz butter
1/4 cup flour
1 (1 to 1 1/2 lb) lobster
1 celery stalk, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup French brandy
1 shallot, minced
1 quart fish stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs lobster base
2 sheets frozen puff pastry dough

Directions:
Melt butter in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet or saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a light roux.

Break the lobster up into sections. Brown the onions, celery and lobster meat in a 425° F oven; stir every 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from oven when browned and place on the range; flame with French brandy. Add in the shallots, fish stock and white wine; let simmer for at least 1 hour. Cool slightly and strain through a fine sieve.

To the strained bisque, add in tomato puree, cream and lobster base to taste. Thicken the bisque with the roux to desired consistency.

At serving time, fill six oven-proof serving dishes with the bisque. Top with puff pastry dough, cut to size. Bake in 425° F oven until golden and puffed. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 263, Calories from Fat: 44, Fat: 16 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 71 mg, Sodium: 663 mg, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 9 g



Dine In: Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce


Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom SauceMy cooking at home can be heavily influenced by something I’ve tried in a restaurant or at someone else’s house. I taste something delicious and can’t wait to get home and recreate it.

Last weekend, my devastatingly handsome date and I went to a gala in Dallas. Not just any gala but Wish Night, the largest fundraiser of the year for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You’ll probably see a few of the recipes from the night’s meal appearing on this blog, as everything was delicious and I couldn’t wait to make it again at home. The event was held at the Hilton Anatole in downtown Dallas, a sprawling, sophisticated, gorgeously-appointed luxury hotel.

The evening was amazing, from the luxurious table centerpieces of white hydrangeas and roses to the cleverly-folded napkins, perfectly appointed waiters and, of course, the amazing cause.

The food was superlative. It’s not easy to cook for 1,300 people at once, but clearly the expert staff at the Hilton Anatole pulled it off flawlessly.

This beef dish was the first thing I wanted to try to cook myself at home. We cook beef (a lot), but this version had a porcini mushroom crust. It melts in your mouth. I’m glad my gown had a flowy skirt because I ate every single last morsel.

Porcini-Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 1/2 oz), divided
1 (3 1/2 lb) center-cut beef tenderloin
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp white pepper, divided
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray
2 cups boiling water
2 Tbs chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place 1/2 cup mushrooms in a blender; process until finely ground. Trim fat from tenderloin. Sprinkle beef with ground mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add beef; cook 1 minute on all sides or until browned. Place tenderloin on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Insert meat thermometer into thickest portion of tenderloin. Bake at 400° F for 30 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 145° F (medium-rare) to 160° F (medium).

Place tenderloin on a platter and cover with foil. Let stand 10 minutes.

Combine boiling water and 1 cup mushrooms in a bowl; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a medium saucepan, reserving soaking liquid. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Bring reserved soaking liquid to a boil and add chopped mushrooms. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 1 cup (about 12 minutes). Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and butter, stirring with a whisk until butter is melted. Serve with tenderloin.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 226, Calories from Fat: 48%, Fat: 12 g (5 g Saturated Fat, 4 g Monounsaturated Fat, 1 g Polyunsaturated Fat), Protein: 25 g, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 0.6 g, Cholesterol: 79 mg, Iron: 3 mg, Sodium: 303 mg, Calcium: 8 mg

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Dine In: Chicken Parmesan Sliders


Chicken Parmesan SlidersThere is nothing I love more than coming home to a meal completed in the slow cooker, except maybe if it’s coming home to an ITALIAN meal completed in the slow cooker.

I also love when I find a classic recipe that’s been repurposed (especially for a slow cooker).

This Chicken Parmesan Slider recipe is one of those.

Classic Chicken Parmesan is pounded, tenderized, breaded, pan-fried and broiled with Mama’s red sauce then finished with some parmesan cheese.

In this recipe, the breading becomes a slider roll. The tomato sauce is mixed in with the chicken, and I see nothing wrong with adding a bit of provolone (warming it just heightens the flavor profile) to the dish. If you don’t care for provolone, you can swap for mozzarella.

The best part about this dish is that it’s ready when you walk in the door from work. It’s not your traditional chicken parmesan, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.

Chicken Parmesan Sliders

Ingredients:
8 slider rolls
4 chicken breasts
1 cup marinara sauce
2 Tbs garlic, minced
4 slices provolone cheese, halved
8 oz parmesan cheese, divided

Directions:
Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Top with garlic and marinara sauce. Cook on low setting for 8 hours. (can be done in advance) Shred chicken with two forks, leaving it in the marinara sauce.

Preheat broiler to low. Halve slider rolls. Top with about 3 tablespoons of chicken mixture, then top with provolone and parmesan.

Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 857, Calories from Fat: 354, Fat: 39 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (21 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 182 mg, Sodium: 1758 mg, Potassium: 568 mg, Carbohydrates: 53 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 73 g



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