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Dine In: Asian Cucumber Salad


Asian Cucumber SaladCucumbers are so refreshing for summertime, and even super simple to grow in your very own garden or planter if you were so inclined.

Cucumber salads are wonderful side dishes for grilling and for cookouts, especially this Asian version, which doesn’t have anything in it that would spoil if it sat outside at a picnic or barbecue. It would be a great accompaniment to a Father’s Day meal this weekend as well.

This would also be tasty with shredded carrots.

Asian Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:
6 seedless cucumbers
1/4 small red onion
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
2 Tbs sesame seed oil
2 Tbs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp black sesame seeds, plus more for garnish

Directions:
Slice cucumbers thinly using a mandoline or very sharp knife, and place into a medium bowl. Add red onion.

In another bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the cucumbers and onions. Toss gently to combine. Garnish with additional sesame seeds and fresh cilantro. Chill slightly and serve.

Serves 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 110, Fat: 6 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 473 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 36 g, Protein: 3 g.

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Dine In: Father’s Day Steak Rub


Basic Steak RubWhat better way to honor Dad with a special meal that will celebrate his day AND be the gift that keeps on giving?

Making a steak rub with all of his favorite flavors allows you to make a delicious steak for dinner and give him a present that will remind him of the great meal you made him for many meals to come.

You can mix and match spices depending on what flavors your father enjoys. Seal the spice mixture in a Mason jar, and make a cute label to go on top or on the outside. Dad will love it.

Basic Steak Rub

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground coffee
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together, and stir well to combine. Store in an airtight container.
When ready to use, bring steak to room temperature, and rub generously over meat.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 81, Fat: 3 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 708 mg, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 3 g.

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Dine In: Memorial Day Baked Beans


Memorial Day Baked BeansIt’s Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you’re going to get out and enjoy the long weekend with family and friends.

Memorial Day almost always means a picnic for me, and I love me some good picnic food.

I always head straight for the baked beans, if I don’t bring them myself, that is. I like them savory, not too sweet. To be quite honest, I could eat only baked beans and be quite happy. Well, beans and German potato salad, maybe. And homemade ice cream. And watermelon. Possibly a burger or rib.

Fine. I like it all.

This version of baked beans can certainly stand alone as a main dish and (for real this time) has actually done so in my house! It’s also good for a picnic or buffet because there’s nothing in it that will spoil, and it still tastes good at room temperature.

Memorial Day Baked Beans

Ingredients:
3 (16 oz) cans pork and beans
1 lb ground beef, browned
2 Tbs brown mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp cumin
8 slices bacon

Directions:
Mix beans, ground beef, mustard, brown sugar, ketchup and cumin together. Spread in a 9-inch square casserole dish. Lay slices of bacon on top.

Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes, or until beans are bubbly and bacon is beginning to crisp.

Serves 10 to 12 (as a side dish)

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 346, Fat: 11 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 64 mg, Sodium: 999 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 15 g, Protein: 26 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Beer Cheese Dip


I drove through Kentucky a few summers ago on my way home to Texas from a trip to Virginia (I took the scenic route), and there I discovered the thing my heart loves: beer cheese.

Beer cheese is a traditional Kentucky dish with roots in Cook County. It’s exactly what it says it is: beer and cheese. It’s easy to make and easy to store, but the flavor profiles of a sharp cheddar against a lager are out of this world.

Beer cheese is usually used as a dip, but in Kentucky, they also spread it on a piece of thick toast. This would be delicious as a Friday night appetizer or snack in front of a good movie.

Beer Cheese Dip

Ingredients:
32 oz Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
12 oz flat Shiner Bock beer (any lager or pilsner but no “lite” beer)

Directions:
Use a box grater to grate the cheese by hand.

Meanwhile, pulse the garlic in the food processor until minced but not pasty. You can also do this by hand and add them to the food processor. Add the cheese, cayenne, paprika, salt, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Pulse three or four times until just combined.

Turn food processor on, and slowly pour the beer through the chute until the cheese mixture is smooth and creamy. Be careful not to overmix.

Beer cheese will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve cold with pretzels, crackers or raw vegetables.

Note: Pre-shredded cheese in the bag is mixed with cellulose to keep it from sticking. Using pre-shredded cheese will also keep your beer cheese from combining into a smooth, creamy consistency. It’s worth it to grate it yourself.

Open beer about 12 hours before preparing your beer cheese to let it go flat and warm.

Makes 6 cups

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 644, Fat: 25 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 79 mg, Sodium: 664 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 31 g, Protein: 19 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Blueberry-Watermelon Feta Salad


Blueberry-Watermelon Feta SaladAll of the local farmers markets are starting to open. I love walking through the fresh produce, fragrant flowers, and tantalizing sights and smells.

It’s pretty much like walking through the produce department at Brookshire’s all year long.

This vibrant summer salad bursts with unexpected flavors that dance on your tongue. Make it right before serving though, as this tends to get soupy or mushy if it sits too long.

Blueberry-Watermelon Feta Salad

Ingredients:
2 oz olive oil
1 oz balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
8 cups watermelon, diced
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and red onion in a large glass (or other nonreactive) bowl. Add watermelon, blueberries, mint and feta. Toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 303, Fat: 18 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 17 mg, Sodium: 507 mg, Carbohydrates: 35 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 27 g, Protein: 5 g.

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Dine In: Grilled Dijon Onion Rings


Grilled Dijon Onion RingsDuring this time of year and if it’s Friday night, you’re going to find me on the back porch, likely with a fire going in the chiminea and something on the grill.

My favorite thing about the grill, aside from the scent and sizzle, is the variety of options you can cook outside. Not only do we grill our protein for almost every meal but most of our side dishes as well.

So far this year, I’ve grilled zucchini, baby portobello mushrooms, asparagus, squash, eggplant, green beans and onions.

These Grilled Dijon Onion Rings are amazing with steak. Grilling them gives the onions a smoky sweetness that is a wonderful complement to a rich steak.

Grilled Dijon Onion Rings

Ingredients:
3 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp lemon rind, cut into 1-inch julienned strips
2 sweet onions (such as Noonday), cut into 1/4-inch slices

Directions:
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Whisk Dijon mustard, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, thyme and lemon rind in a small bowl until well-combined.

Brush one side of the onion slices with some of the mustard mixture. Place the onion slices mustard-side down in a grill pan/basket/griddle.

Grill for about 5 minutes on the first side, while you baste the other side with the remaining mustard mixture. Turn once, and grill for another 5 minutes. Remove from the grill, and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 48, Fat: 2 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 136 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 1 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Beef Enchilada Dip


Beef Enchilada DipOne of my favorite restaurants has a new, seasonal dish on their menu that I’ve been ordering every time we go eat there: Cowboy Nachos.

The dish consists of a mound of crispy tortilla chips topped with a beefy, black bean chili and tons of melted cheese, garnished with sour cream and guacamole. It’s heaven on a plate and satisfies all the senses for me: crunchy, creamy, cheesy. What more do you need?

This dip is a great alternative to my favorite nachos to make at home. Not everyone in the family likes all the same things, so heaping everything on a plate of nachos wouldn’t work out for us.

If you make this dip, it allows each family member to control their amounts and add the garnishes they like.

It’s a fun way to wind down with the family on a Friday night.

Beef Enchilada Dip

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (10 oz) cans red enchilada sauce
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
cilantro, sour cream or olives, for garnish
tortilla chips

Directions:
Brown the ground beef and onion together in a large, cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet. Add garlic; cook for about 1 more minute. Drain grease.

Stir enchilada sauce into the meat, and mix until well-combined. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cheese over the meat mixture. Reduce heat to low, and let cheese melt. If you want the cheese more browned and bubbly, place under broiler until the cheese is the desired consistency.

Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and olives, if desired. Scoop with tortilla or corn chips.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 485, Fat: 31 g (17 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 147 mg, Sodium: 1142 mg, Carbohydrates: 8g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 42 g.

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Dine In: Frico


FricoThere I was, sitting at a small, wrought iron table adorned with a single candle, in Venice. I was sitting canal-side, the water lapping at the smooth stone as the sun set on another gorgeous day in Italy.

I’d spent all afternoon on the island of Murano, watching glass heated to unholy temperatures and turned and spun and morphed into the most beautiful colored creations. Murano, a short vaporetto ride from Venice, is known for its beautiful glass creations. I had a few wrapped securely and carefully tucked into my suitcase to bring home.

Venice, known for its labyrinth of canals, the famous St. Mark’s Square and gondola rides, also has amazing restaurants tucked into quiet corners.

I happened to pick one where no one spoke English, and my Italian, which was pretty much limited to the language of food, failed me miserably.

“Frico?” I repeated to the waiter, who had rattled off the prix fixe rapidly, almost impatiently.

“Frico,” he repeated, definitively.

I nodded affirmation, hoping that my third course was going to be something recognizable.

Luckily, it was.

Frico can mean different things in different parts of Italy. In the far north, it’s a potato and cheese dish, almost like a gratin but with a crispy baked topping of cheese.

In other regions, frico is a cheese crisp. It’s cheese, nothing else, baked into a cracker-like bite of deliciousness.

They’re so easy to make, and the flavor that develops from baking the cheese (think of the crispy bites you scrape off of the pizza pan) is delightful. You can play with flavor combinations of the cheeses and spices.

Frico

Ingredients:
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (or Asiago, aged cheddar, aged Gouda, Manchego or another hard cheese)
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seed, toasted (or fennel)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick mat. Grate cheese, and toss with the spice. Evenly spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment paper, creating a 4-inch round that is evenly distributed across. Spread with a fork, if necessary. Bake one sheet at a time until the edges begin to crisp and darken, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and loosen from the pan with a large spatula. Cool over a rolling pin to make them bowl-shaped, or lay flat on paper towels. Cool completely.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 221, Fat: 16 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 50 mg, Sodium: 360 mg, Carbohydrates: 0 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g, Protein: 18 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Italian Pasta Salad


Italian Pasta SaladMy favorite thing to do on a Friday afternoon is leave work, collect my boys, grab some groceries, and plop down on the back porch with a beverage and an easy dinner.

By Friday, I’m ready to relax! Sometimes that means going out to dinner, but for me, there really is nothing better than not having to leave the house for the rest of the night, not having to fight traffic and crowds, and not having to wait for my meal.

My back porch is a work in progress. I have a chiminea for fires, my two grills (charcoal and gas), solar lights, my potted herbs, and a semi-comfortable (like I said, “work in progress”) table and chairs set. It’s my favorite place to be in the evenings. When the weather warms up, I add a misting fan to keep the air moving and to keep us cool.

April nights are the best for porch parties, as we call them. You can even prepare this salad in advance, and then the work is complete for the evening. To make it a little hardier, you can add grilled, chopped chicken.

Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
10 oz refrigerated cheese tortellini
5 oz mini pepperoni, or equivalent weight chopped pepperoni or salami
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 (3.8 oz) can black olives, drained
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup jarred mild yellow banana peppers, chopped
1 cup Italian salad dressing
8 oz parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water to shock the pasta into stopping the cooking process and to help prevent sticking. Cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, red onion and banana peppers; toss with cooled pasta. Add the dressing, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and cheese; toss gently to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving; serve chilled.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 799, Fat: 52 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 1588 mg, Carbohydrates: 51 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 36 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Lemon Asparagus Tortellini


Lemon Asparagus TortelliniLast Friday, I spent all day doing yard work. My boys helped, but we had our work cut out for us. The winter grass needed to be mowed. We needed to rake, clean out flower beds, aerate the lawn and put down fertilizer.

It was hard work, but it laid the groundwork for a delicious and filling dinner to be enjoyed that night. While spring comes with lots of outside chores, it also comes with the pleasures of spring produce.

This dish is bright and vibrant with the fresh green vegetables and bursts of garlic and lemon. We served it with a side salad of microgreens tossed in lemon vinaigrette and some fresh bread from the Brookshire’s bakery brushed with olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Lemon Asparagus Tortellini

Ingredients:

ASPARAGUS:
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and black pepper, to taste

TORTELLINI:
1 lb frozen cheese tortellini
3 Tbs butter
1 Tbs shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of crushed red pepper
3 cups fresh spinach, packed
zest of 1 large lemon
juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup  parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread asparagus on a large baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with garlic, and toss until asparagus is well-coated. Season with salt and pepper. Place pan in the oven, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once. Remove asparagus when it is still crisp and slightly charred. Set aside to cool.

While asparagus is roasting, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, and cook tortellini according to package instructions. Drain, but reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, red pepper and spinach. Sauté until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest, and stir well to combine.

Turn heat to low. Add asparagus and tortellini to the pot, and stir in reserved pasta water and lemon juice. Heat through. Sprinkle with parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 489, Fat: 24 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 75 mg, Sodium: 590 mg, Carbohydrates: 46 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 24 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


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