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Family Matters: Berry-licious BlackBerries


Skinny Blackberry MuffinsSummer is the perfect annual permission slip for lazy Saturdays, staying in your pajamas all day, breakfast at 11am, hanging out around the pool with friends and eating blackberries. Yes, blackberries! My family just loves blackberries, and on lazy Saturday mornings, their request is for blackberry pancakes, blackberry muffins or even blackberry smoothies.

To try and fulfill their blackberry requests, this year we planted a few blackberry bushes of our very own! Sadly, we’ll have to wait about two years before they produce their first harvest. Oh well! In the meantime, Brookshire’s carries local Texas blackberries that are delicious and perfect for my recipes.

Being the health-nut mom that I am, I always try to twist recipes to be a little “better for you” than the traditional recipes our moms baked up for us. So, if you are feeling the lazy summer Saturday, bake up these Skinny Blackberry Muffins the night before, so you can sleep in and enjoy your lazy summer Saturday!

Skinny Blackberry Muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp Brookshire’s Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup Brookshire’s Sugar or Splenda
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blackberries tossed in 2 Tbs flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Spray a 12-cup regular muffin pan with cooking spray. Dust pan with flour; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to combine and set aside.

In another large bowl, combine egg, sugar, almond milk, oil, yogurt and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring gently until smooth and combined without over-mixing. Add blackberries, folding in gently.

Evenly distribute batter into cups of prepared pan, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower temperature to 375° F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until tops are set and lightly golden. Allow muffins to cool in pan on top of wire rack for about 10 minutes.

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Family Matters: Beating Summertime Boredom


Beating Summertime BoredomI don’t know about what’s happening in your house, but summer has been a bit rocky in my home.

My kids are at an awkward age. They’re too old for traditional day camps and too young to be gainfully employed. The result is a lot of boredom. While I’m not usually the type to abide boredom, I get it in this case.

They can’t roam the neighborhood like I did when I was a kid because I’ve watched too many episodes of “Forensic Files.” There’s no neighborhood swimming pool where they can ride their bikes and wear themselves out every afternoon, like I did as a kid. Not to mention, the summer activities that are available for their age are expensive, and they need braces and to go to college.

They spend too much time in front of a screen. Go ahead, call CPS now.

So, this summer I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with things they can do to stay occupied while not spending a fortune.

One thing I did was buy a mega jigsaw puzzle. I set up a card table in a spare corner and just kind of left it there. They proclaimed it “lame.” Guess what? It’s about half-finished, and I haven’t touched a single piece. Maybe it was the dog. I don’t know.

Occasionally, I’ll leave them a recipe to try for lunch, with clear instructions on where to find the ingredients and how not to burn the house down when they prepare it. It also ensures I won’t spend the entirety of the middle of the day answering texts about where to find the burrito-sized tortillas. (In the pantry, on the same shelf I’ve stored them the entire 8 years we’ve lived in this house.)

Then, there’s exercise. They do go running and biking (with strict instructions to text me both when they leave and as they return.) Sometimes, I leave them challenges for the day: Do 40 sit-ups and 22 push-ups. Record it on video. Text it to me, because accountability, you know.

They’ve also enjoyed pet-sitting for neighbors. You want your dog played with for two hours while you’re lounging on the beach in Cabo? Call my kids. Our dog never gets played with for two hours, but yours surely will.

Chores, or as I call them, “Jobs You Do Because You Live Here.” They each get one a day. Vacuum house. Clean your bathroom. Laundry as needed. I love ‘vacuum house’ days.

So, if you have any more tips on keeping teens and tweens occupied for the summer, please let me know!



Family Matters: Traveling with Your Pup


Traveling with Your PupSure, your pet pooch wants to jump in the front seat, back seat or truck bed when you take a road trip. You can certainly enjoy your canine companion when you travel, but there are ways to be safe and smart when taking him out on the road.

First of all, don’t let your best friend hang out the window or ride in the bed of your truck. Both are very dangerous. Your pet can get hit by flying highway debris or somehow end up on the road himself.

Secondly, if your dog is small, put him in a secure carrier for the ride. If you have a big dog, consider a harness or restraint that can loop into your seat belt mechanism.

Take practice runs before your date of travel to see how your dog is going to tolerate riding in the car. Make sure he has a collar, ID and a leash, so you can take him to the restroom on pit stops. Make sure he has water, food and treats. If your dog gets carsick easily, a vet might be able to prescribe Benadryl to help him relax and sleep during the trip.

If you need to fly with your dog, check airline regulations on where your pup will ride, climate and pressurization measures; how he’ll be transported between gates; and to make sure his travel crate fits the airline’s restrictions.



Family Matters: A Safe Place for Your Small Pet


A Safe Place for Your Small PetYour small pet, whether it be a guinea pig, hamster or bunny, needs a comfy place to call home.

Most small pets need to live inside. Rabbits can live outside, but your bunny is much safer if he’s in a hutch inside the home.

Small pets generally need their cages placed somewhere where they can get away from people. While they like attention and love, they also like their “me” time. Place their cage out of the path of traffic in the busiest parts of the house and in a place where the temperature remains a constant 65 to 75° F.

A lot of your small pets like to have something to chew on in their habitat, and providing something for this purpose will keep them from gnawing on the cage itself.

They also tend to like a place to hide. Whether you provide a box, a PVC pipe, or some other kind of tube or compartment, don’t panic if you can’t find your pint-sized pet. He might just be enjoying that “me” time.

Of course, make sure your pet always has fresh, clean water.

Toys, exercise wheels and nesting material are also great for small pets. Find out what your specific type of small animal will like and provide it for them.

Keep that nesting material clean and free of debris and refuse.



Family Matters: Traveling with Your Cat


Traveling With Your CatWhen you go on a trip, your kitty probably wants to stay home. If that’s not a practical approach to your vacation or long-term travel plans, there are ways to make your cat happy and healthy as they travel with you.

If you’re traveling by car, keep your cat in a carrier. Cats shouldn’t be allowed to roam through the car during your trip. It’s not safe for the driver, and it can unnerve your cat. The same goes for letting your cat hang out windows or sit on top of the dashboard. Just don’t do it. It’s not safe.

When you make a rest stop, don’t leave your pet in the car alone. A car can get overheated in the time it takes you to run into a store, use the restroom and buy a soda. If you have two adults in the car, take turns taking a rest break while one of you stays with your cat. If you’re alone (even more reason to keep your cat contained on a trip), keep him in the carrier and bring him with you. Make sure he is wearing a collar and ID.

If you decide to fly somewhere with your cat, keep him in a carrier in the cabin with you. A pet store should have the appropriate size of carrier allowed to fit into the cabin of your flight. If your cat gets anxious in a carrier or traveling, have your vet recommend and prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the trip. Do not take your cat out of the carrier during the trip. Your seatmate might not appreciate it, and you might lose hold of your cat.

Make sure your cat has plenty of food and water, and bring a leash or a portable litter tray so that he can relieve himself in designated areas when you are able.



Family Matters: Home Sweet Home


Home Sweet HomeIt’s easy to make a home sweet home for your feathered friends.

First, you have to choose the right cage for your bird. The right space can affect your bird’s happiness and health. You want it to be the right fit for him in a variety of ways.

If your pet bird is small, he needs room to fly back and forth. If he’s larger, he still needs space to flap his wings, play with toys and move about. If your bird has an exceptionally long tail, he needs a tall cage able to accommodate those feathers.

For all birds, the cage should be made of sturdy, nontoxic materials. A painted cage might look cute, but you don’t want your bird chipping away at the paint. It goes without reason that the cage should be escape-proof for the bird, but you also might want to make sure your bird is safe inside from small hands, like a child reaching through. The spacing of the bars should keep your bird inside and safe.

When furnishing the cage, the same rules apply to an apparatus as it does to the cage: make sure it’s sturdy, safe and clean. Provide a shallow water bowl and make sure the substrate is far enough below the floor of the cage that the bird can’t reach it with his beak.

Place your cage near natural light, but make sure it doesn’t get too hot or drafty. Keep it away from fans, A/C or heating units, and small children.

If you line your cage with newspaper, try to find one that uses a soy-based ink, as it’s nontoxic.



Family Matters: Right or Left Handed


Right or Left HandedIs your baby right-handed or left-handed?

I could have told you from a few months old that my older son was destined to be a lefty. Now, through no intervention on my part, he’s quite ambidextrous, but definitely left-dominant.

Some experts will tell you that lateralization doesn’t happen until 4 or 5 years old, but I think (and I’m not an expert) that kids show signs much earlier.

What hand does he use to feed himself? Which hand does he use to throw a ball, stack blocks or turn the page of a book?

Around 9 months, babies can cross the midline, meaning that they can reach across their bodies with their right hand to pick up something on the left side, or vice versa. They won’t be able to distinguish right and left for a long time, but you might get an early hint from how they approach a staircase (dominant leg will lead), pick up their Cheerios or grab a Crayon.

You really don’t want to encourage one or the other. There’s not a benefit or detriment to a dominant side; it’s just nature. Let baby work with both to discover what he prefers.



Family Matters: Express Baby’s Creativity


Express Baby's CreativityDid you know that as young as a year old, your baby may be on her way to becoming a baby Picasso?

Right about this time, your baby can scribble on paper, and you should encourage her to do so! She’s imitating what she sees you and her older sister do.

You should encourage her to scribble on paper, giving her different colors, and to mark on the sidewalk or an exterior wall with chalk.

Provide thick, sturdy crayons or chalk with a huge piece of paper (ask for an end roll from your local newspaper office; they’re often free) to let her express her creativity.

You won’t see intentional shape or objects, but baby will love making her mark.



Family Matters: Prepping for a new baby


Prepping For a New BabyBringing your baby home from the hospital is a huge deal and a life changing event, but there are lots of things you can do to make the transition smooth.

First of all, have your car seat installed in your vehicle before baby is even born. The hospital will not let you leave without it. Find a certified seat installer, possibly at your local police station, who can help you get it in correctly for baby’s first ride home.

Secondly, prepare older children and pets. Older children can visit you in the hospital when baby is born, but pets cannot. Talk to your older children about the baby, let them help prepare his room, set safe boundaries on items like a baby swing or bouncy seat, and maybe have a special gift to the older child “from” the new baby.

Get your pets ready by setting boundaries for any of baby’s equipment and getting him used to the smell of baby blankets or baby’s clothes after they’ve been washed.

Next, have all of your baby clothes and linens washed and ready to go weeks before baby is expected to arrive. The LAST thing you want to do when you come home from the hospital is baby laundry, and baby might need four outfits/sleepers that first day. This is also a great project for older children to help with.

Be realistic. You might not be able to go back to your pre-baby routine immediately. The house likely doesn’t need a deep-cleaning right away. The dishes can wait, or you can ask a partner or children to help. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says this, and every new mom tries to get things accomplished during naptime. Give in. Sleep.

Adjust relationship expectations, too. Communicate with your partner about being tired, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed or anything else you are feeling so that person can help you through it. If you’re noticing that you cry more easily or feel blue, some of that is normal. Feelings of great sadness that extend beyond about 6 weeks should be discussed with your doctor, though.

Give yourself grace. If I had to go back and do it all again, I’d do nothing those first weeks but enjoy my baby. That’s not always realistic, but I’d try harder to accomplish that goal!



Family Matters: A Movie and More


A Movie and MoreAfter a very long day at work, I went home ready to plop on the couch and do nothing, but I was approached by my teenage twin daughters to take them to the movie. Wow, that was the furthest thing from my mind, and I expressed this to my kids. I could tell they were disappointed, and after a long discussion back and forth (wearing me down), I agreed. After all, they chose a “chick flick” as we call them, something with love and romance…couldn’t get any better, right?

We saw one of the best movies I have seen in years. I cried through almost the last hour with both girls laughing hysterically at me (telling me to blow my nose) and vowing to never sit with me again! After the movie, we proceeded outside where the laughter continued once they saw my red swollen face and absolutely no makeup left. The crying to my surprise was such a stress relief that I had not expect after my long day at work…it was refreshing and something I totally needed.

We continued to talk in the car and at home. Now, weeks later, we are still talking about the movie and what we got out of it. There were some good life lessons in the movie and topics for family discussion, which added up to even more than what I anticipated out of the night. As I reflect back on the instant they asked me to take them to the movies and my immediate response, I am so thankful that I changed my mind. I did not get just another movie; I got so much more out of the time I spent with my daughters.

Every day, there are moments we can’t get back. Don’t deny yourself and your kids just simple times of hanging out and visiting…you will never be so glad you did something in your life. You, your kids and your family as a whole will benefit from the laughter, tears and great conversations that come out of your quality time together. The next time you’re exhausted and want to say “no” to your kids, just reconsider for a moment what you might be missing. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for your time with family!



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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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