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Family Matters: Melted Witch Parfait


This month, to celebrate Halloween, we’re making a parfait that uses pudding, crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and orange sprinkles to create a spookie and yummy colored treat.

Top it off with a handmade witch’s hat, and you have a dessert all your friends will want to try! 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

• Food Club Vanilla Pudding Cups
• Orange Nonpareils Or Orange Sugar Sprinkles
• Food Club Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Crushed
• Black Construction Paper
• Scissors
• Glue
• Spoons
• Glass Parfait Dishes Or Plastic Cups 

Step 1

Spoon in pudding

Place vanilla pudding, orange sprinkles, another layer of pudding and crushed sprinkles one at a time in a parfait glass. 

Step 2

Layer with extras

Add sprinkles on the next layer against the side of the glass, another layer of pudding, then a layer of crushed Food Club Sandwich Cookies. Alternate layers until they reach the top and place a spoon in the parfait. 

Step 3

Cut, roll & glue cone

To make the top of the witch’s hat, cut 2 1/2-inch circle out of black construction paper, roll into cone shape and glue sides to adhere. 

Step 4

Glue cone to circle

For the hat’s base, cut out a 2-inch circle out of black construction paper. Cut two 1/2-inch slits in the middle of the circle. Glue cone to 2-inch circle to cover up the 1/2-inch slits. Dry and top the hat onto the spoon handles.



Dine-In: Family Movie Night


We happened to have a night free last week, and I really wanted to spend some time with the boys at home – together. I do love it when we are all under one roof, but a lot of nights, they might be doing homework or playing video games and we end up in separate rooms. Usually, the smell of something delicious simmering on the stove is enough to draw them to the table, and I use this tool unashamedly. I am all about parenting by bribe.

Somehow the table conversation drifted from the day’s events to a movie they had seen over the weekend. I don’t remember what it was now, but it was something with weapons and blood and gore. I love watching movies, and thought maybe – just maybe – I could convince them to watch a DVD that night someone had recently given me.

Living in East Texas – not too far from Carthage – I was really excited to hear about the movie, “Bernie.” If you don’t know the movie, it’s based on the story of the local mortician, Bernie, who strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow. I can’t really tell you much more without giving it away, but it does turn out to be a dark, dark comedy – and an interesting study of people and why we do the crazy things we do.

“Bernie” is definitely not for little kids, as I think it’s Rated PG-13. But it is hysterically funny and fascinating, especially for those of us who understand this Southern culture and can relate to most all of the quirky personalities in the film. I kept thinking, “I know someone just like that!”

It was a wonderful evening. Bowls of White Chicken Chili, hot buttery cornbread and “Bernie.” The boys enjoyed it almost as much as I did, but I think some of the old-timey humor escaped them. (Spoiler Alert: There is a murder, and this is when teenage boys start paying attention.)

My favorite line of the night wasn’t from the movie, it was from my older son. Now, remember we live about an hour from where the movie took place. He said, “I am just SO glad we don’t live in a small town like that!”

I had to laugh under my breath. Small-town America – wherever it is – is just like that, for better or worse! 

White Chicken Chili
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 oz) can chopped green chiles
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 rotisserie-style chicken, skinned and shredded or 1 ½ lbs cooked, chopped chicken breasts
3 (15-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained
14 oz chicken broth
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes: Sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeno

Directions:
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions in hot oil for 10 minutes until tender. Stir in garlic, green chiles, cumin, oregano, cloves and cayenne pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may prepare to this point up to 1 day in advance and store, covered, in refrigerator. Bring to simmer before continuing recipe. Add chicken and 1 cup of cheese to bean mixture and mix well. Simmer until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Garnish with remaining cheese, sour cream, salsa, cilantro and jalapeno.  



Family Matters: Baby Fever


My older son, Will, celebrated his 16th birthday recently. I was his biggest cheerleader when it came time to get his driver’s license that day – until seeing him pull away from the curb and drive away. Alone.

I was not expecting the huge wave of emotion that hit me down to my core – almost instantly. And before I knew what was happening, I was crying and reminiscing about the day Will was born, his first day of preschool, the day he learned to ride his bike, and on and on. Why I tortured myself with all of the sweet memories I have with him, I’ll never know. I acted like he had driven off into the sunset never to return.

Of course, that is almost true. It was 4 p.m. when he drove away, and several hours passed before he decided he might want to think about coming home. Needless to say, his newfound keys to freedom came and disappeared all in the same day.

While he was gone that afternoon and I wasn’t frustrated with him yet, I decided to pull out some of his old baby photos and scrapbooks and reminisce even more, as if this somehow was going to help the pain.

I found a photo of Will exactly one week old. This would be the same time I took him to our pediatrician with his first “fever.”

I was hysterical that September day. Will was flushed and sweating and overheated, and I was certain he was on the brink of death. I raced to the doctor, without any appointment of course, and rushed in the office. I don’t know how the receptionist even understood what I was saying through my post-partum crying fit.

In just a moment or two, Will and I were back in the doctor’s private office. After looking at Will wrapped in a blanket, hat, gloves, socks and head-to-toe sleeper, the doctor wisely just suggested we take off some of Will’s wintry layers and let him enjoy the September 100-degree sunshine.

Miraculously, Will’s “fever” disappeared.

Will’s Favorite Sweet Potato Apple Baby Food

Ingredients:
3 large sweet potatoes
3 organic apples

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Wash and cut apples and sweet potatoes. Place in a baking pan and cover with foil. Bake until soft, about 45 minutes. Peel apples and place in food processor. Remove sweet potato from the skin and add to food processor. Puree. You can add water if you want a thinner puree. Makes 6 baby servings. 

Nutritional Information:  Calories Per Serving: 136, Total Fat: 0.3 g, Sodium 8 mg, Carbohydrates 33.5 g, Fiber: 5.3 g, Protein: 1.4 g



Family Matters: Balance


I don’t know about you, but there are times I really struggle with balance in my life. Right now is one of those times.

The beginning of the school year is always hectic. There are new class routines for my two boys, getting back into the habit of doing homework and studying math facts, spelling and vocabulary and starting activities again. Luke plays soccer. This year Curt wanted to try karate. In the meantime, I’m short-staffed at work and have been very involved in planning and executing an awesome event that takes place this weekend – Girl Power.

In short, all balance in my life has gone right out the window.

I have to actually remind myself to stop, slow down and not get (too) stressed out.  Because when I’m stressed, my kids are stressed, and that’s not good for anyone.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve found has helped my family achieve balance during the hectic, chaotic times:

1. I use the crock pot several times a week. With karate at 6 p.m. and soccer at 6 p.m. and not leaving work until after 5 p.m., if I hold on to any hope of getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, it’ll be something I’d prepared in the crock pot. Plus my house smells so good when we walk in that I’m convinced the added bonus is aromatherapy.
2. When I can’t use the crock pot, I’ve decided that tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are a perfectly acceptable dinner.
3. I read the Brookshire’s circular and the Shop the Sale blogs and make my grocery list so not only am I saving money, but saving time by only shopping once during the week.
4. I turn off the car radio during my late afternoon commute and either ride in silence, which helps me unwind, or plug my iPhone into the car’s radio auxiliary and only listen to music – no talking. (Recent favorites: Amos Lee, Mumford & Sons, Iron and Wine, the soundtrack to The Hunger Games, The Decemberists and The Civil Wars).
5. Family Reading Time! The boys are required to read AT LEAST 20 minutes a night, so we turn off all electronics and all spend time with our books. We usually all end up curling up on the couch together and it’s quiet, it’s cuddly and we can all escape into our books together. (It’s also a good way to wind down before bedtime).
6. Remembering not to sweat the small stuff. Easier said than done. But in all actuality, washing the bed sheets can wait until the weekend and not every piece of mail has to be attended to immediately.
7. Oh, and did I mention tomato soup? 



Family Matters: A Three-Dog Family


I’m not sure how it happened, but we went from being a family with one old Lab outside dog to suddenly having three dogs, one of which weighs 100 pounds and lives inside within three feet of wherever I am in the house. 

Our newest family member is a funky, feisty Jack Russell Terrier/Blue Heeler mix named Buddy. Buddy is the one who just found his way into our home in the blink of an eye, as if he were meant to be with us all along. My younger son, Smith, was avoiding doing his chores – preferring to surf the local dog shelter website. Smith has a huge, tender heart and feels certain we should adopt every single homeless dog and cat in the tri-state area. 

Somehow within the next hour, we were on our way to the dog shelter, “just to take a look around.” It didn’t matter that I told Smith we were NOT coming home with another dog. As soon as Buddy saw Smith, and Smith saw buddy, well, that was that. And I don’t have the heart to keep apart a boy and a  new puppy that obviously fell in love instantly. 

It’s been an adventure keeping up with three dogs and two teenage sons – all of whom eat so much it blows my mind and my budget! Every now and then I try to make a big batch of these Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Cookies. The dogs love them, kids love to help make them, and their cost is much friendlier on my monthly budget.

Click here to print recipe or add ingredients to My Shopping List. 

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats 

Ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
3 Tbs peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon 

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Process all ingredients in a the bowl of a food processor until dough forms, pulsing occasionally and scraping sides. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work area and knead a few times into a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. 

Place cookies close together on baking pans to bake. The cookies don’t need much space between them, as they don’t spread. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Turn cookies over, and return to oven to bake for an additional 15 minutes, until cookies are hard.  Remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 100 1-inch cookies



Family Matters: Tailgating At Home


With a husband and teenage son in the house who love football, most fall weekends are spent with the TV tuned into one game or another. And no, it cannot just be the two of them watching the game; both of them like to have friends over to watch the game — the more people the better! 

With all these guys over every weekend, I need something hardy in the kitchen for them to eat. One of my favorite recipes and theirs too is a slow cooker vegetable soup. This soup is super easy to make and everyone can help, even the young kids can get in the kitchen and help out too. 

Slow Cooker Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:
1 Lb ground beef or breakfast sausage
1 family size pkg of frozen soup vegetables
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) box vegetable broth
1 bunch green onions
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Directions:
Brown ground beef or sausage and drain. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low for eight hours or on high for four hours.



Family Matters: Listen to your life


Some girlfriends and I were having dinner the other night, and the conversation lingered around the times in our lives when our children were still small enough to hold in our arms. I have two huge teenage sons now, so I bypassed this milestone about 10 years and 80 pounds ago. They pick me up and swing me around now! 

To be honest, one of us in the group had just become a grandmother. It pains me to write this, knowing that this means I am old enough to be a grandmother as well! I don’t feel old enough to have grandbabies – until I look in the mirror and think, “Who is that woman with the frizzy gray hair and wrinkles?”

My friend is having so much fun snuggling with her little grandson. We all sat around the table and spent probably 30 minutes talking about the little things we remember and miss – like our babies’ sweet smell right after bath time. Believe me, teenage boys don’t smell quite the same. 

We went on and on that night over our banana cream pie, remembering some of the most ordinary, everyday experiences in raising our children, but yet these seemingly insignificant events had ended up being quite important. 

Presbyterian minister and author Frederick Buechner writes, “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Click here to print recipe or add items to My Shopping List. 

Banana Cream Pie
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 pkg (4-serving size) instant vanilla flavor pudding & pie filling
1 envelope (1 1/3 oz) whipped topping mix
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 medium ripe bananas
1 Ready-Crust Pie Crust Keebler® Ready Crust® Chocolate

Directions:
In large mixing bowl beat milk, pudding mix, topping mix and vanilla on low speed of electric mixer until combined. Increase speed to medium. Beat about 3 minutes or until very thick. Spread 1/3 of mixture in crust.

Slice bananas on top. Spread remaining pudding mixture over bananas. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set.

Garnish as desired. Store in refrigerator. Nutritional Information: Per Serving: 116 Calories, Calories from Fat: 2.5g,  Sodium: 343 mg, Carbohydrates:  20.7 g, Fiber: 1.1 g , Protein: 2.6 g



Family Matters: Family Road Trip


We all hear people reminisce about family trips they have taken over the years and what a great time it was for their family to bond.  It is funny to hear someone talk about it and then to sit and recall some of your own family road trips – or adventures, we call them.  There are a lot of fun times that come out of a road trip, but for some reason we seem to always forget (or block out) the rest of the road trip.  

As a mother of four teenage daughters I can tell you first hand that a seven hour road trip is an adventure.  Oh, it was fun and we laughed a lot but what about having to stop every hour (or more) because they can’t all seem to need to make a bathroom stop at the same time.  Or, everyone seems to have lost or broke their charger for the electronic devices they are glued to, so you have six people sharing one or two chargers…you can hear the laughter right…  

I was really surprised our air conditioner did not burn up from the multiple times I heard it was too cold or too hot and had to adjust it.  Finally after a few hours of that, the cold natured girls were given blankets to cover up with…that took care of that.  What about the four things of snacks you open up and pass back and forth (sharing, that is nice) and then someone ends up spilling the box or bag of goodies all over the car…laughing again?  After eating the snacks they are all thirsty…and yes, time for another pit stop.  You would be amazed at the great souvenirs you find in truck stops. 

Don’t get me wrong, after you return these things are really funny when you look back but at the time you feel like you want to pull your hair out or take a vacation by yourself.  You love your children but honestly there are times they make you want to trade them in or tie them to the top of the car for a little peace and quiet.  This does not mean you don’t love your kids it just means that you are human and that things do seem to overwhelm us sometimes, but in the end what great memories we do make and what funny stories about family road trips we will have to share with our grandchildren. 

Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family…on and off the road! 



Family Matters: A Greek Twist on Pizza Night


Pizza is one of my boys’ favorite foods, but it’s not one of mine. I enjoy a slice or two maybe a few times a year, but it’s not something I crave or make very often – until a friend recently made me her Greek Hummus Pizza. These flavors combine to make one of the most delicious, and healthiest, pizzas I’ve ever enjoyed.

Yes, I know nothing beats a greasy pepperoni and mushroom on a Friday night, but for a quick weeknight family dinner, this Greek Hummus Pizza has become one of our favorites. 

If you aren’t familiar with hummus, it’s a very popular Middle Eastern dip usually made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame paste), garlic, salt and olive oil. It’s quite versatile, as you can easily find flavored hummus on the Brookshire’s aisles now, from roasted red pepper and pine nut to southwestern and roasted garlic. 

It’s so easy to change up the ingredients of this pizza to make it your own as well. It tastes delicious with ANY flavor of hummus you like – from roasted red pepper to roasted garlic or even spicy jalapeno! The amount of cheese called for in the recipe might not seem like enough, as we all like to pile on the toppings, but it’s plenty – and healthier too.  Sometimes I mix in a handful of feta cheese with the mozzarella if I happen to have some on hand. 

Most of you know that I’d rather be cooking with kids than most anyone else, and that’s another reason I have made this pizza a family favorite. You start with a purchased refrigerated pizza crust and purchased hummus, making it so easy for any young cook to enjoy success on the first try. In fact, my boys (ages 15 and 13) don’t really need me to help with this anymore; they can make this all on their own! 

Click here to print the recipe or add items to My Shopping List.

Greek Hummus Pizza

SERVES 8 

Ingredients:
1 (10-oz) tube refrigerated pizza dough
1 (7-oz) container hummus, any flavor
1/2 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
3 slices red onion, separated into rings
1/3 cup sliced, pitted black olives
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450
°F. Roll pizza crust dough into a large oval. Spread hummus over the crust; top with remaining ingredients. Bake pizza for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned.  

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving:  257; Fat: 12.9 g; Cholesterol: 25 mg; Sodium: 508 mg; Carbohydrates: 22.8 g; Fiber: 2.9g ; Protein: 14.1 g.



Family Matters: Frozen Fun


In my long list of never-say-never, I vowed I would never have a dog.

Not that I didn’t like dogs, but I just never had a dog growing up and wasn’t accustomed to being around man’s best friend.

But along came Jack, a sweet little beagle mix puppy abandoned on a co-workers front lawn. Jack came home with me one day and quickly found a place by my feet on the couch and a bigger place in my heart.  Sadly, Jack met his untimely demise after escaping through a hole in a neighbor’s fence. I was never going to get another dog.

But along came Jill, a mutt of mixed heritage including Italian greyhound, possibly boxer, possibly a lot of things. She was silly and loyal and an all-around easy dog.

When my son needed an incentive to complete an activity he hated, he wanted a dog more than anything. He earned Tickles, a Morkie (Maltese/Yorkie) mix, who is now 4 ½ years old.

After Jill moved out, I didn’t even try to fool myself. I got online and quickly found Gretel, an Australian shepherd who’d been dumped on the driveway belonging to a friend-of-a-friend.  Soon after acquiring Gretel, our veterinarian talked me into the German shepherd mix who had been found wandering a busy thoroughfare. We brought Shiloh home to complete our brood.

I love my puppies, but having dogs isn’t always a walk in the park, although I’m sure all three of my pooches wishes it was. My large breeds are also active breeds and while my backyard is substantial, it’s not a ranch where they can herd sheep and run wild. It’s fun to take them to the park for exercise and they love it, but it’s so hot outside all summer and most of the fall. And my dogs are hairy!!!

When I saw this fun and frozen activity, I did it again. I said, “I’d NEVER make that for my dogs; it’s silly.”

But I did. Gretel, Shiloh and Tickles LOVED it. The boys had fun watching the dogs play, too. All you need to do is round up your pet’s favorite toys. Freeze them in a large bowl of water (or beef broth, delish!) and then turn them out of the container into the back yard. Your pets will love licking the block of ice to get to their favorite toys and it will cool them down in the process.



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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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