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Family Matters: Summer Camp At Last


Summer has arrived and kids are packing up for summer camps. My oldest child, Luke, has always loved going to camp. He has never had a problem being away from home for a week’s time. On the other hand, my daughter Grace, who is 10, has never had the desire to attend an overnight camp….not until this year. Grace has decided to attend camp as long she can take a friend and they can be bunkmates. 

Packing a kid for camp can be a real challenge. Unpacking them from camp can be even more of a challenge. The last thing you want is your camper to come home with a sticky and wet suitcase. I am so thankful I had a good friend give me her tips to packing up little campers. 

Packing For Camp – What You’ll Need:

6 extra-large resalable plastic bags
Sticker labels
Permanent marker 

On each of five bags, or depending on how many days they are staying at camp, write the day of the week on the bag. Pack enough clothes for that day in each separate bag. You should include a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and under clothes in each bag. On the sixth bag, write “Wet Clothes.” Tell your camper that this is the bag to put all their wet clothes in. This way their suitcase does not become a wet mess. 

I have packed up my son’s clothes this way for several years now and, for the most part, it works pretty well. However, there were years he came home with only two of the bags ever being opened. I guess he wore the same clothes all week. I’m sure this system will work out perfectly for my daughter on her first overnight camp experience.  Hopefully, she will not be like her older brother and come home with none of her clothes having been worn. 



Family Matters: Homemade Teething Relief


The months when a baby starts to grow his or her teeth are some of the most trying as a new parent. I can remember trying anything – from my own fingers and fancy refrigerated baby toys to all kinds of teething biscuits – to try and bring relief to my son’s restless little gums.

One thing I noticed was that many purchased teething biscuits contained palm oil (a saturated fat), as well as more sugar and preservatives than I wanted. One day, I decided to do a little research and find a recipe or two to make homemade biscuits that hopefully my teething toddler would like – and would be a bit healthier.

These are not very sweet, but because I did not have much added sugar in my child’s diet this early in life, he thought they tasted great….and it provided much-needed chomping!

Homemade Teething Biscuits

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose or oat flour
1 cup dry infant rice or oat cereal
1 very ripe banana, mashed until smooth
2 Tbs canola oil
2 Tbs water
1 Tbs honey, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and cereal. In a small bowl, stir together the banana, oil, water and honey if using. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until dough comes together and is not too sticky. You might need to add a little more flour our water, depending on the ripeness and size of the banana.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/4-inch thick and cut into smooth circles. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely and store extras in an airtight container. You can also freeze up to two months.



Family Matters: School’s Out Celebration Picnic


My kids are home from school today, and we’re celebrating with three of their favorite summertime casual recipes! These are easy and delicious – and the pasta salad and lemon cookies pack nicely for summer picnics at the lake. If you want to take the sliders with you on a picnic, I suggest keeping the ingredients separate until you are ready to assemble and enjoy! 

My younger son likes lime more than lemon, so I tried the cookies with fresh lime and lime zest and they are just as delicious! 

Kids of all ages love picnics – even if you just throw down a blanket in your back yard and invite the neighbors over for food and an evening of flashlight tag! 

Enjoy! 

BBQ Meatball Sliders 

Ingredients:
24 purchased frozen meatballs
1 cup purchased barbecue sauce
3/4 cup sliced Mozzarella cheese
24 sliced dinner rolls, sized for one meatball
3/4 cup diced cooked bacon
24 bread and butter pickles (sliced)

Directions:

Place meatballs in 9×13-inch baking pan and cover with barbecue sauce. Bake according to package directions until cooked through (cooking times vary with different meatball brands).  When ready to serve, place one slice of cheese on bottom of each roll. Top with meatball, bacon and one pickle slice. Top with other half of roll and serve. Tastes just as great served cold as well.  

Picnic Pasta Salad 

Ingredients:
1 lb cooked rotini pasta
2 cups raw broccoli florets or diced zucchini
1 cup tomatoes, diced
6 oz sliced pepperoni, diced
1 (14 oz) can black olives, drained, sliced
1 1/2  cups Italian dressing
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Directions:
Combine all ingredients with pasta. Refrigerate until cold. Tastes better over time. 

Glazed Lemon Cookies 

Ingredients:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary
1 tsp grated lemon zest 

Directions:
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks, vanilla and salt and beat to combine. Gradually add flour, mixing until just incorporated.  Divide dough in half and shape into 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350°. Slice logs into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and space them 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, about 15 minutes.



Family Matters: Smothered Steak & Potatoes Time


This is a meal that our family loves to make together. My two young daughters like to prepare the steak while I handle the potatoes. I believe they enjoy the “dipping” of the steak because of the mess it makes by the time they are finished cooking! Of course, they disappear when it comes time to clean up, but it is fun to watch them enjoy themselves while learning to cook… it gives them a sense of being needed and teaches them to be self-reliant. 

By the time they leave our home they will be ready to cook for their families and hopefully remember all the fun, so they will choose to make these same kinds of memories with their own kids.    

Smothered Steak with Brown Gravy

Ingredients:
Tenderized round steak
Flour
Vegetable oil
2 packages Food Club Brown Gravy Mix

Directions:
Take tenderized round steak and cut the pieces to individual portions.  Dip the steak in water and then in to a bowl of flour and repeat two times.  Place the steak in a shallow frying pan with oil (you do not want to cover the meat) and cook on medium heat until each side is brown on the outside. 

Take all finished meat and put in a large glass cake pan.  Mix as directed two (2) packages of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix and pour over the meat, cover the pan with foil and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes; then uncover for about 5 minutes.  Pull from the oven and cover until ready to eat.  The meat will be so tender it will melt in your mouth.  

If you put two layers of meat in the pan you will need to add an additional package of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix to make sure the meat is completely covered. 

Baked Sliced Potatoes

Ingredients:
Russet potatoes
Garlic powder
Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning
Colby-jack cheese, grated 

Directions:
Peel as many potatoes as needed for your family. Rinse the potatoes and then slice in 1/4-inch thick, round circles into a large bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder and Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning, and mix thoroughly so the seasonings get on all the potatoes. 

Pour the slices into a glass baking dish, add small amount of water in the bottom and cover with foil.  Cook on 350 degrees until the potatoes are tender, then remove the foil and let the potatoes get slightly brown on top. Pull the pan out of the oven and add grated cheese; turn the oven on broil and place pan back in for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and crunchy. You may enjoy them as is, or you can add bacon, sour cream, ranch dressings or chives to the potatoes once you get them on your plate. 

Make a green salad (or green vegetable) to go with the meal and you are all set.  

I hope you find the meal enjoyable while taking time this week to sit together at the table as a family. Savor the moments you have together. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family. 



Family Matters: Will Eat For A Snow Cone


Meat, corn, carrots and fruit are all the foods my daughter will eat. That’s it! She will not eat bread, sandwiches, peanut butter, cheese, pasta, nuts—nothing else! Oh, do we have a challenge packing her lunch everyday for school.  On the other hand, my teenager son will eat everything on his plate and in the house! 

Like other Moms, I come home from work and head straight to the kitchen to prepare dinner for that night. After slaving in the kitchen, I proudly sit dinner on the table thinking I have accomplished this grand task and that I’m truly an amazing Mom! Then out of her mouth comes the dreaded words, “I don’t like this, do I have to eat this, what is this stuff?” My self-accomplishment just went into the trash along with her dinner. 

I knew I had to devise a plan to get my picky eater to start trying new foods or she would be eating meat, fruit and those two vegetables for the rest of her life.  So she and I sat down and developed the “Will Eat For A Snow Cone” picky eater plan.

Here’s how it works. For every new food she tries, she gets to put a sticker on a chart, when she earns 10 stickers, she get a reward. When earning 10 stickers becomes to easy for her, then we’ll raise the bar to 20 stickers for a reward. Right now her reward is walking the dog 2.5 miles round trip to the snow cone stand. She looks forward to this every weekend and is working hard to earn her 10 stickers so she doesn’t miss out on her snow cone treat and walking the dog adventure. 

So in the future, I’ll keep preparing new foods for her to try. Hopefully she will find a few that she really likes. If not, I pray that when she becomes a teenager she’ll be somewhat like her older brother and eat everything on her plate too!



Family Matters: “The Suzanne”


The months before my first son, Will, was born were some of the most stressful in my life. He wasn’t easy to get here, and I was worried sick for months that something bad was going to happen.

On top of that, I have a tendency to obsess when I am passionate about something, whether it’s working on a project, training for a race or becoming a mother. I am either all in or all out…nothing in between.

I read every baby book I could find, researching cribs, car seats, food, diapers and anything else I thought a mom needed to know to ensure success from day one.  But there is one thing I forgot to factor into my equation: Will was a real live baby – not what I came to call Handbook Baby.

Handbook Baby is the baby in all the parenting books who apparently follows a schedule, eats and burps on command and sleeps through the night from the time you bring him or her home from the hospital.

Handbook Baby does not exist, and all I could think was someone without children had to have written these books.

Little by little, I learned to recognize Will’s cues and figure out what he and I both needed to survive our first year together. For me, part of that meant he slept on my chest for the first three months, and right by me for the next nine.

I could not bear to hear his cry, and if it weren’t for the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, Suzanne, Will and I would have had many difficult late nights of tears…both of us.

Suzanne came over just after Will was born, bringing us a homemade apple pie and some advice that I use to this day when holding restless babies. In fact, among my friends, we came to call this calming move, “The Suzanne.” It isn’t a complicated move, but it works to quiet crying babies almost every single time.

Holding your baby, simply stand with your feet together. Take a step to the right with your right foot. Bring your left foot over to your right foot. Then bend at the knees, like you would to sit in a chair but not quite that far. Stand back up and repeat moves to the left. Back and forth.

There’s something about the rhythm of “The Suzanne” that is almost magical. I’ve seen babies quit crying in under a minute. It worked for Will – and his younger brother – again and again.

My sons are now teenagers and twice my size. It was a sad day for me when I realized I could no longer hold them. These days, I like to find a crying baby in a restaurant and ask the parent if I can hold the little one for a minute. Most of the time people will let me, and “The Suzanne” gets passed to another grateful family.



Family Matters: Baseball and Hot Dogs


Throughout the year there are two seasons I look forward to. The first one is without a doubt my favorite – Christmas. There’s just something magical in the cool, crisp Christmas air! The other season I look forward to is baseball season. I count down the days to when the gates swing open at the Ballpark in Arlington and the first pitch flies straight into the opponent’s strike zone. 

I grew up with a love for baseball. After World War II my Poppy was a pitcher in a softball farm league. Growing up he would take my brother and I to what we called “the lot.” He would pitch ball after ball to us until we hit a game winning home run. When I started playing softball I was fortunate enough to be the pitcher and I knew it made my Poppy proud. To this day people still tell me what a great pitcher my Poppy was. I truly cherish the time we spent at the lot playing softball and I feel he is where I got my love for baseball. 

Every year I anticipate going to the Ballpark in Arlington to watch a Rangers game.  The excitement of the fans all around you makes the experience worthwhile. The one thing that makes the trip to the ballpark outstanding is a juicy, ballpark hot dog. Having a hot dog while the warm, Texas sun is beaming down on you, the fans are cheering, and your team is winning makes the perfect package for a wonderful game. I was unable to watch the Ranger’s Opening Day victory, but that evening my family enjoyed a hot dog in honor of Opening Day. I know hot dogs are not the most nutritious choice of protein, but having one occasionally for a baseball game is just fine. Of course I used the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System when picking out which hot dog I would enjoy. This is what I discovered about NuVal hot dog scores: 

Ballpark Beef Hot Dogs: NuVal Score 7
Oscar Mayer Beef Hot Dogs: NuVal Score 9
Jennie-O Turkey Hot Dogs: NuVal Score 12
Oscar Mayer Turkey Hot Dogs: NuVal Score 14
Ballpark Turkey Hot Dogs: NuVal Score 23
Hebrew National 99% Fat Free Beef Hot Dogs NuVal 23 

We all know a hot dog is not complete without a bun. While scanning the buns this is what I found: 

Mrs. Bairds Hot Dog Buns: NuVal Score 24
Sara Lee Heart Healthy Hot Dog Buns: NuVal Score 29
Nature’s Own Whitewheat Hot Dog Buns: NuVal Score 33 

Hot dogs are fun treats for watching baseball on a Friday night or fireworks on Fourth of July!

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Family Matters: Duke to the rescue


Before my dog Duke came into my life, I wasn’t much of an animal lover. It’s not that I disliked dogs and cats; it’s just that I never understood the connection some people have with their pets. I kind of thought these people were crazy. 

It all began when we were at a friend’s house watching the 2011 Super Bowl when my sons came running in and asked if I would come outside and see a dog that some neighbors had found but couldn’t keep. The boys begged me to consider taking him home with us. If I remember correctly the exact words were, “This dog is going to be put to sleep if we don’t take him with us, Mama! You don’t want to be known as the one who killed a dog, do you?” 

No, I don’t want to be remembered as the dog killer, although at that moment I thought I might be a child killer if they kept trying to guilt me into a new dog. I went outside with the boys, telling them that there was no way we were adding more chaos to our already chaotic home. 

And on top of that, the dog needing rescuing wasn’t a cute little lap dog. It was a 95-pound German Shepherd. All I could think was: Huge. Sheds. Eats. Kills on command. 

At this point, I forgot I was the parent. I looked at the boys and said, “Have you lost your minds?” 

The boys have a nickname for me: “The Changer-Minder.” I have a very hard time enforcing “no means no” when they either make me laugh or melt me with their sweet words and kisses. 

And that was that. Somehow this big dog went home with us that night for a trial sleepover. 

For the next couple of days, Duke and I spent a lot of time together. He turned out to be the sweetest, gentlest – and smartest – creature I had ever been around. He stayed by my feet all day as I worked. He followed me from room to room, and slept at the end of my bed every night, coming to my side of the bed several times a night to check on me. 

Needless to say, Duke never left our home. Duke attached to me as his primary caregiver, always hovering and protecting and loving. There have been times he has done things at just the right time, in just the right way that I truly believe he has to be my angel. 

I know, I know, I now sound like one of those crazy dog people, but I don’t care. It’s been a little over a year that we rescued Duke, but I’m pretty sure he has done most of the rescuing. 



Family Matters: Our Camping Staycation


Our children never ask us what our plans are each spring break. They know that, in our home, spring break means one thing: Time to go camping! 

It seems everyone else had the same idea we did because every state park nearby was full before I could make our reservation. I guess lots of folks enjoy camping in the great outdoors! 

I did not want our camping tradition to be broken, so I decided we would just have to have a “camping staycation”— camping at home! 

We spent Thursday night preparing the menus and grocery shopping for the weekend’s events. Friday night’s menu was grilled steak, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, rolls and our traditional s’mores for dessert. Saturday night was hamburger and hotdog night followed again with the kids’ favorite—s’mores! Sunday was a busy day – the perfect time to make taco soup in our slow cooker. 

Each night, we sat outside at our picnic table and pretended we were camping in a state park. We live in the country with lots of critters running around, so it was easy to imagine! 

One of our camping traditions is to watch scary movies at our camp site, so each night, I popped popcorn, and my husband set up a TV on the deck to make sure our scary movie nights continued. We turned off all of the outside lights, lit lanterns and built a fire in the outdoor fireplace. 

Even though we didn’t actually go anywhere to camp out, our family had a great time during our own backyard “camping staycation!” 

Slow Cooker Taco Soup 

Ingredients:
1.5 Lbs ground beef
1 chopped onions
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
1 can chopped chilies
1 can corn
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 pkg ranch dressing mix 

Directions:
Brown ground beef with onions. Drain water from beans and corn. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Add 2-3 cups of water. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.



Family Matters: Celebrity chef creates baby food


Now that I have teenagers, I look back and realize that things may not have been as difficult with my babies as I face now, but at the time, I worried myself to death about everything from how long my children would sleep each night to if I were giving them the best nutrition possible.

A child’s relationship with food begins earlier than you might think, and I did not want to create any stress or bad habits that might haunt them later on. I just wanted them to grow strong, be healthy, and learn to enjoy the pleasures of good food.

My first child was born 15 years ago, and honestly, there just wasn’t a lot on the market I felt really good about feeding him. And although I did make a lot of his baby food from scratch, hours in the kitchen were not a practical, long-term solution for my schedule – which of course only seemed to add stress and guilt to my list of new mom angst.

Thankfully, parents today have many great choices for giving their children the best possible start in life when it comes to creating a healthy food relationship. Some of these new choices have sprung to life because of to the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs. We are paying more attention to how we cook and eat, and although some of it may not be only entertainment, chefs such as Tyler Florence are making a real difference.

“As a father, I’m always thinking about how I can get my children to eat healthy, even when time is an issue,” Florence states on the Sprouts website. “As a chef, I want to treat them to foods that are delicious, and create a good relationship with a variety of foods.”

Being the chef he is, he rose to the creative challenge and started the company, “Sprouts.” Sprouts is a 100 percent organic line of nutritious, delicious food options for young eaters, and Brookshire’s is proud to be carrying it now as part of our initiative to help our customers make healthier lifestyle choices.

We all know that obesity is on the rise in our country, and thanks to companies such as Sprouts, we can take the steps needed early in our children’s lives to instill good habits and delight in healthy eating.



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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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