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Family Matters: Self-serve parfait bar


For birthday parties or a special after-school treat, kids love the fun of a make-it-yourself sundae bar. So why not steal the idea, but give it a healthier twist – and create a self-serve parfait bar. (After all, as Donkey famously said in the first Shrek, everybody loves parfaits!)

Grade-school kids can make these themselves, with a little supervision and prep work from you, and even younger kids can choose what toppings they want. You can make this work with just about any kind of non-citrus fruit, but berries, peaches and bananas seem to work the best. We’ve listed some treat ideas for toppings, but use your imagination. To keep it healthier, offer only a small amount of things like chocolate chips, and make sure there are plenty of better choices such as nuts and seeds.

For a shortcut, you can use pre-sweetened vanilla yogurt or honey yogurt, but I prefer plain. That way, you can control the amount and type of sweetener used.

Do-it-yourself yogurt parfait

Makes 2 parfaits

Ingredients:
1 cup nonfat plain or Greek yogurt
2 Tbs honey or agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sliced fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, pineapple)
1/3 cup granola

Directions:
Additional toppings, such as toasted coconut, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate shavings, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts

Combine yogurt, honey or agave nectar, and vanilla.

In an ice-cream sundae glass, or a medium-size clear plastic cup, place a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt. Layer with about one-quarter cup of fruit and a spoonful of granola. Repeat layers of yogurt, fruit and granola, ending with one small dollop of yogurt. Repeat to make second parfait.

Let each guest add choice of toppings. Serve immediately.

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Family Matters: Only Use Car for Emergency


The other weekend, my husband and I went out of town with some friends to hear Mat Kearney in concert at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas.

We had been planning the night away for months, which meant we had also painstakingly arranged for our boys to stay with friends while we were gone. 

But as the date approached, our 15-year-old son decided he was old enough to stay home alone, and thus began his campaign to convince us that he indeed could handle any possible problem that could come his way. 

I now know he is destined to be an attorney, God help him. I’ve never heard any trained lawyer more eloquently or determinedly develop a rational argument to explain why his or her side is the right one. 

If only all attorneys approached their work with such determination and passion! 

Well, either way, he wore us down. By Friday he convinced his father and I that he was up to the task. We decided this was one of those moments we needed to listen to him and give him an opportunity to be responsible. We didn’t tell him that we had every neighbor in a three-mile radius checking on him and checking in with us all night long. 

I should also tell you we have a 100-pound German Shepherd who would kill anyone who tried to enter our home unannounced. So, all in all, we thought we were good to go. 

Apparently, our 13-year-old son stopped in that night to get a change of clothes while the older one was still at baseball practice. When we got home the next morning, we found this note from the younger to the older on the kitchen counter: 

ONLY USE CAR FOR EMERGENCY
(NO POT OR BEER OR GIRLS) 

And here all this time I was worried they would simply forget to brush their teeth and say their prayers. 

All joking aside, my boys are great, and I don’t have to worry about these things in their lives just yet. But it’s a much harder world than when I was their age, so I think I will choose to be grateful for each day with no pot…or beer…or girls. 

Parents are Gone Pepperoni Bread
(OK, you know as well as I do he ordered Domino’s. If I were home, we would have this homemade!)

Ingredients:
12 Rhodes™ Dinner Rolls or 1 Loaf Rhodes™ Bread Dough, thawed & risen
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
4 ounces sliced pepperoni
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Spray counter lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Roll loaf or combined dinner rolls into a 12×18-inch rectangle. Combine butter with seasonings. Brush mixture on dough, reserving a small amount to brush on top later. Arrange pepperoni on top of seasoning mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly roll style. Tuck ends under and place, seam side down, on a large sprayed baking sheet. Using a sharp serrated knife cut several vents in the top. Brush with reserved seasoning mixture. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes.



Family Matters: Natural pet foods


When it comes to pet food, a big trend the last few years has been a growing consumer interest in more natural, wholesome pet foods. This makes a lot of sense: Many of us are more interested in eating more natural, organic, fresh foods, so why wouldn’t we want the same thing for our four-legged family members? And because pet obesity rates have been growing sharply, many of us have become more vigilant about watching exactly what is going in those food bowls. 

One in five pet owners even admits to purchasing human foods to feed their pets, according to a recent national pet owner’s survey. But you don’t have to go that route: More companies are responding to the demand for healthier pet foods by developing natural, high-quality foods and treats. 

Check out some of these wholesome options, available at most Brookshire’s stores, unless noted otherwise: 

Freshpet:  This company uses high-protein meats and eggs, real grains and veggies, and no byproducts or artificial preservatives in its dog and cat foods. Its philosophy is that pets benefit from eating fresh, minimally processed foods, just like humans do. These refrigerated foods include Freshpet Select slice-and-serve rolls, Home-style cups, prepared Roasted Meals for dogs and cats, and Dog Joy treats. Available at select Brookshire’s and Super 1 Foods, plus FRESH by Brookshire’s.

Nurture Heavenly Harvest Holistic Dog Food: This food is notable for what they do use – healthy natural grains, veggies, fruit and herbs – as well as what they don’t. (No corn, wheat or soy meal; no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or excess water.) Developed for owners interested in a healthier, holistic lifestyle for their pets, the natural food includes a unique vegetable and herb blend that promotes digestion, plus natural antioxidants that assist in the aging process. 

Purina ONE Beyond: Dog kibble and cat food with real meat, whole grains, and all-natural nutrient and whole grains, to provide all-natural nutrients. Keeping with the natural theme, Purina has adopted several sustainable practices in making this food. For instance, it comes in packages made from 92 percent renewable materials, printed entirely with vegetable-based soy inks, which are also more renewable than other inks. 

Milkbone Healthy Favorites: These biscuits are made with real beef, rolled oats, flaxseed and carrots, but no corn, soy or artificial preservatives.  Corn and soy can cause allergic reactions or digestive issues in some dogs, even in small amounts as they’d get in a treat, so this may be a healthier option for your pet.



Family Matters: Birthdays and Bombs


In our home, birthday mornings begin early with stacks of pancakes and presents piled on our kitchen table. Our son Will’s five-year-old birthday morning began this way — September 11, 2001.

It was still early when the phone rang, and I remember asking Will to come answer it, thinking his grandparents were calling to wish him a happy birthday. A good friend was on the other end, and she said, “I know you don’t watch much TV, but you need to turn it on. Right now.”

And that was that.

My husband and I shielded Will and his younger brother from the day’s horrific events. I tried hard to appear calm, but inside I was freaking out. My mothering instincts went into overdrive, and I kept the boys home from preschool in case something else horrible was coming our way. I’m not sure what I could have done to protect them, but I wanted them under my wings.

Do you know how surreal it was to spend that day on a golf course with two giggly toddlers, hitting golf balls, doing somersaults, and drinking lemonade, while continually checking the sky? God knows what I expected to see.

What I did see that day — what the whole world saw — was widespread destruction and death. The death of many innocent people. The death of feeling safe on our own soil. And the death of beliefs we assumed were sacred and, therefore, untouchable.

It’s impossible for us to ever again feel as free now as we did before September 11. The same feeling happens when you lose someone you love; life’s rose-colored glasses shatter, and your life becomes marked in terms of that one single event. Pre-divorce. Post-cancer. And now, post-9/11.

But we don’t need those glasses anymore to see what we need to see. In fact, we might even see better. Until 9/11, the values we held close to our hearts were just part of an assumption of a way of life. You’re not supposed to wake up in America and wonder if a bomb is going to drop in your backyard.

Everything has shifted, and yet nothing has changed.

Many birthdays have thankfully passed since that day, and we still sit at our table to open presents and eat pancakes. We laugh, love and give thanks for the time we have…today.

Birthday Blueberry Pancakes

Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups Food Club buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries (or other berry, chocolate chips, nuts)
Maple syrup, as desired

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Stir just until the batter is smooth, being careful not to overmix.

Heat an electric griddle or skillet to medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each regular-sized pancake. Scatter 1 tablespoon of blueberries or other mix-in over each pancake. Cook until the top is bubbly and the batter is set, about 90 seconds. Carefully flip pancakes with a spatula and cook 2-3 minutes more. Continue with remaining batter. (Hint: To keep pancakes warm while cooking, heat your oven to 200°F and place cooked pancakes on a baking sheet in the oven, tented with foil.)

Serve with butter and warmed maple syrup. Makes enough for 4 hungry people.

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Family Matters: MyPlate


March is one of my favorite months because it’s National Nutrition Month. Today, with 17% of children from ages 2 to 19 years old classified as obese, it’s more important than ever to take advantage of this annual observance, and resolve to teach our children more about nutrition. 

And teaching kids about nutrition is getting easier. Last summer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced the nutrition icon that many of us grew up on – MyPyramid – with a new one, MyPlate. 

MyPlate is super-easy for children to understand. It provides a visual representative of a balanced diet based on the 2010 Dietary Guideline for Americans. MyPlate is divided into the 5 food groups; fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. 

Fruit and veggies: The USDA suggests half your plate should be filled with nutritious fruits and vegetables. This could be a 1/2 cup of cranberry juice at breakfast, an orange at lunch and a half cup of sliced apples at dinner. Have a sweet tooth? End each meal with a piece of fruit. For many families, vegetables can be a harder sell – it’s harder to find veggies that kids will like, and they’re often more work for parents to prepare. But don’t be discouraged – frozen and canned vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, and a lot easier for busy families to fit into their meal plan. 

Grains: One-fourth of your plate should be made up of grains. This can be a 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, 1 cup of dry cereal or a slice of bread. Half of your grains should be whole grains. Look for products with whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole grain cornmeal, whole oats, whole rye or wild rice as the first ingredient; this ensures you’re getting a whole grain. 

Protein: The remaining fourth of your plate is reserved for protein. Protein is not only steak and chicken, but also nuts, seeds, peanut butter and beans. Meat, poultry and fish should be 2 to 3 ounces or the sizes of a deck of cards. Other protein options are 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1/2 cup cooked beans. 

Dairy: Off to the side of the plate is a place for your nice, cold glass of low-fat or fat-free milk. You can replace the cup of milk with a cup of yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces of low-fat natural cheese. (Sour cream fan? Replace it with plain, low- fat yogurt). 

With the new MyPlate icon, kids can easily visualize what a healthy diet is supposed to look like. As you’re planning meals, get them to discuss how to make the meal fit that pattern, and encourage them to come up with healthy foods they like that will balance out the plate. And soon, helping them eat better will be a piece of cake…or, make that a piece of fruit. 

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Family Matters: Life is Short, Eat Dessert First!


You can learn a lot about people by simply reading the words on their t-shirts. In an instant, you can know which teams they cheer for, how they vote, where they vacation, and which motorcycle they drive in their fantasy life.

One of my favorites was a shirt I saw on a darling white-haired lady one summer while we were in an ice cream shop in Florida. She was sitting at a picnic table in the shade, along with three or four of her grandchildren, happily enjoying huge scoops of melting ice cream. Her shirt read, “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First!”

I read the shirt quickly and thought, “yeah, yeah, cute saying on a cute lady” but didn’t think too much about it until a few weeks later when we were back home and I saw a car with the same saying on a bumper sticker. It reminded me of that day at the beach when my family was having such a good time together, away from the stresses of real life and our fast-paced routines.

Something triggered in my head and I thought how funny it would be if I served dessert first that night at the dinner table. I never let my children have sweets before dinner time, and I wondered what their reactions would be if we sat down, said the blessing, and then I pulled a pie out of the fridge.

The more I thought about it, the more I became certain I needed to make the idea a reality. I still had several hours before everyone got home from school and work, so I decided to make each of their favorite desserts: chocolate sheet cake for Ron, lemon icebox pie for Smith, and Will’s never-varying two scoops of lime sherbet.

Let me just tell you this: Do it. Do it tonight. The expression on their faces and the uncontrollable laughter and delight around our table that night is one of my favorite memories of all time.

I don’t know why I had never thought of serving dessert first before that night, and now that I’m writing this, I think it’s about time for me to do it again. I feel like I just blinked and suddenly those cute little boys wearing matching bathing suits have become huge teenagers well on their way out of our door once and for all.

Life really is short…painfully short at times. So tonight, I’ll do it if you will. Throw the good parent handbook out of the window, and dig in. Eat dessert first.

Smith’s Favorite Lemon Icebox Pie

For crust

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tablespoons sugar
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling

Ingredients:
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

For whipped cream

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar

Directions:
For the crust, preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl until combined, then press mixture evenly onto the bottom and up side of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake in middle of oven 10 minutes. Cool completely, leaving oven preheated.

For the pie, whisk together condensed milk and yolks until combined well. Add juice and whisk again until mixture is slightly thickened. Pour into crust and bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, cover, and then chill in refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

For the whipped cream, just before serving, beat cream and powdered sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie cold topped with whipped cream. 

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Family Matters: Making cleaning a family project


If you’re like most of us, your house may start out clean and tidy at the beginning of the week, but after a few days, the clutter and dirt of daily life catches up with you. And, of course, this is multiplied by 10 if you have children in the house.

So why not make the kids part of the solution? A few minutes of work by every family member will make the cleanup go faster – and start teaching children the skills they’ll need to keep house when they finally move out. Plus, it means you’ll have less work to do come the weekend, and more time to spent together as a family, doing the things you’d really rather do.

Combat clutter: Even a clean house can start looking junky from the flotsam you accumulate during the week, like school papers, unopened mail, jackets and toys forgotten in the kitchen. Create a system for catching all this – a basket or drawer for junk mail, a folder for that week’s school papers (which you should clean our frequently).  Another mom I know has a “freebie bowl” – specifically designed to catch all those miniature toys collected from fast-food visits or venues like Chuck E. Cheese.

Conduct a “toy sweep:” In most houses, toys and games and books have a way of migrating from their “home” to other resting spots throughout the house. Some friends make each child do a mandatory “toy sweep” before dinner, by having each child search for dolls, action figures, crayons and games and return each to their room.

Five minute bursts: Create a list of tasks that can be done in five or ten minutes – sweeping the kitchen, wiping down the bathroom mirror and counters, dusting the furniture in just the living room or just the dining room. Then, if your kids are old enough to do the work, let everyone draw straws to see who has to do what.  Have everyone do their job at the same time, then meet back in the kitchen or living room for a family reward, like a favorite video or a quick game of cards.

Give assignments: For older kids, say, 8 and up, it’s time to start assigning a daily task that is their responsibility alone. It can be as simple as making the bed and making sure all their dirty clothes actually hit the hamper, taking out the trash, or for older kids, loading and unloading the dishwasher. If your kids balk at chores, like most do, gently remind them that everyone lives in the house, so everybody has to take some responsibility for keeping it clean and livable. (And if that doesn’t work alone – sweeten the deal with a small but non-monetary reward, like an extra 15 minutes of reading time before bedtime, or watching a favorite TV show together.)

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Family Matters: Taking care of your cat


Does your cat like to use your couch – or your drapes, or your favorite pillow – as a claw-sharpening device? If so, you may have considered declawing him or her. But before resorting to surgery, you should know that declawing a cat is somewhat of a controversial issue within the veterinary community, and you may be able to alter your cat’s behavior with a few simple purchases and/or behavior modifications. 

The American Veterinary Medication Association, the non-profit association representing U.S. veterinarians, recommends that domestic cats should be declawed only after the owners have tried to keep the cat from using his or her claws destructively. Scratching is a way for cats to mark their territory, groom and stretch, and it’s normal behavior in a healthy kitty. 

Some veterinarians feel that declawing is unnecessarily painful and may change a cat’s personality and behavior. They argue that declawed felines may feel defenseless and may be more likely to mark (urinate on) their territory, avoid contact with others or become aggressive and change their pattern of vocalization (growling, hissing, or increased crying). 

On the other hand, other experts feel that declawing a young kitten will be less traumatic, because young animals are smaller and have less weight to carry on their feet after surgery. They’ll experience less pain and heal more quickly than full-grown animals, and seem to be less affected personality-wise by the surgery. And, some even feel that even adult cats can be declawed without a permanent change in personality. 

If you have a cat with a destructive clawing problem, first consult your veterinarian for advice. But here are some steps to try: 

  • Provide a few “safe” places for your cat to scratch. This might be a cardboard box, a carpet remnant, an old pillow or quilt, or a commercially produced scratching post. For best results, attach the scratchable material to a fixed object, like a wall or post. 
  • Trim your cat’s claws every couple of weeks. This removes the urge in the cat to “groom” its claws, and prevents damage to furniture AND people. You can purchase clippers specially designed for cats. 
  • Give your cats plenty of toys and affection, to keep them from being bored and looking for activity.  
  • Make their favorite scratching spots unappealing. You can spray these spots with a scratch deterrent. These are often herbal- or citrus-scented, and cats don’t like the smell. Or place some double-sided tape or sticky contact paper over the spot your cat frequents.  
  • Use behavior modification: Praise and treat your cat (with liver treats or another favorite goodie) when the cats uses an approved scratching spot. To prevent the cat from using the old favorites, some experts suggest keeping a spray bottle filled with water handy, and squirting it in the cat’s general direction when it appears headed toward a forbidden scratch spot.


Family Matters: Packing a healthier lunch


What’s in your child’s school lunch? More people – including British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver – have been asking that question lately, hoping to encourage parents and schools to give children a more nutritious mid-day meal.

The best way to influence your child’s lunchtime habits, of course, is to pack it yourself. But how do you pack a healthier lunch and end up with something they’ll actually eat, and not toss in the trash, so they’re ready for an afternoon of learning, playing and growing? Get started here:

Get kids involved in planning: If your children go along when you do the grocery shopping, let them select some or all of their lunch components. (This works best, obviously, if you narrow down their choices first to just a few choices, so you don’t spend all day in the store.) If they don’t accompany you, ask for their requests before you head to the store. Again, this works best if you have a list of good choices to start from.

Get the proper packaging: Since kids don’t have access to microwaves or refrigerators, a small investment in thermal containers and coldpacks is worth it. It will allow much more creativity in lunch-packing – soups, pastas, cool desserts – and more importantly, it will keep cold and hot foods safe and appetizing to eat.

Pack ahead: Mornings are a rush job in most households. If you only have two minutes to throw lunch together, it’s far too easy to rely on leftover pizza and a bag of chips. Instead, pack the night before, right after dinner, before you’ve cleaned up the kitchen. Make it a family project; older kids can make their own lunches while you load the dishwasher, or younger ones can help pull out lunch components  with your supervision.

Make simple substitutions, and phase them in gradually: You don’t have to make drastic changes, at least not right away. A few small substitutions will get you on the way to healthier lunches fast. For instance, substitute yogurt-covered raisins, trail mix, or plain dried fruit for candy. Use mustard or fat-free mayo instead of full-fat mayonnaise or sandwich spread. Send pretzels or carrots with ranch dressing instead of chips; lean turkey instead of fatty pepperoni or bologna on a sandwich.

Experiment a little: We all tend to end up in a lunch rut. Get away from the sandwich-chips-fruit combo. Why not hummus and pita chips, or bean dips and baked tortilla chips, or even a container of edamame? Make that sandwich on pita bread, a whole-wheat bagel, or a tortilla. Try a Greek yogurt cup instead of pudding.

Allow the occasional surprise treat: Nobody can be perfect all the time, so it’s fun for kids to discover the occasional unexpected treat. A fun-size candy bar, a small bag of chips, a cookie – anything that’s school-approved should be included at least once in a while, to mix things up and remind kids that moderation is the goal.



Family Matters: National Children’s Dental Health Month


According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as many as half of all children will be affected by tooth decay by the time they turn 5 years old. Tooth decay starts as soon as your baby’s teeth begin to appear – so it’s important to start proper dental hygiene as soon as your baby starts teething. 

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages parents to have a “dental home” by their baby’s first birthday. But there are things you can do at home to maintain your baby’s beautiful, healthy smile. 

  • After feeding your baby, wipe his or her teeth with a soft damp towel or brush them with a soft toothbrush. When bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar, it produces an acid that can produce tooth decay, so it’s especially important after any meal containing sugars, even “good” sugars like fruit. 
  • One of the biggest causes of tooth decay is putting your baby to bed with a bottle. Don’t do it! The peace and quiet now could result in dental problems later on. Also, avoid giving your toddler sugary drinks, like juice, lemonade and soda, in his or her sippy cup.  
  • Calcium, along with plenty of vitamin D, will help your children’s teeth stay strong and their gums stay healthy. The majority of Americans get most of their calcium from milk and milk products. Current dietary guidelines recommend consuming low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products to reach the proper levels of calcium. Children ages 2 to 4 should consume 2 cups of these products; children ages 4 to 8 should consume 2 1/2 cups; and children 8 and up should get 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Because our bodies need Vitamin D to properly absorb calcium, look for products that are Vitamin D enhanced, too. 
  • Fluoride plays an important role in keeping tooth enamel hard. Most Americans, including babies and toddlers, now get plenty of fluoride from fluoridated water. However, if your family’s water is not fluoridated, or you drink bottled water, talk with your pediatrician or dentist about fluoride treatments or supplements. 

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so there’s no better time than now to get on the right track with your baby’s dental care.



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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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