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Healthy Living: Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta


Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and FetaWith the bounty of available summer produce, I could really go meatless all during the hot months.

Quinoa, a complex grain, provides protein and corn provides a carbohydrate in this dish, giving you a balanced meal. The feta cheese adds tang to this dish, and the jalapeño peppers make it spicy and give great flavor to the grains.

Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn and Feta 

Ingredients:
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup quinoa
2 Tbs olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including 2 inches of the greens, thinly sliced
2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
4 ears worth of corn kernels (about 2 cups)
1 bunch spinach, leaves only
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 lb feta cheese, cut into small cubes
2 large red onions, thinly sliced into rounds
1/2 cup veggie broth or white wine
4 bell peppers

Directions:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, then the quinoa. Give it a stir, then cover. Simmer over low heat until the grains are tender and reveal their spiraled germ, about 15 minutes.
Warm half the oil in a wide skillet. Add the scallions and jalapeño peppers. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, corn and spinach, along with 2 tablespoons water. When the spinach is wilted, add the cilantro, quinoa and feta; remove from heat. Toss everything together. Taste for salt and season with pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wide skillet. When hot, add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until they start to color around the edges after several minutes. Pour in the broth or wine; deglaze the pan, giving the onions a stir as you do. Season with salt and pepper, and distribute in a baking dish large enough to hold the bell peppers.

Slice the bell peppers in half lengthwise. Cut out the membranes and seeds. Simmer in salted water until tender to the touch of a knife but not overly soft, about 4-5 minutes. Remove. Fill them with quinoa mix and set them in the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Bake the peppers until heated through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Switch the heat to broil and brown the tops. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 405, Calories from Fat: 149, Fat: 17 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 25 mg, Sodium: 374 mg, Potassium: 862 mg, Carbohydrates: 54 g, Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Healthy Living: Grilled Okra


Grilled OkraOkra is definitely a Southern thing.

While I bristle when people accuse me of being from the North (I’m from the capital of the Confederacy, people!), there were some things, like okra and sweet tea, that took some getting used to here in the Deep, Deep South.

Okra and I have progressed in our relationship. I tasted it. Then, I tolerated it. Then, I liked it. Recently, I had it prepared in such a simple, healthy way that I even have come to crave that dish again.

The beauty of summer, and of veggies like okra, is that you don’t need to do much to them to make a delicious, healthy meal. Let the flavor of the vegetable stand out, and don’t overcook it to preserve the nutrients.

Grilled Okra

Ingredients:
1 lb okra, washed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs Tony Chachere’s seasoning

Directions:
Wash okra. Trim both ends. Toss with olive oil and seasoning.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Spray a grill pan with nonstick cooking spray and place okra in the grill pan. Grill, stirring at intervals, until okra is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 97, Calories from Fat: 65, Fat: 7 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 8 mg, Potassium: 339 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Cucumber Radish Salad


Cucumber Radish SaladI used to work with a woman who would munch on raw radishes at her desk.

I thought it was gross.

But hey, she was a tri-athlete and in amazing shape and great health.

Maybe I should have munched on radishes, too.

I have to be honest; I never really understood their appeal. I didn’t mind them in small quantities, shaved over a salad, maybe, but I definitely didn’t want to eat one like an apple.

I do love them in this salad. It’s seriously low-cal but full of flavor. Radishes are said to soothe sore throats and aid in digestion, as well as eliminate toxins from the body and help protect against cancer.

Cucumber Radish Salad

Ingredients:

For the salad:
1 English cucumber, washed and cut into thin rounds
10 radishes, washed and thinly sliced

For the dressing:
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic, minced
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper, or to taste

Directions:
In a salad bowl, combine sliced radishes and cucumbers; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing; taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Add the dressing to the salad; mix well and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 53, Calories from Fat: 33, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 303 mg, Potassium: 153 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Kiwi


KiwiMy older son discovered kiwi this summer. I’d tried to give it to him before and was met with horrific face contortions, dramatic gagging gestures and rude noises.

However, for some reason this summer, it’s become his favorite thing and that’s great because kiwi, native to New Zealand, has more vitamin C than an orange. It’s also a great source of dietary fiber and potassium.

Eating just a couple of kiwifruit each day may significantly lower your risk for blood clots and reduce the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood, therefore helping to protect cardiovascular health, studies show.

My son doesn’t know any of this. He just knows they taste good. He still doesn’t love the texture of the skin, but I’ve taught him how to cut the fruit in half around the middle, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and eat it that way!



Healthy Living: Zucchini Tapenade Bites


Zucchini Tapenade BitesI seriously love appetizers. I like tapas. Small bites. Whatever you want to call it. I love grazing, trying new things.

It’s sometimes difficult to avoid heavy appetizers at parties. You can choose from the cheese dips, the pigs in a blanket, the brisket…none of which fit well into the “healthy” category.

Then, I tried this appetizer at a summer baby shower.

Delicious! Full of flavor! Relatively healthy, all things considered.

Zucchini Tapenade Bites

Ingredients:
1 (6-inch) zucchini, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup tapenade (black olive puree)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 large basil leaves, each torn into 4 pieces

Directions:
Arrange zucchini slices on a serving platter. Top each slice with 1/2 teaspoon of tapenade. Sprinkle the feta cheese over top of the platter. Drop the basil leaves over top and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 131, Calories from Fat: 91, Fat: 10 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 17 mg, Sodium: 615 mg, Potassium: 186 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 4 g.

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Healthy Living: Watermelon Salsa


Watermelon SalsaWhat’s more refreshing on a hot summer day than watermelon?

What’s tastier on a hot summer day than watermelon with a bit of a kick?

Combine the two and you have a delicious watermelon salsa that’s sure to please a crowd at a party, your family at dinner or just for a snack by the pool post-swim.

It’s healthy, tasty and easy!

Watermelon Salsa

Ingredients:
3 cups watermelon, pre-cubed and seeded
2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well.

Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 26, Calories from Fat: 1, Fat: 0.1 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1 mg, Potassium: 81 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 0.7 g.

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Healthy Living: Avocado Shrimp Cocktails


Avocado Shrimp Cocktails in a Jar

I had these shrimp appetizers at a party. They were served in small Mason jars and were cute as can be.

I make them for snacks at work, or as part of my lunch. They’re light on calories but high on protein and flavor. I can’t resist making them in Mason jars, either, but you can make it in a bowl and serve it as a side salad for dinner, too.

Avocado Shrimp Cocktails in a Jar

Ingredients:
1 lb medium cooked shrimp
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 Tbs capers
2 Tbs fresh basil
3 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs horseradish
1 1/2 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs tomato juice
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup baby romaine lettuce, very thinly sliced
6 croutons, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Put first 7 ingredients into a large bowl and set aside. Whisk together the next 7 ingredients. Slowly add olive oil and continue to whisk until the olive oil is combined with the other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour dressing over the shrimp and vegetables; toss. Set aside.

Put a bit of the sliced romaine lettuce in the bottom of each of six 8-ounce Mason jars. Top each jar with the shrimp and vegetable mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 156, Calories from Fat: 74, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 119 mg, Sodium: 254 mg, Potassium: 358 mg, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Healthy Living: Garden Alfredo with Chicken


Garden Alfredo with ChickenI think we all try to lighten up our meals in the summertime; there’s just something about warmer weather that makes a heavy meal feel even heavier. This is a great, healthy dish because it uses just a little pasta but a lot of vegetables for lots of flavor, without the calories. I’ve even made it omitting the pasta all together.

This recipe calls for a lot of vegetables, but I like to add tomatoes as well.

Garden Alfredo with Chicken

Ingredients:
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
5/8 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
cooking spray
6 oz uncooked pappardelle pasta
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
2 tsp olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
5 oz thin asparagus spears, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 tsp all purpose flour
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbs fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Cut chicken across the grain into thin slices; keep warm. Reserve drippings in pan.

While chicken cooks, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.

Cut each zucchini and squash in half, crosswise. Cut 1/2-inch slices from outer “walls” of zucchini and squash; discard cores. Slice pieces lengthwise into thin strips.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl. Add zucchini, squash, asparagus and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 3/8 teaspoon salt. Add garlic and tomatoes; sauté 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Combine broth, half-and-half and flour; stir with a whisk. Add broth mixture to reserved drippings in skillet. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cheese; stir until cheese melts. Add pasta, vegetables and chicken; toss. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and parsley.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 456, Fat: 13.6 g (5.6 g Saturated Fat, 4.7 g Monounsaturated Fat, 1.2 g Polyunsaturated Fat), Protein: 38.7 g, Carbohydrates: 43.2 g, Fiber: 4.4 g, Cholesterol: 106 mg, Iron: 4 mg, Sodium: 718 mg, Calcium: 270 mg.

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Healthy Living: Natural Mosquito Repellant


Natural Mosquito RepellantI don’t know if you’ve seen the news yet that the mosquitoes this year are “super mosquitoes.”

While the drought has reduced the number of mosquitoes buzzing around, the ones who are menacing tender flesh everywhere are more virulent than their forefathers. Made stronger by surviving the dry season, the super mosquitoes bite more frequently, according to reports.

We love to sit outside, but I do not love to be riddled with itchy mosquito bites.

I also don’t love slathering chemicals all over my body unless it becomes absolutely, positively necessary.

This simple, natural trick helps keeps mosquitoes at bay while you’re enjoying dinner outside or simply relaxing with a cup of coffee and a book. The bonus is that it looks pretty and smells good, too!

Slice limes in half and stud cut half with about a dozen whole cloves. Mosquitoes don’t like the smell and will stay away from your party. Problem solved, no chemicals involved.

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Healthy Living: Crunch Lovers’ Chicken Salad


Crunch Lovers' Chicken SaladSummer is the time for salads, and one of the things that I think makes them fun, as well as healthy and delicious, is when my salad is a rainbow of colors and a variety of textures.

This salad fills all those requirements and is healthy as well.

The recipe calls for red apples (I use Honey Crisp), but I’ve also made it with green Granny Smith apples as well. Either way, it’s delicious. 

While a little less healthy, my kids like when I marinate my chicken in root beer overnight before I grill it. You can also use the breast from rotisserie chicken, plain grilled chicken, poached chicken or chicken cooked any way you like it. I’ve also swapped the peanuts for almonds. 

Crunch Lovers’ Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz) bag Dole Chopped Asian Blend salad mix
1 cup chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 red apple, chopped
1 small cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
3 Tbsp salted peanuts, chopped
2 white corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips lengthwise then cut in half
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
chili powder and salt

For the Chili-Lime Vinaigrette:
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F then add tortilla strips to a bowl. Mist or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or nonstick spray. Drizzle with lime juice, and season generously with chili powder and salt. Toss to coat then spread out on a baking sheet and bake until crunchy, about 7-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the Chili-Lime Vinaigrette, combine ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or in a bowl, then shake or whisk to combine.

Combine the rest of the ingredients with the vinaigrette then toss to coat. Add baked tortilla strips, then toss again and serve. 

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 959, Calories from Fat: 649, Fat: 72 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 64 mg, Sodium: 119 mg, Potassium: 1202 mg, Carbohydrates: 59 g, Fiber: 13 g, Sugar: 28 g, Protein: 32 g. 

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