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Healthy Living: Flu Season


Flu SeasonThe dreaded flu season is upon us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get sick.

The last time I got the flu, which was luckily about 7 years ago, I was unlucky enough to have it at the same time as both of my children. There is nothing worse than taking care of sick kids when you’re sick yourself.

Each year, over 200,000 Americans get sick with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but this season, I plan to stay healthy.

I got my flu shot, as did my sons. Shots are available at Brookshire’s Pharmacy locations and only take a minute. Plus, it didn’t hurt at all.

I am vigilant about washing my hands. Proper washing techniques are proven to help stop the spread of the flu virus. Use warm water and soap, and be sure to get each crevice between your fingers and everything, especially if you’ve been in a public place.

Speaking of public places, avoid going anywhere if you’re sick or suspect you’re coming down with something. Never go to work when you’re sick. Your co-workers will thank you for it.

Wipe down surfaces with a bleach wipe or other disinfectant wipe proven to kill germs on a regular basis, especially after you’ve been sick. Be vigilant about shared surfaces like office telephones or doorknobs.

Include a good amount of vitamin C in your diet to help you ward off illnesses.

Finally, see your doctor immediately if you suspect the flu. He can prescribe Tamiflu® or a similar drug to help lessen the effects of the disease.



Healthy Living: Stuffed “Pumpkins”


Stuffed “Pumpkins”It’s never too early to trot out the fall treats!

These fun and fanciful “pumpkins” don’t have to wait until Halloween to make an appearance, and they might even entice your kids to devour this healthy meal.

You can stuff the bell pepper “pumpkins” with almost anything you want: a mixture of ground turkey, quinoa and corn; this chicken mixture; or even make it all veggies and grains.

Your family will get vitamin C and antioxidants from the peppers. The chicken and black beans provide protein, and there’s lots of beta-carotene in the tomatoes in the salsa.

Plus, you can make these in advance, and just pop them in the oven for dinner when you get home in the evening. They’re a fun and healthy way to feed your family!

Stuffed “Pumpkins”

Ingredients:
4 large orange bell peppers
4 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 Tbs cumin
1/2 Tbs garlic salt
1/2 Tbs chili powder
1/2 to 1 cup salsa
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Slice the tops off of the orange peppers, removing seeds and pith. Using the sharp tip of a paring knife, “carve” faces into the peppers, small enough that filling won’t come out but large enough to see a pumpkin “face.”

In a large bowl, mix together shredded chicken, black beans, onions, spices, salsa (to taste) and cheese. Stuff 1/4 of mixture into each pepper, and cap with the top of the pepper.

Place in a baking dish with a lid or cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover, and bake for 15 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 568, Calories from Fat: 138, Fat: 15 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 137 mg, Sodium: 480 mg, Carbohydrates: 46 g, Fiber: 12 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 61 g.

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Healthy Living: Stuffed Breakfast Sweet Potatoes


Stuffed Breakfast Sweet PotatoesGetting out the door in the morning is no easy task.

There’s the first school pre-dawn run to get the older kid to cross country practice. I fuel up with a can of LaCroix bubble water during that trip.

Then, it’s back home to get myself and the younger kid ready for the day.

That includes showers and breakfast.

This simple and healthy meal, packed full of vitamins and nutrients, needed to get us through a day of work, school, sports and homework. It can bake while you shower, and then voila! It’s ready to go when you’re ready to eat. You can even prep the potatoes the night before. Just heat them for a few minutes in the microwave to get them ready to go back in the oven the second time.

Stuffed Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:
2 large sweet potatoes
4 large eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
toppings such as shredded cheese, green onions, chives, salsa, avocado, etc.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Pierce sweet potatoes; bake for about 1 hour, or until soft and tender. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle.

Slice each potato lengthwise, and then scoop out most of the soft flesh, leaving about a 1/2-inch shell intact. Save the potato for a future use or mash to eat as a “side dish” with the baked eggs.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.

Carefully crack 1 egg into each sweet potato shell. Season with salt and pepper; bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until egg white has set. Top with shredded cheese. Return to the oven until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven, and top with items of your choice. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 249, Calories from Fat: 47, Fat: 5 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 186 mg, Sodium: 84 mg, Carbohydrates: 42 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 9 g.

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Healthy Living: Back to School Breakfast Baked Oatmeal Cups


Back to School Breakfast Baked Oatmeal CupsBack to school breakfasts are wreaking havoc with my psyche this year.

I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day (and my personal favorite), and the PRESSURE to deliver a nutritious, delicious, easy and convenient back to school breakfast is mounting.

I haven’t stressed out about breakfast in the past, but this year, one of my kids will need to take his breakfast to school. For whatever reason, this is throwing a kink in my best-laid breakfast plans.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for his school breakfasts.

I was referred to this recipe on a blog called “Flex with Faith Fitness,” written by a super mom, teacher and fitness instructor committed to a healthy lifestyle. It fits all my requirements for a fabulous school morning breakfast: it’s healthy, easy and can be made ahead of time. It’s also delicious.

I can’t wait to try these!

Baked Oatmeal Cups

Ingredients:
coconut oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large bananas (or 2 cups unsweetened applesauce)
1 Tbs raw honey
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
pinch of cloves
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
toppings of your choice (such as fresh berries, chunks of fresh fruit, nuts, pure maple syrup, chocolate chips, etc.)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat muffin tin with coconut oil or nonstick cooking spray, or use paper liners. Paper liners tend to work best if you’re freezing these.

Combine eggs, vanilla, bananas and honey in a large bowl. Mash bananas and mix well. Set aside.

Combine oats, cinnamon, cloves and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir well and combine with banana mixture. Stir in almond milk and mix well.

Divide oatmeal evenly between prepared muffin cups, and add toppings of your choice.

Bake for 26 to 30 minutes or until golden-brown.

Serve immediately or freeze.

Makes 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 175, Fat: 4 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium: 35 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 6 g.

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Healthy Living: Kid-Friendly Breakfast Sushi


Kid-Friendly Breakfast SushiSchool started last week, and I’m up against an added challenge this year: getting a kid to an athletic practice in the morning before school.

He’s STARVING by the time he finishes practice, but he can’t eat anything heavy before he goes to the workout.

We came up with breakfast sushi, a “roll” that gives him some energy, but it doesn’t weigh him down. It has protein, potassium to help rebuild muscles, and “good” carbs that he can burn during practice.

Bonus points: my other son loves them, too.

Breakfast Sushi

Ingredients:
1 large, firm banana
1 Tbs plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs natural peanut butter
2 Tbs granola or other whole-grain breakfast cereal, crushed
1/4 cup strawberries, finely chopped

Directions:
Peel banana.

Mix together Greek yogurt and peanut butter. Roll banana in mixture, and then coat with a layer of crushed cereal. Sprinkle with strawberries. Refrigerate overnight, and serve first thing in the morning.

Serves 1

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 262, Calories from Fat: 145, Fat: 16 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 1 mg, Sodium: 17 mg, Carbohydrates: 50 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 24 g, Protein: 13 g.

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Healthy Living: Healthy Fats


Healthy FatsIf those two words don’t seem to go together to you, you’re not alone.

When I first heard of a “low carb, high fat” diet, I thought to myself, “That’s a heart attack waiting to happen.”

Then, I realized that you’re not eating your body weight in Cheetos and ice cream; you’re opting for HEALTHY fats and HEALTHY carbohydrates.

Healthy fats include things like olive oil, avocados and nut butters. Healthy fats are great for your skin and hair, and they keep you feeling full longer. They’re also good for your heart.

Monounsaturated fats, like the ones found in olive oil and avocados, raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, seeds and avocados are good sources of healthy fats. Salmon is another good source of healthy fats.

Healthy fats help your body absorb nutrients, and they help your food digest more effectively.

Don’t go overboard, though. Fat is fat. Read labels and pay attention to serving sizes! Remember that a serving size of almonds is an ounce, not a can.



Healthy Living: Super Simple Marinara Sauce


Super Simple Marinara SauceSummer is the perfect time to make a healthy and hearty marinara sauce, using the freshest of summer vegetables and herbs.

It comes together quickly, and it is so fresh and tasty that simmering and stirring on a stove all day is not required (but it sure smells great if you do!).

Right now, tomatoes are at their peak, so grab some for your sauce today. You could also use a hybrid combination of fresh and canned like I do.

The beauty of a marinara sauce is that you can combine any herbs you like, not just limiting yourself to what’s traditional. Everything is at the peak of freshness and flavor right now.

Today, I have some simmering with Cuban oregano from my friend’s garden. She gave me a sprig last week that I’m trying to root hydroponically, but in the meantime, it smelled too good not to use. I also have fresh basil from my garden as well as locally grown onions and tomatoes.

I like a chunky marinara, but you could always give this a whirl in the food processor if you want it to be smoother.

The tomatoes are full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting agents. Make a huge batch of this, and freeze what you don’t use for later use.

Toss with a rigatoni pasta, or serve over slices of eggplant (my plan).

Super Simple Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:
1 lb local tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
2 oz tomato paste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Spread tomatoes and onions on a baking sheet. Roast until the edges turn dark, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer to a large pot.

Add garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Process in food processor until smooth, if desired.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 57, Calories from Fat: 5, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 406 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Healthy Living: Zucchini Lasagna Rolls


Zucchini Lasagna RollsI may have mentioned (97 times) that I’m eating low-carb.

I resisted trying to modify any kind of pasta dish because, let’s face it, pasta is pasta, and I’m Italian and we don’t mess with pasta.

However, this dish is an exception. I didn’t really go into it thinking of it as a pasta dish; I went in with the full knowledge I was eating a vegetable, not a piece of pasta. I also knew that swapping out the pasta for a veggie was so much healthier for me.

I grilled my zucchini on the grill instead of in the grill pan because I love the smoky flavor that you get from a grill. You can do either. I also rewrote the original recipe will full-fat ingredients. If you want to substitute lower-fat ricotta, cottage and mozzarella cheeses, you can certainly do that as well.

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

Ingredients:
8 oz ricotta cheese
4 oz cottage cheese
3 Tbs parmesan cheese
2 Tbs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs fresh basil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper, to taste
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 8 (1/4-inch thick) slices
1 mild Italian turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
For the filling, stir together ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt, garlic, red pepper and black pepper. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

For the zucchini, spray slices with nonstick cooking spray or brush with olive oil. Prepare grill pan to medium heat. Grill zucchini for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until flexible but still firm. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Spray a casserole or other dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread 1/4 cup marinara evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Blot zucchini dry. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the zucchini, and spread in an even layer. Top with a tablespoon of cooked sausage crumbles. Roll up and secure with a toothpick. Place seam-side down in prepared pan.

Top with remaining marinara and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Serves 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 184, Calories from Fat: 97, Fat: 11 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 33 mg, Sodium: 597 mg, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 14 g.

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Healthy Living: Pokemon Go


Pokemon GoYes, yes, I know people have fallen down cliffs, tripped on snakes and stepped out into traffic, but we have common sense and know how to take advantage of a gaming app that gets you out and moving.

Pokemon Go, if somehow you haven’t heard of it, is an app for your phone where you chase Pokemon figures to different locations and “catch” them, earning points, fighting battles, gaining strength and moving ahead to win the game.

Emphasis on moving.

No matter the downsides to the game (because some people can make anything good bad), this is a great way to get out and active with your kids.

I went out with my kids the other evening (supervision is key because no one wants their kids wandering around alone). We ended up walking five miles that night, just chasing little animated critters. While we were out (our local park and running trail seemed to have a lot of things to catch!), we saw lots of other families out chasing Pokemon. Not only were they out walking, but they were talking, laughing, joking and having fun. Yes, we also saw people with their faces buried in their electronic devices, but they were still out walking.

We found several landmarks in our town that we didn’t know existed, including a beautiful fountain that we pegged as a great location for a future picnic.

It was fun. We laughed a lot, and we walked a lot. We got moving as a family and had a good time. That was a win in my book.



Healthy Living: Disinfecting Wipes


Disinfecting WipesA few years ago, I was working in an office when pretty much everyone contracted the flu.

Not the “Oh, I have the flu” because your stomach got upset one night flu but the diagnosed, Type A flu that you need rest and a couple of days off of work.

Did my co-workers take those days off? No, they did not. Major pet peeve. Don’t even get me started. The flu spread around the office like wildfire. I was lucky enough, at the time, to have my own office with a door that closed, and I took full advantage of that closed door; let me tell you. When people, sick people, did come into my office, I’d whip out my container of disinfectant wipes and wipe down everything that person had touched: the chair, my desk, a pen, even the door knobs, door casings and the door itself.

I did not get the flu.

Disinfectant wipes are a great product to keep in your car, your office, your house and even your purse because who loves to touch the handle of grocery carts after 79 other people have handled them that day, maybe even after blowing their nose or shaking hands with a person who was sick.

At home, I also wipe down everything after someone in my family has been sick.

At work, I wipe frequently because I just don’t always have control over who comes into my office. Besides, for my day job, a lot of kids come through my office who have serious illnesses. I want to protect them, too.

Disinfectant wipes come in handy dispensers or travel packs for places like your car or your purse.

Pick some up today, and grab an extra package or two to send to school with your child.

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