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Family Matters: Halloween Parties

Halloween Parties Somehow my boys talked me into having a Halloween party this year.

We were in a local Halloween store, and my older son was begging me to buy a fog machine.

“We don’t need a fog machine,” I reasoned. Who sits around the living room enveloped in fog?

“We could use it for a Halloween party,” he said.

“What Halloween party?” I fired back.

Then, I got to thinking about it: My boys LOVE Halloween. We’ve never had a Halloween party, so why not?
Good, solid logic, I decided.

We didn’t buy the fog machine (my best friend has one I can borrow), but we will have ambiance at the party.

The boys are so excited.

They’ve even sat with me, and we browsed Pinterest boards to plan for the big event. They want the fog machine, of course. We’ll string spooky spider webs up around the covered porch in the backyard and replace the lightbulbs on the front porch with black lights.

We’ll hang paper lanterns from the big tree out back, which will also be festooned with scary spider webs and glow-in-the-dark spiders.

The food table will feature grilled sausages spilling out of a stuffed shirt, which will be attached to a bowl of potato salad for the “head” (grapes for eyes, pimentos for a mouth) and a pair of stuffed jeans for legs. The spooky specter’s hands will be food service gloves stuffed with popcorn and candy corn fingernails.

I wanted to put out bowls of peeled grapes and cold spaghetti for eyeballs and brains, but they declared that “so last century.”

“You probably did that when YOU were growing up, Mom,” they said.

Well, yes. Yes, I did, and I loved it.

They will love having friends over. We’ll light a fire in the chiminea on the porch and maybe bob for apples because some things that are so last century are still fun today. We’ll play some scary music, give the costumed guests glow necklaces and bracelets, and the kids will have a memory to take with them for the rest of their lives.

When they’re parents, they can tell their sons that fog machines and spider webs are SO 2016.

Shop the Sale: Pork and Pasta Stew

Pork and Pasta Stew“Hey Mom, what are you writing about?” my younger son just asked me.

“Pork butt,” I replied.

He collapsed into fits of raucous laughter only a teenage boy could produce at the mention of the word “butt.” Boys never really grow up.

Teenage boys do, however, eat me out of house and home. That’s why it’s important to be able to make them a meal that is filling, nutritious and economical.

Enter Brookshire’s Boston butt roast.

This is one of my favorite things to cook because one roast will feed a small army (aka, teenage boys), and the pork gets so much flavor from the fat.

This meal is super easy because you make it in the slow cooker, so it’s ready when you walk in the door at night.

Pork and Pasta Stew

1 1/2 lbs pork butt roast (Boston butt), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped (liquid reserved)
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 Tbs crushed red pepper
1 Tbs oregano
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
6 oz small shaped pasta, uncooked
4 oz baby spinach
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated

Combine the pork roast, broth, tomatoes and the liquid, garlic, red pepper, oregano and salt in a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.

Just before serving, add the pasta. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in the spinach. Cover and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately topped with parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 400, Calories from Fat: 104, Fat: 12 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 132 mg, Sodium: 1175 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 47 g.

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Family Matters: Family Time Casserole

Family Time CasseroleSchool is underway, and the hustle and bustle of everyday living is crazy again, especially with two seniors this year! Let me tell you how nice it is to get home from working all day to find supper on the table and ready to eat. Below is a recipe that one of my daughters prepared after school: it was delicious. It did not take hours to prepare, and in our house, that is our kind of meal!

As days get busier and our kids get older, we still need to focus on family time each day – sitting down for supper is so important. Remember to take time to talk with your kids, hug them tight, and sit and eat together…it makes a difference. Remind them how important they are and how much you appreciate them helping at home. Count your blessings daily, and give thanks for time with your family!

Family Time Casserole

3 bags Brookshire’s Boil-in-Bag Brown Rice
1 large can Brookshire’s Cream of Chicken Soup
3 large cans Brookshire’s Chunk White Chicken
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
1 (8 oz) pkg Brookshire’s Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
1 box Brookshire’s Garlic Toast
Morton Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend

Boil the bagged brown rice per instructions on the box. Put prepared rice in large bowl. Add cream of chicken soup and milk; mix together. Add in canned chicken and chopped broccoli. Mix really well so the chicken pieces break apart. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place mixture in large rectangle dish, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes (until bubbling around edges). Pull pan from oven. Add the shredded cheese over the top; return to oven to melt and crisp the cheese. Cook garlic bread in oven as directed on box. You can add a green salad for a little something extra.

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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”

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

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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Product Talk: Libby’s Pumpkin – Pumpkin Spice Rice Cereal Treats

Libby’s Pumpkin – Pumpkin Spice Rice Cereal TreatsIt’s time for all things pumpkin spice.

Whether it’s your coffee, your creamer, your doughnuts or your pies, pumpkin spice reigns supreme during this time of year.

That’s where Libby’s comes in. A division of Nestle, Libby’s pumpkin products are a great way to get quality pumpkin without having to process it yourself.

I love the pumpkin puree, which comes in a variety of sizes from 8 ounces and up to fit your fall cooking needs. It also comes in organic, which is all-natural with no preservatives. Libby’s also offers a canned pumpkin pie filling and boxed mixes for breads and cheesecake.

Pumpkin is full of vitamins A and C, and it’s a great source of beta-carotene.

Enjoy pure pumpkin in this fun fall treat today!

Pumpkin Spice Rice Cereal Treats

3 Tbs butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
1/8 cup Libby’s Pumpkin Puree
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
6 cups rice cereal

Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish by greasing it liberally with butter or line with parchment paper.

In a heavy stockpot, melt butter on low heat, and add mini marshmallows. Stir in pumpkin puree, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice.

Add rice cereal and stir.

Working quickly, press mixture into prepared pan.

Allow the treats to cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Makes 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 351, Calories from Fat: 80, Fat: 9 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 6 mg, Sodium: 282 mg, Carbohydrates: 66 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 3 g.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

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Family Matters: Souper Meals

Souper MealsWhen I was little, one of my favorite meals was grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Truth be told, it’s still one of my favorites.

I must have passed that down to my sons because when we’re menu planning, one of them will often suggest grilled cheese and tomato soup.

One of the things that made having soup such a treat was that my mom let us add things to the soup. For example, I always wanted to add carrots to chicken noodle soup, so my mom taught me how to dice the pieces I wanted and add it to my can of soup.

With tomato soup, we added all kinds of things. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t make some of those choices today, but it sure sounded good at the time. We added croutons, Goldfish crackers, chunks of cheese (it was on the sandwich, so why not?), a tablespoon of heavy cream, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and whatever we thought would make it taste great. As an adult, I’ve been known to add diced avocado to my tomato soup.

Soups are a great way to share a warm meal with your family, especially during colder weather. For me, soup is comfort food, and if you can get your kids to eat it by adding their own special touch, that’s all the better.

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

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

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

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.)

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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Dine In: Power-Packed Pasta

Power-Packed PastaMy sons are both running competitive cross country this year with their respective schools, and I couldn’t be more excited for the change in pace from the Saturday soccer games we’ve (gladly) attended for the past 10 years.

Their first meet is coming up, and we’re going to be prepared by carb-loading the night before, for energy, because it never seems like teenage boys have enough fuel to get them through the day, let alone an athletic event.

For the night before a race, a cross country runner should eat a meal high in carbs and moderate in fat and protein. They should also drink a lot of water, or “camel up” as the saying goes.

Since our meets are on Saturdays, Friday nights are the perfect time for a power-packed meal.

Power-Packed Pasta (i.e. Spaghetti and Meatballs)

1 lb whole-grain spaghetti

1 lb lean ground beef
2 Tbs whole milk
2 Tbs parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbs panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs parsley, chopped
1 Tbs dried oregano

1 white onion, diced
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (48 oz) can tomato sauce
2 (14.5 oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
1 (4 oz) can tomato paste
fresh parsley, oregano and basil, to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Start your sauce first. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When it starts to become fragrant and shimmers, sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, and stir for 1 more minute. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and all spices. Stir together. Bring to a boil, and then turn heat to medium-low to let simmer.

While your sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs. Preheat oven to 400° F. In a small bowl, combine milk and breadcrumbs. In a large bowl, place ground beef, cheese and spices. Add in moistened breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly. Shape into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Bake at 400° F until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add meatballs to sauce immediately.

Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil. Add whole-grain spaghetti; cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well. Serve with sauce and meatballs, with a side salad and garlic bread.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 524, Fat: 12 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 123 mg, Sodium: 1616 mg, Carbohydrates: 69 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 38 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

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

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.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.

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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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