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Family Matters: Beating Summertime Boredom


Beating Summertime BoredomI don’t know about what’s happening in your house, but summer has been a bit rocky in my home.

My kids are at an awkward age. They’re too old for traditional day camps and too young to be gainfully employed. The result is a lot of boredom. While I’m not usually the type to abide boredom, I get it in this case.

They can’t roam the neighborhood like I did when I was a kid because I’ve watched too many episodes of “Forensic Files.” There’s no neighborhood swimming pool where they can ride their bikes and wear themselves out every afternoon, like I did as a kid. Not to mention, the summer activities that are available for their age are expensive, and they need braces and to go to college.

They spend too much time in front of a screen. Go ahead, call CPS now.

So, this summer I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with things they can do to stay occupied while not spending a fortune.

One thing I did was buy a mega jigsaw puzzle. I set up a card table in a spare corner and just kind of left it there. They proclaimed it “lame.” Guess what? It’s about half-finished, and I haven’t touched a single piece. Maybe it was the dog. I don’t know.

Occasionally, I’ll leave them a recipe to try for lunch, with clear instructions on where to find the ingredients and how not to burn the house down when they prepare it. It also ensures I won’t spend the entirety of the middle of the day answering texts about where to find the burrito-sized tortillas. (In the pantry, on the same shelf I’ve stored them the entire 8 years we’ve lived in this house.)

Then, there’s exercise. They do go running and biking (with strict instructions to text me both when they leave and as they return.) Sometimes, I leave them challenges for the day: Do 40 sit-ups and 22 push-ups. Record it on video. Text it to me, because accountability, you know.

They’ve also enjoyed pet-sitting for neighbors. You want your dog played with for two hours while you’re lounging on the beach in Cabo? Call my kids. Our dog never gets played with for two hours, but yours surely will.

Chores, or as I call them, “Jobs You Do Because You Live Here.” They each get one a day. Vacuum house. Clean your bathroom. Laundry as needed. I love ‘vacuum house’ days.

So, if you have any more tips on keeping teens and tweens occupied for the summer, please let me know!



Product Talk: Richmond Farms Mozzarella Sticks


Richmond Farms Mozzarella SticksMy kids are mozzarella sticks monsters. Seriously, if we go out to eat, they BEG, CRY, PLEAD and CAJOLE for mozzarella sticks.

Then, once that plate hits the table, they divide the sticks with lightning speed, setting the dipping ramekin of marinara sauce down in between them, and they inhale them. The mozzarella sticks are gone before they even cool down enough to eat.

Richmond Farms makes mozzarella sticks that the boys can inhale at home. Made with 100 percent real mozzarella cheese, these appetizers, snacks or even a small meal are breaded and then frozen. They are good sources of calcium and protein, and they come in two sizes: 10 ounces for normal kids and 52 ounces for my kids.

You can heat them in the oven, toaster oven, microwave or a home deep-fryer. We usually use the toaster oven. My boyfriend deep-fries them.

Any way you heat them, mozzarella sticks are a fun snack that kids – and adults – can enjoy.

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk


Shop the Sale: Strawberry Crumble Muffins


Strawberry Crumble MuffinsStrawberries are on sale at Brookshire’s this week, but I may have overdone it just a bit.

I’m not sure how we’re humanly going to eat all of these strawberries, so I polled my kids, asking “What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries?” and thinking I’d get creative in the kitchen.

Plain.

Plain.

That was their answers.

My younger son’s BFF, who happened to be sitting at my kitchen table when I asked, chimed in with “Chocolate-covered!”

Well, that wasn’t helpful.

My favorite way to eat strawberries is with sour cream and brown sugar. Yes, I said SOUR cream, not whipped cream. Just try it, I promise you.

Back to what I was going to do with pounds and pounds of strawberries…

My mom makes a blueberry crumble that I adore, so I went in search of a similar recipe using strawberries. I found a strawberry crumble muffin recipe instead, and it’s sufficient to say that a good portion of our strawberry haul was happily devoured in this form!

Strawberry Crumble Muffins

Ingredients:
MUFFINS:
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced

CRUMBLE TOPPING:
1/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or coat thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. (The liners are more effective.)

Cream butter and sugar together in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and the egg.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in half the strawberries.

Fill muffin liners with about 2 heaping tablespoons batter. Top with remaining strawberries.

To make the crumble, combine all topping ingredients until mixed. Spoon over each muffin. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F and immediately put muffins in the oven. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 12

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 215, Calories from Fat: 75, Fat: 8 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 34 mg, Sodium: 169 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 21 g, Protein: 3 g.

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



Product Talk: Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups


Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color CupsOne of my favorite things as a child was when we’d have ice cream cones for our cold, tasty treats. I don’t know why I thought ice cream tasted so much better in a cone, but it just does. It tastes even better in a cone that’s a fun color, like Brookshire’s Ice Cream Color Cups.

Now, I know there’s a debate over whether an ice cream “cup” is supposed to be called a cone, but if you can hold it in your hand and eat it, I call it a cone, even if it’s not pointed at one end.

These ice cream cups are just FUN. I saw them in the freezer at Brookshire’s packed in with the ice cream not too long ago, and my son, who was with me, practically demanded we buy them. Fine with me!

Now, he claims that he can taste flavors among the green, pink and brown cones. I’m not so sure about that, but they do make a festive presentation for your ice cream.

These cups add fun and flair to family gatherings, cookouts, parties, pool time or just dessert after dinner on a hot summer night.

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk


Dine In: Ice Cream in a Bag


Ice Cream in a BagOne of my sons’ favorite things to do in school, mainly in the lower grades, was to make ice cream in a bag.

I know they did it in preschool, again in kindergarten and probably even in first grade since they both had the same wonderful, bubbly, creative teacher.

Ice cream in a bag sounds weird, but it’s super fun for kids (adults too!), and it is a tradition we repeat every summer on the back porch.

We’re going to do it again on Friday night after dinner.

Seriously, there’s nothing better than a good sit on the back patio with the dog chasing crickets around in the yard, the solar lights flickering and everyone I love gathered in one place.

You can add extra goodies to this recipe. Just be aware that it might alter the way it freezes a tiny bit. Each bag makes an individual serving.

Ice Cream in a Bag

Ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 Tbs salt
2 quart-sized zipper-lock plastic bags
1 gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic freezer bag

Directions:
Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in one of the quart-sized bags.

Seal the bag tightly, pressing out excess air. If you leave too much air in the bag, you might have a mess on your hands during the shaking process.

Place the quart-sized bag inside another of the same size to help prevent ice or salt from leaking into your mixture. Place the double-bagged mixture into the gallon-sized bag and fill with ice. Then, sprinkle salt on top.

Press out excess air and seal the bag. Wrap the bag in a towel; shake the bag vigorously for 5 to 8 minutes or until the “ice cream” has formed.

Pour into a chilled bowl and eat immediately.

Serves 1

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 112, Calories from Fat: 23, Fat: 3 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 58 mg, Carbohydrates: 18 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 17 g, Protein: 4 g.

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

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Family Matters: A Movie and More


A Movie and MoreAfter a very long day at work, I went home ready to plop on the couch and do nothing, but I was approached by my teenage twin daughters to take them to the movie. Wow, that was the furthest thing from my mind, and I expressed this to my kids. I could tell they were disappointed, and after a long discussion back and forth (wearing me down), I agreed. After all, they chose a “chick flick” as we call them, something with love and romance…couldn’t get any better, right?

We saw one of the best movies I have seen in years. I cried through almost the last hour with both girls laughing hysterically at me (telling me to blow my nose) and vowing to never sit with me again! After the movie, we proceeded outside where the laughter continued once they saw my red swollen face and absolutely no makeup left. The crying to my surprise was such a stress relief that I had not expect after my long day at work…it was refreshing and something I totally needed.

We continued to talk in the car and at home. Now, weeks later, we are still talking about the movie and what we got out of it. There were some good life lessons in the movie and topics for family discussion, which added up to even more than what I anticipated out of the night. As I reflect back on the instant they asked me to take them to the movies and my immediate response, I am so thankful that I changed my mind. I did not get just another movie; I got so much more out of the time I spent with my daughters.

Every day, there are moments we can’t get back. Don’t deny yourself and your kids just simple times of hanging out and visiting…you will never be so glad you did something in your life. You, your kids and your family as a whole will benefit from the laughter, tears and great conversations that come out of your quality time together. The next time you’re exhausted and want to say “no” to your kids, just reconsider for a moment what you might be missing. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for your time with family!



Family Matters: Summer Snacks


Summer SnacksSchool’s out for summer, and it’s time for the kids to be a little self-sufficient during the day.

I’m at work the vast majority of days in the summer, but that doesn’t mean my kids can’t eat a healthy meal and snacks while I’m at work.

One of their favorite things is apple slices with assorted toppings.

I slice the apples into rounds because, let’s face it, the knife is really sharp, and it makes me nervous if they use it if I’m not in the house. They do the rest. They love to slather an apple round with peanut butter. Then, they top it with raisins, almond slivers, coconut shreds, chocolate chips and dried cherries.

They also love celery sticks filled with cream cheese and topped with taco meat or buffalo chicken.

They also love to snack on fresh strawberries mixed with blueberries, Greek yogurt topped with granola and bagel thins spread with peanut butter.

If I can’t be at home, then I’m happy to know they’re eating healthy snacks that will sustain their energy throughout the day.



Shop the Sale: Cheesy Pork Chop Bake


Cheesy Pork Chop BakeA one-pan meal is a delicious solution to a Wednesday night meal. A lot of folks go to church on Wednesday nights. Or, this time of year, you might be at baseball, at the pool or just tired of the school year grind.

This dish, with boneless pork chops on sale this week at Brookshire’s, can be prepared in advance and popped into the oven for a satisfying meal, all in one pan. Serve with a side salad, add some chopped broccoli to the dish or add additional veggies.

I know that last Wednesday after a swim party, a long day at work and a long day for my kids, this was an easy dish to prepare for dinner. If you make it in advance, make sure the potatoes are coated in the soup mixture before you pop the pan in the fridge, or they’ll turn brown. Alternately, you could toss them in olive oil before you layer the casserole.

For a bit of bite, chop jalapeños or chili peppers, and mix into the soup before pouring it on top of the pork chops and potatoes.

Cheesy Pork Chop Bake

Ingredients:
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 (6 oz) boneless pork chops
1 (10.75 oz) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
4 potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high-heat until oil is fragrant and shimmering. Sear the pork chops quickly on each side. Remove from pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk soup, milk, salt, pepper and garlic powder together. Arrange the potatoes and onions in the baking dish. Place the seared chops over the potatoes and onions. Then, pour the soup mixture over all.

Bake for 30 minutes. Top with cheese, and bake for 30 more minutes.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 688, Calories from Fat: 478, Fat: 53 g (21 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 169 mg, Sodium: 729 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 45 g.

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Healthy Living: Paddleboarding


Paddleboarding	A few summers ago when we were on our annual beach vacation, my siblings and I rented paddleboards, and we took them out in the Back Bay in Sandbridge, Virginia.

The Back Bay is calm, much calmer than the ocean, for sure. It has ripples and eddies and swells, but nothing like the vigorous waves of the Atlantic. It was the perfect place to learn how to paddleboard. None of us had ever attempted it before.

I’ll tell you that I was nervous. I had no idea how I was going to get from a crouching position to a standing position on the board.

Basically, paddleboarding is as simple as standing on a heavy board similar to a surfboard and paddling to move yourself forward, backward or in a direction with one oar, similar to what you’d use in a rowboat.

My lithe and nimble sisters and sisters-in-law hopped right onto their boards. I took it a little more slowly. You kneel on the board, plant your hands in front of you, lift with your legs into a standing position, and then slowly stand upright. The board is pretty heavy and weighted, so you need less balance than you’d think. That’s not to say you don’t have to stay balanced, but it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined.

We headed out into the open water with the breezes at our back and the smell of ocean air wafting over the sea grasses. We paddled out to a duck blind, circled it and raced around it. We all had the hang of the boards.

Paddleboarding builds great core strength. You need it to maintain balance. It also works your legs because you are also using them to stay erect and your arms as you paddle.

To me, it was a great way to relax and get exercise at the same time. The water is my happy place, so the serenity and stillness of gliding through the water was good for the body and soul.

After about two hours, we were worn out but not tired enough for my sister-in-law, a devout yogi, to execute a backbend and handstand on her board.

I stuck to standing without falling.

So many lakes and rivers have paddleboards for rent now. Try it today! I recommend it for any skill or fitness level or age (as long as you’re a proficient swimmer). Always wear your life vest!



Healthy Living: Kids’ Summer Breakfasts


Kids’ Summer BreakfastsSummers can be tough.

I still have to go to work, but my kids don’t have to go to school.

They’ve hit the age where they’re old enough not to need summer day camp, so they stay home during the day. They spend their hours running or biking (being certain to text me before they leave and as soon as they get home), working through the job list I leave every morning, playing outside with the kids down the street, and probably playing too many video games, truth be told.

I can’t always control what they do during the day, but I can make sure they have a good breakfast to start the day.

They are often still asleep when I leave, so I make sure to stock up on things they can prepare themselves that will give them energy and nutrition to have a great summer.

Some of those things include whole grain Bagel Thins with peanut butter, Greek yogurt with diced fruit and granola, homemade breakfast burritos (if you wrap them in foil, they stay warm for a pretty long time), homemade sausage rolls (same foil trick applies) and all kinds of fruit bars.

These are their favorite.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Ingredients:
For the strawberry bars:
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs sugar, divided
10 oz fresh strawberries, chopped

For the glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides.

Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, ginger and salt. Swirl in the melted butter, and stir until it forms crumbs and the dry ingredients are moistened. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

Spread about 1/2 the strawberries over the crust. Sprinkle with the cornstarch, lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Top with remaining berries and the remaining sugar. Spread the topping crumbs over the strawberries. It’s fine to have fruit showing through.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the fruit bubbles and topping is golden. Cool completely.

For the topping, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk; whisk until smooth. Add more milk if you want the glaze to have a thinner consistency. Drizzle bars with glaze. Slice and serve.

Makes 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 115, Calories from Fat: 43, Fat: 5 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 12 mg, Sodium: 68 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 2 g.

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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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