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Family Matters: Easter Eggs


Homemade Easter Peanut Butter EggsAbout three years ago, I decided to stop putting candy in my kids’ Easter baskets. It almost never got eaten, and they were more about the iTunes gift card anyway. It was kind of a letdown, but it was really just not something they were interested in.

However, we started making our own Easter treats! Now, not only do they eat what we make and love it, but we also get to spend some quality time together in the kitchen, which is our favorite place to be.

These are so much fun to make! There is no baking required (so you can eat them more quickly!), and there are a lot of hands-on steps. You can really make these any size. We’ve done lots of bite-sized versions, and then my son, of course, had to try a super-sized egg, which he kept all for himself.

The spring-colored sprinkles make these pretty and festive, or you can use drizzles of colored decorative icing.

TIP: Some kids don’t like getting their hands dirty and that’s fine. Slip their hands into a plastic baggie sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to keep their hands clean, but still let them participate in the egg-shaping.

Homemade Easter Peanut Butter Eggs
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Brookshire’s Unsalted Butter, softened
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup Food Club Graham Cracker Crumbs, finely crushed
1/2 cup Food Club Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Food Club Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tbs shortening
Food Club Sprinkles, for decoration

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip butter for 1 minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing and scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add crushed crumbs, peanut butter and vanilla. Combine well.

Using your hands, shape the peanut butter mixture into 16 egg-shaped ovals. Place on baking sheets that have been lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.

When eggs are firm, melt your chocolate chips and shortening together in the microwave on medium-low power until smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Dip each egg in the melted chocolate, allowing the excess to drip off before placing on the waxed paper or wire rack. Decorate with sprinkles and chill again until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serves 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 309, Fat: 18 g (9 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 15 mg, Sodium: 125 mg, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 2 g.

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Shop the Sale: Boneless Glazed Pork Chops


Boneless Glazed Pork ChopsMy son returned home from spending the night at a friend’s house (apparently boy moms are NOT supposed to say “sleepover”), and after a two-hour nap, he couldn’t stop chatting about the great time he’d had with his school buddy.

They stayed up all night (of course) playing video games, flashlight tag, soccer, hide-and-seek, and slept on the living room floor in a blanket fort. They had pigs-in-a-blanket and doughnuts for breakfast, and for dinner, they’d had balsa wood pork chops.

Wait, what?

What is a balsa wood pork chop, I asked him, thinking maybe they smoked the pork chop over balsa wood, although I’d never heard of this and knew that balsa wood is super soft and probably doesn’t lend itself well to smoking. My mom used to craft dollhouse furniture out of balsa wood and could use a small craft knife to slice through it. More importantly, I had no idea how balsa wood would taste!

He set me straight pretty quickly.

You know, he said, that brown stuff that you pour on the pork chops, and it makes them taste good.

I wracked my brain.

They were really juicy, he offered. Kind of spicy, too.

It was driving me crazy. I went to the pantry, opened it and figured it out immediately.

Balsamic vinegar? I asked.

I opened the bottle, he smelled it and immediately, the mystery was solved.

That’s it, he said.

Boneless Glazed Pork Chops

Ingredients:
4 boneless pork chops
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:
In a bowl, combine brown sugar with balsamic vinegar and all the spices until a paste forms. Rub boneless pork chops with the olive oil, and then rub with the paste.

Heat your grill to medium-high heat, and grill chops about 5 minutes per side, only flipping once and keeping the lid closed between turns.

Remove pork from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 150° F; let rest until internal temperature reaches 160° F.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 625, Calories from Fat: 444, Fat: 49 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 146 mg, Sodium: 430 mg, Potassium: 611 mg, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 39 g.

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Dine In: Homemade Bread Bowls


Homemade Bread Bowls I remember when serving soup in a bread bowl was all the rage, and I’ll never forget the first time I had it served that way.

I was in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, and a class I was taking in public relations only had four students registered for the course. We only met once a week for three hours on a Friday morning. The professor elected to have class in a small bistro near campus in downtown Austin. We’d arrive and order breakfast with a never-ending pot of coffee, from which we got more than our money’s worth, and we’d pour over the lesson and engage in lively discussion and banter. It was one of my favorite classes, mostly for the ambiance and the readily-available caffeinated beverages.

Then, there was the soup in the bread bowl. I usually ordered breakfast, but remember, it was a three-hour class. If I’d eaten breakfast before my two-hour commute to class, I was hungry again about an hour into class. It was that odd time when either breakfast or lunch would work, and soup tastes good at pretty much any time of day or night.

This café served a velvety tomato soup in a whole-grain bread bowl that was sustenance enough for two meals, especially on those rainy, chilly days of the winter semester. I could savor the soup, then pick at the saturated morsels of whole-grain bread until there was nary a crumb left on my plate.

I made bread bowls recently for a soup we were going to have on a cold, Friday night, and my kids thought this was the most brilliant, novel idea they’d ever heard of.

Using instant yeast made this a practical meal for a Friday night after a long week of work.

Homemade Bread Bowls

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbs instant yeast
1 Tbs sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour, more as needed
2 tsp salt
spray bottle with warm water

Directions:
In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it becomes foamy.

Add 3 cups of flour and the salt, and mix at medium speed of the mixer until well-combined.

Mix in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth, only slightly sticky to the touch and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead until smooth. Place the dough in a bowl greased lightly with olive oil or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with a damp towel and let rise 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Shape each piece into a ball, and place on a lightly-greased baking sheet.

Score the top of each roll, then spray with warm water and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Bake for 2 minutes, spray again with water, then reduce the heat to 425° F. This will give you the crisp crust on the bread.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Using a paring knife, score a circle on the top of the bread. Remove ring of outer crust and soft, tender interior, leaving a thick shell. Reserve the removed bread for other purposes. Spoon soup into the bread bowl; serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 427, Calories from Fat: 12, Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1171 mg, Potassium: 238 mg, Carbohydrates: 89 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 13 g.

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Family Matters: Sunday Morning Pancake Bites


Pancake BitesIt’s 7:30 on Sunday morning, time to get up and wake the kids for church. As I’m walking to my daughter’s room, I can hear her and her sleepover buddies already up and giggling about something they think is so funny. That’s what 14-year-old girls do: giggle! I told them to start getting ready for church, and then I walked into the kitchen to make them something for breakfast.

I hadn’t bought groceries this week, and we didn’t have time for a sit-down breakfast. I needed something quick and easy so they could eat on-the-go. (You know, 14-year-old girls will take as much time in the bathroom getting ready as you will allow them!) Luckily, I had a Brookshire’s Blueberry Pancake Mix, 2 eggs (and 2 eggs is all I had in the refrigerator) milk and maple syrup. So, blueberry muffins from a pancake mix is what’s for breakfast this Sunday morning.

One-by-one, the girls grab a blueberry pancake muffin and head out the door to church with a Bible in one hand and a muffin in the other. It’s so nice when Sunday mornings can come together like this!

This recipe is super easy, and you are in and out of the kitchen in less than 30 minutes.

Pancake Bites

Ingredients:
2 cups Brookshire’s Complete Blueberry Pancake Mix
2/3 cup Brookshire’s Milk
1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F, and spray your mini-muffin tin or paper baking cups lightly with Brookshire’s Cooking Spray. Mix all ingredients until just combined. Fill the cups of the tin 1/2 full with the batter. Bake until lightly golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Makes 12

You can also use regular Brookshire’s Pancake Mix, and add your own choice of toppings like fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, cinnamon and sugar or any other yummy delights you can think of! If you have time to sit down for breakfast, serve with maple syrup, honey or butter then enjoy!

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Family Matters: Cookies with Kids


Cookies with KidsOne of my favorite Christmas memories growing up was making cookies with my mom and siblings. She’d make pan after pan of rolled sugar cookies, and we’d decorate them, some more intently than others. I was the type of kid who was good with sprinkling some colored sugar all over the cookie and calling it a day. My brother, on the other hand, would painstakingly position individual jimmies to create cookie art. Rumor has it, he still does that to this day.

My boys take after me. They’ll get a little creative with their cookies, but they won’t spend a lot of time on them. For them, the more sugar, the better. Who cares what it looks like!

They love eating sugar cookies, but they mostly like baking other types of cookies. I think they do this for the cookie dough. (I can neither confirm nor deny that I let them eat a hunk of the raw dough…but let me point out that no children were harmed in the creation of this blog.)

We have so much fun baking together. Over the holidays, we made Jumbo Candy Cookies, a recipe from my boyfriend’s childhood that I was not familiar with. Oh my gosh, they were delicious! They’re my boys’ new favorite cookie, and they’re so easy to make.

When we were making these, I was trying to show the boys how to level off the top of a measuring cup with a knife, and oatmeal ended up in every nook and cranny in my kitchen! My older son was a little over-zealous with his leveling technique and the oatmeal flew! I think he has the hang of it now, just in time to make another batch of Jumbo Candy Cookies!

The best part about these is that you’re supposed to make them HUGE! (monster-sized!)

Jumbo Candy Cookies

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup M&M’s candy
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Spray baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugars until well-mixed. Add salt, vanilla and peanut butter; mix well. Add in M&M’s, chocolate chips, raisins, baking soda and oatmeal. Stir until well-combined.

Drop in large balls on baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart because they will spread. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 dozen

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 202, Fat: 10 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 173 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 5 g.

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Family Matters: Birthday Hot Chocolate Bar


Classic Hot ChocolateNothing says “comfort” during the cold months more than a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and that’s just what we enjoyed for my daughter’s birthday.

This year, we hosted Grace’s 14th birthday party at our home and let her invite a few friends over for a Tacky Christmas Sweater Birthday Party. We prepared a hot chocolate bar along with a batch of Christmas sugar cookies and a Christmas birthday cake. I prepared the hot chocolate on the stove and then transferred it to a slow cooker to keep it warm so the girls could dip it out for themselves.

The best part of the hot chocolate bar was all the delicious and fun toppings. Our bar consisted of marshmallows, peppermint bars, chocolate chips, chocolate dipping spoons and candies, of course!

The girls had a fun time making their custom hot chocolate, and then they all went outside to enjoy the colder weather with hot chocolate in hand. It was a perfect birthday party, and the hot chocolate bar must have been a success because they didn’t leave a drop for Mom! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to our Lord and Savior.

Classic Hot Chocolate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

1 quart Brookshire’s Whole Milk
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
Reddi-wip®, mini marshmallows and cocoa powder, for garnish

Warm about 1/3 of the milk with chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until chocolate is melted. Whisk in remaining milk, heating until mixture is warmed through. Use whisk to mix hot chocolate until completely smooth. Serve very warm, garnished with Reddi-wip®, mini marshmallows and sprinkled cocoa powder.

Calories Per Serving: 570, Fat: 33 g (21 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium: 274 mg, Carbohydrates: 64 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 12 g.

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Family Matters: A Whole New World


A Whole New WorldNO!

If that’s your toddler’s favorite word, you aren’t alone.

No, she doesn’t want to put on her shoes.

No, she doesn’t want to go to the store, and no, she doesn’t want to leave.

No, she doesn’t want to take a bath, and no, she REALLY doesn’t want to go to bed.

As frustrating as it is, it’s normal. Blessedly typical development for your little one.

Your two (or three) year old is caught up in exploring her world, a world where she is fully mobile, can walk from room to room unescorted and can discover the wonders around her. She’s also learning about limits, how it’s not safe to wander out the back door without a parent and how pulling the cat’s tail might not be the best of ideas. All of that is important stuff.

You can help by setting limits. Yes, kids like limits. They like to know it’s OK to go play in their bedroom alone, but not in the backyard. They need to know that when mom says “Don’t touch,” it’s for a reason (it’s hot, it’s sharp, it’s dangerous).

You can be on their side. “I know you’re having fun and don’t want to leave the playground, but you’ll see Camden in two days, so let’s go home and you can help me make dinner.” Distraction works, too.

You can reinforce and praise good behavior. “Thank you so much for not throwing a fit when I told you to pick up your toys!”

Give them choices. “You can pick up your toys now and we can watch a movie, or you can choose not to pick up your toys, which means I’ll have to take the toys away for tomorrow and you can’t play with them.”

Whatever routes you choose, be consistent. Be consistent. Be consistent.



Family Matters: Treats not Tricks


Treats not TricksFall is my favorite time of year. The cooler weather, the crunchy leaves, soccer Saturdays, porch parties, fires in the chiminea, cooking out, camping, hiking and Halloween.

My boys LOVE Halloween. Confession: they decorated for Halloween on Sept. 13 of this year. They hung orange lights all over the walls in the living room. There are creepy spider webs on all the brick pillars inside our house and all over the trees outside. The holographic skeleton placemats are on the table, and the bat and spider banners are hung over windows and door frames. There are pumpkins galore on the mantle, sharing the space with the carved black cats. It gives them so much joy to decorate; I don’t even mind them using 97,000 push pins in the wall to hang the lights.

They also get a lot of joy from picking out a costume. They love to dress up for a night, pretending to be something they’re not. When they were little, I LOVED picking out their costumes and helping them execute it. For his first Halloween, Curt was a plush, cuddly frog (but it was so hot that night he could only keep the costume on for pictures). Luke was a pea-in-a-pod for his first Halloween because he was only 7 weeks old, and I’d called him “Sweet Pea” in utero. As toddlers, they were, among other things, a pink pig (Curt was obsessed with pigs that year), Woody and Buzz from Toy Story (one of my favorites; I spent a ridiculous amount on Disney costumes to make this happen), a green sparkly ghost (Luke’s idea), a spider (we made the costume with a black sweatshirt and 8 black, stuffed, knee-high socks) and Eddie from The Little People. They’ve always loved having a hand in creating their own costumes. Even as they’ve gotten older and a trip to the Halloween store is as much a part of the tradition as a costume itself, they still like to make part of their costumes. This year, Luke picked out a scary mask and wants to make a “straightjacket” of sorts, so we’re working on that. Curt opted for a black fedora and mask combo, but we’re going to spray a T-shirt with fake blood for effect.

Next weekend, we’ll paint and carve pumpkins. Maybe we’ll go to a pumpkin patch as a family and pick out the ones we’re going to decorate, another throwback to when they were little and we’d spend hours trying to get the perfect pumpkin patch pictures. I doubt they’ll sit on pumpkins for hours, but it will be fun to try.

For us, Halloween has always been about family. Not about devils, spirits or anything else evil or wicked. It’s just about enjoying the time together, being creative and having fun.



Dine In: Mac and Cheese Bites


Mac and Cheese BitesI’ve burned out on Friday night dinners lately.

For years and years, my boys wanted pizza on Friday nights while we watched a movie, and there was heck to pay if I deviated from the routine.

Now that they’re older, they’re a little more flexible in our Friday night fare. They still love their pizza, but they are more open to other ideas, especially if it’s something involving finger foods.

I think tonight we’ll do “Appetizers for Dinner” night at our house.

I’m going to bake some mild chicken wings, slice celery and carrots to serve with hummus, and make these Mac and Cheese Bites I’ve been dying to try. Is it wrong of me that I’m making these, fully aware that only two of us will likely eat them? I love mac and cheese, and I can’t wait to try this!

Mac and Cheese Bites

Ingredients:
1/2 lb dry elbow macaroni
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz cream cheese
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F.

Spray a mini-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line each cup with a paper liner.

Cook macaroni until al dente and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Add the milk gradually while stirring, and bring to a simmer. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese, cream cheese, mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat; stir into pasta, adding a lightly-beaten egg at the end. Spoon a heaping mound of the macaroni and cheese into the muffin tins, and top each with a pinch of more shredded cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden-brown on top. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 206, Calories from Fat: 101, Fat: 11 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 46 mg, Sodium: 262 mg, Potassium: 93 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 9 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Family Matters: Ooey Gooey S’mores


S’mores MilkshakeNothing says fall fun like making s’mores outside around a campfire. Even as the kids are getting older, these gooey delights have always been a favorite around our house. My daughter likes to roast her marshmallows until they are a perfect golden brown and warm in the middle. My son just likes to throw his marshmallows in the campfire and watch them burn up! That must be a guy thing! Either way, s’mores around our house celebrates family time together.

Recently, my daughter introduced us to this twist on classic s’mores. It’s like having a campfire dessert in a glass.

S’mores Milkshake

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
8 jumbo marshmallows
1/4 cup hot fudge, warmed
1/2 cup graham crackers, crushed
4 cups Brookshire’s Chocolate Milk
4 cups Goldenbrook Farms Chocolate Ice Cream
1 Tbs Brookshire’s Sour Cream

Directions:
Heat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread marshmallows on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Place sheet pan under broiler; cook until lightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Place warm hot fudge in a small, shallow bowl; place graham cracker crumbs on a rimmed plate. Take each glass and dip rim in hot fudge, and then gently roll in crumbs to create a crumb edge. In a blender, combine chocolate milk, ice cream and sour cream until smooth.

Pour milkshake mixture into glasses, and garnish each with reserved toasted marshmallows.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 650, Fat: 26 g (16 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 95 mg, Sodium: 352 mg, Carbohydrates: 92 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 14 g.

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