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Family Matters: Family Resolutions


Family ResolutionsI don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I feel like that just sets me up for feeling like I failed (and be honest, have you ever KEPT a resolution all year? If so, write me.)

However, there are goals that I focus on accomplishing. Argue, they’re the same thing. They very well may be, but I prefer “goals” to “resolutions.”

Either way, I set some goals for myself, and I try to ask the kids what they want to do, too. This year, I changed the approach because of something I saw work amazingly well at the corporate level: We set team goals (or resolutions, what have you).

Here’s what my family came up with as resolutions/goals for 2017. It’s a fun exercise to do with your family, too, no matter what you call it.

  • Eat more pizza. (Ok, we’ll have to see about this one. Luckily, Brookshire’s prepares it in the grocery deli case!)
  • Go on more adventures. (Yes! A thousand times, yes. Sometimes on weekends we get SO bogged down in what NEEDS to be done that we forget what we WANT to do. An adventure doesn’t have to cost anything or take a lot of time; it just has to be fun for the family.)
  • See more movies. (Um, do these have to be in the theater because Brookshire’s now stocks Popcorn Junction popcorn, and I purchased a subscription to Amazon Prime).
  • Eat outside more often. (This could be my favorite. This is the South, y’all. We can make this happen 10 months out of the year.)
  • Play more board games. (Board games might be my younger son’s love language. I’m all in, as long as he doesn’t cheat at Clue.)
  • Have us do fewer chores. (Sorry, buddy, no go.)
  • Go camping more often. (YES! And leave electronics in the car for emergencies only. And I mean “I just saw a bear in our campsite emergencies,” not “Can I play Pokemon Go?” emergencies.)
  • Take the dog for more walks. (Brilliant. Yes, good for everyone involved, Astro included. Note to self: Take a pooper scooper and bags so we don’t anger the neighbors.)
  • Plop your bottom on a surface at mealtime, and don’t get up for at least 15 minutes. (That’s mine. No matter how well-strategized mealtimes are, someone needs water 15 seconds into the meal. Someone else needs salad dressing 5 minutes in. Someone needs to use the restroom, and someone finished 5 minutes faster than everyone else.) Sit. Relax. Enjoy.

I’d love to hear some of your resolutions/goals/ideas, whatever you want to call them!



Family Matters: Baking Up a School Project


Baking Up a School ProjectBefore a recent school holiday, my son came home with an assignment for his world geography class that he was supposed to execute during the break.
In the vein of kids everywhere, he lamented having to do homework (insert eye roll here) over a school holiday (insert more eye rolls).

The project was to create a Christmas wreath from a country of his choosing, and it had to include salient points like prominent geography, language, religion, culture and holiday traditions. He informed me that he chose Switzerland.

I couldn’t have been move overjoyed.

When I lived in Germany, I spent quite a bit of time during the holidays in nearby Switzerland because Swiss Christmases are the stuff fairytales are made of. I also ate more than my fair share of hefekranz, a holiday treat.

The Swiss, and the Germans (and Austrians), bake these sweet breads for Christmas and for Easter. Translated literally, it means “heavy wreath.”

My son decided that he would bake a hefekranz as his “wreath” and add the other required elements in as pictures pasted to wooden skewers.

It was an all-day project. Considering it was HIS project, I was just around to make sure nothing went wrong. He had to execute it, beginning to end, by himself, and he did.

He learned to measure flour properly, leveling off the measuring up with the flat side of a butter knife. He learned to zest a lemon, sprinkling the fragrant yellow into the dough and being careful not to zest the bitter white part of the lemon peel. He learned how lukewarm water activates yeast, but if the water is too hot, it kills the live cultures.

He learned to knead, braid and glaze, all over the course of a Sunday when he punched down dough and waited for it to rise again. He learned that being patient, very patient, is often the best way to coax dough into a rope. He gained new appreciation of the Swiss that day, along with the necessity of reading directions carefully before beginning to bake. He learned that baking is a science and not something to undertake haphazardly.

I learned that he has a lot more patience and tenacity than I gave him credit for. I learned that I passed my skill for making a mess in the kitchen onto the next generation. I also realized the project (which I had kind of been dreading) was actually a great day to spend in the kitchen with my son.

You don’t have to bake a hefekranz this holiday season to spend some time with your children and learn something new. They will love it, and I suspect that you will, too.



Healthy Living: Using Hand Sanitizer


Using Hand SanitizerBack in the day, when my younger son was at that age, I taught preschool for two years. It was great because I got to go to work with him every day while still earning an income, but the downside was that I spent the first year teaching preschool sick. I mean, really sick. I not only contracted every cold that came through my classroom door, but I also battled a bout of strep throat and pneumonia. My immune system was the pits.

The next year, I invested in the industrial sized bottles of hand sanitizer for my classroom. The kids learned to apply some when they entered the room, when they came back from the bathroom (even after they washed their hands) and after recess.

I didn’t get sick that year.

Hand sanitizer is an easy and convenient way to help stay healthy on the go. An alternative to soap and water, hand sanitizer usually comes in liquid, gel or foam form. It contains a high level of alcohol. Alcohol rub sanitizers kill most bacteria and fungi and stop some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitizers containing at least 70 percent alcohol (mainly ethyl alcohol) kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application and 99.99 percent in one minute, according to studies.

I have a small, travel-sized bottle in my purse, for on-the-go sanitizing. It really came in handy at the state fair, let me tell you.

I have another bottle on my desk and another in the boys’ bathroom in my home.

You can’t avoid all germs this fall and winter, so protect yourself the best way you can.



Family Matters: Christmas Baking


Christmas BakingOne of my favorite memories of childhood is helping my mom with the Christmas baking.

Our house always smelled good at holiday time, and there was never a shortage of baked treats to eat. In fact, lunch on Christmas Day was usually Christmas cookies sandwiched between a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and the Christmas dinner.

You’d know when the season would start because my mom would make her cinnamon raisin bread. We’d take bundles of those loaves of sweet deliciousness in our arms, and we’d carry them to neighbors and to our teachers who looked forward to them every year. I was back home visiting last year, and someone even asked, “Does your mom still make that raisin bread?” Indeed, she does.

One of the best parts of the raisin bread was helping her knead the dough, punching it down, and wrapping the golden-brown loaves in aluminum foil to deliver to loved ones.

Baking with kids is so much fun. It’s great quality time to spend together over scents of yeast, cinnamon and heaps of sugar.

I loved learning how to knead dough until it was no longer sticky but not yet tough, how to punch it down when it had doubled in volume, and how to never open the oven door when it was baking. I got to talk to mom, too. Sometimes, in a household with five kids, one-on-one time was hard to come by, but I could always count on baking together.

We also baked Christmas cookies, usually three or four varieties, but the highlight of the cookie-baking experience was always the Saturday when we made the sugar cookies. It was an all-day endeavor, and it became a tradition that my mom continues with some of my nephews who live nearby. We’d make the dough the night before, so it would have a chance to chill before we rolled it out and cut the shapes. They included candy canes, stars, trees and even Santa, himself. Then, each kid would get a baking sheet and some decorations, and they could decorate to their hearts’ content. My brother was the painstaking one who’d line up individual sprinkles on the cookies in intricate patterns. My other brother was a dumper: the more colored sugar he could get on a cookie, the better. I was somewhere in between. My favorite part was really creaming together the butter and the sugar to make a light yellow, fluffy cloud of cookie base. It was also being in the kitchen with my mom.

Kids can help with so many Christmas treats. Make a memory and a tradition today by picking out a project to make with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and roll in Christmas-colored sprinkles. Bake pumpkin bread or pecan pie. Whatever you choose, food, family and fun make the holidays special.



Dine In: Haunted Halloween “Stuffed Intestines”


Haunted Halloween "Stuffed Intestines"There are so many fun ways to fix your food for Halloween that even Dr. Frankenstein would be suitably impressed with the experimentation going on in your spooky kitchen.

You can serve dollops of mashed potatoes piped onto a plate to look like ghosts. You can add black olives to deviled eggs to look like a spider nested on top. You can make individual meatloaves swimming in tomato sauce, striped with bacon to look like zombie heads. The options are endless.

This recipe totally made my kids laugh, after the initial shock wore off. It would be great to serve on Halloween night, before you go out trick-or-treating.

“Stuffed Intestines”

Ingredients:
1 box frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (includes 2 sheets)
3 to 3 1/2 cups Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 egg with splash of water, beaten

Directions:
Thaw the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove sausage from casings and cook through. Drain all fat. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to sausage; stir well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the two sheets of puff pastry to be about the size of the baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 3 strips length-wise or 4 strips width-wise (either way works). Brush a small amount of water on the short end of a strip of dough to help it to stick the short end of the next strip. Continue to create two long strips with all of the dough.

Spoon the sausage mixture evenly down the center of each strip of dough. Bring the sides of the dough up and around the filling, and pinch together to close.

Start with one end of dough. Arrange it winding around the pan in a way that reminds you of an intestine, using all pieces of dough.

Place the pan in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, or the freezer for 5 minutes, to chill the dough. Then, brush egg wash over the dough.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until dough is golden-brown. Drizzle with the remaining tomato sauce to resemble “blood.” Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 538, Calories from Fat: 354, Fat: 39 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 818 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 18 g.

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



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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

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



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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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.

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



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.

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



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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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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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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