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Family Matters: Puppy Points


When my older son, Curt, was in first grade, he played soccer for the first time.
Let’s just say it didn’t go so well. He didn’t want to practice; he didn’t want to go to games; it was all very overwhelming for him.

But in our family, when you make a commitment to do something you try your best to stick it out.  We decided to offer Curt the chance to earn something he wanted most of all – a little puppy he could pick up. We had a bigger dog, Jill, but she was rambunctious and high-energy and Curt couldn’t corral her at that stage in life. He wanted a small-breed dog he could carry with him.

So he began to earn “puppy points.” He could earn up to two points per practice and game, not if he played well, but if he tried hard and gave it 100 percent. He had to earn a certain number of points over the course of the season to get his puppy.

Low and behold, Curt earned his puppy points and he picked out Tickles, a Morkie (Maltese-Yorkie mix) from a litter we’d found locally.

Tickles went everywhere with Curt. Curt would just scoop up that fluffy little puppy and tote him around like a toy. Fully grown, Tickles is now only about 12 pounds. But the vet told me recently that you really have to be careful about the weight on small dogs. Dogs can pack on the holiday pounds too, you know.
But here are some tips to keep your pooch fit and trim so they can lead a healthy, happy and long life:

• Don’t feed them table scraps and people food. They don’t need it and it’s not really a treat – it’s just fattening.
• Pay attention to the serving size on your dog’s bag of food. You don’t need to give a small dog an entire big bowl of food every day.
• Keep your pet active – take them on a walk every day or provide a green space for running.
• It’s OK to leave your pet outside during the day in mild weather. They tend to get more exercise outside.
• Give them a chew toy instead of a treat as a reward for good behavior.
• Send your children outside to play with the dog. Both get good exercise that way.
And don’t forget the love – a well-loved and cared for dog is the most happy and healthy.



Family Matters: Apple and Eve Fruitables


It’s that time of the year again. 

No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah; I’m talking about ARD time for our family. 

ARD is the acronym given by state’s education association for an “Admission, Review or Dismissal” meeting. If you have a child in special education, as I do, you have an annual (at least!) ARD meeting to check on your child’s progress, review his goals and set new ones for the year, assess his needs and put in place anything that needs to be changed in his education plan. My son’s team attends his ARD meetings; his father and I are present, as is his homeroom teacher, the school principal, the diagnostician, his occupational therapist and the school resource representative. ARD meetings can be stressful, but luckily ours this year was smooth sailing. 

When my older son, Curt, was diagnosed with autism at age 2 1/2, we didn’t know what the future would hold for the little boy with the big brown eyes who didn’t speak, but who loved lights, ceiling fans and anything else that spun or sparkled. 

Today, those brown eyes are even bigger and he talks a blue streak. He still has an affinity for spinning objects, but he can also tell you any fact you want to know about the Titanic, is developing a Power Point presentation for this fifth grade teacher about division and just earned his yellow belt in karate. 

I don’t know what caused his autism and this is not the platform for the varied theories on the topic. I do know, however, that when he was diagnosed with a disability (or different ability, as I like to think of it) then my mind kicked into overdrive trying to think of ways to make all other aspects of his life healthier and happier. 

For a long time, Curt was on the GFCF diet – gluten free and casein free. While many children on the autism spectrum benefit from this diet, we didn’t see any significant change in Curt during the time he was on the diet.  What the diet did do, however, was emphasize the importance of whole foods, fruits and vegetables, not only in his diet, but in the eating regime of the entire family. 

As Curt did not like hot foods, but loved cold ones, we ended up making a lot of homemade popsicles when he was younger (and still today!).

Apple and Eve Fruitables have one full serving of the USRDA of fruits and vegetables, and 1/3 less sugar, to boot. 

In a Popsicle mold, pour your favorite flavor to fill halfway. We like Strawberry-Kiwi. Freeze until set. Fill the other half with another flavor, like Apple Harvest. Freeze until set and enjoy! These treats are pretty to look at and parents can rest assured that their kid – any kid – is getting some of the nutrients they need.



Healthy Living: Kid Friendly Energy Bars


It’s right in the middle of soccer season and we have a tournament coming up this weekend. That means a 7:30 a.m. game in a town an hour away.

The early game is the first of three on Saturday and probably one of five for the weekend, unless we lose on Saturday, of course.

My 9-year-old son plays in a pretty competitive league and he’s a pretty competitive kid. In other words, he’ll play his heart out in all his games.

All the parents take turns providing snacks for the after the games, and I have snack duty after that first, early game Saturday.

I’m going to make these energy bars so the boys get off on the right foot and have stamina for the rest of the day. Each bar has six grams of protein and only 12 grams of sugar.

These would also be good for Halloween, in place of candy, for kids that you know.

Kid Friendly Energy Bars
Makes 20 bars

Ingredients:
2 cups oats  
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup sun dried apricots
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Toast the oats and almonds under a low broiler, allowing them to begin to turn a light golden brown before removing. Set aside to cool.

Combine apricots, cherries, currants, and blueberries in a food processor. Pulse to mince, being careful not to allow it to paste up.

Add minced dried fruit, oats, almonds, and sesame seeds to a large bowl and mix well. I use my hands to gently roll the mixture, getting the dried fruit to separate from itself and blend with the oats. 

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add the 7-grain cereal, stir thoroughly, and remove from heat. Allow it to rest in the pan for 2 minutes. Add peanut butter, honey, salt, and vanilla to the pan and return to a medium low heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes. You want the mixture warmed throughout and well combined. The mixture will begin to glisten and roll off the sides as you stir it. Do not overheat the mixture, as you will need to be able to handle it.

Add the peanut butter mixture to the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Work it with your hands to combine well.

Firmly press the mixture into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Don’t be shy about it. You want to compress it into the bottom of the dish so that the top becomes level. I use a flat metal spatula. Allow the dish to rest at room temperature for two hours or longer. The longer you wait, the firmer the bars will be when you cut them.  Cut into bars and enjoy. The bars should be firm enough to retain shape, but will give to pressure.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 232; Calories from Fat: 75; Total Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 114 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 34 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 12 g; Protein: 6 g



Family Matters: Melted Witch Parfait


This month, to celebrate Halloween, we’re making a parfait that uses pudding, crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and orange sprinkles to create a spookie and yummy colored treat.

Top it off with a handmade witch’s hat, and you have a dessert all your friends will want to try! 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

• Food Club Vanilla Pudding Cups
• Orange Nonpareils Or Orange Sugar Sprinkles
• Food Club Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Crushed
• Black Construction Paper
• Scissors
• Glue
• Spoons
• Glass Parfait Dishes Or Plastic Cups 

Step 1

Spoon in pudding

Place vanilla pudding, orange sprinkles, another layer of pudding and crushed sprinkles one at a time in a parfait glass. 

Step 2

Layer with extras

Add sprinkles on the next layer against the side of the glass, another layer of pudding, then a layer of crushed Food Club Sandwich Cookies. Alternate layers until they reach the top and place a spoon in the parfait. 

Step 3

Cut, roll & glue cone

To make the top of the witch’s hat, cut 2 1/2-inch circle out of black construction paper, roll into cone shape and glue sides to adhere. 

Step 4

Glue cone to circle

For the hat’s base, cut out a 2-inch circle out of black construction paper. Cut two 1/2-inch slits in the middle of the circle. Glue cone to 2-inch circle to cover up the 1/2-inch slits. Dry and top the hat onto the spoon handles.



Healthy Living: Back to School Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip


School has started and once again I face the annual challenge of reading, writing and arithmetic with my kids, plus the added test of providing them with a healthy, hearty lunch every day. 

I don’t know if your kids are like mine, but they’d eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every single day if I let them. Not that there’s anything wrong with peanut butter – it’s chock full of protein to keep their tummies full throughout the day, and it’s a good choice served on a whole grain bread – but honestly, I get bored making the same lunches day after day after day. I’ve started to swap out whole grain bread for whole grain pita pockets. The boys love ham and cheese in a pita pocket with mustard and they even make ‘mini’ pitas now so my boys don’t waste food (and there’s no crust on a pita so Luke can’t refuse to eat it!). They also like ‘mini meatball subs,’ meatballs and marinara with slices of provolone cheese in a whole grain bun. They don’t mind if they’re served cold. Sometimes we make our own “Lunchables” with whole grain crackers, slices of cheddar cheese and chunks of roasted chicken I have left over from a dinner. 

Getting a serving of fruit or vegetables into a lunch box is one of the most important parts of the meal, to me. My boys love bananas, clementine’s, grapes, strawberries, carrot sticks with hummus and, of course, apples. 

Last year I tried this delicious dip for apple slices, which soon became a big hit around our house – and in their lunch kits. 

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

Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip

One serving is about two ounces of dip and 1/2 cup fresh fruit

Ingredients:
4 oz honey flavored Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbs honey (use local honey if possible – it’s said to reduce histamines which cause allergy flare-ups)
2 Tbs of peanut butter
2 oz fat-free cream cheese, softened

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Chill in the refrigerator for 15+ minutes or serve immediately. Store in the refrigerator. 

Nutritional Information: Calories 145; Calories from Fat 86; Total Fat 10g; Cholesterol 17mg; Sodium 88mg; Total Carbohydrates 10g; Dietary Fiber 1g; Sugars 9g; Protein 6g



Family Matters: Family Road Trip


We all hear people reminisce about family trips they have taken over the years and what a great time it was for their family to bond.  It is funny to hear someone talk about it and then to sit and recall some of your own family road trips – or adventures, we call them.  There are a lot of fun times that come out of a road trip, but for some reason we seem to always forget (or block out) the rest of the road trip.  

As a mother of four teenage daughters I can tell you first hand that a seven hour road trip is an adventure.  Oh, it was fun and we laughed a lot but what about having to stop every hour (or more) because they can’t all seem to need to make a bathroom stop at the same time.  Or, everyone seems to have lost or broke their charger for the electronic devices they are glued to, so you have six people sharing one or two chargers…you can hear the laughter right…  

I was really surprised our air conditioner did not burn up from the multiple times I heard it was too cold or too hot and had to adjust it.  Finally after a few hours of that, the cold natured girls were given blankets to cover up with…that took care of that.  What about the four things of snacks you open up and pass back and forth (sharing, that is nice) and then someone ends up spilling the box or bag of goodies all over the car…laughing again?  After eating the snacks they are all thirsty…and yes, time for another pit stop.  You would be amazed at the great souvenirs you find in truck stops. 

Don’t get me wrong, after you return these things are really funny when you look back but at the time you feel like you want to pull your hair out or take a vacation by yourself.  You love your children but honestly there are times they make you want to trade them in or tie them to the top of the car for a little peace and quiet.  This does not mean you don’t love your kids it just means that you are human and that things do seem to overwhelm us sometimes, but in the end what great memories we do make and what funny stories about family road trips we will have to share with our grandchildren. 

Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you have to share with your family…on and off the road! 



Product Talk Monday: Cookie Cake


My younger son’s birthday is coming up in just over a week and, as always, he’s requested a giant chocolate chip cookie cake.   

Brookshire’s bakery cookie cakes have become the birthday celebration staple in our house. Both of my sons ask for them every year and, truth be told, we sometimes eat cookie cake for birthday breakfasts.  

The cookie cakes are generously sized and we’re able to feed our family, plus birthday guests with one or two cakes. The friendly staff at Brookshire’s bakery has always helped me get just the cake my boys want. Last year, Luke wanted a soccer cookie cake. Curt chose primary colors with EXTRA icing and sprinkles for his 10th birthday last January.  

The cookies are deliciously chewy and chock full of chocolate chips. You can get icing in any color or colors with sprinkles and candy confections if that’s what your heart desires. They’ll also write a message on the cake. My boys love seeing their names in sugary icing.  

The only thing wrong with Brookshire’s cookie cakes is that they disappear too quickly in my house. 

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Posted in: Kids, Product Talk


Dine In: Camp-IN S’mores


Fall and spring weekends – even winter weekends here in the South, were made for camping. And when you’re camping, you MUST have S’mores.  I’m pretty sure it’s a rule.

Every time we went camping, one of the first things I’d pack in the cooler was the giant-sized Hershey bar and the marshmallows. The graham crackers went on top of the grocery sack so they wouldn’t be crushed.

Sitting around the campfire on a Friday night, after arriving, setting up camp, a hike or bike ride and a dinner cooked over the open flame, we’d break out the ingredients for S’mores.  We’d find sticks and clean them of their crusty bark and whittle the ends into points which could pierce the flesh of the marshmallow just perfectly. We’d roast our marshmallows over the flickering campfire until they were just browned outside and gooey inside. Someone, usually me, would always catch their marshmallow on fire (that’s OK, I ate them burned, too).  We’d pull the melty confection off the stick and quickly smush it on top of a graham cracker topped with Hershey bar rectangles. Pop another cracker on top and there was a little bit of heaven right out at the camp site.

Just because it’s summer time doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy S’mores. But I don’t often want to cozy up around a roaring fire on 100 degree nights. So this version is one you can make inside, in the comfort of your own, air-conditioned home, and pretend you’re spending a Friday night by the campfire.

S’mores Dip
Serves about 6

Ingredients:
1 (14 oz) can Food Club sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups Food Club chocolate chips
1/2 cup marshmallow cream
graham crackers, for serving

Directions:
In a small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and condensed milk on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring about every 30 seconds, until chips are melted. Mix well. Pour into 9-inch glass pie pan, spreading evenly. Drop marshmallow cream by tablespoonfuls randomly over chocolate mixture. Microwave on high about 30 seconds or until marshmallow cream is softened. Immediately make several swirls through marshmallow and chocolate, creating a marbled appearance. Serve immediately with graham crackers for dipping.

Nutritional Information for Dip: Calories: 640.3; Carbohydrates 100.83 g; Protein 9.7 g; Total Fat 22.71 g;  Cholesterol 32.01 g; Dietary Fiber3.82 g 

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Family Matters: Grace’s Garden


My daughter Grace, who is 10, is my outdoor, nature-loving, recycling type of girl. She wants to garden, save all the animals and recycle everything in the house. So it didn’t surprise me, in early spring, when she started saving all the seeds from the fruit she had eaten. She would dry the seeds out and then plant them, hoping they would grow into big fruit trees someday. Most of the time, she usually forgot where she’d planted her seeds.  

This year, she planted cantaloupe seeds from a cantaloupe I had bought at the store. She put up some fencing and made a scarecrow to decorate her little garden. She watered the seeds everyday, and would you believe they started growing?  At first, I thought they were weeds or bull-nettles and was thinking about pulling it all up. But instead, I let her keep watering them and continued to watch them grow.  

I’m so glad I didn’t pull her garden up because it produced a handful of cantaloupe. And may I say, the best tasting cantaloupe we’ve had all year. My daughter is so proud of her garden and already has plans for a bigger garden next year. 

So the next time your kiddo wants to plant a garden, love on nature or recycle everything in the house, let them do it and give them the tools to do it with. You may just reap the benefits! 



Family Matters: Lavender Baby Bath


As most parents know, multi-tasking becomes a way of life when you have small children, especially babies.

My boys are close together in age, about 18 months apart, so the ability to multi-task was critical to the smooth flow of our household.

Plus, as a new parent, I was tired. Did I mention, TIRED?  Luke, my younger son, needed to eat every 90 minutes, at most, for the first several months of life. I remember waking up to his hunger cries, incredulous that he was hungry again. But sure enough, he’d eat vigorously and fall back to sleep…until the next time his belly needed filling.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and more-than-a-bit stressed out those first months of both boys’ lives, but then I discovered a way to double up on a task and get much-needed-relaxation.

Enter Lavender Baby Wash – Brookshire’s carries several brands of the lavender scented-baby wash.

Each evening, I’d fill my large bath tub (it was such a blessing to have!) with warm water and add a capful of lavender-scented baby wash, which bubbled up just enough to entertain the babies.  I’d put the boys in the tub together and inhale the soothing, steamy scent of the lavender-scented bath water. Both boys were bathed at once and we’d take advantage of the comforting, tranquil properties of lavender at the same time.

Lavender, sometimes called the “Mothering Oil,” is known for its relaxing properties and is used to alleviate not only stress but also anxiety. The ancient Egyptians added it to their baths for extra relaxation. Lavender settles irritability and is gently sedating, restoring mind and body to a state in which healing – and rest – can take place.

In closing, I have a confession: my boys are now 8 and 10 years old and I will STILL buy lavender baby wash.

No, they don’t use it; it’s for me.



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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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