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Dine In: Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


Spinach-Stuffed Chicken BreastsBack in my single days, my friends and I would go out to eat on Friday nights, and we’d almost always get an appetizer of bubbling, warm, cheesy spinach dip with pita chips.

We’d talk and laugh and eat so much spinach dip that we often weren’t hungry for dinner after we finished.

I still love to go out on Friday nights, but I also love to stay home, especially this time of year when the stores, restaurants and roads are packed to overflowing, and you sometimes wait as long for your meal, or to get a table, as it would just to make the same thing at home.

I tried to come up with something recently that would channel the flavors of the spinach dip that I loved in a date night dish that would be perfect for a Friday night at home.

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts, about 3/4 lb
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Italian cheese blend
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
16 oz jar marinara sauce, or homemade
parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat until shimmery and fragrant.

Add spinach and parsley; sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic; cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside.

Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise halfway through until they open like a book. Pound until each is about 1/4 inch thick. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta, Italian cheese blend and spinach mixture; add salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture onto the middle of the flat chicken breasts and roll, securing with a toothpick.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet until shimmery and fragrant. Brown chicken on all sides. Place in oven, and cook for 35 minutes. Pour marinara sauce over the chicken, and cook for another 10 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese, and broil for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 843, Calories from Fat: 406, Fat: 45 g (14 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 190 mg, Sodium: 1339 mg, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 20 g, Protein: 69 g.

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Shop the Sale: Chile Colorado Burritos


Chile Colorado BurritosThere’s nothing my family loves more than a Taco Tuesday unless it’s Tex-Mex Tuesday. Or Wednesday, or Thursday, as the case may be.

So, what if we have to take a few liberties with the name?

This dish is a cross between a burrito and an enchilada. Burritos aren’t baked with sauce. Enchiladas are baked, not broiled, a whole lot longer than the time it takes to melt the cheese. Thus the hybrid.

I love cheese, so I tend to add a layer of cheddar or Monterey Jack (which melts beautifully) over the refried beans before I add the meat.

Serve this with a side of Spanish rice and a tossed salad.

Chile Colorado Burritos

Ingredients:
1 1/2 to 2 lbs boneless top sirloin
1 large can mild red enchilada sauce (at least 19 oz)
2 Tbs cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs chili powder
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 can fat-free refried beans
1 cup onion, slivered
5 to 7 burrito-sized flour tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:
Place beef, cumin, garlic, chili powder, whole bouillon cubes (do NOT add water), onion and enchilada sauce into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or until meat is very tender. Shred beef in slow cooker. Add salt and black pepper if needed.

Heat refried beans until warmed through. Spread each tortilla with beans. Top with a heaping scoop of the meat mixture, using a slotted spoon to help drain juices. Place burritos side-by-side in a baking pan. Top with remaining juice from the slow cooker and all the cheese. Broil under high heat until cheese is bubbly serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 607, Calories from Fat: 130, Fat: 15 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 112 mg, Sodium: 662 mg, Carbohydrates: 78 g, Fiber: 28 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 57 g.

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Dine In: Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza


Slow Cooker Crustless PizzaTonight is our city’s annual Christmas parade, and I can’t wait to take my boys.

We’ve gone to the annual parade every year since we moved to this town, and it’s been a highlight of our Christmas season ever since.

Every year, we bundle up (or at least put on a festive Santa hat) and trek downtown to the square surrounding the county courthouse. It will be lit with white twinkle lights, and the buildings around the square will be festooned in holiday finery.

The parade, with marching bands, fire trucks, floats and, of course, jolly-old St. Nick, winds its way around the square in a cacophony of Christmas cheer. After the parade passes, the large and looming Christmas tree in the center of the square comes to life, the lever to light it up pulled by the Honorary Miracle Child of the year.

I hate to sound cliché, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s also a wonderful night to go home after the festivities to a meal that’s warm and ready to eat. True comfort food is a perfect end to the night.

Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef
2 Tbs garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs dried, minced onion
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 (14 oz) jar pizza sauce
2 cups shredded pizza blend cheese
pizza toppings: i.e., pepperoni, black olives, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, ham

Directions:
Brown ground beef in a large, heavy skillet. When the meat is browned, drain the fat. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the beef and mozzarella cheese in the slow cooker and spread evenly across the cooking surface. Pour pizza sauce over meat mixture. Top with pizza blend cheese and the toppings of your choice. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 460, Calories from Fat: 143, Fat: 16 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 174 mg, Sodium: 561 mg, Potassium: 773 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 35 g.

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Shop the Sale: Firecracker Chicken Tenders


Firecracker Chicken TendersI’ve been on a Chinese food kick lately, and this is one of my favorite recipes from my favorite Chinese restaurant to make at home.

The sauce is sweet, spicy and sticky, and it clings to the golden chicken tenders perfectly.

Speaking of golden chicken tenders, they’re baked not fried, so I can feel good about that as I’m feeding my family. I have to double this recipe with two teenage boys in the house.

I like to serve this with steamed white rice to soak up the extra sauce and green beans with slivered almonds.

Firecracker Chicken Tenders

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
3 eggs plus 3 Tbs water
1/3 cup flour

Sauce:
1/3 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Pat tenders dry with paper towels. Add flour and chicken strips to a large zip-top bag and seal. Shake to coat the chicken. Place breadcrumbs in a large bowl.

In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs and water until foamy. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg wash; toss in the breadcrumbs, coating well. Place on the baking sheet, and repeat until all chicken is prepared. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through.

While the chicken is baking, combine all sauce ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir for about 5 minutes until well-combined. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until chicken is finished cooking.

Remove chicken from the oven. Toss with sauce. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 744, Calories from Fat: 164, Fat: 18 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 274 mg, Sodium: 1203 mg, Potassium: 647 mg, Carbohydrates: 90 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 51 g, Protein: 61 g.

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Dine In – Grilled Beef Kabobs


Grilled Beef KabobsThe weather has finally cooled down and the clean, crisp air is absolutely exhilarating. I mean, I want to roll in the crunchy leaves on the ground and jump into the freshly-raked piles while wearing plaid and boots and drinking apple cider.

I want all things fall, now that it’s finally arrived.

My favorite thing to do on a Friday night is sit on the back porch with a fire in the fire pit and relax with the ones I love. This, of course, includes grilling something delicious.

When I think of the perfect way to end the week, I see my black, wrought iron porch furniture and pinion wood smoke billowing out of the chiminea. I can hear the sizzle as something delicious hits the hot grates of the grill.

This Friday, it will be Grilled Beef Kabobs. If you have time, start marinating these on Thursday night or Friday morning before you go to work or get busy with the hustle and bustle of the day. The extra time in the marinade will make the beef extra tender. For a side dish, double the amount of marinade and soak some cleaned button mushrooms. Then thread them on skewers and grill along with the meat. Grilled bacon-wrapped asparagus would be a great way to round out the meal. Finish by halving Granny Smith apples, brushing them with honey, grilling until tender, and then serving with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Grilled Beef Kabobs

Ingredients:
2 lbs sirloin, cut into 2-inch cubes

Marinade Ingredients:
2 Tbs beef stock or red wine
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves

Directions:
Trim the sirloin of visible fat and cut into 2-inch cubes.

Whisk together the beef stock (or wine), balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, steak seasoning, dried rosemary, dried oregano, black pepper, and add bay leaves.

Place in a large, plastic zip-top bag with the meat and marinate for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Thread meat onto skewers, being certain to leave some room between pieces for even cooking.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high.

Grill kabobs to desired doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes for rare, 10 to 12 for medium rare or 12 to 15 minutes for medium.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 359, Calories from Fat: 161, Fat: 18 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 135 mg, Sodium: 144 mg, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 46 g.

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Dine In: Stuffed Pork Chops


Stuffed Pork ChopsWe debated going out to dinner Friday night, but it was drizzling. It had been a long week, and we had to catch up on Netflix.

Staying home and dining in won out.

During the week before, Paul had mentioned making stuffed pork chops for dinner, but the New York Strips that were on sale at Brookshire’s won out.

On Friday night, however, we went for the pork chops.

It’s funny how, in all my love of Southern cooking, I’d never stuffed a pork chop. Paul, however, knew just how he wanted to make them. The house smelled amazing while they were cooking, and the result was fabulous.

Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients:
4 (2-inch thick) pork loin chops
2 Tbs Cajun seasoning
1 Tbs black pepper
1 lb Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 box Stouffer’s Cornbread Dressing (including ingredients to prepare it)

Directions:
Cut a slit in the center of each pork chop, creating a pocket. Season each chop with Cajun seasoning and black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Prepare cornbread dressing mix according to package directions. Set aside.

Brown sausage in a large, oven-proof skillet. Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Stir in chopped green onions and cornbread dressing until well-combined. Stuff 1/4 of each mixture into each chop, pressing meat together to seal.

Reheat the sausage drippings over high heat. Sear each chop in the hot pan, turning once to sear each side. Place pan in the oven; cook for 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1088, Calories from Fat: 707, Fat: 79 g (28 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 264 mg, Sodium: 1419 mg, Potassium: 1057 mg, Carbohydrates: 26.6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 65 g.

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Shop the Sale: Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas


Beefy Cheesy QuesadillasI’m in full-on comfort food mode!

I want anything that’s warm, cheesy, easy and that my whole family loves because nothing destroys comfort food mojo like complaining at the kitchen table.

This dish fulfills all my comfort food requirements.

I would have to double this recipe to feed my hungry family, but that’s easy (and economical) to do as well.

This is the perfect meal for a cool, fall night.

Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 Tbs butter
1/3 cup white onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 lb Angus ground chuck
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
4 cups cheddar cheese/Monterey Jack cheese, grated
butter, for cooking

Directions:
Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet until it begins to bubble. Add onions; cook until translucent. Add ground beef and salt, breaking up ground meat as it cooks and browns. Drain grease.

Mix taco seasoning into the tomato sauce. Add sauce to beef and onions, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt more butter over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup cheese (enough to cover tortilla) and about 3/4 cup of meat mixture.  Spread butter on top of a second tortilla, and place over meat mixture, pressing to help seal. Cook until golden on one side. Flip and cook until golden-brown on the second side. Remove from pan and let cool. Repeat with remaining tortillas and meat mixture. Slice into triangles. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and fresh cilantro.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 832, Calories from Fat: 448, Fat: 50 g (29 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 230 mg, Sodium: 1731 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 68 g.

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Dine In: Cajun Chicken & Rice


Cajun Chicken & RiceI need dinner tonight to be easy. Super easy.

It’s been a week; you know what I’m talking about. Two nighttime events for work. One nighttime event for school. After-school play rehearsals for one child; early morning training workouts for the other. Add in carpool, homework times two and a full work week, and Friday-night dinner has to come together quickly and easily and be delicious and filling.

Anything with rice qualifies as comfort food in my book, and if you start the rice a few minutes before the chicken, everything will come together perfectly when the chicken and vegetables are finished cooking. We like spicy, so I add quite a bit of Cajun seasoning. However, you can adjust the amount for your family’s tastes. I also prefer to use broth instead of water, as it just deepens the flavor.

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbs Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cups diced onions and bell peppers
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Louisiana Hot Sauce, for serving

Directions:
Combine rice and water (or broth) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 14 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, leaving the cover alone. (This is always the mistake I make with rice. Don’t. Touch. The. Lid.)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and season with a Cajun or Creole seasoning like Tony Chachere’s. Add half of the olive oil to a large pot and set heat to medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken without overcrowding the pan. Brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then brown on the other side. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan; increase heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers and more seasoning; sauté until the vegetables become soft and browned.

Add the tomatoes, and then add the chicken back in, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Add the cooked rice and stir until well-combined. Add the cheese if desired and stir well to combine.

Serve with Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 610, Calories from Fat: 227, Fat: 25.3 g (9.4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 495 mg, Potassium: 662 mg, Carbohydrates: 48.3 g, Fiber: 3.4 g, Sugar: 6.3 g, Protein: 44.8 g.

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Shop the Sale: Volcano Potatoes


Volcano PotatoesWe have potato wars in my house.

I like a nice, fluffy baked potato with butter and sour cream. My older son likes mashed potatoes. My younger son likes “potatoes you can chew.” (ie, a roasted potato). My boyfriend likes french fries.

So, it’s not always easy to find a recipe we can all agree on, until it came to this one. It has baked, mashed, chewable and kind of fried (basting these potatoes with butter and baking them in bacon grease puts it in the same category as frying it, in my opinion).

Then, of course, there is bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. John Morrell Bacon adds a crispy, salty flavor to the otherwise bland potato and really takes this recipe to the next level.

Volcano Potatoes

Ingredients:
12 slices John Morrell Bacon
4 large baking potatoes
4 Tbs butter, melted
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 Tbs hot sauce
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Wash and dry potatoes thoroughly. Piece potatoes with a knife in several places. Cut a slice off one of the potatoes so it can stand firmly on its end.

Wrap three slices of uncooked bacon around each potato, overlapping slightly and covering as much of the potato as you can. Secure with a toothpick. Leave about 1 inch from the top of the potato.

Place potatoes on baking sheet, and brush with melted butter. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender and bacon is beginning to crisp. Baste potatoes with melted butter during baking process.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and hot sauce; chill until ready to serve.

Remove potatoes from the oven; allow to cool, about 5 to 10 minutes. Slice the inch not covered by bacon off the top of potatoes, and scoop out the cooked potato inside, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell of bacon-wrapped potato.

Place the scooped potato into a bowl with 1/4 cup butter. Add diced onions, sour cream, crumbled bacon and cheeses to the potato mixture. Mash or blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place potato mash into a pastry bag or plastic zip-top bag with a corner snipped off. Pipe potato mash back into baked potato shells. Press shredded cheese on top, and place potatoes back into the oven. Broil on high until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; drizzle with sour cream and hot sauce mixture. Top with green onions, and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1412, Calories from Fat: 968, Fat: 107 g (53 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 291 mg, Sodium: 3631 mg, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 71 g.

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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.

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