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Healthy Living: Eggplant


Ever since the days my mom cut eggplant into strips and fried it and told me they were French fries, I’ve been in love with the majestically dark purple vegetable.

Truth be told, she probably never had to trick me into eating eggplant; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love it. My brothers and sisters, on the other hand, were probably a different story.

Not only is eggplant delicious, but it’s good for you too. Eggplant is a great source of dietary fiber. One cup of cubed eggplant has 2.8 g of dietary fiber, or 8 percent of the recommended daily intake. Dietary fiber soaks up water in the digestive track, helping slow the intestines from absorbing starch and sugar. The delayed absorption helps lower cholesterol and sugar levels, ultimately preventing heart disease and stroke, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Eggplant is rich in several B vitamins, including B1, B3 and B6, which help your body convert carbohydrates into usable energy by helping to break down fats and proteins. It’s also full of magnesium, manganese and potassium. One of the best parts! It’s essentially fat and cholesterol free (as long as you don’t fry it!). 

This is one of my favorite things to do with eggplant – I use it as a topping for pasta or just eat it as is. It’s delicious either way. 

Eggplant, Roma Tomato and Red Onion Ragu 

Serves 4 

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
5 Roma tomatoes
1 large red onion
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 Tbs fresh spicy oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup goat cheese

Directions:
Wash eggplant thoroughly. Slice into 3/4-inch rounds. Spread the rounds on paper towels and salt liberally (don’t worry about using too much salt; you’ll be rinsing it off). 

Eggplant holds a lot of water that can result in an end-product that is spongy from too much moisture. The salt sucks the excess water out of the eggplant before you cook it.

Let the salted eggplant sit for between 10 and 20 minutes.  It will start to sweat. 

After 20 minutes, rinse the salt from the eggplant and pat dry. Dice.

In the meantime, dice your Roma tomatoes. Cut your red onions into chunks. They don’t have to be pretty.

Chop fresh spicy oregano. This is my most favorite herb of late and I grow it in my herb garden. It smells good and tastes delicious. Just enough heat for any dish.

Toss oregano with eggplant, tomatoes and red onions.  Drizzle your veggies with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bake at 325 F for about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.  The vegetables will get nice and caramelized. 

Serve over pasta, as a side dish or as a topping for chicken or other meats. Top with goat cheese. 

Nutritional Information: Calories 150; Calories from Fat 79; Total Fat 8.8g; Cholesterol 3mg Sodium 38mg; Total Carbohydrates 16.2g; Dietary Fiber 6.4g; Sugars 8.4g; Protein 4.2g



Dine-In: Super Foods on a Friday Night


During the sweltering temperatures of August, the last thing I want to do is add more heat with my stove or oven! And on a Friday night after a long work week, I’m looking for something to feed my family that’s cool, quick and hopefully still healthy for our bodies. 

“Super foods” are foods that contain multiple disease-fighting nutrients. And How you feed your brain is at the center of most every human function, and how you eat may be the single-most effective tool you have to control weight, fight mental illness and live longer. 

Our spinach salad is filled with foods that are optimal for super brain power. Feed your brain, feed your body! We make our salad with baby spinach, boiled eggs, berries, salmon, walnuts and a curry vinaigrette – all “super” foods that are known to help your brain function at its best. Your body, mind and taste buds will thank you! 

Super-Food Spinach Salad 

For the salad
Ingredients:
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 Tbs dried cranberries
1 6-oz salmon filet
Olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 boiled egg, halved 

For the dressing
Ingredients:
2 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 Tbs curry powder
2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Directions:
For the dressing, combine white wine, curry powder, honey, salt, and pepper and blend. Add olive oil. Blend well to combine.

For the salmon, place the salmon fillet on a large plate and brush with olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Put the salmon fillet on hottest part of the grill or in a nonstick skillet heated on medium-high heat, starting with the skinless side down. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness.

To serve, place spinach leaves on plate. Sprinkle walnuts and berries over. Place salmon in center and egg halves on each side. Drizzle dressing over and serve immediately (will have dressing left over). Serves one. 

Nutritional Information:  Calories Per Serving: 670, Total Fat: 64 g, Saturated Fat: 8.1 g, Sodium 1567 mg, Carbohydrates15.3, Fiber: 5.3g, Protein: 15.3 g.

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PRODUCT TALK: Blueberry Crumble


Blueberries are bursting with flavor and are in peak season across the South right now.

When my boys were younger, we’d go pick blueberries straight from the bushes, eating as many as we bagged to bring home (blueberry bushes are naturally insect repellent, so farmers rarely use pesticides on them and you can eat while you pick). These days, I live within walking distance of a Brookshire’s store, so at the beginning of the summer, I walk straight to the store and buy pints of the beautiful, juicy berries.

One of my favorite things to make with them is a blueberry crumble. I have to admit, I love the brown sugar crust almost as much as the sweet, gooey filling. My mom had the best crumble recipe. In fact, I remember emailing her, asking for it, the day before I ran my first staff meeting as the supervisor to three other employees, some 11 years ago. I planned to serve it warm, with a healthy dose of re-organization.

She emailed back the recipe, adding, “You’re a good boss, Amy.”

I didn’t know about all that. My strategy was to earn my way into their professional hearts through their stomachs. It must have worked; we remain friends to this day and when I left the company some time later, they all paid me kind compliments that had nothing to do with my culinary skills. Apparently the Blueberry Crumble – or the massive reorganization of the department – must not have been too bad. 

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

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE 

Ingredients:
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 Tbs lemon juice
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup butter
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
Spread blueberries in square, 8 x8 baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix remaining ingredients, sprinkle over berries.

Heat oven to 375 F. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is light brown and berries are hot. Delicious served warm with whipped cream or ice cream.



Dine-In: Stir-Fry Friday


We eat a lot of Asian stir-fries in our home. They are easy to throw together with whatever meats and vegetables I have on hand, and I always have rice or noodles in the pantry to serve alongside. 

Hoisin Beef is one of my teenage boys’ favorite stir-fries, and I usually also stir-fry broccoli to add something healthy and green to our plates. I’ve also had this dish served with steamed and then stir-fried sweet potatoes. 

Made from a combination of fermented soy, garlic, vinegar, chilies and some sort of sweetener, hoisin sauce is dark and thick with a strong salty and slightly sweet flavor. I dilute it here with a bit of water, as it can overpower the dish otherwise.


You can make homemade Hoisin Sauce, but I haven’t found that it’s any better than what you can find on the Asian aisle at Brookshire’s. And using purchased hoisin sauce makes this dish even easier on a Friday night after a long work week. In about the time it takes you to cook your rice, dinner is on the table, and your weekend can begin!
  

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

Hoisin Beef

Ingredients:
1 cup white rice
3/4 cup purchased hoisin sauce
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs brown sugar
4 Tbs canola oil
3 Tbs chopped green onion
2 Tbs finely chopped garlic
1 lb flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 cup snow peas

Directions: 
Cook the rice according to the package directions. 

In a small bowl, combine hoisin sauce, ½ cup water, soy sauce and brown sugar. In a small pan, heat    1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onion and garlic and sauté 20 seconds. Add hoisin mixture, and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce thickens a bit, about 1½ minutes. Set aside. 

Heat a wok or large skillet to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and heat through. Add steak and stir-fry until cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. 

Reduce heat to medium-high, and wipe out inside of wok with a paper towel. Add remaining ½ tablespoon oil. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add snow peas and cook for 1 minute more. 

Increase heat to high, and add the sauce to the wok. Add the steak, and stir-fry until warmed through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately over hot cooked rice. 



Product Talk: Cilantro, Pesto-Style


People seem to have a love-hate relationship with cilantro, with very few people I know having the opinion of “take it or leave it” when it comes to how they feel about its distinct taste. 

I definitely fall in the category of those who adore the flavor of the vibrant green herb also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. But until recently, I only thought of adding fresh cilantro to my Tex-Mex or Asian recipes, brightening my salsas, salads and stir-fry dishes. 

Cilantro is much more versatile than I realized until recently when a good friend introduced me to the delicious taste of cilantro pesto. She had replaced the traditional basil in pesto with an abundance of cilantro from her garden and served  it drizzled over grilled salmon. The flavor combination was amazing, and it opened my eyes and palate to many possibilities of cooking with cilantro that I had been overlooking.

Fresh cilantro doesn’t last long at all, but this recipe for Cilantro Pesto stores well in your refrigerator. If the olive oil in the pesto hardens, just return to room temperature or heat and stir before using. Pecans also taste great instead of walnuts…and I’ve now experimented with adding a handful of shelled pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” when I happen to have some in the pantry. Enjoy! 

Cilantro Pesto 

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried well
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Directions: 

In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, walnuts and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil and blend into the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.

Serving Ideas:
Serve over cream cheese with crackers for an instant appetizer. 

Toss with hot, cooked bowtie pasta. 

Drizzle over grilled salmon or shrimp. 

Serve as a dipping sauce with grilled chicken tenders. 

Spread over pizza crust instead of traditional tomato sauce. 

Spread thin layer inside corn tortillas when making cheese enchiladas. 

Spoon a little into tomato or tortilla soup.



Family Matters: Smothered Steak & Potatoes Time


This is a meal that our family loves to make together. My two young daughters like to prepare the steak while I handle the potatoes. I believe they enjoy the “dipping” of the steak because of the mess it makes by the time they are finished cooking! Of course, they disappear when it comes time to clean up, but it is fun to watch them enjoy themselves while learning to cook… it gives them a sense of being needed and teaches them to be self-reliant. 

By the time they leave our home they will be ready to cook for their families and hopefully remember all the fun, so they will choose to make these same kinds of memories with their own kids.    

Smothered Steak with Brown Gravy

Ingredients:
Tenderized round steak
Flour
Vegetable oil
2 packages Food Club Brown Gravy Mix

Directions:
Take tenderized round steak and cut the pieces to individual portions.  Dip the steak in water and then in to a bowl of flour and repeat two times.  Place the steak in a shallow frying pan with oil (you do not want to cover the meat) and cook on medium heat until each side is brown on the outside. 

Take all finished meat and put in a large glass cake pan.  Mix as directed two (2) packages of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix and pour over the meat, cover the pan with foil and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes; then uncover for about 5 minutes.  Pull from the oven and cover until ready to eat.  The meat will be so tender it will melt in your mouth.  

If you put two layers of meat in the pan you will need to add an additional package of Food Club Brown Gravy Mix to make sure the meat is completely covered. 

Baked Sliced Potatoes

Ingredients:
Russet potatoes
Garlic powder
Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning
Colby-jack cheese, grated 

Directions:
Peel as many potatoes as needed for your family. Rinse the potatoes and then slice in 1/4-inch thick, round circles into a large bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder and Morton’s Nature’s Seasoning, and mix thoroughly so the seasonings get on all the potatoes. 

Pour the slices into a glass baking dish, add small amount of water in the bottom and cover with foil.  Cook on 350 degrees until the potatoes are tender, then remove the foil and let the potatoes get slightly brown on top. Pull the pan out of the oven and add grated cheese; turn the oven on broil and place pan back in for just a few minutes until the cheese is melted and crunchy. You may enjoy them as is, or you can add bacon, sour cream, ranch dressings or chives to the potatoes once you get them on your plate. 

Make a green salad (or green vegetable) to go with the meal and you are all set.  

I hope you find the meal enjoyable while taking time this week to sit together at the table as a family. Savor the moments you have together. Count your blessings daily and give thanks for the time you share with your family. 



Healthy Living: Fresh Spinach, Leek and Mushroom Sauté


Some of my favorite recipes come from my dear friend, Kelly. 

Kelly and I became close friends almost 16 years ago when we had our first babies only eight days apart. I had been friends with her brother in college, but only met Kelly after we had graduated, moved to Tyler and found each other in a childbirth class at the hospital. 

If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I would have made it through the first year of wondering how on earth to be a mother. We began the habit of calling each other first thing each morning, mainly to see if we survived another night with our mysterious little newborns. We spent a lot of those early days pushing strollers together and figuring out ways to fill our days with activities for our babies. 

Our bond has remained strong for almost 16 years and has just grown deeper as we have faced life’s unexpected good times and some very bad times together, embracing each other through it all. 

Kelly now lives up the street, and it’s not unusual for me to pop in to sit and talk with her for a few minutes before supper time. She inspires me because she tries new, healthy recipes all the time, and I find myself asking her for her recipes quite a bit! 

One of my favorites is Kelly’s Spinach, Leek and Mushroom Sauté. Spinach and leeks are meant to be eaten together, and the mushrooms add a wonderful, earthy flavor that makes this side dish perfect with all kinds of main dishes – from grilled shrimp to roasted chicken and even spaghetti marinara. 

Kelly’s recipe is perfect just as it is, or sometimes I add a minced garlic clove to the mushrooms and leeks, or throw in a handful of fresh herbs if I happen to have some on hand. You’ll enjoy making it again and again. 

Spinach, Leek and Mushroom Sauté 

Ingredients:
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 leeks, white part only, sliced thinly
6 fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced thinly
1 lb fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions:
Pour one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and heat to medium heat. Add leeks and mushrooms and sauté until softened. Remove to a bowl and keep warm. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to skillet. Add spinach, in batches, and sauté until spinach is wilted and softened. Add the leeks and mushrooms back to the skillet and toss gently to combine. Drizzle with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir again to combine and serve immediately.



Dine-In: Southern Comfort


I just hung up the phone with my mother, who lives too far away for me to see very often. We make up for this geographical distance by talking and texting as many times a day as possible, which is roughly somewhere between 10-10,000. 

These are the times I am grateful for technological advances that allow me to keep in touch with those I love when a phone call or visit just isn’t possible. 

Besides my mom being my best friend, she is also the one who let me tag along beside her in the kitchen day after day when I was a child, never complaining that I was in her way or slowing her down. She had six people to feed each day, but she always took the time to teach me – or simply allow me the freedom to explore in the kitchen while she worked. 

Mama is coming to visit me next week, and she will be helping me with a Brookshire’s cooking video for our July issue of Celebrate Cooking. Even though I am 43 years old, when I hear that my mother is coming to visit I feel my shoulders relax just a little. I don’t think any of us ever grow out of needing a mother’s comforting touch and reminder that we are deeply loved. 

This Spicy Shrimp and Grits recipe is one of my favorite childhood comfort foods from my mother’s table. In the South, grits are one of our staples at any meal, not just breakfast! They are the perfect creamy side dish to our spicy, tomato-based sautéed shrimp. All you need is some crusty French bread to “sop” the juices, and you’ll have the perfect Friday night menu to ease you into the weekend. 

Enjoy! 

Mama’s Shrimp and Cheese Grits 

Ingredients:
6 cups water
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I use white cheddar)
Salt and black pepper to taste
5 bacon slices, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 1/4 cups chopped plum tomatoes, divided
1 lb raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs Tabasco or Sriracha hot sauce

Directions:
Bring water and milk to boil in large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits and reduce heat to allow grits to simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Make sure you stir often. Remove from heat and mix in cheese; season with salt and pepper.  

While grits are cooking, sauté bacon in a large skillet until crisp, and remove bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving drippings. Add mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, and 1 1/2 cups tomatoes to the bacon drippings. Sauté until vegetables are tender and sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add shrimp, hot sauce, and remaining tomatoes to skillet. Sauté until shrimp are opaque, about 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will become tough. Taste for any additional needed salt and pepper. 

Spoon grits onto plates; top with shrimp and sauce. Serve immediately.



Shop the Sale: Mango Buttercream


One of the reasons I enjoy being on Facebook is the many wonderful people in the world I would have never known otherwise. I think we are created to enjoy making connections with each other, and although there are legitimate negative aspects of social networking, Facebook has been a fun, informative way for me to connect with others around the world.

William Watson is one of these people. He lives in Florida, but is from Tyler, Texas, where I live now. I didn’t know him when he lived here, but a mutual friend put us in contact with each other because I like to eat and write about all things food, and William is deeply involved with the International Mango Board.

The International Mango Board has become a good source for me when looking for mango-related information, and not only that, it’s been great fun becoming friends with William and realizing we do share many common interests – not just a love of mangoes!

William was in town recently and kindly brought me an entire case of mangoes. We still didn’t get to meet in “real life,” but I did get to stop by our mutual friend’s office to pick up the fruit and enjoy a wonderful Friday afternoon conversation.

Friends are a rare treat in this life, and I’ll take them wherever I can find them – whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or the porch next door. I’m grateful for all the good connections I am given. 

Enjoy this delicious recipe for Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with a Mango Buttercream from the International Mango Board website, www.mango.org. The website has tons of recipes, tips and ideas for those of us who like to eat mangoes. And now is the perfect time, as they are on sale at your local Brookshire’s. 

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Mango Buttercream

Source: International Mango Board

Ingredients:
1 (15.25-oz) box vanilla cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 large mangoes (about 2 lbs), pitted, peeled and diced
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line miniature muffin tins with cupcake liners. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds, increase speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes then cool completely on wire rack.

For the Mango Buttercream

Puree one and a half diced mango in food processor or blender until smooth, set aside (will yield about 3/4 cup). Reserve remaining diced mango for garnish.

In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth; slowly add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing between each addition.

Add 3/4 cup mango puree. Increase speed to high and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Transfer buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a pastry tip or a large zip top bag and top cooled cupcakes with buttercream. Top with 1 piece diced mango and sparkling sugar if desired.

Nutritional Information: Each serving (1 mini cupcake) contains 163 calories, 22 g carbohydrate (7% Daily Value), 0.1 g fiber (1% Daily Value), 1 g protein (2% Daily Value), 8 g fat (13% daily value), 4 g saturated fat (18% Daily Value), 24 mg cholesterol (8% Daily Value), 78 mg sodium (3% Daily Value), and 27 mg potassium (1% Daily Value).



Product Talk: The Season for Spring’s Sweet Onions


It only takes a bite to realize that not all onions taste the same. There are differences – sometimes subtle but sometimes huge – among yellow, white and red onions. Here are a few of the basic things to remember about which onion you want to choose in your cooking:

White Onions: Milder than the yellow onion, used frequently in Mexican cuisine, not powerful in flavor

Red Onions: Best eaten raw, perfect in salads and sandwiches, cooking will diminish most of the flavor

Yellow Onions: Most popular for cooked dishes, higher sulfur content makes your eyes water, pungent and difficult to enjoy raw

This time of year, sweet yellow onions are coming into play, and I find myself looking for any reason at all to add their delicate flavor to all kinds of recipes! I have been making pots and pots of French Onion Soup right now for this reason alone. Thankfully, my family loves it!

One of my favorite recipes to make right now is a sweet onion dip using Greek yogurt as the base instead of sour cream. Caramelizing the yellow onion mellows and sweetens their flavor even more. Greek yogurt is a bit tangier than sour cream, so if you don’t want this added zing, use half sour cream alongside the yogurt. 

Sweet Onion Dip

Ingredients:
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Tbs salted butter
2 medium sweet yellow onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 (16 oz) container of plain 2% Greek yogurt
2 tsps light brown sugar
salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:
In a large pot, add olive oil and butter over low heat. When melted, add chopped onions, garlic and salt, stirring until all onions are well coated in the oil/butter mixture. Cover the pot and cook for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then stir in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and cook 5 minutes, until onions are caramelized. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 teaspoon of brown sugar.

In a large bowl, combine yogurt and caramelized onions, stirring in additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with potato chips, sweet potato chips, fresh vegetable sticks or pita chips. Also wonderful as a substitute for mayonnaise on hamburgers! Makes 2 cups. Store in refrigerator.



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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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