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Product Talk: Quinoa


Quinoa – you pronounce it keen-wah – sounds exotic, but it’s really not.

And if it’s not in your cooking repertoire, it should be.

Quinoa is actually a seed, but it can be used like a grain – as a substitute for rice, couscous, or any similar grain. Popular among vegetarians because it is the most complete protein of any grain, it is catching on with the rest of us because it’s easy and fast to cook, very nutritious, and just plain tastes good.

If you’ve never tried it, quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor, and cooks up light and creamy, with just a bit of a crunchy texture as contrast. It works in pilafs, salads, tabouli and just about any dish calling for rice.

Quinoa cooks even faster than most grains – it can be ready in about 20 minutes. Before cooking, you should always rinse it well first, to remove any residue, which can give quinoa a slightly bitter flavor. (If you’ve tried it before and didn’t like it, this may be the reason!) Also, to bring out an even nuttier flavor, you can toast the quinoa, as you would nuts; just heat it in a dry skillet for three-four minutes, over medium heat, being careful not to burn it.

Quinoa with black beans and tomatoes

Serves 4 as main dish

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup canned tomatoes
3/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen; if using canned, rinse and drain)
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream, fresh avocado, and pepper-jack cheese, to garnish

Directions:
Rinse quinoa in cold water. (Because it is very fine, cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer works better than a typical colander.) Set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook for about five minutes, until slightly softened. Add bell pepper and garlic and cook for another five minutes or so, until all vegetables are soft and lightly browned. Add tomatoes.

Add quinoa and broth and stir. Stir in cumin, chile powder and chile flakes. Bring all to a low boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid.

Remove lid, stir well, and add black beans and corn. Cook another five minutes or so, until entire mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze lime juice over all. Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado slices and pepper-jack cheese as garnishes.

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Product Talk: Brookshire’s Best Coffee


If you like coffeehouse quality coffee – but not coffeehouse prices – take a bag of our Brookshire’s Best premium coffee home today! We start from the finest beans grown in exotic origins around the world and then expertly roast and package them to lock in the flavor and freshness.

Just like the beans you find in a coffee shop, all of our Brookshire’s Best coffees are 100% Arabica beans hand-picked at the peak of ripeness. They come from the most prestigious coffee-growing regions in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Indonesia (just to name a few!) often by coffee farmers that have been growing coffee for generations.

You can choose from as many as 20 origins, blends and flavors in our Brookshire’s Best line.  From the bold and rich flavor of French Roast to the fragrant and sweet flavor of Hazelnut Crème;  you can find them in the whole bean format or pre-ground for convenience.  We offer a variety of sizes to satisfy every customer and every occasion.

The only thing easier would be if we would come home with you, and make your coffee.  Actually, we sort of do: Brookshire’s Best is the brand we brew at our Java Jams in-store coffee shop and in our bakery areas. Pick up a quick cup when you’re on the go or savor a cup as your shop all of our great products.

To really get that coffeehouse experience at home, try this easy recipe for a gourmet-style mocha, made with regular brewed coffee. (I like it with a flavor like pecan praline or heavenly hazelnut.) If you like really strong, espresso-style drinks, brew the coffee at double strength.

Coffee Mocha
Makes one serving

Ingredients:
6 ounces strong, hot Brookshire’s Best coffee, your choice of flavor
1/3 cup milk, warmed
2 teaspoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional
Cinnamon and whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:
Brew coffee of your choice, but use about twice as much coffee as you’d use when drinking coffee straight. Meanwhile, warm milk in microwave or over stove.

In large mug, combine cocoa powder and sugar. Pour hot coffee and hot milk over mixture, and stir very well. Add vanilla, if desired. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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Product Talk: Yukon Gold potatoes


Restaurant consultants and food writers are calling 2012 the “Year of the Potato.” Well, personally, I think pretty much every year is the potato’s year, at least in the United States. Year in and year out, we eat more potatoes than any other vegetable.

Of all the potatoes out there, however, the one that is probably getting the most attention right now is the Yukon Gold. And there’s a good reason for that. These yellow-skinned, yellow-fleshed potatoes are naturally buttery and creamy, and are good just about any way you cook them.

You may have just heard of these golden potatoes in the last few years, as chefs and restaurants have discovered them, but they are not all that new. In fact, in much of the rest of the world, yellow potatoes have been the gold standard for centuries.

In the U.S., however, we have traditionally preferred potatoes with white flesh. That began to change only about a generation ago, after Canadian researchers developed the Yukon Gold by crossing North American white potatoes with yellow varieties from South America.

The result was a yellow-fleshed potato with skin so thin you don’t really have to peel them, and a tender flesh that is especially good for pan-frying, boiling, and mashing.

That probably has a lot to do with the unique texture and starch content. Yukon Golds do not have quite as much starch as a traditional baking potato like an Idaho or a russet, but they have a little more starch than a red potato, which is often boiled or mashed. They cook fairly quickly, so you do have to watch them, as they can get too soft and fall apart if overcooked.

Also, unlike some potatoes, they don’t turn grayish when cooked. In fact, they often turn a little more golden, so your mashed potatoes will have a pretty golden hue, even if you don’t use much butter to flavor them. 

Which, right there, is part of the reason potatoes are popular again in some circles. Now that the “low-carb” diet fad has died down, more people have realized that potatoes can actually be pretty good for you, as long as you don’t overload them with fat and salt. (A medium uncooked potato has only about 100 calories, but good chunks of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.)

And that is where the Yukon Gold really stands out. You may find you that Yukon Golds have a richer flavor and creamier texture than other potatoes, so you can get by with less butter, cream, cheese or bacon in your favorite potato dishes. 

 

 



Product Talk: Exploring Hispanic cheeses


Cheese is an important part of Mexican and Latin American cooking –but not just any cheese. There’s a whole world of specialty Hispanic cheeses out there. Mild crumbly cheeses to garnish a salad. Creamy, rich, meltable cheeses for sauces and pasta. Hard, intensely flavored cheeses to perk up any dish.

Smart U.S. cooks are finding out just how versatile these cheeses are, too. They not only make your Mexican dishes more flavorful and authentic, but they are a good, value-conscious substitute for many other kinds of commonly used cheeses. Here’s a starter guide to some of the most commonly found Hispanic cheeses – look for these varieties in the market section of your local store.

Asadero: Traditionally used in queso fundido – a kind of Mexican fondue that is similar to the chile con queso that’s popular in the U.S. It’s smooth, has just a bit of a bite, and melts easily, so it’s a good substitute for any melting cheese like Monterey jack, Colby-jack, fontina or American cheese.

Cotija: This is a firmer, stronger-tasting cheese that is typically crumbled or grated. Often called the “Parmesan cheese of Mexico,” it can be sprinkled over pasta or refried beans, over salads, or used to flavor tostadas or tacos. It’s salty and flavorful so you don’t need to use very much. Use instead of Parmesan, Romano, grana padano, or other hard, stronger cheeses.

Manchego: Creamy and meltable, with a nuttier, slightly stronger flavor than many of these other types. It’s good in sandwiches, pastas, or simply served with bread, crackers or olives. Mexican-style manchego is softer and milder than most Spanish-style manchego cheeses.

Panela: Mild and soft, this fresh cheese is often crumbled into tacos and burritos, or is good as a snack. It’s so mild that children will eat it like string cheese. It doesn’t melt well, though.

Oaxaca: The state of Oaxaca, in the southern part of Mexico, contributed this mild cheese, which is sometimes referred to as Mexican string cheese, as you can separate it into strands before eating or cooking. It’s somewhat similar in taste and texture to mozzarella, and good in quesadillas or even pizza.

Queso Fresco: A mild, crumbly cheese that’s often used atop beans, salads or tostadas; it doesn’t have the bite of cotija. You can substitute it for feta, which has a similar texture, but queso fresco doesn’t have quite as strong a taste as that traditional Greek cheese.

Quesadilla: A very mild, meltable cheese, perfect for grating and using in quesadillas, but also good in sandwiches, panini, or even melted on cheeseburgers. You may also find this cheese in a jalapeno flavor; it’s got the same texture but a hint of heat. It’s a great substitute for American, Monterey jack or Colby cheese.



Product Talk: Home-grown milk


When I say that Food Club milk, produced right in Brookshire’s hometown of Tyler, Texas, is some of the best you can buy, I’m not just bragging.

I’m talking about the awards it has won – most recently, at the dairy products championship at the World Dairy Expo, in Madison, Wisconsin, a kind of Super Bowl for milks, dips, yogurts and cheeses. There, we competed against some of the biggest producers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and took third place for our 1 percent milk. (And we placed even higher with our blueberry yogurt, sour cream, and sour cream ranch dip, all starting with our great milk – but that’s a story for another day.)

And I’m also talking about the high standards we hold for every drop of milk that comes through our plant.

It starts with our suppliers. We work with a dairy cooperative that provides our plant with farm-produced milk, most of it from the dairy farming areas around Texas. Because of our relationship with these dairies, some of them small family operations, we receive only the highest-quality milk they produce.

We test all of our milk before it arrives in our plant, to weed out any that contains several different antibiotics or high microbial counts, which would indicate unhealthy cows or unsanitary procedures on the farm, among other things. We want our milk to be natural and healthy, so we don’t accept milk that shows traces of these substances.

Once it arrives at our plant, we process it using our state-of-the-art technology. Then we rush it on to our stores so you get it at the peak of freshness. And because we keep the whole process in-house, we are able to offer our Food Club milk at a value-conscious price.

But don’t just take my word for it – or even the word of those judges at the World Dairy Expo. Our Food Club milk comes in comes in fat-free, 1%, 2% and whole milk, as well as chocolate milk, buttermilk and Bulgarian buttermilk. (Those last two are terrific for baking.) Pick up the variety your family drinks and give it your own taste test.

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Product Talk: Whole grains and General Mills


A new year often prompts us to make new pledges about living better and eating better – but we all know how hard those promises are to keep out in the real world.

So here’s some help, from some products that are probably already on your family’s table, Big G Cereals from General Mills.

Big G cereals include many favorite brands, such as Wheaties, Chex, Cheerios, Fiber One and Lucky Charms. Most cereals are already a low-fat, healthy breakfast option, but over the past few years, General Mills has been working hard to improve the nutritional content of their cereals. They’re boosting the whole grain content, lowering sugar, decreasing sodium, and adding ingredients with health benefits.

For instance:

  • All General Mills Big G Cereals now list whole grains as the first ingredient, and contain more whole grain than anything else. This is in keeping with a USDA recommendation that consumers look for products that list “whole grain” as the first ingredient listed on the nutrition information panel.
  • All Big G cereals advertised to children – like Trix, Reese’s Puffs and Cookie Crisp – now have 10 grams of sugar or less per serving. This reflects an ongoing effort to reduce sugar content in these products over the past five years. There has been an average sugar reduction of 14 percent on Big G kids’ cereals since 2007; some cereals have had their sugar content reduced by up to 28 percent. What’s more, General Mills continues these efforts, and is committed to reaching single-digit sugar levels on all its cereals advertised to children under age 12. And somehow, they’ve done this while maintaining the flavor and texture you and your children enjoy.
  • All Big G kid cereals provide a good source of calcium and many other vitamins, along with at least 8 grams of whole grain in every serving. You can learn more about General Mills’ nutrition initiatives here and here.  

Why is this important to you? Well, you already know the importance of lowering your sugar consumption, and taking in the recommended allowance of vitamins and minerals. But whole grains are increasingly recognized as an important factor in healthy eating, and most Americans don’t eat enough.

 Simply put, whole grain means the complete grain. When grains are refined, as in white flour, the bran and germ are removed, so you don’t get their nutritional benefits, which include B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.

Recent USDA recommendations suggest adults should get about 48 grams of whole grains daily – which means whole grains should make up about half of all the breads, cereals and other such products you consume.

That sounds like a lot. But when you consider that a bowl of Big G cereal has at least 8 grams of whole grains – and often as much as 16 – you can get a good start on that daily requirement just by eating breakfast. And suddenly, that New Year’s resolution to eat better doesn’t seem quite so impossible.



Product Talk: Darling clementines


Don’t confuse a clementine with an orange.

Yes, they’re part of the same family; a clementine is just a tiny type of mandarin orange, small enough to eat in just a few bites. But they are very sweet, juicy, have virtually no seeds and a very thin edible membrane. Plus, their thin peel just slides away with almost no effort. They are the perfect citrus fruit for kids – small enough to fit in little hands, and so easy to peel that children can do it themselves.

Only a few years ago, clementines weren’t that easy to find in supermarkets. Up until about a decade or two ago, most clementines we got here were imported, often from Europe, where their growing season is short and sweet.

But  once U.S. consumers started getting their hands on clementines, the demand grew. U.S. growers began planting more, especially in California. Today, at Brookshire’s, we carry two main brands of clementines:

Bagu: These are Spanish-grown clementines, and come in a five-pound wooden crate. Consistently sweet, and you’ll almost never run across a seed. Their season, however, is shorter, lasting only through January or February.

Cuties: California-grown, these are mandarin oranges, available in three-pound bags. Cuties have been developed to have a slightly longer harvesting season, and will likely be available through April. (Later in the season, Cuties are actually Murcott mandarins, which have the same small size, sweet flavor, thin skin and virtually seedless interior as the clementine.)

Which type you like better is largely a matter of taste. I’m partial to the Spanish ones, because I think they’re slightly sweeter, but either type makes a great snack or light dessert, especially this time of year, when you may be trying to atone for weeks of holiday indulging.

As a matter of fact, clementines are a great fruit to add to your diet. They are low in calories and high in Vitamin C. Eat three of them (and believe me, that’s not hard to do) and you will take in only about 100 calories, but you’ll meet your daily recommended daily intake of Vitamin C.



Product talk: Versatile stocks


At the holidays, lots of cooks use stocks and broths for their favorite traditional dishes, especially gravy and stuffing. But I have never understood why more people don’t use chicken or beef stock in their cooking all year long.

Learning how to make and use good stocks were some of the first skills I learned in culinary school. That’s because slowly simmered stocks add a lot of flavor to dishes, without adding many calories, too much salt or even much expense. I promise you, they are a secret ingredient in a lot of your favorite restaurant dishes.

Even if you don’t want to go to the trouble of boiling bones and vegetables and making your own stocks to use or freeze, there are a lot of good, prepared, commercially available stocks that are now available. (Emeril even introduced a line of them a few years back.) At home, I always keep beef, seafood, chicken and vegetable stock on hand. They are a must-have for risotto, paella, and just about any sauce that goes with beef, chicken or fish, but you can also use them for lots of other things:

Start homemade soup with stock instead of water for a shortcut that pays off big. You will be able to use a shorter cooking time but the resulting soup will still have deep flavor.

Use stock to cook rice pilaf, or grains like quinoa or barley, or even just plain rice: Again, stock intensifies the flavor, and creates better taste and aroma even in boring, blander grains. Choose a flavor of stock that complements the dish you’re serving with the rice or grain.

Use it to thin soups, soups, stews, gravies and chili instead of water: For intensely flavored dishes like chili, I prefer vegetable stock, which doesn’t clash or overpower spicy dishes.

Mashed potatoes or vegetable purees taste better if you use chicken or vegetable stock for all or part of the cooking liquid. This tricks works especially well with potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots  and other root vegetables. This also allows you to use less butter or cream and still have a rich-tasting dish.

Roasting veggies? Toss them in stock and just a little olive oil first. Again, you can get away with less fat if you use stock as a cooking liquid

Save the leftovers: If you don’t use the whole container, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week. If you don’t cook often, or in large quantities, freeze leftovers in a zippered plastic bag or even in an ice cube tray, so you will have just enough to use the next time you’re in the kitchen.



Product Talk: Home-style tamales


For some families, getting together to make tamales for Christmas is as much of a tradition as stringing lights, putting up a tree and making cookies. Tamales are so labor-intensive, you just about need a whole set of cousins, sisters, grandchildren or friends to make the time fly and those corn-husk wrappers fill up quickly.

But if your family hasn’t found time this year for a tamale-making party – or if you’ve never developed the tradition but have always relied on buying someone else’s tamales – we have you covered. We have recently introduced some wonderful home-style tamales in our stores with delis, sold by the half-dozen so you can get enough for all your holiday get-togethers.

These are good-sized, meaty tamales, with a moist, traditional shell of masa around a flavorful filling, and all wrapped up in the classic corn husk. We have three varieties: Traditional shredded pork, shredded chicken, and a more modern, vegetarian-friendly variety, spinach and Monterrey jack cheese. They are made with lean, flavorful meat, so they are moist, but not greasy.

The tamales are already steamed and sold warm from our steam table or warmers that you will find in our deli area. You can eat them right away, or warm up at home, in your own steamer or even in the microwave.

The tamales also star in our holiday tamale dinner, new this year. It includes two dozen tamales, two pounds of charro beans, and two pounds of Spanish rice. This dinner will feed up to 8 diners, for an everyday price of just $29.99. This meal deal will be available through Christmas at selected stores, as supplies last.  Or, you can just pick up tamales on their own. Either way, this may be the year that you decide your annual tamale party doesn’t have to be about making tamales – just eating them.

 

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Product Talk: The gift of fruit


The tradition of giving fruit as a holiday gift is an old one, but it’s just as good an idea today as it was 50 years ago. In these days, when everybody seems to be avoiding sugar, developing food allergies, or going on a diet, fruit is one food gift that just about every person on your gift list will appreciate.

We are making it even easier this year to finish your holiday shopping, by carrying fruit gift packs that are ready to give to family, friends, clients or neighbors. Most of our stores have several gift ideas available, so look for these in your neighborhood store or ask your produce manager to see what gift packs may be available this season:

Spanish Clementines: Sweet, seedless and easy to peel, clementines have a smaller window of availability than most other citrus fruits. They’re at their peak from about November through January – which might be why they’re sometimes called “Christmas oranges.” Available in five-pound gift crate.

California Navel Oranges:  Perhaps because they were once available only to the wealthy, oranges continue to be associated with prosperity and luxury, and remain a traditional Christmas treat. Of course, oranges are also at their peak, and most delicious, at this time of year.   Available in gift crate, approximately 24 to 36 count.

Texas Rio Star Grapefruits: Texas’ shining contribution to the citrus industry, these are the sweetest, juiciest grapefruit you can find; the kind that even people who swear they don’t like grapefruit end up loving. Available in holiday gift pack, approximately 12-18 count.

Red Delicious Apples: Shiny, picture-perfect red apples are always a good gift-giving choice; have you ever heard of anyone who didn’t like apples?  Didn’t think so. Available in holiday gift pack, featuring Washington-grown apples, approximately 18-22 count.



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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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