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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.



Product Talk: Brown Rice


As food writer Mark Bittman put it in The New York Times earlier this month – Brown rice isn’t just for hippies anymore.

But I’m willing to bet that most of you don’t eat it very often – or at all. If you don’t, you really ought to try it, not just for a change of pace but because in most cases it really is a better choice, nutrition-wise. It has more fiber and more minerals than white rice, and slightly fewer calories.

Brown rice is simply the less-refined cousin of refined white rice. (Brown rice can be any kind, including exotics like jasmine or sushi rice, but the kinds that are easiest to find are short-, medium-, or long-grain rices.)

 During processing, only the outer, inedible hull is removed. The bran and the germ, which are stripped out of refined rice, remain behind in brown rice. That makes brown rice one of those whole grains we’re all advised to eat more often, and gives the clear health advantage to brown rice:

  • On average, brown rice has about four times as much fiber as white – 4 grams of fiber per cup of brown rice, compared to less than one for most varieties of white rice.
  • Brown rice has much higher levels of such nutrients as manganese, iron, selenium, and many B vitamins. While some of these nutrients are added back into enriched white rice, many of the minerals are not.
  • Brown rice gets a NuVal score of 82. Enriched white rice is scored about 30 points lower. (Remember, the higher the NuVal score, the better the overall nutrition of the product.)
  • A study by Harvard researchers indicated that eating brown rice regularly may even help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Convinced yet? You might be if you try some, as long as you don’t compare it to the white rice you’re used to. Brown rice has a nutty flavor and a chewier, heavier texture; it may remind you more of a whole grain like barley, quinoa or even oatmeal.

Simply served plain, yes, brown rice can be a little boring. So incorporate it in other dishes: Serve it as a base for chili or stir-fries; cook it in chicken or beef stock instead of plain water; substitute it for white rice in your favorite pilaf recipe.

And if you’re in a hurry, or intimidated by cooking something new, try one of the faster-cooking or microwave varieties that have hit supermarkets in recent years. Regular brown rice does take much longer to cook than typical white rice, but some of these newer products can be ready in as little as a couple of minutes. So you really have no excuse not to give one a try.

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Product Talk: Pomelos


If you’ve noticed the giant, greenish pomelos in the produce department, you may have just thought these citrus fruits were just freakishly large, unripened grapefruit.

Actually, the pomelo is just a distant cousin of the grapefruit – but you may find you like them even better.  Most people will find them juicier, sweeter and milder than most grapefruit.

In fact, if it weren’t for pomelos, we probably wouldn’t even have grapefruit today. Pomelos (sometimes called “pummelos” ) are native to southeast Asia, and were particularly common in  Malaysia, Indonesia and southern China, even as far back as thousands of years ago.

According to the authoritative Oxford Companion to Food, food historians believe that sailors brought pomelos to the Carribbean West Indies in the 17th century. There, they were cultivated, cross-bred and refined until the modern grapefruit was produced.

Only in the last few years have pomelos been common in U.S. supermarkets again. Maybe that’s because of appearances: The pomelo does look like an ungainly stepsister to more common, petite citrus fruits. Its skin is usually green or yellowish-green, and slightly rough.  Pomelos are usually at least an inch or two larger in diameter than even the largest grapefruit.

The skin, or rind, is also very thick and soft, with a thick white pith. Rather than eating it on the half-shell like a grapefruit, it’s easier to eat a pomelo like an orange, by peeling away the rind and separating the fruit into sections. The flesh doesn’t have the tart edge of a grapefruit or the high acidity of other citrus fruits.

You can use pomelo in just about the same way as you would a grapefruit, in a salad or by itself. Peak season is now through late winter.



Product talk: Eggnog: A BGC tradition


Nobody’s really sure who invented eggnog. The holiday tradition is usually credited to the English, but some food historians seem to think it’s just a modernized version of a milk-based toddy that has been enjoyed in the winter since the Middle Ages.

What I do know is this: We make some pretty fine eggnog right here at Brookshire’s.

Our Food Club eggnog, made locally, is now in stores, carrying on a tradition that has now been going on for nearly 20 years.

The recipe for our rich, fragrant eggnog was developed in 1992 in our own BGC Dairy. It uses a secret blend of spices and vanilla, and fresh whole milk that comes to us from family dairy farmers in the nearby countryside.

And it’s part of an even bigger dairy tradition that dates back to 1927, when the first working dairy was founded on the site of the current BGC plant in Tyler, Texas.  The dairy changed hands several times before Brookshire’s purchased it in 1990 in order to bring its own fresh milk products to customers.

We’re proud of our dairy’s strong history of quality. In spring 2005 the dairy became the first dairy in Texas certified to process organic milk. And we’ve won the All Star Dairy Association’s “Best Fluid Plant” Award the last 5 out of 7 years.

At the dairy, we gear up to make eggnog just in the fall, in time for all those holiday parties. It’s available by the quart, perfect for enjoying yourself, or the half-gallon, enough for the whole family or special holiday parties. Dust it with ground cinnamon or nutmeg, top it with real whipped cream, or even spike it with a little brandy or rum, if you are so inclined.

Just make sure you enjoy it while you can; at the end of the holidays, it will disappear again from our stores, not to return until the 2012 winter holiday season.

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Product Talk: New Charter Reserve deli meats


Coming this week to selected stores: Great new choices in deli meats.

We are introducing Charter Reserve, a line of premium deli meats, giving you 18 new flavors of deli turkey, ham, beef and chicken to try.

Charter Reserve is high-quality, all-natural meat – providing great taste at affordable prices. But even though it’s budget friendly, they do not skimp on the quality or the preparation:

  •  This is whole-muscle meat, with no binders or fillers.
  •  No MSG or trans fats.
  •  Every variety is gluten-free.
  •  They’re all oven-roasted, and seasoned with fine ingredients and spices.
  •  Several varieties are even certified by the American Heart Association, meaning they meet the association’s guidelines for heart-healthy food.

No matter your deli meat of choice, Charter Reserve probably offers it. The line includes seven kinds of turkey (including cracked pepper, mesquite roasted, and honey-baked) and five kinds of ham (brown sugar, Virginia ham and Black Forest among them.) It also includes four kinds of choice Angus beef and two flavors of roasted chicken.

Charter Reserve should be arriving in selected stores with delis this week. Don’t be shy – ask for a taste!



Product Talk: Dried beans, simplified


Except for the whole time and convenience thing, dried beans are so much better than canned beans, in so many ways. They’re cheaper, they taste richer and more flavorful, and you can better control the fat and, especially, the sodium content.

Of course, the time and convenience thing is pretty big. Not everybody thinks ahead enough so they have time to soak beans overnight and then cook them a few hours too. But what if I told you something big about dried beans – that you don’t have to soak them first?

Yes, I know that goes against pretty much everything you have probably been told about beans, and what you and your family have probably been doing for years. But it’s true. It’s what cooks do in many other countries, including Mexico. And more American cooks are finally coming around to this idea.

The main idea behind soaking dried beans was to diminish cooking time. But newer varieties of beans have been bred to absorb water more quickly, so they cook more quickly anyway. Additionally, some cooking experts say that soaking beans strips them of some of the flavor.

So you can take the beans straight from the bag into the pot, and they’ll still be done in a couple of hours.

I’ve cooked dried beans – pintos, black beans, navy beans, you name it – both ways, with soaking and without. And really, about the only time soaking seems to make a difference is when the beans were old, and had been sitting in the back of the pantry for a year or two. (Actually, if dried beans don’t ever get soft enough to eat, that’s probably the problem, not your cooking technique; your beans were probably old.)

The other thing you ought to try with dried beans? Don’t wait to salt them till the end. Again, that’s what most of us have been trained to do, believing that if you salt them earlier, they’ll never soften. However, again, I have found that not to be true. Try adding salt mid-way or three-quarters through the cooking time. That way the beans, not just the broth, get well-seasoned.

 



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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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