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Product Talk: Vanilla Sugar


Vanilla SugarOne of the simplest things to make that will absolutely transform your baking is vanilla sugar.

I use vanilla sugar in place of regular sugar in my pancakes and waffles, in pound cakes and pie fillings, and in a multitude of other ways.

Besides smelling wonderful, vanilla sugar brings that pop into your baking that will leave people wondering, “What is her secret ingredient?”

So, are you ready to make vanilla sugar?

Simply buy a package of vanilla beans from Brookshire’s. They’re usually in the produce section. Vanilla beans look like sticks, as my boys will tell you, and only a few come in a package.

When you take the beans out of the package, use a small, very sharp paring knife to slice partway through the bean, lengthwise. Gently pull the halves apart, and use the side of the knife to scrape the dark “beans” into a Mason jar. Once all of the beans are scraped into the jar, toss the outsides in, too. Fill the jar almost to the top with granulated white sugar. Place the lid tightly on the jar, and give it a good shake. Store the sugar in a cool, dry place and use as needed. It will become more infused with flavor the longer it sits.

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Product Talk: Brookshire’s Pancake Syrup


Brookshire’s Pancake SyrupI tiptoed through the darkened house this morning, dodging pillows, stepping over sleeping boys and crunching rogue Doritos under my feet. It must have been a really good party. Sleepover, that is, as Luke keeps reminding me. “It’s NOT a SLUMBER PARTY, Mom!”

Oops. Note to self: Only girls call a sleepover a slumber party.

I made my way to the kitchen to start breakfast. Luckily, I had read my son and his friends the riot act before retiring to my room last night. They knew it would not be good if I woke up this morning, and they had not gone to bed yet. That’s what happened last time these kids got together, and it made for a really, really long day that day. I hated to return two boys to their parents without any sleep. Truth be told, I think they learned their lesson, as they retired at a reasonable hour last night.

Before I left them alone to play video games, eat Doritos and Hot Tamales, and laugh a lot, one of my son’s friends asked, “Are we having pancakes for breakfast?”

Well, yes! The last time they were here, we went through two pounds of bacon and more pancakes than I could keep up with at the griddle for breakfast.

So, I popped the bacon into the oven (best way ever to cook an entire pound at one time) and heated up the griddle.

Of course, there was Brookshire’s Pancake Syrup to douse over the pancakes.

As the boys were preparing their plates with the usual jocularity and good-natured ribbing, I heard my son ask, “Are you going to drown that pancake in syrup?”

I looked over and his friend had more Brookshire’s Pancake Syrup on his plate than actual food.

“I like it this way!” he said.

Brookshire’s Pancake Syrup has a rich, maple flavor and a thick consistency that clings to your pancakes to enhance them with the perfect flavor.

I’d better buy more for the next SLEEPOVER.



Product Talk: Kraft Oven Fry


Kraft Oven FrySome of my favorite words in the English language are when Paul says, “I’ll cook tonight.”

Not that I don’t love cooking, I do, but I also would climb the highest mountain, swim the longest sea or, you know, walk across the kitchen for one of Paul’s meals.

Not only is Paul a great cook, but it’s SO NICE when someone else plans, shops for and executes dinner. This weekend was extraordinarily busy, so dinner Saturday night had the definite potential to be saltine crackers with the scrapings of the crunchy peanut butter left in my pantry. It feels SO GOOD to hear, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.”

Handle it, he did! He always manages to surprise me with what he cooks, using products I’ve never tried before. Kraft’s Oven Fry is one of those products.

Basically, it’s a great way to get a deep-fried taste in your oven without the mess, the fat or the eternal stench of oil that permeates your house with deep-fried foods.

There are many varieties of Oven Fry. We used it for pork, and Paul coated white-meat boneless chops in one beaten egg, then dredged them in Oven Fry. After about 20 minutes in the oven, they were done and came out so crispy that I was in awe. Found near the breadcrumbs, Oven Fry is definitely something I’ll be trying again, maybe on chicken next time for that fried chicken feel.



Product Talk: Fresh Express Sweet Butter Lettuce


Fresh Express Sweet Butter LettuceSalads are a big mealtime staple in my house.

It’s the boys’ favorite way to eat vegetables, and while sometimes we don’t get much variety in our weekly menus, we definitely get variety in our salads, adding different vegetables, fruits and nuts for added nutrients, as well as colors, textures and flavors.

My favorite “base” to the salad is Fresh Express Sweet Butter mix. It’s a blend of green butter lettuce and red leaf lettuce. Green butter lettuce has a sweetness to it that I just love. I also love the crisp, soft texture.

This mix is a great source of vitamins A and K, and also chock full of folate. I’ll often mix this in with Fresh Express Baby Spinach for a punch of iron, too.

Fresh Express bagged salad mixes come in a stay-fresh bag, so your lettuce is crisp and clean when you are ready to eat. There’s no washing, tearing or chopping required, so it really is as simple as just opening the bag and pouring it into a bowl.

I especially like to use mandarin orange sections with sweet butter lettuce; I think the two flavors complement each other well.

You can find Fresh Express Sweet Butter mix and other varieties refrigerated near the produce section of Brookshire’s.



Product Talk: Valencia In-Shell Peanuts


Valencia In-Shell PeanutsLast weekend, Paul and I were puttering around in our usual flurry of Sunday afternoon activity, trying to get our ducks in a row before the beginning of the work week. Generally, we’ll only eat one big meal on Sundays, but we will snack while we’re waiting (and puttering).

Last Sunday, Paul grabbed a bag of Cajun peanuts in the shell when we stopped by Brookshire’s after church to pick up something for dinner.

We tore through those things.

What was especially delicious about the peanuts was that the flavor and the salt weren’t just on the shell, they were infused into the peanuts. We ruminated over the method used to make this happen, and then we just Googled it. I love to Google.

Brookshire’s also sells Valencia In-Shell Peanuts in the produce department. These nuts are raw and just waiting to be infused with flavor and roasted.

We had to try it, and they turned out delicious. Now, take our word for it: roast in small batches. It might take you a lot longer, but you won’t end up with a soggy product. We wanted to do it on the smoker, but we decided we needed the heat from the oven. (It was the right call.)

Valencia Peanuts of Hampton Farms are grown in New Mexico and shipped right after harvest. We brined the nuts in a Cajun brine as well, and I was amazed at how fresh and flavorful they were. We’ll definitely be buying raw peanuts and roasting them ourselves again.

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Product Talk: Hampton Farms Hot Nuts


Hampton Farms Hot NutsWe had an unseasonably warm weekend, so Paul and I planned a porch party (for two). At the end of a long day of errands, we grabbed a comfortable seat in the sunshine and enjoyed the breeze, the melodies of the chimes, the smell of the grill and some Hampton Farms Hot Nuts for an appetizer.

We’d just run into Brookshire’s for some potatoes, you see, but the Cajun Spicy Peanuts were in the produce section and we were, well, hangry. You know, so hungry that it makes you upset? Hangry.

We grabbed the bag, our potatoes and headed home.

Once on the porch with our potatoes baking, we settled in to enjoy the warm weather and the peanuts. Paul tried to carefully contain the shells in a plastic bag, but we were on the porch, so what the heck? I was happy to crack shells and discard them at my feet, like we were eating in a popular chain steakhouse. The wind would take care of them, right?

Hampton Farms Hot Nuts are peanuts sold in the shell. This variety happens to have a Cajun spice. The wonderful part of these nuts is that the flavor is infused in the nut, not just dusted on the shell.

We had to read about how this was accomplished (because we’re going to try it at home with Hampton Farm raw peanuts in the shell, mind you). Basically, they brine the whole nut, in the shell, long enough for the flavor-infused liquid to seep into the nut. Then, they dry them and roast them (that’s a horribly simplified version, but it’s one I can understand!). The Cajun flavoring gets sealed right into the nut, so not only do you get that smoky flavor that you look for in a roasted peanut, but you get a dash of Cajun spice as well.

They are addictive.

So much so that I went back this morning and bought another two bags.

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Product Talk: Total Cluster Fudge “Soooommmmore”


Total Cluster Fudge-SoooommmmoreYou know how ‘they’ say “Never grocery shop while you’re hungry?”

Well, I do all the time. Maybe it’s because I’m always hungry or maybe it’s just poor planning on my part.

Either way, it’s resulted in some purchases that I might not have made if I was full of something healthy like salad (because let’s face it, who grabs a green pepper when they’re ravenous and want something quick to nosh on?).

But sometimes something catches your eye and, hungry or not, you want to try it right then and there. This happens to me all the time in Brookshire’s.

Like these brownies. I was walking PAST the bakery section on the way to the seafood counter when I saw this container of heavenliness. They were in my shopping cart faster than you could say, “Chocolate.” Not only was I shopping on an empty stomach, but it had been a long day and these sounded like they would hit the spot.

They did.

The bottom layer of these treats is a fudgy brownie, a little gooey, just how I like it. Then, over the brownie layer, was a layer of graham crackers, topped with another layer of soft brownie and the whole thing was capped off with perfectly golden mini-marshmallows, a S’more in a brownie.

I managed to only eat one (that night).

Next time, they’ll be on my shopping list, hungry or not.

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Product Talk: TGI Fridays Green Bean Fries


TGI Fridays Green Bean FriesThe other night, Paul was making dinner and I pulled out some romaine lettuce, some cucumbers and some Roma tomatoes to make a salad.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he asked, with a slightly horrified expression on his face.

“Um…making a salad,” I stuttered.

“WHY. ARE. YOU. DOING. THAT?” he wanted to know.

“Because we don’t have a fresh vegetable with dinner,” was my response.

This is a conversation we frequently have during meal-planning at my house.

I ask, “What vegetable do you want?” and the response is always, “Salad.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad, and when I make them, I can get so creative with what I put into it.

However, my guys, all three of them, are a little less creative.

Oh, they can be creative when they try to argue that rice is a vegetable. I mean, it’s a member of the vegetable kingdom because it grows in the ground, but it is classified as a grain.

When I think “vegetable,” I think green or at least brightly-colored and healthy.

I told this to Paul, who listened, because he brought over green beans the next time he was making dinner.

Fried green beans.

They were delicious and brightly-colored.

TGI Fridays has a whole line of frozen appetizers and snacks that mimic the appetizers on their restaurant menus. Green beans fries are just that: fried green beans. Even when you reheat them, they are crispy and come with a zesty wasabi ranch dipping sauce.

I laughed so hard when he produced green beans, and I couldn’t argue that they didn’t count as my version of a vegetable.

They were delicious and fun to eat! You can find them in the freezer section of Brookshire’s in the “snacks” case.

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Product Talk: Fish in Crazy Water


Fish in Crazy WaterI’m all about fish these days.

A few weeks ago, I floated the query to my family, “Would you guys be interested in eating more fish?” and expected the answer to be a resounding silence, which would be answer enough.

To my shock, they were all for incorporating more fish into our diets.

I love fish. I could eat it 17 times a week, but I knew my guys would need to be eased into it.

I made blackened tilapia, a hit. I offered fish tacos, another hit. I baked salmon (mostly a hit). Then, I was skimming through Pinterest and looking for instructions on how to make three-dimensional cardboard stars, when I saw a recipe for Fish in Crazy Water. That was close enough to “Fish in a Crazy Household” that I had to click the link.

This recipe sounded so good that I had to put it on the menu immediately.

The recipe calls for snapper, sea bass, Branzino or Orata, so I went to the fish counter at Brookshire’s to see what was available for a good price.

I love going to the seafood counter at Brookshire’s because they never make me feel stupid if I don’t know what Orata is. (It’s a member of the bream family found in the Mediterranean.) Plus, the seafood experts will fillet, peel, steam, debone or otherwise prep your seafood for you! It’s a win/win.

This particular day, there was red snapper on sale, so that’s what I got. This recipe ended up being our favorite so far.

Fish in Crazy Water

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs fresh fish fillets (such as snapper, sea bass, Branzino or Orata), cut into 4 portions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, peeled and slightly smashed
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, washed and cut into matchsticks
2 or 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, washed and quartered
1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
This recipe calls for a large skillet with a lid. If using a cast-iron skillet, placing a baking sheet over the skillet will act as a lid.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in the large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers and is fragrant, and the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the carrots, celery and onions. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften but not brown.

Add the cherry tomatoes; cook, stirring often, for a minute to heat the tomatoes until they begin to release juices. Add the fish to the pan, tucking it down into the vegetables. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat at a very gentle simmer for 10 minutes, poaching the fish until it’s just cooked through and the vegetables are softened. Stir in half the parsley.

Divide fish, veggies and broth among 4 shallow bowls. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with the other half of the parsley.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 383, Calories from Fat: 142, Fat: 16 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 80 mg, Sodium: 148 mg, Potassium: 1363 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 47 g.

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



Product Talk: Rotel Diced Tomatoes


Rotel TomatoesRotel Tomatoes are for more than just queso dip.

Stop the presses!

I know! I know! It’s hard to beat gooey cheese and zesty tomatoes on a tortilla chip, but Rotel is so much more versatile!

Rotel, distributed by ConAgra Foods, is a delicious, healthy way to incorporate some vitamin C into your diet and get a huge bang-for-your-buck flavor.

Their signature blend includes vine-ripened tomatoes and diced green chilies, but there are also habanero pepper, chunky-style, Mexican-style and specifically-formulated for chili varieties. Ingredients are packaged at the peak of freshness to preserve flavor and nutrients.

Named for the original owners, the Roetteles, the veggies have been produced in Texas since 1943.

Chicken Burrito Skillet
(Recipe from conagrafoods.com)

Ingredients:
2 Tbs Pure Wesson® Canola Oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbs taco seasoning mix (from 1.25-oz pkg)
1 (15 oz) can Rosarita® Premium Whole Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) can Ro*Tel® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
1 cup shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend
chopped cilantro, optional

Directions
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and taco seasoning; cook 2 more minutes. Stir in black beans, undrained tomatoes and water; bring to a boil.

Stir in rice. Cover and reduce heat; simmer 7 to 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and cilantro, if desired.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 338, Fat: 14 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 68 mg, Sodium: 672 mg, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 26 g.

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



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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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