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Shop the Sale: Summer Sausage


Summer SausageI remember going to the mall with my mom while I was growing up and looking forward to the free samples at the Hickory Farms store. The sesame sticks and summer sausage were my favorites, hands down.

I don’t think Hickory Farms has stores in the mall anymore. Although, I do see kiosks pop up around Christmastime, and they still sell their famous summer sausage.

Once, at the holidays, someone sent a Hickory Farms gift basket to my college dorm room. I think I devoured the sausage and cheese, and gave the rest to my roommate.

I love the sausage because it wasn’t too “sausage-y.” It was lean and flavorful, yet delicious at room temperature, and nothing was required for preparation.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest. It came from a blogger who makes everything she eats homemade. I figured I might as well try it. After all, it looks so simple to do, no casings required. I was a bit dubious about the results, but it turned out DELICIOUS. I think I might add something like finely chopped jalapeños to make a spicy version next time.

Summer Sausage

Ingredients:
3 lb extra ground chuck
3 tsp Morton’s Tender Quick
3 tsp smoked salt
2 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 tsp garlic salt
4 tsp liquid smoke

Directions:
Mix together all ingredients then refrigerate for 24 hours, re-mixing 4 to 5 times during that time.

Roll into 3 logs.

Place logs on a broiler pan (or you can use a cooling rack that has been put over an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.)

Bake 8 hours at 170° F.

Cool completely. Slice and enjoy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 148, Calories from Fat: 105, Fat: 12 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 40 mg, Sodium: 476 mg, Potassium: 161 mg, Carbohydrates: 0.3 g, Protein: 10 g

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Shop the Sale: Baked Buffalo Chicken Bites


Baked Buffalo Chicken BitesI went to Irving for job training recently, and when we took a break for lunch, a small group of us decided to try a new restaurant recommended by one of the locals.

It sounded like it had an eclectic mix of lunch fare, ranging from salads to sandwiches to burgers to seafood and pasta dishes.

The ambiance was incredible. We sat at a wrought-iron bistro table next to a beautifully landscaped canal. The water was crystal clear, so clear that you could see giant goldfish swimming around. There were palm trees swaying in the breeze that day and tropical flowers somehow in bloom, showing off their pinks, reds and yellows.

It was a lovely setting.

I was intrigued by an item on the appetizer menu and ended up having it for my main meal. Their Buffalo Chicken Bites were deep-fried, but when I came home, I found this healthier version. It’s almost identical in taste. The food at this restaurant was delicious, too. Try it for an appetizer, meal or snack this week when Brookshire’s boneless chicken breasts are on sale.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Bites

Ingredients:

For the yogurt dip:
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
2 Tbs cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup red onions, finely diced
salt and pepper

For the chicken bites:
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or finely chopped
1/4 to 3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 bunch green onions, white and pale green parts chopped
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
cooking spray

Directions:
Mix all of the dip ingredients together well. Stash in the fridge while you prepare the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, wing sauce, cheese, green onions and cream cheese until well-combined.

Mix panko and a pinch of salt and pepper in a shallow dish.

Form chicken mixture into 2 1/2-inch balls (for dinner-sized) or 1 1/2-inch balls (for appetizer-sized).

Roll the chicken balls in the panko and place on a greased cookie sheet.

Before cooking, spray the tops of the balls with cooking spray.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tops of bites are brown and crunchy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 393, Calories from Fat: 195, Fat: 22 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 119 mg, Sodium: 1136 mg, Potassium: 311 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 36 g

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Shop the Sale: Chuck Tender Pot Roast


Chuck Tender Pot RoastOne of the best ways I’ve found to get great value for my money is to buy a chuck roast. A two-pound roast serves about eight people, if you calculate a half pound per person.

Well, there are three people in my household so a two-pound roast goes a long way.

I like to start out doing just what the name implies: roasting it.

It’s delicious for a Sunday dinner and doesn’t take forever to cook.

After that, I like to repurpose the roast for sandwiches (sliced with bleu cheese on kaiser rolls), soft tacos (shredded and mixed with salsa or salsa verde) or for stir-fry (cubed and quick-cooked with veggies and served over rice).

See how economical it can be?

It’s delicious, too. Chuck roast is on sale at Brookshire’s this week, so get creative with your meals!

Chuck Tender Pot Roast
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 lb chuck tender roast
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp basil
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Allow roast to sit and come to room temperature.

Add olive oil to skillet and heat to medium-high. Add onions and garlic; brown slightly. Salt and pepper both sides of the roast. Remove onions and garlic from the pan. Add roast and sear on each side.

Return onions and garlic to pan. Sprinkle on rosemary and basil.

Transfer all to an oven-safe pan. Roast at 325° F for about 20 minutes per pound. Cook until desired doneness is achieved.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 207, Calories from Fat: 102, Fat: 11 g, Cholesterol: 65 mg, Sodium: 658 mg, Potassium: 38 mg, Carbohydrates: 3 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 23 g

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Shop the Sale: Spicy Shrimp Noodle Soup


Spicy Shrimp Noodle SoupI have a good friend, Beth, who takes healthy cooking to a whole new level.

Nothing she puts in her body isn’t fresh, has chemicals or was created in a laboratory. She’s pretty awesome that way.

I admire her, but that’s not always practical for me. Let’s face it, I like cheesy poufs sometimes.

But I do believe, as she says, that we’re supposed to fuel our body with the best foods most of the time.

She made a recipe similar to this for me one night at dinner. Of course, she used homemade bone broth instead of beef stock, omitted the fish sauce and clam juice and only served me the rice noodles, but it was so good that I had to try to duplicate it and she provided this recipe as the “next closest” thing to her homemade variety.

It’s delicious (especially with the rice noodles and clam juice, haha!). I guess it has a Thai flair to it, and you can add a touch of coconut milk at the very end, if you wish, to give it a more creamy consistency.

With medium shrimp on sale this week at Brookshire’s, this is a delicious, economical soup your family is sure to love.

Spicy Shrimp Noodle Soup

Ingredients:
3 cups unsalted beef stock
1 cup water
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 (8 oz) bottle clam juice
1 oz dried shiitake mushroom caps, chopped
1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger
1 lb (31 to 40) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz uncooked flat rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup diagonally cut green onions
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
12 small fresh basil leaves
4 lime wedges

Directions:
Combine first 10 ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 3 1/2 cups (about 12 minutes). Add shrimp; cook 4 minutes or until done. Remove cinnamon and ginger; discard. Cook rice noodles according to package directions; drain. Place 1/2 cup noodles in each of 4 bowls, and top each serving with 1 cup stock mixture and about 5 shrimp. Sprinkle evenly with bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, and basil. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 287, Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 174 mg, Sodium: 537 mg, Carbohydrates: 40 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 27 g

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Shop the Sale: Spicy Peppered Snow Crab Legs


Spicy Peppered Snow Crab LegsOne of the most special meals – in my humble opinion – would be crab legs. There’s just something so fun about cracking into the hard shell to extract the yummy crab meat inside.

In addition, I don’t buy them often so they’re a special treat. Special equals fun in my book!

Conveniently, snow crab clusters are on sale this week at Brookshire’s. A snow crab cluster is simply the legs still attached at the joint. There’s nothing intimidating about them. You crack them apart, or leave them attached and cook them easily and quickly.

This dish is sticky and slightly sweet, and it’s meant to be eaten with your hands. Toasting the pepper makes a huge difference in the depth of flavor, so don’t skip this step!

Serve with a crisp sauvignon blanc.

Spicy Peppered Snow Crab Legs

Ingredients:
3 lb snow crab legs
freshly ground pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
6 cloves garlic, chopped
10 thin slices ginger, peeled
8 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 red jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs oyster sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
white rice, for serving

Directions:
Cut the crab legs into 3-inch pieces with kitchen shears. Cut along one side of the shell on each piece so the meat can be easily removed after cooking.

Place the remaining ingredients by the stove. Toast 2 tablespoons pepper in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until sizzling (you can also set a roasting pan over two burners). Add the garlic, ginger, scallions and jalapeños. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add the crab pieces, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Cook, tossing, until heated through (about 5 minutes). Scatter the toasted pepper on top and continue to cook, tossing, about 1 more minute. Transfer the crab and sauce to a bowl. Serve with rice.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1276, Calories from Fat: 636, Fat: 71 g (33 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 483 mg, Sodium: 7007 mg, Potassium: 2064 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 136 g

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Shop the Sale: Salsa Verde Beef Tacos


Salsa Verde Beef TacosThe tradition of Taco Tuesday has been re-instituted in our house. We had it going for a long time, but I kind of got burned out. Back by popular demand, this time I’ve gone on the offensive against the taco doldrums by creating a Pinterest board where lots of yummy and creative recipes reside.

On Taco Tuesday, I’m cooking for three hungry guys.

Two of them would prefer the ground beef variety with a crispy shell.

One of them likes anything beef.

Personally, I’d make shrimp or fish tacos with a crunchy slaw and avocados if left to my own devices. Needless to say, I get ruled out ALL the time.

Last week, we made grilled chicken soft tacos. This week, because chuck roast is on sale at Brookshire’s, I’ll be making these Salsa Verde Beef Tacos. The guys get their beef; I get my green stuff. It’s a win/win. Since this should freeze well, maybe I’ll break out the leftovers next week and serve half Salsa Verde Beef Tacos, half shrimp tacos. Another win.

Salsa Verde Beef Tacos

Ingredients:
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 lb boneless beef chuck roast
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 (16 oz) jar salsa verde
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 limes, freshly juiced (juice reserved)
2 Tbs hot sauce, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
12 flour tortillas, warmed
limes, for serving
optional toppings: shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, avocado, sour cream

Directions:
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat. Rub the beef with the cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the beef to the skillet; brown each side for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the salsa verde, onions, lime juice, hot sauce and garlic on top. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker; shred it with 2 forks. Return meat to slow cooker and stir in the cilantro. Using a slotted spoon, remove meat and use for tacos.

Serve the meat in warm tortillas and top with preferred toppings. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 575, Calories from Fat: 163, Fat: 18 g (6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 203 mg, Sodium: 734 mg, Potassium: 1048 mg, Carbohydrates: 27 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 73 g

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Shop the Sale: Baked Coconut Chicken Strips


Baked Coconut Chicken StripsI need sunshine. I need sunshine BADLY. I suspect most of us who live in this part of the country – or even anywhere in the United States during the winter months – share my sentiments. (Or, is it desperation?)

It’s the time of year when I’m ready to shed the vestiges of winter for the spoils of spring, but the one thing I’m not quite ready to give up is my cold-weather comfort foods.

This coconut chicken is a marriage of comfort (baked, crunchy chicken), sunshine and lightness. Because when I think of coconuts, I think of Hawaii, and Hawaii is a warm tropical place where there’s plenty of sunshine and light during some of the dreary days of winter.

This recipe is baked, not fried, so you can even imagine yourself on a beach in a bikini.

This week, Brookshire’s chicken breasts or tenders are on sale, so you can transport to the tropics with this family-friendly recipe.

Baked Coconut Chicken Strips

Ingredients:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 6-8 tenders, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into strips
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
2 eggs
1 Tbs water
2 cups coconut flakes
sweet & sour sauce or Asian sweet chili sauce, for dipping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Whisk together flour and seasoned salt in a small bowl. Whisk together eggs and water in a second bowl. Place coconut flakes in a third bowl.

Toss strips of chicken in the flour mixture, and then dip in the eggs. Lastly, roll in the coconut flakes, being sure to coat well. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and chicken is cooked through. Serve warm with dipping sauce of choice.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 401, Calories from Fat: 172, Fat: 19 g, Cholesterol: 169 mg, Sodium: 301 mg, Potassium: 401 mg, Carbohydrates: 18 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 39 g

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Shop the Sale: Catfish Stew


Catfish StewYou can’t live in the South without eating a lot of catfish. I’ve had it fried, baked and broiled, but I’d never had it in a stew until just a few months ago.

I went to my friend Trish’s house for dinner, and she had a pot of heaven simmering on her stove. Of course, I dipped the spoon right in to see what delight she had cooking.

I was surprised when she said it was catfish, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Catfish is a hardy fish, which can stand up to deep frying or braising like in this stew. Don’t simmer this meal for a long time; the fish will break down. Instead, prepare it just before serving, making it a quick and easy dinner. You can omit the bacon if you want (but why???) to make it a little healthier, and you can also throw in two cups of shrimp at the same time as the catfish, if you are so inclined. I also think it would be good with a diced jalapeño for some heat.

Catfish fillets are on sale this week at Brookshire’s, and it’s perfect weather for stew.

Catfish Stew

Ingredients:
5 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups fish stock or water
3 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb catfish fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions:
Brown bacon in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat until almost crisp. Add onions and celery; sauté until onions are tender (about 3 to 5 minutes).

Add tomatoes, fish stock, ketchup, Worcestershire, seasonings and potatoes; stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 40 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.

Add catfish then reduce heat to low. Cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir. Cover and allow stew to rest for 20 minutes before serving.

*To make homemade stock, simmer catfish bones, uncovered, in 3 of cups water until liquid is reduced by half.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 298, Calories from Fat: 130, Fat: 14 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 57 mg, Sodium: 1082 mg, Carbohydrates: 19 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 22 g

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Shop the Sale: Bacon-Wrapped Smoky Chicken Thighs


Bacon-Wrapped Smoky Chicken ThighsEveryone loves bacon, but my friend Nick REALLY, REALLY loves bacon. He could be bacon’s biggest fan.

He even conducted an experiment recently where he cooked bacon several different ways to see which way produced the crispest, flattest bacon with the fewest fat bubbles. It was something about adding ice water to the skillet. I suggested he bake the bacon in the oven, but he wielded his cast-iron skillet in my general direction and told me that was blasphemy (it’s not…really…baked bacon comes out perfectly, in my opinion).

So, I’m not going to convert him to baking bacon, but I can aid him in his quest to eat all things bacon-related.

Right now, Nick is in Kansas, finishing his training to become an engineer with BNSF Railway. He’s been working hard, very hard, on this for a year now, first earning his conductor stripes and then applying to – and getting into – engineering school, which is apparently much more difficult than people might think. I’m super proud of him; he’s sacrificed a lot this year to make this plan a reality.

When he comes back next week, his friends are going to throw a party for him with plenty of his favorite Cajun foods, all bacon-wrapped, of course.

Chicken thighs and legs are on sale this week at Brookshire’s, so I’m planning to make enough of these for a big party!

Bacon-Wrapped Smoky Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:
4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
8 slices bacon
2 tsp Smoky Spice Blend

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Sprinkle the chicken thighs with 1 teaspoon of Smoky Spice Blend, and then wrap each one in 2 strips of bacon. Sprinkle with the remaining Smoky Spice Blend and bake on a lined baking sheet for approximately 40 minutes. You could broil them for a few more minutes at the end to crisp up the bacon.

Smoky Spice Blend

Ingredients:
1 Tbs chipotle powder
1 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs onion powder 
1/2 Tbs cinnamon
1 Tbs sea salt
1/2 Tbs black pepper

Directions:
Combine all spices in a bowl, and then store in a small container. You can use it for other recipes.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 283, Calories from Fat: 170, Fat: 19 g, Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium: 655 mg, Carbohydrates: 0.4 g, Protein: 30 g

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Shop the Sale: Kickin’ Chicken


Kickin’ ChickenSimplify.

Simplify.

Simplify.

That’s my motto for 2015. Life just gets too darn complicated sometimes, like on Wednesday evenings when I’ve picked up one kid from chess club, another from a STEM after-school program, worked a 9-hour day and then decide to try a new recipe while doing laundry, feeding the dog and sorting the mail.

This easy chicken recipe follows that directive. However, for such ease, it’s full of flavor. The lime juice tenderizes the chicken beautifully while the olive oil ensures the flavor seeps into the meat. Of course, I love anything with hot sauce.

The recipe calls for marinating for four hours, but I like to do mine overnight.

Boneless, skinless chicken tenders or breasts are on sale this week, so heat up your winter with this chicken recipe.

Kickin’ Chicken
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2-3 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 cup Frank’s® RedHot® Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
limes, cut into slices for serving

Directions:
In a medium-sized bowl, mix hot sauce, olive oil, lime juice and garlic. Place chicken in a pan, bowl or zippered bag; pour marinade over top, making sure the chicken is submerged in the marinade. Marinade for four hours in the fridge. Remove chicken from marinade and grill. Serve with lime slices.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 340, Calories from Fat: 124, Fat: 14 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 130 mg, Sodium: 1309 mg, Potassium: 426 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Protein: 49 g.

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