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Healthy Living: Cookin’ With Cast Iron

Cooking with cast iron isn’t just for frying chicken any more.

Using that beautifully black, superbly seasoned, wonderfully weighty cast iron skillet that your grandmother handed down is a smart way to help get chemicals out of your kitchen and more nutrients into your food.

Did you know that studies show that cooking your food, especially something acidic like tomato sauce, in a cast-iron skillet can increase iron content by as much as 20 times? Unlike some non-stick pans, cast iron doesn’t leach chemicals into your food, but it does release iron, supplementing the elemental mineral content in your cooking.  In addition, you remove the presence of PFCs (perfluorocarbons), a substance found in the non-stick coating of some pans that can be released into your food when you heat your pans over high heat or accidentally nick or scratch their surfaces.

Because well-seasoned cast iron is naturally non-stick, you can cook with less oil. To properly season your cast iron, wash with hot water after use (no dish soap, please), dry thoroughly and rub with a light application of cooking oil. Buff with a paper towel or soft cloth and store near your oven. In fact, because I have double ovens, I store my cast iron skillet in the oven I don’t usually use, but the heat from the unit helps keep my pan perfectly seasoned.  When I sauté something in my cast iron skillet, I often use no oil at all, unless it’s a touch of extra-virgin olive oil to add flavor.

Zucchini Tomato Gratin

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sweet onions, sliced in rings
3 large zucchini, thinly sliced
3 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 TBS fresh basil or oregano

Place a layer of sweet onion rings on the bottom of cast iron skillet. Drizzle with 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil.

Top onions with a layer of tomatoes and zucchini slices, alternating.

Toss panko with cheese and spread over vegetables.

Bake in a 425 degree oven until vegetables are tender and the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

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

Dine-In: Mangia! Meatballs

Ever since Lady and The Tramp canoodled over a plate of pasta, spaghetti and meatballs has been, in my mind, a sweet date night dish.

It doesn’t get much better on a Friday night than to sit down with your sweetie over a plate of mouth-watering , homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

I’ve been working on my meatballs and marinara sauce for years. I finally have my marinara sauce as close to perfection as it’s going to get, but I hadn’t yet been satisfied with my meatballs. That  all changed last Friday night.

These meatballs melt in your mouth, which was just the consistency I was going for. In the past, my meatballs had gotten tough, but these are tender, moist morsels. Don’t over bake these beauties; pull them out of the oven when they’re still pink inside and let them continue simmering in your sauce. They’ll infuse your sauce with a savory goodness and the sauce, in turn, adds tenderness to the meatball.

Makes 12

1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 lb bulk sausage
1 large egg
1 cup panko
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs dried basil

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix by hand until well incorporated. Roll gently into rounds slightly larger than golf balls. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven while the centers are still pink and place into pot of simmering marinara to finish cooking, at least 30 minutes. If you’re not going to use the meatballs immediately, cook through in the oven. These freeze well.

*Note, a friend of mine hates to put her hands into raw meat, so she combines all her ingredients inside a gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag and “squishes” the bag until all ingredients are well incorporated.


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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In

Product Talk: Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil

I have a confession to make: I have lived in Texas for 15 years and I lived in parts of Louisiana for four years as a child and I have NEVER been to a shrimp boil.

Since it’s almost an official state pastime, I’ve been more-than-a-little embarrassed over my lack of shrimp-boiling prowess. I decided summertime was the perfect time to rectify that problem.

First stop: Brookshire’s for Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil, gorgeous 16/20 shrimp in the shells, earthy red potatoes and bright ears of corn on the cob. Let me just tell you, I love me some Zatarain’s. And while I’m at it, I have another confession: I always thought my mom’s red beans and rice was the best in the universe, but Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice gives it a run for its money! (Please don’t tell my mom). So it was practically a no-brainer to use a Zatarain’s product for my first shrimp boil.

Second stop: My very own kitchen to dig out my beautiful blue and white enamel stock pot, the one I’d use if ever called upon to cook for a small army.

I was ready.

The Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab boil is exactly as its name promises: a concentrated, spicy blend of red pepper, bay, clove, black pepper, thyme, marjoram and other spices. It comes in an 8-ounce bottle and you really only need a capful per two quarts of water, unless you really want to spice up your party. It’s easy to use and you don’t need any other spices or flavorings.

A shrimp boil is an extremely quick, easy party meal and fun for the whole family. I’d recommend spreading newspaper out on your table so you can dig in and enjoy your shrimp and not worry about the mess!

Southern Shrimp Boil
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves 8

2 quarts water
2 Tbs salt (optional)
2 lbs large shrimp with shells on (21 to 30 count)
4 ears of corn on the cob, shucked and sliced in half
8 red potatoes, whole
1 lb cooked smoked sausage (optional)
2 tsp Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil

Bring water and salt to boil in large stock pot.
Add potatoes and corn, cook for about 5 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
Stir in shrimp, sausage if using, and Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil. Return to boil; cover. Cook 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat. Let stand 2 minutes. Drain well.

Family Matters: Oobleck

On the last day of school one year, my older son, Curt, came home with a bag of slime.

No, it wasn’t the contents of a long-lost lunch bag, it was, as he explained to me in great detail, oobleck.

I watched him extract the green oobleck from the plastic bag, stretching it the length of his arm as he did so. Then he and his brother, Luke, proceeded to play with the oobleck for two hours.

Named for a slime in a Dr. Seuss book, “Bartholomew and Oobleck,” that had the power to gunk up a whole land, oobleck , besides looking like green gunk, has properties of both solids and liquids. Oobleck wiggles and jiggles like a liquid or jelly, but if you squeeze it in your hand, it will seem like a solid. In the scientific world, oobleck is called a dilatant, a substance that causes another to expand. If you slowly lower your hand into oobleck, it will sink, but it’s much, much harder to remove your hand without taking all the oobleck and its container with you. But in the real world, oobleck is just plain fun and easy to make with ingredients you probably have right in your pantry, perfect for a craft – or science experiment – on a hot summer’s day.


Corn starch
Food coloring (optional)

Mix 1 part water with 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch. Start with 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of cornstarch, then work in more cornstarch if you want a more ‘solid’ oobleck.

Mix for about 10 minutes to get the right consistency. If you mix oobleck in a plastic bag with a zipper lock, kids can “squish” it to the right consistency.

Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.

Try this:
Squeeze or punch the oobleck. The cornstarch particles will not move out of the way quickly, so the oobleck will feel solid.

Mold oobleck in a container, but when you remove the mold, watch the oobleck lose its shape.

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Posted in: Family Matters

Shop the Sale: Southern-Style Cola Barbecue

It wasn’t until I moved to Texas that I learned that you could cook with cola.

I admit I was skeptical at first, but when a friend introduced me to sausage links simmered overnight in the slow-cooker in a combination of cola and barbecue sauce, I was hooked. The meat becomes melt-in-your mouth tender.

I’ve come to use that combination of cola and barbecue sauce to cook almost any meat. I especially love being able to use my slow-cooker during the hot summer months when turning on my oven is almost unbearable.

This week, the Brookshire’s sale circular is chock full of great goodies to use in slow cooker barbecue.

Southern-Style Cola Barbecue

2 lbs Hormel Assorted Pork Chops OR Eckrich Smoked Sausage Links OR Brookshire’s Split Chicken Breasts OR Boneless Beef Short Ribs
2 cups Food Club cola
1/2 cup Food Club orange juice
2 cups Food Club barbecue sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large slow cooker and simmer on low heat for 8 hours.

You can shred the pork or chicken and serve on a sandwich, or serve whole alongside potato salad and corn on the cob. The sausage is great for parties alongside whatever you’re making on the grill and the short ribs are amazing with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans.

Healthy Living: Coconut Water

When I started working with a professional trainer, one of the first things he suggested was drinking coconut water after a particularly grueling workout.

Not to be confused with coconut MILK, coconut WATER, the clear liquid inside young, green coconuts, was, to my palate, a strangely refreshing beverage my trainer promised would prevent me from being too sore the following day.

He was right.

Coconut water is making the news all across the country and here in the South, it’s readily available and a natural alternative to sports drinks. Some claim to be energy enhancers and some claim to be an all-natural sports drink, so let’s just look at the facts.

One cup of coconut water equals 46 calories, nine grams of carbohydrates– six from sugar and three from fiber, and two grams of protein. It’s perhaps most touted for its potassium content, 600 milligrams of potassium per serving, which equals about 17 percent of your daily value, more than a banana.  Coconut water is also rich in magnesium at 60 milligrams per serving or 15 percent of your daily value; sodium with 252 milligrams per serving or 11 percent of your daily value and calcium, offering 58 milligrams per serving or six percent of your daily value.

It’s rich in vitamins B and C, contains all-natural sugars and shouldn’t contain any additives or colors. Coconut water is a natural diuretic and is naturally fat free. It’s available in pulp and low-pulp varieties.

I’m glad I tried the latest trend in healthy sports drinks, because let me just tell you, I wasn’t nearly as sore the day following an intense workout as I could have been. Thank you to my trainer and to coconut water.

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Posted in: Healthy Living

Dine-In: Grilled Pizza

Growing up, Friday night was always pizza night at my house. My mom would spend a huge portion of the day kneading homemade dough and letting it rise, punching it down and letting it rise again, while homemade sauce was simmering on the stove. We’d arrive home from school to the most wonderful medley of aromas in the air and knew dinner was going to be one we all loved.

Today, Friday nights are still pizza nights at my house, but I rarely (ok, never) have time to let dough rise and sauce simmer. Plus, with it being so warm outside, I hate to turn on the oven to the scorching temperature it takes to get a perfect crust: crisp on the outside, doughy and chewy on the inside, and firm enough not to bend under the weight of toppings.

So lately on Friday nights, I’ve been turning my gas grill into a pizza oven of sorts. The crust is crisp and smoky, the cheese melty, it’s quick and it doesn’t heat up my entire kitchen.

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

Pizza on the Grill
Easily adjusts to fit number of servings needed

Pre-made 6-inch pizza crusts, such as Mama Mary’s or Boboli
Extra virgin olive oil
Herbed cream cheese
Fresh spinach leaves
Roma tomatoes, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat either your gas grill or your charcoal grill to medium heat. (Make sure your grill grate is clean.)

Lightly brush both sides of pre-made pizza crusts with extra-virgin olive oil.

Place on the grill for about 3 minutes, or until char lines begin to appear. Flip the crust and repeat on the opposite side.

Remove crust from grill.

Spread with a thin layer of herbed cream cheese. Press a layer of spinach leaves into crust and top with thinly sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sometimes I also add thin slices of fresh mozzarella.

Carefully place pizza back on grill. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the cream cheese and spinach are softened and tomatoes render their juices.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In

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

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

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.

Healthy Living: Breakfast Cookies

Right around the time my boys were toddlers, they stopped eating.

These were the babies who gobbled up the homemade baby food purees I’d take such delight in creating. They’d eat spinach-sweet potato puree, strawberry banana oatmeal and even lima bean-chicken concoctions.

Then they got a mind of their own and feeding them wasn’t as easy as making airplane noises while swooping down with a long-handled spoon. It became necessary to be more creative and a little stealthy. One thing they’d eat by the dozen was cookies, or “coo-ees,” as they’d say.

I love this recipe because it’s so versatile. You can incorporate whole grains, which are naturally low in fat and have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems; natural sweeteners like honey, which is a natural energizer and boosts immunity; eggs for protein and all the fruit you can pack into one tasty morsel.  It’s also great because you can mix and match ingredients based on what you have in the pantry.

Although the recipe is named a “breakfast” cookie, my boys ate them any time of day.

Breakfast Cookies
Makes 36

3/4 cup mashed bananas OR applesauce OR sweet potato puree OR pumpkin puree
1/4 cup butter OR margarine OR natural peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar OR brown sugar OR honey OR molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla OR almond extract
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour OR all-purpose flour OR ground oats
Dash cinnamon OR nutmeg OR allspice
Optional – dried fruit, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chopped nuts
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together fruit, butter and sugar.  Add egg and extract.  Mix dry ingredients and add to creamy mixture. It will be very stiff and sticky.  Add any optional ingredients.

Prepare baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Bake by rounded spoonfuls at 350 for 9 to 10 minutes.

These can be frozen as well.

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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.

Product Talk

Each Monday we feature a new or interesting product.

Healthy Living

Tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, every Tuesday.

Shop the Sale

On Wednesdays, get a tip or idea on using an item in the circular.

Family Matters

Ideas for the whole family come to you every Thursday.

Dine In

Stop fighting the crowds, save money and dine in, every Friday.

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