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Family Matters: Making cleaning a family project

If you’re like most of us, your house may start out clean and tidy at the beginning of the week, but after a few days, the clutter and dirt of daily life catches up with you. And, of course, this is multiplied by 10 if you have children in the house.

So why not make the kids part of the solution? A few minutes of work by every family member will make the cleanup go faster – and start teaching children the skills they’ll need to keep house when they finally move out. Plus, it means you’ll have less work to do come the weekend, and more time to spent together as a family, doing the things you’d really rather do.

Combat clutter: Even a clean house can start looking junky from the flotsam you accumulate during the week, like school papers, unopened mail, jackets and toys forgotten in the kitchen. Create a system for catching all this – a basket or drawer for junk mail, a folder for that week’s school papers (which you should clean our frequently).  Another mom I know has a “freebie bowl” – specifically designed to catch all those miniature toys collected from fast-food visits or venues like Chuck E. Cheese.

Conduct a “toy sweep:” In most houses, toys and games and books have a way of migrating from their “home” to other resting spots throughout the house. Some friends make each child do a mandatory “toy sweep” before dinner, by having each child search for dolls, action figures, crayons and games and return each to their room.

Five minute bursts: Create a list of tasks that can be done in five or ten minutes – sweeping the kitchen, wiping down the bathroom mirror and counters, dusting the furniture in just the living room or just the dining room. Then, if your kids are old enough to do the work, let everyone draw straws to see who has to do what.  Have everyone do their job at the same time, then meet back in the kitchen or living room for a family reward, like a favorite video or a quick game of cards.

Give assignments: For older kids, say, 8 and up, it’s time to start assigning a daily task that is their responsibility alone. It can be as simple as making the bed and making sure all their dirty clothes actually hit the hamper, taking out the trash, or for older kids, loading and unloading the dishwasher. If your kids balk at chores, like most do, gently remind them that everyone lives in the house, so everybody has to take some responsibility for keeping it clean and livable. (And if that doesn’t work alone – sweeten the deal with a small but non-monetary reward, like an extra 15 minutes of reading time before bedtime, or watching a favorite TV show together.)

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Posted in: Family Matters

Shop the sale: Cupcake of the month

Specialty cupcakes are the rage now. So why not indulge yourself, with our brand-new Cupcakes of the Month.

Our bakeries have come up with delicious new cupcake flavors that we’ll feature each month in a 6-cupcake container, perfect for family or office. And we’ve launched this new offering this month with a terrific flavor – Snickerdoodle, available in our fresh bakery departments. (And they’re at a special price this week, starting today!)

Remember when Mom baked those wonderful, cinnamon-sugar cookies we called Snickerdoodles? Well, we’ve recreated that flavor, in a cupcake. These delicious moist white cupcakes are topped with a cinnamon-flavored cream cheese icing and topped with cinnamon crumbs. Great for dessert, or a snack.

Every month this year, our Cupcake of the Month program will bring you a new flavor, unique to our bakeries. So check out our menu and see what you have to look forward to this year:

March – German Chocolate Cupcake – A delicious moist chocolate cupcake topped with a generous portion of our delicious German chocolate icing. A perfect ending to a great meal.

April – Cream Cheese Coconut Cupcake – A moist white cupcake topped with our delicious cream cheese icing topped with white coconut. Perfect for a spring picnic dessert.

May – Triple Chocolate Fudge Cupcake – A chocolate cupcake topped with our fudge icing. We then add chocolate chips and a fudge icing drizzle to create this chocolate lovers treat.

June – Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake – A decadent yellow cupcake topped with our light fluffy strawberry whipped topping. We add some strawberry filling in the center and garnish with yellow crumbs.

July – Chocolate Mousse Cupcake – A chocolate cupcake topped with our light whipped chocolate topping. We add fudge icing drizzles on each cupcake for a decadent treat.

August – Lemon Crumble Cupcake – A moist white cupcake with a swirl of delicious white buttercreme icing and a center of lemon filling. Topped with white crumbs for garnish. Delicious!

September – Cookies-n-Cream Cupcake – A chocolate cupcake iced in our white whipped topping. We add a generous topping of chocolate cookie crumbles to make this an all-time favorite.

October – Chocolate Mounds Cupcake – A moist chocolate cupcake with a swirl of our fudge icing and a center filled with our coconut filling. We drizzle this with fudge icing – a candy bar in cupcake form.

November – Boston Crème Cupcake – A yellow cupcake swirled with fudge icing with a Bavarian crème filled center. Garnished with a fudge drizzle. A cool-weather treat.

December – Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcake – A delicious chocolate cupcake topped with our tasty cream cheese icing and garnished with chocolate cake crumbs. Perfect for parties.

January – Fudge Nut Supreme Cupcake – A moist delicious chocolate cupcake iced in a fudge icing. Garnished with pecans for a perfect marriage of flavors.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale

Healthy Living: Dental health for kids and teens

Parents, do you want to keep your child’s smile healthy for a lifetime?  Then get them to brush, early, often, and the right way.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a time when dentists and other experts remind us why it’s so important to establish good dental hygiene habits early. But as a parent, you probably recognize that once your child is old enough to hold his or her own toothbrush, your control over how the child uses it will start to evaporate. So, how to make brushing teeth fun, or at least tolerable, for your toddler, tween, or teen?

Let them pick the brush: Take them along on the shopping trip and let them choose a color and style they like, to encourage them to brush twice daily, as recommended. Younger kids often are drawn to character brushes, featuring icons from their favorite cartoons. Older ones may develop a preference for a style, or even decide they like an electronic brush. Whatever works, within reason, invest in it!

Choose kid-friendly toothpaste: Children have more sensitive taste buds than adults, so toothpaste that may seem mild to us can taste sharp or strong to little mouths. Toddlers who can’t be trusted not to swallow the toothpaste can be given a fluoride-free formula. Slightly older children may prefer character-driven pastes, or those with kid-approved flavors like bubblegum or fruit. Tweens and teens may be motivated by breath-freshening pastes, or those that promise to brighten and whiten teeth.

Lay the ground rules early: Dentists recommend children brush at least twice daily, in the morning and before bedtime. They also suggest flossing after every brushing, to reach the nooks and crannies and in-between places that toothbrushes can’t. Set this expectation early, and it will be a habit by the time your child is in elementary school. For kids who don’t like flossing, or have trouble manipulating the floss, try dental “picks,” which are easier to handle but can still reach those out-of-the-way spots.

Continue to supervise: Most children need parental help to brush properly until age 5 or 6. After that, you’ll want to supervise somewhat for a few years, to make sure they’re using the right amount of toothpaste (only a pea-size dab!) and that they’re brushing the right length of time. (Two minutes is considered a good length of time; you can buy an inexpensive timer to keep in the bathroom to help older kids keep track.)

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Posted in: Healthy Living

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

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

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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Posted in: Product Talk

Dine-In: Chicken-veggie-pasta bake

I love baked pasta dishes – so warm and hearty, and once you’ve gotten all the initial prep work done, dinner’s pretty much taken care of.

This dish is full of healthy goodness, and gets lots of texture and flavor, from all the veggies. In fact, you can even leave out the chicken, substitute a good vegetable stock for the chicken broth, and have a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Make sure you cook the pasta until just barely al dente, so that it does not get too mushy during the baking process.

I serve this with a Caesar salad and garlic bread. It makes a nice big pan, so invite some friends – or save it for yourself, because it tastes just as good reheated for lunch the next day.

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta Bake

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trim fat and dice in cubes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
1 medium red onion, julienned (sliced in thin batons)
1 bunch fresh asparagus (remove tough stems and cut in 1 inch pieces)
1 broccoli crown (cut in florettes)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 zucchini, thinly cut in 1/2 moons
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in ½
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound penne pasta

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and cracked pepper. Saute chicken in two tablespoons of olive oil till fully cooked. Set aside.

Boil pasta just till al dente, and shock in cold water to stop the cooking process and avoid overcooked, soggy pasta. Set aside.

Heat butter and oil in large saute pan until butter is melted. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Add asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, and carrots, cook until vegetables are softened.  Pour all remaining ingredients except for pasta and mozzarella cheese in a bowl and toss well. Add pasta and toss again.  Pour into a large greased casserole dish and top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake at 325 for about a half hour till golden and bubbly.

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Posted in: Dine In

Family Matters: Taking care of your cat

Does your cat like to use your couch – or your drapes, or your favorite pillow – as a claw-sharpening device? If so, you may have considered declawing him or her. But before resorting to surgery, you should know that declawing a cat is somewhat of a controversial issue within the veterinary community, and you may be able to alter your cat’s behavior with a few simple purchases and/or behavior modifications.

The American Veterinary Medication Association, the non-profit association representing U.S. veterinarians, recommends that domestic cats should be declawed only after the owners have tried to keep the cat from using his or her claws destructively. Scratching is a way for cats to mark their territory, groom and stretch, and it’s normal behavior in a healthy kitty.

Some veterinarians feel that declawing is unnecessarily painful and may change a cat’s personality and behavior. They argue that declawed felines may feel defenseless and may be more likely to mark (urinate on) their territory, avoid contact with others or become aggressive and change their pattern of vocalization (growling, hissing, or increased crying).

On the other hand, other experts feel that declawing a young kitten will be less traumatic, because young animals are smaller and have less weight to carry on their feet after surgery. They’ll experience less pain and heal more quickly than full-grown animals, and seem to be less affected personality-wise by the surgery. And, some even feel that even adult cats can be declawed without a permanent change in personality.

If you have a cat with a destructive clawing problem, first consult your veterinarian for advice. But here are some steps to try:

  • Provide a few “safe” places for your cat to scratch. This might be a cardboard box, a carpet remnant, an old pillow or quilt, or a commercially produced scratching post. For best results, attach the scratchable material to a fixed object, like a wall or post.
  • Trim your cat’s claws every couple of weeks. This removes the urge in the cat to “groom” its claws, and prevents damage to furniture AND people. You can purchase clippers specially designed for cats.
  • Give your cats plenty of toys and affection, to keep them from being bored and looking for activity.
  • Make their favorite scratching spots unappealing. You can spray these spots with a scratch deterrent. These are often herbal- or citrus-scented, and cats don’t like the smell. Or place some double-sided tape or sticky contact paper over the spot your cat frequents.
  • Use behavior modification: Praise and treat your cat (with liver treats or another favorite goodie) when the cats uses an approved scratching spot. To prevent the cat from using the old favorites, some experts suggest keeping a spray bottle filled with water handy, and squirting it in the cat’s general direction when it appears headed toward a forbidden scratch spot.

Shop the Sale: Raspberry Fool

Celebrate the arrival of fresh spring berries – on special this week at your neighborhood Brookshire’s – with this deceptively simple berry dessert, called a fool.

A fool is a traditional British dessert of sweetened whipped cream, layered with pureed berries. Here, we’ve used both strawberries and raspberries, and added a bit of crunch with crushed graham crackers, to create a grown-up parfait. (And everybody likes parfaits!)

It’s a little bit of work, but totally worth it for a dessert to wow company, or for your special Valentine next week.

Raspberry Fool
Serves 6

2 quarts strawberries, washed, dried, and stemmed
1 pint raspberries, washed and dried
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 graham crackers, finely crushed
6 sprigs fresh mint leaves

Process 1 quart strawberries, 1/2pint raspberries, and 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until mixture is completely smooth. Strain berry puree through fine-mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup (you should have 2 1/2 cups puree; reserve any excess for another use). Transfer 1/2  cup puree to small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top; stir until gelatin is incorporated and let stand at least 5 minutes.

Heat remaining 2 cups puree in small saucepan until it begins to bubble. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Transfer gelatin-puree mixture to medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, chop remaining 1 quart strawberries into rough 1/4” pieces. Toss strawberries, remaining 1/2 pint raspberries, and 2 tablespoons sugar together in medium bowl. Set aside.

Place cream, sour cream, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high; continue beating until mixture has nearly doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks. Transfer 1/3 cup whipped-cream mixture to small bowl and set aside.

Remove thickened berry puree from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. With mixer running at medium speed, slowly add two-thirds of puree to whipped-cream mixture; mix until incorporated. Using spatula, gently fold in remaining thickened puree, leaving streaks of puree.

Transfer uncooked berries to fine-mesh strainer; shake gently to remove any excess juice. Divide two-thirds of berries evenly among 6 tall parfait or sundae glasses. Divide creamy berry mixture evenly among glasses, followed by remaining uncooked berries. Top each glass with reserved plain whipped-cream mixture. Sprinkle with crushed crackers and garnish with mint sprigs. Serve immediately.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale

Healthy Living: National Heart Month

February is not only a month for expressing emotions of the heart, but promoting awareness of heart health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event, and every minute, one will die. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States. But what is especially tragic is that many of these cases could have been prevented.

Promoting awareness of heart disease is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. When I was a sophomore in high school my dad, who was only 39 and in good health, had a heart attack. He had a quadruple bypass and later found out his heart attack was due to a genetic disorder.

Our family is one of the lucky ones; we are very fortunate to still have my dad with us today. But, having witnessed the devastating effects of this awful disease, I realized one of my main goals in life would be to help promote healthier living and prevent heart disease. And education is my main tool.

For instance, did you know you can control many of the major risk factors that contribute to heart disease? High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are some of the major risk factors of heart disease that can be controlled.

Simply limiting the meals you eat outside the home can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Cooking at home and knowing what you’re putting in your body can really make a difference in your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Switching to lean meat, lean poultry, 2% cheese, low fat dairy products, and extra virgin olive oil or canola oil will help reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Stir-frying, grilling, baking and steaming are delicious hearty friendly ways to prepare your food.

This Valentine’s Day, treat your loved ones to something that will truly last – a healthier heart.

  • Encourage your loved one, no matter their age, to get a yearly check up by their doctor.
  • For a special occasion, cook a heart-healthy dinner, like grilled salmon and steamed vegetables.
  • If you want to give them something sweet, make it a basket full of their favorite fruits.

Having your loved ones around for years to come will be worth the effort you put in.

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Posted in: Healthy Living

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

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

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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Posted in: Product Talk

Dine-In: Bacon Jack Quesadillas

Even if your team isn’t still in it, the Super Bowl is always a good excuse for a party. There’s always the half-time show, and the special Super Bowl commercials. And, of course the food.

Quesadillas are always a good go-to option. Pretty much everybody likes them, they’re quick to make, they don’t cost an arm and a leg even if you’re serving a crowd, and they match perfectly with the chips, salsa and guacamole that seem to show up at every Super Bowl party, everywhere.

This easy take on quesadillas uses one of my favorite ingredients – bacon. You can easily double, triple or quadruple this recipe if you have a lot of guests. You can either serve as you cook, or keep them in the oven to warm and serve on a platter when you’re finished cooking. If you use a good nonstick skillet, you can skip the step of brushing the quesadillas with oil or bacon fat, but I find just a little extra fat adds a lot of flavor and helps the tortillas crisp up a little better. Finally, if you don’t like spicy food, you can skip the jalapenos and substitute regular jack cheese for the pepper-jack.

Bacon-Jack Quesadillas
Makes 4 quesadillas

4 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 flour tortillas, eight-inch
1 1/3 cup pepper Jack cheese (6 ounces), shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, minced (optional)
Vegetable oil or bacon fat
Sour cream, guacamole and salsa, for serving

Fry bacon strips in nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate; pour fat into small bowl and reserve, if desired. Wipe out skillet with paper towels.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat until hot. Spread 1/3 cup cheese, 1/4 the bacon, 1/4 the green onions and 1/4 the jalapenos (if desired) on a tortilla. Fold tortilla in half and press to flatten. Brush surface lightly with oil or bacon fat, and set aside. Repeat to form remaining quesadillas.

Place two quesadillas in skillet, oiled sides down; cook over medium heat until crisp and well browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Brush surfaces with oil or fat. Flip quesadillas and cook until second sides are crisp and browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer quesadillas to cutting board to cool slightly. Repeat cooking process with remaining quesadillas. If making a larger quantity, cooked quesadillas may be kept in a warm oven (200 degrees) while you finish cooking.

To serve, halve each quesadilla. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa.

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Posted in: Dine In

Copyright © 2010-2014, Brookshire’s. All rights reserved.
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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