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Family Matters: Making Memories


Making MemoriesAs I’m writing this, my boys are gone on a spring break trip with their dad. By the time you read this, they will be home and my heart will be full. Right now, they’re on an adventure and making memories.

They’re going camping at a national park that they’ve never explored before, and I’m excited for them.

When it comes down to it, they’ve been pretty spoiled by spring break trips. They’ve been to the beach, to the Grand Canyon, to Arkansas and camping all around the state of Texas.

You don’t have to take a spring break trip to make memories, though. A weekend staycation or small trip to somewhere special makes memories just as significant as flying over the Grand Canyon, I promise you.

Look into hiking your closest state park. You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy the great outdoors. We take day trips and make use of the day-use sites, where we can still grill out over an open fire, make a fire pit and hike the trails without having to sleep on the ground if we choose not to.

Find some local museums, or visit ones in a city nearby. You never know the gems you’ll find, or the people you’ll meet, inside.

Tour a few historic landmarks in your area. You might want to explore an old cemetery, being utterly respectful, of course. The artistry and history can be captivating.

Go to an amusement park for the day, and ride one ride that terrifies you.

Most of all, take pictures. Put together a photo book from a photo-sharing website, and the memories will last even longer.



Family Matters: Family Walks


Family WalksA few weekends ago, my 13-year-old asked if we could go on a walk.

I was tired. I had mountains of laundry to do and piles of papers to sort and organize for the upcoming week.

I said yes.

We had the best 45 minutes of the week together.

We put our phones away in our pockets (they were still counting steps!). We talked about things that happened during the week. There was no electronic interference or other people interrupting.

It was wonderful.

We did it again the next day with his brother. We found lichen-covered boulders and wild roses, and we counted rings in a tree that had fallen near the trail.

We don’t always have time on a weekday to take a walk. However, every weekend since that first walk, we’ve taken 45 minutes to just be together on a trail and not worry about anything except being together as a family.



Healthy Living: Healthy Oat Cookies


Healthy Oat CookiesMy 13-year-old son told me he wants to eat healthier.

Big picture, he IS a healthy eater, but that kid can also put away some junk food after school.

We had to come up with a solution that would still let him feel like he was having some of the treats he likes but in a healthier way. Now, after school, he reaches for fresh fruit instead of the little, square, orange crackers he used to favor. I love that he’s doing this, and it’s motivated the rest of us to reach for more fresh fruit and vegetables, too.

Every once in a while, he wants a cookie or something sweet.

These are the perfect solution. Originally they were called “Three-Ingredient Cookies,” but I throw in some extra ingredients!

Healthy Oat Cookies

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or nuts, crushed

Directions:
Mash bananas in a large bowl. Stir in oats, raisins, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds or nuts.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Scoop dough into 16 balls, and place evenly around a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Makes 16

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 60, Calories from Fat: 12, Fat: 1 g (0 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 1 mg, Carbohydrates: 11 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 5 g, Protein: 2 g.

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



Shop the Sale: Slow Cooker Beef Tips with Gravy


Slow Cooker Beef Tips with GravyTrack season started this week, which means after-school practices and two meets for two kids.

The spring musical is wrapping up for one kid.

The other kid is starting Spanish Club meetings.

There’s also service club meetings and service hours to perform.

Not for the first time, as I was meal planning this morning, did I think, “Thank goodness for the slow cooker.”

Dinner can cook all day and be ready whenever we trudge through the door. My model will also keep our food warm after the cooking time has expired.
This savory beef dish is the perfect way to end a hectic day.

New York Strip roast is on sale at Brookshire’s this week and would be the perfect cut for this dish. It will literally melt in your mouth.

Slow Cooker Beef Tips with Gravy

Ingredients:
3 lbs New York Strip roast, cubed
3 Tbs vegetable oil, divided
1 tsp seasoning salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dry thyme
1 cup onions, diced
1 Tbs garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
3 Tbs water
2 Tbs cornstarch

Directions:
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add half the beef cubes, seasoning salt and black pepper. Sear quickly; remove to the slow cooker with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the other half of the beef cubes. Place all beef and pan drippings in slow cooker.

Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, thyme, garlic and onions. Add a bay leaf on top.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl; whisk to combine. Pour into slow cooker and stir. Turn heat to high, and cook for 10 more minutes or until sauce has thickened.

Serve over rice, noodles, mashed potatoes or polenta.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 520, Calories from Fat: 195, Fat: 22 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 203 mg, Sodium: 821 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 71 g.

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

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Family Matters: Peanut Butter for the Win


Peanut Butter for the WinBrookshire’s Peanut Butter makes snack time more fun.

Peanut butter is a great source of protein for little ones who often don’t like – or have a hard time chewing – meat. Peanut butter to the rescue!

Tasty, delicious, nutritious and just plain fun, peanut butter can be the star of your kids’ snacks.

  • Dip apple slices into peanut butter or sandwich peanut butter between two thin slices of apple.
  • Spread peanut butter on celery and top with raisins.
  • Combine peanut butter with chia seeds, oats and mashed banana for high-powered energy bites.
  • Add peanut butter to your smoothie for extra protein.
  • Mix into plain Greek yogurt for a yummy fruit dip.
  • Drizzle over apple slices and sprinkle with toasted coconut to make apple “nachos.”
  • Use as a topping on pancakes.
  • Slice a banana in half lengthwise and spread each half with peanut butter, topping with granola.
  • Slice bananas into rounds, spread with peanut butter and make little banana “sandwiches.”
  • Flatten a slice of sandwich bread with a rolling pin. Spread with a thin layer of peanut butter and jelly. Roll into a log; slice into rounds for a PB&J roll-up.
  • Spread a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter. Top with thin slices of banana. Roll up; slice into rounds.
  • Peel a banana and freeze it. Spread with peanut butter, and roll in sunflower seeds. Store in freezer for a banana pop.


Family Matters: Electronic Timeout


Electronic TimeoutA few weeks ago, we were out to dinner as a family.

One kid was on his phone, texting friends.

The other kid was on his phone, too, checking for Pokemons. (He said that the plural of Pokemon is still Pokemon, but I’m not sure whether to believe him.)

Then, I got on my phone to check the weather.

My boyfriend had had it.

“Maybe we should all put our phones away,” he said, very nicely.

Sheepishly, we all did.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have electronics at the dinner table. We talked to each other (insert gasp here). We sometimes argued with each other. We laughed, joked and enjoyed each other.

We need to get back to that.

This year we’ve been trying electronic timeouts. It was nerve-wracking at first, but then we realized it was fine not to be holding the phone at all times, that people who “needed” us could wait an hour or two, and that we really ENJOY each other’s company.

So, maybe, just maybe, try putting all your phones far, far away during dinner, for an hour afterward, or for a pre-set time when you can just be together.

It’s pretty nice.



Family Matters: Family Resolutions


Family ResolutionsI don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I feel like that just sets me up for feeling like I failed (and be honest, have you ever KEPT a resolution all year? If so, write me.)

However, there are goals that I focus on accomplishing. Argue, they’re the same thing. They very well may be, but I prefer “goals” to “resolutions.”

Either way, I set some goals for myself, and I try to ask the kids what they want to do, too. This year, I changed the approach because of something I saw work amazingly well at the corporate level: We set team goals (or resolutions, what have you).

Here’s what my family came up with as resolutions/goals for 2017. It’s a fun exercise to do with your family, too, no matter what you call it.

  • Eat more pizza. (Ok, we’ll have to see about this one. Luckily, Brookshire’s prepares it in the grocery deli case!)
  • Go on more adventures. (Yes! A thousand times, yes. Sometimes on weekends we get SO bogged down in what NEEDS to be done that we forget what we WANT to do. An adventure doesn’t have to cost anything or take a lot of time; it just has to be fun for the family.)
  • See more movies. (Um, do these have to be in the theater because Brookshire’s now stocks Popcorn Junction popcorn, and I purchased a subscription to Amazon Prime).
  • Eat outside more often. (This could be my favorite. This is the South, y’all. We can make this happen 10 months out of the year.)
  • Play more board games. (Board games might be my younger son’s love language. I’m all in, as long as he doesn’t cheat at Clue.)
  • Have us do fewer chores. (Sorry, buddy, no go.)
  • Go camping more often. (YES! And leave electronics in the car for emergencies only. And I mean “I just saw a bear in our campsite emergencies,” not “Can I play Pokemon Go?” emergencies.)
  • Take the dog for more walks. (Brilliant. Yes, good for everyone involved, Astro included. Note to self: Take a pooper scooper and bags so we don’t anger the neighbors.)
  • Plop your bottom on a surface at mealtime, and don’t get up for at least 15 minutes. (That’s mine. No matter how well-strategized mealtimes are, someone needs water 15 seconds into the meal. Someone else needs salad dressing 5 minutes in. Someone needs to use the restroom, and someone finished 5 minutes faster than everyone else.) Sit. Relax. Enjoy.

I’d love to hear some of your resolutions/goals/ideas, whatever you want to call them!



Family Matters: Baking Up a School Project


Baking Up a School ProjectBefore a recent school holiday, my son came home with an assignment for his world geography class that he was supposed to execute during the break.
In the vein of kids everywhere, he lamented having to do homework (insert eye roll here) over a school holiday (insert more eye rolls).

The project was to create a Christmas wreath from a country of his choosing, and it had to include salient points like prominent geography, language, religion, culture and holiday traditions. He informed me that he chose Switzerland.

I couldn’t have been move overjoyed.

When I lived in Germany, I spent quite a bit of time during the holidays in nearby Switzerland because Swiss Christmases are the stuff fairytales are made of. I also ate more than my fair share of hefekranz, a holiday treat.

The Swiss, and the Germans (and Austrians), bake these sweet breads for Christmas and for Easter. Translated literally, it means “heavy wreath.”

My son decided that he would bake a hefekranz as his “wreath” and add the other required elements in as pictures pasted to wooden skewers.

It was an all-day project. Considering it was HIS project, I was just around to make sure nothing went wrong. He had to execute it, beginning to end, by himself, and he did.

He learned to measure flour properly, leveling off the measuring up with the flat side of a butter knife. He learned to zest a lemon, sprinkling the fragrant yellow into the dough and being careful not to zest the bitter white part of the lemon peel. He learned how lukewarm water activates yeast, but if the water is too hot, it kills the live cultures.

He learned to knead, braid and glaze, all over the course of a Sunday when he punched down dough and waited for it to rise again. He learned that being patient, very patient, is often the best way to coax dough into a rope. He gained new appreciation of the Swiss that day, along with the necessity of reading directions carefully before beginning to bake. He learned that baking is a science and not something to undertake haphazardly.

I learned that he has a lot more patience and tenacity than I gave him credit for. I learned that I passed my skill for making a mess in the kitchen onto the next generation. I also realized the project (which I had kind of been dreading) was actually a great day to spend in the kitchen with my son.

You don’t have to bake a hefekranz this holiday season to spend some time with your children and learn something new. They will love it, and I suspect that you will, too.



Healthy Living: Using Hand Sanitizer


Using Hand SanitizerBack in the day, when my younger son was at that age, I taught preschool for two years. It was great because I got to go to work with him every day while still earning an income, but the downside was that I spent the first year teaching preschool sick. I mean, really sick. I not only contracted every cold that came through my classroom door, but I also battled a bout of strep throat and pneumonia. My immune system was the pits.

The next year, I invested in the industrial sized bottles of hand sanitizer for my classroom. The kids learned to apply some when they entered the room, when they came back from the bathroom (even after they washed their hands) and after recess.

I didn’t get sick that year.

Hand sanitizer is an easy and convenient way to help stay healthy on the go. An alternative to soap and water, hand sanitizer usually comes in liquid, gel or foam form. It contains a high level of alcohol. Alcohol rub sanitizers kill most bacteria and fungi and stop some viruses. Alcohol rub sanitizers containing at least 70 percent alcohol (mainly ethyl alcohol) kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria on hands 30 seconds after application and 99.99 percent in one minute, according to studies.

I have a small, travel-sized bottle in my purse, for on-the-go sanitizing. It really came in handy at the state fair, let me tell you.

I have another bottle on my desk and another in the boys’ bathroom in my home.

You can’t avoid all germs this fall and winter, so protect yourself the best way you can.



Family Matters: Christmas Baking


Christmas BakingOne of my favorite memories of childhood is helping my mom with the Christmas baking.

Our house always smelled good at holiday time, and there was never a shortage of baked treats to eat. In fact, lunch on Christmas Day was usually Christmas cookies sandwiched between a big breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and the Christmas dinner.

You’d know when the season would start because my mom would make her cinnamon raisin bread. We’d take bundles of those loaves of sweet deliciousness in our arms, and we’d carry them to neighbors and to our teachers who looked forward to them every year. I was back home visiting last year, and someone even asked, “Does your mom still make that raisin bread?” Indeed, she does.

One of the best parts of the raisin bread was helping her knead the dough, punching it down, and wrapping the golden-brown loaves in aluminum foil to deliver to loved ones.

Baking with kids is so much fun. It’s great quality time to spend together over scents of yeast, cinnamon and heaps of sugar.

I loved learning how to knead dough until it was no longer sticky but not yet tough, how to punch it down when it had doubled in volume, and how to never open the oven door when it was baking. I got to talk to mom, too. Sometimes, in a household with five kids, one-on-one time was hard to come by, but I could always count on baking together.

We also baked Christmas cookies, usually three or four varieties, but the highlight of the cookie-baking experience was always the Saturday when we made the sugar cookies. It was an all-day endeavor, and it became a tradition that my mom continues with some of my nephews who live nearby. We’d make the dough the night before, so it would have a chance to chill before we rolled it out and cut the shapes. They included candy canes, stars, trees and even Santa, himself. Then, each kid would get a baking sheet and some decorations, and they could decorate to their hearts’ content. My brother was the painstaking one who’d line up individual sprinkles on the cookies in intricate patterns. My other brother was a dumper: the more colored sugar he could get on a cookie, the better. I was somewhere in between. My favorite part was really creaming together the butter and the sugar to make a light yellow, fluffy cloud of cookie base. It was also being in the kitchen with my mom.

Kids can help with so many Christmas treats. Make a memory and a tradition today by picking out a project to make with them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate, and roll in Christmas-colored sprinkles. Bake pumpkin bread or pecan pie. Whatever you choose, food, family and fun make the holidays special.



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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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