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Product Talk: New cranberry – pecan chicken salad

If you like chicken salad – or actually, even if you don’t  – you need to try our new cranberry chicken salad, which has just arrived in all our stores with delis.

This new offering updates traditional chicken salad with a modern twist – the sweet-savory flavor that’s a big trend with restaurants and chefs these days.

This is no bland salad; it has tons of flavor. Made with tender, all-white chicken breast, the salad gets a burst of sweetness from chopped cranberries and just a bit of crushed pineapple, and texture and crunch from pecans. The creamy dressing, with just a hint of honey, brings it all together.

It’s fancy enough to serve to guests, especially if you put it on a croissant or on a bed of mixed greens, but familiar enough to make it a good choice for a regular lunch or a light supper for family.

You’ll find the cranberry chicken salad with our other salads in the chef case and in our self-serve deli sections, where it’s available pre-packaged in a 12-ounce container, so you can pick it up quickly when you’re on the run. Try some and see if it doesn’t change your mind about what makes a great chicken salad.

Product Talk: The great pumpkins

If you consider pumpkins one of the sure signs of fall, you need to start pulling out your sweaters. Fresh, colorful pumpkins have started arriving in our stores, ready to be turned into jack-o-lanterns, seasonal centerpieces, or pies.

The pumpkin patches sprouting up at our stores offer a variety of fall classics:

Magic Lantern: These medium-sized pumpkins are great for carving or decorations. They’re uniform in size, usually 20 pounds or less, and have a beautiful, deep orange skin and a thick, sturdy stem. Although these are edible, they don’t make pies as good as some other, smaller varieties; their flesh tends to be more watery and stringy than a pie pumpkin.

Mini-pumpkins: A pumpkin in miniature scale, these are mostly used as fall decorations. Use them in a centerpiece, spilling out of a cornucopia or artfully arranged in a basket, with some colorful Indian corn.  Or hand them to your children, along with markers, googly eyes, pipe cleaners and yarn, and see what art projects they create.

Mystic Pie: Grown mostly in New Mexico and Texas, these gorgeous, small pumpkins are bred for cooking. They have a sweet, smooth flesh that cooks up into a rich, flavorful texture that’s perfect for pie, breads, cakes or any other recipe that calls for pumpkin or even squash.

If you’ve never tasted a pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin, make this the year you try it. Using fresh pumpkin can be little messy and time-consuming, but the flavor is absolutely worth it. Fresh pumpkin tastes a little brighter, a little more intense, and really magnifies the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other spices.

We asked Barb Grey of GWR Produce, a major pumpkin distributor, how to handle a soft-shelled pumpkin like the Mystic Pie. She swears it’s easy, if you follow her directions:

  • Cut the top off the pumpkin.
  • Scoop out seeds and set aside. (These can be roasted separately.)
  • Pour about an inch of water in a sturdy baking dish, like a brownie pan or cake pan.
  • Place the pumpkin in the pan, upside down. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size of pumpkin, or until flesh is soft.
  • Remove from oven and scoop out flesh.
  • Place cooked pumpkin in a colander, and let the watery juice drain away. The cooked, solid pumpkin that remains is ready to use in your favorite recipe.
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Product talk: Whole wheat pasta

Whole-wheat pasta is an easy, delicious way to add more fiber and nutrients to your family’s diet.

Yes, I said delicious. While early versions of whole-wheat pasta were often heavy, gummy and, frankly, didn’t even taste like pasta, that is no longer the case.

Over the last several years, pastamakers have really improved the process of making whole-wheat varieties – keeping the great nutritional value while creating whole-grain pasta that is much more delicate in texture and neutral in flavor. If you haven’t tried a whole-wheat pasta lately, you may be surprised at the taste. Sometimes it can even be hard to tell the difference from regular, refined-wheat versions.

Whole-wheat pasta is just what it sounds like. It is made from flour that uses the whole grain of the wheat. (Regular white pasta is made from refined wheat flour, which has been stripped of the bran and germ, which contain most of the fiber and nutrients.) Some whole-wheat pastas use a combination of refined and whole-wheat flours.

Because it contains the whole grain, it’s a healthier choice. Whole-wheat pasta usually has at least two times as much fiber as regular pasta, as much as six grams per serving compared to just two for regular pasta. It also usually contains more protein, and more vitamins and minerals.

The result is usually a pasta that tastes a little nutty and earthy, and that is a little firmer when you bite into it. Because it’s a little heavier, whole-wheat pasta seems to go best with hearty, robust sauces like a meaty Bolognese or a rich Alfredo or carbonara. It can also stand up to strong cheeses, like gorgonzola or aged parmesan or romano.

This four cheese sauce is one I plan to try soon. With whole-wheat noodles, of course.

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Product Talk: Understanding pomegranates

It seems like pomegranate is the fruit flavor of the moment. You can find it juices, smoothies, yogurts, granola bars, cereal, salad dressings.

If you like the tart-sweet flavor of pomegranate, you ought to try the crop of fresh pomegranates arriving in stores now. (Fresh pomegranate is also super-healthy, providing lots of fiber, Vitamin C, and cancer-preventing antioxidants.)

But a fresh pomegranate can look a little scary. What do you do with all those seeds? And that bright red skin looks pretty tough.

The folks at PomWonderful, which produces pomegranate juices, fresh pomegranates, and other pom products, tell me that pomegranates are a piece of cake to eat fresh, once you know how.

The seeds and juice are the part that you eat. The seeds are hard, but edible, and are surrounded by a little sac of juice, called an “aril.” Each pomegranate contains hundreds of these juicy little seeds. The pomegranate’s inner membrane and rind, however, are bitter and generally not eaten.

The easiest thing to do is to juice them. Just cut the fruit in half, like a grapefruit, then juice by hand or using an electric juicer.

But if you want to use the seeds, use this six-step process developed by PomWonderful.

1) Cut – Use a sharp paring knife to cut off the top about a half inch below the crown.

2) Score – Four to six sections of the pomegranate divided by white membrane will be visible. With the knife’s point, score the skin along each section.

3) Open – In a bowl of water, carefully separate the sections underwater.

4) Loosen – Underwater, loosen the arils and allow them to drop freely into the bowl. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top.

5) Scoop – Scoop out the pieces of white membrane.

6) Strain – Pour the arils and remaining liquid through a strainer.

That’s it! More good news about fresh pomegranates: They  come to the supermarket fully ripe, and can stay fresh for up to two months if stored in the refrigerator.

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Product Talk: The original English muffin

Hard to believe, but before McDonald’s introduced its Egg McMuffin sandwich in the early 1970s, many Americans barely knew what an English muffin was.

This is especially hard to believe if, like me, you’re a fan of this versatile, relatively low-fat breakfast bread.

You probably can’t really remember when English muffins weren’t widely available in the bread aisle. And it’s even more unbelievable if you consider just how long English muffins have been around.

A form of this small, round, flat yeast muffin has been eaten for centuries in England. (Where, coincidentally, they’re just called muffins. Go figure.) In the United States, however, the modern English muffin was created more than 100 years ago, by the founder of what’s still considered the leading brand, Thomas’ English muffins.

That entrepreneur, Samuel Bath Thomas, opened a bakery in New York in 1880, to sell his original “Nooks & Crannies” English muffins. His secret was griddle baking, which gave the muffins their distinctive texture: crunchy and cornmeal-dusted on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and riddled with little nooks that soaked up butter, honey or jam.

Over more than a century, the company has stayed true to its methods and ingredients for continued high quality, but has also modernized with new flavors (like cinnamon raisin) and  whole grain varieties.

But even the plain, old-fashioned English muffin is a sensible breakfast choice. A whole English muffin has only 120 calories, one gram of fat, and no cholesterol. Compare that to many popular brands of bagels (which can run upwards of 300) or a supposed “healthy” bran muffin (as many as 500 calories.)  They’re especially healthy if you skip the butter and try one of these higher-protein or lower-calorie toppings:

• Spread with peanut butter or almond butter.
• Top with sliced tomato, a little shredded cheese and broil until cheese melts.
• Use apple butter or low-sugar preserves.
• Try fruit-flavored, lowfat cream cheese.
• Make your own low-calorie “mcmuffin” knockoff with sliced, hardcooked egg; turkey bacon;and skim, shredded mozzarella cheese. Broil or microwave until cheese melts.

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Product Talk: New, improved Food Club Soda Sweepstakes – Win $50 loaded to your Thank You Card!

Each week during August, beginning August 3, 2011 through 11:59 p.m. CDT, August 30, 2011 we are randomly giving away $50 to be loaded to your Brookshire’s Thank You Card.

Customers who email their name, phone number, and Brookshire’s Thank You Card number to will be entered for a chance to win the Brookshire’s Food Club Soda Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”). Not responsible for lost, late, or misdirected entries not received in time for the random drawings, faulty machinery or other mechanical error, or information entered incorrectly. Limit one (1) entry per Thank You Card number per week. Entries must be received by 11:59PM CDT, 08/30/11.

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Product Talk: The whole chicken

Back in the day, any cook worth her (or his) salt knew how to handle a whole chicken. Whether you roasted it, stewed it, or cut it apart for frying, that’s just how chickens came at the market.

Today, however, many people seem to be intimidated by a whole chicken –even though it is a much more economical choice. It’s just too easy to pick up a package of skinless breasts, or thigh quarters, rather than wrestle with a full chicken, bones, skin, and all.

But if you know how to cook a real chicken, you’ll save money , as they can cost less than half what you might pay for specialized packages of prepared, boned or skinless chicken. And, you’ll find the flavor is often richer and deeper, since you’re getting flavor from all the fat, skin and bones.

If you don’t want to mess with cutting up a chicken, there are three easy ways to cook the bird whole, with almost no mess and fuss. Note: Always remove any “innards” such as neck or giblets, from inside the chicken cavity, before cooking.

Crockpot: This is stupid-simple, and produces a really moist dish.  Roughly chop a couple of onions and carrots and place in the crockpot, then add a three-to-four-pound chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper and any herbs or spices you like. You don’t need liquid. Cook for four-five hours, and the chicken will be falling-off-the-bone tender. Bonus: If you pick the meat off the bones before serving, you can make chicken stock from the carcass. Just add more carrots, chopped celery, and maybe some thyme, and enough water to reach the top of the crockpot. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Stew: Almost as easy as the crockpot. Use the same carrot-onion-herb combo as in a crockpot chicken; you may also want to add some celery. Place everything in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook on low up to about 90 minutes. Again, it’s done when the meat is tender and pulls away easily from the bone. Tip: For a richer flavor, replace some of the water with chicken broth.

Roast: Baking a chicken can be the trickiest way to go, because it’s easy to overcook it and end up with a dry bird. I recommend the use of a meat thermometer. This country-style roasted chicken, reminiscent of an old-fashioned Sunday dinner, is a good recipe to start with:

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Product talk: Delicious “donut” peaches

A doughnut peach isn’t much to look at, at least compared to a beautifully shaped, traditional peach. A doughnut peach is small, flat and kind of squashed, almost like it got stuck under the wheels of a grocery buggy.

But once you try one, you’ll understand why your mother always told you to never judge a book by its cover.  Doughnut peaches are really delicious – sweeter and often juicier than most regular, full-sized peaches, with a slightly different flavor that some people think tastes like almonds.

Doughnut peaches – which are also called saucer peaches, Saturn peaches and UFO peaches by some growers – are not some weird, recently developed hybrid. They’re an actual peach variety that has been grown for centuries in China, and was first planted in the United States more than 100 years ago. It’s only been a few years, however, that doughnut peaches were rediscovered by U.S. growers, and have been widely available in supermarkets here.

They’re getting more popular fast, though, and as a peach fan, I understand why.  Because they’re small and fit nicely in the palm of your hand, they’re easier, and less messy, to eat than a regular peach. (Kids especially seem to like them, because of their cute, petite size.  And the name. Who doesn’t want to eat something called “donut”?)

Doughnut peaches are also freestone, meaning  the small  pit doesn’t cling to the flesh of the peach. Again, that makes it easier, and less messy, to eat. The skin has just a thin layer of fuzz,  so if you’re one of those who don’t like the fuzzy skin of regular peaches, you may happily eat this one without peeling it.

Finally, doughnut peaches also have a slightly later growing season than many other varieties. They’re at peak freshness now and into the fall.

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Product Talk: Gluten-free Rice Krispies

The simple Rice Krispie Treat is one of the joys of childhood, not to mention one of the staples of the elementary school bake sale. But for some kids, and adults, the traditional confection is off-limits. That’s because the traditional Rice Krispies formulation contains gluten, making the cereal a no-go for people who have celiac disease or certain food allergies or sensitivities.

The new Gluten-Free Rice Krispies cereal changes that.  Like many foods, the gluten in original Rice Krispies is kind of hidden. Regular rice also does not contain gluten in and of itself. But the original formulation of the cereal contains malt flavoring, which does.

This new version is made with brown rice instead of white. But more importantly, it does not contain that malt flavoring.

The gluten-free version also contains slightly less sugar than the original, less than one gram per one-cup serving. But otherwise, they look and taste very similar to the classic version.

And, yes, most importantly – they produce that trademark Snap! Crackle! Pop! as soon as you pour on the milk.

You can substitute this gluten-free cereal in your favorite recipes. This fun-to-make (and gluten-free) treat is a good change of pace from regular Rice Krispie treats. Check the label on the caramels you choose to make sure they are gluten free. Kraft is one variety that is gluten free.


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Product Talk: New, improved, Food Club Sodas!

New, improved, Food Club Sodas!On a hot day like today, a cool, refreshing soft drink sounds like just the ticket. Especially one of our new, improved Food Club sodas, with better taste, new packaging and some exciting new flavors, all at the great prices you’ve come to expect from Food Club.

Have you tried one yet? Our Food Club soda lineup now includes 17 flavors, including five diet varieties.

We’re especially proud to introduce three new flavors:

  •   Vanilla Cream: The old-fashioned, American favorite.
  •   Cherry Cola: Our great cola taste, perked up with sweet cherry flavor.
  •   Cola Zero: All the taste, zero calories!

We’ve updated and improved all our flavors, creating brighter, fresher tastes. But all your old favorites are still in the soda lineup, including grape, lemon-lime, root beer, strawberry, orange, diet lemon-lime, diet root beer and regular diet cola.

By the way, we’ve updated the packaging too. Food Club sodas are still available in  two-liter bottles, great for a crowd, and 12-ounce cans. But now, if you prefer the convenience of a reclosable bottle, try our new 6-packs of 16.9 ounce plastic bottles – great when you’re on the go!

Each week during August, we are randomly giving away $50 to be loaded to your Brookshire’s Thank You Card.  Just send your Thank You Card number to for a chance to win.  View the Food Club Soda bracket!  Contest starts on Wednesday, August 3, 2011.

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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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