- Encourage lunch planning. Create a template with your child's name, day of the week, and meal. Complete this every Sunday night before the next week and encourage input from your kids! This also allows for your kids to help pack and prepare meals.
- Invest in compartmentalized to-go containers. Do you have little ones who struggle to open zipper bags and prepackaged snacks? Make lunches easy by using containers that keep food separate, but are easily opened.
- Cook ahead and freeze for later. Make a week's worth of meals - sandwiches, wraps, etc. - and freeze until needed. This works great for PB&J or meat and cheese, without the veggies. Wrap each sandwich in plastic or place in a sandwich bag before placing in the freezer.
- Free yourself from sandwiches. If you dread the thought of making hundreds of sandwiches this school year, try creative ideas such as homemade pizza rolls, cheese and sausage quiche, or ham and cheese rollups.
- Tame the afternoon hunger. For the after school snacks, store fresh fruit, nuts, veggie straws, crackers or our favorite, Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars (see recipe below), in a basket or clear bin on the lowest shelf in your pantry for easy access.
Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups quick oats (do not substitute rolled oats)
- 1 cup crispy rice cereal
- pinch of salt
- ¼ cup mini marshmallows
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
- Lightly coat an 8” X 8” pan with non-stick spray.
- Heat butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Cook until melted and sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, cereal, and salt. Pour hot sugar mixture over cereal mixture and stir until well combined.
- Fold in marshmallows.
- Pour into prepared pan and press down firmly.
- Sprinkle chocolate chips over top and press them into mixture.
- Chill pan in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes, until bars are set but not hard. Using a sharp knife, slice into 10-12 bars.
- Remove bars from pan and wrap individually in plastic or place in snack-size zipper bags.
- Bars can be stored at room temperature for up to a week.
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Italian Roasted Vegetables
- 1 large yellow or red onion
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 zucchini
- 3 yellow summer squash
- 2 bunches asparagus spears
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- 1 carton grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 8 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 450ºF.
- Wash all produce.
- Cut onion into large chunks.
- Remove cores from bell peppers and cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Slice zucchini and squash in half lengthwise, and then slice into ½-inch pieces.
- Trim asparagus spears and slice into 1-inch pieces.
- Cut mushrooms in half. Add cut vegetables to 2 large, rimmed cookie sheets.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Toss to coat and spread into an even layer.
- Roast vegetables for 20 minutes.
- Stir well.
- Add grape tomatoes to the mix.
- Continue roasting for an additional 10-25 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.
- Serve warm.
Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces miniature Farfalle or other short, shaped pasta, uncooked
- 2 (15 ounce) cans grilled corn
- 1 large avocado
- 3 green onions, sliced thinly
- ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
- ½ fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
- 1 (3 ounce) package cooked bacon pieces
- ½ cup Queso Fresco, crumbled
- ½ cup real mayonnaise
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Lay cooked pasta onto a sheet pan so that it can dry.
- Open cans of grilled corn and drain well.
- Peel and chop the avocado into small pieces, thinly slice the green onions, coarsely chop the cilantro, and very finely chop the jalapeno.
- Crumble the cheese into small pieces.
- In a large bowl combine the completely dry and cooled pasta, drained corn, avocado, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, bacon, and cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together until completely combined.
- Toss dressing with the salad until everything is well-coated.
- Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before serving.
Spicy Pineapple Mango Salsa
- 1 cup chopped peeled mango, about 2 mangoes
- 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
- ½ cup red onion, minced
- ½ cup diced sweet red, orange, or yellow pepper
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- 2 limes, juiced
- Salt, to taste
- Tortilla chips, for serving
- Combine diced mangoes, pineapple, red onion, sweet peppers, cilantro, green onions, and jalapeno.
- Squeeze in lime juice and add salt.
- Stir to combine.
- Chill for at least one hour before serving with tortilla chips or on top of grilled chicken or fish.
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Kate knows food. She grew up with the Southern tradition of good food with the hospitality to match. A graduate of Texas A & M University, a student of The Texas Culinary Academy, and a Nacogdoches, Texas native, Kate’s greatest joy is bringing people together over a scrumptious meal.
- Use “aged” eggs! In older eggs, the outside membrane has started loosening from the shell which makes them easier to peel once cooked.
- Boil the water first, and then add your eggs (gently!). The shock of the hot water causes the egg proteins to seize up and set more quickly away from the shell (and thus makes for easier peeling!)
- Simmer the eggs for just 11-12 minutes. Overcooked eggs = dried out yolks and whites.
- Give them a soak in an ice bath. PRO TIP: Gently crack the shells before adding the boiled eggs to the cold water. This will allow a little water to seep between the egg and shell before you peel them.
- For stuffed eggs, chill completely (at least 2-3 hours) before slicing. Egg whites that are slightly warm will tear easily.
Cajun Deviled Eggs with Bacon
- 1 dozen eggs, preferably not fresh
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2-3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chives or green onion, minced
- 3 ozs. cooked bacon pieces, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Smoked paprika, for garnish
- Boil eggs, using the tricks above, to hard cook.
- Remove shells by peeling.
- Chill at least 2 hours before cutting in half and removing the yolks.
- Place the yolks in a medium bowl; add mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream, and red wine vinegar.
- Use a fork or whisk to mash the yolks with the other ingredients. (Note: Depending on the size of your eggs, you might need to add more/less mayo and sour cream to get to a creamy consistency.)
- Add chives or green onions, chopped bacon, Cajun or Creole seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well.
- Spoon or pipe into egg white halves.
- Sprinkle with smoked paprika.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
- 8 ozs. mayonnaise
- 8 ozs. sour cream
- 1 (8 ounce) package shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 12 ozs. sliced bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled, divided
- 4-5 green onions, finely sliced
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon (or more) ground black pepper
- 2 cups finely shredded lettuce
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- Set aside ½ cup crumbled bacon for top of dip.
- In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, shredded cheese, remaining crumbled bacon, green onions, garlic powder, and black pepper.
- Mix until well combined, add more seasoning if desired.
- Spread sour cream mixture onto a large serving platter or into a glass serving dish.
- Sprinkle with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and reserved crumbled bacon.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve with assorted crackers, pita chips, or bagel crisps.
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Australian Sausage Roll
Ingredients1 pound pork sausage¾ cup onion, finely chopped2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped1 tablespoon fresh chives, thinly sliced3 garlic cloves, minced1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika¼ teaspoon salt¼ teaspoon pepper¼ cup flour, reserved for rolling out pastry1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, mix together the sausage, onion, basil, chives, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
- Lightly dust the counter with a small amount of flour. Roll out the sheet of puff pastry into a 12x15 inch rectangle.
- Slice it across the middle so you have two 6x15 inch rectangles. Brush each longer edge with the egg wash.
- Using your hands, divide the sausage mixture in half. Form a long log of sausage along the edge of the dough of each rectangle.
- Roll it up and press the edge to seal. No need to seal the ends because you want the grease to cook out.
- Place each roll on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Brush the entire roll with the egg wash and then sprinkle the tops with paprika, white and black sesame seeds.
- Place in oven and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
- When the 20 minutes is up, remove from oven and tip pan to drain grease.
- Increase heat to 375°F and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Slice into 2 inch pieces and serve.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, sugar, salt, and coconut.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and dark corn/golden syrup until mixture is bubbling.
- In a large bowl, combine the baking soda and boiling water, then stir in the hot butter mix. Be prepared: the mixture will bubble up energetically.
- Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until mixed.
- Drop the dough, by teaspoonful, onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave at least 1 1/2" between them; they will spread quite a bit.
- Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are a deep mahogany brown; the cookies are meant to be crisp/crunchy and dark brown, not chewy/light brown.
- Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them on the baking sheets.
- Store, well wrapped, for a week or so at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.
- Yield: about 3 dozen 2 1/2" cookies.
Baked Potato Dip
- Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and bacon and mix well.
- Spread in a lightly greased 9X13-inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbly around the edges.
- Serve warm with potato chips.
Southwest Egg Roll Dip
- In a large bowl, mix chicken, corn, beans, diced pepper, green onion, spinach, and shredded cheese.
- In a separate bowl, smash the avocados to a smooth paste. Add the ranch dressing, cilantro, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper, and mix until smooth.
- Combine the dressing with the chicken mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Serve dip with assorted chips and crackers.
Four more easy & epic crowd pleasers (with lots of bacon):
Courtesy of our vendor partner Bar-S Foods
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Spanish Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon
- Cut the chorizo into 24 small sticks. Tuck 1 piece of chorizo into each date. Wrap each stuffed date with a half slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add stuffed dates to the hot skillet and cook, turning often, until bacon is browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
Salteῆas Bolivianas (Bolivian-Style Empanadas)
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the beaten eggs and melted butter. Add a little less than 1 cup warm water, mixing until a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl with a clean towel, and let the dough rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes while you start the filling.
- Add the diced potato to a small pot of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes (potatoes will not be fully cooked). Drain the potatoes and set aside.
- Melt the butter with the yellow pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Turn the temperature to low and add the spices (cumin, oregano, salt and pepper) and let everything cook together for 10 minutes. Add the diced green and yellow onion and cook until onions soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, partially cooked potatoes, green peas, raisins, sugar, vinegar, parsley, and chicken broth. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture is heated throughout. Stir in the packet of gelatin to the mixture and then transfer to a large bowl and cool completely in the refrigerator before filling pastry. The gelatin will partially set the broth mixture as it cools in the fridge.
- Divide dough into 18 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 7-8” circle, about 1/8” thick. Add a generous scoop of the chilled and gelatinous filling to the center of each circle of dough. To seal the salteῆas, lightly dampen the dough along the edges. Bring the edges of the dough together over the top of the filling. Starting at one side, pinch and twist the dough together to ensure a strong seal. Freeze the sealed salteῆas until ready to bake.
- Preheat oven to 500°F. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Transfer the frozen salteῆas to the foil-lined sheet and brush the salteῆas with a little beaten egg. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-18 minutes or until dough is golden brown and the filling is heated through. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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Slow Cooker Overnight Steel Cut Oats
- Generously coat the inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients for the oatmeal base recipe to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Add additional ingredients depending on which flavor of oatmeal you are making (Apple Pie, Cherry Almond, etc). Stir to mix, cover, and cook on low for approximately 6-7 hours (slow cooker times can vary).
- Serve with additional milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, and/or toasted nuts.
- Cooked oatmeal stores great in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave with a splash of milk.
- Recipe can easily be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time by 1 hour.
Beef Stroganoff Meatballs
- In a large slow cooker, add the melted butter and sliced onions. Cover with the lid, and cook on high for 15-20 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add the broth/consommé, golden mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, and onion soup mix. Mix well. Add frozen meatballs and toss to coat in the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water to make a thin paste. Add cornstarch mixture to slow cooker and stir well. Continue to cook, covered, for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until sauce is thick and glossy. Stir in sour cream just before serving.
- Spoon over mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.
Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
- For dry or canned beans, rinse the kidney beans thoroughly under water.
- Add the kidney beans, sausage, garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, dried thyme, bay leaves, and chicken stock to a large slow cooker, sprayed with non-stick spray. Stir to combine. Cook on high for 6-8 hours*, or until the kidney beans are soft and cooked through. *NOTE: If using canned beans, reduce cooking time to 3-4 hours.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. For additional spice, add in more hot sauce. Remove and discard the bay leaves before serving. Serve over cooked rice, garnished with green onions.
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Cobb Salad Dip
- In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix until smooth.
- Spread evenly into the bottom of a medium-large serving dish.
- Layer on top – shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, blue cheese crumbles, bacon pieces, tomatoes, and corn.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. Serve dip with assorted chips and crackers.
Quick Grilled Asian Chicken
- In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine all ingredients except the chicken breasts. Cook for 1 minute in the microwave; stir well.
- Heat for an additional 30 seconds, watching closely so that the mixture does not boil over. Let marinade cool for 5 minutes.
- Add chicken breasts and cooled marinade to a gallon zipper bag. Seal tightly and shake bag to ensure that all the chicken is coated in the mixture.
- Marinate the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat or heat a skillet or griddle pan on your stove over medium-high heat.
- Remove chicken from marinade and cook chicken on preheated grill or skillet for 6-8 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through and browned. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
Crunchy Asian Chopped Salad
- In a small bowl or Mason jar, combine all the dressing ingredients. If using a jar, screw lid on tightly. Whisk or shake dressing until combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix chopped/shredded chicken, coleslaw, lettuce, green onions, carrots, cilantro, edamame, and almonds. Add enough of the sesame dressing to lightly coat all ingredients. (Leftover dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.)
- Serve immediately with crunchy chow mein noodles sprinkled on top.
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Broiled Parmesan White Fish
- Preheat the broiler in your oven to medium/high or high. Spray a broiling pan or baking sheet with lots of non-stick spray. In a small bowl, mix the cheese, butter, mayonnaise, and lemon juice. Add all the spices and blend well. Set aside.
- Arrange fish fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with half of the Old Bay seasoning. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over, sprinkle with remaining Old Bay seasoning and broil for 2 to 3 more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and spread evenly with the parmesan cheese mixture. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Depending on the thickness of your fish fillets, they will finish cooking in varying amounts of time. Be careful not to overcook the fish. Serve immediately.
Roasted Asparagus or Green Beans
- Preheat an oven to 425°F. Place the asparagus or green beans onto baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving. Serve immediately.
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Quick Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Parfaits
- Crush vanilla wafers by hand or in a food processor.
- Add melted butter or margarine and mix until it looks like damp sand.
- Spoon the buttery cookies into the bottom of 4-6 serving dishes.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean paste with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
- Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly into the serving dishes.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
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Amaretto Mascarpone Cheesecake with Almond Crust
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Tightly wrap the outside of a 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil.
- Finely grind the almonds, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar in a food processor.
- Add the butter and process until moist crumbs form.
- Press the almond mixture onto the bottom and ½” up the sides of the prepared pan.
- Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 325°F.
- Add a roasting pan or baking dish of hot water to the bottom rack of the oven. The steam from this pan of water will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking when baked.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, and sugar in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan, spreading evenly with the back of a spoon or spatula.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold). Transfer the cake to a rack; cool for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.
- While the cheesecake is cooling, whisk the sour cream, sugar and amaretto together until smooth.
- Once the cheesecake has cooled for approximately 15 minutes, pour the sour cream topping over top. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, smooth out the surface. Sprinkle the outside edge with the sliced almonds.
- Place cheesecake back into the oven (remember the heat should have been increased to 450° F) and bake for 8-10 minutes, watching closely so that the almonds do not burn.
- Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours, before serving.