Fall in Love with this Winter Squash Recipe
That first cool front of fall forever brings fresh inspiration to my kitchen. Visions of fall-flavored treats start dancing through my head—all things cinnamon-spiced and pumpkin-orange.  One thing that always makes its way onto my table during the season is winter squash.  What is winter squash exactly? While most people eat it as a vegetable, winter squash is a fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) of many different colorful types—all of which are great for you and easily found in the produce section of your local Brookshire Brothers.  Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter squash varieties because of its delicious buttery undertones, plus it’s easy to prepare and oh-so-nutritious!  Specifically, this squash is a good source of hard-to-find nutrients such as folate, beta-carotene, several B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals like potassium, iron, and magnesium.  In honor of all this nutritional goodness—and the start of cooler weather—I’d like to share one of my favorite butternut squash recipes with you!  Happy Fall!!
 
Read more: Consider turning your soup into a neighborhood supper!
 
 

Gingered Winter Squash and Fennel Soup

Adapted from My French Family Table by Beatrice Peltre
Serves 6
 
Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil — Read more: An Ode to Olive Oil
2 celery stalks, diced
1 red onion or shallot, diced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig rosemary
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 winter squash such as butternut (about 3 lbs), peeled, seeded, and diced (to make about 1 ¾ pounds)
1 fennel bulb, diced, reserving fronds for garnish
1 pinch nutmeg
4 ½ cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
 
For serving
Sour cream
Croutons
Parmesan cheese (grated)
Reserved fennel fronds
 
Read more: Eating healthy squash is only half the fun—don’t miss our fitness tips for the fall too!
 
Instructions
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat; add the olive oil.
 
Add the celery, onion, and ginger and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, without browning.  Add the garlic, rosemary, and oregano and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add the tomato and cook for 1 minute.  Add the diced winter squash and cook for 5 minutes.
 
Add the nutmeg and chicken stock, increase heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.
 
Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, discard the sprig of rosemary, and transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.
 
Serve with a dollop of sour cream, croutons, grated cheese, and fennel fronds to garnish.
 
 
Read more: Check out “Cooking with Kate” for recipes from our Catering Coordinator as well!
 
 

 
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious foods and nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does outreach education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. In addition to the Brookshire Brothers blog, look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.
 
 
 
9 Suggestions for School Lunches
It’s back-to-school time, which means new supplies, books, sneakers… and lunch kits! One way to keep kids excited about school is by packing lunches that are real fresh and real delicious. Even better, packed lunches are an affordable and fun opportunity to expose them to a variety of foods.  Introducing a new food alongside familiar favorites can be a great way to ease them towards eating something different.
 
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can take 15-20 exposures before a child—or an adult!—develops a taste for the new food. Even if they don’t eat the new food the first time they see it, repeated contact can lead a child to accepting the unfamiliar item.  So, while radishes might not be a hit the first time your kid sees them, keep at it and maybe someday your kid will be a veggie-eating super-star. To that end, here are some fresh ideas and tips for school lunches:
 
 
Try to follow a general template to make sure your child get a well-balanced and nutritious meal. Aim to include a good source of protein and fat alongside the carbohydrate at each meal.  For protein and fat, think cold cuts, cheese, eggs, yogurt, jerky, nuts, nut butters, hummus, beans, peas, and lentils.  For carbs, think outside the cracker box and try to include fresh fruits and veggies with every lunch.  And for dessert, one healthy option is a mix of dark chocolate chips and dried fruit.
 
Read more: LeAnne Anderson, RDN, also has some guidelines when it comes to fuel for the mind and body during school.
  
Invest in a lunch kit that has a plate with dividers to make it easier to provide a variety of foods in an attractive way.  Add a long-lasting cold pack to lunches with items that need to be kept cold.  If a microwave isn’t available for warming foods, there are insulated double wall stainless steel containers that can keep food hot for up to 12 hours.
 
Read more: Three DIY ideas to turn a lunch kit from a yawn to a “yeah!”
 
A fun dip can make fresh veggies more exciting and tasty.  You might try good quality hummus or ranch dressing (my favorites are made with avocado oil); plus, there’s always a variety of options in the refrigerated section at your local Brookshire Brothers store.  Alternatively, you can make your own zesty dips from bases like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise.  For these, experiment with a variety of fresh herbs, green onions, garlic, and spices for endless variations. One of my go-to favorites is a Creamy Garlic Herb Yogurt Dip.
 
Read more: Cottage cheese can make for great pairings with different fruits and veggies!
 
One easy-to-make entrée is a burrito bowl! All it takes is a combination of ingredients like rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa. Don’t forget to add half an avocado or guacamole for a scrumptious dose of healthy fats!
 
Read more: Choosing healthy fats is the first step to heart healthy nutrition.          
 
If your school has restrictions on products made from peanuts (to protect children with peanut allergies), try mixing up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with new combinations. You can choose from different types of nut butters like almond butter (a super source of vitamin E!) or cashew butter.  Cream cheese and jelly is another delicious option since cream cheese is a good source of protein, fat, and calories to fill up little tummies. You might also try swapping bread for a banana or apple for even more possibilities.  And while chips are the other half of a classic sandwich lunch, you can still get creative! Consider these other great alternatives available at your local Brookshire Brothers: nuts, seeds, popcorn, dried veggie snacks, and more—all available in a variety of flavor options.
 
Read more: Whether you’re learning about peanut allergies or parent responsibility, the food culture of our society is a great thing to learn more about.
 
Breakfast for lunch is another a fun idea! Try oatmeal, yogurt, or pancakes cut into fun bite-sized shapes. For a delicious flavor of oatmeal, I recommend using diced apples, raisins, cinnamon, and/or maple syrup. As for yogurt, you’ll find that it’s a great source of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs—aka a balanced meal in and of itself! Consider buying a tub of plain full fat or whole milk yogurt, and then giving it some flavor with dried fruit, shredded coconut, slivered almonds, pecans, walnuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, granola, and/or honey.  Lastly, you might add a teaspoon of ground flax seed or chia seeds to the yogurt (or oatmeal!) to boost those nutritious omega-3 fats.
 
Read more: Nothing says breakfast like avocado toast.
 
Leftovers are your best friend when it comes to easy, ready-to-go lunches. So, when you make your delicious family dinners, pull double-duty by making a little extra and packing it up for lunch during the week. 
 
Read more: Did you know there are strategies for storing leftovers in the fridge to help them last longer? 
 
For more options with fruits and veggies, consider these:
    • One of my favorite new products is fermented sauerkraut, which is full of healthy probiotics and has a fresh salty and tangy crunch.  It can be eaten alone as a side dish or on sandwiches and hot dogs (like pickles). While it’s usually located in the refrigerated section of your Brookshire Brothers, you can also just ask your store manager, or make a product request!
    • If you don’t have time for fresh fruit, there are other good options (with minimal added sugars) to choose from: dried fruit, cut fruit packed in juice, or individually wrapped packages of unsweetened apple sauce.
    • Some great vegetable options include fresh baby carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, celery, and bell pepper strips.
 
Read more: For a refresher on what produce is currently in season, check out this summer guide!
 
For delicious and satisfying entrée options, try these: 
    • boiled eggs
    • cold cuts and cheese roll-ups
    • tortilla and cream cheese roll-ups
    • tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, or egg salad on a bed of lettuce or with a side of wholesome crackers
    • cream cheese and turkey bagel-sandwiches
    • sandwiches of all varieties
You can find even more tips on the blog, as well as a recipe for Rainbow Fruit Mini-Pizza!
 
And who says adults can’t eat all this yummy stuff too?  Instead of eating out, save yourself a little time and money by packing an extra lunch for the break room.  And as always, you can visit your local Brookshire Brothers store for even more lunch inspiration.  There are real fresh real delicious options around every corner!
 

 
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  
On the summer road: Tips for the trip

I am a seasoned road trip veteran. We’ve taken a road trip the last four years in a row, and on the last two, we had our young daughter with us. We are either brave or foolish—even so, it’s always an adventure. While my husband tunes up the car and packs his swimsuit, it’s my job to do the other 97% of the packing, including the obligatory road trip food. The first year I loaded the back seat down with enough food to last us a month—that was my first mistake. Even worse, I forgot to pack the mustard and Tabasco sauce, which are absolute necessities for every sandwich—according to my Cajun husband—outside of peanut butter and jelly. It was a tragedy (despite the fact that I remembered everything else). Knowing how much food to pack and what works best is different for each trip and family, but I have a few ideas that can help make the road to delicious eating a little smoother and tastier.

    • To save time and money, eat out only one or two meals a day while planning your other meals/snacks as picnics or road meals. You might enjoy spending a little more on fewer meals rather than stopping at every fast food joint you pass; plus, you’ll probably eat a little healthier too.

    • Become a sandwich connoisseur. For a quick and easy meal, I love to stuff some sandwich bread, tortilla, naan, or pita with a pre-drained package of wild Alaskan salmon (other deli meats are welcome as well). If you are feeling adventurous, add some diced apple or other dried fruit. For taste, I also keep a small bottle of mustard and a few individual packs of mayonnaise. 

    • Try to space out your snack and meal times when you’re driving long stretches; it’ll give you something to look forward to and help break up the journey. More importantly though, be sure to avoid over-grazing. An endless snack of chips can ruin your appetite for anything higher quality and more nutritious.

    • If you have a cooler, pack foods that are portable, satisfying, and nutritious. Produce like apples and carrots almost always keep things wholesome and convenient. Other easy options include cheese sticks, sandwich meat slices, small packs of hummus dip, or PB&Js.

    • Make your own trail mix with nutrient rich goods like pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, and a variety of dried fruits.

A man and woman take a lunch break with sandwiches outside their car on the side of the road

 

    • There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a few treats—it is a vacation after all—but focus onbalancing it out with some more nutritious snacks. Cheesy popcorn, dried pea snacks, beef jerky, parmesan crisps, nuts and seed—these are great savory snacks to complement that sweet tooth. You might also check out alternative chips like black bean or naan chips.

    • For breakfast or a sweet snack, try dried fruit or fruit based granola bars like Kind bars or Lara bars. Individually wrapped chocolates are also a sweet way to finish a meal.

    • For more perishable items, stop by a grocery store intermittently to re-stock rather than trying to pack everything you need for the whole trip. That’s a great time to fuel up with fresh fruit, protein-packed yogurt (go Greek!), and a bottle of probiotic-rich kombucha tea.

    • Keep things clean by packing paper towels, plastic cutlery, paper plates, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer. You never know if your picnic time will be right after stopping by a random roadside petting zoo. (Special note: When your husband “graciously” offers to hold your child and hands you a bag of petting zoo food while you’re inside the pen, do not accept—unless you enjoy being trampled by livestock.)

    • For the little ones, a squeeze pouch can be a lifesaver (or a nightmare if they use it as their own personal volcano pouch). Try different varieties of fruits, veggies, and higher protein style pouches to balance out the nutrition. Above all, always supervise. Otherwise, they might end up painting your vehicle’s interior with sweet potatoes.­

No matter if your journey is to the local playground or across the country, it can always be a healthy and delicious adventure. As for me, I always remember to pack the Tabasco now, but I might forget to bring my toothbrush. Priorities. Bon voyage!

A man and woman consult a map outside their car as the sun sets

Cuckoo for Coconuts

As seen in Charm East Texas.

Coconuts inspire images of sipping fruity drinks while lounging on the beach in the ocean breeze. (Yes, please.) And let me just say that I am cuckoo for coconuts. They really are marvelous, delicious and versatile. Coconut products have been all the rage for a while from skincare to beverages, so let’s take a look at why people are going coconuts.

QUICK ENERGY SOURCE

Coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat, so it will be solid at room temperature. It is the highest natural food source of a special type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, and this is important because that specific type of fat can bypass the normal digestive processes for fats (which can take a while) and get absorbed quickly and easily for fast energy. MCTs are actually converted to usable energy about as fast as sugars, so if you need a quick yet healthy pick-me-up, reach for a little spoonful of coconut oil instead of that candy bar, lest you be “hangry.”

HEART HEALTHY

Coconut oil is full of saturated fat, and yet, it seems to be amazingly heart healthy based on the available studies. In previous articles I’ve discussed that the hate train on saturated fat is probably less than warranted by science, but in the case of coconut oil, this seems to be especially true. It has been observed that cultures that eat abundant amounts of coconut oil tend to have less heart disease than us lesser coconut-ivores. It is also true that coconut oil increases our good (HDL) cholesterol very effectively, which may be part of the reason it seems to be great for heart health. Another neat fact is that the fat composition of coconut oil likely reduces lipid peroxidation, which is a fancy term for damage to cholesterol particles. And damaged cholesterol particles are likely a leading cause of heart disease.

GERMAPHOBIC

Coconut oil has been scientifically proven ability to kill, obliterate and annihilate several types of nasty bacteria, viruses and fungi. So eat it, rub it on your skin, bathe in it and make fruity drinks with it. Let’s stay germ-free, hydrated and happy (see aforementioned fruity drinks).

ELECTROLYTE RICH

Speaking of hydration, coconut water has reportedly even been used as an IV fluid in a pinch, because it is such a great source of electrolytes, not to mention B vitamins, vitamin C and the nifty muscle-supporting antioxidant arginine. Instead of colorful, sugar and chemical-laden sports drinks, let’s imbibe the more natural and nutty alternative — coconut water. Plus, it’s just yummy.

ANTIOXIDANT POWERHOUSE

Coconut oil is full of healthy compounds called antioxidants, which are the body’s clean-up crew against all the damage daily life, toxic chemicals, junk food, sun damage, and evil alien invaders can do to the body. So just eat it.

VERSATILE

For cooking, coconut oil is a great alternative to highly processed (and thus, unhealthy) vegetable oils. Refined coconut oil has no flavor and is a perfect substitute for vegetable and canola oil in any cooking and baking application. Because of its heat stability and high smoke point, you can even use refined coconut oil for frying. Use the same amount of coconut oil as you would vegetable or canola oil required by any recipe. If liquefied oil is needed and your trusty jar of coconut oil has solidified, run your container of coconut oil under hot water for a minute and you’ll have liquid oil for easy measuring and cooking. Virgin coconut oil has higher levels of antioxidants and a coconut-y flavor which is great for cooking certain things. An energy-packed spoonful of virgin coconut oil can be a great addition to your morning smoothie. You can even use the same kind of virgin coconut oil on your skin as a nourishing lotion. Other purported uses of coconut oil include bug repellant, mild sun protectant and excellent slip-and-slide medium with the addition of a tarp and a water hose, though I haven’t personally investigated the scientific validity of those claims.

So, now that you know how great coconut is, you must be asking yourself, “Where can I get this glorious substance sent from above?” I’m glad you asked. Coconut oil can be found at your local Brookshire Brothers, usually in the same section as the other cooking oils and olive oil. Can’t find it at your store? Fill out our Product Request form and we’ll be happy to bring it in! The best type to choose is cold-pressed, and make sure to check whether you are buying “refined” for a flavorless oil or “virgin” for a coconut-y flavored oil. Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened shredded coconut and coconut flakes are also available!

In the world of healthy eating, it is prudent to remember to watch out — there are a lot of coconuts running around out there. In this case, that’s actually a good thing. 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Life is a Picnic

Eating outside is a great way to connect with nature and enjoy a meal alone or with loved ones. There are many reasons people want to or need to eat outside: a visit to the playground, a Saturday afternoon at the ball park, an afternoon hike, or a peaceful respite outside in the middle of a long day at work. The easiest part is getting outside, but sometimes it can be tricky coming up with delicious, healthy, and portable meal ideas for eating outdoors. That’s where my advice and your local Brookshire Brothers comes in.

Pull out a picnic blanket, get comfortable, and have let’s come up with some portable meals that will work for everyone.    

  • If you have a little time to do some prep, chop up some fresh fruit and bag it up, or better yet, throw whole apples and easy-to-peel oranges in your picnic bag. If fresh fruit is too much trouble, remember there are more dried fruit options than just raisins – try cranberries, blueberries, cherries, dates, prunes, and apricots. 
  • Sandwiches are always a go-to picnic option. If I’m short on time, I throw an entire loaf of whole wheat bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jelly in my bag with some plastic utensils and napkins. That way everyone can make their own sandwich when it’s time to eat. If making sandwiches is too much trouble, try turkey and cheese roll-ups. My favorite method is to bring different flavors of cheese sticks and a package of sandwich meat. Wrap pieces of sandwich meat around the cheese stick for an easy to eat protein and healthy fat packed main course. Add a tortilla and veggies for a fancier version. 
  • Try an even easier protein source - beef jerky! It makes a great snack or protein option when you don’t have a way to keep foods cold. 
  • For veggies, try baby carrots, pre-washed and cut broccoli or cauliflower florets, and cherry tomatoes as easy pack-and-go options. 
  • Throw a container of your favorite kind of nuts or seeds into the mix for a filling addition of healthy fats and plenty of vitamins and minerals to boot. 
  • Cheesy popcorn is another easy to pack snack that is a healthy fiber-rich substitute for chips. It travels well and tastes delicious. 
  • Have a little more time for meal prep? Make ahead a pasta salad, chicken salad sandwiches, or my favorite - salmon and apple sandwiches. Mix up packaged salmon with mayonnaise as a binder, and toss in diced apple as desired. This goes great with crackers or makes a delicious sandwich. 
  • And for beverages, remember to fill water bottles before you leave or pack some bottled water. Squeeze a little lemon in if you’d like to get fancy with it. 

No time for any meal prep? Stop by your local Brookshire Brothers deli for plenty of delicious grab-and-go meal options. Just don’t forget the farm-fresh veggies

And last but not least, consider sitting on the ground on a picnic blanket. That way you get a little extra movement and mobility in with your picnic lunch by getting up and down off the ground. Now you’re ready for healthy and portable outdoor summer meals!  

Find a store near you!

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Spring Clean Your Pantry

What’s in the back of your pantry? Scared to look? Me too. I once (unknowingly) fed my husband a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal that had expired about five years prior. When he complained about the taste I explained that it was the reduced sugar variety and he dutifully finished the bowl before we discovered that the cereal rightfully belonged in a history museum. It’s not just neglected items that can make the pantry a treacherous place, but it can also reveal our personal dietary pitfalls. The best place to start when making positive changes in your diet is in your pantry. By implementing some practical tips, keeping healthy staples on standby, and making a few impactful substitutions, you can have a pantry keeps you and your family eating well. 

     
     
     1.Keep the best stuff at the front of your pantry and at
     eye level. Ever had the tendency to open the pantry or
     refrigerator and just… stare? I would never do that, but I
     know plenty of people who do. (Okay, maybe I’ve been
     done that once or two hundred times.) Most everyone
     has a few treats squirreled away, but to keep your diet in
     the best possible balance, stash the unhealthy treats in
     the least visible places - near the back of shelves that
     aren’t at eye level. If you have to think and act a bit more
     purposefully, you’ll tend to eat "treat" foods less often.

     This is also helpful for remembering to use pantry
     staples that expire quickly or for using fresh goods like
     fruit, potatoes and onions (which have fewer
     preservatives and might expire sooner). 
     Find more tips on Farm Fresh Produce here.

 

2. Speaking of the good stuff, load up your pantry with more fresh products and staples that can be whipped into quick nutritious meals. Potatoes and sweet potatoes keep well and are a versatile ingredient for quick and easy meals and sides like baked and roasted potatoes. Keep some healthy soup options, chicken broth, and frozen or canned veggies on hand for mixing up a quick pot of soup. Don’t forget nutritious starches like rice, quinoa, and beans to round out your healthy meal options. Seafood products like packages of salmon, tuna, oysters, sardines, and clams make a nutritious addition to any pantry, and don’t forget to have some whole grain crackers to pair up with your seafood stash. Be prepared with a variety herbs, seasonings, and seasoning blends for tweaking recipes. 

3. Maintain a supply of grab-and-go snacks that will keep you satisfied and energized. Load your pantry with a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, jerky, seasoned popcorn, quality granola bars, dark chocolate, and even dried veggie snacks. 

4. As you replenish pantry staples, replace them with healthier alternatives. Swap out vegetable oil for refined coconut oil, regular salt for sea salt or other less refined salts like pink Himalayan salt, and refined sugar for coconut sugar. Each of these replacement options is more nutrient dense and can be used one-for-one as a direct substitute in recipes compared to the items being replaced. 

 

Your most delicious, nutritious, and productive spring yet starts here. Make a trip to your local Brookshire Brothers store today for supplies and inspiration to whip your pantry into shape. Find a store near you!

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Spring for Longer and Healthier Days

Daylight Savings Time is around the corner which means more time for family, outdoor activities, barbecue, and other fun ways to make the most of your after-work hours.  An extra hour of daylight after work and school is the perfect opportunity for creating healthy and fun new habits that will be of lasting benefit. 

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for making the most of that extra hour of daylight: 

  • Play in the dirt – Gardening is a great way to get some dynamic movement in your life, and exposing your skin to soil and all the organisms in it has actually been shown to boost the immune system. For the more adventurous types, try occasionally going barefoot to work muscles in your feet in new and dynamic ways. For kids, encourage them to explore the world through dirt. They can make mud pies, dig holes, play in the sand box - there are infinite possibilities for creative play in a simple pile of dirt.  And when you’re done, make sure you have some good laundry detergent from your local Brookshire Brothers or David's so the clean-up is a breeze. 
  • Cook outdoors – Take your cooking outdoors for a relaxed evening of family fun. Brookshire Brothers' produce and market departments have awesome products for mixing up a family barbecue menu. Try grilling long slices of summer squash, eggplant, skewered tomatoes, onions, and corn. You can even throw your fruit on the grill with some delicious slices of fresh pineapple grilled until they are golden brown - a perfect accompaniment to any barbecue feast. Try making foil packets for the grill where everyone in the family creates their own special mix with ingredients sausage, chicken, fish, and yummy veggies like carrots, potatoes, and onions. 
  • Eat outdoors – Visit a local park and have a picnic, spread a blanket in the back yard, or find somewhere to take a walk and pack your dinner to combine quality movement and dinner time. 
  • Play outside – Playing outdoors isn’t just for kids. We should all be sitting less and out there moving more. If you bring kids to the park, play with them instead of sitting on a park bench. Spend some time stretching and walking to improve your circulation. Go barefoot.  Check out ways to lead a healthy life here
  • Eat meals together – Take the time cook and eat meals together with friends and family. Make an effort more often to make meals a time of community rather than just another part of the day.
  • Try something new – Head to your local Brookshire Brothers as a family and have everyone choose something they’ve never tried before. A great place to start is the produce department. Help kids research what to do with their new discovery and prepare it as part of a tasty meal or snack. 
  • Take more walks – Walking is like eating. Everyone should walk as a foundation of a healthy “movement” diet. Try to mix up your walks by taking short walks, longer walks, and walks in different places and terrains. If you walk with young children, get them out of the stroller and encourage them to walk a little further each day. Walk on the sidewalk, walk on a trail, walk in the woods, walk across logs, just walk. Just like what you eat, strive for a variety. 

So make the most of this Daylight Savings Time with a fun new habit that will carry you into those longer summer days as a healthier and happier you.  

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

February often brings boxes of mystery chocolates and other treats that break the monotony of winter. Sweet treats are fun, and no one avoids them completely (despite those still-fresh New Year’s resolutions). So how can sweets fit into a healthy diet and not wreck it?

1. To start, choose sweets that are less junky than others. There are many ways to substitute your sweet tooth, but one way is to avoid hydrogenated oils. So what’s so bad about them? They are made through a chemical process where hydrogen is blasted on vegetable oils to make them more shelf-stable, but they are completely artificial and not found in nature. So flip over your treats and other foods before you buy and look for “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient list; if you see it, put that product back and look for another option.

Luckily, different brands and food manufacturers make similar foods without hydrogenated oils, so there are better options for most things. Examples of choices without hydrogenated oils are Reese’s peanut butter cups, most truffles, and plain (unfilled chocolates). These are just a few that I’ve tried out, but it’s a good idea to check the label of any product if you are unsure. Your local Brookshire Brothers store has plenty of high quality options to choose from to find an option that works for you. 

2. The second way to make treats better is to choose chocolate over other types of candy. What you hear about chocolate is true — it does have antioxidants that bring some health benefits, but remember that chocolate also has sugar, so keep a cap on the total amount you eat each day.

3. And, finally, keep tabs on your sweets intake by setting limits for yourself. Decide in advance how much you will eat rather than indulging mindlessly. For instance, decide to eat no more than three or four pieces of chocolate a day and leave the wrappers there as a visual reminder of how many you’ve had. We all know it’s easy to lose track of that whole bag of chocolate. Setting limits also encourages you to savor every bite, so you can eat less and enjoy what you eat more.

Remember, life is like a box of chocolates — you never really know what you’re going to get. So don’t waste your life on the kind of chocolates that will make it shorter. Indulge your sweet tooth this month, but keep hydrogenated oils out, choose chocolate over other sweets, keep tabs on how much you eat to keep those New Year’s resolutions going strong, and finally, savor every last bite.

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Real Fresh, Real Delicious: Best Banana Bread Ever

When I shop Brookshire Brothers' produce, one of the things I always pick up is bananas - the ultimate healthy on-the-go snack with just enough carbohydrate to give you a boost. But I always seem to end up with an extra overripe banana here and there. Am I the only one who has a ridiculous number of overripe bananas squirreled away in my freezer? Other than using those bananas in smoothies, a fantastic way to use an abundance of overripe bananas is in banana bread. And lucky for you, I have the one and only banana bread recipe you'll ever need. It is oh-so-delicious because it ups the banana count, which helps increase the natural sugars and decrease any added sugar needed in the recipe. The extra bananas are a fantastic source of potassium and B vitamins, and I love to add nuts to make the bread even more nutritious and satisfying. Half of the all-purpose flour can be substituted with whole wheat flour for added fiber, minerals and B vitamins. Best of all it's easy to convert the recipe into muffins by reducing the baking time. Use very ripe and heavily speckled bananas for this recipe or it won't be sweet enough. Pick up all the Real Fresh, Real Delicious ingredients for this awesome banana bread recipe at your local Brookshire Brothers store today, and never throw away an overripe banana again! 

Best Banana Bread-Ever

 

Ingredients 
- 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (half of the flour may be substituted with whole wheat flour) 
- 1 teaspoon baking soda 
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt 
- 5 large very ripe bananas (about 2 pounds), fresh or frozen, peeled
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly 
- 2 large eggs 
- 2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and
coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 additional large banana for topping (fresh, not frozen)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar or coconut sugar                                                                                        Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen                                                                                                                          "Ultimate Banana Bread."

 

Directions
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or prepare muffin tins with 18 muffin liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. 
2a. IF USING FROZEN BANANAS: Place frozen bananas in a fine-mesh strainer over the top of a medium saucepan and allow bananas to thaw, stirring occasionally to release liquid. You should have 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.  
2b. IF USING FRESH BANANAS: Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium saucepan and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. You should have 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.  
3. Cook drained banana liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar/coconut sugar, and vanilla. 
4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts or pecans, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan or muffin tins with liners. Slice remaining fresh banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Alternately, if making muffins, place one banana slice in the center of each muffin. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar or coconut sugar evenly over the top of the entire loaf or over muffins.  
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf or muffins comes out clean and free of doughy flour (banana pieces may cling to toothpick), 55 to 75 minutes for a loaf and 35 to 50 minutes for muffins. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf or muffins from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

 

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Ditch the Salad Bar

Eat better. That’s what we all plan to do at the start of every year after coming off the holiday binge on all things delicious. If we could just eat better, then we might fit into that pair of jeans we’ve been keeping around just in case. And with all that extra energy we might even get around to finishing those Pinterest projects — all 3,674 of them.

Problem is, what exactly is healthier? Sure, cut back on the fast food, eat less sugar and fried food, but what do you eat instead? Most people head for the holy grail of healthiness: the salad bar. And while the salad bar may appear to be the mecca of healthy eating, I encourage you to look closer and think again.

What is the salad bar’s biggest offense? Lurking among all that beautiful vegetable goodness is that last little thing you drizzle on the salad: the dressing. The problem with dressing? No, it’s not the calories; it’s the soybean oil, which is the majority of practically every commercial salad dressing on the face of the earth. Soy — that’s healthy, right? Well, not exactly. Over 85 percent of the soy grown in the United States is a genetically modified organism (GMO) and new studies have shown that soybean oil likely contributes to other problems like diabetes and heart disease when compared to other dietary oils.

Another thing that can make your salad a little healthier is to go organic.  Whenever possible, buy organic produce when it is available and your budget allows. The next best thing is to peel items like apples and peaches. And if nothing else, wash your produce thoroughly with vinegar and running water to remove as much residue as possible.
 

So, is there any saving grace for salad? If salad’s not healthy, then what is? Salad can be a very healthy choice, if you do it right. Bring your salad savviness home and spruce up the ingredient list with some olive oil and good quality produce.

The last key to solving the salad dilemma is in making your own dressing at home. While soybean oil is a dietary villain, extra virgin olive oil is a dietary hero that is so good for you, it’s ridiculous. Make dressing at home with just two main ingredients: olive oil and something tangy like vinegar or citrus juice. Try this local recipe at home, and you’ll be well on your way to completing at least one of those long overdue Pinterest projects. Maybe.

Simple Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon vinegar of any type or citrus juice
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (adjust according to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Add all ingredients to a Mason jar or well-sealed container. Shake until emulsified. Serve. 

Find other tips to keep your New Year healthy from Angela Larson here.

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

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