Feb 172015
 

I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve been working as part of the Beef Expert Bureau funded by the Beef Checkoff.  In our partnership, I get to share with them all I’m learning and experiencing through blogging and social media and they get to share with me all they are learning and experiencing through working with beef.  There is so much interesting research out there and I’ve been really lucky for all which the opportunities working with the Beef Checkoff over the past several years has rewarded me.

One major benefit from getting familiar with the resources that Beef It’s What for Dinner offers is gaining major confidence in the kitchen.  One of my favorite resources from the beef team is the Interactive Beef Counter, which I’ve raved about on this blog and via social media many, many times before.  I use it myself ALL of the time when preparing for trips to the grocery store or meal planning. It comes in handy to decode cuts of beef in recipes I want to make or that show up in sales ads.  Did you know that some types of beef go by different names depending on the region you live in?  The “Also Known As” listing on each cut’s definition is extremely helpful, as is the recommended cooking methods listed for each cut.

I’ve been looking for the best resources for becoming a better home cook on my own.  I am a regular old kitchen “newbie” turned “practice makes better” who still calls her mother when she doesn’t know where to find something in the grocery store and finds solace in the fact that Google is always just a few clicks away to decode any direction found on cookbook pages and blog recipes. 

Through my work with the Beef Checkoff I’ve received hands-on demonstrations on butchering, participated in discussions about shopping smart and keeping beef affordable for my family, studied research behind the nutritional benefits of lean beef, and as the photo below shows, worked my indoor grilling magic with the help of a handful of culinary professionals who I leaned on for guidance and tips along the way.
 

CYMERA_20140808_111422

 

Cooking in the Beef Kitchen was one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever done, and I totally wasn’t expecting to be so wigged out.  Rationally, I knew there was no reason to be nervous, but boy-oh-boy, I couldn’t shake the “feeling like a fraud” anxiety.  Instructions I would normally read in my home kitchen and jump to starting without hesitation suddenly left me second guessing what my next move was.  I asked Erin, the brilliant lady behind the Mouthful blog, one question after another, after another.  Occasionally I found myself next to Chef Dave, taking in his pointers, learning I’ve been holding a knife wrong my entire adulthood.

In the end, we had created a delicious dish to share with the room: Zesty Moroccan Grilled Beef and Eggplant.  I picked up a bit of knowledge along the way; for instance as your cooked beef sits in the open air over time a redness will return to the center of meat due to change in oxidation. This is why it’s best to serve your dish very soon after slicing. 

After my confidence growing experience in Denver with indoor grilling, I started pulling our electric countertop grill out for dinner a couple of times a week.  One of my favorite dishes to make is fajita toppings.  I go a bit crazy with the amount of peppers and onions I cook up, which I find stretches the meal into extra servings. 

before

This recipe is a great way to put on-sale steak from the butcher counter to use!  I’m obsessed with this marinade and have been making it every few weeks since first writing it out 3 months ago

My Favorite Fajitas

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
2 T Worcestershire
1/4 cup lime juice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet low sodium fajita mix
1 T brown sugar

1 – 1.5 lbs top sirloin or top round steak
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 small bell peppers, thinly sliced [I like to aim for the rainbow and tend to use one of each color pepper sold at my market: green, yellow, orange, and red.] 
olive oil for pan grilling

Instructions 

Place first 6 ingredients in a plastic container with a lid.  Shake to mix.

Set steak in appropriate sized plastic container for refrigerator storage.  Pour half of the combined sauce over the top of the steak.  Flip steak and gently shake uncovered to coat meat in sauce.  Top with a small handful of each sliced onions and sliced peppers, cover and give a gentle toss to lightly coat.

Add remaining sliced onions and peppers to the plastic container containing the remaining half of sauce. Cover and toss to coat.  Place both plastic containers in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to over night.

marinade

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat and drizzle with olive oil.  Once heated add veggies, not forgetting those in the steak container, too.  Cook for several minutes, being sure not to move around in the skillet too often, allowing to caramelize.  When you’ve reached your desired level of caramelization, add to dish and cover lightly to keep warm.

Turn the heat on the grill pan up to high and drizzle again.  Cook the meat for 2-3 minutes per side, until medium rare – registering 145 degrees internal temperature. [Here’s a great resource about determining beef doneness if you’re interested] Remove steak from pan and tent with foil, allowing to rest for 5-7 minutes.  

Slice immediately before serving on your favorite tortillas, topping with sour cream and salsa of your choice.

 cooked

One of the best things about this recipe is that with one steak, I get several meals.  I usually buy a piece of meat between 1 and 2 pounds, and because a serving of beef is about 3 ounces of cooked meat (which is about 4 ounces of raw) and my including extra onion and peppers, my fajita fillings ends up being 7-10 servings in total.  I use the leftovers for breakfast hash or tacos, in salads with tortilla strips at lunch, on a pizza or simply a second evening of fajitas for an easy weeknight dinner.

fajitas

Next time I think I’ll add some big slices of mushrooms with the peppers and onions, too!

Feb 152015
 

A couple of weeks ago I was walking through Target with Nick, when I came across Valentine’s Day treat bags that were screaming “HEY! You! These were made for you!!!”  I decided my coworkers needed some treats as a thank you for being nice to me all year long, especially on the stressful days and I bought them.

 1bags

I decided to make a duo of snack mixes, one sweet and one cheesy; basically, a good representation of my personality ;)

My heart was smiling all day long Friday, when I found one coworker after another munching on the mixes at their desks when I’d walk by.  They seemed to be a hit!  Here’s the recipes for your own snacking pleasure. 

Both recipes are for 20 snack bags total, but you can easily cut the recipe down for making smaller batches if that meets your needs.  I think the Sweetheart Mix is a perfect option for Prince/Princess Parties and Frozen Sing-a-longs, too.

1cheese mix

Cheesy Snack Mix
Fills 20 snack backs, approx 3 cups per bag

Ingredients

1 box [12.4 ounces] of White Cheddar Cheez-Its
1 box [14 oz] Corn Chex
1/2 box [7 oz] Rice Chex
1 large container [17 ounces] puffy cheese balls
5 cups mini pretzel twists
4 cups cocktail peanuts

Instructions

Mix ingredients in large bowl. 
Using a scoop or measuring cup, pour about 3 cups of mix into each bag.
I mixed and filled my treat bags in four batches, pouring a quarter of each ingredient into the bowl for each batch. 

1sweetheart

Sweetheart Snack Mix
Fills 20 snack backs, approx 1 1/2 cup per bag

Ingredients

1 box [12 ounces] Berry Kix
1/2 box [7 ounces] Rice Chex
2 packages [6.6 ounce] Strawberry Shortcake Goldfish
2 packages [12.6 ounces] m&m’s chocolate candies in pastels or Valentine’s Day mix
4 cups Craisins/dried cranberries
5 cups mini pretzel twists
2 cups cocktail peanuts

Instructions

Mix ingredients in large bowl. 
Using a scoop or measuring cup, pour about 1 1/2 cups of mix into each bag.
I mixed and filled my treat bags in four batches, pouring a quarter of each ingredient into the bowl for each batch. 

1sweetheartpackaging

I put out a call on Facebook when I was going shopping for ingredients, and my mom reminded me that we used to make snack mix with whatever we had in the house and when I was little I called it “birdseed.”  Favorite birdseed ingredients included Sugar Smacks, Honey Nut Cheerios, pretzels, nuts, m&m’s and raisins. . 

Ashleigh also recommended something she calls CRACK MIX which sounded wonderful!  Chex, sesame sticks, pretzels, peanuts with sriracha and coconut oil. Here’s her recipe which I plan to give a try STAT:  Sriracha Party Mix on Being Cheap is Easy

I LOVE pretzels in my mixes. They are my number 1 must!  What are your favorite snack mix ingredients? 

Aug 212014
 

Disclaimer: I received Blue Diamond Honey Roasted Almonds for free as part of Blue Diamonds Tastemakers program. All content and opinions are my own.

bluediamond

On Twosday I mentioned the latest Blue Diamond Almond flavors I’ve been lucky to try.  I love the Honey Roasted Chipotle for savory, smoky, snacking.  I made a super quick snack mix with these bad boys by adding mini-pretzels and penguin-shaped cheese crackers.  Perfect for munching on while Netflixing.

pancake mix ins 

After tasting the Honey Roasted Vanilla almonds, I knew I wanted to use them in the kitchen and decided a revamp of my Trail Mix Pancakes was in order.  This recipe doesn’t call for sugar and these almonds add the perfect amount of sweetness to breakfast without going candy-coated-overboard.

I made a double batch of this recipe on Sunday so that we had enough for dinner and several days of leftovers. I brought an extra delicious breakfast to my desk all week long.  Reheating in the microwave doesn’t sound fancy, but it sure feels like a step into luxury compared to my normal oatmeal or yogurt with fruit.

Vanilla Coconut Trail Mix Pancakes with Blue Diamond Honey Roasted Vanilla Almonds
makes 8 medium pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup Blue Diamond Honey Roasted Vanilla Almonds, crushed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
  • In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, melted butter, and applesauce.
  • Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
  • Add remaining ingredients and stir slightly until mixed.
  • Bring griddle or fry pan to medium heat, after spraying it with cooking spray. 
  • Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop pancake batter onto the heated pan.  Allow to cook about 2 minutes, until the batter just starts to bubble, then flip to cook through completely.
  • Top with syrup, jam, nut butter, or your other favorite topping to serve.