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.



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. 


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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

Jul 102014

This post was shared by The Beef Checkoff.

When I first started cooking in my own kitchen and doing my own grocery shopping, I didn’t buy a lot of beef.  Chicken and meat-free recipes were easiest for me, and I stayed where I was comfortable.  As I started to cook more and more often at-home, eventually I started to add beef to the rotation – specifically lean ground beef.

Ground beef is easy to work with and can be flavored well with seasonings and sauces to meet any sort of craving you might be facing come dinner time. Lean ground beef was also easily available at my local grocery stores, fairly affordable, and hard to mess-up.  Even if my burger patties fell apart mid-cooking, I could always turn them into loose-meat sandwiches without a problem.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I took an opportunity to try the BOLD Lean Beef Challenge that I really started to learn about beef outside of my ground beef comfort zone. I talk about this more in depth in these posts, too:


20 Easy Beef Recipes Outside the Ground Beef Comfort Zone

Are you in a ground beef comfort zone?  Here are 20 recipes to help you step outside the familiar and try something new!

Add Some FLAVOR! to Meal Time with the Family

Gingery Beef & Broccoli from Ari’s Menu (pictured above)

Asian Crockpot Beef from A Nutritionist Eats. An extra flavorful meal that requires minimal prep is a win in my book!

The Exotic Slow Cooker Pot Roast from Chef Druck

Asian Marinated Flank Steak from My Bizzy Kitchen

Korean Marinated Beef (Bulgogi) from The Adventures of MJ and Hungryman.  Bulgogi is to Korean cooking as meatloaf is to American cooking.  It screams comfort!

Spicy Korean Tacos from Healthy Delicious

Spicy Orange Beef Carnitas from Running to the Kitchen.  This is a sweet, caramelized beef dish that makes plenty of leftovers to reuse throughout the week.

Super Simple Recipes to Ease You Into New Territory

Slow-Cooker Pulled Beef Barbecue from Back to Her Roots.  This is such a wonderfully simple, delicious recipe.  Four ingredients plus eight hours equals delicious.

Burgundy Beef Stew from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Crockpot Beef on Weck Sliders from Healthy Delicious

Steak Stir Fry from Savvy Eats. This meal is done in 30 minutes and full of nutritious, delicious veggie-power, to boot.

Chicago Style Italian Roast Beef from My Bizzy Kitchen

Beef and Guinness Stew from Rachel Wilkerson

Crockpot Barbacoa and Cilantro Lime Rice from Shugary Sweets.  This recipe calls to anyone who loves Chipotle, especially.


Steak Dinners Sure to Impress

Pepper Steaks with Sauteed Zucchini from Shugary Sweets

The Best Steak Marinade Ever from Layers of Happiness.  Inspired by a trip to Buenos Aires, this is one of the most popular recipes on this blog and rightly so!  The tips for marinades are also super helpful!

Hanger Steak with Shallot Browned Butter from Chef Druck

Garlic Brown Sugar Flank Steak with Chimichurri from How Sweet It Is

Mediterranean Steaks from Ammee’s Savory Dish. Uber simple to prepare and full of terrific flavor, the photos are mouth watering!

Grilled Top Sirloin with Strawberry Salsa from Peanut Butter and Peppers


Another great beef dish recipe resource is the Beef It’s What for Dinner website, which also features recipes from The Healthy Beef Cookbook. [I love the Slow Good BBQ Beef recipe!]

I use the interactive “Butcher Counter” feature on the website ALL of the time when meal planning and grocery list making. Especially to decode cuts of beef in recipes I want to make.  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 for newbie non-ground meat purchasers like myself.

What is your favorite beef recipe?

Apr 012012


If you want to add pizazz to your homemade mac-n-cheese, this is what you do.

Buy GOOD cheese.  Pick something local, cause it will be fresh. Pick something fancy – something full of flavor.  Our friend Jason visited the Harpersfield Farmstead recently and brought back a block of Basil & Tomato with a THS Mac N Cheese creation in mind.


Buy blocked cheese, not pre-grated.  The freshness factor of grating your own block of cheese versus buying prepackaged shredded cheese is no where near comparable.  Take the extra time and make the extra effort.  It’s worth it.


Use corkscrew shaped pasta. Corkscrew pasta holds cheese sauce the best.  Speaking of pasta – don’t rinse it off after draining. The starchy layer on the pasta after cooking will help to thicken the cheese sauce. This is what makes the difference when wanting your cheese to really stick heartily to the pasta!


Allow the dish to cool for 10-15 minutes [or more!] before serving. This cooling time allows sauce to thicken to a great, creamy texture.


Eat it with people you love. It just tastes better this way.


Basil & Tomato Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken


  • 2 chicken breasts, [1 – 1 .25 pound, total]
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 lb whole wheat corkscrew shaped pasta
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2+ cups, firmly packed, shredded tomato & basil cheddar cheese
  • breadcrumbs


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Rub basil over chicken and set into a baking dish. [I used a Pyrex pie plate.] Bake chicken for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven to cool.  When cool to touch, dice into bite sized pieces.
  • Cook pasta to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, combine heavy cream and milk over medium high heat, bringing to boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Raise heat to medium-high and stir in cheese.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add chicken pieces to cheese sauce and continue to simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Fold pasta into sauce to mix. 
  • Pour into Pyrex dishes [one 9×13 or 2 pie plates will do!] and top with breadcrumbs to your liking. [we used about half a cup, total.]
  • Bake dishes for 10-15 minutes, until breadcrumbs brown.  Remove from oven and cool 10-15 minutes.