Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fabulous Cheater Fajitas

I usually recommend making your own spice blends, but sometimes those taco kits are such a great deal they're hard to pass up!  We bought a case of these at a fire sale this year and I had to find a way to use them all up without getting sick of ground meat tacos.

So, what did I do with them?  I make fajitas!  Might I add that they are fast and faaanntastic!

  • 1 soft taco kit (I have El Paso, but they are all pretty much the same)
  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 bell pepper (I prefer red or yellow)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP lime juice (lemon will work if it's what you have)
  • dash of cayenne or chili powder
  • fajita garnish ie: sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, rice, refried beans

In a jar mix your citrus juice, oil, pepper and the seasoning packet from your taco kit; shake until well combined.  Slice the chicken into strips about 3" long and about as thick as your thumb.  Put the marinade and chicken into a gallon sized zip top bag.  I recommend doing this in the morning...this is especially great after it has had 4-6 hours to marinade.  I sometimes do this the night before.
When you're ready to cook slice the bell pepper and onion into 1/4-1/2" strips.  Toss them in a little bit of oil.
I use a vegetable grate on the grill to cook both meat and veggies but you could do this inside on a grill pan, cast iron skillet or any heavy bottomed frying pan.
Over medium heat cook the veggies until yielding and slightly charred, but not overly done.  Remove your veggies and cook your chicken.  This won't take more than a few minutes because they are small pieces, so don't go anywhere.
Once everything is cooked toss it together and serve up with your favorite condiments.  Personally I think these are tasty as is and I usually just spoon it onto a plate and devour.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


My husband Zach and I eat pizza every week.  We usually eat it on a busy day like most people in America, but we make ours from scratch.  I make our dough fresh about 2 hours before we're going to make our pizza, but many supermarkets are now carrying ready made dough (I know the Nashville area Publix carry it).
During the summer we typically put our pizza on the grill because I hate heating up the house, but it can just as well be done in an oven.

·         1 lb pizza dough
·         1 recipe tomato bruschetta, 2 sliced Roma tomatoes  or 1 c. pizza sauce
·         2 tbsp olive oil
·         ¼ c. flour (for dusting your rolling surface)
·         1 ball of fresh mozzarella
·         ¼ c. freshly micro planed Parmesan
·         2 c. fresh spinach leaves (optional)

Place your pizza stone on the grill and preheat the grill to approx. 450 degrees or higher.  If you aren’t using a stone just preheat your grill.
Roll your crust to the desired thickness (keeping in mind the size of your stone), remember real pizza is not a circle.  Use enough flour so your dough doesn’t stick to the counter, but be sure to brush off any excess before you top it.  Oil the top of the dough.
Transfer the dough to the grill, putting the oiled side down.  I recommend sliding your dough onto wax or parchment paper to ease transport and flipping.  Close the grill and let the dough bake 5-8 minutes, or until your dough is golden brown underneath.  If you aren’t using a stone be sure not to move the pizza before its ready or it will stick and tear!
If the top of your pizza is flour laden brush it with a little additional olive oil.  Either on or off the grill top your pizza with the tomato bruschetta, mozzarella, and Parmesan.  Cook approx. 2 minutes; just until the cheese has melted.  If you are using spinach add it just as you remove the pizza from the grill.  It will wilt beautifully as opposed to being actually cooked.
Cut your pizza into pieces and enjoy.

**I really recommend investing in a microplaner.  They're inexpensive and available at most kitchen supply shops.  They are invaluable for zesting fruits and grating hard cheese.**

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Building the Best Burger

It's summer, it's 4th of July weekend and this means that it's burger season.  Everywhere you go there will be hot dogs and burgers on the grill.  So this begs the question, what makes the best burger?
Is the best burger thick or thin?  Dressed to the max or to the minimum?  American or cheddar?  Medium rare or well done?  Pan seared or grill? 
Too many questions--I have answers.

The Best Burger is 1/4 lb; weigh it out.  Handle the patty as little as possible.  Weight it, roll it into a ball and then smush the patty down so that is approx. 1/4" larger than your bun all the way around.  This allows for shrinkage and makes for a juicy, well done burger. 
Season your patties with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  If you add things to it you are creating meatloaf or meatball patties--not hamburgers.  If you are using anything lower than a 90-10 blend I suggest adding a tsp of butter during the last few seconds on the grill.  This gives it a rich mouth feel that you might be missing out on.
Grill your burgers.  Do yourself a favor, don't do this inside.  Go out, light up your grill and become one with your inner cave woman (or man).  You just won't get that beautifully flame kissed, seared outside in a pan.
Don't overcook them.  If you follow my advice and go with 1/4lb patties they will only need to cook 2-3 minutes per side on high heat. 
I like cheese.  I don't really think you can go wrong with any kind of cheese, but my preference is American.  Put your cheese on during the last minute.  You want melted gooey cheese, not a cold slice that will never melt once removed from the grill.
Dress your burger with the basics.  What does this mean?  A great roll; cibatta or a white sesame seed bun are great options.  I like my bun warm.  This means ketcup, yellow mustard, sliced onion, dill pickle chips, lettuce and tomato.  Don't get fancy. 
If you do decide to go fancy keep it simple.  Don't overwhelm the meat with too much stuff.  I add bacon for a salty, crunchy addition.

Well there you have it.  That's how I'd do it if I were you.  I can tell you this works because I just polished off a mouthwatering speciman of the cheeseburger variety.  Enjoy.