Homemade Fajita Seasoning

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I’ve been in the hospitality industry for over 10 years now. I started in the back of the house ( kitchen) as a line cook and moved my way into the front of the house (dining room) as a banquet captain where I continue to grow in my career as a hospitality professional.

As a Chef, the greatest question I was asked, was what’s your favorite thing to cook? Β I’ve always had a passion for ethnic cuisine particularly Indian and Thai. I’ve become proficient in learning to cook the above regions, however those styles of food require a great deal more prep time, and ingredients into each dish. Leading to the decision of looking for a meal to prepare in 30 minutes or less, i.e Tacos.

I would say at least 70% of my diet revolves around tacos, chips & salsa (Tex-Mex) followed by the other 30% of rice based dishes in Indian, Thai and even Chinese cuisine given the time and cash money needed to prepare the more complicated recipes. I’ve always said the ways to my heart are as follows: 1.) Buy me tacos 2.) Make me tacos 3.) Be tacos. I guess you could say I’m basic! My all time favorite taco would have to be blackened Mahi Mahi but seems that I live in Ohio and can’t get the good fresh Mahi I was spoiled with having access to in South Florida, I’m going to settle with Skirt Steak tacos, which lead me to this recipe of {Steak} fajitas. I’m a firm believer that the best food is made from the ingredients that go into the dish starting with the seasonings. I’ve developed a recipe for a [common] fajita seasoning to first rub onto your steak and let sit for a minimum of 1 hour before grilling and making into a taco. Please feel free to adjust the measurements to your liking, I went a little heavier on cumin & paprika based on my taste liking. I find the best way to test your seasoning before rubbing it onto the final product is to take a very tiny spoonful to taste. From there you should be able to decide what you may need to add more of.

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Mise en Place:

  • 1 LB Skirt Steak
  • Tortillas of choice
  • Fajita toppings of Choice (Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Diced Tomatoes, Guacamole, etc
  • 1 Lime, cut into wedges
  • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil

For the Seasoning:

  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Hungarian Paprika (Smoked works wells too!)
  • 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin

Chimichurri Sauce:

  • 1/2 Bundle Cilantro removed from the stems
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • S&P, TT

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Method of Prep:

  • Mix all spices into a small bowl until well incorporated. Taste and adjust if needed.
  • Place raw skirt steak into a large bowl. Rub well with seasoning mix on both sides. cover and chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour up to 1 day.
  • For the Sauce:Β Add all ingredients into a vita mix (blender) and blend until mixed well, approximately 2 minutes on a lower speed, Set aside.
  • Add olive oil into bowl and rub over coated steak.
  • Toss steak onto a hot grill or sear in a pan over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.
  • Allow meat to rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Cut across the grain and serve in flour or corn tortilla shells. Add toppings of choice and garnish with chimichurri sauce.
  • Enjoy!

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Apple Butter

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Autumn, the years last loveliest smile. Were already half way through the season but it really hasn’t felt much like fall here in N.E Ohio in the last month with the unusually warmer weather we’ve been having, hey I’m not complaining though!Β  This week, the temperature finally started to dip back into the lower 60s with heavy clouds and even a little rain fall here and there. The crisp air is comforting as I warm up around a fire pit with a hot hazelnut latte from Starbucks in my hand and watch as the wind throws the leaves onto the ground. The sound of leaves crushing beneath my brown leather boots is a lovely reminder that its okay to let things go and to just breathe and have patience for whats to come in the near future.

I didn’t have much opportunity this fall to work with the seasonal produce. I finally made time to swing by my favorite fruit stand up near my Grandparents home in Port Clinton and grabbed a heavy bag of the best looking Gala apples a girl could pick. The first thing that came to my mind that I haven’t made before in the past was Apple butter. Of course I made apple pie as well, however that recipe is one everyone should already have.

This smooth, puree that spreads better than butter is super easy to make and goes great on pancakes or even a piece of toast. Heck, it’s even good enough to eat it off a spoon like peanut butter! However you choose to enjoy it, this recipe is worth making. If you’re looking for gift ideas to your friends and family for the holidays, which are just around the corner, why not make a large batch and can it up in a fun gift basket with pancake mix and other breakfast essentials; Just a fun idea!

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Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Total Time: 50 Minutes

Yield: Makes 4, 8oz Jars

Mise en place:

-8 Gala Apples, peeled, cut in medium chunks, seeds removed

-1 Cup Apple Cider

-1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar, divided

-3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

-1/4 Teaspoon Allspice

Method of Prep:

-Bring apples, cider and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil in a dutch oven over high heat. Cover leaving lid slightly ajar, and boil 20 minutes or until apples are tender and most of the liquid had evaporated; Stir every 5 minutes.

-Process cooked apples and cooking liquid in a blender until smooth. Return mixture to dutch oven. Stir in cinnamon, allspice and remaining 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

-Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered stirring often, 15 minutes or until thickened.

-Cool about 45 minutes. Spoon into airtight containers and refrigerate up to 2 months or freeze up to 6 months.

**Mix in 3 Tablespoons of Pumpkin puree to make a pumpkin apple butter!

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Pumpkin Seed & Kale “Pesto”

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When something in your refrigerator is on the verge of passing, meaning the shelf life of the item isn’t going to last much longer, I always try to use it up immediately in some way so I don’t just toss it in the trash and waste it. This time it was Kale. I purchased and small 8oz bag from Trader Joe’s and next thing I knew, the leaves were beginning to discolor and kale at the bottom of the bag was bathing in it’s own juices from the moisture inside. Usually I buy Kale to saute up or make Shakshuka with for breakfast. This time I let the days go by and neglected the delicate greens until it was almost too late.

Now I’m not much of a red sauce fan when it comes to pizza or pasta. I’ll eat it but I will almost always go with some kinda of alfredo, white wine butter sauce or pesto. I figured if I was going to use the kale up I needed to act fast and the first thing that came to my mind so I wasn’t being wasteful was, if you couldn’t figure it out by now, pesto! If you’re like me on a health kick, this is a delicious recipe to try for Sunday night dinner.

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Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 12 Minutes

Yield: Approx. 1 Cup

Mise en Place:

-1 8 oz bag of Kale, washed

-3 Small Garlic cloves

-1/4 Cup Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

-1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan, Optional

-1 Cup EVOO

-S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

-Using a food processor, lightly pulse garlic, (grated cheese if using) and pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

-Split kale up in half. Take the first half and add into the blender. Slowly puree the kale while drizzling half a cup of the olive oil.

-Add in the rest of the kale. Continue to puree and drizzle in oil until sauce is smooth. (It’s okay if sauce separates from the oil. Just try and eye ball the oil as your adding it in as to how little or much you will need).

-Season lightly with salt and pepper. Blend again and taste. Adjust any ingredients if needed.

Enjoy!

**If you don’t use all the pesto up right away, you have the option of freezing it! I find that adding cheese to the pesto doesn’t allow it to freeze as well which is why I omit the cheese.

**For additional flavor and a popping green color, add in a handful of fresh basil in the end!

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Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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Rumor has it there’s a super bowl game going on tomorrow; talk about a Sunday-funday, eh. Anyways, if you’re a last-minute planner or for lack of a better term a procrastinator, I’ve got a dip for you that is always a huge hit amongst a group of football advocates and alcohol connoisseurs. If you’re hosting a party of your own for the big game and looking to please a crowd, spinach artichoke dip is a great compliment. If you’re looking for more snack ideas, be sure to check out last years Superbowl post for other healthy alternatives and quick recipes!

Of course this doesn’t have to be made just for football season. This is a great dip to serve for birthday parties, picnics or appetizers before a holiday feast! You can serve this dip hot or cold and it only takes 15 minutes, if that, to assemble. If you’re a big cheese head, you can sprinkle your favorite cheese on top and bake it in the oven until melted. Extra cheese is always okay.

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Gluten Free/Vegetarian/Grain Free

Mise en Place:

-1 Can Artichoke Hearts, drained, rough chop

-1 10 OZ Pack Frozen Spinach, Thawed, drained

-1 8 OZ Pack Cream Cheese, softened

-1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

-1 Teaspoon Salt

-1 Teaspoon Paprika

-1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

-Tortilla chips (or desired food to dip with)

Method of Prep:

-Drain the chopped spinach and make sure to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

-In a large bowl add all ingredients and mix well to combine with a spoon.

-Taste and adjust seasonings if possible. I started out small with using a teaspoon of each spice. You may find that it’s not enough. Just add a little more at a time and keep tasting until it meets your satisfaction.

-If you plan to bake your dip, pop it in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes or until hot.

Enjoy!

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Shakshuka

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There’s no doubt that with the weather being below freezing, everyone is fixing themselves a nice hot dish of something comforting, perhaps something that doesn’t require a lot of time to make. With breakfast being the most important meal of the day along with the coldest part of the day, I’ve got something hot and simple to wake you up and get you moving for the long day ahead.

This middle eastern dish called Shakshuka (pronounced shock-shoe-ka) is a very common poached egg dish usually in a tomato sauce served for breakfast or brunch. When I was working in Florida, we ran a Mediterranean influenced breakfast buffet with Shakshuka being one of the featured items. I made this the other day during breakfast for my dad and me, kind of as a thank you for him cooking dinner the previous night. He absolutely loved the idea of this dish. This is a great item to make for a family brunch with more than 2 people. However if it’s just 2 people eating it, no worries! Simply make the recipe as is, and only add the amount of eggs that you and the other person will eat. Save the leftovers and make more another day! This will hold in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

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Vegetarian/Gluten Free/Dairy Free/ Refined Sugar Free.

Mise en Place:

-1 Yellow onion, small dice

-2 Tablespoons Chopped Garlic

-1 Can Plum Tomatoes

-2 Tablespoons Cumin

-1 Teaspoon Cayenne

-Salt & Pepper, TT

-3 Handfuls Raw Kale

-3 Splashes Franks Red Hot Sauce

-1 Cup Water

-Whole Eggs (Amount depends on how many each person wants)

Method of Prep:

-Heat oven to 350 degrees.

-Over medium heat, saute garlic and onion for 3 minutes in a medium pot. Add in dry spices, mix.

-Add in canned tomatoes, salt/pepper and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

-Add in kale, one handful at a time until it shrinks down. Cook for an additional 5 minutes over a simmer.

-Once all the kale is added, add in Franks. Taste and adjust if needed.

-Pour the sauce into a cast iron pan or baking dish of choice (sauce needs to be just under boiling hot).

-Crack eggs, one at a time into the sauce. Space out at least 2″ apart, season them with s&p.

-Cover with foil and place in the oven for 7 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking (I prefer a nice runny yolk). Eggs will continue to cook as they sit in the sauce once pulled out of the oven.

-Remove from the oven. Serve Immediately. Pairs great with toast!

Enjoy!

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