Flank Steak for Fajitas

Every now and then I’ll pull a cut of meat out of the freezer, look at it and think “What the dickens am I going to make with this??”

Which was exactly my dilemma when facing a 2 pound flank steak late last week.  Flank steak is cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow and can be tough if not prepared properly.  However, properly marinated and prepared it makes just lovely fajitas, so that’s what we did with it.  Beloved’s gotten quite adept at grilling Chuck (grass-fed beef requires lower temperatures and slightly longer cooking times than conventionally raised beef), and this was quite delicious.

Serve this with refried beans, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo (and tortillas, if you want).

Note: If you don’t like things very spicy, either cut the amount of chipotle chiles you use, or remove the seeds before adding to the marinade.

Flank Steak for Fajitas

Flank Steak for Fajitas

serves 4 to 6

The juice of 1 orange

The juice of 2 limes

1/4 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

2 pound flank steak

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

lime wedges, optional

With a small, sharp paring knife make small cuts, at a 45º angle, over the surface of the steak on both sides.

Combine the orange juice, lime juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil, garlic, chipotle peppers, cumin and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender; puree until smooth.  Place the steak in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over it.  Press out the air, seal the bag and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Prepare the coals on the grill until they are glowing red with a white ash around them.  Drain the marinade from the steak, place 4 inches over the coals and sear quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.   Move the steak away from the direct heat, cover the grill and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 135º F, about 7 to 10 minutes longer.  Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

While the steak is resting, toss the peppers and onion with the tablespoon of olive oil and place in a grill basket.  Grill over the live coals, stirring frequently, just until they become limp and are beginning to brown slightly.

Thinly slice the steak against the grain on a diagonal, and serve with the vegetables, optional lime slices, refried beans, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo.

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Going Grainless

I’ve gotten to where I really like this Fight Back Friday carnival I participate in; it gives me an opportunity to write about this change our diet is undergoing without having the entire blog revolve around it – because, believe me, it’s been tempting.  But, you know, I like posting pictures of The G Man and relating amusing stories about The Young One and rambling on about Beloved and our life.  Having said that, I’ve had a lot of people ask that I relate the hows, whys and wherefores of all this, and FBF is the perfect venue for it.

I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on it, too – and a lot of questions.

I know my decision to cut grains from my diet has probably been the most puzzling for a lot of people, and those who don’t question it are likely to think the reason is that it is the fastest and most efficient way to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat.  While that certainly is a factor, it’s a relatively minor one – there are lots of reasons I’ve gone grain-free.  I’ll start with the personal ones.

Yes, grains are loaded with carbohydrates, even whole grains.  I simply cannot eat a lot of carbohydrates.  My body does not handle them well.  I’ve had to make a decision of where I get my carbohydrates from, and it simply isn’t going to be from grains.

The fact of the matter is there is no nutrient in grains you can’t get from another food source in greater quantities.  For example, 100 grams of whole wheat flour contains 44 mcg of folate; however, a 100-gram portion of lamb liver will give you 400 mcg of folate and a 100-gram portion of yardlong beans will give you a 658 mcg per 100-gram portion.  The virtues of whole grains are often cited for their fiber content, but you can find dietary fiber in better quantities in other, more nutrient-dense foods.   For example: 100 grams of cooked brown rice offers up 1.8 grams of dietary fiber; by contrast, a 100-gram serving of cooked collard greens offers 2.8 grams – even green peas have 5 grams of fiber per serving.  This is true of every benefit grains offer – you can get it somewhere else in greater quantities.

Grains can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Grains contain substances like phytic acid that binds up minerals and prevents proper absorption. So even though though your diet might be rich in iron, calcium and other vital nutrients if you eat commercially processed grain, you’re not fully absorbing nutrients from the other foods you eat.

There are a lot of other personal reasons that I’ve given up grains – they have inflammatory properties that aggravate my arthritis, my digestion has improved ten-fold since I eliminated them from my diet, the mood swings of menopause have been minimized a great deal since giving up grains; the list could go on and on.  For me, grains are not a good thing.  If you can eat grains without experiencing any of this, bully for you…but it is estimated that 30% to 40% of people of European descent are gluten intolerant to some extent.  A lot of people unknowingly are eating things that make them sick.

For a not-so-personal reason: I’ve given up grains because they are unsustainable.  Industrial agriculture is decimating the planet, and Confined Animal Farming Operations (CAFO) are not the only perpetrators.  Monocrop agriculture, where the vast majority of our grains (and soy, but that is a rant for another day) come from, is raping our planet.  Not only from a standpoint of the fossil fuels used to transport them over long distances, although that is certainly an issue, but also in terms of what it is doing to our ecosystems.  Only a small portion of the land on this planet is suitable for farming – you may have no idea how much damage irrigation alone does to the environment.  Tilling land for annual monocrops also does incalculable damage to the soil; damage that can take decades, if not centuries, to reverse.  Animal rights activists decry the fate of farm animals, but do they realize that the topsoil that makes large-scale agriculture possible is actually alive and that we are killing it with shoddy, unsustainable farming methods?  We won’t even go into the thousands upon thousands of  animals that are killed annually for the sake of monocrop agriculture, either through loss of habitat or due to planting and harvesting with large, industrial, destructive farming equipment.  If you’re a vegetarian for ethical reasons and are eating corn, wheat or soy, there is blood on your plate whether you realize it or not.

For me, I’m sorry that it took so long to discover all of this.  I also know that as a single person, what I do makes very little difference in the scheme of things – this change in my personal diet isn’t going to save the giant Pandas.  I realize, too, that not everyone can afford to purchase food, be it plant or animal, that is ethically and sustainably raised.  Life is a compromise, often an uneasy one – we do the best we can.  Eating meat and plants that are ethically and sustainably produced, as often as I can, is my compromise.  And that is one of the many reasons I’ve given up grains.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Veggie Meatloaf

No, this is not a meatloaf made from TVP or anything (you DO know where you are, right?), it’s a meatloaf with veggies in it, instead of breadcrumbs.

Giving up grains and starches hasn’t been too hard, but I happen to be very, very fond of rice – or, rather, I happen to be very, very fond of dishes with tasty sauces on top of a bed of rice to soak up the sauce.  Recently, though, Beloved asked that I make my creole-style steak for dinner, and I was left with a dilemma – no potatoes or rice for the sauce.  I also had no cauliflower, so no mashed cauliflower (which makes a great alternative to mashed potatoes) for a base, either.  What to do?

Then, inspiration struck: I shredded a yellow summer squash, a zucchini and a large carrot in my food processor, then briefly sauteed the mixture in a bit of butter – just long enough to soften it a little, maybe 4 or 5 minutes.  It was a dandy alternative to rice, and held up to the sauce from the main dish just fine.  In fact, it was quite delicious, and the flavor of the vegetables didn’t detract from the dish at all.  In fact, I’ve done this several times since with several dishes, including some short ribs braised in homemade beef broth and finished in the homemade barbecue sauce I made this past weekend (recipes coming soon).

However, I often find myself with leftover shredded vegetables, and while I’d be happy to eat them as is, neither Beloved nor The Young One are too crazy about the idea.  So when I got a request for meatloaf recently, I found myself with yet another dilemma:  no breadcrumbs.  Again, inspiration struck and I used the leftover shredded veggies instead.  It was moist and delicious – even The Young One ate it, and he is the type that views any vegetable with suspicion.  If you’ve got picky eaters, this might be a good way to sneak some vegetables into them.

Note: I don’t glaze my meatloafs because that is a sure-fire way to keep The Young One from eating them; you certainly can glaze this if you wish.

Veggie Meatloaf

Veggie Meatloaf

serves 6

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds ground chuck

2 eggs

1/4 cup cream

1 cup shredded carrots or yellow squash or zucchini, or a combination

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat; add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and translucent but not brown, about 7 – 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute or two.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl; add the onion/garlic mixture.  Gently but thoroughly mix with your hands, then transfer to an 8″x8″ baking dish and form into a loaf shape.

Bake for 1 hour, then test to see if the center is done.  If it is still pink, cover with foil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow the meatloaf to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

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That’s What She Said

For all of my bloggy friends that have very young children:  In case you’re worried that once they become teenagers they’ll stop saying cute and funny things, I’m here to tell you…

…they’ll very likely become disgusting.

Oh, wait, this is supposed to be supportive.  Sorry about that.  Anyhoo, yes, they will still say things that will crack you up.

A little background information:  our favorite waiter at our favorite restaurant happens to share the same first name as Beloved (imagine that – a waiter named Beloved).  For the purpose of this post, we’ll refer to the waiter as Be.  Now, Be The Waiter loves us – we’re fun, naturally, we love food, of course, and then again – we tip well.  A couple of weekends ago we had an excuse to go to our favorite restaurant two nights in a row, the second night with The Young One and Miss J, who was visiting from Texas.

There were all sorts of indulgences that night, in the way of an upside-down banana rum cake that I shared with Miss J, and just a smidgen too much Hendricks gin for Beloved, who became quite, er, jolly.

How jolly you ask?  Well, when the dinner was over and the check paid, Be The Waiter came up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek, like he usually does.  This night, Beloved felt he should get a hug and a kiss instead of a handshake and said so.  Be The Waiter may have been a tiny bit startled, but not being one to offend a customer that consistently tips 20%, gave Beloved a warm hug and peck on the cheek (and, if I might add, probably enjoyed it, if you get my drift.  Nudge, nudge, say no more…).

I drove us home, teasing Beloved about being amorous with the wait staff at the restaurant.  The kids were in the back seat, rolling their eyes at us as usual, so Beloved turned around and asked, “I didn’t embarrass y’all, did I?”  (Are you kidding?  He was banking on it.)

“What?  Never!” exclaimed The Young One.  “We’re always up for a little Be on Be action.”

At which point I nearly ran us off the road from laughing so hard.

But I think I need to confiscate the boy’s computer.