Beef Fajita Dip

Back when I first started watching the Food Network, no matter who the cook was, they would always tell the audience to “ask your butcher”.  I’d sit in my living room and wonder what those of us who didn’t have a butcher to call their own did.  Then, I discovered Mary Anne and fell in love.   So now, I get to join those people who have people; people in their life who are just really good at things we aren’t.  One of the things I love about going to the same people every week for my meat is that they know me.  They know how I like my ground beef packaged and how I get the sirloin sliced for stroganoff.  They get why I love to cook and they always know just the right cut of meat for my recipe.  Another benefit is that the other people who are standing on my side of the counter are always friendly; we ask what they are making and swap ideas.  This recipe is the result of just that.  Saturday, I was ordering all the meat for 10 pounds of sloppy joes for Liam’s birthday party and the meat for our weekly menu when I started listening to what the lady next to me was going to do with her steak.  Her idea sounded so good, I got one too and made my own version of the meal had planned.  This meal fed us well.  It’s been 2 hours since I ate and I’m not even peckish.  Half of the meat went into the dip and the rest went into baked fajitas which I froze.  There’s a tiny bit of the dip left over… I hid it in the fridge; I can share at meals, but have no desire to share for a snack!
Beef Fajita Dip:
  • 2 1/2 pounds of sirloin steak
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 red and 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 Tbsp. Adobo paste
  • 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips
I seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and the cooked it on high in my crock pot for 4 hours.  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender without heating up the kitchen all day.  Once the meat about done, I sliced up my onions and peppers and sauteed them in oil until tender.  Then, I added in the adobo paste, paprika and a touch of salt and pepper.  I shredded the beef up and added in enough to balance out the peppers and onions so everything was about even.  Then, I layered the refried beans on the bottom of a small casserole dish (I use canned beads still because I cannot make them myself to my taste just yet.), corn and meat/onion/pepper mix.  Finally, I topped the dish with the cheese, making sure that everything inch was covered.  I then put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese had melted was starting to brown (I personally would have left it in longer, but when toddlers are hungry, they are hungry and they don’t understand the aesthetic aspects of cheese melting.), about 15 minutes.  I did top the dip with a little bit of sour cream and sliced olives.  It was excellent dipped onto blue corn tortilla chips.

This dish could be used as either an appetizer or a main meal.  It could be served as a dip or rolled into tortillas and baked.  No matter how you serve it, it’s a winner!

To make Jamie proud

I couldn’t tell you the exact first time I ate a chicken nugget.  Usually, a new food experience sticks in my brain like cement, but this one apparently didn’t rank very high in my memory.  Which is fine.  I do know that while I was pregnant, I was desperate for a source of protein that wasn’t either beans or heavy meat.  I needed something lighter, but that would still count as part of my 100 gram intake on the Bradley diet.  I then discovered that a chicken nugget (standard size) was worth 5 grams per nugget.  If I ate 5 on a salad, I had reach 1/4th of my goal for the day!  It was during this time, that I purchased at least 1 bag of nuggets each grocery trip.

Life was good, I was loving my nuggets until Jamie.  I’ve always like Jamie Oliver and when he was scheduled to have a prime time show on nutrition in our school systems, I was all over it.  I watched each week and cried along with him as he battled the overwhelming lack of concern by consumers and parents.  He kept harping on the chicken patties and nuggets that were served and I wasn’t certain why.  For sure, they have tons of preservatives in them, but honestly, it does say “white meat” on the bags, so what else could there be?  And then he showed how they were produced.  I gagged.  The day before I had purchased a brand spanking new bag of nuggets and they were in my freezer condemning me.  They have sat in that freezer for a good 2 months now.  I can’t bear to throw them away, but there is no way I will be eating those things.

The good news is that after an exhaustive search, I have discovered about 947 different ways to make your own chicken nuggets at home.  Everyone has an opinion and personal tastes, so I took what I saw and played around.  What I came up with worked for us.  But if you are short on time, the quickest method for making your own seems to be to simply chop up a chicken breast, bread it and bake it at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Since I had read that the dark meat made the nuggets juicier than the plain white meat, I chose to use a whole chicken for my nuggets.  I also chose to bake and not fry mine since I am feeding a baby this food.  And although my method took me far more time to put together than I had planned on, it should be mentioned that Liam is teething and cranky and that puts a wrench in even the best laid plans!  On the upside,  Liam has scarfed these nuggets down like I haven’t fed him in days.  Today he rejected my awesome beans in favor of only eating the chicken!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I know these look huge, but I took the photo on the only clean plate in the house which was rather small.  Ooops.
  • 1 3-4 pound chicken, washed and seasoned thoroughly
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • flour

Begin by placing the whole chicken in your crock pot and cooking it on low for 8-10 hours.  I did this over night and the next morning was greeted with a perfectly tender and juicy bird.  Strip the meat from the bones and discard your waste.  Once the meat has cooled, chop it finely.  (You could always do this step in the food processor, but I wanted to have bits of meat, not goo.)  Combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder in a shallow dish.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  Mix the 2 beaten eggs and milk together and place them in a bowl.  In a third bowl, put about 1/4 cup of flour for the intial dusting.  Take a small handful of the meat and press it into a small patty, if it won’t stick well, add some of the juice from the slow cooker.  Once you have the size and shape you desire, cover the nugget with flour to coat the meat.  Then dip it in the egg/milk mixture and finally roll it in the seasoned bread crumbs.  Place each nugget on the baking sheet; it isn’t necessary to leave room between them.  Bake them at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes.  I used whole wheat bread crumbs so they were nice and browned and served them with barbecue sauce.  I think somewhere on this Earth, Jamie was proud.

For your budding foodie:  This is something that shouldn’t be served until your baby is over 9 months.  Since I chose to dice the meat up, when I break the nugget apart for my little guy, the meat is still chewable and he gets to experience texture.  I didn’t put the barbecue sauce on his since I thought it would be too spicy, but he’s a fan of my ranch dressing, so I did that instead!

Nifty Thrifty

Shortly after we got married, I started on a mission to de-waste our house, to be more frugal and to stop spending money on things I could just make myself.  I think at first, my husband thought it was endearing.  And while I’m sure he still finds it a respectable challenge, sometimes I think he wishes I would just buy the product and stop tearing the kitchen apart trying to reproduce something.  You see, for the last 3 and a half years, I have been trying to make homemade crackers.   Not just any homemade cracker, though.  I wanted something as crisp and salty as the wheat thin, but without the packaging, preservative and expense.  I’ve tried a number of recipes and finally, through some tweaking, came up with this one.

Wheat crackers

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to sprinkle on top
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into 1/2 Tablespoon pieces

Pre heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place all ingredients, except the water in a food processor and blend until the butter is fully incorporated.  Stream in the water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the processor as it spins around.  Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and finish kneading it by hand until the dough is smooth and there are no lumps of butter showing.   Divide the dough into 4 pieces and work with them one at a time.  Work quickly, though, because the dough dries out if you let it sit for too long.  Roll the dough out until it is about 1/16 of an inch thick.  Then, with a pizza cutter or a knife, cut the dough into 1-inch square pieces.  Transfer the dough pieces to a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes.

I rolled out the dough and made the general size cuts.  Then, I only put the crackers that were in the right shape on the tray, rolled up the rest and repeated the process.  The ones that never made it into the right shape were the first to be sampled.  The whole process took less than 15 minutes until i was munching on these amazing crackers!  Even 7-month-old Liam thought they were amazing.  I am pleased with the taste and consistency.  You have to make sure you roll the dough out thinly enough, but if you do, you will have the perfect crispness.  

As far as the thrifty aspect, the last time I checked, Wheat thins were $3.47 a box.  I bought butter for $2.38 a pound.  I can get 4 recipes of my wheat crackers out of a pound of butter.  Each recipe produces enough to fill my canister. (This canister also holds a little over one box of Wheat thins.)  So for the cost of the butter alone, I am getting a comparable amount of crackers for 60 cents and 15 minutes of my time.   No bad, if I do say so myself.  It took far longer than I thought it would, but I’ve finally reached a solution for this snack conundrum.  Next up: pretzels!  This week, I am going to also post about how we grocery shop and menu plan since I have gotten a few personal emails/phone calls regarding this.  Perhaps I can be of help to someone else!