You know those pivotal moments in your life that you always seem to go back to as a time marker? Things like a child’s birth, a wedding, starting a new job…the moments where you say, “wow, a month ago I was doing this…” or “it’s been 6 months since (insert event here).” Well, that’s what I’ve been thinking this weekend, since exactly a year ago, I packed up my belongings (which felt like the millionth time since moving off to college), and moved up to Madison, my new home, with the help of my soon-to-be-father-in-law. I had just finished my internship a week earlier and was about to embark on a whole new adventure in my life. Moving brings all kinds of emotions, but I was for sure, without a doubt, 100% excited to be moving up to Madison to be closer to Philip. Plus, how can you turn down a sunset and view like that?!
So that was a year ago. It was only fitting that I was making the same trip a year later. Only this year, instead of driving North, Philip and I were driving the opposite direction back to Peoria to make a visit. It was a busy, yet super fun, weekend visiting friends and family. My Saturday was filled with a morning walk with an old internship friend, a visit to see our adorable new nephew, Miles Grayson, a bike ride with good friends, and a chance to sit and enjoy an outdoor concert with Philip’s cousin’s band performing. All that fresh air and travel led us to pure exhaustion by Saturday night.
On the way back up to Madison, I had full intentions of whipping this post together so the night would be free for other things. Well, first of all, I was asleep within a half hour of the trip (I swear, I could be wide-awake and as soon as I get in the car, I immediately get sleepy. Riddle me that one!) and second of all, once I woke up Philip started playing a podcast of a stand-up comedian show by Jerry Sienfeld that was hil-aar-ious! I couldn’t do anything but sit, listen, and laugh. I pushed aside any hope of being productive on the drive home pretty quickly. But, that just gave me that much more time to think up this post for you guys. :)
One of the first meals I made for Philip in Madison were these beef fajitas. That was back during the stage when I wanted to show Philip I could actually cook and eliminate any fears Philip may have had that he would have to eat cardboard, healthy food from his soon-to-be-dietitian-wife for the rest of his life (just to be clear, I don’t think he ever had this worry, but it was something I wanted to make sure never entered his mind. I think it’s safe to say that after almost a year, he hasn’t been suffering too much, although his diet has included much more quinoa and kale than it has…ever). Well, I’m past the point of feeling the need to impress Philip every night with my cooking skills, but I know I can always count on these beef fajitas (now known as our Favorite Beef Fajitas) to give me a good response. Seriously, Philip has the best response when something I make is “so good” (almost as good as this—which I’m glad it’s not that good of a response). Just the response alone makes me motivated to keep making tasty meals for him. Gotta love the appreciation he shows me!
I know I talked last week about how the Thai Beef & Noodles reminded me of fajitas, but these are the fajitas you want to make. I was afraid this recipe might be too similar to last week’s with the marinated flank steak, onions and peppers, and a long-but-totally-doable ingredient list, but really that’s where the similarities stop. The flavorful marinade is all its own (nothing like Thai) and is so much better than any fajita packet mix you buy. There’s a hint of sweetness from some brown sugar, but also a little kick to it from the red pepper flakes. The fajitas are great with avocados or sour cream added on top, but with all the flavor from the beef and vegetables, I don’t even worry if we don’t have either one on hand (like what happened when I made it this time around).
To be honest, flank steak is not your leanest cut of beef around, but it works really well when you’re cutting it finely in fajitas. I have also used chicken breasts before and it tastes almost as good as the steak. :) The nice thing is, you can grill or just cook the beef in a large pan, whatever works for you. Of course, grilling is probably my favorite way to cook the steak, but when we can’t do that, it works just as well to cut the steak against the grain before marinating it and place the strips of steak in a hot pan with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in it. Cooking the steak on both sides for about 2 minutes each should do it! Remove the steak from the pan, add in the veggies to cook the same way you would if you were grilling, and then add in the steak right at the end to reheat.
Fill up a whole grain tortilla with the fajita mix and you have a fajita that is guaranteed to win over even some of your toughest critics. But be forewarned, they can be a little messy, so maybe skip this on your first date or for first-time guests—when I made these a year ago, thankfully Philip loved them so much we didn’t mind the sauce dripping down our hands. :)
Favorite Beef Fajitas
Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown Cookbook
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or dry white wine)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 lb flank steak
- 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Fresh cilantro, to garnish
- Guacamole or sour cream, if desired
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, ketchup, brown sugar, 2 of the garlic cloves, ginger, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and the garlic powder in a large bowl, and whisk together. Remove about 1/2 cup and set it aside for serving.
- Tenderize the steak by piercing it all over with a fork. Place the steak in a resealable bag, pour the rest of the marinade into the bag, and seal. Refrigerate the steak for at least 2 and up to 4 hours.
- Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Heat the grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill for about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, or to your desired doneness. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes while you cook the vegetables. (If you are not grilling the meat, cut the steaks against the grain in thin slices before cooking. Heat up 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add the steaks and let cook for 1-2 minutes per side, or until done. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside while cooking the vegetables.)
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, remaining garlic clove, and a tablespoon or so of the reserved marinade. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
- Slice the steak into thin pieces across the grain. Fill whole wheat tortillas with the steak and vegetables. Add cilantro, guacamole, or sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!