Grilled Cantaloupe with Ancho Date Sauce #FireUpYourStay

isclaimer: This post is sponsored by TownPlace Suites by Marriott. However, all opinions, experiences, content/recipes and enthusiasm are my own.

If you’ve ever had to stay in a hotel for an extended period of time, whether for vacation, business, or even “between houses,” you will likely agree that both your wallet and waistline take a hit eating every meal out. TownPlace by Marriott is your home away from home and even has Weber Grills on site.

Thank goodness for TownePlace Suites by Marriott, my favorite “home away from home” that keeps me in a happy place with all of my life’s necessary comforts — free-flowing Wi-Fi, spacious living areas, a full kitchen for recipe creating, and even high-end Weber grills in the patio area. Honestly, I was so fired up after finding out that TownPlace had partnered with Weber Grills, I created a special fresh and fit recipe to celebrate – Grilled Cantaloupe with Ancho Date SauceContinue reading

Pomegranate Roasted Pears with Pine Nuts & Blue Cheese

I have a thaaaaaaaaaang for pears, eating right out of hand and using them as the star ingredient in healthy desserts. If I was a partridge, I’d never fly out of my pear tree –the fruit is just so dang delicious and nutritious. Pomegranate Roasted Pears with Pine Nuts & Blue Cheese is a super simple yet sorta fancy-schmancy dessert or side dish that can be made in 30 minutes! Pomegranate Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts

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Sheet Pan Maple Beef Sausage – Breakfast Win for Holiday Crowd

Sheet Pan Maple Beef Breakfast Sausage

The care and feeding of house guests over the holidays can be stressful. As a clutter bug and mama of three messy boys, I can almost guarantee that you’ll never see the disaster that lies outside the frames of my blog and Instagram photos. But my in-person family and friends will, err, notice, so I’ll usually cancel a run or trip to the gym to get the house tidy — and that can feel like quite a workout in itself! And, while I love to cook, I’m used to feeding 4 or 5 at a time– not 15 people plus! Cooking bacon or sausage for an army in the morning is one of my pet peeves. It’s messy, time-consuming and I’m usually stuck in the kitchen and missing out on all the Christmas morning fun around the tree! Sheet Pan Maple Beef Sausage uses lean ground beef, real maple syrup and just the right spices to make a quick, easy and mess free breakfast or brunch option that will feed a crowd.To solve this breakfast prep problem, I came up with Sheet Pan Maple Beef Sausage – I was super excited to share it with my breakfast-obsessed friends at BeefLovingTexan.com It’s basically one HUGE sausage patty cooked all at once in the oven – no flipping, splattering or batch cooking. Plus, my always-starving teen boys and teen nephews can’t come by to “sample” it all away before serving time! When ready to serve, simply slice into bars or wedges, it couldn’t be any easier!

Everyone who eats my sheet pan sausage always raves and mentions how much better homemade sausage tastes – they are always pleasantly surprise to discover it’s made with lean beef – not fattier pork. The secret to making lean ground beef taste like breakfast sausage is all in the spices and flavorings. This beef sausage uses ingredients like paprika, cayenne and real maple syrup for a mildly spicy-sweet flavor.

So, should you feel guilty about indulging in this sausage for a holiday brunch or even “brinner”? NO! There are 24 servings per batch, with each piece containing approximately 100 calories and 12 grams of protein.  In addition to protein, lean beef is also a great source of iron, zinc and other essential nutrients. For optimal protein intake (25 – 30 grams per meal) have a couple slices, or pair a slice with an egg scramble.

sheet-pan-maple-beef-sausage-egg-biscuit

Prefer a breakfast sandwich?  After sausage is cooked, use a biscuit cutter to make a round shape and use a halved buttermilk biscuit to bookend!  The leftover bits from cutting circles can be crumbled up to use in soups, quesadillas, salads and more.

Do you have a traditional dish for breakfast or brunch? Are you a sausage or bacon person? Are you tidy or messy, a hoarder or minimalist when it comes to keeping house? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer 

Sheet Pan Maple Beef Sausage
Print Recipe
Feed your hungry holiday crowd a special breakfast or brunch -- this easy beef sausage bakes in the oven and is low mess, low stress and very delicious!
Servings Prep Time
24 servings 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 servings 10 minutes
Sheet Pan Maple Beef Sausage
Print Recipe
Feed your hungry holiday crowd a special breakfast or brunch -- this easy beef sausage bakes in the oven and is low mess, low stress and very delicious!
Servings Prep Time
24 servings 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
24 servings 10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Place ground beef in large bowl and gently work in syrup with hands. In small bowl, toss together onion, garlic, sage, thyme, syrup, brown sugar, paprika, allspice, cayenne, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over beef and work spices in with hands, taking care not to over handle beef (creates toughness).
  3. Line rimmed baking sheet (approx. size 13” x 18”) with foil and gently press in meat mixture to reach corner to corner, maintaining an even thickness. Place pan on center rack of oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160F degrees with instant-read meat thermometer.
  4. Carefully remove pan and drain off any excess liquid. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. For wedges, cut into 12 equal-sized rectangles (3 columns, 4 rows) and then cut each rectangle on the diagonal. Or, use biscuit cutter to make rounds and then crumble up remnants for use later.or wedges, cut into 12 equal-sized rectangles (3 columns, 4 rows) and then cut each rectangle on the diagonal. Or, use biscuit cutter to make rounds and then crumble up remnants for use later.
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Best Ever Super Secret Chili Recipe + Beef Browning Tip

Best Ever Secret Beef Chili

I hope you have a big spoon at the ready, my recipe for Best-Ever Beef Chili is, well, THE BEST! With freezing temperatures and heated football bowl games going down, this big pot of spicy, rich and blissfully beefy chili is what to serve by the mug, bowl or trough.

Southwestern Steak Chile - TheFitFork.comI typically make chili by breaking down a roast into bite-sized chunks, my kitchen stampeded causing Southwestern Steak Chili is a family favorite. However, the kids love ground beef (and so does my food budget) and requested a chili made with their favorite food group — hamburger meat!

Won’t lie, I was a little worried that the ground beef would come out dry and the beefy taste might get downed out by bold chili spices. After reading an article in Cooks Illustrated on achieving “better browning through science,” I knew I had to try their technique of using a baking solution on meat to enable proteins to attract more water and hold onto it during cooking and also create a higher pH level to speed up the desirable Maillard reaction (basically, the harbinger of caramelization). My dad reported success using this method to keep steaks juicy and tender, and I hoped this easy hack would help improve the taste and texture of my chili’s ground beef.

So, how does this baking soda beef hack work? Typically, when ground beef is cooked on the stove top, so much water and liquid is expelled that the beef chunks just end up steaming in their own juices  — very little actually browning happens.  When cooked to the point of most water evaporating, the batch of beef will be unpleasantly overdone. However, by gently tossing a baking soda solution with the meat (about ¾ teaspoon baking soda to 2 tablespoons water for 2lbs of grind) and letting sit for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking , beef loses less liquid, browns faster and tastes better. Ground Beef browned traditionallyI tried it myself with 80/20 Chuck Ground Beef and I must say, I was impressed! The ground beef cooked “as-is” was almost immediately was sitting in a pool of liquids (as you can see from the picture) and when taste-tested seemed a little rubbery and bland.

Ground Beef browned with baking soda

However, the baking soda treated beef immediately started to brown in the pot. And, while there was still a fair deal of liquid released, it was noticely less so than the previous batch (Cook’s illustrated said about 10% less liquid, I felt like maybe even a little more).  More noticeable though, was the taste – the baking-soda treated batch had a richer, more complex caramelized flavor and was markedly juicier. In fact, the cooked beef was so yummy; I worried about taste-testing my way through the whole pile before I even started the rest of the chili!

So, my final recommendation on this “baking soda treatment” is definitely try it and see what you think! It does take little bit of pre-planning because you have to let the solution sit on the meat for 20 minutes, but you can have that going while you prep the other ingredients.

Best Ever Secret Beef ChiliSo, here is my  Best Ever Ground Beef Chili recipe, – every spoon is a mouthful of meaty goodness. It’s rich and spicy, without being too heavy or too “hot” for kids – I think you’ll really like it. But, feel free to use this baking soda technique with any beef chili recipe!

Mugs of Super Secret Ground Beef Chili -horiz

If you’re looking for other delicious chili recipes, check out this collection I curated for Mode! And, also head over to the Texas Beef Council for more inspiration.

 

Check out Life-Changing Beef Chili Recipes to Warm Winter

by The Fit Fork at Mode

Do tell, do you put beans in your chili? Do you like spicy or mild? What toppings do you put on top?  Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

Super-Secret Ground Beef Chili Recipe
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 10 minutes
Super-Secret Ground Beef Chili Recipe
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Add ground beef to bowl and drizzle with solution of 2 tablespoons water and ¾ teaspoon baking soda. Gently break apart beef with hands to distribute, but do not over knead (causes toughness). Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large Dutch oven pot over medium high. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened, stirring as needed. Mix in garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add treated ground beef to pot and cook, while stirring and breaking up into chunks. Brown beef for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink.
  4. Add chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and salt to beef mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until spices begin to bloom and become fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. To pot of beef, add finely crushed tortilla chips, beef broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans with liquid, and sugar. Bring to a boil and then put lid on Dutch oven and transfer to a 275 F degree oven for approximately 1 to 2 hours, or until flavors have developed and sauce is thickened. .
  6. Remove from oven and let cool, uncovered for 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, to taste.
  7. Serve with rice or tortilla chips and other toppings of choice including cheese, avocado, red onion, cilantro, etc
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Brisket Tacos with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Pickled Rind Relish #TacoTakedown

Brisket Tacos with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Watermelon Rind Relish - TheFitFork.comI enjoyed a one-of-a-kind, sorta-strange experience as only Austin can host at the Taco Takedown that was held this past weekend near the be-hip-or-go-home scene at SXSW (South by Southwest).  I’ve been in quite a few cook-offs including the iconic Pillsbury Bake Off in Vegas with $1 Million prize (obviously I didn’t win), the Crisco Cook Off in Nashville as part of the Country Music Festival, and even many times in my home-town Hatch Green Chile Cook Off where I hold bragging rights as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner.

Taco Takedown Contenders - TheFitFork.com

The right to battle it off as a finalist in most of these showdowns required each recipe to make it through some sort of qualifying round, being made and examined in a test kitchen by professional chefs and pre-judged on factors like presentation, fit within a certain category, creativity, convenience, taste and so on. Typically, pages of rules, do’s and don’ts, and lists of disqualifications were also involved.  However, not at the Taco Takedown – basically all the info I was given was just show up with your best taco. So, of course I started over analyzing and guessing at the non-existent details. And, in the end I decided to fly by the seat of my pants. I wondered what kind of taco would win – surely in Austin, a freaky taco would beat a traditional taco any day.

My Beefy Man Hunk Taco Model

My Beefy Man Hunk Taco Model

That’s why I wrapped all my loves, as strange as the combo might sound, in one tortilla – viola, a Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce (and Pickled Rind Relish) recipe was born. Well, I guessed wrong because a Crispy Chicken with Avocado Taco dished up by Evin at Food Good, Laundry Bad took top honors.  As partial as I was to my wacky yet wonderful watermelon beef taco, I have to admit, the winner was really, super-ultra-deluxe good – and it was fried, how could I compete with that?!  But, I got to go home with the beefy man-hunk taco model — so, really, I was the WINNER!

 

Brisket Taco with Watermelon BBQ Sauce - TheFitFork.com

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of meaty beef, and summer-sweet watermelon and a surprise of spiciness, these are a few of my favorite things (is there a song here . . )?  I knew these flavors would mingle together for a memorable taco –as they did. I didn’t want to smoke the brisket, so I had four massive slow-cookers breaking down the beef into the perfect tenderness for fork shredding.  But, holy-moly, it took a long time to shred 27 pounds of brisket!    The BBQ sauce was a not-too-vinegary, not-to-tomatoey sauce sweetened with watermelon just and spiced up with Sriracha. Probably the most unique thing going on was the pickled watermelon rind that was diced up in the salsa. A true southerner uses ALL parts of the watermelon. And, of course, I topped it all off with some salty, crumbly queso fresco cheese.  Pickled Watermelon Rind Relish - TheFitFork.com

Use this Spicy Watermelon Barbecue Sauce on beef — but also on chicken, baked beans, fish, sausage, pork and more. I’ve also used it as a salad dressing!

Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce - TheFitFork.com

Because you’re probably not cooking for a 250 person crowd, I’ve scaled down the recipe for you to feed about 8 and maybe some leftovers!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve wrapped in a tortilla and called a taco? Please share in the comments!

 

Brisket Tacos with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Watermelon Rind Relish - TheFitFork.com
Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Pickled Rind Relish
Print Recipe
Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Pickled Rind Relish -- a strange but good recipe that will rock your next backyard party.
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 hours
Brisket Tacos with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Watermelon Rind Relish - TheFitFork.com
Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Pickled Rind Relish
Print Recipe
Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce and Pickled Rind Relish -- a strange but good recipe that will rock your next backyard party.
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 hours
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 hours
Ingredients
For Brisket:
For Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce:
Pickled Watermelon Rind Relish:
Servings: servings
Instructions
For Brisket:
  1. Add ingredients for brisket into 6 - 8 quart capacity slow cooker. Cook on low setting for 10 hours. Remove brisket from cooking juices and strain out onions and peppers. Chop of onions and peppers, set aside. Cut excess fat of brisket and use fork or fingers to shred beef. Stir back in onions and peppers.
For Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce:
  1. Prepare BBQ sauce by adding all ingredients together in medium sauce pan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and reduce to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pour desired amount over beef, remainder may be stored in the refrigerator for a week. Makes about 2 cups.
For Picked Rind Relish:
  1. To make relish, toss together all ingredients in medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To Serve:
  1. To serve, place sauced, shredded brisket in tortilla. Top with relish and queso fresco.
Recipe Notes


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