One of the ways to be successful with butcher’s cuts of meat, such as these grilled skirt steak fajitas, is the art of proper marinating. (Contributed)

The day wasn’t turning out to be one of the “best” in my life…I had forgotten to marinate my skirt steak hours before, and the dinner I was preparing had a lack-luster appearance to it, and as my hubby Norm walked by, I cried out, “Normie, I need a hug.”

Instantly his arms opened, and I was enveloped in them. “Tighter,” I said, “just hold me.” And within those few seconds, whatever had been, was gone, washed away in those few seconds by a hug.

I have learned since there are healing powers in a 30-second hug, powers so profound they can make an impact on your well-being and your relationship with someone you care about deeply.

Oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone,” when released, helps reduce stress and anxiety levels, bringing about a sense of calmness and relaxation, producing a positive mindset.

Hugging is a positive way to strengthen your connection and trust with your loved ones, whether they are children or adults; it communicates love, affection and support without the need for words.

One of my favorite photos is of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, returning from a trip, as she holds her outstretched arms to her younger son Harry to envelop him in a huge hug. I can almost feel the warmth of that hug.

Older adults can benefit from hugs from friends and families, as that 30-second hug can reduce those feelings of loneliness, and in today’s digital age, human connection is often lacking. That simple hug is a way to feel more connected to the people in your life.

Greeting someone with a simple hug who has just lost a loved one often needs no words of compassion, the hug conveys it all; empathy and support are contained in that hug.

Studies have suggested that hugging may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and could be looked at as a mini workout for your heart.

Today, whenever I need that hug from my hubby Norm who is no longer with me, I simply close my eyes, and for 30 seconds, I smile, as I can still feel the warmth and love from that hug of long ago.

Yesterday, I took out a package of skirt steak that I had marinated for Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas. I use either skirt steak, if on sale, or a flank steak, which is another “butcher’s cut” of beef. The butcher’s cuts of meat are relatively inexpensive beef that require a bit more care and attention to cook right, but their flavors are incredible. One of the ways to be successful is the art of proper marinating.

The key to marinades is: 1) Oil, which emulsifies the marinade, making it thicker and tackier and causing it to stick more efficiently to the meat. 2) Acid, which can “slightly” tenderize the meat. However, if left on over nine hours, will cause the meat to “cook,” creating a chalky texture. Remember, lime juice will “cook” fish…think ceviche. Therefore, oil and acid should be added to the marinade in equal parts. 3) Salt or Soy sauce, a great tenderizer that breaks down the meat’s protein, giving the meat a looser texture and a better ability to retain moisture.

I blend my marinade well and let it sit for 30 minutes prior to adding it to the meat in a Ziplock bag. Keep in mind, marinade effects are largely limited to the surface of the meat, including poultry.

In the order of tenderness, with 10 being the highest, are: Hanger 8/10, Flank 7/10, Skirt 6/10 and Tri-Tip 5/10.

Fajitas on the Grill

Marinade for 2-3 lbs. of Skirt Steak 

1/2 cup Soy sauce

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 canola oil

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cumin 

2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp. Chili powder

1 Tbsp. finely minced garlic

Mix well and in a Ziplock bag pour over meat, close bag and massage marinade into meat. Refrigerate 8-10 hrs.

Note: I set aside 1/4 cup of the marinade to add to the grilled vegetables as they are cooking.

1 each red, yellow and green Bell Pepper cut into 1/2 in. wide strips.

1 large Anaheim or Poblano chili, seeded and cut into 1/2 in. strips.

1 white or yellow onion cut into 1/2 in. slices (cut onion vertically from stem to pole)

4 Roma tomatoes seeded and cut into 1/2 in. slices.

Wipe marinade from steaks on an oiled and hot grill, cook for 1 minute, flip and cook for another minute. Continue cooking and flipping until meat reaches 120deg. for rare or 130deg. for medium rare. Take meat off the grill and tent while vegetables are cooking.

Heat a cast iron skillet on the grill that has been oiled and add the vegetables and saved marinade. Let the vegetables char a little and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until softened.

Thinly slice meat against the grain. Serve with the vegetables and corn or flour tortillas and any condiments, such as guacamole or salsa.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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