Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Great Steaks!

If you are a meat lover, nothing beats a great steak. In fact, if you talk to many chef’s and ask what they cook for themselves when they are not at work or not preparing a dinner party, they will often say ‘a great steak and a simple salad with the freshest ingredients’. This is definitely true at the homes of the Glutenfreeda chef’s as well.

So what makes a great steak? Success relies on a naturally tender cut of meat. Tender, mild-flavored steaks come from the top and middle sections, while less tender but more flavorful steaks come from the front and hind quarters. Stick to prime or choice grade steaks for optimal tenderness and flavor.

Whether your preferred preparation for steak is grilling, broiling or pan-frying, we’d like to offer a few tips that will help you to prepare the perfect steak.

The number one key to cooking a great steak, regardless of the cooking method, is in knowing when to stop. Many cooks have their own individual ways of telling when a steak is cooked just right. A sure-fire way is to check the internal temperature of the steak to know when it has cooked long enough. The internal temperature for a rare steak is 135 degrees F; for medium-rare it’s 145 degrees F; and for medium it’s 155 degrees F. If you’re wondering what the temperature is for well-done, you won’t find it here because we believe no steak should be cooked past medium. If you like your meat well-done, we suggest you choose a different cut of meat. The only problem with the thermometer method is that steak will continue to cook after it has been removed from the heat source. So, to end up with a rare steak, the steak should be pulled off the heat when it registers about 125 degrees F.

An easier way to test a cooking steak is by touch. To those who are not outdoor barbecue kings and queens, this may sound like unproved science, but it is actually very accurate and it doesn’t require fussing with a thermometer.

The touch test:

For rare: The steak, when touched or lightly pushed on will give easily and feel soft.

For medium-rare: The steak will feel firmer than that of a rare steak but not hard.

For medium: The steak will feel firm and give only slightly.

To get a feel for the touch test method, try cooking a steak to what you think is rare and touch it, then let it cook a little longer and touch it again. You will quickly get a sense for the difference.

The next tip is to always cook steak over high or medium-high, direct heat. This sears the outside making it crisp and keeps the inside moist and juicy. There is nothing less appealing than a steak cooked over medium or low heat on a grill. The steak will lack flavor, be gray in color and will probably be stiff and leathery. High heat searing is what causes that great steak flavor, just as in pan-frying, high heat produces browned bits that are the flavor and the base of any great steak sauce.

Choose your steak based on how you intend to prepare it. Here are some helpful details about several different cuts of beef to help you make the best steak possible.

The Filet: The most popular and also most expensive steak comes from the short loin. These steaks are ideal for grilling and pan searing.

Porterhouse & T-Bones: Cutting the short loin into bone-in steaks will yield the large porterhouse steak and the T-bone steak. The porterhouse will be more expensive because it contains a larger section of tenderloin. Great for grilling.

New York Strip: Another popular steak containing no tenderloin and no bone. Great for grilling, pan searing & broiling.

Rib steaks and boneless rib-eye steaks: These steaks are cut from the rib section of the beef. These often have more fat marbled throughout the meat which gives more flavor than you will find in a filet. They may be less tender than a filet but they are rich and juicy — great for grilling and broiling.

Top sirloin steak: Comes from the top section of the sirloin (hence the name). These steaks are good grill steaks and are sometimes cut into large sections — enough to serve 3-4 people.

Top round steak: This steak comes from the hind leg portion. For many steak lovers, this steak offers the best combination of texture and flavor. Avoid the tough eye-of-the-round steaks — these are best braised until tender. These steaks take well to marinades.

Flank steak: This steak is a lean, flat, boneless cut from the underside of the beef. It has tremendous flavor but must be cooked quickly and sliced very thin across the grain to be tender. This steak does very well when marinated.

Skirt steak: This long, narrow steak is also referred to as fajita steak. It is more tender and contains more fat than the flank steak. Like flank and top round this steak is best quickly broiled or grilled and takes well to marinades.

Buying tips: In the supermarket choose steaks that are at least _ inches thick. If you have the luxury of a butcher request steaks that are about 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick for the best results. Steaks thinner than _ inch tend to dry out and toughen quickly.

Cooking Time: Use the chart below for approximate cooking times. All steaks should be flipped halfway through the cooking time. Keep in mind that the second side will cook faster than the first.

Steak Type





Filet, Flank or Skirt

1 inch

2 inches

6-8 minutes

10-12 minutes

8-10 minutes

12-16 minutes

10-12 minutes

16-18 minutes

Boneless top loin, rib, sirloin, top round

1 inch

2 inches

6-8 minutes

12-16 minutes

8-10 minutes

16-18 minutes

10-12 minutes

18-20 minutes

Bone-in T-bone, porterhouse, rib, top loin or skirt steak

1 inch

2 inches

10-12 minutes

16-18 minutes

12-16 minutes

18-22 minutes

16-18 minutes

22-26 minutes

Here are some of our favorite steak recipes using different cuts of meat and different cooking methods:

Mozzarella Stuffed Flank with Chilean Rub

Stuffed Filets with Pepper Sauce

Steak au Poivre

Steak Dianne with Home Fries

Chile Steak with Pico de Gallo & Feta

Steak with Pears & Gorgonzola

Steaks with Passilla Chili Sauce

Steak with Gorgonzola Butter

Sirloin Steaks with Fennel & Tarragon

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Grilled Porterhouse Steaks with Olive Butter

Grilled Steaks with Caramelized Onions & Feta

Italian Steak with Fresh Herbs

Pan Seared Steak with Cherry Wine Sauce

Rib Eye Chili Steaks

Blackened Steak with Cajun Rub

We hope you enjoy these great steaks as much as we do!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unbelievable Chocolate Cakes!

News Bulletin for all those chocolate lovers out there….if you think a great chocolate cake is out of your reach on a gluten-free diet, think again! Chocolate cakes can be prepared, gluten-free, with spectacular results. From the every day layer cake to extravagant multi-layer genoise with flavored syrups and ganache, our gluten-free chocolate cakes are indistinguishable from the gluten variety.

The best chocolate cakes, gluten-free or not, are to a large extent the result of the quality of the ingredients you use. If you intend to bake an extraordinary cake, you should use the highest quality of ingredients that you can. To this philosophy one can also apply common sense. As an example, if you are making a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake for guests, you may want to go the extra mile and splurge on the best organic ingredients you can find; but on the other hand, if you are making cup cakes for the kids, standard and less expensive ingredients may be more appropriate. The following are some tips on ingredients that will help ensure the success of your cakes.


The great thing about chocolate cakes is that gluten-free flour seems to behave wonderfully when combined with chocolate. This is true for melted chocolate and cocoa powder. We have achieved superb baking results using the following gluten-free flour formula.

  • 2 cups rice flour (white or brown)
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

To simplify matters, double, triple or quadruple this formula; mix well and fill your flour canister, then forget about it. This gf flour can be used for anything calling for flour, cakes, gravy, sauces, coatings for meat, poultry or fish. For quick breads and cookies add up to an additional 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum. There are many other gf flour recipes in other cookbooks and from a variety of other sources, but we have found that many of these produce unreliable results. There are also other types of flours that some flour recipes use, such as garbanzo bean flour, and although they do provide additional nutritional value, they add additional flavors and textures to what is desired. And, let’s face it, are we really going after high nutrition value when we bake a cake? No, we want a sinfully delicious dessert. You can certainly experiment with other gf flour recipes, but be advised that when making our chocolate cakes, you may get different results.


Dark Baking Chocolate:

We consider chocolate the star ingredient of any chocolate cake and therefore, always use a top quality chocolate. Our preferred chocolate for baking is Scharffen Berger’s. This chocolate is handcrafted, naturally gluten-free, expensive and worth every penny.

Dark baking chocolate is available in unsweetened, bittersweet and semisweet. The difference between these is in the amounts of chocolate liqueur, sugar and flavor additives that they contain. Chocolate liqueur is also known as chocolate solids and is the pure essence of roasted, skinned cocoa beans. It actually contains no alcohol.

For the majority of cakes we bake, we use semi-sweet chocolate.

Cocoa Powder:

Cocoa powder is available as nonalkalized and alkalized (also called Dutch Process). To alkalize non-alkalized cocoa, add a pinch of baking soda. Alkalized cocoa powder is darker and has a milder flavor.


We are aware that there are still those who avoid vanilla extract on a gluten-free diet. Our recipes include vanilla extract, as we believe it is gluten-free because the protein in gluten found in the alcohol ingredient is destroyed in the distilling process.

There are many varieties of vanilla extracts on the market and some that even identify that they are gluten-free on the package. We always choose the most pure vanilla extract that we can find.


We have the pleasure of raising our own free-range and organic chickens and therefore have an endless supply of eggs. Obviously, not everyone can raise chickens, but if you can find free-range, organic eggs, you will discover that there is a tremendous difference from regular store-bought eggs. Free-range, organic eggs have deep orange yolks and are very flavorful. Whichever type of egg you buy, be sure to always select large eggs for baking. Eggs are essential in gluten-free baking to assist in rising and in lightening the cake.

All our recipes use the correct number of eggs to produce the desired result. If you wish to convert a recipe to a gluten-free version, we recommend adding an additional egg to the recipe.


Rule of thumb is always use unsalted butter in not only cake recipes but for all general cooking. Salt can and should be added as a separate ingredient and as necessary. However, a key reason for using unsalted butter is that is fresher. Salt acts like a preservative and therefore salted butter can be kept longer before being sold. We prefer Land O Lakes brand or any of the organic butters on the market.


Organic cream or milk are also far superior that regular cream or milk, and of course more expensive. If you can afford organic, you will find that it is worth the extra cost in taste, not to mention the health factor.

When a recipe calls for whipping cream, it simply means heavy cream that is whipped.

A key for whipping cream quickly is to pre-chill the bowl and beaters. Cream will whip faster when the tools you use are cold. Cream can also be whipped by hand with a whisk. Again, the bowl and whisk must be chilled and it does take a bit of wrist strength and endurance but it’s nice to know that you can do it if you want or had to.

Whipped cream will keep for several days in the refrigerator without change.


It is our belief that liqueurs are gluten-free. As with vanilla, the protein found in gluten is destroyed in the distilling process.

Liqueurs add spectacular nuances of flavors and transform a cake from great to fabulous. Liqueurs are also used in cake batters and in fillings like ganache.


Syrups are usually a combination of a liqueur, sugar and water that has been heated into a syrup consistency. Syrups are used to give a cake an additional hint of flavor and to moisten the baked cake.

We’re confident that any of the following cake recipes will astound you. Not only are they gluten-free, but they just might be the best chocolate cakes you have ever made or tasted!

Chocolate Almond Cherry Cream Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Fudge Cake

German Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Decadence

Raspberry Bavarian Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International Cuisine: Foods of Chile

A friend of mine has been traveling to Chile for business and once a month as we catch up on each other’s lives, he tells the tale of a far off sliver of a country, complete with majestic mountain peaks, fertile farm land, spectacular horse ranches and grapes as far as the eye can see. I find myself becoming ever more enchanted with each conversation.

So naturally, when we we’re exploring the possibilities for our monthly International Cuisine feature, it had to be Chile.

Chile cradles the southwest end of South America, and boasts a varied terrain with a wide range of climates from dry deserts to the chilling peaks of the Andes to the Pacific’s Mediterranean ocean breezes. This combination of diverse climates and environments provides an extraordinary array of fish, meats, fruits and vegetables.

Today’s Chilean cuisine is a combination of old and new world recipes that reflect the influence of the Spaniards, Castilians, Andalusians and Basques as well as today’s more modern preparations. Typical Chilean cuisine is simple, straight- forward, wholesome and is cooked in home-style fashion.

The people of Chile take dining very seriously. A typical day begins with a continental style breakfast, Desayuno and is followed by lunch, Almuerzo, which is the main meal of the day. Dinner or supper, called, Cena, is typically a light meal served around 9pm.

Chilean food can be spicy and is usually very flavorful. Many herbs and spices enhance Chilean cooking like paprika, garlic, cilantro, parsley, oregano, sweet basil, thyme, mint, pepper, cumin, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves.

Sample Chilean cuisine in your own kitchen this month with ‘Lentil and Chorizo Soup’, a delicious soup with just the right amount of spice; or our not so traditional version of stuffed flank steak with ‘Mozzarella Stuffed Flank with Chilean Rub’, this entree is full of flavor and cooks in just minutes. For a great side or main dish try ‘Lentils with Rice and Sausage’, filling, satisfying and good for the soul. And for a different and low-fat dessert try ‘Honey Flavored Meringue’, this sweet nothing will literally melt in your mouth.

We hope you enjoy these recipes and that they will inspire you to do your own exploring into the foods and kitchens of Chile.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Harvesting your Herb Garden

A couple months ago I wrote an article on planting your herb garden. I have had many emails thanking us for the information and inspiration to start their own herb gardens this spring/summer. Now that your herbs have been in the ground or pot for about a month or so (depending on where you live), it is time to start reaping the rewards! Here are some helpful tips on how to keep your herbs healthy, how to make them grow their best (now and in future years), and how to harvest these full-flavored herbs for your kitchen.
  1. Know the herb’s background:
  2. Many common herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano come from the Mediterranean, where the temperatures are mild and the soils are well-drained. Other herbs like mint prefer wetter soils. Mimicking these conditions will help these herbs develop the best flavor.

  3. Keep your herbs strong:
  4. Soak the soil when it’s dry to 4 inches deep. Over-fertilizing herbs will cause them to be less flavorful and can encourage pests. Apply a little fertilizer only if the leaves turn yellow. Some herbs, such as basil, tarragon, and chives require more fertilization. Fertilize these herbs once a month starting in the spring with a soluble low-nitrogen fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Soft herbs, like basil, rot easily in cool, wet soil. Keep these herbs in raised beds or containers with good drainage.

  5. Weeding & thinning:
  6. Carefully remove annual weeds as they germinate, hand pull perennial weeds when found and avoid letting any weeds go to seed. Be careful around perennial herbs such as oregano & lavender for they have more extensive and widespread root systems. Care should be taken not to disturb the roots when weeding. Other perennial herbs such as chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and lavender need periodic pruning and winter protection in cold climates. In the spring, trim the woody growth off the lavender, sage, thyme, and rosemary to shape and rejuvenate. Chives, sage, mint, and tarragon are hardy and are able to withstand harsh winters. However, rosemary should be grown in pots and brought indoors during the winter months.

  7. Controlling Pests
  8. Control aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs with insecticidal soap to control them. Some caterpillars will eat parsley and dill. Hand-pick individual caterpillars. Beetles, including Japanese beetles love basil. Trap or hand-pick beetles in the morning hours to control.

  9. Harvesting Herbs

When and how you harvest your herbs will make a difference in their potency. Most herbs taste best when harvested mid-morning, when the weather has been clear and dry for a few days.

Chives — Harvest six weeks after planting or as established plants sprout in the spring. Snip as needed. The flowers are edible but be sure to remove them before they seed.

Cilantro — Harvest when the leaves are 4-6 inches tall. The whole plant is edible.

Basil — Harvest just as the plant starts to bud. Snip off the branches instead of individual leaves to stimulate more growth. Remove the flowers to encourage more leafy growth.

Dill — Harvest 8 weeks after planting.

Mint — Harvest as needed, cutting back the plants occasionally to rejuvenate. The highest oil content in the leaves occurs at full flower in mid-summer.

Oregano — Harvest leaves as needed. Trim back plants before flowering to promote more growth.

Parsley — Harvest as needed. Cut entire stalks from the outer portion of the plant. Transfer to pots (if in beds) and bring indoors in the fall for indoor use during the winter.

Sage — Harvest as needed. Wait until the second year after planting to harvest leaves heavily.

Thyme — Harvest as needed. Use the leaves and young stems with leaves attached. Trim plants in the spring to encourage growth.

Rosemary — Harvest sprigs before flowering. Shape plants in early spring.

Tarragon — Harvest in early summer for the best flavor. Prune back plants in early spring to reduce height by a third.

Marjoram — Harvest when flowers appear in early summer. Cut back plants to the soil line in early summer. Repeat a second time in mid-summer.

Fresh herbs are truly essential to fine cooking. They are really easy to grow (trust me — I am not known for my green thumb and even I can do it!). All that is needed is a few feet of soil near the kitchen or a few pots around your porch or deck.