Friday, July 31, 2015

Lemon Bars - Gluten Free

Gluten Free Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are the one dessert that epitomizes summer above all others.

Not only does their bright, tart, lemony flavor scream summer the way only citrus can, but, their smaller size makes them perfect for the lighter eating habits most of us adopt as the temperature rises.  And I love the textural juxtaposition of the smooth lemon curd against the crisp shortbread crust.

But above their perfection for the season, lemon bars are extremely easy to make.  The crust is pressed in place right in the pan and the lemon layer is a simple mix and dump.

If you like lemons, you’ll absolutely love these bars.    

Lemon Bars
Prep time: 15 min
Bake time: 25-30 min
Servings: 16 small triangles

Crust Ingredients:
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of gluten free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking blend)

Lemon Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup gluten free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking blend)
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Video Tutorial: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 175 °C) and line an 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the crust cream together the butter, sugar and zest of one lemon until fluffy then add the flour and mix until you’ve got a crumbly mixture.
  3. Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan and bake it for 15 minutes.
  4. To make the lemon filling beat together the eggs and sugar until they’re well mixed and paler in color.
  5. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until thoroughly combined then add the flour and beat until it’s lump free and smooth.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until set.
  7. Allow the bars to cool then dust with confectioner’s sugar slice and serve.

ZENPRO Hand Beater / Mixer Review

ZENPRO Hand Held Mixer ? Beater

Whenever a company asks me to review a product or gadget, I'm always excited.

And after testing out the ZENPRO hand mixer / beater, I found it to be the perfect gadget for all those mixing jobs that are too small to drag out an electric beater.  

It comes in a small box that contains the mixer itself and a plastic ring that holds an egg separator, three commonly sized measuring spoons and a leveler.

The mixer itself is lightweight and sturdy and comes with a lifetime guarantee.  The gear rotation mechanism has a very smooth feel and works in either direction. 

There are two small buttons that allow you to remove the whole beater assembly so you can wash it separately.  Since my hands are pretty weak I had trouble with the depressing buttons to make this function work.  My 13 year old daughter had no problems working this feature. Each of the beaters snaps out too and everything in the beater assembly is dishwasher safe.

All in all, I love this thing. 

Check out my video review here:

To find the ZENPRO mixer at Amazon click HERE.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chicken Fried Steak

Gluten Free Chicken Fried Steak

Today I thought I’d do a quick blog covering the who, what, when, where and why of Chicken Fried Steak.

Who misses chicken fried steak? 

The short answer to this one is me and probably every other gluten free person out there who can no longer order this dish from a diner menu since it's coated in flour.  Another answer is anyone avoiding the dish due to its higher caloric and fat content.  This blog solves the dilemma facing the gluten free set but unfortunately does nothing for the latter group so I apologize in advance.  

What is chicken fried steak anyway? 

If you'r not familiar with this one, I'm left to wonder if you’ve  been living under a rock.  I guess that's not fair.  Perhaps you’re from another part of the world so let me describe it.  Basically chicken fried steak is a cheap cut of beef like round steak that has been sliced on the thinner side then passed through a tenderizing machine.  The steak is then coated with seasoned flour then fried the same way fried chicken is done.  Of course the deliciousness wouldn’t be complete without the milk based gravy and starchy sides.

When was chicken fried steak invented? 

According to Wikipedia, there are multiple claims of credit for the dish but in 1838 a Virginia housewife named Mary Randolph first published a recipe very similar but it used veal cutlets instead of the steak. The recipe for what we now know as chicken fried steak was included in many regional cookbooks by the late 19th century.

Where is this dish most popular?

Since chicken fried steak comes from southern roots I’d say it is most popular in the southern states.  Scratch that. This dish has become such a big part of Americana that it’s popular everywhere and can be found on most classic diner menu’s coast to coast.  I forgot to mention that chicken fried steak is also called country fried steak on many menus.  Perhaps including the word chicken in a dish that doesn't contain chicken confused people so some opted for for the country fried steak moniker instead.

Why am I so excited?

I’m super stoked simply because  I’ve recreated this classic comfort food so that it fits in with my gluten free lifestyle.  Just take one bite of this chicken fried steak and you’ll be excited too.  I guarantee it.

Chicken Fried Steak
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 2-4

  • 1 lb cube steak
  • oil for frying (vegetable or something flavorless)

Ingredients for the Buttermilk Brine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp salt

Ingredients for the Seasoned Flour
  • 1 ½ cups gluten free flour ( I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour)
  • ¾ cup corn starch
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Ingredients for the Gravy
  • 1 ½ tbsp reserved oil from frying the steaks
  • 2 tbsp gluten free flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 bouillon cube (beef or chicken)

Video Tutorial: 

  1. In a medium bowl beat the egg then add the buttermilk, hot sauce and salt and whisk until well combined then add the cube steaks and let them soak while you prep the flour.
  2. In another medium bowl combine the gluten free flour and cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of salt and the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper and stir until well combined.
  3. Remove each cube steak from the buttermilk brine and let the excess liquid drip off before dipping the meat into the seasoned flour then turn it over to coat it thoroughly and place the meat onto a baking rack where the air can circulate.  
  4. Once all the meat is coated if you want a thicker coating you can return the steak to the egg mixture then back into the seasoned flour before placing it back onto the rack to let it rest for at least 15 minutes before frying.
  5. To fry them, in a medium cast-iron skillet, heat ½ inch of vegetable oil to a medium heat and fry 2-3 steaks at a time until they start to look golden brown which should take about 2-3 minutes per side
  6. Drain them on a wire rack so the air can circulate and they won’t get soggy while you make the gravy.
  7. For the gravy, remove all but 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil from the pan then sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of gluten free flour…. and with the pan over a medium low heat whisk the flour and grease together stirring constantly to create a golden roux then pour in the milk and a beef bouillon cube and continue whisking until the bouillon is dissolved and the gravy is thick and smooth then serve with the steaks.   

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chianti Beef Jerky

Chianti Beef Jerky

This past January at our annual Super Bowl bash, my son’s fiance brought over a delicious batch of beef jerky.  It was the perfect addition to the rest of the game day fare.  And it was fantastic. 

Jerky can be super hard and if you pick it up at the checkout line of the supermarket, it might not be that fresh.  Instead her variety was a supple, perfectly spiced jerky that she claimed was actually super easy to make.

In place of using strips of meat, her jerky was made with lean ground beef that was mixed with spices and curing salt then dehydrated for a few hours and it was done.  I was pretty surprised to learn that she had picked up her Nesco Jerky X-Press kit for about $35.00 at Amazon.  And the kit contains the dehydrator, extrusion gun, spice packs and everything needed to make the finished product except for the beef itself.

For today’s recipe I actually I didn’t use their seasoning packs since I wanted to make something a little more original.  My chianti beef jerky is a nod to my Italian roots and is flavored more like a salami instead of a jerky.

This dried beef would fit right in on a cheese board next to the other charcuteries and cheeses.         

Chianti Beef Jerky
Prep time: 1 hour
Dehydrating time: 4 hours
Servings: 32

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Video Tutorial: 

  1. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well. 
  2. For a better flavored jerky it’s best to refrigerate the mixture for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend before you make the jerky.
  3. To load the meat mixture into the jerky x-press extruder, depress the silver tab and pull the knob all the way back. 
  4. Unscrew the end and load the mixture into the tube then add your desired tip. ..(I used the flat ribbon tip) then press the knob until it pushes against the meat.
  5. Hold the gun over one of the dehydrator trays and squeeze the trigger a few times until you have a length you like then cut it with a scissors or knife.
  6. As each tray is filled stack them on top of each other and once all the meat has been extruded turn the machine on.
  7. It will take between 4-15 hours to dehydrate based on how thick the meat is.
  8. After the first four hours check it every hour until you have a texture that is dry and leathery but not brittle.  Mine took 4 hours.
  9. When it’s done blot the jerky with paper towels to absorb any excess grease.  I had very little since I used such lean meat.  
  10. I stored this refrigerated since I didn't use the jerky cure that contains sodium nitrate which may or may not be necessary.

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