My youngest son & me

My youngest son & me

About me

My name is Tanja (Sater) Miller and I'm excited about sharing my journey of converting my favorite recipes to gluten free! I am not a fancy cook - I prefer just a casual, fun meal. I am married with grown children (and have small grandchildren) & 3 dogs. I work full time as a registered nurse & I am a geek. Yes, I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Fringe, Firefly, Farscape and most of the other Scify shows. You will probably see a little of my geek side come out once in a while! Please join me on my journey of cooking, baking & converting every day recipes into yummy gluten free meals that everyone can enjoy (not just those with a gluten allergy!) Don't be shy about checking out my recipes....I have the gluten free version along with the regular recipe that I adapted from!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Mini Fruit Pizzas! I love this recipe because it is very easy and makes a great presentation. Oh, and they taste scrumptious! I used to make the crust from scratch but I didn't have all the ingredients in my cupboard and I had a yellow cake I experimented and made a fabulous sugar cookie type crust with the cake mix. How easy is that?!

Of course you can add different types of chopped fruit or whatever toppings you prefer. I had some organic strawberries that worked perfect today. I chose to top my fruit pizza with a sweetened cream cheese spread and diced strawberries. If I wasn't taking them into work tomorrow, I would have probably chopped up the mint really fine and mixed in with the strawberries since I love that combination. My co-workers are not adventurous with flavors so I just used the mint from my herb garden as garnish. If you don't like cream cheese you can certainly use a whipped prepared frosting, mousse or whatever you prefer. You can also drizzle on some melted chocolate or add some mini chocolate chips for added color. I like these any way I make them!

Now that I have the crust converted to an easy recipe, I will have to sweet talk my mom into making her delicious berry tarts. They are so delicious! I will talk her into it and then I will photo and share the recipe in the future! :)

Mini Fruit Pizza Recipe:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix (I used Gluten Free "Live G Free" brand from Aldi today but you can use any yellow cake mix, 15-18 oz size)
  • 8 oz melted butter (I used real butter today but if you have a dairy allergy then you can use a non-dairy substitute)
  • 1 tsp. almond baking emulsion or almond flavoring, optional (I like to add this for an extra rich flavor rather than vanilla extract)
  • 1 egg

Mix all together with a wooden spoon or spatula. Incorporate all the ingredients well. It should have the texture of sugar cookie dough. If it is too crumbly then add a little bit of melted butter or tablespoon of water until you get the correct consistency. I put it in a large ziplock bag and roll it out with a rolling pin. (If you don't have a rolling pin then gently press it flat with your hand). Roll into the desired thickness you want your cookies. I then cut the ziplock bag with scissors down each side (leave the bottom of the bag intact so you can just fold the top portion of the bag backwards to cut your cookies and then fold it back over to re-roll the scraps). Cut your shapes. Bake on non-greased cookie sheet (I like to use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper for best results). Bake 350 degrees for 6-10 minutes depending on the crunch you prefer. I like mine with a little crunch! Cool completely before putting toppings on them! You can also put the cookie circles into a muffin pan to make little mini pie tarts if you prefer. Baking time will be the same.

Rolling out dough in a ziplock bag. Less mess and no stick!

I used a canning jar ring to cut my circle shapes today 

Cut bag down the long sides and fold back
I mixed one 8oz. block of cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Up close view of deliciousness!

Now I am ready for a cup of coffee!

Ready for work!

Ready to enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed this simple way to make mini fruit pizzas using a cake mix for convenience. It is super easy, delicious and makes a great presentation for any special occasion! Enjoy!

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Buttery Peach Cobbler

PEACH COBBLER! This is my mom's recipe. I have no idea where she got it from but ever since I can remember...this is the one she uses for peach cobbler. She has other recipes for cobblers. Her blackberry cobbler is dynamite too (see my gluten free version) but this one is different. It is a little sweeter, moister and has a rich, buttery flavor. Completely different style than the others. It has more of a chewy, cakey texture.

If I am making blackberry cobbler...I use her blackberry cobbler recipe. If I want peach cobbler....this is my go-to recipe. It is super easy and just melts in your mouth. It is satisfying by itself but you can garnish it with whipped cream or ice cream to elevate it to the next delicious level! I personally love it slightly warm. However, I am not real picky and have no problem eating it cold (for breakfast!). This was something my mom made frequently in the winter at our house growing up. We had peach trees and my parents harvested them and canned them. This was a great way to enjoy our summer fruit during the cold winters. You can certainly used store bought canned peaches which is what I used today. I don't have a peach tree so I had to revert to using canned fruit from the grocery store. It all works. I am pretty sure you can use other fruit in this recipe but I ALWAYS make it with peaches.

I love using real butter in this recipe because it adds a great rich, butter flavor. However, if you have a dairy allergy or don't have butter on can use Crisco, margarine or dairy free margarine substitute (just make sure it contains at least 65% fat or it will be too watery causing your cobbler to be soggy. No one wants soggy cobbler!). I have also substituted vegetable oil. Coconut oil is an option but you will get a faint taste of coconut and that will change the flavor of the cobbler. Olive oil is an option if it isn't too strong in flavor. Strong flavored olive oil can have a heavy, earthy flavor which doesn't always taste great in baked goods. Taste it first!  (I love chocolate infused olive oil in my brownies but I find it heavy for most cakes). Since we are talking about substituting items: you can also substitute a dairy free version of the milk. You can use almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk......or mayonnaise mixed with water. Yes, I know that sounds weird but it honestly works in baked items! It gives it a tangy buttermilk flavor but it seriously is a life savor in baked goods if you need it dairy free or if you are out of milk! I guess a lot of people don't realize that mayonnaise is actually dairy free. (Of course read your labels to be sure the brand you are using is labeled gluten free and doesn't contain dairy. I use Best Foods/Helman's brand).

This recipe can easily be halved for a smaller (8x8 or 8" round pan) or doubled for larger crowds. It is pretty flexible. I also have improvised when I didn't have quite enough flour so I substituted a gluten free yellow cake mix in place of the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. It worked fine too. I usually make my own homemade gluten free flour mix (because I do a lot of baking and prefer it) but you can use a store bought gluten free flour mix. I prefer one without sorghum flour since I don't care for the taste in my baked goods. I think it leaves a pea pod earthy taste that I don't like. If you don't mind the earthy taste in your baked goods....go ahead and use it. Of course if you don't have a gluten all means use regular flour! This is an OLD recipe that originally used regular flour and I converted it to gluten free so I could continue to enjoy it. All of my recipes on this blog can be made regular or gluten free. 

Peach Cobbler Recipe:

  • 1 cup butter (I prefer using real unsalted butter but you can substitute margarine, dairy free margarine, Crisco or vegetable oil. Just make sure your margarine contains at least 65% fat or it will be too watery)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (you can use less sugar if you prefer it less sweet or if your peaches are canned in syrup because this will add to the sweetness of your cobbler).
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (if your mix does not contain guar gum or xanthan gum then you will need to add 1/2 teaspoon). If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular flour and leave out the xanthan gum. 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • two cans or jars (about 15 oz each) sliced peaches. Save juice
  • 3/4 cup milk (you can substitute a non-dairy milk like almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk OR 1/4 cup mayonnaise mixed well with water. I sounds weird but it works in baking if you need to substitute milk. It gives it a tangy buttermilk flavor but it works. This is my secret if I don't have milk or if I need to make it dairy free! I don't recommend it on cereal or coffee though!)
Melt the butter or margarine or Crisco into a liquid form & pour it into the bottom of the 9x13 pan. If you are using oil then just pour it without warming it. (REMEMBER if you only want a small 8x8 pan then you will need to half the recipe!). Mix the flour, milk, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pour onto the melted butter. DO NOT STIR! The batter sink and the butter will ooze between it. Don't worry about it being perfectly uniform. It is a cobbler! It should look rustic! Place the peaches over top of the batter. I spoon half of the peach juice with the peaches. DO NOT STIR! It will bake together and the batter will absorb the peach juice and the butter or oil. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until top is lightly golden brown and cake portion springs back when lightly touched.

This is cobbler prior to baking. Don't stir the layers!

Baking in the oven

Just removed from the oven. Golden brown on top. Moist and peaches are soft!

Ready to cut and eat!

I wish you could smell it! Mouth watering!

Up close view! See how tender the cobbler cake portion is?

On a plate & ready to eat! :)

Where is the fork? This is still warm!

My Homemade Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour (I used sweet rice flour for this batch)
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (made from sticky rice, gluten free)
  • 1 cup potato starch (not flour)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk or dairy free milk powder, make sure it is very fine in texture
  • 1 cup corn starch or tapioca starch (I used tapioca starch for this batch)
  • 3 tbs. xanthan gum
Combine all ingredients together well. You can put it in the blender for an extra smooth texture if desired. I store mine in a glass container and use it in place of regular flour in all my recipes. This particular blend I really like for baked sweet goods and breads. (Note: if using my homemade gluten free flour blend you will not need to add additional xanthan gum to your recipe since this batch already contains it!)

This is one recipe that the flavors intensity after it cools down. I just can't ever seem to wait until it cools down! I burn my tongue EVERY TIME! The peach flavor really comes out after a few hours or overnight. This is a great recipe to make the night before and let it cool. You can always re-heat it in the microwave if you like to serve it slightly warm.

I hope you enjoyed a recipe blast from the past! This is one of my childhood favorites. When I think of a cold winter during a snow storm in SE Ohio....I think of my mom's peach cobbler. (Another favorite is Hillbilly sweet dumplings made with peaches but I just haven't perfected it gluten free....yet!) Nothing was better than warming up with this delicious treat....except a snow day with no school! Those were the days! 

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Frech Mints (Microwave Two ingredients!)

French Mints! Creamy, minty deliciousness! This recipe is so super quick an easy but looks sensational on a cookie plate or in a gift tin during any holiday or special occasion. I like to make these to give to my friends and family during the holiday season (I also like to make these at Valentine's day and Easter too!). They are a treat you can whip up really quick and they look elegant for any occasion. The French Mints are a creme de menthe flavor of mint....similar to an Andes mint rather than peppermint.

I love this recipe because you can make them weeks in advance and do it all in the microwave. I like to make several batches and keep them during the busy holiday season. These are elegant enough for a wedding, anniversary party, bridal shower or any other fancy affair! You can use this as a filling layer in your brownies instead of making it into individual mints. This will really dress up the brownies for the holidays!

If for any reason you can't find the mint flavored chips in your baking aisle (or if you want a different color than green for a special can use white vanilla baking chips and add creme de menthe flavored oil that you can purchase at Hobby Lobby, Michael's or Joann Fabric or online from Amazon. I have used the Loraine brand oils and they work great. You can also add a different color. They sell specialty food colors also right next to the flavors. For this recipe today, I kept it simple and just used the Guittard green mint chips (which are gluten free) along with the can of of sweetened condensed milk. Yep, that's it. You melt them together in microwave for 1-2 minutes and stir every 30 seconds until smooth. If you want to be really can dip them in green colored vanilla coating or chocolate coating which gives them a shiny elegant coating! Yep, I did that to kick it up a notch today!

I find that with each passing year, I am just as busy as the year before and I want to cut back on baking and gift shopping so I can spend quality time with people that are important to me. I don't want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen or have a messy kitchen the ENTIRE month of December. I want to do fun things with friends and family. Life is short and I want to enjoy it. However, I also want to have homemade treats to share. This is one of the recipes that allows me to compromise and have both!

French Mints (Creme de menthe candies)
  • 2 cups of Guittard green mint chips (You can substitute 2 cups of vanilla chips + 1-2 vials of Loraine creme de menthe oil found in candy department of most craft stores or pharmacies during the holidays). 
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
Mix together in a glass bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals (stir every 30 seconds) until smooth. Pour into a waxed lined 8x8 pan. Refrigerate until set. Cut into squares. At this point you can dip into melted chocolates for an elegant finish if desired but they are good just like this too!

These are the green mint chips I used. I found them at my local Winco grocery store in the baking aisle. 

Stirring every 30 seconds until smooth

Just removed from 8x8 square pan and getting ready to cut into squares

Cut into squares. Ready to eat or you can dip them into chocolate for a more elegant presentation

I decided to melt white and green candy coating for a mint green color to dip the chocolates.
You can use plain white or dark chocolate coating to dip them. Or do a combination of colors.

Just dipped into the green coating. Waiting for them to dry on the waxed paper

I decided to finish them off with a dark chocolate drizzle since I had some left from another holiday treat. 

Packaged and ready to give my friend

I wonder if she will notice if there is one missing?!  ;)

I hope you enjoyed this super easy, delicious and elegant treat that you can use for any celebration. Actually, I enjoy these while reading a book on the couch. No special occasion needed! Please post your pictures, comments, questions or substitutions that worked (or didn't work) below. We all learn from each other!

Enjoy each moment of the holiday season. I know it can be a hectic and stressful time of year filled with chaos but try to do 3 kind things each day. Not only will you make someone else's day more pleasant but it will make you feel better about yourself.

Love, Peace & Happiness! <3
Gluten Free Casually

Monday, December 12, 2016

Microwave Caramels

Caramels! Chewy, gooey delicious caramels! I love this recipe because they are super easy and can be done in ONE BOWL in the microwave in about 6 minutes with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Yes, they ARE that easy!

This recipe was given to me by a patient and I am thrilled she shared it with me. I love caramels and I make a lot of treats that contain caramel (cookies, cookie bars, candies, trifles, fudge, etc.) and most recipes require you to buy caramels and melt them down. This recipe is SO MUCH EASIER than that! I like to make these scrumptious caramels and dip into chocolate for individual gourmet treats! However, rather than cutting into squares you can let it thicken just a little bit and use it in your favorite cookie or candy recipe that calls for caramel.

This caramel recipe comes out creamy, soft, chewy and buttery tasting. It just melts in your mouth. If you want to kick it up a notch you can add a pinch of chipotle chile powder or garam masala powder or instant espresso powder. (Chinese 5 Spice also tastes great with caramels!) It just adds a hint of exotic flavor and makes the assortment of caramels a fun gift. If I am making them for the holidays to put on a candy plate then I like to make a few different batches with different little flavors. Nothing over powering....just a hint of exotic flavor.

I used to feel overwhelmed trying to make homemade caramels because I needed a candy thermometer, detailed instructions, heavy pots, timers, heavy duty spoons, lots of patients and pray that after all the stirring and time involved (usually about an hour) that my caramels turned out correctly. It was a lot of hassle and if I screwed them up (yes, I have done that a few times!) then I felt frustrated and wasted a lot of time and had a huge mess. This recipe is so ridiculously easy and minimal cleanup that you just have to try it. I find it much easier than unwrapping all the store bought caramel squares and melting them down. Plus....the taste of these are just amazing!

Microwave Caramels

  • 1/4 cup REAL butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I like to use the dark brown sugar but the light brown works fine too!)
  • 1/2 cup light colored corn syrup (I have heard you can substitute honey or maple syrup but I have not tried that so I just stick with corn syrup)
  • pinch of salt (only if your butter is unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used regular not low fat). Please note this is NOT evaporated milk. 

In a large 2 quart glass mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and give it a quick stir. It does not have to be smooth or well mixed. Set your microwave on high for 6 minutes and stop and stir the mixture every 60-90 seconds in the beginning. You may need to stir more frequently towards the end of the 6 minutes if the mixture is bubbling near the top of the bowl. You don't want it to overflow and make a mess in your microwave! I actually cooked my caramel mixture for 6 minutes + 30 seconds and that seemed to be perfect for my elevation and microwave. Pour into 8x8 buttered pan. I put into the refrigerator uncovered for a couple of hours so it could set up a little bit. It should not be rock-hard. I took a spatula and lifted it out of the pan. It stretched out of shape just a little bit but I pressed it back into a square and placed on wax paper. I scored it with a large knife into squares and then used my pizza cutter to cut the squares easily. At this point you can serve them or wrap them into waxed paper. I chose to dip mine into chocolate for holiday gifts. I put the caramel squares back into the refrigerator so they could stay chilled until I finished melting my dipping chocolate. Dip into chocolate and put onto wax paper until set. You can finish off the chocolate covered caramels by drizzling white chocolate on top or adding sprinkles, sea salt or edible glitter.

If you are going to use the caramels for another project you can store it in the refrigerator in waxed paper and put into a ziplock bag for several weeks. Then you can just melt it in microwave to soften or pinch off what you need depending on your recipe.

If you decide to add a powdered spice for a batch of the caramels then add it when you add the sugar to the mixture prior to putting it in the microwave so the flavors can incorporate into the caramel mixture when it is cooking.

Caramel Mixture in the microwave

Boiling and bubbling to near the top of the glass bowl

Creamy but still thin enough to pour

Pour into buttered 8x8 pan

After Cooling, it is ready to cut into squares

Ready to cut

Ready for taste test!

Ready to box up!
Ready to give to my friends!

Inside the caramel

Please share any of your versions or substitutions or pictures of your caramels! I enjoy your comments and hearing about how you made your recipe!

Happy holidays!
Gluten Free Casually

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle! This recipe is by far a great show stopper yet it is super easy and delicious. It is one of the oldest chocolate recipes I can remember from my childhood. We used to go to our dear family friend's house (we called  her  Grandma Deible) for Thanksgiving every year during my childhood and this was ALWAYS on her dessert table for any holiday. However, she used to make it as a regular layered cake and serve it on a beautiful glass plate. I improvised and make it in a trifle (I will tell you why in a bit!)

We loved going to Grandma Deible's house for holiday meals. The food was always hearty and it was ALWAYS a full house. Anyone that needed a place to go for a holiday meal...they got an invitation. Grandma Deible left no one all alone on a holiday. She was such a big hearted person. It was always an interesting mix of people and a good time! (The ONLY thing I hated was helping with ALL the dishes after the meal! She made EVERYTHING from scratch and no paper plates!)

Grandma Deible passed away many years ago but whenever I make this recipe, I always think of her and Thanksgiving. This year we are going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving and she is a little like grandma Deible. Everyone is welcome so they won't be alone. Holidays are about family, friends and making happy memories. Since her crowd of people is growing, I added a dessert to the list of food I am taking to share. What better recipe than this one? The recipe reminds me of all of those things that are important: family, friends, food and being thankful for what we have. Rest in peace Grandma Deible, your Thanksgiving traditions live on in many of our lives.

Anyone that knows me well....I will improvise recipes in a pinch to fit my needs or if something doesn't turn out quite right but is still gets "recycled" into a different dish. For instance...the trifle layering of this cake was a necessity one time because it was a requested dessert at a party. That particular day was not going right. I slightly over cooked the cake and it was slightly dry and the cake rounds were not perfect so I didn't think it was going to stack properly and we were driving a distance so I was concerned of it collapsing. Hmmmm.....No time to bake another cake or change my mind on something else. What is a busy lady going to do? Oh favorite way to recycle a dessert! TRIFLE! I just took the same ingredients and layered them in a glass bowl and it turned out perfectly. The moisture from the Cool Whip and cherries made the cake moist and delicious plus it made transportation of it a breeze! You can use an elegant trifle bow but I used an inexpensive glass bowl from Ikea (I think they are around $3) instead. That way I can leave my bowl with the hostess. This makes a great hostess gift as well.

The other thing I LOVE about this recipe is it can be made up to two days ahead! Yep, that takes away the holiday stress and mess in the kitchen. Just put some plastic wrap over the top and pop it in the refrigerator (or if you live in the midwest and it is super cold then you can store it in your garage! Everyone knows I have done that before in the past!).

The OTHER thing I LOVE about this recipe is that it is very forgiving and you can substitute items or use a boxed cake mix. You can make homemade cherry pie filling or use the canned from the grocery store. I honestly just prefer it the traditional way with basic ingredients but my oldest son doesn't like chocolate so he prefers it done with yellow or white cake. My son-in-law prefers strawberry pie filling over the cherry one. No problem, you can switch it up. You can also substitute brownies in place of the chocolate cake or you add a no bake cheesecake filling layer. You can use regular yellow or white cake and apple pie filling. I have done it all those different ways depending on what was requested and what I had in my cupboards. Honestly, I still prefer it the way I remember it...Chocolate cake layers, Cool Whip and Cherry Pie filling.

After my years of baking and hosting parties....I tell the younger people "KEEP IT SIMPLE". Presentation is everything! I love to bake from scratch BUT I have plenty of experience with being stressed at the holidays. Why? I would try to over achieve and make EVERYTHING from scratch which meant I was up at the crack of dawn cooking then had a messy kitchen to deal with on top of working full time, going to college (back in the day) and trying to manage a family of 3 kids. It was beyond insane at my house. I managed but I wish I would have taken a few shortcuts and made it a little less stressful. As I have aged, I have learned that the holidays is about family, friends and having a great time. If you are an exhausted hostess, it shows. Take a short cut when you can! There is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with using a great cake mix or canned pie filling for your holiday dessert. Just present it elegant and with a smile. (You can even "cheat" and use a store bought prepared cake and slice or chunk it up for the layers. That of course is easier if you don't have a gluten allergy. Finding a prepared gluten free chocolate cake is more difficult but I am sure it can be done. I just go with a good GF cake mix. If you don't have a gluten allergy then of course you can use a regular cake mix!)

Cherry Chocolate Cake Trifle Recipe:

  • 1 box of cake mix, prepared according to the box instructions. I used Pillsbury Gluten Free Devils Food cake one for today and it worked perfectly. You can also make your cake from scratch or buy a store bought and cut into chunks for layering. (If you do not have a gluten allergy then you can use a regular cake mix!)
  • 2 cans of cherry pie filling (if you want to be an over-achiever you can make it from scratch but then you will have to wash more pots and who needs more dishes at the holidays?!) Read your labels. Most pie filling is gluten free but some may not be!
  • 1 large tub or two smaller 8 oz. tubs of Cool Whip or any non-dairy topping. (I have substituted the Coconut one that is dairy free from Sprouts for someone with a dairy allergy and it worked fine) You can certainly use fresh whipped cream but it will not hold up as well as Cool Whip, especially if you are traveling with it or making it two days in advance. 
  • Chocolate shavings for garnish, optional

Prepare the cake according to instructions and let it cool. I chose to bake mine in two round 8" pans so that I could just slide them into the bowl. My bowl is narrow on the bottom so I had to gently push the cake to fit a little bit. Layer one can of cherry pie filling and try to get it to the edge so you can see the cherry layer a little bit. It makes for an elegant presentation. Then layer the Cool Whip topping. It really doesn't matter which layer you start with but I like to end with the cherry pie filling on top for presentation and then I sprinkle some shave chocolate on top for garnish. I just take a chocolate bar and grate a little chocolate on top.

How easy is that? Yeah....simple elegance that tastes FANTASTIC!
This is the cake mix I used for today's recipe. I found at Walmart next to regular cake mixes

Canned Cherry Pie Filling

My cakes baking in the oven according to directions on box

Press the cake layer into bottom of my bowl

This is the cake after I have layered it into the bowl

This is a view from the top of the trifle

View of the layers from the side

ready to serve

Yes, Holidays can be easy, delicious and elegant. Keep it simple and don't stress. Please feel free to post photos and tips of your cake trifle and any changes that you made. We all learn from each other.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Gluten Free Casually