My youngest son & me

My youngest son & me

About me

Hi!
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!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Star Wars Baker's Hutch "Upcycle" Project


Although this is a cooking blog...I have been asked by so many people to share my recent "geek project".  Since it is related to cooking, I decided I would share. I love geeky items like Star Wars, Star Trek, green aliens, etc. I wanted a baker's cabinet but didn't want to spend a lot of money and I wanted something on the geeky side rather than a "girly" flower type cabinet. I found a used hutch on craigslist for a decent price then I got started on my project.

I researched a lot before I got started. I didn't want to keep the original maple color and the hutch wasn't in perfect condition. It was used, had some minor scratches and dents but was perfect for the "upcycle" project I had in mind. I wanted to go with fun, bright colors to match the kitchen chairs that I re-upholstered with the help of my friend Laura. (My friend Judi scored me the awesome Star Wars fabric!) I really loved the fun print and the bold, sassy colors in the geek fabric and I wanted to bring the same fun colors into the hutch.

Before I got started, I researched the best way to paint furniture. Although there are many great products out there and a lot of different ways to do it, I chose to clean the wood furniture really well with Dawn dish soap and water. I purchased Zinsser primer. It doesn't require you to sand the furniture or strip it first which is convenient. It got great reviews online so I decided to try it. I did two coats of the Zinsser primer (letting it dry between layers). The primer coat doesn't have to be perfect.

Since we really like the Valspar paint, I chose two colors that were a close match to my fabric. I chose the colors "pool party" which is a dark turquoise blue color and "sassy green" which is a very bright lime color. I won't tell you about the eye rolls I got from the people behind the paint counter. They asked what I was painting with bright colors. I whip out my fabric and show them how well it matches! They asked me if I was doing a kid's bedroom. Hahahahahaha! When I told them it was for a Star Wars themed hutch...for a kitchen....well....I think they were speechless. You know you are a total geek when people don't get as enthusiastic about a geek project as you do. I tend to be a bit of a chatterbox and I can get quite enthusiastic about things I love. Well...I quickly realized that my audience at Lowe's were giving me the "Crazy Lady" looks...so I grabbed my paint and hurried home. I am sure the contractors listening at the counter where thankful that I wasn't their wife! Star Wars Kitchen?! Heck, I doubt any of them even knew who Yoda was. Hahahaha! Anyway...I did two coats of each paint in the areas I used them. I used a small smooth roller on the sides and top for faster & smoother application and a brush every place else. I did not put a "sealer" top coat over the paint. I was told it would eventually turn a yellowish color and that it wasn't needed since it isn't a kitchen table and won't be getting abused.

The insides of the cabinet were just cheap particle board and I like a surface that is easy to clean up. We chose to get some inexpensive peel & stick linoleum tiles and cut to fit in each of the drawers and the bottom of the cabinet. I know I would end up spilling something eventually and I wanted it to look neat and easy to clean!

Then came the knobs. Wow...I had a difficult time finding knobs. Not only are they EXPENSIVE but I couldn't find anything geeky or modern in my price range. I needed 16 knobs and I sure didn't want to pay more money for knobs than I had for the cabinet. I also didn't want to go with cheap plastic knobs or with something girly. So I did some brain storming. I had silicone ice cube/chocolate molds that I had received as a gift. I knew that I should be able to make some type of knobs out of clay. I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased some clay that you can bake (Of course I used my 40% coupon that I found online!). If you don't have a Hobby Lobby near you, I am sure any craft store like Michael's, JoAnn Fabrics and even the craft department at Wal-Mart will have the clay. Just make sure it is the type you bake. Read instructions because each brand is slightly different. They come in colors or white that you can paint. (I bought the colored). I measured the size screws that I would need. My grand-daughter (age 2) helped me press the clay into the molds. I carefully placed the screw in the unbaked clay. Then I baked the molds with the clay & screws for 30 minutes at 275 degrees. I let them cool then I gently popped them out. BINGO! Inexpensive custom knobs! Geek alert!

After it was all assembled, I thought I needed a little more green accent. I purchased some green clay (the one you can bake) and rolled it out on parchment paper. I used a Yoda cookie cutter to cut the Yoda accent piece. I used an industrial glue to attach it.

I am pleased with the results. It isn't perfect...if you look closely I am sure you can find a few flaws but it works great for my geeky baker's hutch. It offers storage for my baking supplies. I have enclosed pictures of my project in stages so anyone that is interested in making something similar at home can do it easily.

My silicone DarthVader Molds (suppose to be for ice cubes or chocolate...but you can make knobs out of them!)

This is the base of the hutch. I had already taken the top off and started to dissemble it before I remembered to take photos. Sorry!

I took all the hinges off the doors and put them in a bag & labeled it

The drawers

After two coats of the Zinsser primer paint (it is white)

2 coats of the Zinsser primer

After Two coats of the "Pool Party" blue color from Valspar (I chose satin finish)


This is the maple top portion of the hutch. I have already removed the door and the drawer

After two coats of the Zinsser primer paint

My green clay and Yoda cookie cutter. I baked on parchment paper at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Cooled off and slightly hardened. Ready to glue onto my hutch for accent color and fun!


This is the hutch ready to use! (Don't mind the unfinished walls behind it. This geek kitchen is still  under remodeling!

Another view of the hutch after it is assembled


These are the kitchen chairs that gave me the idea for the colors of the hutch

Up close view of the super cool fabric!

GEEK ALERT! Star Wars Hutch!

Up close view of my Darth Vader Knobs

I am using a Darth Vader Halloween Pail as my utensil holder

My Star Wars empty popcorn tins now hold my gluten free baking flours & sugars

Inside the little door on the hutch top piece. It will store my measuring cups & spoons in addition to some spices
I hope you enjoy my little geek project. I had a lot of fun doing it and I like how it pulled together the colors from the Star Wars kitchen chairs. I would like to say "SORRY" to the lady I bought the hutch from. She was so excited that it was going to a good home. I think she was under the impression that I was going to strip it down and refinish it. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I was about to "GEEK" up her grandma's hutch. The hutch will be loved & cherished though! :)

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. By the way, I did not get paid or compensated in any way to recommend the products I used. I am honestly telling you what I used in case someone else would like to do a similar project.

Geeky Girl
Tanja


Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Chicken. I have had several requests for more quick & easy dinner recipes. Everyone loves recipes that get you dinner to the table fast without a lot of prep work. Here is another recipe that I really like because not only is it easy &  affordable but you can change the ingredients slightly for a whole new flavor. I love versatile recipes like that! You can change the flavor of the cheese you use, you can substitute boneless pork loin or thick cut boneless pork chops for the chicken and change out the spinach for any other type of thin cut veggie that will cook fast or substitute the spinach with thinly sliced ham, pepperoni or salami. It all works. Use whatever you have on hand or whatever is on sale at the grocery store.

I like it because you just slice partway through the chicken or pork and put your ingredients in the slits, sprinkle with your favorite seasoning, cover & bake or grill (or you can even just put it in the crock pot before work so it is ready when you get home! Just be sure to add some fluid to the crock pot so you don't burn your meat). How easy is that? These freeze great too so feel free to make a big batch of them and freeze either before or after cooking for a super quick meal later. I serve with rice or gluten free pasta. Depending on what flavor seasonings and "fillings" I use in the chicken (or pork) will determine how I season my rice or pasta. Sometimes I just keep it simple and sprinkle on a light drizzle of olive oil with the same seasoning I used on the chicken.  (The Weber brand Zesty Lemon flavor seasoning is great on rice & pasta in place of sauce. You can use seasonings to season a lot of things besides meat! Think outside the box! It is a great way to make your own gluten free seasoned rice!) Most of the boxed seasoned rice contain gluten so I like to make my own. Not only is it healthier but it sure tastes great & more affordable! (I AM NOT GETTING PAID TO SPONSOR OR GETTING FREE PRODUCTS TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS. I DON'T HAVE ADS ON MY BLOG. I CAN HONESTLY TELL YOU WHAT I LIKE & USE AT HOME IN MY KITCHEN!) One of my co-workers got me hooked on the Weber seasonings & I love them! They are very flavorful, affordable & labeled gluten free!

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Recipe:
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or pork loin or thick cut boneless chops. You could probably do this with thick cut boneless beef too)
  • handful of fresh spinach (or substitute any thinly cut vegetable that will cook fast like zucchini, onions, peppers, kale, etc.)
  • Sliced Cheese (any flavor, I just don't use processed cheese like American because it melts too fast and makes a mess)
  • Seasoning to sprinkle on top of the meat (any flavor you want. I used Weber brand Zesty Lemon flavor in today's recipe. It is labeled gluten free & it is very flavorful. It has a strong lemon flavor!)
Here is my boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I'm only making two today!

One of my new favorite seasonings. Gluten Free!

Cut the chicken or pork just a little over half way through to make slits. Don't cut it all the way through.

Stuff the slits with your ingredients & sprinkle with seasoning. Bake 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until chicken juice runs clear. I bake it in a covered dish to keep the chicken moist and help it cook faster. If you are putting it on the grill, I like to wrap in foil that has been sprayed with a light coat of oil to keep everything from sticking & keep the chicken moist. If you are putting it in the crock pot...be sure to add water or fluid to keep it from burning.


Here is the chicken after 25 minutes in my oven. I save the juice from the meat  and use it to make my instant rice. It adds a lot of extra flavor. It will be like using a flavored chicken broth. Since these were lean chicken breasts, it isn't fatty.

Ready to eat!

Up close view of how moist & delicious it is!

See how great the seasoning is covering the chicken? Yummy!

Looks like a fancy restaurant dish but it only took a few minutes & a few ingredients to prepare before you stuff it in the oven to bake. Whip up some instant rice or pasta if you are in a hurry & you have a quick, inexpensive dinner! :)

Inside of the chicken after it was cut. Moist & juicy!

I hope you enjoy this super affordable, quick & easy dish that looks like you spent a lot of time and money on it. It is impressive enough to serve guests but simple enough for any weeknight dinner. Yep, these are the recipes I like. Simple, affordable, casual yet delicious! Have a great day!

Enjoy!
Tanja
Gluten Free Casually


Monday, August 11, 2014

Mashed Potato Puffs

Mashed Potato Puffs. These are incredibly easy, affordable and absolutely delicious. So much easier than making fried mashed potato cakes! These are creamier than a twice baked potato but similar in concept. You can customize these by adding any of your favorite potato toppings. These are great for breakfast, brunch or even as a side dish for dinner. I love these because you can make the mashed potato puffs ahead for parties and just pop them in the oven right before you need them. I love them because they taste like you spent a ton of precious time making them but actually they go together pretty fast and it is a great way to use up any left over mashed potatoes after the holidays! These will also freeze great!

This is a budget friendly recipe to make for a crowd. I try to make affordable foods that everyone can eat. Kids LOVE them! I don't have to purchase any specialty food items which can be very expensive and potatoes are very affordable. You can use any type of potatoes for this recipe. I have used red skin potatoes, Idaho baking potatoes, butter potatoes, white potatoes and even sweet potatoes. They all work!

I love to serve them when we have a BBQ dinner on the patio. They go great with grilled steaks, ribs, pork chops or chicken. I like serving them instead of mashed potatoes because it seems like it feeds more people. I think my boys can each eat 3 cups of mashed potatoes! However, when I serve these, everyone eats 2-3 and it seems like I can feed more people! Since everything is pre-cooked, you can even just toss the muffin tins on the grill (my grill has a temperature gauge so I can control the heat) or you can cook them in your oven. Keep in mind they take about 25-35 minutes so they get nice & crusty on the top....so be sure to start them before you cook the meat! Oh...and if you are thinking outside the box...these also go great with chili. Don't ask me why but they taste delicious with spicy chili or with eggs for breakfast! Yummy!

I make homemade mashed potatoes which go together pretty quick because I don't peel the potatoes. I wash them, cut them up, boil them until soft and mash them with real butter and salt & a splash of milk or broth. (Sometimes I add some fancy herbs, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, etc). I don't bother peeling the potatoes. Let's face it, we are all busy and I convince everyone that the peels are packed with nutrients. I like the texture it adds. Bottom line is...if you want homemade mashed potatoes at my house...you get them slightly chunky with peels unless you plan on peeling them. I don't like peeling potatoes! I have never made these potato puffs with instant mashed potatoes so I am not sure if they would turn out as well. I am not very good at making instant mashed potatoes. It seems to take me longer to get the texture right than if I just make them from scratch.

Mashed Potato Puffs: (makes about 12 potato puffs about the size of a muffin)
  • 3 cups of mashed potatoes (I like to use just basic mashed potatoes with butter, salt & splash of milk or broth)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (any type you want. I used shredded Mexican blend cheese today). I also like using a chipotle cheddar cheese or a smoky gouda cheese. Use whatever kind of cheese you have on hand.
  • 2 tbs. parmesan cheese or cream cheese, optional (I like to add one of these but you don't need to do it)
  • finely chopped green onions or rosemary, optional (I like to add some herbs if I have them on hand but you don't need to do it)
  • bacon bits, optional. I like to add some crunchy little real bacon bits to these if I have them on hand and I don't have any vegetarian friends over for dinner. If I am having them for a party or taking them to a brunch then I just leave out the bacon bits in case someone doesn't eat pork. 

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Spoon into greased cupcake pans. Bake in 400 degree pre-heated oven for about 25-35 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Cool a few minutes before running a knife around edges and flipping out onto serving tray. You can serve with your favorite potato toppings if desired (sour cream, salsa, etc). My family likes them without anything else!

Here are the basic (cold) mashed potatoes that I am using today

I added 2 eggs, parmesan cheese, Mexican blend cheese & bacon crumbles

Here is the potato mixture ready to spoon into greased muffin cups

Here the mashed potato puffs are prior to baking in pre-heated 400 degree oven

Fresh from the oven

Up close view of the slightly crusty top with bacon crumbles


Ready to eat


Yummy! See how the outside is slightly crunchy and the center is warm, fluffy and creamy!


I hope you enjoy this family favorite. It is a very simple, affordable and casual recipe. It is fancy enough for a holiday party or easy enough for a weeknight supper side dish!

Enjoy!
Tanja
Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Banana Cobbler

Banana Cobbler. This was a recipe that I got from a little Ma & Pa style restaurant many years ago during a trip driving from Ohio to Florida. We stopped in one of the southern states (can't remember which one) and this was on the menu. They shared the recipe with me. I misplaced that hand written card...but I found it while organizing a cupboard. This is a great recipe because you can keep it very simple...or you can add extra ingredients to it. I personally like to add some shredded coconut to the batter portion and use coconut milk whenever possible. However, we have some friends that don't care for coconut (since we are coconut lovers at our house...we can't imagine not liking coconut!) so I make the basic recipe whenever they come over. I made the traditional, basic recipe today.

This is a great recipe to use very ripe bananas if you don't feel like making a banana bread or banana cake. This recipe is called a "cobbler" but it is really a combination of a cobbler & a crisp. It has the batter of a cobbler on the bottom with an oatmeal crisp topping. You can also substitute any type of fruit if you prefer. I have also added some chunked pineapple and have substituted peaches, apples, pears, berries or drained fruit cocktail in the past. It all works. That is what I love about cobblers & crisp recipes...you can substitute ingredients easily and they still turn out awesome! If you want to make it into a "Hawaiian version" then you can use a combination of banana, pineapple and/or mango and coconut. It is heavenly!

Banana Cobbler Recipe:

Cake Batter:
  • 1 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend (if you don't have a gluten allergy then just use regular flour!)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum (only use this if your gluten free flour doesn't contain it. Omit if you don't have a gluten allergy and are using regular flour!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 cup milk or fruit juice (you can substitute coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk or use the reserved fruit juice if you are using canned fruit)
  • 1/2 cup butter, margarine, Crisco or cream cheese, softened (if you are using margarine make sure it is at least 65% fat or else it contains too much water and don't use fat free cream cheese or it will not bake correctly!)
  • 1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract (I like using almond extract)
  • (I also like to add about 1/2 cup shredded coconut to batter but I did not in today's recipe. I stuck with the basic/traditional recipe that does not call for coconut)

Topping (Crisp) Recipe:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or honey (can substitute agave nectar)
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour or ground up gluten free oats (put oats in blender to get flour texture). You can use regular flour if you don't have a gluten allergy!
  • 1/2 cup softened real butter (I prefer real butter for the flavor but you can substitute margarine or oil)
  • 1 cup gluten free oats (I used Trader Joe's brand gluten free oats today. I will admit that I have used regular Quaker brand oats in the past without any issues but I stay away from store brand/generic oats because I have had hives from cross contamination).
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts or almonds, optional (I did not use any nuts today because I didn't have any on hand 
Filling:
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, sliced (peels should have black spots on them) or 1.5 to 2 cups fruit without juice or pie filling. (You can also add extra fillings like coconut, raisins, cranberries, nuts, dates or whatever you like. Sometimes I will add 2 bananas and some pineapple chunks & a handful of shredded coconut). Be creative!
 Grease a 9x9 or 11x7 or 9" round cake pan or casserole dish. Prepare the batter by mixing all the cake batter ingredients together with a spoon. Mix until smooth and well blended but don't over-mix. Pour into greased pan. Spoon the chopped fruit on top of the batter. Combine all the topping (crisp) ingredients together with a spoon. Sprinkle on top of the fruit. Bake 350 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. (The bottom cake batter should be cooked through).

Cobbler Batter layer in a 9" round casserole dish

Banana chunks layered on top of the cobbler batter

Crisp topping layer on top of the banana chunks

Removed from the oven & cut into it

Serving up the basic banana cobbler recipe

Up close view of the banana cobbler recipe (basic recipe)

Ready to eat! Yummy!

This is great served with ice cream. My husband likes to eat it for breakfast with a little bit of maple syrup on top (served warm). He says it is like a baked french toast. This is a great recipe to have on hand because you can serve it as a dessert or you can serve it for brunch since it resembles a coffee cake. I love it because you can add coconut or fruit juice to the cobbler batter and change the flavor of the cake. You can substitute ANY fruit you prefer or add additional ingredients like coconut, cranberries, raisins, dates, etc with the fruit for added texture and flavor. I love flexible recipes like this! I was brought up learning to cook with the ingredients you have on hand so recipes frequently got a work over at our house!

Enjoy!
Tanja
Gluten Free Casually