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, April 13, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies! Wow. They are soft and cakey with a rich flavor. You can't taste the cream cheese in them but it gives the cookies a rich more intense chocolate flavor. I saw a recipe for a cookie similar to this a while back on the internet. Honestly, I just skimmed over the ingredients and realized that they substituted some of the butter with cream cheese. Okay, big deal. I forgot about it. hubby wanted chocolate chip cookies and I didn't have quite enough butter! However, I did have some cream cheese. Problem solved!

So in my desperation to make chocolate chip cookies without having to get out of my very cool Star Wars pajamas...I decided to try making them with half cream cheese and half butter. The deciding factor would be how much my husband likes them. He is a chocolate chip cookie lover and HATES (did I say he really hates) cream cheese. The idea of cream cheese gags him. Sssshhhh.....don't tell him that I added cream cheese to these wonderful little cookies! It will be just our secret! ;)

I was very pleased with the results! The cookies stayed very round and cakey but still slightly chewy. They didn't spread much on the baking sheet which is convenient. And they seemed very moist and not very messy. And lots of chocolate flavor! It seemed more intense chocolate than normal. I think that is because they didn't spread much and the chocolate chips are in every bite! No one could tell they had cream cheese in the batter! It gave the gluten free flour a less "crumbly" texture and they baked perfect! I think they would be great with any flavor of chocolate chips or dried cranberries or M&Ms. It is a great base cookie dough that could be made custom to what you like or what you have on hand. Walnuts, macadamia nuts or pecans would also be yummy. I didn't add nuts today. (Of course if you don't have a gluten can make these cookies with regular flour - just omit the guar gum or xanthan gum).

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookie Recipe
  • 1/2 cup real butter (or substitute margarine with at least 65% fat)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (don't use fat free cream cheese. I used regular)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can use raw sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, optional (be sure it is gluten free)
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend (I used cup4cup brand today. Be sure to add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum if your flour blend doesn't contain it!)
  • 2 tsp. corn starch (make sure it is gluten free!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt, about 1/2 tsp.
  • 2 cups (at least 2 cups. I usually add 2 1/2 cups!) chocolate chips or chunks
Beat the butter (or margarine), cream cheese, sugars & eggs until fluffly. Add the vanilla or almond extract if you are adding them. If you leave them out, it is okay. They aren't necessary to the recipe but give it a little extra flavor. Add the baking soda, salt, corn starch and mix well. (You will need to add either guar gum or xanthan gum if you gluten free flour doesn't contain it!) Mix in the gluten free flour. Beat until smooth. Batter will be thick. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop cookies by spoonfuls (I like to use a cookie scoop) onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. I personally really like using parchment paper because I think it cooks even and prevents sticking and crumbling cookies but you don't absolutely have to do that. I didn't do it for many years. Now...I almost have convulsions if I don't have parchment paper! One of life's simple baking pleasures for me! Bake about 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. My oven takes 10 minutes exactly to get perfect cookies. Cooking times may vary slightly depending on the oven style and altitude you are baking. Check your cookies after 8 minutes. I wouldn't suggest baking longer than 11 minutes. They should be lightly golden on the bottom and around the edges only. Don't over bake!

I hope you like the cookies as much as we do! We enjoyed our cookies on the patio this morning...enjoying the beautiful weather here in Arizona and drinking out of my new Star Wars mugs! I just love geek stuff!

Please feel free to post any pictures or substitutions that you made to my recipe that worked great (or didn't work so great!). We all learn from each other!

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Enchiladas (Gluten Free!)

Enchiladas! I was a person that wasn't really crazy about Mexican food until we moved to Arizona. (To be fair...most of the Ohio restaurants didn't serve a good Mexican dish!) The fresh flavors & spices of homemade Mexican food here in Arizona won me over. Each region of Mexico has it's own flair so each eating establishment is slightly different depending on what part of Mexico the family is originally from. One of my favorite Mexican dishes is a plate of shredded beef enchiladas made with the red enchilada sauce. My mouth waters just thinking about it! Most restaurants and store bought enchilada sauce use flour to thicken which creates a problem for those of us with gluten allergies. There are a few that use corn starch instead which makes me happy. However, if restaurants near you don't have gluten free enchilada sauce or if you prefer to make your enchiladas at home.... here is one of my favorite recipes for red enchilada sauce. My favorite restaurant couldn't give me their actual recipe but they did tell me what the ingredients were so I went home to experiment and the recipe below is very similar. (There are a lot of different versions out there and each region or family makes their recipe just a little different...but here is our recipe. Feel free to tweak it to make it work for your personal tastes). My friends and family always ask me to make this recipe when they come out for a visit (or if I go to their house for a visit!). I have a few local friends that make their sauce without using the tomato sauce. They use only re-hydrated chile peppers, corn starch and water or broth to make their recipe. I have had the best luck making mine with the tomato sauce.

This recipe is also very forgiving if you have to substitute a couple of the ingredients. Living in Arizona, it is very easy for me to find specific chile peppers and spices. However, my boys while in the military and some of my out of state friends frequently have trouble finding some of the specific ingredients so they substitute them. It may not taste EXACTLY the same but it still turns out delicious and better than the stuff in the can! Sometimes you just have to use what you have on hand!

Keep in mind if you are a vegetarian OR prefer using chicken or pork instead of shredded beef...I can help you tweak the recipe to work for you. For my friends and family that prefer can make this recipe with black beans and rice for the filling or shredded cheese & onion or chiles (in place of the meat). For those that prefer chicken or can just use it in place of the shredded beef. Ground beef can also be used in place of shredded beef! I personally prefer my red enchilada sauce with beef, pork or vegetarian beans and rice. I prefer my chicken enchiladas or cheese & spinach enchiladas with the green enchilada sauce (recipe for that will come in the future) and my seafood enchiladas with a white sauce. is all personal preference. Actually...just about anything smothered in red enchilada sauce is delicious! It is very popular in Arizona to find steaks or chicken on the menu smothered in enchilada sauce & cheese.

This is a great recipe because you can make enchiladas in advance and put it in the oven when you need it. They also freeze well! You can also skip over the task of rolling the enchiladas and just layer them casserole style. It all works fine! I like to cook my beef in the crock-pot or pressure cooker along with some dried chiles and onion for extra flavor and tenderness but you can use canned beef if you prefer. This is also a good way to use up the left over beef or pork roast! :)

Enchiladas with Red Sauce Recipe:
  • 16 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped or pureed onion or 3 tbs. dried minced onion (depends on how much flavor you want)
  • 1-2 tbs. finely chopped garlic (or substitute 2 tsp. garlic powder not garlic salt!)
  • dash salt
  • 2 cups water or broth (I like to use the broth from my meat but you can use vegetable stock or water if you are making it vegetarian)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 1/2 - 3 tsp. chile powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/4 - 1 tsp. ground chipotle chile powder (depending on how spicy you like it). If you can't find the chipotle chile powder which has a slightly smokey flavor then just use additional chile powder.
  • 2-3 dried ancho chiles (rehydrated then pureed) or you can substitute 1-2 chipotle chilies canned in adobe sauce - pureed  (save the rest for something else) or in a pinch you can substitute 1 small (5-7oz) can of chopped green chiles. (Not pickled jalapenos!) If for any reason you don't have any actual chiles available...just use extra chile powder to taste. You can add chile powder to get the spiciness you want although you may have to play around with measurements just a little bit. 
  • 2 tbs. gluten free corn starch (or substitute tapioca starch or rice flour). Read your labels if you are gluten free! Many of the corn starch brands contain wheat or are processed on equipment with wheat products!
  • 4 tbs. hot water
Combine the tomato sauce, onion, garlic, salt, broth or water, cumin, oregano, chile powders and the ancho chile puree (or chipotle chile puree or finely chopped green chiles) if you are adding them. Heat in a pot on medium heat. In the meantime, combine 4 tbs. hot water with the corn starch to make a paste. It should be lump free and rather thick like glue. You can either stir it well or put it in a small jar with a lid and shake until lumps are gone. You don't want lumpy enchilada sauce. Pour the corn starch paste into the pot and stir until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until it slightly thickens and flavors blend. I personally like to make my sauce a day or two ahead so the flavors have a chance to enhance but you don't have to do that. The sauce also freezes great so feel free to double or triple the batch and freeze it for future use.

Corn starch & water paste

I like to use corn tortillas for my beef enchiladas which is what most of the Mexican restaurants use. There is a slight trick to getting them flavorful and not slimy. This is an important step to making enchiladas with corn tortillas so I highly suggest you do it or else you will end up with slimy, flavorless tortillas. (Trust me....I am speaking from experience!) You want to slightly warm your corn tortillas in a skillet individually on both sides for just a few seconds until they sizzle and get flexible. Not only does it make them easier to work with but it brings out the corn flavor of the tortillas. (Think you are flipping pancakes. It is just like that. I use a skillet that has been sprayed lightly with a non-stick cooking spray because you don't want to FRY the just want them lightly toasty and soft. I do mine about 15-20 seconds on each side. Although this is slightly tedious, it is well worth the extra effort for the flavor and texture of your enchiladas!)

Once you have all of your tortillas slightly pan toasted. I take my enchilada filling(s) and put the ingredients down the center of the tortilla. My favorite is shredded beef with shredded cheddar cheese. I fold each edge inward and place seam side down in a slightly greased pan or oven proof baking dish. If I am making them for a small group then I just bake them on my cute little Mexican pottery dishes right in the oven. If I am making for a larger crowd then I bake in 9x13 pan or lasagna pan. Pour the enchilada sauce over top of the stuffed tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. I also like to garnish with some chopped green onion or dried oregano for added color. I bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until everything is heated through and cheese on top is melted.
If you find that rolling the enchiladas to be can always just layer the ingredients like you would lasagna. Put corn tortillas on the bottom of a lightly greased casserole dish or 9x13 pan. Layer with the filling, sauce then cheese. Repeat layers until you run out of ingredients. Be sure you end up with sauce and cheese on top! Baking instructions are the same...350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas with red sauce & side of beans

Up close view of the inside of my shredded beef enchiladas!

Vegetarian Black Beans & Rice Enchiladas

Chicken with red enchilada sauce, corn tortillas and montery jack cheese (someone ate all the cheddar cheese!)

I hope you enjoy my recipe for enchiladas. It is a great recipe for casual entertaining on the patio or for a Mexican themed dinner party. I like to make the Mexican Corn Flour Cookies for dessert (see recipe for this on the blog posted April 5, 2014)

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mexican Corn Flour Cookies

Mexican Corn Flour Cookies! One of my co-workers was talking about a recipe that her mom makes for cookies made with corn flour and she thought they were gluten free. Well, I was on a search for this recipe! I found a recipe for Mexican Corn Flour Cookies and made them. They were delicious! I didn't have to tweak the recipe to make them gluten free....they were already gluten free. I love recipes like that! They always turn out perfect without tweaking them! This is also very budget friendly since you don't have to buy specialty ingredients. I have included two recipes below. One is the basic recipe and one is the deluxe recipe that contains coconut. Both are delicious and easy! They have a texture similar to a soft peanut butter cookie with a wonderful almond & cinnamon flavor. You can use either the white corn or yellow corn version in this recipe. They are interchangeable and both work great!

My neighbor said that her family in Mexico used to make this type of cookie when she was a child. She said these cookies were a wonderful treat and were simple because they always had corn flour on hand. She did say that they used to use either Rose Water or Orange Blossom water instead of almond extract. She said the cookie recipe may vary slightly in each household because you used what you had available in your cupboards. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of liquid. Any liquid. Drinkable water was not always available in certain areas of Mexico so people would use other liquids like leftover coffee, tea, juice, etc. Depending on the liquid or spices you add to the can change the flavor slightly. The recipe below is the basic cookie dough recipe. It can easily be customized to work with what you have on hand or your flavor preferences. Experiment and enjoy! This is now one of my favorite "go-to" recipes for a simple, casual cookie recipe that goes great as a dessert for Mexican Food Night (or any time!) at my house! You can also add a 1/2 tsp. of Chile powder for a kick! ;)

Yellow Corn Version
White Corn Version
I use Maseca Corn flour because it is labeled gluten free on the packaging. You will need to read labels if you are using a different brand. I looked at 4 other brands and they contained wheat flour in their mixture. Maseca Corn Flour website also has a slew of gluten free recipes so if you are looking for something else to make with your corn flour....check out their website. I find my Maseca corn flour in the Hispanic aisle at the grocery store. If you can't find it then ask your grocer! It is very reasonable priced here in Arizona. I got a bag at my Wal-mart store for $2.78 for the large bag and $1.48 for the smaller bag although prices may vary in different locations. I also use this flour to make my dogs homemade gluten free dog biscuits. (Yes, I have a dog with a gluten allergy too. He actually lost all of his hair and was so itchy! We had multiple tests done and couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. I put him on a GF diet and he quit itching and his hair grew back!)

This is the texture of the corn flour. It is not as gritty as corn meal or polenta

 Mexican Corn Flour Cookie Recipe: (Basic Recipe without coconut)
  • 2 cups corn flour (I use Maseca brand. You can use either the white or yellow corn version)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening or lard or Margarine with at least 70% fat (please note that if you use margarine with less than 70% fat it will contain too much water and will not set properly!). You can also substitute real butter that is not whipped or coconut oil (not the liquid). 
  • 1 cup sugar (I use raw sugar or cane sugar but you can use what you have on hand)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract (I use almond baking emulsion).  You can also substitute rose water or orange blossom water. If you don't have any of these you can actually leave this ingredient out. You just may get a slightly more corn flavor which tastes great too! :)
  • 1 tbs. ground cinnamon (you can also add 1/2 tsp. chile powder for a kick!)
  • 1/4 cup liquid (I used water in my recipe today. You can substitute whatever type of liquid you prefer. My neighbor said she likes to use left over coffee like her mother did. You can also use juice).
Mix all the ingredients together. You can use a mixer or stir it by hand. The dough will be thick (like play-dough but it should not be dry & crumbly. If you find it too crumbly to roll into balls then add a little additional liquid until it is of a consistency that you can work with).

Roll into golf ball size balls and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and flatten slightly with a fork or glass or you can leave them in ball shapes for a more cake like texture. If you like your cookies extra sweet you can sprinkle on some additional sugar, cinnamon sugar or sprinkles. I like mine just plain. Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 16-20 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden brown in color. If you like your cookies a little more on the crunchy side (coffee dunkers) then you can flatten the cookies a little more and bake additional 2-3 minutes. Cool & enjoy!

Rolling into balls and flattening to bake

Just out of the oven. They are lightly golden after 20 minutes in my oven

Up close view of baked cookies

Inside view of cookie. They are slightly soft and not crumbly!

Ready to eat!

Here is the deluxe recipe that contains coconut:

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookie Recipe with Coconut:
  • 1 1/2 cups Corn flour (I use Maseca brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Coconut (You can use either sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs. almond extract or baking emulsion (or substitute any other flavor extract)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (ground) - add more if you like extra cinnamon flavor
  • 1/3 cup fluid (I use water or coconut water but you can use whatever fluid you prefer)
 Follow the same instructions as above. (Mix all ingredients together with mixer or by hand). You may need to add additional liquid if you are finding that your dough is crumbly when you try to roll into balls. Just add a tablespoon at a time until you get workable dough. You can bake these in balls and sprinkle additional coconut on top or flatten slightly with a fork or glass. I bake on parchment lined cookie sheet for 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly golden brown on bottom.

My husband suggested I try to make a batch of adding some cocoa powder and baking the cookies into balls and then pressing a Hershey Kiss in the center when they are removed from the oven. I will do this soon and then post pictures on here. He likes these cookies but he is a die hard chocolate lover and prefers EVERYTHING with chocolate!

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookies

Up close view of Deluxe version with coconut!

Mmmmm Mmmmm good!

Deluxe Corn Flour Cookies dipped in chocolate and coconut sprinkles

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookies Rolled into balls and coconut

I encourage you to try this very easy, affordable and casual cookie recipe. Feel free to post any substitutions that worked great for you or to post your cookie pictures in the comment section below. I always enjoy reading and trying the variations that people make from my posted recipes! :)

Happy Baking!
Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guava Chicken

Grilled Guava Chicken
Guava Chicken! Want to eat like you're on vacation when you can't actually "be" on vacation? Just put together this quick and scrumptious Hawaiian style guava chicken! The guava nectar gives the chicken a nice flavor, keeps it moist and gives the chicken an island flavor.

We recently went on a vacation to Hawaii for my brother's wedding. (That is PARTLY why I haven't posted any new recipes to the blog for a few weeks. I was out of town and then I ended up breaking my wrist in 4 spots and having surgery while on vacation. After returning home and going right back to work.... I didn't feel like typing! I kind of got into the vacation mode and didn't use my computer or phone on vacation so it took me a while to get back into the grind! Everything is healing nicely and I am not complaining...just letting you all know why I haven't been updating the blog recently!) While we were in Hawaii, I had this absolutely wonderful dinner of guava chicken, coconut rice & slightly spicy steamed veggies.

I have since re-created the dish so that I could make it at home. We really like the flavor the marinade gives the meat. It's a subtle flavor. Paired with the sweet coconut rice and slightly spicy vegetables, it makes a great meal. I have also substituted pork for the chicken with great results. This recipe is very versatile and you can tweak it to work with the flavors you like or what you have on hand. I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts but if they aren't on sale then I have used chicken with bones (I peel off the skin so the flavors reach the meat) and I have used pork chops. I prefer using boneless butterfly cut pork chops but I will use what I have on hand.

We personally love coconut rice so I generally make it as the side dish with guava chicken. However, depending on our guests...I might change that to either a garlic rice or fried rice. Not everyone likes coconut rice although I can't figure out why! We love coconut at our house!

This chicken (or pork) can be cooked several different ways. You can marinade it overnight and put it on the grill, you can throw all the ingredients together without marinading it first and put in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or in the pressure cooker for fast cooking (cook according to the instructions in your pressure cooker manual. Each brand is slightly different and mine is an older model so I don't want to give you wrong instructions for your pressure cooker). You can even bake it in the oven. I like recipes that are so versatile.  The photos I included today aren't great and I will do my best to get some better photos and include the different cooking variations.

Guava Chicken Recipe:
  • 3-4 pounds of chicken (or pork). I personally like to use boneless, skinless breasts OR boneless butterfly pork chops but you can use whatever cuts you prefer.
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice (This is a spice blend that you can generally find in the spice section or the Asian section of your grocery store. I bought mine at the Asian market and it is really flavorful. If your 5 spice blend isn't as pungent then you may need to add additional 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (If you don't have sea salt you can substitute regular table salt)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder - NOT GARLIC SALT!)
  • 2-3 tbs. minced onion (or you can substitute 1 tbs. onion powder - NOT ONION SALT!)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used raw sugar but you can use regular sugar)
  • 2 tbs. gluten free soy sauce (If you don't have this then just leave it out. This doesn't make that much of a flavor difference in the dish. The main flavor is the guava and the Chinese 5 spice)
  • 1 carton of guava nectar, about 32oz (or you can use 16 oz. frozen concentrate mixed to directions). Most of the guava nectars can be found in the refrigerated section or freezer section of your grocery store or sometimes you can find the Goya brand in the non-refrigerated section on a shelf. Ask your grocer if you can't find it. Sometimes they will stock it in the Asian or Hispanic section of the grocery store. Living in Arizona, I can find it easily...even at our 99cent store!
I like to pierce my chicken or pork pieces with a fork so the flavors will get inside the meat and really give it some flavor as it is cooking. Mix all the ingredients together (except for meat) and stir well. If you prefer to grill your meat then I recommend marinading the meat for at least 4-6 hours before grilling so the meat can soak up the flavors. If you don't marinade for at least 4-6 hours before grilling then the flavors won't shine through. (You can avoid marinading for hours if you are cooking in the crock pot or pressure cooker).

If you are cooking your chicken (or pork) in the crock pot then just pour the marinade over the chicken and cook for 6-8 hours (low temperature). You don't need to marinade it for hours first. The flavors will infuse when cooking it for hours. If you are cooking in the pressure cooker then just place your chicken in the pot and pour the ingredients over top and cook according to your pressure cooker instructions. (My pressure cooker is an older model so I don't want to give you instructions for mine that would be incorrect for your newer model. Refer to your instruction manual or look up your manufacturer instructions online if you can't find the manual. Most manufacturer's put manuals online for your convenience in case you lost them). Again, you don't need to marinade for hours before cooking in the pressure cooker. The flavors will infuse during the steaming process. I love my pressure cooker and crock pot and use them both frequently. It makes the meat moist and it's ready when I get home from work! If you don't have a pressure cooker, crock pot or grill....this recipe can be baked in the oven at 350 degrees for about 55-65 minutes (or until chicken juices run clear when poked with a fork) in a 9x13 pan or casserole dish that either has an oven proof lid or one you can cover it with foil to keep the meat moist while cooking.

This chicken is always a hit when we have guests. I recently took a large pan (half filled with guava chicken and the other half with guava pork) to a funeral luncheon. It was the first thing gone and everyone was asking for the recipe. (I have been asked multiple times this past week for the recipe so I decided I had better update the blog so people can get the recipe on here rather than me writing it out dozens of times!). Another great idea is to double the ingredients and put half of the chicken (or pork) along with the marinade in a freezer bag. Let it sit overnight in your refrigerator so flavors can blend well and then pop it in your freezer to use on a later date. 

Guava Chicken (grilled)

Guava Chicken (Grilled)

Guava Chicken (Grilled)

(Grilled Guava Chicken, see how moist inside?!)

Guava Chicken (Pressure Cooker)

Guava Chicken cooked in pressure cooker (See how moist?)

Coconut Rice side dish....yummy!

I hope you enjoyed this super easy, very versatile and absolutely delicious recipe! It is a dish that makes me smile and feel like I am on vacation!

Gluten Free Casually

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gluten Free Butter Pecan Cookies

Butter Pecan Cookies with Chocolate Chips (optional)
Butter Pecan Cookies. With or without chocolate chips. SCRUMPTIOUS! The browned butter flavor + toasted pecans & brown sugar = SCRUMPTIOUS! It's an old fashioned recipe that I have re-vamped into gluten free. If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular flour in place of the gluten free flour. My husband likes it with the added dark chocolate chips...I like it best without chocolate although either way is delicious. Seriously, how can you go wrong with butter, pecans and brown sugar?! The rich flavor of browned butter combined with the melt in your mouth brown sugar + crunchy toasted pecans... I think I could just eat the combination with a spoon....if calories didn't count!

I had to play around with this particular recipe to make the gluten free version taste delicious. The original recipe called for granulated white sugar but I found it made the cookies too crumbly. Switched it to brown sugar and got the texture I wanted. I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you brown your butter. It really brings out the incredible flavor in these cookies and you don't want to miss that tantalizing flavor on your taste buds! Trust me! I have tried it both ways and there is no comparison. The flavor is so much more intense if you brown your butter. (Browning butter simply means to cook it in a saucepan on medium heat until it is completely melted and the butter becomes a golden caramel color and has some sediment. Don't strain off the sediment. Use all of the yummy melted butter that is in the pan....including the sediment). I have never made this particular recipe with margarine or a butter substitute so I don't know if it would turn out the same but I doubt it. The browned butter plays a key role in the flavor of this cookie. I am sure if you have a dairy allergy or nut allergy you could tweak this recipe and still end up with a great cookie....but it won't be the same intense flavors. I also highly recommend that you lightly toast your chopped pecans to bring out their rich flavor and crunch. I have also added toffee bits in the past but I thought it made the cookie a little too sweet....although some people just loved it. Personal preference!

Butter Pecan Cookie Recipe:
  • 1/2 cup real butter (Don't skimp here. Use real butter for the best flavor! There is a difference in this recipe!)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (use this only if you are using gluten free flour mix that doesn't already contain xanthan or guar gum. If you are using regular flour, omit this!)
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used Trader Joe's brand in today's recipe. If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular flour). I personally avoid gluten free flour blends that contain sorghum in my sweet baked goods. I don't like the flavor. It's fine in savory breads.
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds or pecans (or you can just use additional 1/2 cup gluten free flour if you don't have this ingredient. I have tried it both ways and it works fine either way).
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted.
  • 1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, optional (I usually take half the dough and leave out the chocolate chips and put about 3/4 cup of chocolate chips in the other half).
In a small saucepan, brown the butter. The butter will melt completely and turn a golden caramel color. It will have sediment in the bottom which is normal. I use all of it....sediment included for this cookie recipe. I pour it into my mixing bowl and let it cool slightly while I toast the pecans. (You don't want to mix really hot butter with the eggs!). I toast the pecans either in a skillet on medium heat stirring frequently so they don't burn just until lightly toasted. The other option is to put on a cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Watch the nuts closely! They can get burned really quickly! That is the one reason why I do the butter and the pecans separately. That way I can focus on one at a time and not ruin either of them. Butter and pecans are both expensive and I don't want to burn either of them! Add the brown sugar and cream until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix well. Add flour (and xanthan gum if you are using gf flour that doesn't already contain it or guar gum). Mix in toasted nuts. If you are using chocolate chips, add them too. Stir by hand. Batter will be slightly thick.  I refrigerate my batter for at least an hour. It is easier to handle and the cookies won't spread so much. They will come out slightly thick, soft and chewy. I found that if I didn't refrigerate the dough, the cookies spread a little more and came out a little crispier. Place spoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake 350 degrees for about 9-11 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool before removing from cookie sheets. (I find that if I refrigerate my cookie dough for about an hour then the cookies will be a little thicker and don't spread as much. Both ways are delicious!)

Makes about 3 dozen nice sized cookies or 4 dozen small cookies

By the way, I took these cookies into work yesterday. They all claim they don't like nuts in baked goods. The cookies were all gone by 9am! (The traditional chocolate chip cookies were the last ones eaten!). I have to agree....I normally don't care for nuts in my cookies but these were so darn tasty. The butter and toasted pecans just explode flavor in your mouth. This recipe is a keeper! 

I used farm fresh eggs in this recipe today. My friend April gave me some assorted fresh eggs from her chickens. Different types of chickens lay different colored eggs. (They all cook up the same way but they look so cool looking). I almost hated using the eggs because they were so pretty! I have never had such a beautiful assortment of eggs. I wish I would have photographed the eggs before I used them. I had speckled, brown, white and light green eggs! I love using fresh eggs in my baked goods. Everything always turns out so much fluffier with fresh eggs! Thanks April! If I lived out of the city limits...I would definitely have chickens! I love fresh eggs!

With chocolate chips. See the yummy pecan pieces?

Ready for taste testing! (My favorite part)

These are the crispier version (no refrigerating before baking)

Up close view of the crispier ones

Butter Pecan (no chocolate chips). Crispier version (no refrigerating before baking)

Butter Pecan Cookies (Crispier version. No refrigerating before baking)

I hope you enjoyed my journey making these old fashioned cookies into a delicious gluten free version that everyone will enjoy! These would be a wonderful treat for your special Valentine!

Happy Baking!
Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gluten Free Microwave Bread in a Mug

Gluten Free Bread Microwaved in a Coffee Mug!
Gluten Free Microwave Bread in a Mug! Yes, single serve gluten free fresh bread when you want it! You can add different flavors to customize it. I love this recipe because I am not a person that eats bread daily and I hate to buy a loaf of bread and have it wasted. I don't care for bread once it has been frozen so that really limits me. Plus when I am on vacation, I can whip up a fresh personal loaf whenever I want it in just a few minutes in the microwave! I just travel with a small bag of gluten free flour (like Betty Crocker or Trader Joe's versions) and I take a little travel size packet of xanthan gum and baking powder and those are my basics for my gluten free personal sized bread loaf. If I am traveling on vacation, I just snag a couple of packets of sugar and salt from a restaurant so I have it at the condo/hotel. You will need one egg per loaf but I almost always have eggs so that isn't an issue for me. Most of the condos/hotels that I have stayed in have a mini-fridge. You can make this bread without oil but I prefer a teaspoon of margarine, butter or oil....if you are on vacation then grab a butter packet at a restaurant. I always ask the waitress or cashier and they always give me a couple.

I have learned to live my life without bread for the most part. Sometimes when traveling to beach locations (or hiking trips), I like to have a peanut butter sandwich like everyone else. I hate to be "high maintenance" and pack a different type of lunch. This quick gluten free microwave bread recipe allows me to make a quick personal loaf of bread so that I can pack a sandwich too! This will be great for my upcoming trip to Hawaii with my siblings. I want to keep my suitcase light and travel smart. I hate to spend time shopping for specialty groceries for me (not only are they extremely expensive but shopping is time consuming) and it is wasteful if it doesn't get eaten. I can make a personal loaf when and if I need it. This recipe only takes a few minutes total so I can make it while everyone else is showering. Yep, it is that quick! I like to toast it if I am eating it for breakfast but it makes a decent sandwich for lunches too. I have always eaten it the same day so I am not sure how long it will keep or what the texture would be like a couple days later.

I have made the bread plain and if you add sugar it reminds me of Hawaiian rolls which I really like. Slightly sweet. You can leave the sugar out and substitute it with flour. I have also added cinnamon + a tiny box of raisins (about 2 tbs) for raisin bread. I have also used dried cranberries and walnuts. I have added dried rosemary or Italian seasonings for a savory bread if I am making it at home. You can pretty much customize it to whatever flavors you really like. I have also used the personal bread loaf as a base for a personal pizza. It is kind of like using french bread or bagels as your pizza base. ("Bagel Bites Pizza" idea) You just top it with pizza sauce, cheese and your favorite pizza toppings and bake until toasty and cheese is melted. It is great when you are in the mood for a quick, gluten free pizza snack without all the fuss. You can slice the bread into small round slices or you can slice it lengthwise for a sandwich - hoagie bun size.

The idea of microwave bread in a mug came to me when I was experimenting with coffee mug microwave personal chocolate cakes. I tried a few different recipes and several of them had a bread like texture. Hmmmm.....if I tweaked it just a little then I could have a personal loaf of bread any time I wanted. I liked the concept. I'm still experimenting with flavors and different flour blends. Although the texture is a little heavier than traditional yeast can't beat convenience of this super quick & easy bread and let's face is very economical! I am not saying this is the absolute best gluten free bread...I am just saying that I really like it for a quick personal loaf without a lot of fuss. Who wants to drag out a bread maker or heavy duty mixer when you just want a personal loaf? This is also quick for busy mom's that need a quick breakfast or bread for a child on a gluten free diet. It takes just as long as making oatmeal in the microwave! This bread can also be made into French toast! Come easy is that! (Not to mention that if you cut the bread into the round circles then it makes super cute French toast!)

Gluten Free Microwave Bread in a Mug Recipe:
  • 8 tbs. gluten free flour blend (I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free blend today. I have also used Trader Joe's brand, Cup 4 Cup brand, Hodgson Mill brand and my own gluten free flour blend. They all worked fine. I personally liked my gluten free flour blend and the cup 4 cup brand best. You can find my recipe for gluten free flour blend below). When traveling, I found it easier to take the smaller bags of flour like Trader Joe's or Betty Crocker Gluten Free Flour. I find it easier to go through security lines at the airport with the flour in the original package so I pack new small bag of gluten free flour! (I did not try Bisquick Gluten Free Baking Mix since I did not want a biscuit texture).
  • 1 tbs. sugar (I used raw sugar but you can use regular sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • pinch of xanthan gum or guar gum if your gluten free flour mix doesn't already contain it (I used 1/16 tsp. which is half of 1/8 teaspoonful. It is literally a tiny amount!)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbs. milk (you can substitute almond milk, soy milk, rice milk or water if you have a dairy allergy)
  • 1 teaspoon butter, margarine or oil
  • (you can add optional seasonings if you want like cinnamon, Italian blend, Rosemary or dried fruit like raisins or cranberries. I would limit the amount of dried fruit to about 2-3 tbs)
Mix the egg, milk and butter or oil together with a fork. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder & salt (xanthan gum or guar gum if you need to use it).  Pour into a microwave safe coffee mug. You can even mix it in the coffee mug if you have to. I just like to lightly coat my coffee mug with cooking spray or butter/oil so the bread loaf pops out really easy. I have done it without the grease coating and it works okay too but just a little more work getting it out of the mug. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. I usually take a look at it and if still looks uncooked on the top then I toss it back into the microwave for additional 20-30 seconds. You don't want gummy bread. On the other hand, don't over bake it either or you will get a rubbery texture. Cool slightly and enjoy it warm, cold or toasted!

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, 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!)

Hawaiian Sweet Bread (added the sugar)

Plain white bread (only added a pinch of sugar and substituted the sugar listed in recipe with flour)

Raisin Bread Version. Added 2 tbs. raisins with 1 tbs. cinnamon

Up close view of my sliced raisin bread. It was delicious with strong coffee! :)

I hope you enjoy my very casual, very simple recipe for a personal loaf of bread made in the microwave. I would love to hear any substitutions or additions that you tried!

Gluten Free Casually