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!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Almond Pound Cake

German Almond Pound Cake. This is a great cake to make for just about any occasion. You can dress it up and serve it with fresh berries in place of strawberry short cake or serve it alone as dessert or on the brunch table. It even tastes better a couple days later when all the flavors have "blended". It is also great to use as a wedding cake because it is a solid cake that holds moisture and it's shape. (I just leave off the crumb topping for wedding or birthday cakes and decorate them like you would a regular cake). It is very flexible and you can bake it in a bundt pan, angel food cake pan, loaf pan, 9x13 pan or cupcake tins (just adjust the cooking times!) You can make it with the crumb topping (which is my favorite!) or leave the topping off. It is a personal preference.

This is a German recipe and a favorite with our family. This is a typical cake that is served with afternoon coffee in least with our German family. My mom is a fantastic baker and she used to improvise recipes to suit what she had on hand. The recipe calls for 2 cups of ground almonds but if she didn't have them she would substitute 2 cups of flour and add 2 tbs. of almond extract instead. If she didn't have cream cheese then she would add sour cream or Crisco + 1 tbs. vinegar to give the tartness that cream cheese or sour cream would give the cake in it's place. The recipe still always turned out great! That is what I love about pound cakes....they are very flexible and always turn out great! Be sure to let them cool completely before you start removing them from the pan or else they sometimes will want to fall apart. I have found from experience to be patient and let them cool first. I have also found that the crumb topping works best for me if you wait to add it about the last 20 minutes of cooking time. If you add it too soon then it wants to sink into the batter or it browns too quick. You only want a light golden brown color to the crumb topping.

Another baking trick I have learned over the years is to add the almond extract or baking emulsion (or any extracts like vanilla extract, peppermint extracts, etc) when you are beating the butter and sugar together. It gives the cake a better flavor. It seems to infuse the flavor more evenly and the results are better. Most recipes suggest adding the vanilla near the end of the mixing time. I disagree....add it at the beginning. I also prefer using baking emulsion in place of extracts when I can. They are a little thicker and the flavor is just a little more pronounced. You can find them at most baking supply stores or chain craft stores including Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, and Michael's. Look for them in the cake supply aisle. (I always go online and print out the 40% coupons that they have so it makes it less expensive!) Sometimes you can find the baking emulsions at places like Home Goods or TJ Maxx too. You just have to look. Of course if you can't find them you can just use extract from the grocery store. It will work too.

If someone has a dairy allergy then you can substitute dairy free cream cheese (available at Trader Joe's or a specialty store like Sprouts). You can also use a dairy free margarine or Crisco in place of the real butter but just make sure it contains at least 65% fat or it won't rise correctly! You don't want to add a creamy butter spread that is too watery. For nut allergies you can just substitute flour in place of the ground almonds. The flavor and texture will not be quite the same but trust will still be a delicious pound cake! I would just add a couple extra drops of the almond extract to bring out the flavor that you are missing from the ground almonds!

German Almond Pound Cake Recipe:
  • 3/4 cup butter (you can substitute margarine that contains at least 65% fat or Crisco. DO NOT USE LIGHT BUTTER OR MARGARINE. THEY CONTAIN TOO MUCH WATER AND CAKE WILL NOT RISE PROPERLY!)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (If you do not have this you can substitute either sour cream or plain Greek yogurt + 1 tbs. of tapioca starch to make it thicker OR Crisco + 1 tbs. white vinegar to give it the tartness). I prefer using cream cheese which I did in my recipe today. You can use regular or the light....not fat free. I have also used the dairy free cream cheese available at specialty stores & Trader Joe's and it worked fine too!
  • 1 tsp. almond baking emulsion or 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I just use traditional table salt because it has a fine texture that I like for baking)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar (I use the GMO free sugar that is not bleached white but my mom always uses the regular white sugar and it works fine)
  • 6 large eggs (I prefer using the brown eggs but you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (sometimes called almond meal or almond flour). I bought mine at Trader Joe's because they were more affordable than the specialty stores. You can also grind your own in the food processor if you prefer. 
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend (I generally mix my own flour blend but for today's recipe I used King Arthur's gluten free flour blend. If your gluten free flour blend does not contain xanthan gum or guar gum then you will need to add 1/4 tsp. If you are using regular flour then you can omit the xanthan gum). I personally avoid the gluten free flour blends that contain sorghum for my sweet baked goods. I don't care for the flavor. It is fine in savory dishes but I don't like it in my sweets!
Beat the butter (or Crisco or margarine) together with the cream cheese (or sour cream or yogurt + tapioca starch or the additional Crisco + vinegar if you are substituting the cream cheese). Add the almond baking emulsion or extract and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar. Beat until creamy and fluffy. Gradually add eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the baking soda and salt (add xanthan gum if you are adding it). I like to add them before the flour so they get mixed in really well. Add the ground almonds along with the flour and beat until creamy and fluffy. Batter will be fairly thick. Pound cakes have a heavier texture than a cake mix!  Pour into a greased pan (I used an angel food cake pan (also called an apple cake pan). I like to use this type of a pan in place of a bundt pan if I am putting a crumb topping on it. The bundt pan is more difficult because the crumb topping will be on the bottom when you flip it over which I personally don't like! Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 70-75 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. If you are adding the crumb topping then add it the last 20 minutes of cooking time so the topping doesn't sink into the batter. If you are baking in a large loaf pan, bake 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, muffins 18-25 minutes and 9x13 pan, about 25-35 minutes. Check at the lowest cooking time because oven temperatures and altitudes can change the baking time at your house!

Crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup of butter, margarine or Crisco, soft but not melted
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour (if you have a gluten allergy. Otherwise use regular flour)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I use GMO non-bleached sugar)
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds or slivered or shaved almonds)
  • a tiny drop of either almond or vanilla extract. Not much...just a drop

Mix all together until crumb texture. If it is too dry then you can add tablespoon more butter or if it is too moist then you can add a tablespoon additional flour or almonds. Taste a pinch. If you want it a touch sweeter than add a tablespoon more sugar. The texture and flavor of the crumb topping will resemble shortbread. It shouldn't be over sweet. Sprinkle on top of the pound cake during the last 20 minutes of baking time. (I just take it out of the oven and sprinkle on top. It is less messy and I don't burn myself this way! Bake until pound cake is cooked through (knife inserted should come out clean) and topping should be a light golden brown and crispy.

This cake should be cooled completely in the pan before removing it to a wire rack or plate. I find that if I run a knife along the edges and the center of the angel food cake pan then it doesn't stick and comes out much easier. It will fall apart if you remove it when it is still warm. I take a spatula if I feel I need extra support on the bottom to remove it. My mom used to flip the cake onto a plate and then flip it onto another plate to get the crumb topping on top. I find this harder for me. I just tip the pan gently to get the cake moving and then lift it with one hand an a spatula. You can drizzle a powdered sugar and milk or water glaze on the top. There isn't a recipe for that. You just mix water and powdered sugar until thin enough to drizzle over cooled cake.

This is what I prefer to use when I have it available. Look for it in the baking aisle at craft stores

Sorry that I don't have better pictures. I wasn't planning on adding this cake anytime soon to the blog but I had several people ask for the recipe lately so I just quickly added it. I will update photos the next time I make it. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Casually

Friday, March 20, 2015

Southern Style Brisket

Southern Style Brisket. Cooking a brisket is a lot like cooking ribs.....low temperature for a long time! It doesn't really matter if you cook it in the oven, grill or just needs to be at a low temperature and several hours. I love my meat cooked in a crock pot with the exception of brisket and ribs. I don't want them tasting like pot roast. (Don't get me wrong, I love pot roast but if I want brisket or ribs....I don't want them tasting like pot roast!). I like a light glaze of BBQ sauce baked on top to finish it off.

I used to be afraid to cook brisket or ribs because the few times that I did (when I was much younger)... they always were either too dry, too mushy or the flavor and texture just weren't right. After discussing this with a restaurant owner, he explained that you need to cook the meat at a low temperature for 6-8 hours and not put the glaze or sauce onto the meat until the last 20-30 minutes of baking. You also need to "tent" the meat pan and add a bowl of water or other liquid to the oven for steam. It isn't rocket science but there is a trick to creating the perfect brisket! I also recommend experimenting with a cheaper cut of meat (mock tenderloin, thick cut of flank steak, London Broil, etc) before you tackle an expensive cut of brisket. I will be honest...sometimes if I am craving brisket and it isn't on sale then I just buy a thick cut of flank steak or similar cut. It will be a little less fatty so the flavor isn't exactly the same but it is close enough and more affordable! If I am having a huge crowd over for brisket....I ALWAYS add a couple of thicker flank steaks or "mock beef tenderloin" to the brisket to stretch the meat further for a more affordable BBQ. No one has ever noticed! You can also cook a pork loin or pork tender loin the same way. If it is a really thick cut of meat then you will need to slice it in half. (Your butcher can do this for you if you ask).

I don't have a fancy smoker so I generally cook my brisket in the oven. If it is going to be really hot outside then I will cook it on my BBQ gas grill so I don't heat up my house. Just make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank before you get started! I like to put a custom seasoning rub on mine before I start cooking and then finish it off with a thin swipe of gluten free BBQ sauce that I add the last 20 minutes of cooking. You can customize the flavors however you want. There are many recipes for sauces, marinades and spice rubs. I generally stick to my own recipe because it always turns out great and we love the flavors at our house. I usually serve it with my chipotle baked beans (recipe July 2014 on my blog) and corn bread muffins (recipe Dec 2012 on my blog) or spoon bread recipe (May 2014 on my blog) and cucumber salad or spicy slaw. YUMMY!

Southern Style Brisket Recipe:
  • 1-2 briskets or similar cut of meat (you can substitute thick flank steak, mock beef tenderloin, London broil or other similar cuts. Try to find cuts that have some fat running through them because the fat will give the meat extra flavor!)
  • Spice rub of your choice (I use my custom blend below but feel free to use a steak rub but make sure it is gluten free!)
  • BBQ sauce or finishing glaze, optional (just make sure it is gluten free!). We prefer BBQ at our house but I have had parties where I have done a peach-chipotle glaze, honey-jalapeno glaze, apricot-onion glaze or a teriyaki glaze. They are all delicious but we prefer the traditional BBQ at our house most of the time!

Line a cookie sheet that has edges with foil. (This just makes it easier for clean up later). Lay your meat down flat onto the foil lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle your spice rub onto meat. Take your freshly washed hands and press the spice rub into the meat. Cover the baking sheet with foil making a "tent" in the center. The center will "poof" up in the center. Put in 275F degree oven along with an oven-safe glass bowl or casserole dish that is filled part way with water. This will keep the oven environment moist and steamy for the cooking. You might have to check the water level part way through the cooking time to make sure that the water hasn't run dry. You don't want to crack your glass bowl! (You can put the brisket in a smoker or on your BBQ grill if you can set the temperature for about 275F). Cook for about 6-8 hours. I don't even check on the meat until usually after 7 hours (unless we are starving then I might check it at 6 hours) but it will be the most tender after 7-8 hours. I take it out of oven and check the meat with a knife. If it is pulling away in tender chunks then I put on a light coat of BBQ sauce or glaze and pop it back into the oven but without the foil tent this time. I want the sauce or glaze to get a nice cooked texture.

My special seasoning rub (recipe below)

I wrap the foil around the meat to form a "tent"

Ready to eat! Yummy!

Close up view

It just shreds great and you can eat it sliced, on a sandwich or in a tortilla

My Special Gluten Free Spice Rub Recipe:
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/8 cup black ground pepper
  • 5 tbs. ground chipotle pepper (you can substitute cayenne if you don't have chipotle)
  • 1/4 cup salt (I like to use finely ground sea salt but regular salt will work fine too)
  • 1/8 cup garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 1/8 cup onion powder (not onion salt!)
  • 3 tbs. ground tumeric
  • 3 tbs. ground coriander 

Mix all ingredients together well and store in a glass spice jar or empty jar with a lid. (If you don't have an empty jar then you can find inexpensive ones at your Dollar Store, 99cent Store or Ikea. If you have an empty jelly jar then you can just use that too. This isn't fancy!). You can use this seasoning on meat, vegetables, potatoes, popcorn or just about anything you want! I usually double the recipe and share with my son David who absolutely loves this spice. He says he uses it on everything but especially likes it on chicken. He said it reminds him of the seasoning used at Outback Steak House. 

My homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe:
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine and cooked until soft (you can either cook it with the meat or in a little water in the microwave or stove top. You don't want crunchy onions in your sauce! Or you can substitute a packet of gluten free onion soup mix added to the 1 cup of water below)
  • 1 cup ketchup (I used Heinz which is marked gluten free on the back of bottle)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used raw brown sugar today but regular will work too. Add a little less if you like it more tangy or add a little extra if you like it sweeter)
  • 1/2 tsp. dry ground mustard (this is found in the spice section of your grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder (optional. This is something I like to add because we like the smokey flavor. If you don't have it on hand, I wouldn't run out to buy it. You can also add more for extra spicy)
  • 1 tbs. vinegar (I used white vinegar today but you can use apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce (I used Lea & Perrins which was labeled gluten free)
  • 1 cup beef broth or water
Cook all the ingredients together on low heat on your stove top until slightly thickened. Spread onto your meat or put into a jar so that you can add the sauce on the side in case people don't want BBQ sauce or they want extra sauce (which is usually the case!). This sauce can be used on any of your favorite meats including pork, chicken or beef. It is also delicious in place of making sloppy Joe's with your ground burger. YUMMY! I also like to add some to my homemade baked beans if I have it on hand.

I hope you try this super easy recipe for brisket. We have a hard time going out for dinner for brisket and ribs because they are so expensive and many times we get disappointed with the results. I like making them at home because I know they always turn out great and it is much more affordable! You just have to plan ahead. You can't rush the cooking or the flavors just don't turn out the same. I have tried boiling the brisket like people suggest but honestly...nothing beats low temperature cooking for hours. Try won't be sorry. There are also a lot of great gluten free seasoning blends that are already prepared (Weber makes several and you can find them at most grocery stores including Wal-Mart, Fry's or Kroger in the spice aisle). If you don't have time to make your own or you don't cook a lot....certainly don't go out and buy all the ingredients to make your own spice rub. That can get expensive! We use the rub a lot and I buy the spices in bulk so it is affordable for us. I also give the spice rub out to friends at the holidays since they all love it and our homemade flavored sea salts. The homemade BBQ sauce is great too but there are plenty of delicious ones that you can purchase at the grocery store for your convenience. My favorites are the Rudy's gluten free BBQ sauce which our friends in Albuquerque got us hooked on. I like it because it is spicy. I believe that Baby Ray's brand is also gluten free (just read the bottles at the grocery store!). 

*Please note that I do not sponsor any particular brands, I don't get paid to write this blog so therefore any of my recommendations in this blog is purely my preference on things I have tasted and used with good results.

Consider making brisket for your next BBQ for a great casual dinner. Let the oven do the work while you have time to prepare other side dishes or relax if you let others bring the side dishes! :)

Chow! (Yes....this is my hillbilly way of saying it! Hahahahaha!)
Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spanish Spice Bars

Spanish Spice Bars. This is a very old fashioned recipe. Most people remember it from the old grocery stores like A&P. It is a very moist spice cake recipe that has a fluffy butter cream frosting. It resembles a carrot cake but it is much easier to prepare and I think the flavors are much more intense. The flavor gets better after a day or two!

This isn't a lame spice cake mix version! There are a lot of recipes out there for Spanish Spice bars and some of them call for cocoa powder to get the intense dark color. Actually, the dark color isn't from is from raisin puree. Yep, it gives the depth to this cake that can't be substituted! Even if you hate raisins, you will love this cake! You can also add nuts and a handful of raisins for a chunky cake but my family always preferred it without the chunks. I wanted to re-create this cake in a gluten free version and the results were fantastic. It kept the moist texture and the flavor was just as I remembered it. If you don't have cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice separate but you have either apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice then you can just substitute 2 1/2 - 3tsp. of that instead.

Spanish Spice Bar Recipe:
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (I used the Pillsbury gluten free flour blend today since my hubby went shopping and came home with it. Mine already had xanthan gum in it so I didn't need to add any. If you are using a gluten free flour that doesn't contain guar gum or xanthum gum then please add 1/2 tsp. If you are using regular flour then you can omit it).
  • 1/4 cup of gluten free oats, finely ground into a flour (I measure after I grind it in my blender)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used the GMO free sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg (if using freshly ground nutmeg, reduce to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water (I use the water I have leftover from plumping up my raisins)
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins (I like to use the assorted raisins but traditional raisins will work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the raisins in about 2 cups of boiling water and let them plump up for about 5 minutes. Mix the sugar, oil, shortening and eggs until fluffy and smooth.  Beat in the baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Take the raisins with a couple tablespoons of the liquid and put in a blender or food processor (if you don't have one then just mash the best you can with a fork) until it is puree. Add the flour and puree alternately with the 1 cup water (I use the water from the raisins). At this point if you want to add a handful of nuts or additional raisins for a chunky cake then add then now. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan for thicker bars (like a cake) or a 11x15 jelly roll pan for thinner cake bars. Bake 9x13 pan for approx 30-35 minutes & 11x15 pan 18-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool & frost with butter cream frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting:
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 1 cup real butter or margarine (don't use margarine with less than 65% fat or it contains too much water)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (be sure it is gluten free)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract or almond baking emulsion
  • 1 tsp. butter flavor extract or baking emulsion (if you have it on gives extra flavor!)

Beat the shortening and butter or margarine with extracts. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy. Frost cooled cake.

Butter Cream Frosting

These are the raisins I used today. They are my favorite!

I put the plumped up raisins in my mini food processor. (You can mash with a fork if you don't have one)

This is what the raisins look like after they are pureed

This is the cake batter before baking it

See how dark and rich the cake turned out?

It is moist and has a depth of flavor!


Up close view of the moist cake!

Results? Yummy! Glad I converted to gluten free (you can make it with regular flour too!)

I am glad I reached into my old recipe box and decided to make this delicious, moist cake with a depth of flavor. This is one of my oldest son's favorite cakes. I haven't made it for years and since it was his birthday, I decided to attempt to make it gluten free. I am glad that I was able to recycle an old favorite and share this version of Spanish Spice Bar with people that have always wanted to make it. This recipe gives carrot cake a run for it's money! ;)

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Frosted Orange Cookies

Frosted Orange Cookies. This is one of the many cookies that my mom used to make at Christmas every year and it was one of my dad's favorites. It is a soft, cake style cookie with a flavorful glaze. My sister-in law Becky & my mom both have similar recipes so I took both recipes and tweaked them to make it work gluten free. I also added more orange zest because I really like the flavor it adds to the cookies. If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can still make these cookies but just use regular flour instead of a gluten free flour blend!

My daughter and my boss both gave me a small bag of fresh oranges from their tree.  A few of the oranges were really ripe and extremely juicy so I decided rather than eat those ones, I would make some cookies with them. I also think that since my daughter's upcoming wedding is quickly approaching...I am missing my dad who passed away a few years ago and by making these cookies that he liked made me feel a little closer to him. :)

You can also substitute lemon or limes (or a combination of citrus fruit) for these cookies. They have a wonderful burst of flavor and they have a delicate cake like texture. They are very moist. The glaze takes them over the top! (They are good sprinkled with a touch of powdered sugar instead of the glaze BUT the glaze makes them sooooo much better! Our family prefers the glaze!)

Frosted Orange Cookies:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used the unbleached non-gmo type)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco. Be careful with some of the generics because they are whipped and contain too much water and the cookies will not hold their shape. You don't want flat cookies!)
  • zest from 1 large or 2 small oranges
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup gluten free flour blend (I used Betty Crocker gluten free flour blend today. You will need to add 1/2 tsp. of xanthan gum or guar gum if your gluten free flour blend doesn't contain it!) I will comment that if you have a gluten free flour blend that feels extremely powdery or gritty to touch that you might want to add a small package of vanilla pudding mix. For some reason it gives it a little more moisture and holds the cookie together. I didn't need to add it to my Betty Crocker flour blend but there are a few GF flour blends out there that give a very crumbly result. If you aren't sure....only bake 2 cookies and see how the results turn out before you bake the entire batch only to realize that they are too crumbly.
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (if you don't have this then you can just add additional 1/2 cup of gluten free flour blend).
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix sugars, shortening, orange peel, orange juice and eggs. Beat until fluffy and creamy. Stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. The chilled dough will keep the cookies in a mound shape rather than having them spread so much. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (I use a cookie scoop for convenience but my mom never does) onto cookie sheet about 2" apart. (I also like to line my cookie sheet with parchment paper so I don't have to grease the cookie sheet and the cookies come off easier. If you are not using parchment paper then you will need to lightly grease your cookie sheet so the cookies won't stick!) Bake in a pre-heated 350F degree oven for 10-13 minutes or until tops and edges are very lightly golden. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet to prevent crumbling. Drizzle with glaze if desired.

Dough after it has been refrigerated. Ready to bake!
 Orange Glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (also called frosting sugar or confectioner's sugar. Make sure it does not contain gluten! Some brands add it to the powdered sugar!
  • 1 tbs. olive oil, melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 3 tbs. orange juice
  • 2 tbs. of orange zest
Orange glaze ready to drizzle onto cookies!

Ready to eat! Up close view

Ready to taste!

See how moist?

The cookie is soft and slightly sweet with a tangy glaze. Perfect combination of flavors!
 So if you have a couple of oranges hanging around in your refrigerator or on your tree...consider making a batch or two of these delicious, melt in your mouth cookies! Even if you have lemons or a combination of citrus in your can use a combination for a lovely cookie! These are an old fashioned cookie recipe that needs to get the attention it deserves! These are great for dessert or game day. They also freeze great for a quick snack at a later date! This recipe can be spread into a 7x11 pan and baked into bars if you prefer rather than drop cookies but you will need to adjust the cooking time to about 25 minutes or until edges are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.

Feel free to post any additions or suggestions & pictures of your cookies below. We all learn from each other! I experiment in my kitchen with my recipes to make them work. If you have another way of doing it, I'd love to hear about it! :)

Have a great day!

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake. Simple. I love how the slightly tart, moist cake meets with just a hint of sweetness. My friend Judi gave me a handful of fresh lemons from her tree and I wanted to experiment with a gluten free lemon cake for my daughter's upcoming wedding. I have been experimenting with a couple different types of cakes and seeing which ones taste the best and hold their shape. This one is definitely in the running. I shared the cake with some friends (since I don't want the temptation of eating it all myself!) and they felt this was great and recommended I make this as one of the wedding cakes. You could also just bake it into a loaf pan and drizzle a glaze on it. I took a couple of different lemon cake recipes and tweaked them into one recipe to work for what I had in my house. You could very easily make this with fresh oranges or limes instead of lemons. There are a lot of recipes out there for lemon cake but I wanted one that used fresh lemons and didn't add lemon pudding mixes or anything that had artificial lemon flavor into the batter. You could easily substitute almond flour for the gluten free flour blend and you can toss in a handful of poppy seeds if you desire.

Forgive me for taking the month of December off of writing for the blog. I was still baking and experimenting in my kitchen but I just needed a break from the computer. December was a busy month for us so I gave myself a "vacation" from the blog. I will be catching up on some recipes to post.

Lemon Cake Recipe: (makes one loaf or one round 9" single layer cake). Recipe can be doubled.
  • 1 cup gluten free flour blend or substitute finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (only add if your gluten free flour doesn't contain xanthan gum or guar gum. Don't add this if you are using regular flour or if your GF flour already contains it).
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar (I used unbleached non-gmo sugar)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (I used lemon infused olive oil that I received as a gift but you can use olive oil or substitute vegetable oil)
  • zest & juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese (or you can substitute a non-dairy version of cream cheese or just use Crisco)

Grease (or use a non-cooking spray) to coat a 9x5 loaf pan or 9" round cake pan. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Beat the sugar, eggs, oil and zest. Beat in eggs one at a time. Continue to beat until mixture is creamy and pale in color, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cream cheese or Crisco. Slowly add the flour (or ground almonds), xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Beat until smooth and creamy.

(The creamy batter)
 Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake in center of the oven for 20-25 minutes for 9" round pan or 45-60 minutes for a loaf pan. Oven temperatures & altitude may vary your cooking times so check it at the earliest cooking time and adjust the time as necessary. Bake until toothpick or sharp knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cook 15 minutes before removing from pan.

You can either frost with a lemon butter cream frosting, lemon ganache or a simple powdered sugar & lemon juice drizzle. I chose to use a lemon butter cream frosting today for this trial run. I would consider adding lemon curd to the layers also. Yummy!

For the Lemon Butter Cream Frosting I made today:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner sugar)
  • 1/4 cup real butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • lemon zest
  • 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

Mix until smooth and spread over cooled cake. Since I only wanted to do a "trial" on this cake, I only baked one 9" round layer. I cut the layer in half (half circle) and made a layer cake out of it. (Basically, I just folded the cake in half). I frosted the top of one half and topped it with the remaining half to form a layered cake. If I decide to make this for the wedding, I will double the recipe for two layers. Keep in mind that I only wanted to test the cake portion so the pictures are not great and I didn't take any time to try and decorate it fancy. I leave that fancy cake decorating up to my mom and my sister-in-law, Becky. They are the professional cake decorator's in our family!

fresh out of oven & cooling

I just cut the cake down the middle making two half moon shapes & frosted

Ready to eat

See how moist?

Up close view

Gluten Free Lemon Cake (My talented sister-in-law decorated it for me!)

The gluten free lemon cake is on the right. It turned out moist & delicious!

I will definitely keep this cake in the running for potential gluten free wedding cake options. It was a big hit with friends and it was nice & moist. I will post pictures if I decide to use this for one of the wedding cakes after my sister-in-law decorates it. We are having a regular wedding cake that my mom is making & decorating & since we have several gluten free guests...we are making a smaller version of a wedding cake that is gluten free that my sister-in-law graciously offered to decorate for me! :)

Happy New Year 2015! Let it be a great year for everyone! Although last year had some difficult times, the good times took over and made it a great year overall in 2014. I am determined to slow down a little and enjoy my family and great friends more.

I do challenge you to make this cake...and share it with at least one person that is special to you. Life is short...enjoy it and share it! :)

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pineapple Fluff

 I like "salads" that can be used as a side dish or dessert. Seriously, I am not sure who classified this as "salad" but I think it is funny. I consider it more of a dessert that you can get by with on your plate next to a thick ham slice! Ha!Ha! I really like to add these type of "salads" to my holiday brunch menu. They are affordable, easy, delicious and can be made ahead. They are also pretty flexible. You can change out the flavor of the instant pudding mix or fruit and you have a whole new combination. This version is one of my family's favorites. We all love coconut so I add shredded coconut to the pudding but the original recipe did not call for can leave it out! I have a lot of friends that don't like coconut so I don't add it if I am taking this to their house when we do potluck meals. If there will be a large crowd there then I will double the recipe. Everyone always seems to come back for seconds! I always hope I will have leftovers....but rarely do!

This recipe reminds me of a cream pie...without the crust! It just melts in your mouth and definitely tastes better the next day so I like to make it the night before I will be serving it. That way the yummy little mini-marshmallows get a spongy texture. I generally try to use a vanilla or French vanilla instant pudding mix in this recipe but you can substitute lemon, banana, chocolate, pumpkin or whatever other pudding flavor you prefer! (Jello brand doesn't contain gluten so I stick with that brand).

Pineapple Fluff Recipe:
  • 1 small box instant pudding mix, dry (don't prepare it! you just need the dry powder!). Make sure your pudding mix is gluten free. I use Jello brand. I prefer using either vanilla or French Vanilla instant pudding mix. I have not tried the sugar free version so I can't tell you if it will work well but I assume it would. 
  • 1 (12 oz.) container of Cool Whip non dairy topping, thawed (If you live in a country that doesn't have Cool Whip then you can substitute Whipped cream, prepared Dream Whip or even use Mascarpone cheese that is slightly sweetened).
  • 1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks or tidbits (including the juice!). If you want extra flavor you can add a small can (6-8 oz) crushed pineapple with juice too! (Our family prefers pineapple so I stick with that but you can substitute fruit cocktail or peach chunks).
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut, optional (it can be unsweetened or sweetened)
Pour the dry instant pudding powder into a bowl. Stir in the pineapple chunks with the juice. Stir until the pudding powder is mixed into the juice well (no clumps!). Stir in the Cool Whip and mini marshmallows. Cover and put in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight so the flavors blend and the mini marshmallows get spongy.

This recipe is so easy to prepare that I didn't even bother taking pictures of the steps. It is basically dump the ingredients into a bowl, stir and refrigerate. It isn't rocket science! I made this last night and this is what it looks like this morning. You can dress it up by adding some maraschino cherries or nuts if you prefer. I just like it simple. Not only is it less expensive without adding the nuts but I don't have to worry about nut allergies when I take this to a potluck. 

Enjoy this super easy recipe at your next potluck or holiday brunch. Make a double batch if you plan on having leftovers! :)

Gluten Free Casually

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mexican Casserole

Mexican Casserole. I like this meal because not only does it go together quickly but it also has a lot of flavors that tickle the taste buds and it is very hardy. It is one of my "go to" recipes during the busy holiday season because I can make it ahead and reheat it later...or it only takes about 15-20 minutes to get dinner to the table so it goes together fast for a last minute dinner. It is also very flexible. I generally use ground beef but you can use chicken (if you use rotisserie chicken then you don't even have to take any extra time cooking the chicken and your meal preparation just turned into only 5 minutes!) or you can use ground turkey, chorizo, shredded beef, shrimp, fish or pork. If you prefer meatless then you can just use beans. You can also change the flavors depending on what type of salsa and tortillas you use. You can add or delete items you like to this recipe. I happen to love sliced olives and corn in my casserole but not everyone else does. Leave them out if you don't like them! This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a large crowd. You can layer it in a round casserole dish or in a 9x13 pan. It is okay if the tortillas overlap. You can also cut some of the tortillas in half or quarters if you need them to fit better in the pan you are using. (If you don't have a gluten allergy then you don't have to worry about using "gluten free" products!)

I first had this recipe over 22 years ago at a party. I wasn't much into Mexican type food back then (Wow! Have times changed since moving to Arizona!) and this was something completely new to me. I didn't even ask for the recipe because I thought with all the layers that it must be really involved and I was a busy, working mom with 3 kids back then. I overheard one of the the other ladies ask for the recipe and she wrote it down and explained how to make it. sounded pretty easy! I tried it and my family loved it. I was happy because it was easy to make and can be easily adapted to what type of meat, beans and tortillas you have available. Although, I am pretty sure this is not an "authentic" Mexican dish...we like it and all the fun Mexican flavors are captured in this sassy dish so we enjoy it. It is a recipe that I like to make for a crowd because it is easy, delicious and doesn't break the bank. Leftovers freeze well too and you can make it ahead and just re-heat it later in the week.

The only conversion that I needed to make for this Mexican dish to make it "gluten free" was to be sure that my Taco Seasoning was gluten free and verify that the corn tortillas were labeled gluten free (you need to read labels because some corn tortillas are made in a facility that uses wheat flour on the equipment!). You can also use gluten free flour tortillas if you prefer. They are a little more expensive but tasted just fine in this recipe. You can certainly make your tortillas from scratch if you prefer...I am not very good at it so I usually just purchase mine. You can purchase taco seasoning labeled gluten free or you can mix up your own batch from scratch (my recipe below).

Mexican Casserole Recipe:
(recipe is for 8x8 pan. You can double it for 9x13 pan)
  • 3-4 gluten free tortillas (I used gluten free flour tortillas for today's batch. Corn tortillas also work well but they usually are smaller in size so you may need a couple extra if your corn tortillas are small)
  • 1 pound meat (I used lean ground hamburger today but you can use ground turkey or chicken, sausage, chorizo, chicken breasts (or rotisserie chicken or leftover turkey from a holiday dinner), shredded pork or beef, shrimp or a mild white fish (like cod). If you are vegetarian then you can leave the meat out and add extra beans.
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans or even refried beans. The choice is yours. If you don't like beans then you can certainly leave these out. If you are doing a vegetarian version then you can use an assortment of beans for extra protein, flavor and color!
  • 1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained, optional
  • 1 can (16 oz.) jar salsa (any type you like. It doesn't matter if it is chunky or smooth. It can be a traditional red salsa, chipotle salsa or verde salsa which is green. It doesn't matter as long as you like the flavor.
  • 1 packet of gluten free taco seasoning (or use my gluten free recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups of shredded cheese (you can use any type of cheese you want. I generally use the Mexican blend cheese but cheddar, pepper jack, chipotle cheddar, co-jack, plain cheddar, etc. will all work). I usually use almost 2 cups because I like mine real cheesy!
  • 1 (3oz.) can black olives, sliced, optional
I used ground beef today for my Mexican casserole. When it was almost done cooking, I drained the fat and stirred in the taco seasoning. Feel free to use ground turkey or chicken OR substitute any other meat that is pre-cooked.

I used black beans today in my Mexican Casserole. Feel free to use Kidney beans, pinto beans or re-fried beans.

This is the salsa that I had on hand today. You can use any flavor or type of salsa you like. Just double check the label to make sure it doesn't contain gluten. Most salsa is gluten free but read the label just to make sure! I also like Verde green salsa

I found these gluten free "flour" tortillas at my local Sprouts and at Safeway grocery store. You can ask your grocery store if they carry them or ask them to special order them for you. You can also use gluten free corn tortillas. Both work just fine.
  If your meat is not pre-cooked then go ahead and cook your meat & add your taco seasoning. If your meat is pre-cooked then just add the taco seasoning and stir to mix. You don't need to add water to the seasoning packet....dry powder is just fine. I never add water to my taco seasoning like the packet says. I think it makes the meat too runny. I like to warm my tortillas in a warm skillet for a few seconds on each side before using them. I think it brings out the flavor of them and makes them more pliable. You are not making them crispy...just a few seconds to warm them. I spray or grease my casserole dish (I used a round 8" size today but you can use any shape. If you are using a 9x13 pan then just make sure you are doubling recipe!). You may have to either overlap the tortillas or cut them to fit in the pan. It is similar to assembling lasagna. Put a layer of tortilla(s) on the bottom of the casserole dish. Sprinkle 1/2 the meat on top of tortilla(s), then layer: 1/2 of beans, 1/2 of corn, 1/2 black olives, 1/2 of salsa, 1/3 of cheese. Repeat layers. Put a final layer of tortilla(s) on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Okay....the Mexican casserole is complete. Now you can either put it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until everything is heated throughout and cheese is melted OR you can toss it in the 350 degree pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until it is heated through and cheese is melted. It is that easy!

Gluten Free Taco Seasoning Blend:
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (not onion salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red chili pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper, optional
Stir to combine. This makes a single batch. I like to make a big batch at a time and keep it in a glass jar so I have it ready for quick meals. You can use store-bought gluten free taco seasoning if you prefer. Just be sure to read labels! There are a lot of different variations to taco seasonings and you can find variations online. This one is basic. I like to add the chili pepper flakes and a pinch of chipotle but you can leave those out.

This is how I layered the Mexican casserole. I added cheese on top and then repeated layers, ending with tortillas and cheese on top. Then you can either bake it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until heated through & cheese is melted or you can toss it in the microwave for a few minutes until everything is heated & cheese is melted. Easy peasy!

Just removed mine from the microwave.

It is still hot from the microwave.

Look at all this lovely cheesy ingredients. Mmmmm!

This is another angle of the Mexican casserole. You can see the layers a little better.

This is the Mexican casserole that I cooked in my round casserole dish and cut into wedges. It is perfect for 4 large portions or 6 regular size portions. This is the size I make if it is just my hubby & I having dinner. It is enough for dinner + leftovers. If I have a crowd over then I make a 9x13 pan or more. If I am having a party then I will sometimes make a couple different varieties. A beef with red salsa, a chicken version using green salsa and a vegetarian version using just assorted beans. That way I can please all of my guests. Serve it with a Mexican salad, chips & salsa....dinner served! Quick & Easy. I also like to serve this with a Mexcian or Spanish type dessert like flan, Mexican chocolate pudding cake, sweet dessert tamales, Mexcian corn flour cookies or my flour-less chipotle chocolate truffle cake.

I hope you enjoy this super easy recipe that tastes like you spent a long time preparing it. It is simple, easy and affordable but looks like you spent hours in the kitchen preparing it. Simple enough for a quick, weeknight dinner but it is also perfect for entertaining a crowd.

Gluten Free Casually