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!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Chicken Noodle Casserole
 There is something comforting about pasta. It is one of the things I missed most when I went gluten free. You don't realize the foods you take for granted until they are eliminated from your diet. I have tried several of the gluten free noodles out there but I didn't care for the textures in my casseroles or mac & cheese recipes. They seemed to be either too mushy or too tough. Then I found one that was made with potato starch and the texture is perfect. It tastes just like "regular" noodles. Of course if you don't have a gluten allergy, you can make this recipe with regular elbow noodles. The first time I made this recipe I added too much Thyme and we thought it was a little over powering in flavor. This is a great recipe for a weeknight, casual dinner. It goes together pretty quick and it just melts in your mouth. You can also tweak the recipe to add (or substitute) other things like turkey, hamburger, pork, mushrooms, sausage, tuna, etc. I was told by several of my gluten free friends that this recipe is one of their favorites because it tastes like something from their childhood...comfort food! It is rich and creamy and just melts in your mouth. (I have also made it with just assorted mushrooms instead of chicken for those friends that are vegetarians and it worked out great also!) You can also tweak the recipe with whatever seasonings/spices you like best. You can make it spicy by adding Mexican spices or Cajan spices if you prefer.  In a pinch, you can substitute rice instead of the noodles. I have done this and it is also delicious but there is something about pasta....yummy! The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can make it a day or two in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it or microwave it. It is also a great way to use up leftover meat and give it a makeover meal instead of having leftovers again!

Chicken Noodle Casserole Recipe:

  • 2 cups of gluten free noodles, cooked & drained (I got mine in the bulk food section at WinCo Foods but I have seen them packaged at grocery stores with the same ingredients. I posted a photo below of the ingredients so you can find the same or similar ones. I personally think the ones made with corn are too tough & the ones made with white rice are just too mushy for this recipe). I also like using the Ronzoni brand gluten free noodles or Barilla gluten free noodles. If you do not have a gluten allergy you can use regular elbow noodles! 
  • 2 tbs. minced garlic (you can use fresh garlic or garlic in a jar for convenience)
  • 1 cup chicken broth + 1 tbs. chicken bouillon powder (make sure its gluten free!) I like to add the bouillon for extra flavor but you can leave it out if you don't have any on hand. 
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half & half (I used fat free half & half)
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)
  • 4 tbs. rice flour or corn starch or tapioca starch (for thickener)
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil, chopped or 2 tbs. dried
  • dash of sea salt + dash of pepper (if you decide to make it vegetarian and use all mushroom instead of chicken...try a smoked sea salt for added flavor. Yum!)
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasonings
  • 1/2 tsp. Thyme or Rosemary or Poultry Seasoning (optional) 
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion, optional
  • 2 cups of cooked chopped chicken (you can use Rotisserie chicken or canned chicken for convenience - or left over turkey after the holidays!) 
Gluten free Elbow Noodles I found in the bulk section of WinCo Foods

Cook & drain the noodles. In a saucepan, cook the chicken broth, cream, chicken bouillon (optional), spices, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, rice flour (or corn starch or tapioca starch) until smooth and it starts to get slightly thick. Remove from heat. Gently combine the cooked noodles, cooked chicken and 1 cup of the cheese (save the other 1 cup of cheese to sprinkle on top) together gently. Spoon into a a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and everything is warmed throughout. Or microwave until cheese is melted and casserole is warm throughout. (Since everything is pre-cooked, you really don't have to cook it long). 

I hope you enjoy the easy to make and very comforting chicken noodle casserole!  

Gluten Free Casually

Monday, October 22, 2012


Nothing like a bowl of slightly spicy chili to warm the soul on a chilly evening. Even though we are still seeing temperatures in the 90s in the Phoenix area...our little shak in northern Arizona gets down into the 30s at night. Yep, time for chili! Unfortunately a lot of the chili seasoning packets or store-bought chili add gluten as a filler. Well, I am going to show you how I make a great tasting bowl of chili without the gluten. It is easy & delicious. This will make a decent sized pot of chili so I recommend inviting some friends over to help you share it or freeze/can some for a future meal. (Or you can just half the recipe for a smaller amount. But Seriously...this chili is so tasty (and tastes even better the next couple of days!) that freezing or canning left overs is a must! I love just having a quick meal for our trips to the shak already made. I can just grab a frozen bag of chili and thaw/re-heat for a quick meal or take a jar or two of homemade canned chili with us and just heat & eat. YUM! My favorite way to serve it is with either my homemade corn bread recipe (slightly sweet - tastes similar to Jiffy brand but mine can be made gluten free - recipe to follow soon) or with tortilla chips. Sometimes I also serve it over noodles (mine are gluten free) for Chili Mac. Possibilities are endless!

Last year in December I made a huge pot of chili and ended up having less people over for a party than expected so I canned chili and put some in gift baskets. It was a huge hit. I was just reminded this past weekend by some friends that live up north that they would really enjoy getting a gift basket with homemade chili & apple pie filling again! Actually, it is a lot easier than people think to can food. My parents used to have a huge garden and fruit trees so we used to can food & make jellies & preserves every year. I like to can food items so I have my favorite foods at the shak up north. They last longer and you don't have to thaw it out. Just heat & eat. It also makes great gift items because you can make them before the holidays when you have the extra time and not be stressed with baking at the last minute. (I could try to explain the canning process but seriously there are great how to videos on "u-tube" that will walk you through the process).

Making chili isn't rocket science. My recipe isn't anything special except that I make mine gluten free & it is quick to make. (However, I did win a chili cook-off once!) I use canned tomatoes, beans & salsa to cut down on some the prep work but you can do it the old fashioned way and soak your beans and cut your own onions, peppers, etc. I used to do it that way but no one really noticed all the extra work that was involved. The flavor turned out the same and it wasn't really that much cheaper to do it the "hard way".  Most brands of kidney beans & black beans are gluten free but read your labels especially if they have seasoning in them!

Chili Recipe: (If you want a smaller batch, cut recipe in half)
  • 4-5 pounds of lean ground hamburger, cooked & drained (I use 90-93% lean). We like our chili thick but you can add less meat if you like yours more "soupy". You can also substitute game meat if you are a hunter and have a freezer full of ground lean meat. You can also used shredded beef instead of ground beef. Both are quite tasty! (I generally use the ground beef because it is quicker and usually less expensive!)
  • 4-5 cans (approx 16 oz. each) kidney beans, check to make sure they are gluten free (or you can buy a commercial size can at Sam's Club, Costco, Gordon's Food Supply or Smart & Final)
  • 2 cans (approx 15-16 oz. each) black beans, check to make sure they are gluten free
  • 1-2 (approx 15-16 oz. each) Rotel Tomatoes (If you don't like spicy chili then you can use regular tomatoes. You can also add more tomatoes but some of my kids don't like a lot of tomato chunks in their soup so I don't add more than 2 cans most of the time)
  • 2-3 cups chunky salsa (I do this because I am too lazy to cut up extra peppers, onions, etc. - but sometimes I will add a chopped small onion in addition to the salsa but I cook the onion with the ground beef so it won't be crunchy in the soup).
  • 2 tbs. Paprika
  • 2-3 tbs. Chili Powder (add more or less if you like it spicy or mild)
  • 1-2 tbs. Chipotle Chili Powder (optional - we like the smokey spicy flavor)
  • 1 tbs. beef bouillon + 1 tbs. dried onion flakes (or use 1 packet of gluten free onion soup mix)
  • 1-2 tbs. garlic (you can use dried or fresh)
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cans (48-64 oz each) of V-8 juice or tomato juice (depends on how thick you want it). Note: My  mom likes her chili more "soupy" so she adds one can of juice + some water. She also adds less beans and meat. (I use V-8 juice because I could always sneak some extra "veggies" into the meal without anyone knowing it!)
Combine all ingredients together in a HUGE pot and stir well. I cook mine on low for a couple of hours just so the flavors blend nicely although you don't have to. Everything in this is actually pre-cooked so you can just warm it up and eat it right away. I will tell you that it tastes even better the next day! My kids used to enjoy opening a small bag of lunch size Frito corn chips and spooning the chili on top with a little cheese and eating it from the bag when we went camping. I liked it because no extra dishes to wash! :) 

I hope you enjoy my quick Chili recipe. You can easily alter the recipe for a larger batch, smaller batch or tweak it with whatever you like to add to your chili recipe. I have found that everyone has their own way of making chili. I hope you enjoy my recipe. 

Gluten Free Casually

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bread

Pumpkin Pie Bread. It tastes like fall. The spicy flavor of pumpkin pie spices mingled with a quick bread that is slightly sweet. One of the best sweet breads ever! Honestly, I am not a big fan of pumpkin pie. Usually, I will skip it at the dessert table. But...pumpkin pie bread or a good pumpkin cookie...I can scarf down my share of those! This is one of those wonderful breads that you can serve for brunch or dessert. I know my boss loves pumpkin bread with nuts and since it was her birthday, I made her the gluten free pumpkin pie bread with walnuts & no glaze + I made a small bundt size with the glaze drizzled over some slices to share with co-workers. I was pleased with the results. No one could tell it was gluten free.

This is the recipe that my mom has always used. I have no idea where she got the original recipe. I have tried other recipes but the flavor isn't the same and they seemed to be dried out. This is a dense, moist bread that packs a lot of flavor. This is one of those recipes that was easy to convert to gluten free because you can easily use some of the heartier flours that I normally don't use in my gluten free baking. Some of the flours have an after taste that that I don't care for in sweets. (Reminds me of pea pods.) This recipe however will with stand the store bought gluten free flour and actually bakes best with it & there is no strange after taste at all! I  have also used my own gluten free flour blend in this recipe with good results. I will post that flour blend below in case you want to make your own flour blend. If you do not have a gluten allergy, you can substitute regular flour in this recipe like my mom does!

I usually make this recipe just like the basic one - plain or with walnuts. However, you can add dried cranberries, dates, raisins, pecans or whatever you would like in your sweet bread. You can also make a glaze that can be drizzled over the top. My mom always made it either plain or with walnuts and that is my personal favorite. However...I have been known to dress up imperfections with a glaze. Nothing worse than taking a loaf out of the pan too soon and it cracks or slices ugly. Quick fix: Glaze! A glaze drizzled over the top easily fixes mistakes - it draws the eyes away from imperfections. (Oh no....I am giving away my secrets! Now every time you see me bring something to a party with a glaze you will know I screwed it up somehow!)

Pumpkin Pie Bread Recipe:
  • 3 cups sugar (can use raw sugar which works great in this recipe)
  • 1 cup softened butter or margarine or 1 cup oil (Note: you can substitute 1/2 cup applesauce + 1/2 cup oil to reduce the fat) DO NOT USE LIGHT MARGARINE OR BUTTER. The bread will not rise correctly.
  • 4 eggs (or substitute egg beaters)
  • 1 can (15-16 oz) pumpkin puree (do not use pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour in today's recipe because I had some in my pantry. However, you can use my gluten free flour blend below instead. I have used it in this recipe and it works great also)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt (finely ground)
  • 4 tbs. pumpkin pie spice (the original recipe only calls for 2 tbs but I like more flavor)
  • 1 tbs. ground cinnamon (I personally prefer Saigon roasted cinnamon but regular cinnamon works fine too!)
  • 1/2 cup water or coffee (I generally use water because my family doesn't care for the taste of coffee. Although the flavor is can still taste it sometimes)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or dates, optional (I generally don't add these because so many people don't care for them in breads and they can be expensive if they aren't on sale)
Mix the sugar, oil, eggs & pumpkin puree. Add pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Gradually add the remaining ingredients. Don't over mix. Pour into two greased loaf pans or one bundt pan. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan(s) for at least 30 minutes before removing to wire rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight container or wrap in foil or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. 

This recipe can easily be baked in empty metal cans (like baked bean cans or metal coffee cans that don't have the narrow lip on them - which are getting harder to find! Baking in cans allows you to bake more loaves at one time in your oven. The cylinder shaped breads are so cute to wrap in plastic wrap & bow for holiday gift giving + the round slices look fantastic on a party platter! You don't need fancy mini loaf pans to make cute loaves. Just be sure to spray the cans with cooking spray & only fill the cans a little more than halfway full so they can rise without overflowing into your oven! If making smaller loaves, check your bread after 40-45 minutes of baking to see if they are done. You can also bake this recipe in muffin tins but cooking time with be only about 15-20 minutes. (Muffins or sliced bread (individually wrapped) freeze great for a quick morning breakfast or afternoon snack!)

This recipe actually tastes better 1-2 days later after spices have blended. It also slices best when slightly chilled. This makes an awesome recipe when you need to bake something in advance but need it to taste fresh. This bread also freezes very well. The recipe can also be cut in half for 1 loaf. (You can freeze the extra pumpkin puree if you aren't going to use it right away for something else).

Brown Butter Frosting (optional - this recipe is delicious without the frosting also)
  • 1/2 stick real butter
  • 4 tbs. milk 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon
In a saucepan, melt the butter, milk, pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon) and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly and then whisk in the powdered sugar. It should have a light brown/tan color. Drizzle over cooled bread or bundt pan if desired.

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 soy flour or sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk, make sure it is very fine in texture
  • 1 cup corn starch or tapioca starch (I used corn starch for this batch)
  • 3 tbs. xanthan gum
Combine all ingredients together well. 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 quick breads. It holds the texture well and doesn't crumble. (I usually don't use this recipe in cookies because I don't normally care for the flavor of  soy or sorghum flour but you can't taste it in this recipe). The texture and flavor was just as good as the original gluten version.

Served with Cool Whip (My husband's version)

Bundt version, sliced with frosting drizzle
Bunt version cooling in the pan

Loaf version

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sticky Chicken

Sticky Chicken. Sweet tangy onion glazed chicken. Super simple & economical but it tastes like you spent a long time in the kitchen. 4 simple ingredients. Easy enough for a weeknight supper but tasty enough to impress guests for dinner. (It also makes tasty wing sauce if you are having a crowd over for the ball game!) My uncle Al made this over 20 years ago for a family get together at his house and it was a big hit. Of course I snagged the recipe from him and have been making it ever since. I like it because you can buy the salad dressing or make your own for this recipe. I have tweaked the recipe just a tad bit to make it gluten free and I will also list some substitutions that I have done and it still tastes great. I generally like to follow recipes exactly but sometimes you have to improvise with what you have in your pantry. Most of the time you can find the premium apricot, peach or pineapple preserves at your Dollar Tree Stores or 99cent stores...which in this economy it is a lot cheaper than paying $3-$6 at the grocery store for it! I usually will pick up a couple at a time and keep in my pantry since they have a long shelf life. Sometimes I use my homemade preserves if I have them - but I don't make them frequently so when I have to purchase them...I like to get them for a good price! Just because it costs more doesn't make it taste any better! (I'm a thrifty shopper!) Of course you can always kick it up a notch and add a tablespoon of chili flakes if you want a spicy kick to your chicken.

Sticky Chicken Recipe:
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts (or use your favorite pieces and it doesn't matter if it is boneless and/or skinless - use whichever you like) Little whole Cornish Hens work well for this recipe also which is nice for a fancier dinner. For convenience, I use boneless/skinless breasts most of the time.
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix (I used Essential Everyday which is Albertson's store brand that is labeled gluten free on the back of the box)
  • 1 (12 oz.) jar of Apricot preserves (I have also substituted peach or pineapple preserves in the past because I had them in my pantry and refused to run to the store just for apricot preserves! Both tasted good)
  • 1 (8 oz) jar or 1 cup of homeade Catalina salad dressing (Kraft and Ken's Catalina dressings are both gluten free or you can use my gluten free homemade recipe below). The original recipe called for Russian dressing but I can't always find it at our store so I started using Catalina for the past few years. 

This is Albertson's store brand (gluten free)


Mix the dry onion soup mix, preserves and salad dressing & pour in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Arrange chicken pieces over the glaze. Cover with foil or lid and put in 350 degree oven. Bake covered for about 50-60 minutes. Remove lid and bake additional 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.(If you are using thinly cut boneless/skinless chicken then it won't take as long to cook) Remove from oven and let stand 15-20 minutes before serving so sauce can thicken. I generally serve it over rice and spoon the sauce over top of the chicken & rice. Oriental vegetable blend usually is a nice side dish for this recipe. 

You can also make all wings or chicken legs or breast tender strips for parties and serve on a large platter of rice or in short clear disposable cups with rice on the bottom of the cup and the chicken leg sticking out. I have also skewered a chicken breast tender strip with a wooden skewer and put in a disposable clear cup with rice & garnish for an appetizer. Garnish with chives or poppy seeds for added color. People are usually very surprised to find out how simple this recipe is to prepare. My kids always enjoy this recipe when I make it. Matter of fact, my daughter is stopping by tomorrow to pick up some left overs! 

Homemade Catalina Salad Dressing
  • 1/4 cup honey or corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup ketchup (I use Heinz)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup water
Whisk all together well. 

Below are pictures of sticky chicken over white rice. Garnished with chives. Very moist and juicy. 

Chicken leg with rice in a party cup - great for tailgating!

Gluten Free Casually