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, December 8, 2013

Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Crinkles! Deep, rich chocolate cookies with a light sprinkling of sugar. Decadent! These have a lightly crisp outside with a soft fudgy brownie texture in the center. They resemble a brownie but not overly sweet. The light powdered sugar coating gives them a festive snow-topped appearance. These are one of my holiday favorites because they go together pretty easy and the "snow cap" top makes them festive enough for my Christmas cookie plates yet satisfies my husband's chocolate needs. He won't eat traditional Christmas cookies. He prefers chocolate chip, brownies or M&M cookies. However, since these are similar to brownies....these are one he will eat. Most chocolate Crinkle cookies are rather bland or dry...but these bad boys are moist and have a nice, rich flavor. (Even Darth Vader and the dark side would love these! Geek alert!)

I like this particular recipe because it doesn't contain flour so no recipe adjustments were necessary. It does have ground nuts but if you have a nut allergy then you can easily substitute gluten free flour. Of course if you don't have gluten allergy you can use regular flour instead of nuts or gluten free flour.

I decided to make a batch for our dear friend Armando's birthday. He loves chocolate and I thought these would be perfect plus I had all the ingredients. I love the smell of dark chocolate and butter in my kitchen! The smells coming from my oven are heavenly! These cookies can be tweaked with spices if you want to customize them. If we are having a Mexican themed dinner, I will add one tsp. ground Chipotle chili powder or ground cinnamon to give it the Mexican flare. You can add a teaspoon or two of instant coffee or espresso granules for a European flare. Add a teaspoon of peppermint extract for a minty twist or a Hershey Kiss or Brach's Chocolate Star immediately when you remove from the oven for a "Kiss Cookie". This recipe is so versatile and the possibilities are endless!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie Recipe:
  • 1 cup ground almonds (you can grind yourself or look for almond flour or almond meal)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (that contains 70% fat), I used real butter today. You can also substitute Crisco vegetable shortening or Coconut Oil if you have a dairy allergy.
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar (this makes a nice soft cookie)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or butter vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips (please read your labels carefully. Some chocolate chips are made in a facility that processes wheat and some European chocolates use wheat flour as a thickener! The Guittard brand I used today is labeled GLUTEN FREE on the front of the package). Most Bittersweet chocolate chips don't contain milk or you can buy special dairy free chocolate chips if you have a dairy allergy.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioner sugar)
Whisk ground almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. Beat butter, brown sugar, and eggs until fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler until smooth.

Stir the cooled melted chocolate into the butter mixture. Fold in almond mixture until just combined. Don't over mix. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 10 minutes. This will make the cookies easier to work with. Scoop dough with a teaspoon and roll into balls. If you have a cookie scoop it will make perfect sized cookie balls. Roll each dough ball first lightly in granulated sugar then roll into powdered sugar. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. (I used to not use parchment paper since it isn't absolutely necessary but it really does make the cookies easier to remove and they seem to bake more even). Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10-13 minutes. My cookies were perfect after 11 minutes. Oven temperatures and altitude can vary cooking times, always check at the lowest cooking time and adjust your recipe accordingly. Cookies may look undercooked but will firm up slightly when cooled so don't over bake!

Dough balls rolled in sugar and ready to put in my pre-heated oven
Store in airtight container up to a week or freeze for 4-6 weeks.

Like I mentioned earlier, I like this recipe because I can add Chipotle chili powder or cinnamon for a Mexican twist or since this cookie resembles a brownie in flavor and texture ....I can use the individual cookies to make mini brownie trifles in wine glasses. Layer a cookie or two, pudding, chopped candy or fruit, whipped cream = single serve trifles. Elegant and fun but great for my casual entertaining style. I just love desserts that are so versatile!

I love the crinkle snow capped look the cookies have from the sugars!

Cookies ready to serve up to our friends! :)

Inside the fudge cookie! Moist and yummy!

Cookie with the added chipotle powder for a little kick!

Trifle made with cookies, pudding, whipped cream and chopped butterfingers

I hope you enjoy my very versatile chocolate crinkle recipe and find a way to make it work for your busy holiday schedule! 

Welcome to the dark side! :)
Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cranberry Bread (Gluten Free)

Cranberry Bread. I love the tangy taste of cranberries tossed in a sweet bread especially on a crisp morning with a strong cup of hot coffee! Yummy. For this recipe I used cranberry sauce (which is a great way to use that leftover cranberry sauce from the holidays!) or you can use the canned whole berry sauce (like Oceanspray) for convenience. If you prefer using fresh berries or dehydrated cranberries you can substitute those instead. This recipe is flexible like that!

I've had this recipe for a long time and I can't even remember where I got it from. I've always liked the flexibility of it. I can use canned cranberry sauce, leftover cranberry sauce, fresh berries (more tart flavor) or dehydrated cranberries. I like to add some orange zest and a splash of either fresh orange juice or orange extract for a little extra flavor but you can leave that out and just use vanilla extract or almond extract if you prefer. You can also add chopped nuts for extra crunch and flavor OR you can substitute up to 3/4 cup of gluten free flour with finely ground nuts instead. The recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a bundt pan, coffee can without a lip on it, or two bread loaf pans. I just used the single recipe below that makes 1 regular size loaf pan. (You can also bake in muffin cups or mini loaf pans but you will need to adjust your baking time).

For this recipe, I went back to my roots and baked them "old school". I baked my loaf in an empty can. Yep, the old fashioned hillbilly way. When I was a young child, my mom and her dear friend Rosemary used to always bake the holiday breads in empty coffee cans or the mini loaves in soup cans. They would wrap the cooled bread in plastic wrap and tie with a bow for gift giving to neighbors or sometimes we would decorate the empty coffee can with wrapping paper and put the cooled bread back inside the can and cover with the plastic coffee can lid and put a sticky bow on top. Simple. Easy. I thought everyone made bread this way until I got older and noticed some people used loaf pans. I asked my mom why we used cans to bake our holiday breads. My mom's answer: you can make multiple batches of bread and bake at the same time because the cans take up less space in the oven and cans are free plus you can throw them away after you are done using them and not have to store them all year long. Not to mention...they look super cool when sliced because they are circles! :)

I have multiple sizes of bread loaf pans but nothing makes me smile more than when I see bread slices that have been baked in cans. It brings back a flood of happy holiday memories and takes me back home to the best cooks I know! I catch myself looking for coffee in real cans (without lips on them because the bread will not slide out if there is a lip on the top!) during the holiday season. I was at a friends house over the weekend and I saw her about ready to toss her 40 oz. empty can into the recycle bin. I snagged it and brought home my "loaf pan can" so I could bake my bread in it for today's recipe. (My husband rolls his eyes when I do this). You just grease or spray the inside of the empty can with butter or oil and fill 2/3 full. Cover with foil and keep it right side up just like you are storing it on a shelf & bake in the oven for the same amount of time you do for the appropriate size loaf. Since this is a single loaf pan size recipe....I baked mine in a 40 oz. empty sweet potato can. Worked perfect. I hate to admit that I am washing and keeping the can to bake another loaf soon. I can't help it... I love the round slices! :) I also admit that I plan on buying my coffee in a can for this month so I can use the can to bake my holiday bread!

If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular flour. The original recipe called for regular flour but I have tweaked it to work with gluten free flour.

Cranberry Bread Recipe:
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used raw sugar but you can use regular granulated sugar or brown sugar)
  • 1/3 cup oil + 2 tbs
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup gluten free flour (I used Trader Joe's brand today because I didn't have any of my own mix prepared). If your gluten free flour doesn't contain guar gum or xanthan gum you will need to add 1/2 tsp. of either of them to the recipe so it doesn't turn out crumbly. I used xanthan gum. You can substitute up to 3/4 cup of finely ground nuts in place of 3/4 cup flour.
  • zest of 1 orange (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (you can add more if you want)
  • 2 tsp. orange extract (or substitute vanilla extract or almond extract)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or pecans), optional
  • 1/2 cup cranberry sauce (If you are using fresh cranberries then increase your sugar by 1/3 cup because they will be more tart. If you are using dried cranberries then add 1/2 cup boiling water and let them sit for about 5 minutes to plump. Discard water).
Some of the ingredients I used today
Note: I use either homemade or canned whole cranberry sauce with this recipe. My homemade sauce does not contain celery, onions or anything that isn't sweet. If you add sauce that contains onions or celery you may not get the sweet flavor of this bread. It may become more of a savory bread instead.

Combine the eggs, oil, extract and sugar. Slowly mix in the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, gluten free flour (and add 1/2 tsp. guar gum or xanthan gum if your gluten free mix doesn't already contain it). Add cranberry sauce (or cranberries), orange zest and nuts if you are adding them. Don't overmix. Just stir until combined. Pour into a greased loaf pan or can. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 45-55 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean and top is lightly golden. (Oven temperatures and altitude may vary cooking times). Check at 45 minutes and then again every 5 minutes until done. My loaf took 50 minutes. Mark it on your recipe for future cooking. Usually I bake muffins for 18-22 minutes and mini loaves about 30-35 minutes but you will need to check them at the minimal baking time and adjust accordingly.

If you think you may have over baked it a little then just put some foil over the top when you remove it from the oven to trap in some moisture and that may just salvage your loaf! :) Just leave the foil on for about 10-15 minutes and then remove it. You want to trap the moisture but not make the bread "sweat". Another tip I would like to share is that if you make a sweet bread or cake and it doesn't turn out just perfect....cut it up in chunks and let it dry out like you would for croutons. You can "recycle" the bread chunks by making into a delicious baked french toast, bread pudding or use the crumbs for my "Cookie Crumb Cake Recipe (November 2012 recipe on blog)! Baking isn't cheap and I don't like to waste it even if it isn't perfect.

The first time I converted this bread recipe to gluten free, the recipe called for only 2 eggs but the bread turned out slightly crumbly and felt a little too heavy although it was still tasty. Gluten Free flours are a bit trickier to work with than traditional flour so sometimes you have to tweak each recipe depending on how "heavy" it is. I felt that 3 eggs worked out better than 2.

NOTE: I use cans that do not have the white lining in them. I am not sure if it is safe to bake in the cans with the white lining therefore I just don't do it. 

Let cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from loaf pan or can. I find this recipe tastes better the next day and slices best when chilled. It looks awesome sliced and put on a glass plate for gift giving or for brunch (especially the round slices!) I love baking my holiday breads in the round loaves and slicing them up. People always ask where I got my special round baking pans. :) I guess they don't know my hillbilly secret: "Recycled Cans"!

Did I mention that this bread is absolutely delightful when you slice it into the chunky circles and lightly toast it? Spread a dab of real butter on top. mouth is watering now!

This is how full I filled can with batter

Fresh from the oven!

Cooling in the can for 20-30 minutes before removing

Just removed from the can

This one is ready to give to a friend. Sometimes I decorate with curly ribbon and tags.

This is my slice that I will  have for breakfast. Yummy!

Up close view of the bread. See the pieces of cranberry & orange zest?

Yummy! This tastes great with a dab of butter or cream cheese!

I hope you enjoy this recipe that I have been making for many years. If you don't have a gluten allergy or you are making this for someone that doesn't then you can just use regular flour. I don't care for the gluten free flour blends that contain sorghum for my sweet breads although they work well for savory breads.

You can add a light glaze on this bread by mixing powdered sugar with either orange juice, milk or water to get a consistency for drizzling. I don't add the glaze because I like the flavor of the bread plain. If I were making muffins and wanted to dress them up a little bit, I might add a little drizzle of the glaze but I like my bread plain and simple.

Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fire Crackers (Gluten Free Style!)

FIRECRACKERS! I always loved the zesty flavor of Fire Crackers. They are usually made with oyster crackers but since going gluten free....I can't have them. I started thinking about them one day and decided that I could make the same thing....only with Rice or Corn Chex and gluten free pretzels. Kind of like a Chex mix with a kick. I couldn't find my recipe so I looked online. I tried the first recipe and it contained an Italian dressing mix packet which wasn't too bad but the vinegar smell wasn't pleasant. So I tried it again....but tweaked the recipe. This time, I really liked the results. You can use any gluten free crackers, Corn Chex, Rice Chex or gluten Free Pretzels (or a combination) for this recipe. If you like it spicy, add more pepper flakes or chipotle. If you like it milder...don't add so much. It's pretty flexible and you can tweak it to your preference. The recipe goes together quickly because there is no baking involved. (Of course if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just regular pretzels or crackers!)

It's a great snack for the holiday season and for road trips. (Just make sure you pack a few water bottles because sometimes you get a "hot" one and need to drink a quick sip of water! ;)  You can put this on the table for snackers....or pack it up in cute bags for gift giving or road trips. Nothing like giving your traveling holiday guests a goody bag for the road. I like to purchase a $1 recycle grocery bag and fill it with some water bottles and snacks for our road trip traveling guests. (I get cute little plastic bowl sets at the dollar store or get some disposable containers to pack up for road trips. That way I don't have to worry about getting my dishes back. can put them in the clear cellophane treat bags that you can find in the birthday party section at places like Walmart. I think I paid about $1 for 20 clear treat bags with silver twist ties). You can always dress them up with cute curly ribbon but keep in mind that most people don't carry scissors in their car and we don't want traveling guests cutting their hands pulling on the ribbon to open the bag!

*For today's batch in photo I used: General Mills Rice Chex Cereal (unsweetened) and Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzels. I found both at my Albertson's grocery store. Ask your grocer if you can't find them or substitute another gluten free option if you want. 

Fire Crackers Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil but you can use vegetable oil if you prefer)
  • 1 envelope of ranch dressing powder mix (make sure it is gluten free or use my recipe below)
  • 2 tbs. chili pepper flakes (add more if you like it extra spicy)
  • 3/4 tsp. Chipotle chili powder or regular Chili powder or Cayenne pepper (you can add more or less depending on your spicy preference)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 7-8 cups of Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Gluten Free crackers or Pretzels (you can use one variety or a mixture of them. I use whatever I have on hand or whatever is on sale. I'm cheap like that!)

Combine the oil, dry ranch dressing mix, chili pepper flakes, chili powder and garlic powder with a whisk until well blended. Pour over your gluten free crackers, Rice Chex, Corn Chex and/or Gluten free pretzels. (I used Rice Chex and Gluten Free Pretzels for my batch today). Gently stir the oil mixture over the "crackers" (or Chex, Pretzels, etc). I put mine in an airtight rubbermaid container with a tight fitting lid. I flipped it gently upside down so the oil mixture would go from the bottom of the container onto the crackers. I waited about 15 minutes and flipped the container back. I repeated this a couple times throughout the day. It coated all my little goodies and no oily residue was on the bottom of the container.

Ranch Seasoning Mix: (4 tsp. mix = 1 envelope of store bought mix)

  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 8 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 4 tsp. salt (I use sea salt but you can use regular salt or a salt substitute)
  • 2 tsp. garlic power (not garlic salt)
  • 4 tsp. onion powder or onion flakes (not onion salt)

Combine all ingredients together. Store in airtight container or glass jar. (I usually just triple the recipe and store it in an empty jelly jar or olive jar. That way I have it when I need it. I prefer storing my spices in glass jars rather than plastic containers. I think they taste weird if stored in plastic after a while). I found this recipe for Ranch Seasoning Mix online: A Cook's Quest website.

(If you are using the ranch seasoning to make a ranch dip instead of FIRE CRACKERS: Combine 4 tsp. mix with 8 oz. of sour cream or plain greek yogurt. Let chill for at least 1 hour prior to using it so flavors blend). 

Up close and personal view of the FIRE CRACKERS

FIRE CRACKERS ready for a road trip!

FIRE CRACKERS bagged for the road!

I hope you enjoyed my gluten free Firecracker recipe. I like to have snacks at my house that all of our guests can eat. I took a regular recipe and made it gluten free by switching out the oyster crackers with Unsweetened Gluten Free Chex cereal and Gluten Free Pretzels. You could also add salted nuts or shoestring potatoes if you want to dress it up even more. You can swap out the Chipotle pepper for dill or another spice if you prefer. Since mine are called FIRE CRACKERS....I wanted a little heat.

Please note that not all generic Chex style cereals are gluten free. You must read labels! I always stick with the General Mills Chex cereals that are labeled GLUTEN FREE on the box! 

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gluten Free Ice Cream Bundt Cake (only 3 ingredients!)

3 Ingredient Ice Cream Bundt Cake. It doesn't get much easier than this! I love this recipe because you can take any flavor of cake mix (including gluten free cake mix!) and any flavor of ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt or gelato (I use a gluten free flavor) so you can customize it for your special occasion. If you don't have a bundt pan then you can just bake it in cupcake pans or two loaf pans. I love chocolate hazelnut anything....but you NEVER find a chocolate hazelnut cake.....until now! I like to take a gluten free chocolate cake mix (you can use regular cake mix if you don't have a gluten allergy) and use chocolate hazelnut gelato. It is absolutely divine! The recipe goes together quickly with minimal mess in the kitchen which is great for the holidays! I like to buy glass or ceramic plates at the dollar stores and bake one of these to take to a party. That way it looks festive and I can just leave the cake & plate without worrying about getting my good dishes back. This recipe is great for dessert or for a brunch. You can add vanilla ice cream to a vanilla cake mix + a handful of blueberries = blueberry brunch cake or muffins. Yes, it's that easy! During the different holidays you will find special cake and ice cream flavors so you can be really creative. (Just be sure to read labels if you have a gluten allergy! Some of the ice creams that have candy and cake pieces contain wheat/gluten! You can substitute a dairy free alternative ice cream if you have a dairy allergy).

I like to make most of my stuff from scratch but I do like to have a couple of cake mixes on hand for a quick dessert for busy times. You can "doctor" them up and customize them to make them extra special. This is also a great way to use up the ice cream in the freezer. I know most of you are thinking "are you serious? What leftover ice cream?" At our house....we like ice cream but don't eat it regularly so this recipe is a great way to use it up instead of tossing it out, especially if we had a party and have a couple of flavors taking up "valuable real estate" in the freezer!

3 ingredient Ice Cream Bundt Cake Recipe:
  • 1 box of cake mix, dry (I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate flavor today)
  • 2 cups of slightly melted ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet or gelato, any flavor (I used a gluten free Chocolate Chunk ice cream for today's recipe. I did not use a reduced fat version)
  • 3 large eggs
Combine the slightly melted ice cream with the dry cake mix and eggs. (You need to use the DRY cake mix, do not prepare it according to the box instructions!) Beat by hand or with a mixer until smooth. Poor into a greased bundt pan (I used a small size bundt pan since I used the Betty Crocker GF mix which contains less cake mix than a "regular" cake mix) and bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes or until it springs back when gently touched or toothpick inserted comes out clean. You can bake in cupcake pans for 18-22 minutes or in two loaf pans (1 loaf pan if you are using a Betty Crocker GF cake mix) for about 30 minutes. (Every oven is different and altitude can vary cooking times). When the cake is cool, you can dust it with powdered sugar if desired. I like to take about 1/2 can of Betty Crocker Frosting and melt it in the microwave or stove top until smooth and slightly runny and then drizzle over the cake. This is a gluten free (not to mention quick & lazy) way to add a little pizazz to an ordinary bundt cake. You can also drop some colored sprinkles or chopped nuts or candies on top if you really want to dress it up. Be creative! (NOTE: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake mix only makes 12 cupcakes instead of 24 like a "regular" cake mix but you still need to add the full 2 cups of ice cream & 3 eggs so it turns out moist and rises properly!) 

I saw a recipe on the internet recently that called for just 1.5 quarts of ice cream + 3 cups of self rising flour. Mix & bake in a regular sized bundt pan (or two loaf pans). I tried it and personally thought it wasn't very good. It was very dry and pretty bland even though I used a fancy ice cream. I tried tweaking the recipe again by using 3 cups of GF flour (I used Betty Crocker GF flour blend) + 2 tbs. baking powder + 1/4 tsp. salt + 1/2 cup sugar as the base mix and THEN added the 1.5 quarts slightly melted ice cream & 3 large eggs & 1/4 cup oil. I baked it in a regular sized bundt pan (or two loaf pans). It turned out just fine. It was more like a moist bundt cake rather than a dry bread. I tried it several ways and we all thought this particular recipe needed the oil for moisture. GF flour can be a little finicky to work worth. (This is a store bought cake mix alternative. Although, I really really like my Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcake Recipe. You can find that recipe on my blog).

Oh....and did I mention that taking a cake mix out of the box and putting it into an oven mit, adding a spatula or wooden spoon along with the directions makes a great last minute stocking stuffer or hostess gift?! Yep, my little gift giving secret is now out there. You all know what a resourceful gift giver I am now!  :) Having 3 kids....I ALWAYS had to have a few last minute simple gifts. Our life was hectic (to say the least!) and they always needed a small token gift for a Sunday school teacher, Girl Scout leader, bus driver, etc. Money was on a tight budget when I was going to nursing school so these little thoughtful cake mix/oven mit gifts always came in handy. I always dressed them up with pretty ribbons, a spatula or wooden spoon and added some sprinkles or something fun (I attached the recipe to the ribbon or to the cake mix pouch). I always got a comment back from the recipient that they really enjoyed the gift. Although I thought it was just a simple gift....they told me it came in handy for a last minute party or potluck or snow day fun with their kids. We did those simple gifts for a few years and then I thought I would get "real gifts" when money wasn't so tight. Most of the recipients said they were disappointed that they didn't get their cake mix oven mit kit. They actually looked forward to them! I guess they didn't figure out that it was just a box cake mix! :) My kids also like getting these little cake mix mit kits in their holiday stockings now that they are adults! :)  Just be sure if you are gift-giving a GF cake mix (like Betty Crocker GF mix that makes only 12 cupcakes or 1 8x8 cake pan) that you put instructions to bake in cupcake pan or 1 loaf pan. It will not make a full size bundt cake! If you are using a traditional "regular" cake mix then the instructions will need to say regular size bundt pan OR 2 loaf pans or cupcakes.  You want the recipient to be delighted in their gift...not frustrated!)

Ice Cream Bundt Cake Mit Kit ready for gift giving!
You can also use your own homemade gluten free cake mix recipe. I just wanted to try out the Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate flavor and since I snagged them on sale cheaper than I could make them from scratch....well....enough said. Betty Crocker knows her stuff in the kitchen and the cake mix turned out just fine. I have also tried my own gluten free vanilla cake recipe (see recipe on the blog) and it works out great too. (You just need the dry cake mix so don't prepare it).

I hope you enjoyed my quick & easy dessert. It is flexible and you can easily customize it to your family's preference. If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can certainly just use a regular size cake mix (like Betty Crocker) and your favorite ice cream. You can even add a handful of colored sprinkles or chocolate chips. It is a quick & easy cake to make. It is even great with fresh berries or to use as a shortcake for summer time fun!

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Whatchamacallit Candy Truffles (gluten free)

Whatchamacallit Candy Truffles. They taste almost like a Willie Wonka brand Whatchamacallit Candy Bar! They are sooooo EASY to make and they don't require "special" expensive ingredients. I love easy recipes that go together quickly, budget friendly, and even the kids (or grandkids) can help make them! I used to make a ton of holiday treats to pass out to friends and neighbors and I combined simple things like these on the cookie plate as well as the more gourmet, time consuming cookies and treats. My conclusion? Everyone seemed to enjoy the simple things the most. They LOVED these candies because they are just a little different than your traditional holiday cookie. If I put these on a holiday cookie platter....they are gone in an instant! They can be dipped in white chocolate, dark chocolate or milk chocolate. Or....if you are really pinched for time.....just roll them lightly in chocolate sprinkles, cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Oh....and did I mention that you don't need to bake them? They are a no bake treat! Simple! :)

They can also be made in advance so it is really convenient during the busy holidays. These are also great for potlucks, tailgating or any type of get together. This is a fun activity to make with the kids on snow days! You can even dress them up by drizzling some melted chocolate on them or pressing a Hershey Kiss in the center and wrapping the filling around it. Be creative! This recipe is so flexible and you can customize it easily! You can even dip them in the colored white chocolate that you buy in the cake decorating/candy sections of stores like Walmart, JoAnn Fabrics, Michael's Crafts, Hobby Lobby, etc for special parties! You can also press them into a 9x13 greased pan and pour the melted chocolate on top and cut into bars. But honestly, most people like to pop the truffles into their mouth for the exploding flavors and it seems like it serves more people when you make them into little truffles! I would also like to mention that these can really dress up some boring brownies! Instead of making them into little truffle balls....just spread the mixture onto the brownies after the brownies have baked and cooled. Then drizzle a little melted chocolate on top. It takes brownies to a whole new level of delicious! 

The original recipe was given to me many, many years ago. I can't remember the name that was on the original recipe card. My kids said they taste just like a Whatchamacallit Candy bar so that is the name that stuck. I know exactly what they are talking about when they request this candy! The original recipe calls for a Rice Crispy cereal but it does contain malt flavoring which is not gluten free friendly. They do make a gluten free Rice Crispy cereal but it never seems to be on I improvise and use the more cost effective choice: Post Cocoa Pebbles which are gluten free!

I would like to point out that most of the "generic" versions of cocoa pebbles and crispy rice cereals and  rice Chex style cereals are not gluten free since they contain malt flavoring or are processed in a facility that uses wheat. Please read your labels carefully. Post Cocoa Pebbles & General Mills Rice Chex cereals are marked on the front of the box as GLUTEN FREE which makes shopping convenient. You can also substitute the chocolate, vanilla or plain Rice Chex in this recipe but you will have to crush them up so they aren't so chunky!

Whatchamacallit Candy Truffle Recipe:

  • 2 cups of peanut butter (I used Jif Creamy)
  • 3 cups Post Cocoa Pebbles (or substitute a Gluten Free Crispy Rice cereal or crushed Rice Chex Cereal)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted real butter (or olive oil)
  • 2 (12 oz.) bags of any flavor chocolate, melted (optional). I used one bag of semi-sweet and one bag of milk chocolate mixed together for today's batch. You can use white chocolate chips, almond bark, peanut butter chips, etc) OR just roll into chocolate sprinkles, powdered sugar or cocoa powder

Mix together the peanut butter, cereal, powdered sugar and melted butter or olive oil. Roll into bite sized balls. I press mine so they are compact and won't fall apart when dipped in chocolate. (At this point I refrigerate them on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper for at least 30-60 minutes to get them chilled so they stay together when I dip them into the hot melted chocolate).

(If you are planning on spreading this delicious, crunchy filling directly onto cooled brownies or cookie bars then you don't need to roll them or dip them first. Just spread onto the cooled bars and you can drizzle with melted chocolate if desired. It takes brownies or cookie bars to a whole new level of deliciousness! It's a good way to dress up an ordinary brownie!)

Melt your chocolate in microwave safe bowl or in a double boiler until melted and thin. It should drip in a steady stream when you spoon it out. If it appears too clumpy...add a tablespoon of Crisco to thin the chocolate a little more. Dip your candy balls into the chocolate using a fork and let the extra chocolate drip off a little bit before placing them on waxed paper or parchment paper to set. You shouldn't need to refrigerate them to set. (It can cause them to sweat). If you decide not to dip them in chocolate then go ahead and roll them lightly into any of the following items: chocolate sprinkles, powdered sugar or cocoa powder. The recipe makes about 40 truffles, depending on how large you make them.

The bite sized balls prior to dipping them in chocolate

The chocolate should be thin enough that it doesn't clump when you spoon it

I let the truffles sit on the fork for a few seconds to get excess chocolate off

Cooling on the parchment paper after their dip in melted chocolate

Ready to eat Whatchamacallit Truffles!

Variety of coatings on Whatchamacallit Truffles

Yummy! Inside view of the truffle!

Great favor for any type of party!

Below are photos of the same "whatchamacallit" filling but I used it on top of my gluten free plain brownies to dress them up for a party. Everyone LOVED them and couldn't believe they were so easy to make and gluten free! I just made the filling and spread it over my pan of cooled brownies. Melted some chocolate chips and spread on top. I had a little bit of melted white chocolate so I drizzled some of that on top too. It was a deluxe version of a brownie but it wasn't very difficult to make. (It's a good way to dress up a brownie made with a mix!)

Ready to eat Whatchamacallit Truffle Brownie!

Which would you eat? The brownie or truffle? Maybe both! :)

Delicious crunchy Whatchamacallit topping on a rich brownie! Yummy!

I hope you enjoyed one of my family's super easy dessert recipes. We like to do a fun, casual but delicious desserts at our house. This is a recipe that the kids could help me with when they were younger (and still can!) and it is something the rest of our family and friends enjoyed when we took to their house. I have to admit that every once in a while I make a batch of these because we just like to eat them even when it isn't a special occasion! These travel great in the mail. I generally put them in a container with waxed paper between the layers and they arrive intact. (Keep in mind if you are mailing them to a warm climate then consider rolling them in sprinkles, cocoa powder or powdered sugar instead!)

Gluten Free Casually

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gluten Free Tuna Casserole

Gluten Free Tuna Casserole. There is something about fall and winter that make us all crave the comfort of a warm casserole. My husband really likes the basic tuna casserole so I pretty much stick with that. I used to make mine with the convenience of canned cream soup but since most all of them contain wheat flour as a thickener....I don't have that option any more. The canned gluten free cream soups are currently expensive and not all the stores carry them so I just make my own which is actually very easy and very economical! I have a couple of different recipes for "cream soup" and they all work just fine in casserole recipes. The thing I like about making a "cream" soup is that it is very forgiving and you can substitute broth or bouillon flavors for different recipes. Sometimes I like to add a dab of cream cheese to the cream soup or a splash of heavy cream for a richer flavor but you don't have to do that! I used a homemade cream of mushroom" soup for today's tuna casserole but you can make it into a cream of celery soup, cream of chicken soup or cream of onion soup instead. Be creative with what you have in your pantry! Just for the record...I improvised last time I made tuna casserole. I was in a hurry, didn't have time to make a cream soup so I looked in my cupboard to see what I had on hand. I spotted my husband's can of Progresso clam chowder which is gluten free....and I used it in place of the traditional cream soup. It worked just fine. It does have tiny cut potatoes in it but no one seemed to mind. Now I keep a can of it on hand....just in case! I was brought up with the following quote: "A good cook can follow a recipe but a great cook can improvise with the ingredients they have in their cupboard". 

It is now becoming easier to find gluten free noodles at just about any grocery store now so casseroles are coming back into our life again! I was so happy to see that Ronzoni and Barilla pasta are both now offering gluten free noodles which are on the grocery shelf right next to the regular pasta. The price is reasonable and it is very convenient to be able to just walk in and pick up a box of GF no matter what state you are in. It makes it easier to travel with a gluten allergy!  I was able to find the Ronzoni GF noodles for under $1.49 at Military Commissary, Fry's and Basha's had them for under $2.50 per box). I was happy to find that Smith's grocery store in New Mexico carried Barilla GF noodles. I sometimes feel a little anxious traveling because I hate to drag a suitcase of food with me but I don't want to get stuck without GF foods available!  Don't worry....I don't get paid for advertising so I can just give you my honest opinions on brands and where to find them! I do know that most grocery stores only order/stock what is in demand so if you aren't finding something you are looking for....ask the store manager to special order it. Most of them will at no extra charge to you. I was pleasantly surprised that my local Super Target store and Albertson's both carry a huge selection of GF items and they will special order items that are requested. (My favorite store to shop for GF items with helpful managers that are great about ordering specialty items is the Super Target store on Lake Pleasant in north Peoria, Arizona! I also like shopping at my local Trader Joe's store because they carry a lot of GF items and it's just a fun little place to shop! My grand-daughter loves to push the little grocery carts they have!)

Tuna Casserole Recipe:
  • 12 oz. gluten free noodles (I used Ronzoni brand today)
  • 1 recipe of homemade gluten free cream soup (or one 10-12 oz. can of gf cream soup or gluten free clam chowder (18.5 oz) or use my homemade recipe below)
  • 3 cans or packets of tuna, drained (more if you like extra tuna. I used tuna packed in water )
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, optional (I used petite peas without any seasonings on them)
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot, optional (I use this mainly for a little color. The tiny bit of carrot doesn't really add any flavor to the casserole. I think it just adds some color to a bland looking casserole! I am all about presentation. I see food with my eyes. If it looks isn't quite as appetizing to me! You can leave this out if you don't have any or just don't like carrots!)
  • 2 tbs. chopped onion, optional (you can add fresh, frozen or dried)
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic (I used fresh garlic today but you can use dried, minced garlic or garlic in a jar. I do like using fresh garlic when possible but sometimes when garlic isn't the main feature in the recipe...I cheat and use the minced in a jar! Sometimes the difference between making a decent meal depends on how much time you have to do it. I cut corners when I am in a time crunch! It's okay to do still beats a box of preservative filled dinners!)
If preparing your cream soup from scratch then I start making it while I put the water on to boil for the noodles. (Recipe below for cream soup). If you are using a canned cream soup or clam chowder then just start off by boiling the noodles. Boil your noodles and drain them. With the Ronzoni brand noodles I have noticed they stay a little firmer so I cook them a smidge longer than regular noodles. Just don't stir them too much or they will start falling apart. I wait to mix them in last with minimum trauma! I do add a splash of heavy cream, half & half creamer or 2 tbs. of cream cheese if I use a can of clam chowder. It adds a little more flavor to the canned soup. 

Shred carrot until you get about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of carrot. (Or you can buy the pre-shredded carrots if you are using them for something else later in the soup! Sometimes when I find the larger bag of pre-shredded carrots for around $1 it just isn't worth my time and mess shredding carrots if I am going to be using them for soup, salad or another casserole later in the week! I know buying shredded carrots sounds frivolous to some people but if I have been working all day on my feet then the extra few minutes I can shave off my dinner preparation time is worth the extra $1 to me!) I put the shredded carrots, garlic & onion in the microwave for a about 1-2 minutes or until slightly tender but still firm. Or you can "blanche" them by putting them in the hot noodle water for a minute. This just keeps them from being crunchy in the tuna casserole since we aren't really going to bake it long. Actually, you don't even have to bake it at all since everything is already cooked. Gently combine all the ingredients together. I just add my frozen peas to the colander when I drain my noodles. This will thaw them right away without making them mushy. Don't over mix it or your noodles may start falling apart. I like to put mine in a greased casserole dish and sprinkle crushed potato chips or a handful of potato sticks on top and bake it in 350 degree oven for 15/20 minutes but you don't have to do that. (I like to add potato chips or potato sticks on the top of the casserole just like my mom did. The potato chips or potato sticks add a nice salty crunch. I know it is probably a hill billy thing...but I like it and that's the way we make it at our house! If you prefer topping it with GF bread crumbs mixed with a dab of melted butter....feel free to do that instead!) You can just mix it all together and serve it from the pot without putting it into the oven. Everything is already cooked. (Let's face it....Betty Crocker Tuna Helper isn't baked! It just gets served right from the pot! You don't need to add any bread crumbs or potato chips! It's a personal preference!)

Homemade Cream Soup Recipe:
  • 2 cups broth (or water + gluten free bouillon) or milk (If you are using gluten free bouillon then add 2 cubes or 2 tbs. bouillon. I used Better than bouillon mushroom flavor base in today's recipe. I actually used 1 cup milk + 1 cup water + 2 tbs. bouillon. I like the flavor of milk added but if you have a milk allergy or don't have any milk available....water + bouillon or broth will work fine. You can add any flavor bouillon or broth you want or you can just use milk with some sauteed onions, garlic and salt instead). I have a friend that uses all the tuna water mixed with onion, garlic and additional water to make 2 cups. Like I said before....this recipe is very flexible
  • 1/4 cup gluten free flour or corn starch or tapioca starch
  • You can add a small can of chopped mushrooms if desired or chopped celery or onions (which I saute or microwave until soft because you don't want crunchy pieces in your casserole!)
Heat the broth, water or milk until it gets warm. Add the gluten free flour or starch and whisk until smooth. (A hill billy secret...I take an empty jar with a screw on lid (like an empty jelly jar or pickle jar) and mix a tiny bit of warm water with the flour or starch and shake it until smooth and not lumpy. I find this MUCH easier than trying to whisk out all the lumps!) Mix it into the warm broth or milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and add any extras you want like the mushrooms, cooked onions and/or celery. You can also add additional spices if you prefer. Taste the soup. If it tastes a little bland then just add a tablespoon of cream cheese, butter, cream, shredded cheese or spices to get the flavor you are looking for. Customize it for your personal taste. Now it is ready to stir into your casserole or other recipe! If you are finding that the cream soup is too thick...add a smidge of water or additional broth. If you think it is a little too runny then add something to make it slightly thicker...additional flour/starch or heavy cream or creamed cheese. 

Note: In a pinch...I have used canned evaporated milk mixed with water to get 2 cups of liquid, I have also used 1/3 cup of powdered milk + water to = 2 cups of liquid. You can also substitute almond milk, coconut milk or a Lactose free milk if you want the flavor of milk in your cream soup but have dairy allergies. 

For a Deluxe version of Tuna Casserole: Try adding a small package of frozen very tiny salad shrimp (they are generally inexpensive and precooked. Just run them under warm water to thaw them quickly!) and/or a little bit of canned or frozen (pre-cooked) crab meat or scallops. I also LOVE to add about 1 cup of Loganstino Lobster tails which I can find seasonally at my local Trader Joe's store. This seems a little more gourmet than plain tuna casserole if you need something quick or if you have a houseful of guests and want to impress them with something a little fancier than basic tuna casserole. We went to a fancy restaurant on vacation years ago in Florida and they had a recipe similar to this Deluxe Tuna Casserole. It had little shrimps and tiny scallops mixed in with the tuna. It had a rich sauce that was probably made with some heavy cream added. was delicious and it was one of their top sellers. They served it with seasoned bread crumbs on top & a side of garlic bread. ( I duplicated the recipe when I got guests loved it! (I admit that I splurge on the calories and add a hefty splash of heavy cream when I make it!) I now make mine with finely crushed potato chips OR GF bread crumbs on top to keep it gluten free! (I have also added some left over chopped salmon or a mild white fish to the deluxe tuna casserole if I have some that needs used up! It's a great way to "recycle" leftovers!) I will say that the deluxe tuna casserole tastes great paired with a good wine!

Up close view of Basic Tuna Casserole

basic Tuna Casserole

I hope you enjoyed my recipe for a gluten free tuna casserole that is VERY FLEXIBLE with the ingredients. You can easily customize it to your flavor preference or allergy restrictions by tweaking the ingredients. Of course, if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular noodles and regular soup! I will add photos when I make the deluxe tuna casserole recipe at a future date.

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Gluten Free Lasagna! :)  Oh Lasagna....I have missed you during my gluten free journey! Lasagna is one of my favorite Italian foods and since I have not been able to find a decent lasagna noodle until hasn't been part of my life for a couple of years. My family all love lasagna so it is something I like to make when the gang is all home. I like it because it goes together relatively quickly, feeds a bunch of people, can be made in advance and left overs (if there are any!) are even better! For those of you that didn't know....YOU DON'T HAVE TO PRE-COOK ANY LASAGNA NOODLE IN ADVANCE! Yes, that is correct! You don't have to buy the specially marked lasagna noodles that claim you don't have to cook them first. You can just layer the hard, uncooked lasagna noodles and they will cook as the sauce and cheese melt. Seriously....I've done it that way for years with all the brands! Otherwise...well, I wouldn't bother making lasagna. I hated fighting with the limpy cooked noodles that would tear.

I learned from an Italian neighbor years ago that you shouldn't pre-cook the noodles. They will absorb the flavors and liquid creating a lasagna that will be less "soupy" and it will hold together fantastically when it is cut. The photo above is taken 5 minutes after I removed it from the oven! Seriously! There are many different versions of lasagna out there. I have several friends that are from Italy and quite a few more that are first generation Italian-Americans. They ALL make lasagna differently. I have to say that I have enjoyed the variations from ingredients to sauces....but this is the one I like best. It is my own recipe that I have tweaked from several recipes. Of course you can change this up to add or delete your favorite ingredients. I used jar sauce today. Yes, I know all of my Italian friends just cringe when I say "store bought sauce"....but seriously....I really like Hunts brand in the can. I don't buy it because it is cheap...I buy it because I really like the flavor and of course it is convenient. My mom always made homemade sauce when I was younger...and canned it for future uses. I don't bother because the Hunts brand is already affordable, tasty and I don't have the mess and time involved in preparation. Plus....canning jars are not cheap these days! However....for this recipe you can either buy your favorite store bought sauce or make your own from scratch. It is a personal preference.

I also want to point out that I use BOTH cottage cheese AND ricotta cheese in this recipe. Italian friends will cringe! Let me explain WHY I do this. My mom used to use just cottage cheese in her lasagna when I was growing up. Mainly because we lived in a small town and choices were very limited. I never even heard of ricotta cheese until I got married. The first time I had lasagna with ricotta cheese....I wasn't sure if I liked it. It was too rich and had a slightly sweet flavor. It was a little too much for me. The next time my mom made her version of lasagna with just the cottage cheese....well it was too bland in comparison. I mix both the cottage cheese and the ricotta cheese together. I like the balance it provides. It has the rich sweet flavor of ricotta with the heartier more subtle flavor of cottage cheese. I also don't add eggs to my lasagna. I know a lot of my friends do....when I ask why....well the answer is always the same: "because my mom/dad did". Well...I don't add them. No one has proved to me that it makes it stick better or flavors the lasagna so I just don't add any. Until I am proven wrong...I don't add any eggs.

My kids wanted me to post my recipe on here for lasagna since it is one they really enjoy and they wanted the convenience of having access to the recipe via the internet so they can cook it anywhere, share it or gather ingredients by reading it from their smart phones. I was hesitant because....well...I am not of Italian decent and I don't claim that my recipe is "authentic" or even fabulous. I just know that my family likes and it they wanted it posted. I am sharing it in case you want to try it or tweak a basic recipe to your liking. If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular lasagna noodles. (I found the gluten free ones I used today at Walmart for about $2.19/box). However, I am noticing a lot of other name brand pasta companies are beginning to make gluten free noodles and they are also becoming affordable. Be sure to look when you go shopping because you might be surprised. I was pleasantly surprised recently finding both Barilla pasta & Ronzoni pasta have some gluten free noodle choices available now!)

Lasagna Recipe:
(I generally make my lasagna for a crowd in a heavy duty rectangular roasting pan that has quite a few layers and is enough ingredients that would make two 9x13 pans). The recipe below is just for one 9x13 pan of lasagna)
  • 1 box of lasagna noodles (I used gluten free noodles but if you don't have a gluten free allergy then you can just use regular lasagna noodles. No need to pre-cook noodles!)
  • 1 (16 oz.) container of Ricotta cheese (I used fat free today but you can use regular)
  • 1 (16 oz.) container of Cottage Cheese (I used 1% fat small curd today because I find that the fat free is runnier and I like it less runny but you can use any style cottage cheese you like). 
  • 1 can (15 oz) chopped tomatoes (I used the Italian style with basil and garlic added)
  • 1 1/2 cans of Hunts Zesty and Spicy spaghetti sauce (I save the other half of the can in case people want to add additional sauce on top when serving it. Some people like their lasagna a little more saucy and like to dip their bread in it)
  • 1-2 pounds of lean ground hamburger (I used about 1.5 pounds today because that is what I had left in my refrigerator and I wanted to use it up. Depends on how meaty you like your sauce. If you prefer vegetarian then you can substitute either the soy crumbles or leave the meat out)
  • 1 pound of ground sausage (you don't have to use this but I think it adds a little zesty flavor to the lasagna and we really like the combination. But if you don't eat pork or don't have any handy then just leave it out!)
  • 3-4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (or Italian blend cheese)

The ONLY thing you need to pre-cook in this recipe is the meat. Drain the grease well. You don't want grease floating around in your lasagna later. Combine the sauce and tomatoes (including tomato juice) with the meat and set aside. You don't need to heat up the will heat up in the oven. Save yourself the step! Combine the Ricotta cheese & Cottage cheese together. I don't add any salt because the sauce and sausage are usually salty enough but taste it to be sure. I lightly spray my 9x13 (or roasting pan if doubling the recipe for a huge crowd!) with non-stick cooking spray. It just makes the lasagna come out much easier. Layer the UNCOOKED single layer of the lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan. You may have to break some of the noodles to get them to fit. That is okay. The lasagna will be forgiving if you have some broken pieces in there! I generally spoon a layer of the meat sauce onto the noodles. You need to put just enough to cover the noodles so that when the sauce heats up it will cook the noodles when baking! Top the meat sauce with a layer of the Ricotta/Cottage cheese mixture and about 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles on top with a little bit of sauce and shredded cheese. You should not end up with the Ricotta/Cottage cheese mixture above the top layer of noodles. The only thing on the last layer on top should be noodles, remaining sauce and some shredded cheese. If you are finding that you are skimpy on sauce for the top layer...just add the remaining 1/2 can. Cover with foil (I spray mine with non-stick cooking spray to prevent cheese from sticking to it). At this point you can either refrigerate or freeze for a later date. I generally make mine the day before and put in the refrigerator to bake the next day or I make it early in the morning and bake it close to dinner time. I personally think that by letting it sit for a few hours allows the sauce to soften the noodles a little bit but you really don't need to do that if you want to bake it right away. Bake in 350 degree oven (with pan covered in foil) for about 70 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the noodles and they are soft. Remove foil and bake additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly on top and slightly golden. Let stand at least 5 minutes prior to slicing. Serve with additional sauce on top if desired.

I will add some better photos next time I make it. I wasn't originally planning on featuring this recipe on the blog so I took photos after it was made and the photos aren't the best.

Gluten Free Casually