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, January 27, 2013

General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken. It is my favorite Chinese dish and I really missed going out for it at my favorite little Chinese restaurant. My mom was visiting last spring and we were craving General Tso's Chicken so I experimented in the kitchen and came up with this recipe. We both really liked it. You can add more or less pepper flakes and hot sauce to adjust the heat in this dish. I like mine just a little spicy so you can feel the tingle on the tongue but still taste the little bit of sweetness in the background. It isn't a dish I make often because I try to stay away from a lot of fried foods but I do treat myself to this dish once in a while...usually when my mom comes to visit...if I can wait that long! (Sorry mom....couldn't wait for you this time. I was really craving General Tso's Chicken!) You can also double the recipe and freeze the sauce to use at a future date to save time on a meal next time. (The sauce also tastes really good on baked chicken served over rice. Not traditional Chinese but it sure is delicious and a little healthier since you aren't frying!)

I usually get my chinese pepper sauce and sesame oil at either the Chinese Market or at the Military Commissary because the prices are less expensive but you can usually find these ingredients at most grocery stores. (If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular ingredients)

General Tso's Chicken Recipe:
  • 1 cup chicken broth (make sure it is gluten free if you have an allergy)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used raw sugar but you can certainly use regular sugar.You can add more if you like yours a little sweeter)
  • 6 tbs. Rice Vinegar
  • 6 tbs. Hoisin sauce (I make my own because most are not gluten free, Recipe below)
  • 4 tbs. sesame oil
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 7 tsp. Chinese Hot sauce (more if you like it spicy or a little less if you like it mild. I use Sriracha Hot chili sauce)
  • pinch of pepper flakes (if you like it spicy then feel free to add more)
  • 2 green onions, chopped (additional for garnish if desired)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced (or use 3 tsp. garlic in a jar)
  • 2 tsp. fresh ginger grated (I prefer using fresh but use only 1 tsp. if using the dry spice)
  • 1 shallot, minced, optional. (I add this because I usually have them on hand but you can leave this out and still get a good flavor. I wouldn't run to the store just for this ingredient)
  • 1 carrot, shaved thin, optional (this is mainly for color - not flavor)

Chicken pieces:
  • 2 pounds of chunked chicken (I prefer using boneless skinless breasts but you can use thighs)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of Rice Flour (if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular flour)
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice (if you don't have this spice you can just leave it out. The main flavor comes from the sauce so this isn't a critical spice you need to have for this recipe)
  • cooking oil

Hoisin Sauce:
  • 4 tbs. soy sauce (I use Tamari gluten free brand)
  • 2 tbs. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 2 tsp. vinegar (I use rice vinegar)
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 20 drops Chinese Hot pepper sauce (I use Sriracha hot chili sauce)
Combine all the ingredients together. I usually just double the recipe and store the leftover in the refrigerator for other uses. 

Brands I used
I usually make my sauce first so it can thicken while I am cooking my chicken. In 2 tbs. sesame oil: saute the green onions, garlic, ginger, shallot & carrot until slightly tender & set aside. Mix all remaining sauce ingredients together well and bring to a boil and cook for about 1 minute or until sauce starts to thicken, stir in the green onions, garlic, ginger, shallot & carrot. Set aside until chicken is cooked.

Combine the flour and Chinese 5 spice together. Dip the chicken pieces in beaten egg then into the flour/5 spice mixture. Fry in oil in a hot skillet or deep fryer until chicken coating is golden brown and inside of chicken is cooked through. Put onto paper towel to remove any additional grease. Spoon chicken onto a platter and pour sauce over top to coat. Gently stir with a spoon to coat chicken pieces. Top with additional chopped green onion or sesame seeds if desired for garnish. I serve with Calrose Rice (sticky rice) and a side of Oriental steamed veggies.

Dredging the chicken pieces in flour

Cooking the coated chicken pieces in hot oil

Up close view of General Tso's Chicken

Ready to eat!

Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gluten Free White Bread

Homemade Bread! It is the hardest thing I have had to live without by going gluten free. There are a lot of commercial breads out there that are gluten free but I personally don't care for most of them. They leave a funny aftertaste and the texture is either crumbly or rubbery plus they are very expensive! (Udi's bagels are the closest commercial brand I have tried that taste like "regular" bread. I like them lightly toasted). They also make a delicious pizza crust & cookies if you decide to buy commercial brands...they are worth the money!

However, I wanted to make some sandwich bread so I searched the internet and tried a couple recipes and tweaked this particular one to where I think it is pretty good. It came out with a good flavor although slightly heavier and heartier than a traditional store bought white bread (like Wonder). I used it for grilled cheese sandwiches, panini sandwiches and worked fine for all of those! I will be experimenting a little more with making bread! My husband thought it tasted similar to the Hawaiian Style Rolls but just not quite as sweet. (Since I really like the Hawaiian rolls...I think I will try making the recipe slightly sweeter next time! This recipe would also be great with some Rosemary and garlic added to the dough before baking for a savory bread). I also think it would function well as a pizza crust.

I found the recipe to go together fairly quickly since it doesn't require kneading. (I am not a fan of kneading. I do have a bread machine but I wanted to try to make this recipe without one because most of my readers don't have a bread machine and I wanted to make sure the recipe would work without one). If you plan on substituting or tweaking the recipe...I would suggest using a little bit of either soy flour or sorghum flour because it will keep the bread from being crumbly. I personally don't care much for the flavor of sorghum flour so I use the bare minimum I can get by with. The trick about baking with gluten free flours is that you need to combine several types of flours to get the texture and elasticity that you are missing from wheat gluten that is in "regular flour". Using just rice flour or corn starch will give you a very crumbly texture. Adding xanthan gum is also important. It gives baked goods the elasticity but a little bit goes a long way! It tends to be expensive but lasts for a long time! If you don't want to purchase a large bag of it, check out your local grocery stores because I found that our Walmart carries tiny sample size packets (.32 oz. size) for about 33cents each for the Hodgson Mill brand. It is great for people that don't bake a lot and don't want to spend the money on a big bag.

Homemade Bread Recipe:

  • 1 tbs. active dry yeast
  • 3 tbs. sugar (I used raw sugar but you can use regular sugar if you prefer)
  • 1 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. white rice flour
  • 1/2 c. corn starch or tapioca starch
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • 1/2 c. sorghum or soy flour
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbs. xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Found @ Walmart for 33cents
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam, about 5-10 minutes. Combine yeast mixture, flours, starches, oil, eggs, xanthan gum & salt with a mixer until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Spoon dough into greased 9x5 loaf pan. Smooth top with a wet spoon. Place a piece of greased plastic wrap loosely on top of dough and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour. (The dough should rise just over the top of the loaf pan). If you don't have a warm place to put the dough - just turn  your oven on low heat for about 5 minutes then turn it off. Put the dough in the oven to rise for about 1 hour). Remove plastic wrap and bake at 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden on top.

Dough rising in the greased loaf pan with greased plastic wrap loosely covering it

Getting ready to slice bread :)

Up close look at the warm bread

Bread right after it is removed from oven

Mmmmm. Eggs with my gluten free homemade toast! :)

Gluten Free Casually

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rosemary's Dessert Squares

Rosemary's Dessert Squares (also called "Robert Redford Dessert"). Our dear family friend Rosemary (who is a fabulous cook) made these frequently when were kids. I loved spending the night at their house because you would ALWAYS wake up to the smell of breakfast cooking. She cooks a big breakfast every morning. The house always smells delicious! My mouth is watering and my belly is growling right now thinking about what kind of breakfast she is probably making right now! When she made this dessert she usually used chocolate pudding for the topping but sometimes she would make the 9x13 pan with foil separating the half mark and use butterscotch pudding on one side and chocolate pudding on the other side.

You can substitute your favorite flavor of pudding! I have had a craving for this delicious yet simple dessert lately so I substituted my gluten free flour to make it. Heavenly! The buttery, nutty crust pairs deliciously with the cream cheese filling and the pudding topping. It is a great balance. (If you don't have pudding on hand or don't like pudding... I have used cherry pie filling or lemon pie filling or just mixed the cream cheese and cool whip together and spooned on top of the crust instead for a different style of dessert which is more like a no-bake cheesecake). The crust recipe also can be substituted for graham cracker crust in cheesecake recipes or other cookie bar recipes. The crust is my favorite part...reminds me of shortbread cookies. I think I could make a batch of the "crust" and just eat it with a cup of coffee. Yummy! :)

Rosemary's Dessert Squares (Robert Redford Dessert) Recipe:
  • 1 cup flour (I used my gluten free flour blend, recipe below) If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular flour.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted real butter (you really should use real butter in this recipe for the best flavor!)
  • 1 cup finely crushed almonds, pecans or walnuts. (I used almonds in my batch today because that is what I had on hand. I believe Rosemary usually uses walnuts).
  • 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 container (8oz.) whipped topping, like Cool Whip
  • 2 pkgs (3.5 oz. each) instant chocolate pudding mix (or you can substitute pie filling or just omit this layer)
  • 3 cups cold milk - this is for the pudding mix so if you aren't using the pudding layer then you can omit this
Prepare the bottom crust my mixing together the flour, melted butter and nuts until crumb-like texture. Press into a greased 9x13" pan. Bake @ 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until crush is lightly golden brown. Cool completely.

Coarse crumb like texture of crust dough

Dough is pressed in pan. Ready to put in oven to bake.
Beat softened cream cheese with sugar until smooth and velvety. Fold in 4oz. (half the container) of whipped topping. Spread mixture over cooled crust. Combine the chocolate pudding mixes with milk until thickened. Spoon over the cream cheese/sugar mixture. Spread remaining 4oz. whipped topping over the pudding. You can garnish with grated chocolate or a light dusting of cocoa powder if desired.
Keep refrigerated. Recipe can easily be cut in half & baked in 8x8 square pan or pie pan if desired.

Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour 
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour or soy flour
  • 1 cup potato starch (not flour)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk, make sure it is very fine in texture
  • 1 cup corn starch or tapioca starch (I used 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 most of my recipes. *Glutinous rice flour does not contain gluten, it is made from sticky rice. 

Ready to cut into squares (Chocolate pudding flavor)
Key Lime Pie Filling (instead of chocolate pudding)

Sliced and ready to eat!
Close up view! See all the yummy layers? :)

I hope you have fond memories of family friends and loved ones and desserts that remind you of them. This is one of those desserts for me.

Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hamburger Gravy Pot Pie

Hamburger Gravy Pot Pie. Before I go any mom and brothers will flip out when they realize I actually eat hamburger gravy now and that I like it enough to put the recipe on the blog. Yes, during my childhood it was my LEAST favorite food. I whined, complained and fed it to my dog when no one was looking! Yes, I  hated hamburger gravy. I wasn't a picky eater but but it was one thing I threw a fuss about eating. Unfortunately for dad and brothers LOVED it so we had it regularly - usually served over mashed potatoes or biscuits or toast. Then my parents fed it to my kids and they LOVED it so I got stuck making it for my kids when they begged for it. EWWW!

Years later...I decide that I do actually like hamburger gravy when it is paired with corn bread. (Anything tastes good with corn bread!) I have taken one of my family's favorite recipes and made it gluten free. I used to make a decent sized batch then I would serve the hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes or biscuits the first night and later in the week I would take the left over gravy and put it in a casserole dish and put some prepared Jiffy corn bread mix on top and bake it up as a "pot pie". Since Jiffy corn bread muffin mix is not gluten free...I have created my own Gluten Free Corn Bread Muffin Mix that tastes pretty darn close to Jiffy! (The post for Corn Bread Muffin Recipe is on my blog December 2012 but I also included the basic recipe below for convenience).

My dad passed away almost two years ago and I think about him frequently but for some reason...he was really on my mind today. I had a large pack of ground hamburger in my refrigerator and seriously planned on making hamburgers but before I knew it...I was making my dad's favorite meal...hamburger gravy (although he called it SOS). My husband was pleasantly surprised because I almost NEVER make this dish unless it is requested. He calls it "hillbilly hamburger gravy" but he smiles as he SHOVELS it in! Even though I like it...I wouldn't normally call it one of my favorite meals but I will say that this particular batch tasted extremely tasty. I am not sure if I was just really hungry or if the happy thoughts of my dad made the meal taste more flavorful. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and I wanted to share it. Although it is a pretty basic recipe and I assume most people know how to make it... a few of my friends & my kids stated they would love my here it goes:

Hamburger Gravy Pot Pie: (makes 9x13 pan)
  • 1 pound lean ground hamburger (I used 93% lean because I don't my gravy greasy). You can also substitute ground sausage, ground game meat or chipped beef or shredded beef. I usually just stick with hamburger gravy because that is what my mom always made and that is what my family likes.
  • 1 tsp. steak seasoning (I used Santa Paula brand that I picked up at 99cent store because I really like the flavor of it but you can use your favorite brand - check labels if you have a gluten allergy!)
  • 1 tsp. Better than Bouillon beef flavor which is gluten free & concentrated. If you don't have that then you can use 3 tsp. gluten free beef bouillon OR 1/2 packet of gluten free dry onion soup mix well crushed so the onions are extremely fine!
  • 1 tbs. finely grated onion (you don't want onion chunks in this - just the flavor so I prefer grating the onion on a grater or you can substitute dried onion from the spice aisle just crush it first so it is in really small bits. If you use the onion soup mix then you can omit the grated onion)
  • pinch of salt (I used smoked sea salt but regular table salt will work also)
  • 1 tsp. finely grated garlic or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 4-5 tbs. corn starch or tapioca starch to thicken "gravy" (I used corn starch today)
  • milk (enough to make a gravy - I used about 2 cups
  • Corn bread muffin mix batter (see my recipe below for my gluten free corn bread muffin mix and you will use 3 cups mix + 2 eggs, 4 tbs. oil, 2/3 cup milk OR if you don't have a gluten allergy you can just prepare 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Bread muffin mix)
In a large skillet (I use my cast iron skillet) brown the hamburger, steak seasoning, bouillon, onion, salt & garlic on medium heat. If your hamburger is really lean like mine was then you don't need to drain the grease - I really didn't have much, around 1 tablespoon. A little grease (1-2 tablespoons is fine but if you have more grease then drain it off but try not to drain off the seasonings). Combine the cornstarch with a few tablespoons of water to make a thick but smooth paste. (I find it easiest to put the cornstarch in a small empty baby food or jelly jar and add a little water & put the lid on and shake until smooth. If the paste is clumpy and super thick just add a little more water - just a few drops at a time until you get the right texture). Once the cornstarch/water is smooth but still thick, pour onto the ground beef in the skillet. Pour on the milk then cook on medium heat until it starts to boil then reduce heat to low/simmer. I like to simmer mine for at least 20 minutes so the flavors blend. You may need to add more milk to get the consistency you want. Taste before serving to see if you need to add additional salt or garlic. 

Hamburger gravy in the skillet simmering
At this point you can serve the hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes, biscuits, toast, corn bread or whatever you like. We like ours made into a "pot pie". Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and spoon the hamburger gravy into pan. Top with prepared but uncooked corn bread muffin batter (my gluten free recipe is below but if you don't have a gluten allergy you can just use Jiffy corn bread muffin mix). Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until top is lightly golden brown and firm to touch. (The hamburger gravy is already cooked so you are just basically baking it until the cornbread is completely cooked). Serve immediately. Since we are "empty nesters" at my house now...I usually make a batch and put it into two 8x8 pans instead of 9x13 pan. That way I can either freeze the second pan for a later date or I can share one with my son Drew that loves it and lives close by now. 

Spooning the cornbread batter over the hamburger gravy before cooking
Just removed Hamburger Gravy Pot Pie from oven

Hamburger Gravy Pot Pie ready to eat! (See how fluffy the cornbread baked on top looks?)

Corn Bread Muffin Recipe (Copy cat for Jiffy brand)
1.5 cups of the mix = 1 small box of Jiffy corn bread muffin mix.
(Recipe below is equivalent to 1 small box of Jiffy corn bread/muffin mix)
  • 2/3 cup flour (I used my gluten free flour blend, see recipe below but if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular flour!)
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (I prefer using 1/4 cup corn flour + 1/4 cup polenta but cornmeal works fine too)
  • 1/8 cup sugar (you can add a little less if you don't care for sweet muffins or add a smidge more sugar if you prefer them slightly sweeter. You can also substitute raw sugar or stevia. If using stevia check box for how much to substitute!)
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Mix ingredients together with a fork or spoon. If you are not using it right away, you can store it in a ziploc bag, glass jar or rubbermaid container. I like to double or triple the recipe so I have it on hand when I need it. 1.5 cups of the mix = 1 small box of Jiffy corn bread muffin mix.

To prepare muffins, combine 1.5 cups of the mix with 1 egg, 2tbs. oil or melted butter and 1/3 cup milk by hand and let stand for about 5 minutes before putting into either greased muffin cups or paper lined muffin cups. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for approximately 13-18 minutes or until lightly golden on top and muffin springs back when gently touched or toothpick inserted comes out clean.

My gluten free version of Jiffy Corn Bread Muffins = Yummy!

Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour 
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour or soy flour
  • 1 cup potato starch (not flour)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk, make sure it is very fine in texture
  • 1 cup corn starch or tapioca starch (I used 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 most of my recipes. *Glutinous rice flour does not contain gluten, it is made from sticky rice. 

I hope you enjoyed my very casual and hillbilly style dinner recipe!
Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nutella No Bake Treats

Nutella No Bake Treats! I love recipes that can be made without having to turn the oven on because here in Arizona it gets REALLY HOT in the summer! I also love no bake treats since they don't require an oven they can be made while camping or in remote places that have limited electricity. Growing up in southeast Ohio, we would lose our electricity in the winter during a bad snow storm frequently. My parents didn't have a back up generator in those days but we had a little camping cook stove. We were still able to enjoy dessert on those days without having our electric oven available by making no bake treats. :) There are quite a few different recipes out there and I like most of them (I have a sweet tooth!) but this is one of my favorites because it contains Nutella. If you don't care for hazelnuts then by all means you can substitute peanut butter and chopped peanuts OR almond butter with chopped almonds instead. (If you have a gluten allergy just make sure whatever type of spread you are using is gluten free because some brands use flour as a thickener! Nutella does not contain gluten.)

I love Nutella and so does the rest of my family. My mom is from Germany so when we would go to visit our cousins there when we were children, we would DEVOUR Nutella. We would always pack our suitcases with the SCRUMPTIOUS spread to bring home. My aunt Regine would send it in packages and we would savor it until it was gone. My husband got addicted to it on our visit over there a few years ago and my cousin Petra even got him a special "Nutella knife" made to scrape the bottom of the jar clean! Seriously! Now days Nutella is available at most grocery stores so it is easy to find here in the U.S. There are other brands available but I prefer the Nutella brand. (The one made in Germany is slightly different tasting because the one marketed here is made in Canada but they are very similar. Only a true Nutella connoisseur would pick up the difference! Ha ha!)

Nutella No Bake Treats Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk - not evaporated!)
  • 1/3 cup Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (I like to lightly toast mine in a skillet first for extra flavor but you don't need to do this. I think it brings out the flavor of the hazelnuts more and gives a better crunch to the treats)
  • 2 cups oats (can use quick cooking or old fashioned). Just make sure the brand you use is gluten free if you have a gluten allergy. I personally have never had any issues using Quaker brand. I have had severe rash from using generic brands so I stay away from them. Oats listed "gluten free" are available at specialty stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods, Sunflower Markets, Military commissary and some grocery stores). If you prefer a salty-sweet extra crunchy texture then you can stir in crushed gluten free pretezels (like Glutino brand) or potato sticks (check label for gluten free) in place of oats.
Melt the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth. (You can do this on the stove top or if you have a microwave available you can do it in there for convenience - just heat for 30 second intervals until melted. College kids and military people living in dorm style rooms usually have a microwave available but not a stove). Stir in Nutella and stir until smooth and well combined. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and oats. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper so they can cool & set. Store in sealed container with wax paper between each layer.  *These can be spooned into a 9x13 foil lined pan instead of dropping onto waxed paper. Let cool completely to set - should be a fudge texture - before cutting into squares. Recipe can easily be cut in half for a smaller batch or doubled for a huge crowd. It also works great topped on brownies for a delectable frosting! :)

These are a fabulous treat that can be made relatively quickly. They are a yummy treat to receive as a gift...maybe a surprise for someone having a rough day or stressed about an upcoming exam. They also are great additions to cookie plates and look elegant on tiered cake stands for holidays, weddings and parties. You can also make them for yourself because you are having a need for chocolate which is usually why I make them! Almost instant gratification! :)

* You can also use the traditional no-bake cookie recipe (see my No-Bake Cookie post from 2012) and substitute Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread for the peanut butter and mix some chopped hazelnuts with the oats for a similar treat. Although both are quite tasty, the other No-Bake cookie recipe can't be made in the microwave and the fudge base is not quite as creamy. The other No-Bake cookie version is a little firmer texture - which I happen to like but my husband prefers this version which is fine by me because these are a little easier to make! He was craving something chocolate and sweet so I made these for him today since he is working hard painting our guest room.

Nutella No Bake Treats cooling on wax paper lined cookie sheet

Nutella No Bake Treats on a plate to take to some friends later today

Up close view of these fudgey Nutella No Bake Treats!

Ready to eat!

I hope you enjoy this simple recipe and remember to share these treats with someone. It will warm your heart to make someone else smile. Today, I am dropping off a few to some dear friends (Judi & Armando) because they always surprise us with yummy food and I want to return the favor today. Have a chocolate filled yummy day!

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pizza Pasta

Pizza Pasta! I love pizza. It is probably one of my favorite meals. This is a recipe that I have made since my kids were small. I used to just use assorted noodles - whatever I had in the cupboard that needed used up. Now with a gluten allergy, I use a gluten free elbow macaroni noodle but it still tastes great! The great thing about pizza pasta is that you can add any of your favorite pizza toppings to customize it. I personally love lots of mushrooms, salami, pepperoni, some ground sausage, hamburger, olives and a little bit of garlic & onion. Sometimes I even throw a little fresh basil in there. However, not everyone in the family likes mushrooms or olives so unless I do individual little casseroles then I just make the basic pepperoni, cheese & garlic. It is a great alternative to pizza because it is quick, easy and you don't have to roll out pizza crust. It also freezes great.

This is another one of those casual meals that I really love because you can make it in advance and it re-heats well. It is also great for "pizza night". You can pre-cook noodles and have disposable metal pie pans or mini bread loaf pans available for each person then lay out all the toppings on the counter as a "pizza topping bar" and let everyone make their individual pizza casserole with their favorite toppings and just bake them. It is great as a stand alone dish or you can add salad and some gluten free bread or rolls for a complete meal.  (Check out my recipe for Baked Cheesecake December 2012 for a killer desert that goes great with this meal!) Kids and adults both enjoy making their own custom pizza pasta casserole. I just like to have large ziploc bags on hand so I can write their name on their "to go" bag and slip the leftover casserole that is already in a disposable metal pie pan (cooled down of course!) right into the ziploc bag. Ready for them to take home!

So the next time you are planning a movie night with the family, having friends over for the big game or just having a casual dinner...consider making individual pizza pasta casseroles! Or you can just make a 9x13 pan for a casual dinner! (If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular noodles! I used to use fun shapes for the kids when they were younger. If you are making it for just one person then you can start off with a box of macaroni & cheese and just start adding your other ingredients. How easy is that?)

Pizza Pasta Recipe (makes 9x13 pan):
  • 1.5 - 2  cups of pasta (I use the potato starch elbow noodles from Winco Grocery store bulk section but you can use your favorite gluten free noodle and I also love using the Ronzoni brand gluten free noodles). If you do not have a gluten allergy, then of course you can use regular noodles! If you are adding a lot of toppings then I would start off with 1.5 cups of cooked pasta.
  • 2 cups of spaghetti or pizza sauce (if you have a gluten allergy then make sure you read labels and it is gluten free!) 
  • 1.5-2 cups of shredded Italian blend or Mexican blend cheese or use Mozarella or Provolone cheese. There are a lot of great cheeses out there and you can use your favorite or a combination of several different types. (If I am doing the "make your own" thing then I try to have a couple different types of cheeses available)
  • Pepperoni, cooked & drained sausage and/or hamburger or any other meat you like on your pizza. I happen to like salami so I dice up some of that also. Cooked bacon or ham is also a great meat for pizza. Vegetarians can leave out the meat or substitute the soy crumble type stuff (like Morning Star Crumbles).
  • Pizza Toppers like olives, peppers, onions, garlic, Italian seasonings, fresh basil, mushrooms or whatever other toppings you like.
Boil and drain your  noodles. Cook & drain your sausage, bacon or hamburger if you are using them. Spray 9x13 pan or individual disposable pie pans with cooking spray. Spoon noodles into pan(s). Top with spaghetti or pizza sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake in 350 degree oven until cheese is melted and everything is warmed throughout, approximately 20 minutes. (You can also microwave it instead as long as you have a microwave safe casserole dish!)

Here are my two favorite basic ingredients for the pizza pasta that I like to make. The Hunt's pasta sauce is slightly spicy and does not contain gluten. It runs about $1 at Walmart so it is easy to find & very convenient. They also have other flavors but this one happens to be my favorite. I like it better than the more expensive brands and I like the fact that I don't have to run to a specialty store to find it. I first discovered it when we were going camping and making some campfire pizzas and didn't want to transport glass containers. We discovered that we really liked it and was pleased it was inexpensive! Of course, homemade sauce like my dear friend Judi Bahr makes is the BEST but since she doesn't live at my house...I am forced to use canned sauce because I have never really made a good homemade pizza/pasta sauce.
This is one of my favorite sauces to use

Up close view of the pizza pasta in the 9x13 pan
Baked in a 9x13 pan

Up close view...ready to eat! Check out the melted cheese! Yummy!

I will try to add some pictures when we do the "make your own pizza pasta" in the near future.
I hope you enjoy this simple and very casual, fun meal!

Note: Barilla Pasta & Ronzoni both make Gluten Free Noodles which are available at most grocery stores with the regular pasta. If you can't find it, ask your grocery store manager if they can special order it for you. The average price is about $2-3 per box. 

Happy Eating!
Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sesame Honey Chicken

Honey Sesame Chicken over rice
Sesame Honey Chicken. I love just about anything with honey & sesame flavors and I love Asian inspired foods. It is difficult to eat out at a lot of Asian places because the soy sauce contains wheat flour so I end up making most of my Asian food at home using gluten free soy sauce. I found this recipe on the internet and of course tweaked it to make it work for me. It is an easy recipe because you just make the sauce and pour it over the chicken in the crockpot and let it cook by itself. Great for a busy day! I LOVE crockpot recipes! Of course if you don't own a crockpot you can cook it in the oven instead for the same great results.

This recipe is meant to be served over rice but you can also serve it on buns for a casual sandwich meal (I recommend Udi's gluten free buns if you have a gluten allergy!). Everyone in our family loves Asian food so this is a great recipe to make when the gang is all over! I like casual entertaining but you can certainly dress this dish up using fancy dishes and additional side dishes. This meal looks like you spent a lot of time in the kitchen slaving but really it is quite easy to prepare which is why I like it so much!

Honey Sesame Chicken Recipe:
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken (I use breasts but you can use thighs)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or you can be lazy like me and use 2 tsp. garlic in a jar)
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup (or substitute tomato paste + 1 tbs. sugar)
  • 1/2 cup Soy sauce (if you have a gluten allergy then make sure you use gluten free soy sauce. I used Tamari gluten free soy sauce in today's recipe)
  • 2 tbs. sesame oil (if you don't have sesame oil you can substitute vegetable oil or olive oil. You won't get the exact same flavor as sesame oil but it will still work fine in the recipe)
  • dash of red pepper flakes (I use about 1.5 teaspoons but you can add more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
*You will also need 1 cup honey, 4 tsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch and 1/3 cup water but not until the chicken is done cooking. (Instructions to follow). The original recipe called for adding the honey to the marinade sauce at the beginning but I felt the honey flavor got lost during the cooking time. The next time I made it I decided to add the honey at the end and we liked the flavor much better. You can also add an additional teaspoon of sesame oil when adding the honey if you prefer a stronger sesame flavor.

Place chicken pieces in crockpot. Mix the garlic, ketchup, soy sauce, oil and pepper flakes together to make the marinade sauce and pour over the chicken. Cover with lid and cook for 4-6 hours or until chicken is tender and moist. If you are cooking in the oven, place in a roasting pan or 9x13 pan with foil or lid. Bake covered at 300 degrees for about 75 minutes or until chicken is tender and chicken juices run clear when poked with a fork.
Chicken cooking in crockpot with marinading sauce

Remove chicken and shred or slice thinly. (Save sauce). Combine the 4 tsp. cornstarch (or tapioca starch) + 1/3 cup water & honey until smooth. Pour the marinading sauce (that the chicken was cooking in) into a saucepan along with the cornstarch/water/honey mixture. Cook on high-med heat for about 5-7 minutes stirring frequently until slightly thickened. Pour over chicken. (If serving on sandwiches then let the chicken absorb some of the sauce before spooning onto buns). You can serve over cooked rice or rice noodles. I recommend serving with a side of oriental vegetables. I also like to slice some green onions and sprinkle on some sesame seeds for garnish when serving over rice. If you are serving on buns for a casual sandwich meal, check out my recipe for Asian Noodle Salad (September 2012 post) which is a great side dish for a casual sandwich meal.

Topped with green onions and sesame seeds

Up close peak at the yummy sauce

Ready to eat! Yummy!
So this is what I ended up making for New Year's Day 2013 since it was simple, easy and I could leave it in the crockpot for a few hours while I ran errands. We enjoyed it.

Happy New Year!
Gluten Free Casually