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!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dirty Rice

The dirty rice is actually darker than photo shows
Dirty Rice is something my family was introduced to many years ago while vacationing in the southern states. We drove to Florida (from Ohio) and stopped at a little family owned restaurant along the way. The side dish was dirty rice. The name didn't sound appetizing but heck...we are adventurous so we tried it. LOVED IT! It is spicy, sassy and the flavors just dance on the tongue! The family restaurant wouldn't share their recipe because it was their specialty dish. A few years later, I saw dirty rice was available in a pre-pared mix in a box. We would buy it frequently until I had to adhere to a gluten free diet. Most of the mixes and seasoning spices for the dirty rice contain wheat flour. We missed dirty rice. It was always requested at Thanksgiving dinner and for BBQs. My German cousins LOVED dirty rice and always request it when they come for a visit. Leftovers are great with scrambled eggs or stuffed into a burrito!

My husband made the comment that he missed having dirty rice... so I tried some of the recipes online and the taste just wasn't the same as what we were used to. Don't get me wrong...they weren't horrible but it just wasn't the same.  I tried making it from scratch using the ingredients listed on the box. wasn't exactly the same. Something just wasn't quite right. Then....I tweaked it just a little by adding some beef bouillon and paprika...BINGO! We now have the dirty rice that we love and it is now GLUTEN FREE!

I am sharing my recipe with you because even if you aren't on a gluten free diet...this recipe doesn't require any special ingredients and it is super easy, fast and yummy!  I will also give you tips on how to make it for a huge crowd since it is economical. I made a huge disposable pan (completely full) for the BBQ tomorrow and it didn't take me long at all and was budget friendly. This recipe is a lot cheaper than buying a box mix and just as easy. Leftovers freeze great too! You can use either ground sausage (like Bob Evans or Jimmy Dean's regular. I don't get the hot flavored one or the maple flavored) or lean hamburger or a combination of both! My family likes it either way but I get more compliments when I make it with ground sausage. If you find that this recipe is just a little too spicy for your liking then you can always just cook some additional plain rice and add to the mixture to tone down the spices. If you like it more spicy then add more chile flavoring to kick it up a notch!

Dirty Rice Recipe:
  • 2 cups of white rice (you can use either regular or instant rice)
  • 1 pound of ground sausage or hamburger (or combination of both)
  • 1/4 cup finely dice onions or 4-5 tbs. of dried onion flakes
  • 2 tbs. beef bouillon (or you can use 1 packet of gluten free instant onion soup mix. The gluten free soup mixes I generally use are the Hy-top brand that I find at Winco Grocery stores, Everyday Essential brand from Albertson's Grocery store or 4C brand). 
  • 1/2 tsp. Ancho Chile Flakes (these taste the best in this recipe but you can use regular chili flakes if you don't have these). Ancho chiles are found every place in the SW states...even at our Dollar Stores! You can always take a dried pepper and put it in the blender until flakey. Dried green chiles work also. I personally think the dried chiles work better in this recipe than the canned or fresh ones because the pieces are more fine and spread the flavor more evenly). Red and green bell peppers WILL NOT give you the same spicy flavor!
  • 3 tbs. minced garlic (you can use refrigerated garlic in a jar for convenience or 1 tbs. dried minced garlic. Garlic salt may be too salty!)
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. chile powder (I like to use Chipotle Chile powder but you can use any type. You can also add more if you want more heat. I generally start off with 1/2 tsp. and then add more if you think it needs it. If you find that it is just a little too spicy then you can add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar to tone down the spices). 
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • sea salt to taste (I generally don't add this until the very end because sometimes the flavor is salty enough without adding any additional salt!)

Cook the ground sausage and/or lean hamburger in a skillet along with the onions, beef bouillon and garlic. If the meat is greasy then drain the majority of the grease but leave about 2-3 tbs. of grease remaining. This will help keep the rice from clumping together and adds a little extra flavor. If you are using regular white rice then I try to start cooking it during the same time that I start the meat. If you are using instant rice (which is a huge time saver!) then you can just do it after the meat is done. For today's recipe, I used instant rice because I was in a time crunch. (Results are the same. Instant rice is just a little more pricey than regular long cooking rice). If using the instant rice, I add the rice and the meat & all the spices to the boiling water at the same time. Turn off the stove heat, stir it all together and put a lid on top of the rice mixture and let it stand for about 6-10 minutes. DONE! If I am using the longer cooking rice then I add the rice and all the other ingredients to the boiling water, turn it down to simmer and stir frequently until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Taste. If you think it needs salt or additional spices...add them. If it is too spicy for you then just cook some additional plain rice and mix it into the batch.

If you are making it for a huge crowd like I did today. I used one full box of instant rice (28 oz) and just triple the rest of the ingredients (I only had 2 pounds of ground sausage so I only used 2 pounds of meat). Since we are going to a BBQ with a lot of older people...I wanted to tone it down and keep it budget friendly. I added just a little extra chile seasoning and paprika and thought it was just fine. It had a little less meat in it than my usual batch but since I am using it as a side dish...that is just fine!

*For those of you that have Suzanne's southwest desert rub...then you can just use 2-3 tbs of that instead of the ancho chile flakes, garlic, chile powder, pepper and salt. This is one of my favorite spices/rubs and I like to use it in a lot of my recipes and on any meat for a wonderful flavor. It is sold in Cave Creek, Arizona at a little shop or you can order online @ My kids and a lot of my friends that come and visit will pick up a bottle of this after they eat at my house! (No, I don't get paid to promote her product and I don't personally know her...I just really like the product and I think it is worth mentioning). Since I know some of you use the desert can just use it in this recipe rather than scrambling around purchasing other spices! :)

The photos below don't show the true color of the dirty rice. It is actually more brown in color. The lighting makes it appear a little lighter.

I hope you enjoy the spicy flavor of my dirty rice recipe. It is one of our family's favorite rice dishes and is a great casual meal or side dish.

Gluten Free Casually

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pasta Salad with Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

Pasta Salad with Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. This is an awesome twist to traditional pasta salad. It has a crisp, sassy flavor! It is fun for picnics and casual dinners...much tastier than traditional macaroni salad! (My daughter's comment as a child was: "Why do people call it macaroni salad when it is pretty much noodles with globs of mayonnaise mixed in it? How is that a salad?") Kids say funny things but she was right! I always added a lot of veggies to the food I prepared when my kids were growing up so they would get used to eating healthy. I never made traditional macaroni salad because I wanted the kids to eat a version with a lighter dressing and fresh veggies.  I think introducing these kind of salads when kids are young helps encourage them to like veggies as adults. Plus it is great finger food for toddlers! Lots of different colors and textures!

Our family isn't a huge fan of mayonnaise so I am always looking for side dishes and summer salads that don't contain it. This particular recipe is just a basic pasta salad and the lime flavor came from improvising! (A lot of my recipes are created from improvising in a pinch!). I usually add Italian dressing or a greek dressing but I was out of it and since it was 110+ degrees outside...I wasn't in the mood to go running out to the store and get all sweaty! I did have some leftover lime vinaigrette dressing in the refrigerator so I improvised. The results were great! My family loves the bold flavor of lime so this recipe worked great for us.

This recipe is VERY FLEXIBLE. You can add your favorite salad dressing if you don't care for lime vinaigrette or if you don't have it on hand. You can also leave out any of the ingredients you don't like and you can also add additional items like olives, peppers, cheese or whatever else you like in your pasta salad. I try to keep the salads colorful and tasty. I happen to love cucumbers and tomatoes so I add those to most of my pasta salads! I leave the chunks small enough to eat but large enough that people can pick out anything they don't like. You can even add grilled chicken, ham, pepperoni or salami to make it a main dish meal. I used gluten free elbow noodles but if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular noodles. I usually make my lime vinaigrette dressing homemade but I will say that Kraft Zesty Lime Vinaigrette Dressing is tasty and very quick for those that want to get the salad done fast or don't want to bother with making homemade dressing.

Pasta Salad with Lime Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe:
  • 1 pound of noodles (I used the gluten free elbow noodles from Winco grocery store bulk section - see my photo below but you can use your favorite gluten free noodles or if you don't have a gluten allergy then just use regular noodles. Any noodle shape is fine! I have even used spaghetti noodles for this recipe!) Cook & rinse noodles.
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups of chopped tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes cut in half)
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled & chopped into bite size chunks
  • 2 green onions, chopped (or 1/2 cup chopped onion of your choice)
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 cup corn (I used frozen corn, thawed but you can use canned corn or cooked fresh corn)
  • cilantro, optional
  • you can also add any other items you like including olives, peppers, cheese, meat or whatever else you like in your pasta salad. This recipe is flexible so you can add or delete whatever you want!
Lime Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe: (this recipe is good for marinading chicken and for coleslaw also!)
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Juice & zest from 2 limes (in a pinch you can use bottled lime juice but you won't get the same delicious fresh flavor that only fresh limes give you!)
  • 4 tbs. Agave Nectar or honey or sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
Mix all the dressing ingredients together with a whisk or spoon. Then combine all the pasta salad ingredients into a bowl. Pour the dressing over all the noodles & other ingredients. Toss gently. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving so flavors blend and noodles soak up some of the dressing.

    Gluten free Elbow Noodles I found in the bulk section of WinCo Foods

    Hope you enjoy this very casual but yummy pasta salad!
    Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gluten Free Brownies with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

Brownies! Brownies are great but then when you add Nutella Buttercream Frosting...well it takes it to a whole new level of sinful deliciousness! I have several recipes for gluten free brownies and I think they are all good...but I continue to try to tweak recipes. I have to say that this is one of the BEST brownies ever! I made these for my husband's birthday in early June. I thought that since we only had a few people over that I would have at least half a pan left to take to work the next day. We didn't have many left and everyone wanted to take a brownie home!

Hubby loved them so much that he requested them again for father's day! He isn't even on a gluten free diet and he said these were the best brownies ever! :)

These brownies are rich and chewy. They have a nice texture. They are good without the frosting but the frosting does add to the melt in your mouth flavor! My grand-daughter isn't much of a sweet eater and we don't encourage her to eat junk food but since it was my husband's birthday....we let her try a brownie and she loved it!

If you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just substitute regular flour in this recipe.

Brownie Recipe:
  • 2 cups gluten free flour blend (You can use my recipe below or use a pre-made gluten free flour blend like Trader Joes or Cup for Cup). I personally don't care for any flour blend that contains sorghum flour in my sweets - gives it a weird after taste. I also recommend using a flour blend that contains some brown rice flour or else you will get a gritty powdery texture that is just weird. 
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (unless your flour blend already contains it or guar gum, then omit this! Or if you don't have a gluten allergy and are substituting regular flour then omit this.)
  • 1 cup real butter, soft but not completely melted. (If using margarine then make sure it contains at least 65% fat or it contains too much water for baking!) You can also substitute Crisco (slightly melted but not runny) if you have a dairy allergy.
  • 2 cups sugar (I used raw sugar and put it in my blender to get it really fine) but you can use regular sugar if you prefer.
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 eggs 
  • 3 tsp. butter vanilla baking emulsion or vanilla extract
Mix the flour, xanthan gum (only if you are using a gluten free flour blend that does not already contain xanthan gum or guar gum!), butter, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, eggs and baking emulsion or vanilla extract with a spoon or spatula until well blended but not over-mixed. (About 50 strokes by hand). Batter will be much thicker than cake batter! Spread into a greased 9x13 pan and bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. (Every oven is different and different altitudes bake differently so check it after 20 minutes and then every 4-5 minutes until set). Cool before frosting. You can also add 1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts to the batter before baking if desired. We just prefer our brownies without nuts. 

Nutella Frosting Recipe:
  • 1/4 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1/4 cup Butter, softened (I used real butter but if you use margarine then make sure it is 65% fat or it contains too much water). In a pinch, you can just use all Crisco.
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbs. corn starch or tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup Nutella
Beat all the ingredients together until smooth and fluffy. If you are finding the texture too "runny" then add another tablespoon of cornstarch or a little more powdered sugar. If it is a little too stiff then add either vanilla extract or baking emulsion or just a few drops of water. You may need to tweak it a little bit to get the right consistency. Different brands and different altitudes can vary the texture!

My Homemade Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour 
  • 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (made from sticky rice, gluten free)
  • 1 cup potato starch (not flour)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk, make sure it is very fine in texture
  • 1 cup corn starch or tapioca starch (I used tapioca starch for this batch)
  • 3 tbs. xanthan gum
Combine all ingredients together well. You can put it in the blender for an extra smooth texture if desired. I store mine in a glass container and use it in place of regular flour in all my recipes. This particular blend I really like for baked sweet goods. 

Taste testing the gluten free brownies

Eating another bite for quality assurance!

Approved to be tasty by this little gluten free diva!

Nutella Buttercream Frosting prior to putting on the brownies

Gluten Free brownies fresh from the oven!

These are the batch without frosting. They were delicious just plain too!
But who are we kidding?
Everything tastes better with anything Nutella on it! :)

Brownies that I decorated with Nutella Buttercream Frosting. Scrumptious! I used a frosting
decorating bag & tip to decorate the top of my brownies but you can just spread with a knife.

I hope you enjoy this sinfully delicious but very casual brownie recipe. I enjoy making them and my family enjoys eating them! I have also made these brownies without the frosting and have added either toffee bits or mini chocolate chips to the recipe for some extra deluxe flavor! I love recipes when you can tweak them for different events or to use what you have in your cupboard! :)

Happy Father's Day!
Gluten Free Casually

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Baja Shrimp & Scallops

Baja Shrimp & Scallops! This is a super easy recipe and it comes together quickly so you can get dinner to the table fast! During the work week I like to keep my dinners simple & quick because I work a long day on my feet and I am starving by the time I get home! I like to have dinner cooked in 20 minutes or so. I save the time consuming meals for special occasions or weekends.

This recipe is very flexible and you can change it up by substituting a mild fish like blue hake, talapia or orange roughy. I also like to use Loganstino Lobster tails which are like little mini lobsters that I can usually get at Trader Joe's in the freezer section. You can also substitute chicken chunks instead. For convenience, I used McCormick's Baja Citrus packet because they don't add gluten to it and it is inexpensive and has all the flavors I want. However, you can prepare your own seasoning easily (recipe below) or substitute a different flavor of prepared seasoning (just read the label if you have a gluten allergy to make sure it doesn't contain gluten! Many of the seasoning packets contain gluten!). By the way, I don't follow the instructions for the marinade on the back of the package for this recipe - I just use it dry although the marinade is good for chicken! I used to make my seasoning from scratch (recipe below) until I found this inexpensive pre-packaged mix. Now I get lazy most of the time and just use the mix for convenience!

Baja Shrimp & Scallops Recipe:

  • 1 packet of McCormick Baja Citrus Seasoning packet (or make your own seasoning with recipe below)
  • 12 oz. shrimp (I used the small-medium sized so they cook quickly)
  • 6 oz. scallops (I used the small ones so they cook quickly and are more tender)
  • 1 lime (fresh limes of course taste best but you can use the lime juice concentrate)
  • 2 green onions, sliced optional
  • fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 2 tbs. real butter or olive oil
  • 3 tbs. minced garlic (if you are using the homemade version of the Baja Citrus seasoning then cut back the garlic here to 2 tbs.)

Rinse the shrimp and scallops in a colander under cool water. I squeeze a little bit of lime juice over the top while they are draining and the skillet is getting hot. Add the garlic, shrimp, scallops (or whatever meat you are using) to the skillet. I sprinkle about 2 tbs. of the seasoning packet onto the shrimp and scallops as they are cooking. If I am using a fresh lime then I grate some fresh lime rind into the skillet also for extra lime flavor which we love. You can also add a sprinkling of hot pepper flakes or pinch of ground chipotle chili pepper if you want a little kick to this dish. Cook until the shrimp are pink but still firm. Meanwhile, I prepare some instant rice and add about 1-2 tsp. of the Baja Citrus Seasoning packet to the water as it is boiling. This gives the rice a touch of flavor and color. You will probably have some of the seasoning packet left - taste your food to see if you would like it to have a bolder flavor. If so, add more seasoning. If not, seal it up and save it for seasoning something else at a later date. (I like to use left over seasoning packets to season plain rice. It is cheap, easy and changes up the flavor of rice!) Just before serving the shrimp over the rice, I add an additional squeeze of lime juice over the top and garnish with sliced green onions and fresh cilantro.

If you want to make my homemade version of Baja Citrus Seasoning:

  • 2 tbs. dried cilantro
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic (fresh or dried)
  • 2 tsp. dried onion flakes or fresh onion minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon or orange rind (optional)
  • 2 tsp. lime rind
  • pinch of pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Below are some photos of the Baja Citrus Shrimp & Scallops.

I hope you enjoyed this super quick & easy dish!

Gluten Free Casually