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, November 15, 2014

Pineapple Fluff

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten Free Casually

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mexican Casserole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just removed mine from the microwave.

It is still hot from the microwave.

Look at all this lovely cheesy ingredients. Mmmmm!

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

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

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

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Italian Flourless Carrot Cake (Gluten Free)

Italian Flourless Carrot Cake. This recipe has an explosion of fresh flavors. My German cousin was visiting with his family and his wife, Christine was talking about this lovely gluten free cake that she thought I might enjoy. She said she had made it for a dinner party and they really liked it. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me. It is one of those easy recipes that you don't need a lot of different ingredients and no mixer required. It is simple, easy, and the fresh flavors just pop in your mouth. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this recipe.

I will say that my husband is a bit of a dessert snob. He pretty much only eats chocolate desserts. However, he went back for seconds on this one! I did add shredded coconut to my cake although the original recipe didn't call for it. The first time I made the cake I shredded the carrots real fine. The second time I made the cake, I used store bought shredded carrots that were a little more coarse. Both worked fine although I thought the ones that I freshly shredded had a lot more flavor in the cake. I think in the future I will only use freshly shredded carrots for the extra flavor. I also added a teaspoon of almond baking emulsion instead of the vanilla extract the first time I baked it and I added the vanilla extract the second time I baked it. (Although both were good, we preferred the little bit of almond baking emulsion flavor better!) You can also swap out the sugar for honey. I have done it both ways and they are both great. The original recipe calls for pine nuts on top but I used pumpkin seeds this time and I have also used slivered almonds. It just dresses up the top of the cake a little bit although you can leave them off or sprinkle with shredded coconut instead. It is such a flexible cake! You can also add raisins and or chopped nuts to the batter if you like it in your carrot cake. I chose to just add some shredded coconut and keep it simple. I also like to bake this batter in cupcake papers since it is convenient for a quick snack or "on-the-go" breakfast. I figure this is healthy enough to be considered a breakfast muffin! ;) You can add ground cinnamon or other spices if you prefer. I just kept it simple and liked it that way. I didn't want the cinnamon to over power the flavor of the carrots. (If you are planning on doubling the cake recipe & frosting this cake with layers then I would leave the pine nuts or pumpkin seeds off the top).

Italian Flourless Carrot Cake Recipe:
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded or grated, about 1 cup (it can be a heaping cup)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar or honey (I usually use non-gmo unbleached sugar if I am using sugar)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can substitute vegetable oil, canola oil or coconut oil)
  • 3 large eggs (if your eggs are small, add 1 extra egg)
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespooons finely ground almonds (also called almond meal). If you have a nut allergy then you can substitute gluten free flour instead.
  • 1/2 lemon, finely grated lemon zest & juice. Make sure you don't get any seeds in the batter!
  • 1 tsp. almond baking emulsion or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (it can be sweetened or unsweetened), optional
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins, optional (I did not add them since my guests didn't like raisins). Just make sure your raisins are nice and juicy. If not, soak them in hot water for about 5 minutes so they are plump and juicy. You don't want hard, chewy raisins in your cake!
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C). I lined the bottom of my 9" spring form pan with parchment paper for easy removal. If you are using pine nuts, lightly toast them in a skillet or oven until they turn golden if you want them toasted on top of the cake. I used pre-cooked pumpkin seeds on mine today so I didn't have to toast mine first. Grate the carrots (or you can use a food processor if you have one. I just shredded mine by hands because I thought it was a hassle to drag out my food processor for just 2 carrots). If you don't have a hand grater or food processor, you can use a vegetable peeler or the back of a knife to scrape/shred the carrots. You just need the carrots in thin pieces so it cooks and the flavor is released. You don't want hard chunks of carrots in your cake. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamy and well mixed. Add the vanilla or almond flavor. Fold in the ground almonds (or gluten free flour), coconut (optional), lemon zest & juice and raisins (optional). Spoon into the prepared 9" spring form pan or muffin cups. Sprinkle with your pine nuts or pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds. (You can use sunflower seeds as well).  Bake 9" pan approximately 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Bake muffin cups approximately 18-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. (The toothpick may be slightly sticky but that is okay as long as it isn't runny batter). Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes before you remove it from the spring form pan or else it might crack or fall apart. Serve with whipping cream or ice cream (vanilla or butter pecan ice cream is really good with this).

Grating my carrots by hand

I used these pumpkin seeds on top of my cake

I used this brand of honey in place of the sugar in my muffins. Turned out great.

I like using these thick paper cup cake liners. They don't need a special pan. Photo taken before baking.

Photo of muffins coming out of the oven.
Up close view of the cake baked in 9" spring form pan
Up close view of the inside of the muffin. I used store bought shredded carrots for this batch. I prefer the more intense flavor and texture of the hand shredded carrots better. My pieces were much smaller & more flavorful than the store bought version.

I hope you enjoy this very easy, simple and delicious recipe. It makes a great brunch or after dinner dessert recipe. It tastes like you spent a lot of time on this recipe but it is actually quite simple to make. I like the muffins for quick "on the go" breakfasts (they freeze great too) or for parties because they don't require plates and forks....just your hands since they are already in muffin cups. I really like the heavy duty cardboard style cup cake/muffin liners since they are sturdy and don't require a muffin pan to bake them. I can squeeze a bunch of muffins on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven all at once. I scored a 24 pack of the heavy duty cardboard style at the 99cent store. Keep your eyes open for these great little cup cake liners. Once you use won't want to go back to the paper liners! However, I will admit that I am a bit thrifty so I will not pay $4 for a pack of these liners. I love them but only if I can score them at a bargain!

Enjoy a cold evening with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy a slice of this simple, casual cake or muffin!

Gluten Free Casually

Monday, October 13, 2014

Butternut Squash, Apple & Sausage Jumble

Butternut Squash, Apple & Sausage Jumble is a super easy, absolutely delicious and very fast meal to throw together. We love it for breakfast or dinner. Nothing SCREAMS fall for me more than this simple dish. I love how the earthy flavor of the butternut squash blends well with the sweet-tart apple, the slightly spicy sausage and the tangy sweet onions. I will add chopped polenta if I have it on hand. This is one of those quick meals that you can throw together in about 10 minutes which is great for busy work nights and a quick breakfast on a lazy weekend! I get excited every time I see the displays for fall with all the squash and pumpkins & all the fun recipes that SCREAM fall time! The squash brings an earthy flavor to simple dishes.

If you want it to go together even faster with minimal mess, you can can purchase your butternut squash & apples already cubed (look in the refrigerator section in the produce section of your grocery store. I found them at Walmart and Trader Joe's). I like to use honeycrisp apples but any slightly tart apple will work well. You can also substitute (or add) acorn squash. I use any flavor of gluten free, low fat chicken or turkey sausage that I have on hand. Sometimes I will use a spicy chipotle or jalapeno flavor and other times I use an Italian or apple smoke flavored sausages. It really doesn't matter because they all taste great with this dish.

Butternut Squash, Apple & Sausage Jumble Recipe:
  • 1 1/2-2 cups of fresh, cubed butternut or acorn squash (about 12-16oz)
  • 1 sweet onion (I like Vidalia or a sweet yellow onion), thinly sliced
  • 4-6 gluten free, low fat chicken or turkey sausages (any flavor), sliced
  • 1-2 slightly tart apples, cubed (I used honey crisp) and I removed seeds/core but did not peel
  • 1 pkg in tube (6-10 oz.) gluten free polenta, cubed, optional. You do not have to add this. We like it and I add it if I have it on hand.  Make sure it is labeled gluten free. I found mine at Trader Joe's near the noodles on the shelf. (It is also sometimes called "corn meal mush" and located near the eggs).
I put a tiny drizzle of olive oil (any oil, lard or butter will work) in a skillet on medium heat and saute the sliced onions until they become soft and start to brown slightly. In the meantime, I put the squash and apple in the microwave for about 60-90 seconds. Just enough to soften them slightly so they cook a little faster and they aren't crunchy. I don't want them over-cooked so they turn mushy...just enough to soften them slightly. The chicken sausages I had were pre-cooked so I just sliced them and lightly browned them. (If your sausages are not pre-cooked then you will need to cook them with the onions so they have enough time to cook thoroughly). If you are using polenta, add it to the the skillet after the onions are starting to get soft (before you add apples and squash). You want the polenta cubes to start to brown slightly. If you aren't adding polenta then add your pre-cooked sausage cubes, squash cubes & apple cubes. Cook until everything is warm and slightly browned. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Serve warm.

This dish is great served as is. It is also great served with any of the following: rice, eggs, potatoes or gluten free pasta. If you are trying to stretch it out for a crowd or large family then I suggest serving it with rice or potatoes. A wild rice really compliments this dish well but it is also delicious with white or brown rice. Be creative!

Just browning my pre-cooked sausages
Saute until lightly browned

The sausages are juicy and the everything else is juicy 

My mouth is watering just looking at it!

Look at the fabulous colors and different flavors all blended together!

See how colorful & juicy?

Ready to eat!
I hope you enjoy this fall style dish as much as we do. You can add or delete items to customize it. When I see those beautiful butternut squash & tart apples on the fall display...I start craving this super easy dish!

Gluten Free Casually

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin Pound Cake

Pumpkin Pound Cake. This is an incredibly moist pumpkin cake. The cooler weather is finally arriving here in Arizona. (Okay, so it is still 100 degrees during the day but the evenings and mornings are in the 60s) Living a big chunk of my life in Ohio before heading west...I still crave fall foods when the weather changes. I see all the Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in the store and I start craving fall goodies like pumpkin pound cake. My mouth was watering all weekend thinking about pumpkin pound cake. I was shopping with a friend over the weekend and kept talking about how much I wanted a slice of pumpkin pound cake with my coffee. Sunday I broke down and made it. I had to take it to work to share with my co-workers because I was afraid I would eat the whole thing!

I like to add the streusel topping but you can certainly leave it off. I like my desserts on the sweet side so I add streusel topping. You can leave it plain or you can sprinkle a little powdered sugar or make a glaze with powdered sugar & milk and drizzle over the top. This cake also tastes FABULOUS with my grandma's silky cream cheese frosting. (This cake is fantastic plain but you can dress it up and take it to the next level of deliciousness with the streusel topping or cream cheese frosting.  I've included the recipe for the cream cheese frosting below). Yummy! I am not a lover of pumpkin pie but I really like the flavor and texture of this pound cake. I did have to make some changes from the original recipe in order for the gluten free version to taste EXACTLY like the regular version. I also found that the gluten free version tasted a lot sweeter for some reason so the next time I baked it, I cut back on the sugar. I chose to bake it in a 9x13 pan for today's recipe but you can bake it in the traditional bundt pan or loaf pans. I also chose to keep it basic and not add extras like chocolate chips or cranberries but you can add whatever you like. I think next time I will try adding a little bit of shredded coconut to the streusel topping for extra crunch. I converted this old recipe to gluten free but of course if you don't have a gluten allergy the you can use regular flour. You can also bake it into cupcakes if you prefer.

Pumpkin Pound Cake
  • 2 cups gluten free flour blend (I do not use any that contain sorghum because I don't like the flavor in my sweet baked goods. I used Betty Crocker gluten free flour blend today. If your gluten free flour blend does not contain either xanthan gum or guar gum, you will need to add 1/2 teaspoon. If you are using regular flour, you don't need to add it). I have also used 1 cup of coconut flour + 1 cup of gluten free flour blend in the past and it worked out fine too. Of course if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can use regular flour!
  • 1 cup of finely ground almonds (also called almond flour or almond meal. If you have a nut allergy or don't have any on hand, you can substitute another cup of gluten free flour or regular flour if you don't have a gluten allergy).
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbs. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso or instant coffee powder (optional)
  • 4 oz. butter, margarine, coconut oil or Crisco or lard (If you are using margarine then make sure it contains at least 65% fat or else it contains too much water and won't rise properly)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese or cream cheese substitute (If you don't have this then you can substitute Crisco vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar (I use the non-GMO cane sugar, unbleached). You can also substitute 3/4 cup honey or agave nectar in place of the sugar but then you will need to add 4 tbs. extra flour or corn starch to make up for the wetness of the liquid sweetener.
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I use the non-GMO)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling that already has everything added)
  • optional items: 1/2 cup chocolate chips, coarsely chopped nuts or cranberries (I did not add any of them to my cake today)
Streusel topping (This is optional and you don't need to add it to the cake):
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used Betty Crocker gluten free flour blend)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or regular sugar (I use the non-GMO)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or oil
  • 1/8 cup of slivered or chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • (I would also consider adding either 1/4 cup of shredded coconut or gluten free oats next time)

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease your pan with either butter, Crisco or cooking spray. Beat cream cheese and butter (or margarine, Crisco or coconut oil) together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy. Add pumpkin puree & sugars. Slowly add remaining dry ingredients. Mix until smooth and well incorporated. Spoon into your greased pan(s). For 12 cup bundt pan or loaf pans, bake about 65-75 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. For 9x13 pan, bake 40-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. For cupcake pans, bake 22-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Altitude and ovens may vary cooking times. Always check at the soonest cooking times and adjust. Do not cook at a higher temperature or you may burn the top without cooking the center. (I like to cover mine with foil for the first half of cooking so I know the center gets done and the cake doesn't dry out and then I remove it the last 10-15 minutes of cooking so the top gets slightly crispy.

Silky Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe: (This is another option for topping your cake)
  • 4-5 oz. cream cheese, soft (don't use the whipped cream cheese)
  • 1/4 cup of real butter or margarine that contains at least 65% fat
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (I used the GMO free, gluten free version)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional

Beat the cream cheese and butter until soft and creamy. (No lumps!) Add the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. The texture should be creamy and easy to spread. You can add fancy vanilla bean seeds if you have them. They are generally expensive and I don't usually have them on hand but they do add a nice extra vanilla flavor to the frosting. I sometimes have the vanilla bean paste and will substitute that in place of regular vanilla. This frosting also tastes awesome on pumpkin bars or spice cake! Well, tastes great on just about anything! ;)

Cake batter with streusel topping being added on top (prior to baking)

Ready to eat

Up close view (pumpkin pound cake with streusel topping)

In the 9x13 pan
So this week if you are out shopping and see a can of pumpkin puree jump into your grocery cart or if you are carving pumpkins and have plenty of pumpkin puree then I think you should take a few minutes to make this terrific dessert. It is slightly spicy, dense and the cake melts in your mouth. It tastes wonderful for breakfast with a cup of strong coffee or for a chilly evening dessert with some hot chocolate. This is also a nice change for the holiday brunch table. 

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Banana Snack Cake

Grandma Goldie's Banana Snack Cake Recipe. This is a recipe that I have had for many years. My grandma Goldie took this snack cake to a family reunion and I fell in love with it. It is a thin banana cake with a silky, delicious melt in your mouth cream cheese frosting. I swear I could eat the entire cake myself! It is great for a potluck, large crowd, brunch, dessert or game day. (I have been known to eat this for breakfast!) This is one of my most requested recipes. I will say that I am a bit of a cream cheese frosting snob. This recipe ROCKS! Don't down play this cake with a store-bought version of cream cheese frosting. There is NO COMPARISON!

Okay, with all that being was difficult to convert it to gluten free. I wanted to maintain the moist, dense flavorful cake without it turning crumbly with gluten free flours. I really had to play with this recipe to get it to taste just like the original. Although, I changed a few of the ingredients to accommodate the gluten free turned out awesome! I will include the regular recipe below for those of you that don't have a gluten allergy and then I will give you the gluten free version which is slightly different but you would NEVER know it. It tastes the same! Yay!

This is one of my 2 1/2 year old grand-daughter's favorite cakes. She is a little chocolate lover but she makes an exception for this cake with the silky cream cheese frosting! (To tell you what a little chocolate lover she is...I gave her a granola bar the other day. She opens it, takes a bite...looks at me and said "Omi, this is broken. There is no chocolate in here." You just have to chuckle when they say the cutest things!)

I am making my Grandma Goldie's Banana Snack Cake recipe (gluten free version) for my husband's retired military group meeting this afternoon. I had some ripe bananas and some cream cheese I got on sale last week so I already had all the ingredients. It goes together pretty quick, it is very affordable and it feeds a large crowd. You can add extras like chopped nuts, cranberries, raisins or coconut. I prefer it plain...just the way my grandma used to make it. Simple. I like to taste the true banana flavor with the silky, rich frosting. I don't want my mouth to be distracted with other added ingredients but that is my personal opinion. Besides...I know a couple of the guys in the group don't like coconut or raisins and I am not sure if anyone has a nut allergy. I tend to keep it simple when I am making it for a large group. That way everyone can enjoy a piece! :)

Grandma Goldie's Banana Snack Cake Recipe (My gluten free version):

Cake Batter:
  • 1/2 cup real butter or margarine (make sure margarine has 65% or more fat or it contains too much water and will not bake correctly). You can substitute Crisco.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used unbleached sugar but you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3 eggs (use 4 eggs if they are small or 1/2 cup egg whites)
  • 4 ripe bananas (peels should have black spots on them but not be mushy)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda (original recipe only calls for 1 tsp. but with gluten free flour I had to add a little extra)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour (I used Betty Crocker Gluten Free Flour Blend today. Be sure to add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum if your gluten free flour blend doesn't contain it. You can use regular flour if you don't have a gluten allergy. If you are using regular flour then you can omit the xanthan gum).
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened (the original recipe does not call for this in the cake batter but I found it added some of the texture that I needed that you can't get when using gluten free flour. You won't taste it in the batter but it gives it a moist texture with no crumbling!)
  • 1 tsp. vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar). This will help lock in the moisture of the cake and bring out the flavor of the bananas. I use it in place of vanilla. It is an old hillbilly secret and it works! 
This is what bananas should look like
  I mix the bananas with the mixer to get them pureed. Add sugar, butter, vinegar, 3 oz. cream cheese and eggs. Beat until smooth. Mix in the baking soda, salt and flour. Pour into a greased 12.5"x17" cookie sheet with edges or a 10"x15"roasting pan. If you use a 9x13 pan then the cake with be thicker and you will need to bake longer. Bake the 12.5"x17" cake for 15-20 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the edges are slightly golden and toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you are baking in a 9x13 size pan or two round 9" pans then you will need to bake a little longer. I would start off with 22 minutes and check every 3-5 minutes until done. You can also make these into cupcakes and bake 17-22 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool & Frost.

Banana cake batter

Spread into a greased 10"x15" roasting pan before baking

Silky Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe:
  • 4-5 oz. cream cheese, soft (don't use the whipped cream cheese)
  • 1/4 cup of real butter or margarine that contains at least 65% fat
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (I used the GMO free, gluten free version)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional

Beat the cream cheese and butter until soft and creamy. (No lumps!) Add the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. The texture should be creamy and easy to spread. You can add fancy vanilla bean seeds if you have them. They are generally expensive and I don't usually have them on hand but they do add a nice extra vanilla flavor to the frosting. I sometimes have the vanilla bean paste and will substitute that in place of regular vanilla. This frosting also tastes awesome on pumpkin bars or spice cake! Well, tastes great on just about anything! ;)

Ready to eat!

Check out the silky frosting! Yummy!

Frosted in pan. Waiting to be cut into squares. I like the deeper pan if traveling so the foil doesn't mess up frosting!

My sample piece! Quality assurance ;)

Up close view. The cake is moist and flavorful. You can see it in the photo!

I left the top plain but you can sprinkle chopped nuts or cinnamon on top if you prefer

I hope you enjoy this super delicious yet affordable banana snack cake recipe. It is one of my family's absolute favorite recipes and I get requests for this frequently. It also freezes well. I have also baked the batter into 9" round pans for layers on a birthday cake and it turns out great also. It is so moist and doesn't have a crumbly texture or a fake banana taste.  It is a great way to use up those left over ripe bananas if you aren't in the mood for banana bread! Go ahead and try this potluck pleaser! 

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mexican Dinner Pie (Lasagna)

Mexican Dinner Pie (Lasagna): I got this recipe from the Maseca Corn Flour website and I tweaked it a little bit to make it work with items I had on hand. I like the simplicity of it and that it is gluten free. You can easily double the recipe or make it ahead and bake it later in the week or freeze it to use later. It is more like a pie or Mexican Layered Casserole than a lasagna. Not only is it a great dish for a casual weekend dinner but it is great for game day, holidays, brunch or a fun dinner on the patio with friends. I like to serve it with raw veggies cut up, salsa & chips for a casual, easy meal. If we are doing buffet style Mexican dinner with a large group, then I also make Pasole, rice, tamales and have a taco bar. It stretches the food a little farther and gives everyone a chance to taste it all.

For the dough layer:
  • 2 cups gluten free corn flour (I used Maseca brand)
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder (not garlic salt) or finely minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbs. onion powder or minced dried onion
  • 2 tbs. beef or chicken bouillon (gluten free) if you aren't using broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water or broth
  • 2-3 tbs. salsa (you can use red salsa, chipotle salsa or green verde salsa)

Mix all the dough ingredients together well. You can use a mixer or mix it by hand. It will resemble pie crust or sugar cookie dough in texture.

Other ingredients you will need:
  • 1 1/2-2 cups pre-cooked meat (any type of meat you want to  use. I used shredded cooked pork loin today because that is what I had on hand. You can use rotisserie chicken, chopped chicken breasts, turkey, ground beef, ground turkey, shredded beef or if you are vegetarian you can use beans (re-fried or black beans). 
  • 2 cups cheese (I use whatever I have on hand). You can use thinly sliced or shredded cheese
  • 1 cup salsa (any type of salsa you like). I used green verde salsa today which I really like with shredded pork or chicken. I like the red salsa with beef or beans.
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (I used 2% fat cottage cheese but any of it will work)

Press half of the dough thinly in the bottom of 9x9 greased pan. Layer with cottage cheese. Then layer on the meat or beans. I used shredded pork loin today. Pour on the salsa then layer on 1 cup of the cheese. I hand press the other half of the dough onto a piece of waxed paper or thin cutting board close the shape of my pan. Flip the dough on top. It doesn't have to be perfect. I layer the remaining 1 cup of cheese on top. The other option is to crumble the rest of the dough on top rather than rolling it out. It will taste the same but takes less time. Bake 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until cheese is melted and the top layer of the dough appears slightly firm (like a baked pie crust).

If you find this to be too difficult to layer the crusts or if you need to stretch it for a larger group then you can just divide the dough in half and press each half into a greased pie pan (or one greased 9x13 pan) and make a Mexican dinner pie without a top crust. Divide the ingredients equally among both pies or layer it equally on the 9x13 pan. I like to sprinkle crushed tortilla chips on top if I don't do a top crust. It just makes it look more finished and gives it a nice crunch. Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into slices.

Dough has a pie crust or biscuit like texture

Pressing half of dough into 9x9 greased pan

Ready to start adding other ingredients

I used about 2 pounds shredded pork (pre-cooked)

Layering items on top of dough crust

The green verde salsa

Ready for the top crust OR crushed tortilla chips

This one has a dough layer on top then I added shredded cheese on top

This version has just the bottom crust with crushed tortilla chips on top

Up close view of the layers

Ready to eat!

I hope you enjoy this very casual recipe. It goes well for brunch, lunch or dinner. Great addition to a game day get together or casual patio party. I like to eat it hot or cold. Left overs can just be re-heated in the microwave or toaster oven & they freeze well too.

Gluten Free Casually