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, April 27, 2014

Macadamia Encrusted Fish Filets (Gluten Free)

Macadamia Encrusted Salmon
Macadamia Encrusted Fish Filets! I was craving some Hawaiian style food that you can find on Oahu. (I personally think Oahu has the best Hawaiian food!) I found a recipe that was tucked into a package of Macadamia nuts that I purchased and completely over-hauled the recipe! I deleted a couple of ingredients and added a couple of new ingredients. It was wonderful. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any type of fish (my favorites are salmon, blue hake, Mahi Mahi or Talapia) or if you aren't a fish eater...substitute chicken. The crunchy topping just melts in your mouth with the rich flavors of Hawaii. I like to serve it with coconut rice and steamed veggies. Although I am not on vacation...I am enjoying the nice weather and eating this tasty dish on the patio watching the waves in my pool...pretending it is the ocean! :)

I always enjoy going on vacations. I like to try the local food places rather than food chains. I like to experience the flavor of our vacation destination. I will admit that it isn't always what I am expecting! We do enjoy going to Hawaii to relax and be by the beach. I love the beauty of the ocean animals (Whales, dolphins and sea turtles) and the tropical plants. Oahu is my favorite island although most people claim it is too commercialized. We like the beaches and the shops in the north shore area because it seems more "mom & pop" style. I will admit the traffic can be harry during the rush hour trying to get around the island but we like it there best although each island is nice. (Although Hawaiian sunsets are nice...they are nothing compared to the spectacular sunsets we get in Arizona!)

 Macadamia Encrusted Fish Filets Recipe:
  • 1 can (8 oz.) coconut milk (not coconut water), if you don't like coconut then you can substitute evaporated milk or heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup gluten free corn bread mix, dry & unprepared (see my recipe on the blog posted 12/30/12 or you can use a pre-made mix & if you don't have a gluten allergy then you can just use regular corn bread mix like Jiffy brand). Don't prepare the mix, you want to just use it dry in place of flour or bread crumbs. In a pinch, you can use gluten free flour but the corn bread mix gives it great flavor!
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 4 fish fillets, thawed

Place fish filets in 9x9 pan and pour the coconut milk over top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (I have actually done this in the morning before work and let it sit in the fridge all day and finished up the recipe when I got home and it worked out great). Combine the nuts, dry corn bread mix, melted butter and coconut. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Place the fish fillets on top of the lined baking sheet. Don't remove any of the coconut milk that is still sticking to the fish. It will add flavor, moisture and help the topping adhere to fish! Sprinkle the topping onto fish. Bake in 425 degree pre-heated oven for 13-18 minutes or until crust is golden and fillets are cooked through.

chopping my macadamia nuts

soaking my fish fillets in coconut milk

Adding the topping to my coconut milk soaked fish fillets

Ready for the oven (or you can put the baking sheet on the grill in summer when it is too hot for ovens!)

Macadamia encrusted salmon

Macadamia encrusted salmon with coconut rice....ready to eat!

Macadamia encrusted Mahi Mahi fillets

A humpback whale tail from our Maui Whale Watch Tour this past February

A humpback whale from our Maui Whale Watch Tour this past February

I hope you enjoy the recipe for the Macadamia Encrusted Fish Fillets. Please feel free to post any pictures or substitutions that you made to the recipe. I am always interested in how you change up a recipe. We all learn from each other!

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookies! Wow. They are soft and cakey with a rich flavor. You can't taste the cream cheese in them but it gives the cookies a rich more intense chocolate flavor. I saw a recipe for a cookie similar to this a while back on the internet. Honestly, I just skimmed over the ingredients and realized that they substituted some of the butter with cream cheese. Okay, big deal. I forgot about it. hubby wanted chocolate chip cookies and I didn't have quite enough butter! However, I did have some cream cheese. Problem solved!

So in my desperation to make chocolate chip cookies without having to get out of my very cool Star Wars pajamas...I decided to try making them with half cream cheese and half butter. The deciding factor would be how much my husband likes them. He is a chocolate chip cookie lover and HATES (did I say he really hates) cream cheese. The idea of cream cheese gags him. Sssshhhh.....don't tell him that I added cream cheese to these wonderful little cookies! It will be just our secret! ;)

I was very pleased with the results! The cookies stayed very round and cakey but still slightly chewy. They didn't spread much on the baking sheet which is convenient. And they seemed very moist and not very messy. And lots of chocolate flavor! It seemed more intense chocolate than normal. I think that is because they didn't spread much and the chocolate chips are in every bite! No one could tell they had cream cheese in the batter! It gave the gluten free flour a less "crumbly" texture and they baked perfect! I think they would be great with any flavor of chocolate chips or dried cranberries or M&Ms. It is a great base cookie dough that could be made custom to what you like or what you have on hand. Walnuts, macadamia nuts or pecans would also be yummy. I didn't add nuts today. (Of course if you don't have a gluten can make these cookies with regular flour - just omit the guar gum or xanthan gum).

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cookie Recipe
  • 1/2 cup real butter (or substitute margarine with at least 65% fat)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (don't use fat free cream cheese. I used regular)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can use raw sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, optional (be sure it is gluten free)
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend (I used cup4cup brand today. Be sure to add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or guar gum if your flour blend doesn't contain it!)
  • 2 tsp. corn starch (make sure it is gluten free!)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt, about 1/2 tsp.
  • 2 cups (at least 2 cups. I usually add 2 1/2 cups!) chocolate chips or chunks
Beat the butter (or margarine), cream cheese, sugars & eggs until fluffly. Add the vanilla or almond extract if you are adding them. If you leave them out, it is okay. They aren't necessary to the recipe but give it a little extra flavor. Add the baking soda, salt, corn starch and mix well. (You will need to add either guar gum or xanthan gum if you gluten free flour doesn't contain it!) Mix in the gluten free flour. Beat until smooth. Batter will be thick. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop cookies by spoonfuls (I like to use a cookie scoop) onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. I personally really like using parchment paper because I think it cooks even and prevents sticking and crumbling cookies but you don't absolutely have to do that. I didn't do it for many years. Now...I almost have convulsions if I don't have parchment paper! One of life's simple baking pleasures for me! Bake about 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. My oven takes 10 minutes exactly to get perfect cookies. Cooking times may vary slightly depending on the oven style and altitude you are baking. Check your cookies after 8 minutes. I wouldn't suggest baking longer than 11 minutes. They should be lightly golden on the bottom and around the edges only. Don't over bake!

I hope you like the cookies as much as we do! We enjoyed our cookies on the patio this morning...enjoying the beautiful weather here in Arizona and drinking out of my new Star Wars mugs! I just love geek stuff!

Please feel free to post any pictures or substitutions that you made to my recipe that worked great (or didn't work so great!). We all learn from each other!

Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Enchiladas (Gluten Free!)

Enchiladas! I was a person that wasn't really crazy about Mexican food until we moved to Arizona. (To be fair...most of the Ohio restaurants didn't serve a good Mexican dish!) The fresh flavors & spices of homemade Mexican food here in Arizona won me over. Each region of Mexico has it's own flair so each eating establishment is slightly different depending on what part of Mexico the family is originally from. One of my favorite Mexican dishes is a plate of shredded beef enchiladas made with the red enchilada sauce. My mouth waters just thinking about it! Most restaurants and store bought enchilada sauce use flour to thicken which creates a problem for those of us with gluten allergies. There are a few that use corn starch instead which makes me happy. However, if restaurants near you don't have gluten free enchilada sauce or if you prefer to make your enchiladas at home.... here is one of my favorite recipes for red enchilada sauce. My favorite restaurant couldn't give me their actual recipe but they did tell me what the ingredients were so I went home to experiment and the recipe below is very similar. (There are a lot of different versions out there and each region or family makes their recipe just a little different...but here is our recipe. Feel free to tweak it to make it work for your personal tastes). My friends and family always ask me to make this recipe when they come out for a visit (or if I go to their house for a visit!). I have a few local friends that make their sauce without using the tomato sauce. They use only re-hydrated chile peppers, corn starch and water or broth to make their recipe. I have had the best luck making mine with the tomato sauce.

This recipe is also very forgiving if you have to substitute a couple of the ingredients. Living in Arizona, it is very easy for me to find specific chile peppers and spices. However, my boys while in the military and some of my out of state friends frequently have trouble finding some of the specific ingredients so they substitute them. It may not taste EXACTLY the same but it still turns out delicious and better than the stuff in the can! Sometimes you just have to use what you have on hand!

Keep in mind if you are a vegetarian OR prefer using chicken or pork instead of shredded beef...I can help you tweak the recipe to work for you. For my friends and family that prefer can make this recipe with black beans and rice for the filling or shredded cheese & onion or chiles (in place of the meat). For those that prefer chicken or can just use it in place of the shredded beef. Ground beef can also be used in place of shredded beef! I personally prefer my red enchilada sauce with beef, pork or vegetarian beans and rice. I prefer my chicken enchiladas or cheese & spinach enchiladas with the green enchilada sauce (recipe for that will come in the future) and my seafood enchiladas with a white sauce. is all personal preference. Actually...just about anything smothered in red enchilada sauce is delicious! It is very popular in Arizona to find steaks or chicken on the menu smothered in enchilada sauce & cheese.

This is a great recipe because you can make enchiladas in advance and put it in the oven when you need it. They also freeze well! You can also skip over the task of rolling the enchiladas and just layer them casserole style. It all works fine! I like to cook my beef in the crock-pot or pressure cooker along with some dried chiles and onion for extra flavor and tenderness but you can use canned beef if you prefer. This is also a good way to use up the left over beef or pork roast! :)

Enchiladas with Red Sauce Recipe:
  • 16 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped or pureed onion or 3 tbs. dried minced onion (depends on how much flavor you want)
  • 1-2 tbs. finely chopped garlic (or substitute 2 tsp. garlic powder not garlic salt!)
  • dash salt
  • 2 cups water or broth (I like to use the broth from my meat but you can use vegetable stock or water if you are making it vegetarian)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 1/2 - 3 tsp. chile powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1/4 - 1 tsp. ground chipotle chile powder (depending on how spicy you like it). If you can't find the chipotle chile powder which has a slightly smokey flavor then just use additional chile powder.
  • 2-3 dried ancho chiles (rehydrated then pureed) or you can substitute 1-2 chipotle chilies canned in adobe sauce - pureed  (save the rest for something else) or in a pinch you can substitute 1 small (5-7oz) can of chopped green chiles. (Not pickled jalapenos!) If for any reason you don't have any actual chiles available...just use extra chile powder to taste. You can add chile powder to get the spiciness you want although you may have to play around with measurements just a little bit. 
  • 2 tbs. gluten free corn starch (or substitute tapioca starch or rice flour). Read your labels if you are gluten free! Many of the corn starch brands contain wheat or are processed on equipment with wheat products!
  • 4 tbs. hot water
Combine the tomato sauce, onion, garlic, salt, broth or water, cumin, oregano, chile powders and the ancho chile puree (or chipotle chile puree or finely chopped green chiles) if you are adding them. Heat in a pot on medium heat. In the meantime, combine 4 tbs. hot water with the corn starch to make a paste. It should be lump free and rather thick like glue. You can either stir it well or put it in a small jar with a lid and shake until lumps are gone. You don't want lumpy enchilada sauce. Pour the corn starch paste into the pot and stir until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until it slightly thickens and flavors blend. I personally like to make my sauce a day or two ahead so the flavors have a chance to enhance but you don't have to do that. The sauce also freezes great so feel free to double or triple the batch and freeze it for future use.

Corn starch & water paste

I like to use corn tortillas for my beef enchiladas which is what most of the Mexican restaurants use. There is a slight trick to getting them flavorful and not slimy. This is an important step to making enchiladas with corn tortillas so I highly suggest you do it or else you will end up with slimy, flavorless tortillas. (Trust me....I am speaking from experience!) You want to slightly warm your corn tortillas in a skillet individually on both sides for just a few seconds until they sizzle and get flexible. Not only does it make them easier to work with but it brings out the corn flavor of the tortillas. (Think you are flipping pancakes. It is just like that. I use a skillet that has been sprayed lightly with a non-stick cooking spray because you don't want to FRY the just want them lightly toasty and soft. I do mine about 15-20 seconds on each side. Although this is slightly tedious, it is well worth the extra effort for the flavor and texture of your enchiladas!)

Once you have all of your tortillas slightly pan toasted. I take my enchilada filling(s) and put the ingredients down the center of the tortilla. My favorite is shredded beef with shredded cheddar cheese. I fold each edge inward and place seam side down in a slightly greased pan or oven proof baking dish. If I am making them for a small group then I just bake them on my cute little Mexican pottery dishes right in the oven. If I am making for a larger crowd then I bake in 9x13 pan or lasagna pan. Pour the enchilada sauce over top of the stuffed tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. I also like to garnish with some chopped green onion or dried oregano for added color. I bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until everything is heated through and cheese on top is melted.
If you find that rolling the enchiladas to be can always just layer the ingredients like you would lasagna. Put corn tortillas on the bottom of a lightly greased casserole dish or 9x13 pan. Layer with the filling, sauce then cheese. Repeat layers until you run out of ingredients. Be sure you end up with sauce and cheese on top! Baking instructions are the same...350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas with red sauce & side of beans

Up close view of the inside of my shredded beef enchiladas!

Vegetarian Black Beans & Rice Enchiladas

Chicken with red enchilada sauce, corn tortillas and montery jack cheese (someone ate all the cheddar cheese!)

I hope you enjoy my recipe for enchiladas. It is a great recipe for casual entertaining on the patio or for a Mexican themed dinner party. I like to make the Mexican Corn Flour Cookies for dessert (see recipe for this on the blog posted April 5, 2014)

Gluten Free Casually

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mexican Corn Flour Cookies

Mexican Corn Flour Cookies! One of my co-workers was talking about a recipe that her mom makes for cookies made with corn flour and she thought they were gluten free. Well, I was on a search for this recipe! I found a recipe for Mexican Corn Flour Cookies and made them. They were delicious! I didn't have to tweak the recipe to make them gluten free....they were already gluten free. I love recipes like that! They always turn out perfect without tweaking them! This is also very budget friendly since you don't have to buy specialty ingredients. I have included two recipes below. One is the basic recipe and one is the deluxe recipe that contains coconut. Both are delicious and easy! They have a texture similar to a soft peanut butter cookie with a wonderful almond & cinnamon flavor. You can use either the white corn or yellow corn version in this recipe. They are interchangeable and both work great!

My neighbor said that her family in Mexico used to make this type of cookie when she was a child. She said these cookies were a wonderful treat and were simple because they always had corn flour on hand. She did say that they used to use either Rose Water or Orange Blossom water instead of almond extract. She said the cookie recipe may vary slightly in each household because you used what you had available in your cupboards. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of liquid. Any liquid. Drinkable water was not always available in certain areas of Mexico so people would use other liquids like leftover coffee, tea, juice, etc. Depending on the liquid or spices you add to the can change the flavor slightly. The recipe below is the basic cookie dough recipe. It can easily be customized to work with what you have on hand or your flavor preferences. Experiment and enjoy! This is now one of my favorite "go-to" recipes for a simple, casual cookie recipe that goes great as a dessert for Mexican Food Night (or any time!) at my house! You can also add a 1/2 tsp. of Chile powder for a kick! ;)

Yellow Corn Version
White Corn Version
I use Maseca Corn flour because it is labeled gluten free on the packaging. You will need to read labels if you are using a different brand. I looked at 4 other brands and they contained wheat flour in their mixture. Maseca Corn Flour website also has a slew of gluten free recipes so if you are looking for something else to make with your corn flour....check out their website. I find my Maseca corn flour in the Hispanic aisle at the grocery store. If you can't find it then ask your grocer! It is very reasonable priced here in Arizona. I got a bag at my Wal-mart store for $2.78 for the large bag and $1.48 for the smaller bag although prices may vary in different locations. I also use this flour to make my dogs homemade gluten free dog biscuits. (Yes, I have a dog with a gluten allergy too. He actually lost all of his hair and was so itchy! We had multiple tests done and couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. I put him on a GF diet and he quit itching and his hair grew back!)

This is the texture of the corn flour. It is not as gritty as corn meal or polenta

 Mexican Corn Flour Cookie Recipe: (Basic Recipe without coconut)
  • 2 cups corn flour (I use Maseca brand. You can use either the white or yellow corn version)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening or lard or Margarine with at least 70% fat (please note that if you use margarine with less than 70% fat it will contain too much water and will not set properly!). You can also substitute real butter that is not whipped or coconut oil (not the liquid). 
  • 1 cup sugar (I use raw sugar or cane sugar but you can use what you have on hand)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract (I use almond baking emulsion).  You can also substitute rose water or orange blossom water. If you don't have any of these you can actually leave this ingredient out. You just may get a slightly more corn flavor which tastes great too! :)
  • 1 tbs. ground cinnamon (you can also add 1/2 tsp. chile powder for a kick!)
  • 1/4 cup liquid (I used water in my recipe today. You can substitute whatever type of liquid you prefer. My neighbor said she likes to use left over coffee like her mother did. You can also use juice).
Mix all the ingredients together. You can use a mixer or stir it by hand. The dough will be thick (like play-dough but it should not be dry & crumbly. If you find it too crumbly to roll into balls then add a little additional liquid until it is of a consistency that you can work with).

Roll into golf ball size balls and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and flatten slightly with a fork or glass or you can leave them in ball shapes for a more cake like texture. If you like your cookies extra sweet you can sprinkle on some additional sugar, cinnamon sugar or sprinkles. I like mine just plain. Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 16-20 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden brown in color. If you like your cookies a little more on the crunchy side (coffee dunkers) then you can flatten the cookies a little more and bake additional 2-3 minutes. Cool & enjoy!

Rolling into balls and flattening to bake

Just out of the oven. They are lightly golden after 20 minutes in my oven

Up close view of baked cookies

Inside view of cookie. They are slightly soft and not crumbly!

Ready to eat!

Here is the deluxe recipe that contains coconut:

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookie Recipe with Coconut:
  • 1 1/2 cups Corn flour (I use Maseca brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Coconut (You can use either sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs. almond extract or baking emulsion (or substitute any other flavor extract)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (ground) - add more if you like extra cinnamon flavor
  • 1/3 cup fluid (I use water or coconut water but you can use whatever fluid you prefer)
 Follow the same instructions as above. (Mix all ingredients together with mixer or by hand). You may need to add additional liquid if you are finding that your dough is crumbly when you try to roll into balls. Just add a tablespoon at a time until you get workable dough. You can bake these in balls and sprinkle additional coconut on top or flatten slightly with a fork or glass. I bake on parchment lined cookie sheet for 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly golden brown on bottom.

My husband suggested I try to make a batch of adding some cocoa powder and baking the cookies into balls and then pressing a Hershey Kiss in the center when they are removed from the oven. I will do this soon and then post pictures on here. He likes these cookies but he is a die hard chocolate lover and prefers EVERYTHING with chocolate!

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookies

Up close view of Deluxe version with coconut!

Mmmmm Mmmmm good!

Deluxe Corn Flour Cookies dipped in chocolate and coconut sprinkles

Deluxe Mexican Corn Flour Cookies Rolled into balls and coconut

I encourage you to try this very easy, affordable and casual cookie recipe. Feel free to post any substitutions that worked great for you or to post your cookie pictures in the comment section below. I always enjoy reading and trying the variations that people make from my posted recipes! :)

Happy Baking!
Gluten Free Casually