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