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!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Almond Pound Cake

German Almond Pound Cake. This is a great cake to make for just about any occasion. You can dress it up and serve it with fresh berries in place of strawberry short cake or serve it alone as dessert or on the brunch table. It even tastes better a couple days later when all the flavors have "blended". It is also great to use as a wedding cake because it is a solid cake that holds moisture and it's shape. (I just leave off the crumb topping for wedding or birthday cakes and decorate them like you would a regular cake). It is very flexible and you can bake it in a bundt pan, angel food cake pan, loaf pan, 9x13 pan or cupcake tins (just adjust the cooking times!) You can make it with the crumb topping (which is my favorite!) or leave the topping off. It is a personal preference.

This is a German recipe and a favorite with our family. This is a typical cake that is served with afternoon coffee in least with our German family. My mom is a fantastic baker and she used to improvise recipes to suit what she had on hand. The recipe calls for 2 cups of ground almonds but if she didn't have them she would substitute 2 cups of flour and add 2 tbs. of almond extract instead. If she didn't have cream cheese then she would add sour cream or Crisco + 1 tbs. vinegar to give the tartness that cream cheese or sour cream would give the cake in it's place. The recipe still always turned out great! That is what I love about pound cakes....they are very flexible and always turn out great! Be sure to let them cool completely before you start removing them from the pan or else they sometimes will want to fall apart. I have found from experience to be patient and let them cool first. I have also found that the crumb topping works best for me if you wait to add it about the last 20 minutes of cooking time. If you add it too soon then it wants to sink into the batter or it browns too quick. You only want a light golden brown color to the crumb topping.

Another baking trick I have learned over the years is to add the almond extract or baking emulsion (or any extracts like vanilla extract, peppermint extracts, etc) when you are beating the butter and sugar together. It gives the cake a better flavor. It seems to infuse the flavor more evenly and the results are better. Most recipes suggest adding the vanilla near the end of the mixing time. I disagree....add it at the beginning. I also prefer using baking emulsion in place of extracts when I can. They are a little thicker and the flavor is just a little more pronounced. You can find them at most baking supply stores or chain craft stores including Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, and Michael's. Look for them in the cake supply aisle. (I always go online and print out the 40% coupons that they have so it makes it less expensive!) Sometimes you can find the baking emulsions at places like Home Goods or TJ Maxx too. You just have to look. Of course if you can't find them you can just use extract from the grocery store. It will work too.

If someone has a dairy allergy then you can substitute dairy free cream cheese (available at Trader Joe's or a specialty store like Sprouts). You can also use a dairy free margarine or Crisco in place of the real butter but just make sure it contains at least 65% fat or it won't rise correctly! You don't want to add a creamy butter spread that is too watery. For nut allergies you can just substitute flour in place of the ground almonds. The flavor and texture will not be quite the same but trust will still be a delicious pound cake! I would just add a couple extra drops of the almond extract to bring out the flavor that you are missing from the ground almonds!

German Almond Pound Cake Recipe:
  • 3/4 cup butter (you can substitute margarine that contains at least 65% fat or Crisco. DO NOT USE LIGHT BUTTER OR MARGARINE. THEY CONTAIN TOO MUCH WATER AND CAKE WILL NOT RISE PROPERLY!)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (If you do not have this you can substitute either sour cream or plain Greek yogurt + 1 tbs. of tapioca starch to make it thicker OR Crisco + 1 tbs. white vinegar to give it the tartness). I prefer using cream cheese which I did in my recipe today. You can use regular or the light....not fat free. I have also used the dairy free cream cheese available at specialty stores & Trader Joe's and it worked fine too!
  • 1 tsp. almond baking emulsion or 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I just use traditional table salt because it has a fine texture that I like for baking)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar (I use the GMO free sugar that is not bleached white but my mom always uses the regular white sugar and it works fine)
  • 6 large eggs (I prefer using the brown eggs but you can use whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (sometimes called almond meal or almond flour). I bought mine at Trader Joe's because they were more affordable than the specialty stores. You can also grind your own in the food processor if you prefer. 
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend (I generally mix my own flour blend but for today's recipe I used King Arthur's gluten free flour blend. If your gluten free flour blend does not contain xanthan gum or guar gum then you will need to add 1/4 tsp. If you are using regular flour then you can omit the xanthan gum). I personally avoid the gluten free flour blends that contain sorghum for my sweet baked goods. I don't care for the flavor. It is fine in savory dishes but I don't like it in my sweets!
Beat the butter (or Crisco or margarine) together with the cream cheese (or sour cream or yogurt + tapioca starch or the additional Crisco + vinegar if you are substituting the cream cheese). Add the almond baking emulsion or extract and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar. Beat until creamy and fluffy. Gradually add eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the baking soda and salt (add xanthan gum if you are adding it). I like to add them before the flour so they get mixed in really well. Add the ground almonds along with the flour and beat until creamy and fluffy. Batter will be fairly thick. Pound cakes have a heavier texture than a cake mix!  Pour into a greased pan (I used an angel food cake pan (also called an apple cake pan). I like to use this type of a pan in place of a bundt pan if I am putting a crumb topping on it. The bundt pan is more difficult because the crumb topping will be on the bottom when you flip it over which I personally don't like! Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 70-75 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. If you are adding the crumb topping then add it the last 20 minutes of cooking time so the topping doesn't sink into the batter. If you are baking in a large loaf pan, bake 55-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean, muffins 18-25 minutes and 9x13 pan, about 25-35 minutes. Check at the lowest cooking time because oven temperatures and altitudes can change the baking time at your house!

Crumb topping:
  • 1/3 cup of butter, margarine or Crisco, soft but not melted
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour (if you have a gluten allergy. Otherwise use regular flour)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I use GMO non-bleached sugar)
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds or slivered or shaved almonds)
  • a tiny drop of either almond or vanilla extract. Not much...just a drop

Mix all together until crumb texture. If it is too dry then you can add tablespoon more butter or if it is too moist then you can add a tablespoon additional flour or almonds. Taste a pinch. If you want it a touch sweeter than add a tablespoon more sugar. The texture and flavor of the crumb topping will resemble shortbread. It shouldn't be over sweet. Sprinkle on top of the pound cake during the last 20 minutes of baking time. (I just take it out of the oven and sprinkle on top. It is less messy and I don't burn myself this way! Bake until pound cake is cooked through (knife inserted should come out clean) and topping should be a light golden brown and crispy.

This cake should be cooled completely in the pan before removing it to a wire rack or plate. I find that if I run a knife along the edges and the center of the angel food cake pan then it doesn't stick and comes out much easier. It will fall apart if you remove it when it is still warm. I take a spatula if I feel I need extra support on the bottom to remove it. My mom used to flip the cake onto a plate and then flip it onto another plate to get the crumb topping on top. I find this harder for me. I just tip the pan gently to get the cake moving and then lift it with one hand an a spatula. You can drizzle a powdered sugar and milk or water glaze on the top. There isn't a recipe for that. You just mix water and powdered sugar until thin enough to drizzle over cooled cake.

This is what I prefer to use when I have it available. Look for it in the baking aisle at craft stores

Sorry that I don't have better pictures. I wasn't planning on adding this cake anytime soon to the blog but I had several people ask for the recipe lately so I just quickly added it. I will update photos the next time I make it. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Casually

Friday, March 20, 2015

Southern Style Brisket

Southern Style Brisket. Cooking a brisket is a lot like cooking ribs.....low temperature for a long time! It doesn't really matter if you cook it in the oven, grill or just needs to be at a low temperature and several hours. I love my meat cooked in a crock pot with the exception of brisket and ribs. I don't want them tasting like pot roast. (Don't get me wrong, I love pot roast but if I want brisket or ribs....I don't want them tasting like pot roast!). I like a light glaze of BBQ sauce baked on top to finish it off.

I used to be afraid to cook brisket or ribs because the few times that I did (when I was much younger)... they always were either too dry, too mushy or the flavor and texture just weren't right. After discussing this with a restaurant owner, he explained that you need to cook the meat at a low temperature for 6-8 hours and not put the glaze or sauce onto the meat until the last 20-30 minutes of baking. You also need to "tent" the meat pan and add a bowl of water or other liquid to the oven for steam. It isn't rocket science but there is a trick to creating the perfect brisket! I also recommend experimenting with a cheaper cut of meat (mock tenderloin, thick cut of flank steak, London Broil, etc) before you tackle an expensive cut of brisket. I will be honest...sometimes if I am craving brisket and it isn't on sale then I just buy a thick cut of flank steak or similar cut. It will be a little less fatty so the flavor isn't exactly the same but it is close enough and more affordable! If I am having a huge crowd over for brisket....I ALWAYS add a couple of thicker flank steaks or "mock beef tenderloin" to the brisket to stretch the meat further for a more affordable BBQ. No one has ever noticed! You can also cook a pork loin or pork tender loin the same way. If it is a really thick cut of meat then you will need to slice it in half. (Your butcher can do this for you if you ask).

I don't have a fancy smoker so I generally cook my brisket in the oven. If it is going to be really hot outside then I will cook it on my BBQ gas grill so I don't heat up my house. Just make sure you have plenty of gas in the tank before you get started! I like to put a custom seasoning rub on mine before I start cooking and then finish it off with a thin swipe of gluten free BBQ sauce that I add the last 20 minutes of cooking. You can customize the flavors however you want. There are many recipes for sauces, marinades and spice rubs. I generally stick to my own recipe because it always turns out great and we love the flavors at our house. I usually serve it with my chipotle baked beans (recipe July 2014 on my blog) and corn bread muffins (recipe Dec 2012 on my blog) or spoon bread recipe (May 2014 on my blog) and cucumber salad or spicy slaw. YUMMY!

Southern Style Brisket Recipe:
  • 1-2 briskets or similar cut of meat (you can substitute thick flank steak, mock beef tenderloin, London broil or other similar cuts. Try to find cuts that have some fat running through them because the fat will give the meat extra flavor!)
  • Spice rub of your choice (I use my custom blend below but feel free to use a steak rub but make sure it is gluten free!)
  • BBQ sauce or finishing glaze, optional (just make sure it is gluten free!). We prefer BBQ at our house but I have had parties where I have done a peach-chipotle glaze, honey-jalapeno glaze, apricot-onion glaze or a teriyaki glaze. They are all delicious but we prefer the traditional BBQ at our house most of the time!

Line a cookie sheet that has edges with foil. (This just makes it easier for clean up later). Lay your meat down flat onto the foil lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle your spice rub onto meat. Take your freshly washed hands and press the spice rub into the meat. Cover the baking sheet with foil making a "tent" in the center. The center will "poof" up in the center. Put in 275F degree oven along with an oven-safe glass bowl or casserole dish that is filled part way with water. This will keep the oven environment moist and steamy for the cooking. You might have to check the water level part way through the cooking time to make sure that the water hasn't run dry. You don't want to crack your glass bowl! (You can put the brisket in a smoker or on your BBQ grill if you can set the temperature for about 275F). Cook for about 6-8 hours. I don't even check on the meat until usually after 7 hours (unless we are starving then I might check it at 6 hours) but it will be the most tender after 7-8 hours. I take it out of oven and check the meat with a knife. If it is pulling away in tender chunks then I put on a light coat of BBQ sauce or glaze and pop it back into the oven but without the foil tent this time. I want the sauce or glaze to get a nice cooked texture.

My special seasoning rub (recipe below)

I wrap the foil around the meat to form a "tent"

Ready to eat! Yummy!

Close up view

It just shreds great and you can eat it sliced, on a sandwich or in a tortilla

My Special Gluten Free Spice Rub Recipe:
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/8 cup black ground pepper
  • 5 tbs. ground chipotle pepper (you can substitute cayenne if you don't have chipotle)
  • 1/4 cup salt (I like to use finely ground sea salt but regular salt will work fine too)
  • 1/8 cup garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 1/8 cup onion powder (not onion salt!)
  • 3 tbs. ground tumeric
  • 3 tbs. ground coriander 

Mix all ingredients together well and store in a glass spice jar or empty jar with a lid. (If you don't have an empty jar then you can find inexpensive ones at your Dollar Store, 99cent Store or Ikea. If you have an empty jelly jar then you can just use that too. This isn't fancy!). You can use this seasoning on meat, vegetables, potatoes, popcorn or just about anything you want! I usually double the recipe and share with my son David who absolutely loves this spice. He says he uses it on everything but especially likes it on chicken. He said it reminds him of the seasoning used at Outback Steak House. 

My homemade BBQ Sauce Recipe:
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine and cooked until soft (you can either cook it with the meat or in a little water in the microwave or stove top. You don't want crunchy onions in your sauce! Or you can substitute a packet of gluten free onion soup mix added to the 1 cup of water below)
  • 1 cup ketchup (I used Heinz which is marked gluten free on the back of bottle)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (I used raw brown sugar today but regular will work too. Add a little less if you like it more tangy or add a little extra if you like it sweeter)
  • 1/2 tsp. dry ground mustard (this is found in the spice section of your grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder (optional. This is something I like to add because we like the smokey flavor. If you don't have it on hand, I wouldn't run out to buy it. You can also add more for extra spicy)
  • 1 tbs. vinegar (I used white vinegar today but you can use apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce (I used Lea & Perrins which was labeled gluten free)
  • 1 cup beef broth or water
Cook all the ingredients together on low heat on your stove top until slightly thickened. Spread onto your meat or put into a jar so that you can add the sauce on the side in case people don't want BBQ sauce or they want extra sauce (which is usually the case!). This sauce can be used on any of your favorite meats including pork, chicken or beef. It is also delicious in place of making sloppy Joe's with your ground burger. YUMMY! I also like to add some to my homemade baked beans if I have it on hand.

I hope you try this super easy recipe for brisket. We have a hard time going out for dinner for brisket and ribs because they are so expensive and many times we get disappointed with the results. I like making them at home because I know they always turn out great and it is much more affordable! You just have to plan ahead. You can't rush the cooking or the flavors just don't turn out the same. I have tried boiling the brisket like people suggest but honestly...nothing beats low temperature cooking for hours. Try won't be sorry. There are also a lot of great gluten free seasoning blends that are already prepared (Weber makes several and you can find them at most grocery stores including Wal-Mart, Fry's or Kroger in the spice aisle). If you don't have time to make your own or you don't cook a lot....certainly don't go out and buy all the ingredients to make your own spice rub. That can get expensive! We use the rub a lot and I buy the spices in bulk so it is affordable for us. I also give the spice rub out to friends at the holidays since they all love it and our homemade flavored sea salts. The homemade BBQ sauce is great too but there are plenty of delicious ones that you can purchase at the grocery store for your convenience. My favorites are the Rudy's gluten free BBQ sauce which our friends in Albuquerque got us hooked on. I like it because it is spicy. I believe that Baby Ray's brand is also gluten free (just read the bottles at the grocery store!). 

*Please note that I do not sponsor any particular brands, I don't get paid to write this blog so therefore any of my recommendations in this blog is purely my preference on things I have tasted and used with good results.

Consider making brisket for your next BBQ for a great casual dinner. Let the oven do the work while you have time to prepare other side dishes or relax if you let others bring the side dishes! :)

Chow! (Yes....this is my hillbilly way of saying it! Hahahahaha!)
Gluten Free Casually

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spanish Spice Bars

Spanish Spice Bars. This is a very old fashioned recipe. Most people remember it from the old grocery stores like A&P. It is a very moist spice cake recipe that has a fluffy butter cream frosting. It resembles a carrot cake but it is much easier to prepare and I think the flavors are much more intense. The flavor gets better after a day or two!

This isn't a lame spice cake mix version! There are a lot of recipes out there for Spanish Spice bars and some of them call for cocoa powder to get the intense dark color. Actually, the dark color isn't from is from raisin puree. Yep, it gives the depth to this cake that can't be substituted! Even if you hate raisins, you will love this cake! You can also add nuts and a handful of raisins for a chunky cake but my family always preferred it without the chunks. I wanted to re-create this cake in a gluten free version and the results were fantastic. It kept the moist texture and the flavor was just as I remembered it. If you don't have cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice separate but you have either apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice then you can just substitute 2 1/2 - 3tsp. of that instead.

Spanish Spice Bar Recipe:
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (I used the Pillsbury gluten free flour blend today since my hubby went shopping and came home with it. Mine already had xanthan gum in it so I didn't need to add any. If you are using a gluten free flour that doesn't contain guar gum or xanthum gum then please add 1/2 tsp. If you are using regular flour then you can omit it).
  • 1/4 cup of gluten free oats, finely ground into a flour (I measure after I grind it in my blender)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used the GMO free sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg (if using freshly ground nutmeg, reduce to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water (I use the water I have leftover from plumping up my raisins)
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins (I like to use the assorted raisins but traditional raisins will work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the raisins in about 2 cups of boiling water and let them plump up for about 5 minutes. Mix the sugar, oil, shortening and eggs until fluffy and smooth.  Beat in the baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Take the raisins with a couple tablespoons of the liquid and put in a blender or food processor (if you don't have one then just mash the best you can with a fork) until it is puree. Add the flour and puree alternately with the 1 cup water (I use the water from the raisins). At this point if you want to add a handful of nuts or additional raisins for a chunky cake then add then now. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan for thicker bars (like a cake) or a 11x15 jelly roll pan for thinner cake bars. Bake 9x13 pan for approx 30-35 minutes & 11x15 pan 18-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool & frost with butter cream frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting:
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
  • 1 cup real butter or margarine (don't use margarine with less than 65% fat or it contains too much water)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (be sure it is gluten free)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract or almond baking emulsion
  • 1 tsp. butter flavor extract or baking emulsion (if you have it on gives extra flavor!)

Beat the shortening and butter or margarine with extracts. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy. Frost cooled cake.

Butter Cream Frosting

These are the raisins I used today. They are my favorite!

I put the plumped up raisins in my mini food processor. (You can mash with a fork if you don't have one)

This is what the raisins look like after they are pureed

This is the cake batter before baking it

See how dark and rich the cake turned out?

It is moist and has a depth of flavor!


Up close view of the moist cake!

Results? Yummy! Glad I converted to gluten free (you can make it with regular flour too!)

I am glad I reached into my old recipe box and decided to make this delicious, moist cake with a depth of flavor. This is one of my oldest son's favorite cakes. I haven't made it for years and since it was his birthday, I decided to attempt to make it gluten free. I am glad that I was able to recycle an old favorite and share this version of Spanish Spice Bar with people that have always wanted to make it. This recipe gives carrot cake a run for it's money! ;)

Gluten Free Casually