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, December 18, 2016

French Mints (Microwave Two ingredients!)

French Mints! Creamy, minty deliciousness! This recipe is so super quick an easy but looks sensational on a cookie plate or in a gift tin during any holiday or special occasion. I like to make these to give to my friends and family during the holiday season (I also like to make these at Valentine's day and Easter too!). They are a treat you can whip up really quick and they look elegant for any occasion. The French Mints are a creme de menthe flavor of mint....similar to an Andes mint rather than peppermint.

I love this recipe because you can make them weeks in advance and do it all in the microwave. I like to make several batches and keep them during the busy holiday season. These are elegant enough for a wedding, anniversary party, bridal shower or any other fancy affair! You can use this as a filling layer in your brownies instead of making it into individual mints. This will really dress up the brownies for the holidays!

If for any reason you can't find the mint flavored chips in your baking aisle (or if you want a different color than green for a special can use white vanilla baking chips and add creme de menthe flavored oil that you can purchase at Hobby Lobby, Michael's or Joann Fabric or online from Amazon. I have used the Loraine brand oils and they work great. You can also add a different color. They sell specialty food colors also right next to the flavors. For this recipe today, I kept it simple and just used the Guittard green mint chips (which are gluten free) along with the can of of sweetened condensed milk. Yep, that's it. You melt them together in microwave for 1-2 minutes and stir every 30 seconds until smooth. If you want to be really can dip them in green colored vanilla coating or chocolate coating which gives them a shiny elegant coating! Yep, I did that to kick it up a notch today!

I find that with each passing year, I am just as busy as the year before and I want to cut back on baking and gift shopping so I can spend quality time with people that are important to me. I don't want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen or have a messy kitchen the ENTIRE month of December. I want to do fun things with friends and family. Life is short and I want to enjoy it. However, I also want to have homemade treats to share. This is one of the recipes that allows me to compromise and have both!

French Mints (Creme de menthe candies)
  • 2 cups of Guittard green mint chips (You can substitute 2 cups of vanilla chips + 1-2 vials of Loraine creme de menthe oil found in candy department of most craft stores or pharmacies during the holidays). 
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
Mix together in a glass bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals (stir every 30 seconds) until smooth. Pour into a waxed lined 8x8 pan. Refrigerate until set. Cut into squares. At this point you can dip into melted chocolates for an elegant finish if desired but they are good just like this too!

These are the green mint chips I used. I found them at my local Winco grocery store in the baking aisle. 

Stirring every 30 seconds until smooth

Just removed from 8x8 square pan and getting ready to cut into squares

Cut into squares. Ready to eat or you can dip them into chocolate for a more elegant presentation

I decided to melt white and green candy coating for a mint green color to dip the chocolates.
You can use plain white or dark chocolate coating to dip them. Or do a combination of colors.

Just dipped into the green coating. Waiting for them to dry on the waxed paper

I decided to finish them off with a dark chocolate drizzle since I had some left from another holiday treat. 

Packaged and ready to give my friend

I wonder if she will notice if there is one missing?!  ;)

I hope you enjoyed this super easy, delicious and elegant treat that you can use for any celebration. Actually, I enjoy these while reading a book on the couch. No special occasion needed! Please post your pictures, comments, questions or substitutions that worked (or didn't work) below. We all learn from each other!

Enjoy each moment of the holiday season. I know it can be a hectic and stressful time of year filled with chaos but try to do 3 kind things each day. Not only will you make someone else's day more pleasant but it will make you feel better about yourself.

Love, Peace & Happiness! <3
Gluten Free Casually

Monday, December 12, 2016

Microwave Caramels

Caramels! Chewy, gooey delicious caramels! I love this recipe because they are super easy and can be done in ONE BOWL in the microwave in about 6 minutes with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Yes, they ARE that easy!

This recipe was given to me by a patient and I am thrilled she shared it with me. I love caramels and I make a lot of treats that contain caramel (cookies, cookie bars, candies, trifles, fudge, etc.) and most recipes require you to buy caramels and melt them down. This recipe is SO MUCH EASIER than that! I like to make these scrumptious caramels and dip into chocolate for individual gourmet treats! However, rather than cutting into squares you can let it thicken just a little bit and use it in your favorite cookie or candy recipe that calls for caramel.

This caramel recipe comes out creamy, soft, chewy and buttery tasting. It just melts in your mouth. If you want to kick it up a notch you can add a pinch of chipotle chile powder or garam masala powder or instant espresso powder. (Chinese 5 Spice also tastes great with caramels!) It just adds a hint of exotic flavor and makes the assortment of caramels a fun gift. If I am making them for the holidays to put on a candy plate then I like to make a few different batches with different little flavors. Nothing over powering....just a hint of exotic flavor.

I used to feel overwhelmed trying to make homemade caramels because I needed a candy thermometer, detailed instructions, heavy pots, timers, heavy duty spoons, lots of patients and pray that after all the stirring and time involved (usually about an hour) that my caramels turned out correctly. It was a lot of hassle and if I screwed them up (yes, I have done that a few times!) then I felt frustrated and wasted a lot of time and had a huge mess. This recipe is so ridiculously easy and minimal cleanup that you just have to try it. I find it much easier than unwrapping all the store bought caramel squares and melting them down. Plus....the taste of these are just amazing!

Microwave Caramels

  • 1/4 cup REAL butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I like to use the dark brown sugar but the light brown works fine too!)
  • 1/2 cup light colored corn syrup (I have heard you can substitute honey or maple syrup but I have not tried that so I just stick with corn syrup)
  • pinch of salt (only if your butter is unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used regular not low fat). Please note this is NOT evaporated milk. 

In a large 2 quart glass mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and give it a quick stir. It does not have to be smooth or well mixed. Set your microwave on high for 6 minutes and stop and stir the mixture every 60-90 seconds in the beginning. You may need to stir more frequently towards the end of the 6 minutes if the mixture is bubbling near the top of the bowl. You don't want it to overflow and make a mess in your microwave! I actually cooked my caramel mixture for 6 minutes + 30 seconds and that seemed to be perfect for my elevation and microwave. Pour into 8x8 buttered pan. I put into the refrigerator uncovered for a couple of hours so it could set up a little bit. It should not be rock-hard. I took a spatula and lifted it out of the pan. It stretched out of shape just a little bit but I pressed it back into a square and placed on wax paper. I scored it with a large knife into squares and then used my pizza cutter to cut the squares easily. At this point you can serve them or wrap them into waxed paper. I chose to dip mine into chocolate for holiday gifts. I put the caramel squares back into the refrigerator so they could stay chilled until I finished melting my dipping chocolate. Dip into chocolate and put onto wax paper until set. You can finish off the chocolate covered caramels by drizzling white chocolate on top or adding sprinkles, sea salt or edible glitter.

If you are going to use the caramels for another project you can store it in the refrigerator in waxed paper and put into a ziplock bag for several weeks. Then you can just melt it in microwave to soften or pinch off what you need depending on your recipe.

If you decide to add a powdered spice for a batch of the caramels then add it when you add the sugar to the mixture prior to putting it in the microwave so the flavors can incorporate into the caramel mixture when it is cooking.

Caramel Mixture in the microwave

Boiling and bubbling to near the top of the glass bowl

Creamy but still thin enough to pour

Pour into buttered 8x8 pan

After Cooling, it is ready to cut into squares

Ready to cut

Ready for taste test!

Ready to box up!
Ready to give to my friends!

Inside the caramel

Please share any of your versions or substitutions or pictures of your caramels! I enjoy your comments and hearing about how you made your recipe!

Happy holidays!
Gluten Free Casually