Sausage Pasta Cheese Bake

It is summer and hot as heck (at times)  but you still gotta eat supper every day. Tonight I threw together a modified pasta bake that was quick to make, and, although it wasn’t too pretty to look at, the flavor was delicious and I know I want to make it again. This entrée used Italian sausage liberated from its casing.  It is a rustic Italian delight and all you need is a green salad and you have a satisfying meal to enjoy. My oven is well insulated so it really didn’t make my house feel that hot. The stove top portion is about 15 minutes worth of cooking, again, not too excessive in my book.

You could make this with spicy Italian sausage if that is more your style. Mushrooms are optional but I love the flavor they add. You could use spiral pasta. I, of course, used gf pasta; this time it was Aldi’s store brand which is inexpensive and has a great flavor. This bake seems slightly dry but the cheese makes a delightful bit of sauce with the tomatoes and veggies.  You don’t need to have a lot of tomato sauce to taste that Italian pasta bake flavor. Summer pasta on a plate! Leftovers are highly anticipated by me… I won’t have to cook much this week. Win win! If you have a big family this might be a go to recipe to quickly toss together and please the kiddos and the dad!

I know; not impressive but trust me; the flavor is building!
Another less than inspiring picture; just imagine it all melty and gooy with that yummy sausage sauce mixed in.

Angie’s Penne, Sausage and Cheese Bake

Ingredients

5 Italian sausage links, uncased (1 pound)

Cooking spray

1 large red or yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot diced

3 large cloves of garlic; put through the garlic press

1 14oz can diced tomatoes and juice

Rounded half tsp of sea salt, dried basil and dried oregano

A few grinds of black pepper

3 cups uncooked penne

1 small can sliced mushrooms (optional but I love them in this dish)

1 8 oz block of mozzarella cheese, grated on large hole side of your grater

Directions: Heat a large frying pan that you sprayed with cooking spray. I like olive oil spray. Add the sausage that you uncased, press it a bit to spread it out and turn in 2-3 minutes. I used a Teflon pan turner to chop up the links into small bits. Cook about 5 minutes until it doesn’t look pink. Carefully remove the sausage and let it rest in a bowl. Leave about a tablespoon of sausage oil in the pan.

Start a large sauce pan to cook the pasta; fill with salted water and get it heating.

Add the carrot to the frying pan and cook a minute, add the red onion; cook 2-3 minutes, add the garlic, cook one minute, stir well. Add The tomatoes and then return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, oregano, salt and black pepper and stir well, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. While that simmers, cook the pasta. I cooked mine 3-4 minutes less than the package said since we will bake this in the oven. Drain it. I also grated the mott cheese during these 10 minutes and heated the oven to 375 degrees. Add the drained mushroom to the frying pan for the last minute of cooking. Stir the pan well before ladling it into the casserole.

Get out a 2 quart casserole, I used a tall sided glass one. Put a ladle of the sausage sauce in the bottom, add 1/3 of the hot pasta and 1/3 of the cheese, layer it up two more times with the last bit of cheese on top. Put a piece of aluminum foil over the top to keep in the moisture and bake it for 30 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.  You might want to stir it up before ladling out servings to ensure it is well mixed. It looks like a bit of a mess but I promise you will really enjoy this easy sausage and pasta bake. It makes about 6-8 servings, 4 if folks are starving! Enjoy.

There it is; a hodgepodge looking dish but you are gonna love it! And yes; do make that salad to accompany it; mine has some homemade green goddess dressing. Mmmm.

Real Deal Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is a classic and no one turns down a slice of it at at a family gathering. I am not sure where I got the gf shortcake recipe; maybe my old Bette Hagman Gourmet Cookbook. I used to make shortcake a lot when I could still use all purpose flour but my gf biscuit version is pretty tasty. But there is one thing, you gotta make it with the best freaking strawberries you can find.  None of those ultra firm ones with whitish cores that are shipped in from far away.  You need juicy ripe scented red berries that are served over a gluten free short bread.  Yes, my local season is done but it can be done with other than local produce – the riper the better and it will taste great!

My mom always made a gorgeous version of strawberry shortcake. When I was a kid she would serve it as an entire meal.  I have done that and it is kinda cool.  Pre gluten free I generally made a huge oval biscuit with a smaller topping biscuit that I split off and buttered the split area before topping with berries and the smaller biscuit and topped with more ripe berries and a pillow of softly whipped heavy cream.  Oh berry perfection!  Now I bake it in two separate pans but the construction of the final product is the same otherwise. The pictures on construction are a couple of years old but the process is the same and the results are consistently heavenly….

shortcake 2
shortcake bisquit
shortcake 5
shortcake 3
shortcake ready
strawberry shortcake

Mom’s Strawberry Shortcake, GF2.3

Biscuit dough

1 cup white rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. xanthan gum

6 tbsp cold butter

1 medium egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

2-3 tsp. sugar (optional)

2 tsp. soft butter

————————–

Other ingredients:

2 quarts ripe strawberries

½ cup sugar

2-3 tbsp. Karo light syrup

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ tsp. real vanilla

2 tbs. powdered sugar (if you like your cream sweet)

Directions
Heat oven t0 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter until it is small pebbles.  Add the egg and most of the buttermilk.  Mix with a spoon; add rest of buttermilk if you need it.  It should be a bit sticky, don’t over mix; just until dry is blended in.  Spray the inside of an eight inch cake pan and a 6 inch cake pan with cooking spray.  If you don’t have a small pan just use two 8 inch ones.  Pat ¾ of the dough into the 8 inch; make it about ¾ to 1 inch thick and try to smooth the top and side edges a bit.  Put the rest of the dough in the smaller pan and do the same smoothing.  Make that one ½ to ¾ inch thick.  Optional: take 2-3 tsp. of granulated sugar and sprinkle it over top of them. I think it gives a great finish to the shortcake. Bake them about 20 to 25 min; the smaller one should be done in 20 minutes; a golden light brown. Set on a cooling rack for a few minutes.

While it bakes, get the berries ready.  Hull 2 quarts of fresh ripe berries.  Place them in a glass mixing bowl; chop through them a few strokes with a sharp knife.  Add ½ cup sugar and about 2-3 tbsp. Karo light corn syrup to the berries.  Stir well and refrigerate until the shortcake is baked.  You could do this berry preparation up to two hours in advance.  No more or they will start to disintegrate.

Place the fairly hot bigger layer on a large platter, one big enough to hold the shortbread and still have room for a generous overflow of strawberries. Butter lightly if you wish.  Top with several big spoonfuls of berries.  Don’t worry if there is juice in the berry bowl; there should be; melted down sugar and Karo syrup with berry juice will give you a delish berry liquid.  Top with the second smaller biscuit and then more berries.   Cut into chunks.  Top with freshly whipped cream; beat a cup of heavy whipping cream until it is softly whipped.  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and ¼ cup sugar if you wish it sweet.  Be sure to pour the berry juice over your shortcake; it soaks in and adds to the strawberry experience.

My dad liked to pour unbeaten cream over his shortcake. My mom usually set out the whipped cream, a jug of cream and some whole milk so you could chose how to finish off your personal shortcake.  I might add that I grew up on a farm so this was raw milk from grass pastured cows; fantastic cream equaling a freaking perfect shortcake topper.  We also grew our own berries; no chemical sprayed on them ever.’

Notes: Karo is sugar syrup; I know, I know its not very healthy but it is only a bit and it improves the berries to have some. Just do it. And while I am being bossy: please use real whipped cream. So easy to make and if you are going to the trouble of a scratch shortcake you need the real deal topping. It is hugely worth it.  I actually stored some whipped cream in the fridge overnight and it was still decent the next day although the texture is a bit softer than it originally was. Strawberry shortcake is a decadent treat but honestly no more so than a sundae you get at an ice cream place. SO go ahead and indulge. Enjoy!

shortcake, one serving

If there is any left over it makes a great breakfast the next morning!

Originally published in June 2014.

strawberry shortcake

Agua Faba…Let me Educate You!

Have you ever heard of aqua faba? Means bean water and that is what it is; the water in a can of cooked chick pea beans. Aqua faba is used for making vegan whipped cream, no lie! It is pretty simple; drain the water from a can of chickpeas; only they are recommended; other beans make a poor substitute and have a very pronounced beany flavor. Put the liquid (should be ¾ cup from one can of chick peas) into a stand mixer bowl. Beat until foamy, add ¼ tsp cream of tarter which helps form a sturdy structure and beat for 9 or 10 minutes. In the last minute add 1 to 3 tsp vanilla extract and then 1/3 to 2/3 cup powdered sugar. Use immediately.  Here is the site for more information: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/aquafaba/. I think the chocolate mousse sounds especially promising. It is rather similar to my mousse recipe other than it lacks the strong coffee and booze I add!

I looked into aqua faba whipped cream as my goddaughter was visiting and she is a vegan; I wanted to make a parfait for dessert and we got to talking about this interesting stuff. Neither of us ever made it but we were game to try it. We followed the recipe fairly closely. It looked a lot like whipped egg whites. I found it rather insipid but I am betting that if you make the chocolate mousse the chocolate will disguise the less than exciting flavor of this vegan fluff. Plus, I was out of vanilla so we made it almond flavored and skimped on that and the sugar. Maybe it needs more sweetness and a lot of vanilla to taste the best…. Let me know if  you try it; curious what you think.

Advice for Those Going GF

So, if you are just going gluten free let me give you some advice. Things to do, things you should get and things not to bother with. I wish I had read a column like that when I was first plunged into gluten free eating.

If you plan to make baked goods, I suggest a stand mixer in the KitchenAid family; nothing big; just a standard/classic model. So many gf breads need a long beating before you put them in a pan. The stand mixer is a workhorse in my gluten free kitchen, used for breads, cookies, muffins and other baked goods requiring a long beating. I also have attachments for shredding large amounts of cabbage, for grinding cranberries for relish and I just got some for rolling out sheets of pasta. There are attachments for making sausage, for grinding grain and for straining out seeds from veggies and fruits. It’s a big investment but mine is 25 years old and still working despite my frequent usage.

I have a 8.5 x 4.5 heavy duty aluminum bread pan for gf quick and yeast breads.  The taller sides and slightly narrowed width is particularly helpful for yeast bread rising. Definitely helpful to me as a baker. My pizza pan is heavy duty too. I have various baking sheets and pie pans sized to what I bake frequently. Sturdy muffin pans and English muffin rings are useful.

Yeap; this is my fav bread pan, full of quick bread. The ridge sides are taller than 9×5 pans; just makes a great loaf of bread.

A well-functioning oven is critical to gf baking; you need those even temperatures for sure. I used to have a second oven with bottom heat; great for pizza and gf pie crusts. My current range is more traditional. I put my rack just above the oven bottom and my pie crusts come out perfectly browned. Just as good as the pizza oven I sadly gave up when it died.

You should get an instant read thermometer, use my constantly and it is great for temping proteins to know when they are ready. A set or two of solid measuring cups are vital as are 2 sets of measuring spoons and a liquids measuring cup; I have a one cup and a two cup size of those. A large, medium and small whisk set is needed as are spatulas for scraping bowls.  I have a OXO pie crust rolling bag; very sturdy and well made; is a huge help in pie crust rolling; much better than  the cheaper ones; the translucent silicon sides are excellent for the crust rolling process. My cheap one lasted a year; this OXO one is about 3 years old and in perfect condition.

Best pie roller bag ever!

I store some flours in my freezer; whole grain ones especially. Others are just in large storage jars in my kitchen and pantry. I have tried many mixes and brands and find a few are my favorites; King Arthur basic gf flour is my workhorse blend. I also really like Better Batter for a host of recipes especially quick breads. Kim’s GF Flour blend is wonderful for making pizza and focaccia. I made an old school muffin mix to use for cobblers Bette Hagman’s book, More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet – You can find the mix recipe in my post:  https://myworldwithoutwheat.com/2020/05/20/rhubarb-cobbler-spring-treat/

When starting out start slowly. Look at recipe comments and try new things. I do want to give a shout out to King Arthur’s website and their large amount of wonderful gf recipes. They are well tested; work every time and have great flavor and texture. Their chocolate chip cookies are the bomb! I also love their cake mixes they sell; makes a bigger double layer cake than other brands of available store gf mixes.

Things I don’t care for: quinoa flour and almost all bean flours. Chickpea flour has some specific recipes it works well in. I avoid using all white flours except in a few cases as it is pretty devoid of nutrients and of flavor. I make a great French bread and I subbed in brown rice for white rice flour; much better flavor. Look at my most recent pizza dough recommendation; this one is a game changer; must try it; easy to do and it makes enough for two crusts.

Rediculously good crust…and easy to make.

There are many cookbooks available. My hands down favorite is Annalise Roberts, Basic Gluten Free Baking. Her pie crust is perfection. I love her muffins, the waffles are the best and the chocolate cake is excellent. She has another one full of heritage recipes which has proved to be a super source of party desserts. Maybe you should read some of my blog posts for ideas of what to make/bake. I had some excellent blueberry muffins my neighbor made with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 blend; so tender and delicious. I had shied away from that blend for a long while but those muffins totally changed my mind.

Don’t let anyone tell you that gf baked goods always taste bad; not the least true. My mom swore for years that my gf angel food cake had to be made with all purpose(gluten) flour. I had to swear that I never ever bake anything with gluten-based flour to convince her.

great crust helps make a great tart
The Daffodil Cake!

So get out there and bake some good stuff. I never post a recipe unless I make it for myself and most of them, I made over and over again. They are all delicious things you can feel confident in making.  Enjoy baked good again. Really.

Pizza that Wows! And the English Muffins will Amaze You…

Pizza is a tough food to replicate gluten free. For a year I didn’t really try. I finally attempted one by Annalise Roberts. It has that thin crust which is  almost cracker like. Not bad in flavor and definitely better than ones I get in restaurants or buy premade. I have made that crust many times. Then, a revolution – this winter I found this awesome pizza dough that makes the best focaccia bread that I have every made crust ever; crispy bottom and soft top. Perfectly delicious bread to go with an italian meal. And then I discovered that it makes a wonderful pizza too. Have made both several times.

This week I used some of the dough to make English Muffins; the first half became a pizza of epic beauty and lovely flavor.  The muffin recipe is actually the base recipe for the other two foods. Oh, my goodness; they are definitely the best English muffins I have made since going gluten free. Thank goodness I bought English muffin rings years ago; that recipe back then didn’t work but this one does. It’s a keeper; the texture, flavor, looks, taste; all is much better than any others I have made. I love that it is “baked” under a lid on your griddle or electric fry pan. I used my cast iron griddle on a low setting.

Best process is if you let the dough rise 2 hours in your kitchen warmth and then refrigerate it for 4-10 hours or overnight. It can be used as soon as you take the bowl out of your fridge.

Here is a link to the base recipe: https://www.letthemeatgfcake.com/gluten-free-english-muffins/

These are the ingredients. I do weigh my flour these days; much more accurate so there are both ways in the list for flour and sugar:

  • 3¼ cups (455 g) Kim’s gluten free bread flour blend
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp (16 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp rapid rise/instant yeast
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • about 1/3-½ cup gf cornmeal for sprinkling
  • 2 tbsp butter
  •  

Here is a link to her bread flour mix. I am thinking of making it in bigger quantities as I have had such success with her recipes. 

https://www.letthemeatgfcake.com/resources/gluten-free-flour-blends/

It contains white rice flour, cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum. Super easy to do with a good scale. And these are fairly standard ingredients; nothing too weird. Far cheaper too than buying those 1 to 1 mixtures or any gf blended flour. Totally worth it! You make enough flour blend for like 4 pizzas. The recipe makes enough for two 12-14 inch pizzas or 2 focaccias. I like to do a pizza and on a second day something different from the remaining dough. It will keep for several days in the fridge. That’s timesaving; one dough; two recipes.

I did the focaccia first, then tried pizza…was blown away by it and this week the English muffins flipped my lid with their texture, looks and flavor. They all are just fabulous in texture and flavor. Really head turning for me for how close they came to all purpose flour baking of my past…may not be as healthy as a multigrain dough but it sure brings back good memories and is so enjoyable. If you bake gf; this dough is super easy to make in a stand mixer and let rise, chill it and make a great pizza. Just plan for it as the dough is better if it has that refrigeration period. Ditto for the English muffins although the round tin molds make them look just perfect. I used a thick pizza pan to make my new favorite pizza and a cast iron frying pan for the focaccia; no kneading, no super liquid messy stuff; it is sticky but it doesn’t need much forming. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!!