Tag Archives: bake

Smokey Gnocchi Toscana 

Who doesn’t love Olive Garden’s famous “Zuppa Toscana”?  It’s a delicious blend of sausage, kale and potatoes in a creamy broth…my only small problem with the soup (more so my family’s problem) is it will not fill my hearty boys and husband’s appetite up!  Nope, soup in general just won’t cut it!

Now since I was craving a big bowl of Toscana comfort, I had to figure out a way to change it into something a bit more substantial if it were to be mine.  I have to say, it came pretty easy to me..thank goodness.  How about we make the broth into a rich, more flavor packed cheese sauce and amp up the potato texture by using those fluffy pillows from heaven, otherwise known as gnocchi.  Hey, gnocchi’s are in fact made from potato flour..I do have a little bit of genius left in me.  My boys tend to suck it out of me at times.  I also made sure it was chocked full of (not too) spicy sausage and healthy kale.  Yep, with all those Italian flavors going on, even my boys will slurp up the greens!

Last, but not least, I topped it all off with some crispy, crumbled bacon for another layer of smokey flavor…drooling…

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb Hot Italian Sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 package Gnocchi 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4+ cups Kale (a Kale/Spinach blend would work too)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 heaping Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk, plus more to thin cheese sauce if needed
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided 1:1
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided 1:1
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and chopped for garnish


First and ALWAYS foremost is prepping your ingredients to have at the ready!!  Chop and mince the garlic and shred the cheese if it hasn’t already been done for you.  I’ll be taking sous chef applications soon 😉

Now onto the cooking part my multi-tasking friends!  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and on a foil lined baking sheet, lay out the bacon and cook till slightly crisp (about 15 minutes, rotating once in the oven).  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Keep the oven on, but drop the temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of salted water up to a boil (for the Gnocchi) and in a separate large pan, heat up the olive oil to medium heat and begin browning the sausage, chopping up with a spoon as you go.

Water boiling: add in Gnocchi and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until they float to the top.  Drain and set aside.

Sausage: once cooked through and slightly crumbled, remove from pan and drain the grease slightly.  *leave about a tablespoon of grease please.

In the same pan that the sausage cooked in add in the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the kale and garlic and allow to wilt down.  Once quickly wilted, add the sausage back in along with the Gnocchi.  Remove from heat.

Pesto cheese sauce: in a medium sauce pan melt the butter and then whisk in the flour till it makes a rue (paste).  Now you will whisk in the milk for about 3 minutes till starts to thicken.  Add in the pesto, 1/2 of each the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and a pinch of salt and pepper.  *It may get a little thick here, so just thin by whisking another couple tablespoons of milk in at a time until you reach your desired consistency.



You’re at the finish line now!  In a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray, spoon in the Gnocchi, sausage and kale mix.  Pour that super cheesy pesto sauce ALL over and top with the remaining cheeses.  Cover with foil and place in the 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  

Bump up the oven to 425 degrees and pull the foil off, allowing to bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheesy top gets nice and brown.  Remove from oven and relish in the “it smells soooooo good in here” praises!  Make sure to top it all off with the crumbled bacon..NEVER forget the bacon!  *Let rest for 5 minutes before serving..remember it’s going to be hot!  

Serve with a simple salad, warm bread sticks and you have yourself a hit!  

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Salisbury Steak Bake

If you’re like me, you’re getting really tired of summer by now.  That heat can see its way out!  That being said, I’ve been dreaming of cooler weather, leaves changing, pumpkin everything, football and hearty, stick to your ribs kind of meals.  

Even as a child I’ve always been a fan of Salisbury steak, but as an adult I’ve graduated from eating the frozen dinner version.   Now I definitely have made the handmade patties and floured, seasoned and seared up, but THIS recipe is actually even easier than before!  I’ve turned the individual “steak” patties into a baked casserole dish!  An entire MEAL in one!

*If you’re in a super hurry, you can of course use a couple cans of drained green beans and quickly whip up some instant potatoes.  No harm in that at all.  

*If using fresh green beans, just rinse and chop to your desired size.  There is no need to cook these before adding to the casserole mix.  They will cook while in the oven, but still keep a nice bit of crunch.  Texture to the dish = thumbs up! 

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cups Green beans, fresh or canned 
  • 1 pckg mushroom, halved
  • 1 packet au jus gravy mix
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 1/4 cup panko + 1/4 cup flour (or you can use all flour)
  • 26oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • *Mashed potatoes (you can use real or instant)

As a great cook always does, begin by prepping the vegetables so that everything is ready to go!  Also, if you’re making your own mashed potatoes, you can begin that now.  *Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Heat a large pan with a tbsp of oil (evoo, vegetable) over medium heat,  add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes.  Once soft and translucent, you can then add in the ground beef, dry onion soup mix and season with pepper to taste. *salt isn’t necessary, as the gravy will have enough flavor to it.  After the meat has been cooked through, drain any excess grease, leaving about a tablespoon in pan.


Next you can fold in the panko/flour.  This helps to “tighten” up the mixture.


The vegetables!  Carefully mix in the mushrooms and green beans, as your pan is going to be pretty full by now.  Also, in a bowl, whisk together the cream of mushroom soup, au jus gravy packet and the 1/4 cup of water.


Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Pour the meat and veggie mix into it.  Then carefully mix in the creamy soup to combine.


Finally, top this off with the prepared mashed potatoes and pop into your preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes.  The last few minutes, switch to “broil” to brown the top and create a crust.  Just make sure to watch carefully as not to burn.


There you have it!  Family comfort food at its finest!  If desired sprinkle on some chopped parsley for color and added brightness and dig in!  Enjoy!!

Chicken Broccoli Parmesan Bake

Here is an easy comforting dish for these cool months that are approaching fast!  The creaminess, that crunch…oh my!  I do not know one person that does not like the combination of chicken, cheese and broccoli together..and if you stumble upon such a creature..run away!!

This meal can be on your family’s table in less than an hour and it WILL fill everyones belly.  Assured!  

IF you have any leftovers (it does make a bit afterall), just cover and store in the refridgerator.  The next meal, pop this back in the oven (now covered) for 25 minutes and then uncover for the last 5-10 to regain that great crunchy top!

The Starting Lineup

  • 2lbs (4 breasts) chicken, cooked
  • 16oz bag frozen broccoli, slightly defrosted
  • 2 cans cream of chicken (‘with herbs’ if possible *Campbells)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio/sauvagnon blanc)
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened/melted
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded & divided (1/2 cup-1/2 cup)
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper, to taste

Garnish

  • I like to serve ours either alone or overtop rice or rotini pasta.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Assuming your chicken is cooked and shredded or cubed (I prefer either a roasted chicken or Ill just quickly poach the breasts myself, which I did above) and that your broccoli is slightly thawed (I’ll pour it into a microwave safe covered dish, hit defrost for a few minutes and then drain any excess water through a collander) you can now begin assembling. 

 In a buttered 9×13 casserole dish, layer the broccoli down first, followed by the cooked and shredded chicken. 

 In a seperate bowl, combine the 2 cans of soup, sour cream, mayo, dijon mustard, cheddar cheese, white wine and salt & pepper to taste.  Give this creamy mixture a good stir. 

   Now you will simply pour this directly over your chicken and broccoli..use a rubber spatula to create an even layer and then sprinkle about 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese over top. 

   In a second bowl you will combine the Panko breadcrumbs, butter, remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and a pinch of cayenne.  Mix this together until the panko is coated in butter, cheese and spice and then evenly sprinkle over the top of your casserole. 

     Now that is ready to go, pop in your oven (uncovered) for about 30-45 minutes, until that top coating gets a beautiful crunchy, brown! 

 Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes and then serve, enjoy! 

 

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Cake

This very well may be THE cake of all cakes.  Ridiculous in taste and beyond gorgeous.  Seriously, you’re hand scraping a vanilla bean.  That should say it all…  

The Starting Lineup
CAKE

  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 cups of granulated sugar
  • 9 egg whites, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped out
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

STRAWBERRIES

  • 2 pints of strawberries, hulled & quartered
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

CLASSIC CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

REAL WHIPPED CREAM

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar Vanilla Bean Cake ingredients ^

With this recipe we’re going to start with some of your filling first.  With your strawberries, rinse, hull and roughly quarter them.  Place the cut strawberries into a large bowl. 

Top the fruit with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp pure vanilla extract.  Mix well, cover with Saran Wrap and let macerate for at least 20 minutes.  *Macerate: soften food by soaking in liquid.  If making your cake the same day, as opposed to the night before, place these in the fridge until ready to assemble.

 Now let’s begin your frosting.   I’m a busy wife, mom and food blogger, so for time purposes I am attaching my link to my Classic Cream Cheese Frosting. Classic Cream Cheese Frosting | Railroad Wife  Check it out 😉 Ok I’m not really that busy, I just like ‘links’..
Onto the delicious cake…Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prep 3 cake pans with either butter & flour or non-stick spray.  I HIGHLY recommend using a cut piece of parchment paper (also coated in spray, flour, etc) in each pan.  This method NEVER fails in achieving your cake coming out perfectly and not sticking.  The next time I make a cake, I promise you that I will take a picture of this step.  Shame on me :/

In your stand mixer, beat together the softened butter and sugar for 5 minutes on med-high.  It should be nice and fluffy. 

    

Next add in all of those egg whites.  This keeps the cake that light colored hue, yolks will turn its shade.  Turn your stand mixer down till medium while your egg whites are gradually mixed in the butter/sugar mix.

Next, grab two (extra, separate) bowls.  In bowl #1, sift together your flour, salt and baking powder. 

 In bowl #2, mix together the buttermilk and the pure vanilla extract with the scraped out contents of your vanilla bean. (This smells so darn fabulous!  I was rubbing my scented hands on my wrists and neck like perfume.  I’m weird). 

 Can you see those beautiful flecks of REAL vanilla in the buttermilk?? Ahhhh..

Ok, now alternating the two bowls, pour them into your butter, sugar & egg white mix slowly.  Mix till just incorporated.  Don’t over mix please.  Bad things happen to those who do.

Divide the batter evenly between all three pans.  Slightly shake the filled pans to even out the batter. 

Bake these cakes at 350 degrees till a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Let cakes cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Invert the cakes onto the wire rack to finish cooling. *please cool completely before applying the frosting and fruit!  These cakes can even be made the night before, wrapped well and frosted the next day.

After the cakes are absolutely, positively cooled, prepare your real deal whipped cream!

In your stand mixer add in your 2 cups of heavy cream along with the 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.  With the beater attachment, beat on high until light, fluffy and sweet! 

    
Final-freakin-lutely!!  It’s cake assembly time, the last step before the cake devouring time.  My personal favorite step.
Now, this cake makes three tiers, HOWEVER, I only use two and my boys and I munch on the third one ourselves.  “Quality time”, I call it.

On a pretty platter, place one cake layer down.  Coat the cake with a nice thick layer of your cream cheese frosting.  If it hangs over the edge, all the better!  Next, spoon copious amounts of your whipped cream over the frosting.  Finally, add a hefty helping of your (drained) macerated strawberries.

You’re then going to softly place your second tier of cake onto that.  Repeat the same process. (I actually prefer to apply my Classic Cream Cheese Frosting to the second tier BEFORE placing it on top and adding the cream & strawberries).  Any extra strawberries ‘stuff’ into the sides of cake and on top.

You’re now done and ready to take in the praises!  Please enjoy!  You can always jog it off tomorrow 😉 

  

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