Archive for October, 2009

Zuppa Toscana for the Soul

October 25th, 2009

When I think of Olive Garden, I think of one thing: Zuppa Toscana. It is one of my favorite soups and the thing I look forward to most when I eat there. I usually order an entree, but hardly touch it because I’ve already downed two bowls of this stuff along with a basket of breadsticks. It’s a meal in itself.

As the days are getting colder, I thought this would be the perfect soup to warm up with. The soup itself is a blend of spicy italian sausage, potatoes, and kale, in a creamy broth. I was lucky enough to find a copycat recipe and it turned out exactly the same. I was amazed. Now, if I could only get the recipe for Olive Garden breadsticks…

Zuppa Toscana
(adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound mild Italian ground sausage
  • 5 slices bacon, baked and crumbled
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 (13.75 oz) cans chicken broth
  • 3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced rounds
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bunch fresh kale
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the ground Italian sausage in a pan over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink. About 10 to 15 min. Drain and set aside.
  2. Place bacon on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until crisp, about 10 minutes. Place bacon on paper towel to drain and then crumble bacon and set aside. You may save a couple tablespoons of the bacon drippings and use it to saute the onions and garlic.
  3. In a large pot saute onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons of the bacon drippings or oil(whichever you prefer). Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the chicken broth into the pot with the onion mixture and add crumbled bacon. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the sliced potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream cooked sausage, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes; heat through. Add salt and pepper if needed.  Mix kale into the soup until wilted just before serving.
Zuppa Toscana

Zuppa Toscana

Cupcake Tasting

October 3rd, 2009

I haven’t really taken advantage of the free Sprinkle cupcake giveaways until recently, and I figured that it’d be a great way to get me to drive the long 10 min drive to my local Sprinkles store (yes, I am lazy, which in this case is a very good thing or else I’d be at Sprinkles everyday). So, I made sure to coincide my trips during their special featured flavor events which are scattered throughout the months. First trip I made was to try their Raspberry cupcake back in August and then I went one more time the other week to try the Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate cupcake. Featured Flavor + Free Cupcake = Very good deal indeed.

The Raspberry Cupcake was surprisingly good. Both the cake and frosting were raspberry flavored. I wasn’t sure how they were going to pull off the raspberry flavor without making it taste artificial, but after one bite, I felt like they must have used hundreds of raspberries and packed it into one little cupcake. The frosting was the best part: not too sweet, nice tartness, and a bold raspberry flavor. The cake was not too shabby. It was moist, had less of the raspberry flavoring, but the only thing that threw me off was the coloring. The cake was gray. Weird, but tasty. At this point, I wouldn’t mind if they put some food coloring…maybe a nice bright pink/magenta? I don’t care, just as long as my food is not gray or anything resembling cement.

Now, onto the Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcake. This was Sprinkle’s take on a vanilla cupcake with a Nutella flavored frosting. This cupcake was good, but defnitely not the best and I think I would have much rather have a vanilla cupcake with Nutella smothered on top. I don’t think anyone can come close to getting that Nutella flavor unless you actually use the hazelnut spread. The frosting had the hazelnut taste, but I really felt like the flavor was diluted. More Nutella please! Actually, forget the cupcake, I could just eat Nutella by itself with a spoon.

Sprinkle's Raspberry Cupcake

Sprinkle's Raspberry Cupcake

See? It's gray...

See? It's gray...

Sprinkle's Vanilla Hazelnute Chocolate Cupcake - Cupcake was a little damaged during handling, sorry.

Sprinkle's Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate Cupcake - Cupcake was a little damaged during handling, sorry.