Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Tuscana

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Ahh! A [relatively] highly energized day.  Since my babysitter couldn’t come over and I needed to sleep in to recover from my royal day at the races, I was unable to run.  I definitely can go Saturday, but tomorrow looks like a no-go as well since John has to be in super early and gets home pretty late.  We’ll see, though – maybe I’ll be awake early and will run before he leaves?  Either way, from *not* running, I had so much more energy to get me through to nap time (when, of course, an afternoon rest on the couch was still pretty necessary) that I was able to finally sift through the kids’ schoolwork for about the last two months and go over things they missed, reassign important concepts they needed, etc.  They do their school through a computer program called “Switched On Schoolhouse,” which is nice for our particular schooling style since it assigns and grades their work.  Mostly I just have to keep on top of whether or not they’re doing it, and how well they are learning things.  So today was “that day,” and now everyone is officially caught up and ready to move on…

I made myself a shake for breakfast with some frozen overripe bananas, a bit of decaf instant coffee, almond milk, cocoa powder, and protein powder.  That got me through my computer time more easily than making eggs and cleaning all that up, and then we moved on to kitchen cleanup from yesterday and lunch.  Once baby was napping I was able to catch up on phone calls and bank duties and all sorts of other computer-related things, including stuff to do with our upcoming baby and our upcoming move back to the states.  So it was quite a productive day — oh, and laundry, too! Craziness!  So I have no run to report, but about 8 miles worth of useful energy I saved as a result 🙂 At this stage (about 27 weeks) – running really takes it out of me for the rest of the day!!

On to the recipe I promised, though.  I love the Olive Garden’s Zuppa Tuscana, and I’ve seen other recipes online, but this one is mine – adapted from the “Spinach Soup” in the More With Less Cookbook.  It’s a big hit with the kids and freezes well, too, which is why I made it Tuesday – still working on the post-baby food for the freezer.  Tonight will be Hamburger Stew, another soup for the freezer, and I should be able to post about it tomorrow.  But for now….

This soup has a little kick to it at Olive Garden, enough to always make my nose start to run!  That’s a little too much for the children, though, so I usually make a double batch so I can use a roll of the Jimmy Dean original sausage and a roll of the Jimmy Dean hot sausage.  If you’re only using one roll of sausage because you’re just doing a single recipe, then to give it a little kick with the original sausage, just add some ground red pepper.  I’ll include the recipe at the end.

 

Brown the sausage in the pot you’re going to use for the soup.  Do not drain off the grease; rather, scoop out the sausage carefully and place it aside in a bowl.

In the mean time, I boil my kale so that the bitterness leaves. (Pun intended.)  I also like to do this to soften the kale, so if you want the bitter crispiness of kale, then don’t pre-boil it, but just add it at the end.  It won’t taste much like the Olive Garden soup, though, if you don’t boil it.  YES I realize this removes a lot of the nutritional value of the kale.  We always have a big salad with our soup anyway 🙂

 

When I made it this week, the organic grocer who delivers my produce was out of kale.  Instead, we used green cabbage.  Not as yummy, but still great!  I boil it about 10 minutes and then spoon the greens out into the bowl holding my sausage.

Into the pot where you have only sausage grease remaining, add your sliced up potatoes and enough hot water to cover them.  The recipe really calls for 3 cups (in my case 6 cups) of water, but it just needs to be the amount necessary to barely cover and boil the potatoes.

I slice my potatoes into “coins,” with the skin on,  just like at Olive Garden.  Into the water with the potatoes goes the salt, and a vegetable bullion cube.

Meanwhile, you need to get going in another pot (I use my kale pot for this once I’ve boiled the kale and no longer need the pot) the rest of the soup — 2 Tbsp butter melted, then 3 Tbsp flour added into it, then the milk slowly, stirred in and cooked over medium heat until thickened.  Once you’ve cooked this long enough to make it a bit thick, your potatoes should be about the right amount of tender to turn them off.  You have your two pots – your milk pot, and your potato soup pot – and you need to just treat them independently until they’re both finished, and then pour the milk pot into the potato pot, and add back in the sausage and kale, and voila! Super yummy.  Give it a stir and let it sit a few minutes to rewarm the added ingredients  in case they cooled off in their bowl.)

For half the amount I made:

Zuppa Tuscana

In a soup pot:

Brown 1 pound sausage – either hot sausage or add 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Remove the browned sausage and set aside.

To the sausage grease add:

6 medium unpeeled potatoes, sliced into coins

1 tsp salt

3 cups boiling water

1 vegetable bullion cube

Boil until the potatoes are tender.

In a separate pot:

Boil a 1/2 head of kale which has been cut into bite-sized chunks, with the center vein removed.

Remove the kale and set aside.  Dump the water.

Again in the separate pot:

Melt 2 Tbsp butter

Stir in 3 Tbsp flour

Stir in 3 cups milk and stir until mixture thickens.

Add the thickened milk mixture to the potato pot.  Also add back in the sausage and kale.  Stir and serve.

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