Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

If you have ever been to Olive Garden, you may be familiar with this soup. The sausage, bacon, potatoes, kale, and creamy broth meld into a heartwarming and satisfying bowl of goodness.

This soup comes together very easily, and is a great way to get in a serving of healthful greens! Trust me, you won't even notice them. The recipe is easily modified to suit your preferences; hot or mild, thick or thin, russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, heavy cream or half & half, bacon or no get what I'm saying!

If you have never had this soup as Olive Garden, make this recipe and revel in the fact that you are probably eating a much healthier version; and it tastes just as good! If you have had this soup at Olive Garden, made this recipe and revel in that fact that you are saving a bundle of cash and that you have restaurant chef talent! You see, either way I have ordered you to cook this soup for your families. And do it quick, because cozy soup weather is pretty much gone. I seem to be behind on these seasonal food trends that all my fellow bloggers keep up with faithfully. Oh well, at least kale is in season.

Zuppa Toscana (Print)
adapted from America's Most Wanted Recipes
Prep: 40 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

1 pound sausage: spicy, mild, or Italian; ground or removed from casings
8 ounces smoked bacon, chopped (optional)
3 to 4 cups water
2 (14.5 ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups cubed russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/3 cup diced onion
2 cups chopped kale or swiss chard
1 cup heavy cream or half & half
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a skillet, brown sausage; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, prep vegetables as directed above. To prepare kale: hold the stem at the base. Using a knife, slash downward to remove leafy portion from either side of tough stem. Stack several washed leaves, roll into cigar shape and chop to desired size -Cook's Illustrated

2. If using bacon, cook it at this time in a skillet. Drain and set aside.

3. In a 4-quart pot, combine the water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered,  until potatoes are tender; 10-15 minutes.

4. Add the sausage and bacon. Simmer 10 minutes, uncovered.

5. Add the kale and cream or half & half. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through, do not allow to boil.

Note: To address all of the options, here is what I used for all the the 'or' ingredients: mild ground sausage, bacon, 4 cups water (but I thought it was too much liquid), russet potatoes, kale, and half & half. I did not think the bacon added much flavor, which is why I left it as optional. The sausage really takes the stage here, and that's even using mild. Feel free to use any combination of the listed options to make your preferred soup!

My Review

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm Still Here

I will be without a computer until further notice, just in case anyone was curious! I will update as soon as I can!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Puffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am on a quest.

To find the perfect chocolate chip cookies.

And boy, this recipe is gonna be hard to beat. You see, I have very high standards for a chocolate chip cookie. It has to be soft, overloaded with chocolate chips, buttery, dense yet light, with a barely crunchy outside that leads to a gooey inside. No crumbles, hard cookies, or flatness allowed here. I don't even know if I have ever had the chocolate chip cookie of my dreams, but someday, I will find it!

As of right now, this is my husband's proclaimed favorite chocolate chip cookie ever and until (or if or when) I find something better, this is my favorite too! He says they are perfect, and I guess I can't really think of anything about them that isn't good, once they are baked that is. You see, I am a self-proclaimed cookie dough connoisseur (had to look up the spelling on that one!). I eat any and every kind of dough/batter that I make. It's true. And the one downfall of these cookies is that the dough isn't as delicious as other chocolate chip cookie doughs that I have made. The dough is actually on the dry side, which lends to the gorgeous puff once they bake.

I would say that these are the best chocolate chip cookies that I have ever made; but not the best cookie dough that I have tried. I suppose that considering the baked cookies are what you would be sharing, this is the recipe to go with! Alas, perfectly baked cookies and perfect cookie dough may not exist together, but perhaps this is the best of both worlds.

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, and everyone will be especially happy when they see one of the puffiest chocolate chip cookies ever! Make these cookies, and everyone will think you're a cookie-baking queen!

Puffy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Print)
recipe adapted from buns in my oven
Prep: 20 minutes / Bake: 10-13 minutes
Yield: about 2 dozen

1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Cut the butter into small cubes and place back into the fridge.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or large mixing bowl), beat the cold butter and sugar until barely combined. Make sure to use low speed and beat no longer than one minute. Do not beat until the usual creamed or fluffy! Overbeating will cause excess air and a tough cookie. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. The dough will look soupy and strange at this point.

4. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add them to the butter and sugar bowl, beat until combined. This will produce a stiff, lightly sticky dough. Add the chocolate chips and mix.

5. Scoop the dough into your desired size and place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet. I have a one tablespoon scoop; I made my cookies two scoops in size. I found that the cookies looked better after baking if you do not roll them into balls; rough scoops make prettier cookies.

6. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for 5 minutes. This prevents the cookies from spreading. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the very outside edges are lightly browned. The cookies will set and look more done after cooling. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

My Review