Copycat Recipe

My sister Stephanie and I have always loved the Olive Garden. Since I refuse to eat salad, I sampled their soups until I found one I liked. One night, Steph decided to try the soup I was having and loved it too. Our favorite soup at the Olive Garden is Zuppa Toscana.

Back when Stephanie was in college at Wayne State, I used to hang out with her in Pile Hall dorm room. I don’t know why but we were watching Phil Donahue (Yes, I said Phil Donahue not Dr. Phil. Look it up if you don’t know who I am talking about.) I am not sure why were watching Donahue but Steph and I always had a thing for talk shows. We watched Jenny Jones, Sally Jessie Raphael, and even Geraldo Rivera. But I digress. My point was the reason we stopped the channel on Stephanie’s turn dial 13 inch television was because Donahue had some lady on making copycat recipes. She made a McDonald’s Big Mac, Hostess Twinkie, and Wendy’s  Frosty (chocolate because they only had one kind back then). We were hooked. At the end of the show, they used to provide you with information on where to send at check or money order for $2.95 to purchase your own copy of the shows transcript. (I know, we sound old but the year was actually 1993 pre-internet boom.) I’m pretty sure it was the only time either one of us ordered a transcript. We hadn’t watched the entire show so we knew we had  missed some of those recipes.

Some years later, this guy Todd Wilbur created “Top Secret Recipes” cookbooks. This guys copycat recipes are pretty on for all your favorite restaurant chains. I’ll be honest, they are one of the few cookbooks I haven’t torn apart. Today’s recipe for this delicious soup comes from one of them.

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

1/2 lb. Italian Sausage (I use ground sausage when I make it.)
3 c. fat-free Chicken Broth
3 c. fat-free Milk
2 T. minced Onion
1 T. Hormel Real Bacon Pieces
1/4 tsp. Salt
Dash of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 medium Potato, chunked
2 c. chopped Kale

Grill sausage. Combine broth, milk, onion, bacon, salt, and red pepper in a medium sauce pan over a medium/high heat. Add  potato. When mixture boils, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked sausage and simmer for 1 additional hour. Serves three.

Recipe modifications:

  • I’m pretty sure this is the lighter version of the Zuppa Toscana soup. I have another version from one of his cookbooks that has half and half. Skip the calories and cook it this way. It taste the same and is healthier for you.
  • I have substituted regular spinach for kale in the recipe. It worked just as well.
  • I omitted the bacon and it tasted just fine.
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Super Easy Appetizers

Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away. What you are making for the big game day party? Here are a couple of quick recipes you can make for a home or away party.

This first recipe an old co-worker made for a work holiday party. I have also served them at a baby shower and a wine tasting. Kids and adults love them.

Pigs in a Blanket – Crescent Roll Style

1 package of Little Smokies
1 package of crescent rolls (I like the round crescent rolls best for this recipe.)

Cut one crescent roll into approximately six pieces. Wrap around little smokie and place on baking sheet. Continue until packages are finished. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 8 – 10 minutes. Serve with an assortment of condiments (mustard, ketchup, barbeque sauce, etc.)

This second recipe I made for my New Year’s Eve.

Bacon Wrapped Meatballs

1 package of meatballs
1 package of bacon
A jar of BBQ sauce
Toothpicks

Cut bacon into half. Wrap the half slice of bacon around an individual meatball. Secure with a toothpick. Place in 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Flip and brush tops with your favorite barbeque sauce. Cover with foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Note: I’ve made this with turkey meatballs and turkey bacon. It was still good.

This is recipe is one of my sister’s favorites. I made it for the first time last summer. It was actually an old recipe from a Betty Crocker Halloween cookbook. I think the ham and cheese bites are also a great breakfast recipe.

Ham & Cheese Bites

1 pkg. refrigerator biscuits
1/2 c. lean ham, chopped
1/2 c. cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
chopped parsley

Spray a muffin tin. Flatten biscuits and fill with ham and cheese. Pinch closed and place in muffin tin, seam-side down. Brush with egg and sprinkle with parsley. Bake 425 degrees for 8 minutes or until golden.

This last recipe I got off the side of a Velveeta package. I like it because it isn’t your standard spinach and artichoke or Ro-tel dip. It has bacon but I think it could be omitted for a still tasty dish.

Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Dip

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 can Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp

Combine ingredients in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir. Heat another 2 minutes or until mixture is completely blended. Note: You can keep this in a crockpot on a low heat to enjoy throughout your party.