Zuppa Toscana

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Wintertime is soup time! Last night I made zuppa toscana, which is apparently a soup made famous by Olive Garden (??) I personally had never heard of it before yesterday when I was browsing the food blog Budget Bytes (perfect for poor students like myself). I thought it looked delicious and easy to make, and I already had most of the ingredients on hand. The version I’ve made is much lighter than the restaurant version.

I ended up making a lot of modifications, mostly to the meat and the seasonings. Because the original recipe calls for Italian Sausage, there weren’t any additional seasonings included in the recipe. I did not have sausage and didn’t want to buy it, so I used some farmer’s market ground beef we had in the freezer. Because the beef was just plain, I looked up typical spices used in Italian Sausage and just added those to my browning meat separately. More details below.

Before we get to the recipe though, I want to point out that the real star of this soup is this beautiful, handmade ceramic bowl that I received as a Christmas gift (and it was part of a larger set!) from Boyfriend’s sister! A wonderful present. Also, since we got engaged in December, I guess Boyfriend is now Fiance. 2015 was a big year.

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Recipe

  • ½ lb. Italian Sausage (hot or mild)–Like I stated before, I used ground beef and added about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of the following spices: oregano, basil, garlic salt, cayenne pepper (1/8 tsp), thyme.
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 (15 oz.) can Great Northern beans–I used cannellini beans since I already had some in the pantry
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 cups chicken broth–I used “better than bouillon” chicken base, 1 tsp for every 1 cup of water.
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups half and half–I cut this down to just 1 cup
  • 3 medium red potatoes (1.5-1.75 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch (8 oz.) kale
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (optional)

My process (for nice step-by-step pictures, go to Budget Bytes’ original recipe)

  1. Saute the ground beef in a large pot. I added about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to this. Add oregano, basil, thyme, a little bit of garlic salt, a little bit of cayenne pepper.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Wait for onion to soften, stirring occasionally.
  3. Drain, rinse beans and add to the pot.
  4. Add chicken broth, paprika, 1 cup water. Put the lid on and simmer for a bit.
    1. In the original recipe, she added half-and-half here. I waited until the end to add this because in a review I read some people had issues with the dairy curdling while on heat.
  5. Add potatoes (quartered, sliced thin). Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until potato softens. Test to make sure you don’t have any raw potatoes.
  6. Add kale. It’ll take up a lot of space in the pot but will very quickly wilt into the soup.
  7. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or longer, depending on how things taste when you test it.
  8. Add half-and-half! You can add up to 2 cups. I added only 1 cup, tasted it, and it was plenty creamy for me.

Boyfriend/Fiance was a big fan, probably because I NEVER make meat dishes and this was like the one time this year where he had meat in a meal that he didn’t make himself… aside from that, it’s filling, creamy, savory, and full of yummy vegetables like kale, potato, onion, and beans!

We put it in the fridge and had it for leftovers the next day; still great.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I’m going to get to the ice cream, but first we have another exciting new development on the blog. Not only does the fancy new camera take fancy photos, it can also take fancy video. We’ve come out of the stone age into the 21st century!

Boyfriend (aka Guinea Pig #1) has a bit of background in video editing and is working on making it a full career. Ice-cream making gave him an opportunity to film the process  put together a super short video that’s pretty well done in my opinion (no personal bias here of course). Check it out at the end of the post!

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Last night I mixed together copious amounts of sugar, heavy cream, milk, and peanut butter to create a delicious peanut butter ice cream. I was able to buy this Cuisinart ice cream maker for $20 from my friend/roommate (now ex-roommate) as our lease ended and we were moving out of our apartment. I myself am essentially moving cross-country in less than a month and have been trying hard to get rid of a lot of junk and non-essentials–however, I couldn’t resist acquiring the ice cream maker.

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And look at the results! I’ll tie it to the roof of my car for the move if I have to.

The ice cream maker came with a little handy recipe book. Here’s the recipe for peanut butter ice cream:

Peanut Butter Ice Cream (from Cuisinart)
2 cups cream
1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla

The recipe recommended using chopped-up peanut butter cups, but I went with chocolate chips since that’s what I had already in the pantry.

Mix together the peanut butter and white sugar, then add milk and cream. Add vanilla. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or overnight (I actually skipped this step and it turned out fine). Turn on ice cream maker and slowly pour in mixture. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes for the ice cream to begin firming up. About 5 minutes before it’s done, add your chocolate chips (or peanut butter cups).

Eat!

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The little Cuisinart recipe book had a bunch of other ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt options. I’m interested in trying the strawberry ice cream next, which would be the perfect treat on a hot summer day.

And here’s the video, which I would describe as visual accompaniment to the recipe; there aren’t actual instructions or narration, but it can give you a quick snapshot of what the ice-cream making process is like and help visualize some parts of the recipe if ice-cream making is unfamiliar to you. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more of this kind of thing in the future for other recipes. It was quite fun to film and I really liked the finished product. Enjoy!