A Delicious (Better Than?) Olive Garden Copycat
My first trimester of pregnancy was rough, but it wasn’t just tough on me. It was definitely tough on Craig, too, and I know we were both counting down the days until it ended. For starters, the nausea was almost unending, and if there was even a brief moment I didn’t feel totally sick, I was worried something was wrong with the baby (I will make sure to relish those brief moments the next time I am pregnant). And O-M-G I cannot believe how exhausting it is to grow a baby! I pulled more all-nighters than anyone I know in college, and that exhaustion seriously cannot compare to the first trimester of pregnancy. I am now a believer that the only people who will ever know the true meaning of the word “exhaustion” are woman who have dealt with this first trimester symptom.
Craig was definitely a trooper through my first trimester. He found time to pick up around our place and do dishes and laundry, plus he never complained about my insane napping schedule on top of needing nine hours of sleep each night. He also never complained about the fact that we were eating pasta for probably between seven and ten meals a week because it was the easiest thing on my stomach. And when boiling pasta became to daunting of a task for me (it takes a lot of energy to watch the water get hot and occasionally stir!), Craig took over that task, as well. And somehow he also managed to dominate that block’s exam in med school!
Cooking and baking were just not happening during the first trimester, so when it finally came to a close at the end of March and I was starting to feel a little bit more like myself again, I decided we needed to celebrate with something new and delicious! But what? We had a cold front coming in, so I knew that this would probably be my last chance to cook a yummy wintry meal. Then I remembered my trip to Ohio a month an a half earlier to visit family. (Thankfully, my morning sickness did not start until the day after I got back to Charleston from that trip.)
It was FREEZING up in Ohio, and it snowed for most of our visit. One afternoon my mom, aunt, cousin, and I couldn’t decide what to do for lunch. We ended up at Olive Garden, and I had not clue what to order (it’s not somewhere I get to go often since it is mostly Craig-unfriendly). My cousin and aunt suggested the unending soup and salad, but I couldn’t decide on the soup. Everyone offered to me what their favorites were, when the waiter mentioned that I could always start with one type of soup and then choose another type of soup after that. What a perfect solution for indecisive Ashley! I started with the Zuppa Toscana soup and would move onto another type of soup after that…at least that was what I thought before I tried the soup. It was so amazing! I don’t remember if I had two or three bowls of it. Yum, yum, yum!
Fast forward to the end of my first trimester, and I knew this soup would be the perfect celebratory I-can-cook-and-eat-normal-food-again-plus-we-have-a-cold-front meal. I just had to figure out how to make it Craig-friendly. So, after some researching, I based this recipe on one that I found from food.com, but I made quite a few changes based on reviews.
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage
- 2 or 3 medium to large potatoes, washed but unpeeled
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 or 5 strips of cooked bacon
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 3 cups of kale (veins removed and sliced thin, like ribbons)
- 32 oz of chicken broth (one standard sized carton)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- To make Craig-friendly (dairy-free) half and half, buy a can of coconut milk and let it chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. It will separate into a cream on top and watery stuff on bottom. Then, open the can and use a spoon to skim the coconut cream off the top. Mix together equal parts coconut cream and plain soy milk (3/4 cup of each for this recipe).
- Remove the sausage from its casing. Cut into 1/2 to 1-ish inch pieces, and then brown the meat. Set the browned sausage aside the whatever stockpot you will be using for the soup.
- Chop up your bacon, and put that in the stockpot, as well.
- Sauté the onions, and add to the stockpot.
- Slice up your potatoes into skinny little pieces, leaving the skin on, and toss into the stockpot.
- Add your chicken broth, water, and minced garlic to the pot. Boil the ingredients in the pot for about thirty minutes, or until the potato pieces are tender.
- Add the kale and half and half, mix everything together, and let the soup simmer for about another fifteen minutes.