Friday, April 29, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

Everyone has at least one guilty-pleasure chain restaurant, and mine is Olive Garden.  Our whole family would sometimes go for Ohana (our sanctioned immediate-family-only time whenever we're all in town), and as much as we liked the food we LOVED the soup, salad, and breadsticks that come before the meal.  So bourgeois, I know, but we didn't care.  I'm surprised we ordered entrees.

I realized that it wasn't hard to make our favorite soup, so for a family gathering I tried out this recipe for Zuppa Toscana.  I substituted kale for spinach (just like OG) and didn't use a full cup of cream.  I just started pouring and mixing and stopped when it looked about right. 

Word of warning: don't skimp on the ingredients.  I made it without bacon once and totally regretted it. I've yet to find a good breadstick recipe that can be consumed with the soup, so if I ever find one I'll post it.

Thanks to souporsweets for posting this on Allrecipes!  My extended family thanks you, too. 

Zuppa Toscana


  • 1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 5 (13.75 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 6 potato, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 bunch fresh spinach, tough stems removed


  1. Cook the Italian sausage and red pepper flakes in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon in the same Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, leaving a few tablespoons of drippings with the bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Stir in the onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the chicken broth into the Dutch oven with the bacon and onion mixture; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream and the cooked sausage; heat through. Mix the spinach into the soup just before serving.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


If I had my own iron chefs I would definitely designate my Hawaiian friend K as Iron Chef Japanese.  He would love to cook for us and with us in college, and one of my favorite meals with him was Chicken Katsu.  I asked him for the recipe and he graciously shared it with me. 

W and I love curry katsu (chicken or pork katsu with rice and Japanese curry) but katsu is good on its own.  Thanks, K!

Chicken Katsu
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 c flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 package panko Japanese bread crumbs
4c frying oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, whatever you normally use)
garlic salt & pepper

Heat your oil to 350 degrees or until a piece of panko sizzles vigorously when dropped in.

Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over the chicken thighs.  Dredge them in flour, then egg, then panko.  Make sure to press the panko into the chicken as much as possible.

Drop the prepared chicken into the oil and fry for 3-4 mins per side until golden brown.  Don't add more than 2-3 pieces into the oil at once or the temperature will drop too rapidly and it won't be crispy.

Drain the finished katsu on a wire rack or paper towel and serve while hot.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cheesy Orzo

Orzo is a huge hit in our house.  It's pasta but it's kinda like rice, so it's best of both worlds.  Plus, you can add whatever you want to it!  I usually add spinach at the very end of cooking so it just wilts.  I love this recipe cuz it's like a sophisticated version of macaroni and cheese.

Thanks to Rachael Ray for the recipe!  I know there are lots of RR haters out there, but this recipe is solid.

Cheesy Orzo


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (14 ounces) chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 2 cups orzo pasta (enriched rice may be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Romano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat a 8 inch pot with a tight fitting cover over moderate heat. Add oil, onion and garlic and saute for 2 or 3 minutes. Add broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and return broth to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed and pasta tender. Remove lid and stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. You favorite fresh herbs may also be stirred into the orzo or rice to strengthen the flavor even more.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Banana Bread

My dad hated buying bananas because more often than not we'd let them sit around until they were too mushy to eat and then we'd throw them out.  I think he still hates buying bananas to this day. 

Luckily I now know that mushy bananas can be transformed into banana bread!  You have to make sure the bananas are ripe.  We're talking LOTS of brown spots cuz that means the starches have turned to sugars. 

Random story- we went to Hawaii in high school for a school trip and we went to this "secret island" somewhere.  After playing in the sun and surf I remember eating multiple pieces of banana bread at a little snack stand nearby.  Mmmm...

Usually I'd add chocolate chips but I decided to try the recipe as written.  I appreciated the simplicity.  Thanks to Elise from Simply Recipes for posting it!

Banana Bread
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour


  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour


No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Yield: Makes one loaf.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I brought cookies to work on Tuesday as a "Thanks-for-helping-me-during-orientation-please-don't-abandon-me-now-that-I'm-on-my-own" offering and I think it worked!  To be fair, my co-workers are fantastic and are always there when I need them (and sometimes even before I realize I need them) but I'm pretty sure the cookies helped seal the deal.

I've been trying to use up the ingredients I have in my pantry so I split the batch.  The first half had dried cranberries and white chocolate, and the other had chocolate chips.  Both were pretty well received.  I also omitted the walnuts because nut allergies make me nervous.  Thanks, Allrecipes!  2050 people can't be wrong, right?

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.