Nature’s copycats?

 

Pink wildflowers

I noticed the other day that some of my photos looked like copy cats of other things. Some photos  looked just like what they were, such as the flower pictured above but some photos seemed to resemble other things…

Like the dewdrops on the fuzz of a wildflower looked like exploding waves on a shoreline…

Waterdroplets

The vibrant center of a zinnia resembled bursting fireworks in the sky…

Zinnia

Dried remnants of a plant looked like little paper apples…

A sun soaked Autumn leaf was like a stained glass window…

Autumn leaf

And the twists and turns of a dried leaf could be nature’s version of curling ribbon…

Copycats can be fun, especially when it comes to food! One of my favorite copycat recipes is of a soup served at the restaurant “The Olive Garden”. They have a soup called  “Zuppa Toscana” that my husband and I just love! (especially my husband…)

This soup is a hearty combination of Italian sausage and potatotes. The  restaurant’s soup has sort of a milky appearance to it and I have always wondered what gave it that milky appearance.  I have made my version of this soup for years and finally decided to look up the copycat versions of this soup on the internet to see what someone else uses for the milky appearance. They all call for cream or milk – as well as adding bacon! I don’t put the bacon in the soup because I think it has enough fat with the sausage.

But adding the cream/milk didn’t seem to add much to the flavor of the soup . One day I had some leftover alfredo sauce  in the refrigerator and decided to pour it into the soup! And there it was! The milky appearance along with some extra creamy garlic flavor! Yummmm – and it got the thumbs up from my most important critic, my hubby! (I call him this because he absolutely LOVES this soup :) )

Does it get the thumbs up from any other Zuppa Toscana lover’s out there??

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Into a large stockpot put:

      10 cups water

      10 chicken bouillon cubes

      1 – 16 0z. jar Alfredo sauce

Stir then bring to a boil. Meanwhile into a skillet place:

      1 lb. Italian seasoned bulk pork sausage

Fry until brown then drain on paper towels. When drained, put into the stockpot along with:

      2-3 Tablespoons chopped garlic (* see note at bottom)

      8 cups sliced (1/4 inch thick) potatoes

      2 handfuls kale ( washed, center tough veins removed and then chopped into small pieces)

Bring back up to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 3 hours or until potatoes are soft.  This soup is good with a little freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top!

* We love garlic at our house! You may want to try 2 Tablespoons and then add more according to your tastes…

Walnut Sundae Cake with Maple Creme Sauce

 walnut sundae cake with maple creme sauce

I can’t wait to share my first recipe with you!……

One of my favorite places to eat is Applebee’s.  They serve a phenomenal walnut brownie dessert, that I must admit, I plan my whole meal around! I love this dessert so much, I wanted to come up with my own version that I could indulge in anytime.

The walnut cake is wonderful when it is served warm……but I don’t serve it fresh out of the oven.  I like to bake the cake at least one day in advance of serving it because I believe the flavors come together better if it is allowed to sit for a day or two.

After removing the cake from the oven, immediately place a clean towel over the cake. When it has cooled, place a piece of foil over the cake and then place it in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to serve it.side view of walnut sundae 

When it comes time to indulge, warm the cake and the maple sauce.  Place a slice of the warm cake on a plate along with a scoop of your favorite frosty vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the warm maple creme sauce over the top. Then to add the perfect garnish, scatter chopped walnuts over it all.  

One of the ingredients in the maple sauce is white chocolate so it is very decadent.  You will have leftovers of the sauce, as it makes about 4 cups, but it keeps very well in the refrigerator, if placed in a sealed container.  When you are serving it, be sure to stir it well and warm it slightly.  The leftover sauce can be used for drizzling  over fresh fruit, warm pie (especially apple!), pancakes, or anywhere you would like some added creamy maple flavor!

Walnut Sundae Cake with Maple Creme Sauce

 Into a medium-sized mixing bowl, place:

      1-1/2  c  heavy whipping cream

Beat until thick and it forms stiff peaks.  Into a large mixing bowl, put:

      1/4  c  very soft butter

      1  c  sugar

Beat this well, then add:

      3  eggs  (add one at a time, beating well after each egg)

Add:

      1  t  pure vanilla extract

      1 t  black walnut flavoring

Beat this mixture until it is very creamy. Set aside. Into a medium-sized bowl, sift together:

      1-3/4  c  flour

      2  t  baking powder

      3/4  t  salt

Then add to the flour mixture:

      2  c  finely chopped walnuts

Alternately fold the whipped cream and the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture. Pour batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or just until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. ( Be careful not to overbake this cake, as it will become dry)  After removing the cake from the oven, immediately place a clean towel over the cake. After it has cooled, place a piece of foil over the cake and place it in an airtight container or plastic bag. For best taste, let it sit for at least one day before serving.  After one or two days, you will have a wonderful, moist flavor-filled cake.

Maple Creme Sauce

In a medium-sized saucepan, put:

      1  c  butter

     2  c  sugar

      1 - 12 oz. can evaporated milk

Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it softly boils for 5 minutes.  Take it off the heat and add:

      1 – 12 oz. bag white baking chips

     1  t  maple flavoring

Stir slightly and then let it sit for about 5 minutes…the warmth of the mixture will melt the chips.  After the 5 minutes, whisk the mixture together until there are no lumps of chocolate left.  Serve warm and refrigerate any leftovers in an sealed container.  Please be sure to reheat and stir it well before serving it again.