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…

The North Shore

 

Autumn leaves

Last weekend I was able to get away for awhile and go up  to the North Shore (Lake Superior). This was such a pretty time of year to go because everywhere a person looked, it seemed like the perfect place to take a photo…

 

Orange flowers at Northern Lights Restaurant

Pink flowers at Northern Lights Restaurant

I actually thought I’d be taking most of my photos out in the woods but as it turned out, I took most of them at one of my favorite restaurants! It’s a cute little place called “Northern Lights” in Beaver Bay. The interior of this restaurant is very cozy and cabin-like and now they have added a garden in back! So after I enjoyed their Sunday morning buffet, I spent the rest of my time walking through their garden area. You know, this place really is a ”must-see” if you are ever up at Lake Superior (on the Minnesota side).  Their garden is absolutely beautiful, is filled with gentle fountains and offers a stunning view of Lake Superior. 

 petunias

They serve a tomato soup that I have been trying to duplicate for years. It’s not a pretty soup but the flavor is unsurpassed. Chunks of tomato, along with spices, cream and just a hint of sweetness makes this soup’s flavor not soon forgotten. Here is my version for you to try…

*Just a note - Don’t skimp on flavor when making this soup by substituting a generic brand of seasoned diced tomatoes. You will be left with a bland soup. Use a major brand of tomatoes (I like Del Monte) because after trying the generic brands, I had very disappointing results. Even though the diced tomatoes were a “great value”, the taste  wasn’t worth the savings.

tomato soup

 

Northwoods Tomato Soup 

Into a medium-sized heavy saucepan put:

      2 – 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with basil and oregano

      1 T  basil

     1 t onion powder

      2 T  brown sugar

      2 t  chicken bouillon powder

      2 T  butter

Bring this to a boil then reduce the heat. Add:

      1/2 t  baking soda

It will foam up and then let simmer, covered,  for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Then add:

      3 c  whole milk or half & half

Heat to serving temperature but do not  boil…