Tag Archives: make it at home

Recipe: Olive Garden Soup

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As I’ve mentioned before, I spent my early twenties getting REAL familiar with hotels, airports, highway truck-stop gas stations and casual family dining restaurants as I traveled the country competing (and then coaching) for a collegiate speech and debate team. And for some reason, on these journeys, our little cast of crazy characters LOVED dropping in to a certain family-style Italian restaurant–whether in San Diego, California or Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Don’t ask me why. Maybe the twenty year old mind thinks this is a classy choice? I have no idea. Anywho, being that I was broke as a joke and any waitress was gonna have to pry my allotted per diem cash out of my cold, dead hands, I always tried to cheat the system and order the heartiest thing on the menu at the cheapest price. Hello Pasta E Fagioli soup! Nice to meet ya! Now, I can’t say Olive Garden is a restaurant I’ll ever seek out again now that I’m a little older and wiser (unless it’s for their coffee…which I learned about on this visit) but THAT SOUP. I figured it would be an easy enough hack so I put my hand-me-down 80’s crockpot to good use and got to batch cooking. Now I realize this dish invokes some real personal nostalgia for yours truly but I’m sure, as the weather starts to turn, ANYONE could find it a delicious choice. Enjoy!

What you’ll need…

-1 lb of ground beef (I used Marksbury. If you’re in Central Kentucky do check them out. Beef is a rare purchase for me but when I need it I go with these guys.)

-1/2 a chopped onion

-2 med. carrots cut into coins or half moons.

-2 med. chopped celery stalks

-1 can of diced tomatoes, juices and all

-1 can of red kidney beans, drained

-1 can of navy beans, drained

-2 cups of beef broth

-3 tsp. oregano

-2 tsp. pepper

-3 tsp. basil

-1 tbsp hot sauce

-1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I ended up only using a little over a half a jar because I wanted to use up what I had instead of opening a brand new jar. This is why mine ended up a little less BROTHY. I think it’s fine both ways. 🙂 )

-4 oz. (give or take) of Ditalini pasta (I had this Eden Foods Kamut Ditalini pasta on hand that I’d gotten as a product sample months ago and never used. They sent it before deciding they didn’t care about women’s health and birth control so don’t judge me too hard for using it. It WAS a nice product and definitely a good whole grain pasta.)

and how it all comes together…

-Brown the ground beef in a pan and drain the fat.

-Add the cooked beef and all the other carefully chopped and measured ingredients to your crockpot.

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-Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 4-6.

-Once you’re ready to dish it up, cook your pasta. Drain the pasta and add it in.

-Give everything a nice stir!

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I had a bowl straight away, topped with some shredded Parmesan cheese. Just as I remembered!!! Although I gotta admit, those O.G. breadsticks and salad would have been clutch too. Next time.

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Did I mention you’ll be eating this for awhile? I froze the big container on the right and the littler containers were great work-time meals. Nostalgia batch cooking complete!

What is your favorite dish to batch cook? Do you have any go-to recipes you’ll bust out the crockpot to make as the leaves start to turn? I can’t wait to put mine to good use this season! 

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How to make cold brew coffee.

Once upon a time, my little sister worked at Starbucks. It was a magical time due to the bevvy of comped beverages tossed my way. (Thanks Katie!) But it was also around this time when I took a pretty strong liking to iced coffee. Prior to that I’d been a hot coffee or iced chai sort of gal. Fast forward to this summer, Katie off being an actress full-time and I’m craving cold brew nearly every day. And compounding this craving with Chet’s similar affinity for the sweet siren‘s nectar? Let’s just say we were getting a little too cute and comfortable with our local baristas. Curious to see if we could copycat a Grande Venti just as delicious, we did our research and brewed a batch. I think blind taste tests would prove what we have since concluded…you can make Starbucks cold brew coffee at home!!! Your pocket books will thank you. (Do people still say pocket books? IDK.) Here’s how ya do it…

First things first, I recommend getting Starbucks Kenya blend coffee as this is the closest blend to what Starbucks uses for their cold brew in-store. And by “I recommend” I mean my sister recommends…but po-tay-to, po-TAH-to ya know. If you have a grinder, give the beans a course grind. If you don’t have a grinder, get a barista to do it in the store. They’ll probably be inwardly annoyed but OUTWARDLY very cheerful. : )

Next, grab some sort of a vessel that your coffee can hang out in for 8-12 hours. We used a plastic water jug. Scoop in 1/3 Lb. of your ground coffee. You can fashion a funnel out of paper if this process seems like a disaster waiting to happen (We did!). Then pour in a 1/2 gallon of water. I would recommend using filtered. Now you just have to wait.

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Not pretty but effective. Once your coffee is done hanging out you’ll have to strain out the grounds. Find something to keep the sweet nectar in–like a pitcher, drink dispenser or even a large tupperware. Set up a fine mesh strainer over top of the chosen container, line the strainer with a cheese cloth and get to pourin’.

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Make sure to pour EVERYTHING out–even all the grounds. You can use a big wooden spoon to SMOOSH the dregs down into the strainer and make sure you’re getting every last bit of liquid.

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Once you’ve gotten all the liquid into your container, put the top on and stow it in your fridge. Now you’re all set to pour it in your very own cup (with ice, almond milk and stevia if that’s your jam) and enjoy from the comfort of your own home or on the go!

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What have you done to save money this Summer? Have you ever tried cold brewing at home?