I hope you all had a wonderful holiday crammed with loud, boisterous family, more food than you could fit on the table, dressing that was burned on the outside, but still super moist and delicious on the inside, kids laughing & yelling, and dogs (or cats) that ran around your feet lapping up your droppings. Or you know, whatever it is that makes your holidays special. There’s something about the imperfectness of it all that makes it truly memorable for me so I tend to appreciate all the little things that go “wrong.”
In the last three or four years my husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our house, but this year we decided not to (for reasons). We ended up doing it at my mom’s house which is considerably
smaller cozier than ours, which is my favorite thing about it. We had to put some kids on the floor at the coffee table to eat, but we managed.
My husband made a honey-glazed spiral ham (yum – I wish I had a picture of it), and I made an apple pie (which was devoured in about 5 minutes), a pumpkin pie (which I’m pretty sure my brother ate almost entirely by himself), 2 gallons of sweet tea, and Zuppa Toscana (which I’m going to share my recipe for shortly.) My apple pie was not pretty. It cracked all across the top and when it was cut apples slid out everywhere, but it sure was delicious. I ended up improvising with my soup (don’t worry, I’ll get to that), but delightfully enough, it turned out to be the best soup I’ve ever made.
My sister made a turkey for the first time ever! She was worried about it, but there was no reason to be. She killed it! (The recipe…not the turkey.) It was amazing. I don’t really eat turkey because it’s so dry, but hers was so tender and juicy. My mouth is kinda watering just thinking about it. I’m pretty sure Princess Sassypants went into a turkey coma last night she ate so much. Anyway, it was so juicy that on the way to my mom’s house, the juice leaked out all over the front of my sister’s pants causing her husband to have to go get her some new pants to wear and almost every male in the house to make juvenile jokes about my sister’s bladder control. See what I mean about the imperfections being the things that make it memorable? We’ll probably be talking about that one for a while.
My mom made a bunch of stuff, but there were two things in particular that stick out. Her homemade pineapple pudding that the kids destroyed by eating almost all the merengue off the top (I’m sorry Mom…I’m laughing…the merengue is the best part) and my Granddaddy’s dressing, which has very specific instructions for how it is to be prepared. Apparently you can only make it during a full moon when the 3rd planet is in its 6th house, and exactly 6 minutes and 32.5 seconds after you put it in the oven you must spin around counter-clockwise three times on one foot without falling over while touching your nose precisely .2 degrees to the left of center with your right ring finger while clucking like a chicken. This is the second time my mom has tried to make it. The first time she didn’t take the rules seriously and it didn’t come out right. This time she followed all the rules as far as I’m aware. She may have made the cornbread and boiled the chicken the day before, but is that really considered cheating? Something somewhere must have gone wrong because the top of the dressing was burned.
We were pleasantly surprised though because the inside was still nice and moist. I really enjoyed it! Although, my brother had plenty of jokes about how we should have waited on him to make it since he’s the only one Granddaddy ever gave his actual recipe to. I guess they’re the only ones that get to be a part of The Secret Recipe Club.
I was asked to share my Zuppa Toscana recipe so here we go! For those that don’t know what it is, it’s an Italian soup that I fell in love with at Olive Garden made primarily of potatoes and sausage with some greens thrown in there to make it appear healthier. :p
I initially found the recipe by searching Google for an Olive Garden copy cat version. I found a pretty good one, but it needed some tweaking for our family so I kept searching. I came across one more that I liked well enough to try to make it. It was good, too, but I still wanted to tweak it so after knowing the basic ingredients and directions I just took the recipes I’d found online and adapted them to what worked for me. I discovered that you can put pretty much anything in this soup and it’s still delicious so have fun with it!
Beth’s Version of Zuppa Toscana
* I don’t really measure my ingredients, but I’m going to try to remember what I used in my Thanksgiving recipe so I can give you measurements. Feel free to tweak it to what works for you. My version of this soup does not taste exactly like Olive Garden’s so I can’t call it a copy cat recipe, but I could eat it all day everyday so (needless to say) I think it’s frickin’ delicious. Lol
Makes 12 servings • Prep time: about 30 minutes • Cook time: 45 minutes (This makes a lot because it was for Thanksgiving, so you’ll want to use a large stock pot. Otherwise, you could half the recipe & use a regular size pot.)
•1 lb Mild Italian Sausage (casings removed) (use 2 lbs if you don’t want to use the little smokies in your recipe. You can also use hot sausage if that’s more your style)
•1 package all beef little smokies, chopped into bite size pieces (I used these because I didn’t have enough Italian sausage and they were delicious. You could just use 2 pounds of the Italian sausage or 2 pounds of these…totally up to you.)
•3 cups Kale (stalks removed)
•Baby Spinach (because I had some that needed to be used) (I put in approximately 2 cups, but it cooks down so much I could have put in more and it would have been fine.)
• 1/2 large Italian Red Sweet Onion (chopped)
• Garlic (4 cloves, chopped or minced)
• Chicken Broth (8 cups)
• 5 Red Potatoes, sliced (I like to cut them like potato chips, but a little thicker and then slice them in half to make them easier to eat)
• 2 16oz cartons of heavy whipping cream
• Bacon (I cooked about 10 strips of thick cut bacon until it was crispy enough to crumble up to use as a topping) *Can substitute with bacon bits.
• Cayenne Pepper to taste
• 1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Fry your bacon. You’ll be using it as a topping for your soup so you’ll want it to be crispy enough that you can put it in a bag or something and crumble it up. OR you could use bacon bits, but real bacon is always better! 🙂
- Fry your Italian sausage in the same pan you cooked your bacon in. The flavoring from the bacon…yum. Drain off excess grease and store (covered) until needed. I also cut up my little smokies and fried those right after I finished with my Italian sausage. Store, covered until needed.
- Chop up your onion, garlic & potatoes. Set aside.
- Take a large stock pot and add your 1-2 tablespoons of Olive Oil. Heat on medium heat. Once heated, add your onions and garlic and let cook for about 3 minutes until onions become translucent.
- Add chicken broth. Let it come to a boil. You can turn the heat up here if you want to.
- Once chicken broth boils, add in your potatoes. Let those boil until they become soft. (About 10-15 minutes)
- Once potatoes soften add in sausage and heavy cream.
- Let the heavy cream heat through and then add in your greens one cup at a time. (You can use Kale, baby spinach, or you could even use rainbow chard now that I’m thinking about it…) The greens will cook down relatively quickly and you may or may not want to add more.
- Once you’ve got all your greens in, this is when I usually add in my cayenne, but you can really add it in whenever you want, or leave it out altogether depending on how spicy (or not) you like things. I just don’t like to add mine until I can taste test it. 🙂
- Serve immediately with bacon sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
If you’ve been following my Keep Calm series I’ll be getting back to that soon. Princess Sassypants really tested my patience on Wednesday and I’ve got to tell you about that at some point. Until then, enjoy your family time and your soup. Let me know if you try it, if you like it, what you liked and what you changed. I’m anxious to know your thoughts. 🙂 I’d also love to know what makes Thanksgiving or the holidays in general memorable for you. Has anyone in your family ever stabbed someone in the hand for the last piece of chicken? I hear that happened once in my family. Maybe my mom will come guest-blog about it one day. 🙂