Reader Brenda Roberts and her daughter love Olive Garden's potato soup and want to make it at home but did not have a recipe.
They asked for help and, guess what? We have four different recipes. Pat Kersteter shares one from Sonia Borges, guest relations for Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, that was published in March 1996 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste section.
Ann Smith of Ocean Springs, Miss., found another recipe claiming to be Olive Garden Toscano Soup in "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes."
Two other readers, Betty Morgan and Esther Hall, created their own versions of the restaurant soup, and their families are pleasantly satisfied with the results.
All of the recipes contain sausage, mostly Italian or spicy sausage, and either kale or spinach.
For those cooks (like me) who may not like the anise flavor in Italian sausage, they may want to try this potato soup with chorizo, a Mexican sausage, with kale or spinach and a little cilantro.
"Here is a recipe that I developed that mocks the Olive Garden potato soup," said Morgan. "I call it 'almost' Olive Garden potato soup. My family loves it.
Hall said her Olive Garden-like soup freezes well, which is a plus for those who do not like leftovers too many times.
"I make this soup often," said Smith. "I always double the recipe."
Roberts and her daughter can select the recipe they like best.
OLIVE GARDEN ZUPPA TOSCANA
1- 1/2 cups spicy sausage links (12 links)
2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into1/4-inch slices
3/4 cup onions, diced
6 slices bacon
1- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups kale leaves, cut in half, then sliced
2 tablespoons chicken base or 2 cans
1 quart water
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place sausage links onto a sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until done; cut in half lengthwise, then cut at an angle into 1/2-inch slices.
Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken base, water and potatoes; simmer 15 minutes. Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.
Note: In lieu of chicken base, use 2 cans chicken broth.
-- Submitted by Pat Kersteter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune
OLIVE GARDEN TOSCANA SOUP
2-3/4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 medium russet potato
2 cups chopped kale
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Combine the stock and cream in a saucepan over medium heat.
Slice the unpeeled potato into1/4-inch slices, then quarter the slices and add them to the soup.
Add the kale.
Grill the sausage, When cooked and cooled, cut the sausage at an angle into slices about 1/2-inch thick. Add to soup.
Add the spices, and let the soup simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally. Serves 2 as an entrée.
-- Submitted by Ann Smith from "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes"
'ALMOST' OLIVE GARDEN POTATO SOUP
1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled
4 cups potatoes, sliced thin, about1/4-inch thick (I leave skin on)
1 rib of celery
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 can evaporated milk (this makes it a little richer)
5 cups water or canned chicken broth, can use chicken bouillon cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
A little kale, sliced into thin strips
Cook sausage, put in colander and run hot water over to remove any grease. Set aside. Put garlic, onion and celery in food processor and process until minced.
Add 1 cup water to a large pot, then add onion mixture and cook for about 10 min. Add remaining water/ broth or bouillon cubes if using, and potatoes making sure the potatoes are covered in liquid. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are done. Mash some of the potatoes to make the soup thicker.
Add the milk and sausage. Add the kale and let simmer until the favors are well blended, about 5 to 10 min. If you don't have the kale, use chives or green onions to garnish.
Sprinkle a little Parmesan and serve with toasted French bread.
Note: Use bulk sausage if you can get it or just take the casings off the links before cooking.
-- Submitted by Betty Morgan
TUSCANY POTATO SOUP
1 pound or less sausage
4 large potatoes or 6 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with peeling
1 small box frozen creamed spinach
1 onion, chopped
1 16-ounce box chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat chicken broth.
Saute sausage, garlic and onion, break up really fine.
Drain meat, and add to heated chicken broth. Then add potatoes and chopped spinach. Add cream last. Cook for 15 minutes or so until the potatoes are done.
-- Submitted by Esther Hall
"In last week's column, you mentioned whole wheat muffins and that you would print the recipe in this week's column," Maria Mavar said. "I was so disappointed when I read the paper and did not find the mentioned recipe. Could you possibly email it to me?"
I goofed. The column was running long, so I omitted the muffin recipe. When I received Mavar's email, I immediately sent her the following recipe. She went to the grocery and made the muffins last Wednesday. I asked her to tell me if she liked them because Mavar likes to cook and knows good food, and she did.
I found this recipe several months ago on health.com. As usual, I have tweaked the recipe to my family's tastes.
Now for Mavar's review:
"I do enjoy them," she said. "And the most amazing thing, I had one for breakfast with coffee, it is now 2:30 in the afternoon and I am still not hungry. Usually by noon, I am starving. Again, many thanks."
BANANA OAT WHOLE WHEAT MUFFINS
2 mashed bananas, ripe, about 3/4 cup
2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
1/2 cup fat-free milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, depending on desired sweetness
1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine bananas and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla) in a medium bowl; mix well and set aside
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Whisk together flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a small bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until they are just combined.
Spray 9 muffin cups with cooking spray or use paper liners, and spoon 1/3 cup batter into each cup. Cups will be full.
Bake 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Note: I even spray the paper liners because sometimes moist muffins can stick to the paper, too.
Squash au gratin recipe
"I lost my favorite recipe for squash, a summer squash au gratin," Frances Saucier said. "If you have this recipe, please share."
Readers, do you have a summer squash or yellow squash au gratin recipe? If so, please send it my way for Saucier.
Healthy chicken curry
Reader Brenda Roberts of Ocean Springs, Miss., wants a healthy, low-sodium chicken curry recipe.
"I am a diabetic and heart patient. Can you help me?" she said. "Being that I am a heart patient, I can't have a lot of sodium or fat. I hope someone can help me."
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at email@example.com and takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.