Guest Post: Healthier Zuppa Toscana

Hello Cookin' Mama blog readers! Once again, Mama has been slacking as of late on this blog. Thankfully, she also has friends who love to cook and share recipes! Below is another guest post for 2016 (See? not all of 2016 has been bad) from a lovely friend I met through theater. Enjoy! ~Cookin Mama



Hello all!  My name is Angela, and this is my first blog post ever.  I think Kristi must be some kind of magician, because I took my first selfie with her (see above!) and now she has me writing a blog post.  As a fan of her (and her cooking!), I am pleased to be here.


First, let me give you the nutshell bio.  I’m old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in the movie theatre. Ha!  I live with my husband, Ken, and our two cats, Binx and Xena.  I love to cook and bake; my nickname in college was Betty, for Betty Crocker.  I am also perpetually working on losing a few pounds.  We eat pretty healthy in our house, but it is a struggle.  Recently, we have cut out most white carbs and sugar.   It’s not exactly paleo, but it’s close.  This has put a damper on some of my favorite dishes (oh pasta, how I miss you), but in 2 months I have lost 16 pounds and Ken has tightened his belt two notches, so we’re motivated to stay away from the bread, etc. 

When the weather gets cold, I love to make soup.  If I had my druthers, I’d eat soup every day in the winter.  This new low-carb lifestyle of ours means some of my favorite soups need makeover, which brings me to the recipe I’m here to share.  Zuppa Toscana.  It’s a perennial favorite at the Olive Garden and in our house.  The basics of the soup are Italian sausage, potatoes, and kale.  It is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food that is a little spicy and so comforting.  Today I was craving it, and Ken is fighting a cold, so soup seemed the ideal dinner plan.  However, we carbed out on Thanksgiving (my mom makes the best stuffing in the world and I was not going to skip it), so while I was craving zuppa, I did not want or need the heavy carb load from the potatoes.  So I got a little creative.

Cauliflower is pretty much the paleo go-to substitute vegetable for everything from rice to pizza crust.  We eat mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, so I figured cauliflower could be swapped in for the potatoes in the soup.  My original recipe uses bacon, pork sausage, and light cream. I didn’t have any bacon in the fridge, and I bought turkey sausage instead of pork.  I also used light coconut milk instead of cream because it tempers the cauliflower flavor better.  The end result was even more delicious than the original, and it doesn’t sit quite so heavy in your belly.  I think you could easily convert this to a vegetarian/vegan soup by using vegetable broth and a sausage substitute.  I wish I had some photos to share, but we ate it all.  It was that good.

I should also add this disclaimer.  I am not a very precise cook.  I view recipes as general suggestions, and I tend to just eyeball amounts.  I’ve given what I think are the amounts here, but feel free to experiment. 

Healthier Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients:

Approximately 1 lb. turkey Italian sausage – half sweet, half hot
            I buy this at the farmer’s market from the poultry stand.  2 griller links of each kind.  I think it’s about 1 lb.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small head cauliflower (or half a large head), chopped into small florets or pieces
1 quart chicken broth (we use the no sodium kind, but any type is fine)
½  can light coconut milk
Approximately 5 cups curly kale, deveined and chopped
            Again, this is a guesstimate.  I buy bagged kale from my favorite farm stand, and there are usually 7-8 large leaves 
               in the bag.  I cut it off the stem and then do a rough chop.
Salt, pepper, spices to taste (We use Red Robin seasoning salt)

In a large dutch oven or soup/stock pan cook the Italian sausage over medium high heat.  If purchased in link form, you need to take the sausage out of its skin and cook it loose, like ground beef.

Spoon the sausage into a bowl, add a little butter or olive oil to the drippings in the pan.  Cook the onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 mins.  Add the cauliflower and the chicken broth.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 mins or so until the cauliflower is very soft. 

Using an immersion blender, puree the cauliflower mixture.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a real blender or food processor.  Just be careful of steam burns. 

When mixture is fully pureed, throw the cooked sausage back in.  Add the coconut milk and the chopped kale.  Stir until fully incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Makes 4 bowls.


That’s it!  Super easy, super tasty, and chock full of veggies.  The hot Italian sausage gives it some zing.  The coconut milk adds just a smidge of sweetness to the cauliflower, which makes the whole thing taste very rich.  Ken declared he liked it better than the original version, which is good, since it will be one of my go-to soups this winter.  Maybe next time I’ll double the recipe so we can have guests over for soup and conversation.  Yes, Kristi, I am referring to you and your family!  J

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