Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden Copycat Recipe)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FlavorYourWorld #CollectiveBias
Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Wintertime calls for steamy soups that you can make in big batches and eat on chilly nights! This soup is a copycat of Olive Garden’s zuppa toscana. My family makes this particular soup about every three weeks. Every time I make it, I love the combination of flavors. Filling and hearty, zuppa toscana is easily one of our family’s favorite meals. Better yet, it is gluten free and can easily be made dairy-free (and Whole 30 complaint) if you leave out the half-cup of milk. I guarantee, you won’t miss it!

Scroll down for the full recipe, or check out my cooking tips below.

Zuppa Toscana 2

The first step of making this soup is to fry 1 pound of bacon. I like to do this ahead of time if I think of it. You can easily do this step one day (making bacon as part of your dinner), and save some crumbled bacon for your zuppa toscana the next night.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Bacon! I like to buy the thick-cut bacon and fry it extra crispy. Instead of placing the bacon in the soup to cook (several recipes call for this), I prefer to leave it out until the end, and add bacon crumbles as a crispy garnish.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

The next thing I do is saute 1 pound of italian sausage. I throw in the chopped onion at the same time, so I don’t have to add extra oil for browning the onion. Drain the grease after this step.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

While I’m browning the meat, I chop up 6 potatoes. I cut them once longways, then cut into 1/4″-thick slices. If you want to cook your soup faster, go ahead and chop them up even smaller.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Next, I toss my cooked Italian sausage and onions mixture into a large stockpot. Toss in the sliced potatoes, and cover completely with chicken stock (8-10 cups). Set it to boil, then decrease the heat to medium and cook about 35 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to fall apart.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

 

Remove and throw away the kale stems. Tear up the kale leaves and toss into the pot when soup is fully cooked. Let simmer for 3 minutes.

 

TABASCO sauce

 

The soup’s secret ingredient? Add TABASCO® sauce to spice up your sausage! I used the Original flavor (center), t which is Non-GMO, Gluten free and has zero calories. But all three flavors (Green Jalapeno, Original Red, and Chipotle Pepper) are available in 5-oz. bottles at Walmart. Check out the bottom of the post for a special deal via ibotta.

 

Tabasco at Walmart

Pro tip: When you’re looking for TABASCO® at Walmart, check the Ketchup & Mustard aisle, not the Mexican Foods. You’ll find their brightly colored boxes on the second row, left side of the photo above.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Grab the original TABASCO® and shake the bottle while pointing it down. Add about 5 to 6 “squirts” of sauce into the soup pot. Stir, taste, and add more if desired. I like to add milk at this point to cut the heat and make it a creamier color, but this is optional if you prefer a dairy-free soup. If you love creamy soups, add half and half instead of regular milk!

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Serve the zuppa toscana with crumbled bacon and shaved parmesan cheese. This soup is delicious, and works great for guests! Game day anyone? It’s also even better the next day, after the flavors have settled together.

Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Zuppa Toscana

Serves 8-10

Time: 45 min to 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8-10 cups chicken stock
  • 6 large potatoes, halved and sliced
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 5-6 squirts TABASCO® sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk, any variety (optional)
  • Shaved parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until it’s very crispy. Set on paper towels to drain excess grease. Crumble into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
  2. Brown Italian sausage and onions in a large skillet. Drain grease. Transfer the sausage and onion mixture into a large stockpot.
  3. Halve the potatoes and slice into 1/4″ pieces. Toss into the stockpot.
  4. Cover sausage, onions and potatoes with chicken stock. Heat to boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to fall apart.
  5. Remove kale stems and throw away. Tear kale leaves and toss into the pot when soup is fully cooked. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
  6. Add TABASCO® sauce to taste. Shake the bottle, adding 5 to 6 squirts of sauce into the soup pot. Stir, taste, and add more if desired.
  7. Add milk to the soup (optional). It cuts the heat if you’ve added too much hot sauce. You can add half and half instead of milk to make the soup a bit creamier.

Tabasco ibotta offer

Save up to $1 on TABASCO® 5 oz. or larger when you use the ibotta app at Walmart!

Ends 12/31/18.

Easiest DIY ‘Floating’ Shelves: Cheater Method!

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

#CollectiveBias #UnbeatableComfort

Install DIY "Floating" Shelves

Do you have a lack of storage in your bathroom? We didn’t have anywhere to put extra wash cloths and toilet paper, so I built some shelves above our bathroom toilet. I’m so happy with the results! These are faux floating shelves. If you’ve ever installed true floating shelves (see example here), you know that they are anchored into the wall by a metal insert with rods that jut out of the wall. And then this fits snugly inside the hollow shelf, so it appears nothing is holding the shelf in place.

I knew I wanted my shelves to extend completely from one wall to the other wall. Usually floating shelves are available in only certain lengths, so I’d have to make my own. When I discovered this “cheater” method, I was sold and knew it had to be my next DIY project!

Install DIY "Floating" Shelves

One of my rules of thumb? Don’t run out of toilet paper! I like to buy it in bulk, and I always pick up another pack even if I’m not sure I need it. Now that I have plenty of attractive storage, it’s not a problem!

Scott Comfort Plus Toilet Paper

Have you tried Scott® ComfortPlus™ Toilet Paper? I picked up the 12-count Big Roll and a smaller pack for our half bathroom. It’s soft yet strong, and doesn’t clog. Which is extra important now that I have a preschooler who loves to “mummify” his hand in toilet paper each day. Seriously. Any length of toilet paper I offer him… he will grab 10 times more.

Scott Comfort Plus Toilet Paper

I got many of my holiday decorations (the wreath, glitter sign, and berry spring) at Family Dollar. While I was there, I picked up some more Scott Comfort Plus, which can be found with the other premium toilet papers. Traditional Scott was at the other end of the aisle, but I was glad I kept searching. The super plush version is more our family’s style.

Ready to make some shelves?! You’ll need . . .

Materials

  • Two cuts of wood your desired length. I used 1″ x 12″ x 10′ (10-foot length) common whitewood board, and had them cut it to size at the hardware store.
  • Sandpaper (medium- and fine-grit)
  • Wood stain and brush
  • 4 metal L-shaped corner braces (mine have 3 holes in each side, and measure 5″ x 5″)
  • 5/8″ wood screws with a head that’s wider than the holes in your metal braces
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Tape measure

Preparation

The day before you install your shelves, sand the the shelves on all sides. Apply the wood stain according to the directions, and let dry for 24 hours.

Are you ready to learn the secret behind these floating shelves? Instead of placing the L brackets facing down, so that the wall mount is visible, I place them face up. That way, you can easily hide them by placing an object on the shelf right in front of the metal! Bet you can’t tell there’s a metal bar behind the toilet paper.

Easiest Ever "Floating" Shelves

Step 1: Measure

Measure the wall and use a pencil and level to mark the approximate placement of the shelves. Insert your shelves in place to make sure they are the correct width.

Step 2: Screw braces to walls

Install the top metal brace with a single screw in the top hole (see photo above for correct placement). Use a level, tape measure, and pencil to mark the correct placement for the other metal brace. Place the shelf to check placement. Remove the shelf and mark the holes for the second brace. Insert at least two screws into the wall for each brace.

Step 3: Place the shelves

Install DIY "Floating Shelves"

Have a friend help you hold the shelf in place while you do the next step.

Step 4: Screw braces to bottom of shelves

Install DIY "floating" shelves

After screwing the brackets into the wall, don’t forget to screw the bracket into the bottom of the shelves on both sides. Use all three screws if you can. Reminder: You’ll need to use short screws that won’t poke through your shelf on the top side. Make sure the screw heads are wider than the bracket holes so they don’t slip through.

Step 6: Decorate!

Install DIY "Floating" Shelves in the Bathroom

Use your creativity to cover up the exposed parts of the metal braces with any bathroom items you use often, like wash cloths, towels, or cleaners in a pretty basket!

Use wire baskets for a farmhouse look on your DIY "floating shelves"

I love rustic metal baskets for a farmhouse look. If I’m storing 6 or fewer rolls, this helps it look more intentional than placing them directly on the wood shelf.

Install the easiest ever DIY "floating" shelves

Would you ever guess that there are ugly metal braces here? Seriously…where did they go? If you try your own cheater floating shelves, I’d love to hear about it! I’m so happy with how these turned out.

Sale Alert!

Circular offer for Scott® ComfortPlus™ Toilet Paper 12 CT Big Roll at $4.00 at Family Dollar (Regular retail price is $5) from 12/4/18 to 12/10/18

Check out the Family Dollar store finder to locate a store near you!

 

‘Let’s Play Fire Station!’ with PLAYMOBIL

Playmobil Take Along Fire Station

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PlayWithPlaymobil #CollectiveBias

For the last year, my son has been increasingly interested in pretend play. He loves to dress up in costumes and talk about his future career goals (“I’m gonna be an airplane pilot, a superhero, and a knight!”) That includes dressing up as a firefighter, lining up the dining room chairs into fire truck formation and bringing his stuffed animals to be passengers.

Interested in buying PLAYMOBIL toys at Walmart? Hover over the photo above!

That’s why I thought he’d be super interested in trying out PLAYMOBIL sets for the first time, since they are known for sparking the imagination. You may not have realized, but PLAYMOBIL toys are now available at Walmart stores and Walmart.com!

Of course, he wore a firefighter outfit to get in the spirit before opening the boxes.

Playmobil now at Walmart stores

We went to Walmart and found the ones that most caught our eye: the PLAYMOBIL Take Along Fire Station, PLAYMOBIL Rescue Ladder Unit and PLAYMOBIL Rescue Ambulance. These ones are all for ages 4 and up (so this 4-year-old should have many more years to grow into them).

We found the PLAYMOBIL display near the other construction toys, in red-and-blue packaging. I really liked how each set has its own person figurines (two or three per set, for the ones we bought), so you can enjoy playing with each one individually. Or you can combine sets for even more fun and endless possibilities!

Playmobil Take Along Fire Station

My son wanted to open the biggest box first, so we started to assemble the Take Along Fire Station together! I definitely recommend doing this part as a family. You’ll get to apply your own stickers to the station, assemble tiny pieces (like a set of bunk beds, a fan, and a fire hydrant), and learn how to convert the whole station back to a convenient carrying case. There’s even a cube storage shelf for extra uniform pieces!

Playmobil Take Along Fire Station

Once we assembled the firetruck and ambulance toy sets, we had a total of seven figurines, and plenty of tiny accessories (safety gear, hats, air compressors, and more). The fire station has specific spots you can store them all. My son was really interested in getting the components to match the pictures on the box before he got them out to play again.

I think the attention to detail is impressive, and the plastic pieces are really high-quality. I won’t have to worry about him accidentally breaking a piece and getting frustrated, which is important to me.

Playmobil Rescue Ladder Unit

The rescue ladder unit is very cool! It has four different places where a character can sit, and my son liked exploring all of them. Both this vehicle and the ambulance have lights and sounds, just like in real life. My son definitely liked pushing the buttons, and parking both vehicles in the fire station.

Playmobil Rescue Ladder Unit and Ambulance

Inside the ambulance is a patient on a stretcher, with an IV bag you can attach or detach. There’s also a rubber belt to keep the patient strapped in during transit! This gave an opportunity for me to explain to my son how an ambulance might help someone who is hurt in real life, in a way that’s fun and not scary. This taps into critical thinking and emotional development.

Playmobil Take Along Fire Station

I have a feeling this won’t be our last experience with PLAYMOBIL toys at Walmart! Beyond the realistic characters like police officers, firefighters and paramedics, there are also sets that dive into fantasy play with dinosaurs and brave explorers, so there’s something to appeal to every kid.

5 Ways to Engage in Creative Play as a Family

  1. Go outside! Rocks, sticks and leaves can be the beginning of creating a new imaginary world. Try out a new park or a new trail that you’ve never tried at the park.
  2. Invite your child into your own creative hobbies (like sewing or painting) and allow them to help you complete a project. Ask them to pick the next project!
  3. Turn off the TV and video games, and go to the library for some books to inspire your day’s activities as a family. Pick some non-fiction books that relate to their favorite toys (firefighters or other careers) and then print off some coloring pages that relate or ask them to make-up a story about the topic.
  4. Boxes! Turn the boxes from your PLAYMOBIL toys into a house or vehicle that the characters can live in, or raid the garage for larger boxes and let your kid direct the activity.
  5. Go on a photo scavenger hunt. Lend your child a smartphone and give some basic directions for taking photos. Then go around the house or in the yard and see what kinds of pictures they can take!

 

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