Pasta y Fagioli Soup

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There are a lot of copycat Olive Garden recipes out there, as well as more classic & refined versions with Pancetta. I tried one from: http://damndelicious.net/2014/05/17/olive-garden-pasta-e-fagioli/ that looked simple and hearty. My secret weapon was my cousin’s Italian herb mix (she grows her own herbs and dries them for Christmas presents). Instead of using spicy Italian sausage, I chose Spicy Italian chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s, and elbow macaroni. I served it warm Italian bread and a salad for a nice meal.

Verdict: Delicious and easy to make.

You will need:

  • 1 cup ditalini pasta ( I used small elbows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I used reduced sodium. If you use regular, adjust your salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.
  • Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, Italian sausage and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Stir in pasta and beans until heated through.
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Thin Mint Cupcakes

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My daughter wanted to enter a baking contest so we decided to embrace the Girl Scout cookie season. We tweaked a standard mint cupcake recipe – source (www.yourcupofcake.com), and added Thin Mints to the mix.

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

The Verdict? These were absolutely delicious. They were time consuming, but so worth it!

What you need:

 
1 cup sour cream
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup buttermilk
Devil’s Food Cake Mix
Chocolate Mint Filling:
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
¼ cup powdered sugar
Mint Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring
Thin Mint Cookies – one box (break cookies in half)
Step one:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Step two:
2. Using a whisk, mix sour cream, oil and vanilla extract together. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well in between each addition.
3. Alternate adding the cake mix and liquids (buttermilk and water), starting and ending with the cake mix.
4. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until and inserted knife come out clean.
Step three
1. Chocolate Mint Filling: Melt chocolate chips and heavy cream together in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat. Stir in peppermint extract and powdered sugar.
2. When cupcake come out of the oven, use a squeeze bottle to fill the cupcake with the filling, or use the filling as a ganache and dip the tops of the cakes into it.
3. Mint Buttercream: Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, heavy cream and peppermint extract and beat well. Add green food coloring and stir well
4. Pipe buttercream onto cooled cupcakes and top with a broken thin mint cookie.
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The finished product
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