Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Paleo Copycat Zuppa Toscana a la Olive Garden

You know what I hate?

Peeling shit. Potatoes, cucumbers, carrots.. you name it. If you have to run that finger slicing death trap over it in order to get stuff done, I hate it.

I had a horrendous experience around the age of 10 that I think scarred me for life. At the time, my family was living in my grandparents house while we were building a new house. They had a walk-out basement facing a few acres of woods, with a full setup down there for us to never have to see the g-rents if we didn't want to. Looking back on it, it was much better experience than it was while I was actually living it. At the time, all I could think about was how long 8 months was having to share a room with my then 13-yr old brother.. who still to this day gets generally horrified if I am in anything less than a hoodie and sweat pants. Our relationship can still be described by the torture that was waking up to HIS alarm clock every weekday for 8 months.

Because he was the proud owner of this gem:

For those deprived children out there who don't know what this is, it is a Nickelodeon alarm clock. It features a sweet chemical process looking beam on the top that lit up the entire room all night, and at the bright and early hour of  6:00a, would proudly shout



Over.. and over.. and over.. until you smacked that red button to snooze it, which my brother usually did enough times until I had to get up as well. Unfortunately.. unless you can sleep through the equivalent of the Reveille being played in your bedroom, I was awake from the moment it went off. There was a certain panic at falling back asleep in the 5 minute span between snoozes since it was likely the next time it went off I was going to flip myself out of bed in terror.

Why was I telling this story..?

Oh that's right, the Peeling Incident. [... That sounds a lot more disgusting than I intended.. oh well].

So I have always loved helping in the kitchen, and 10 yr old me was helping the family prepare for some kind of meal that involved mashed potatoes. My job was to peel the suckers before throwing them in the pot. Here I was.. merrily peeling a bajillion potatoes when I come across this small, round baseball of a potato. About halfway through, I lose my grip on the bad boy and WOOPS... slice off my pinkie nail diagonally top to bottom.



Clean off. Bye bye. No more nail. No more lots of skin under nail. Barf.

I wish I would've had the wherewithal to run around screaming like that. In real life I stumbled over to my parents, showed them, and was promptly rushed to the bathroom with my dad squeezing the life out of my finger. I told him I thought I was going to pass out and he told me to stop being so dramatic. 

Oh.. I'm sorry.. I just ALMOST LOST A DIGIT HERE annnnnnd you've stopped all blood flow to my hand. I blacked out for a few seconds.. it got all bandaged up.. and I was forbidden to peel anything for a while.

Meanwhile I developed a healthy [maybe not so much..] mistrust of potato peelers along with an overcautious approach to anything needing to be peeled.

"But Lyndsey.." you ask "What on earth are you going on about this for?"

The answer is..
This guy!

Which apparently you can carve into ruta-lanterns!

These funny little root vegetables were used in my Paleo Copycat Zuppa Toscana!

I avoid white potatoes... especially in foods I know I am going to eat in the middle of the day because my body reacts funny to them. They are not in the technical strict list of Paleo foods, but if you read this article from Stupid Easy Paleo, you can read about how you can fit them into the Paleo diet and why. 

So why don't I? After cutting this particular starch out of my diet, I found out that when I eat white potatoes in any kind of quantity, I get sleepy. And not just, "oh man I feel heavy and tired after eating all this stuff," I mean close to narcoleptic, cannot physically keep my eyes open, will have to supplement with caffeine or a nap of some kind immediately, kind of tired. So it's just better for me not to have them. Obviously something goes haywire in my body, typically a sign you should stop putting that thing in your body.

Anyway, so I asked the awesome friend who is Murfie from PGPaleo what kind of substitute I could do for white potatoes, and her genius told me to try RUTABAGAS. I have never in my life seen or dealt with a Rutabaga.. ever. They are dense, oddly colored root veggies with a slightly spicy smell and if you decide to chomp into one without cooking it, will be bitter, but not when cooked through. 

These worked AMAZING in this soup in place of white potatoes, just peeled and diced the same as a potato, plus they are packed with Potassium, Vitamin C & B-6, Phosphorus, Calcium and Magnesium, which are all good things that are sometimes hard to come by in day-to-day foods. I think I am going to be getting very familiar with this funny little root veggie...

And I'm going to have to start liking peeling them! [Phew.. that took a lot of work to circle back to the point.. sorry about that =P ]

So without further ado, below is the recipe for the soup, which stemmed from a recipe on  Prairie Homestead, but the flavors were cultivated to make the soup I have been dying to PC [Paleo Copycat].

Paleo Copycat Zuppa Toscana
                                  Prep Time: ~20min                                                                                 Cook Time: ~ 1hr

> 1.5# sausage [I used Hot Italian Sausage from Whole Foods, casing removed, because I wanted it spicy]
> 1# bacon [My go to for this sort of thing is Hormel's Nitrate-free because it's sold everywhere, but use your fav]
> 1 onion, diced
> 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
> 4-5 rutabagas!! peeled and cubed [can sub 6-7 potatoes, but I dare you to try Rutabaga!]
> 6-8 cups chicken stock 
> 1/2 head of kale, (about 3-4 large leaves, de-stemmed and chopped)
> 1 cup coconut milk
> 1-2 tsp of cayenne pepper [depending on heat preference]
>  Salt and Pepper to taste


-- Fry up bacon in stockpot until crispy, remove bacon and set aside
-- Leaving oil in the pot, cook sausage, onions and garlic until browned and onions are soft. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
-- Throw in 'bagas and stock. I used enough stock to cover everything, so it depends on size of rutabagas. 
-- Stir up, and bring heat up on ingredients without boiling (not the end of the world if it does), then drop to medium-low heat and simmer for ~20min, or until rutabaga can be pierced through with a fork. I covered mine at this time.
--Add kale, milk, a round of salt and pepper [coat top with a layer], and cayenne pepper, cook 5-10 min longer.
-- Serve with crumbled bacon or just by itself! [I wanted to eat my bacon, and it was fantastic without it]

I was really happy with this one.. Please please PLEASE let me know if you try it out,  especially if it's your first time with rutabaga like me! I cannot wait to get home after workout tonight and smash a huge bowl. 



  1. Going shopping tomorrow morning and trying my first batch of Zuppa Toscana.
    There will be a peeler involved as I have been thoroughly trained in the mastery of keeping my digits. We'll address this lesson with Lyndsey in the very near future.
    Wish me luck! Bon appetite.

    1. Not all of us can be trained chefs Jerry... but good luck! And let me know how it turns out!