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Friday, September 17

Fine Dining...At Home!!

I love to eat out.  There are several reasons for this.  Primary reason...I don't have to cook!!  Secondary reason...for some reason, some of their food just tastes better than what I make at home.  There are more reasons, but it got me to wondering?  Is it the atmosphere?  Is it the recipes themselves?  Or, just it because I'm eating something that I think I can't make at home???

For whatever reason, most of us go out to eat on occasion.  The question we HAVE to?  Certainly, especially with the economy as it is, the cost can be a deterrent to some of the higher end establishments (Benihana, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc).  But, how else do we get to enjoy some of the things they offer without dealing with the cost?  Well, today I'm gonna do something about it...I'm gonna make this available to everyone.  I'm gonna post COPYCAT recipes!! 

Copycat recipes abound on the internet.  Believe me...I've done enough digging to know.  Surprisingly, there are many that are quite accurate on flavors and textures.  I've made several, and let me tell truly is as close to the originals as you can get.  One warning...if you choose to make some of these, you really do need to follow the recipes exactly, because altering them can drastically change the end results.  Also, some of the recipes you find will make ALOT more than your typical family will eat, so make sure you can preserve extras if you choose to try those particular creations.

I'll break this down by website to make it easier to find what interests you.  If you don't see a particular restaurant listed, feel free to let me know, so I can find it and post that one in the future!!

CDKitchen has a great listing of copycat recipes, all done alphabetically to make it easy for you.  Literally, there are over 1000's to choose from on that one website alone!!  Another good source is CopyKat Recipes.  We also have available the following:, Top Secret Recipes (he writes great books, too), and Recipe Goldmine.

Now for some fun...I am an ARDENT FAN of Olive Garden.  I could probably live for days with nothing more than their soup, salad, and breadsticks!!  So, I'm going to post 3 recipes today...their salad dressing, their breadsticks, and my all time favorite...their Pasta E Fagioli soup.  Quick note: the soup recipe makes for 9 quarts...there's no way around it.  As mentioned earlier, some recipes will need to be canned when done...but this one is worth EVERY MINUTE of the effort, so I'll post instructions on canning the remainder at the end of it.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing 

1/2 c Mayonnaise
1/3 c white vinegar
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp corn syrup
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp Romano cheese
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp parsley flakes
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a blender, and mix well.  If it tastes a little tart for your palate, add 1 tsp sugar, blend again, and repeat as needed.  Serve over mixed crisp salad greens.

Olive Garden Breadsticks

For the dough:

1 pkg active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
1/4 c warm water
4 1/2 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt

For the topping:

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 pinch dried oregano

Make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.

Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 1 1/2-inch pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush each breadstick with half (1 1/2 tbsp) of the melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp Kosher salt.  Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden brown. Meanwhile, combine remaining salt, garlic powder, and oregano.  When breadsticks are done, brush again with remaining butter, and sprinkle with salt mixture.  Serve warm with salad.

Olive Garden Pasta E Fagioli Soup

3 tsps extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs ground chuck or ground beef
14 oz carrots, slivered (about 4 large, cut in long thin narrow strips)
12 oz onions, chopped (2 large)
14 oz celery, diced  (about 4 large stalks)
48 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
2 c red kidney beans
2 c white kidney beans
88 oz beef stock (beef broth can be used, simply add 2 tsp beef boullion granules if you do)
3 tsp oregano
2 1/2 tsp black pepper
5 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
48 oz jar spaghetti sauce (I use Prego w/Roasted Garlic)
8 oz dried shell pasta or macaroni noodles

Saute' beef in large (at least 10 quart) stockpot until browned.  Add carrots, onions, celery, and tomatoes, and continue cooking at medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are softened.  Drain.

Drain and rinse beans, and add those plus all remaining ingredients EXCEPT pasta to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Add the pasta during the last 30 minutes of cook time.  Serve with salad and breadsticks.

Prepare 9 quart size jars and 9 2-part canning lids by placing in simmering water for about 5 minutes to sterilize.  Remove from hot water and allow to drain dry.  WITHOUT TOUCHING THE RIMS OF THE JARS, fill each jar until you have about 1/2" of headspace left (use a funnel for this...MUCH easier).  Headspace refers to the room between the top of the food and the inside of the jar lid.

Cover and seal each jar until HAND tight.  Place in a pressure canner, and process at 10lbs pressure for 45 minutes.  If you don't own a large pressure canner, you can use a pressure cooker, but can only do 2-3 jars at a time.  For a pressure cooker, reduce canning time by 10 minutes, since you can't set the pressure.

When done, and pressure has released, remove each jar and allow to return to room temp.  Test each jar to make sure the center lid is depressed.  If not, place in refridgerator and use within 2 weeks.  For jars that sealed, you can store on a shelf for up to 1 year.

That's it folks.  This post has given me writer's cramp (or would that be typist's cramp).  But it's all worth it, because these are some of my ALL TIME favorite recipes and I hope you like them as much as we do.  ENJOY!!!

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