Imitation is the sincerest form of eatery

Who hasn't wished they could recreate the same delicious foods you order in your favorite restaurants? Well, "recipe detectives" have been busy researching, experimenting and, in some cases, resorting to spy tactics (or friends who work in the kitchen of these restaurants) to find out the secret formulas.

One longtime recipe detective is Robbie Rice, author of the cookbook A Way to the Heart and founder of the copycat recipe website Robbie's Recipes. We asked her to dish the secret recipes of three famous fall soups.

Read on to find out what she's says you need to do to make Zuppa Toscana Soup like Olive Garden's, Tortilla Soup like Cracker Barrel's and Creamy Onion Soup like The Outback's. You'll be amazed at how much they taste like the real thing!

Zuppa Toscana Soup like Olive Garden's

Fill your bowl with this hearty soup known for its spicy sausage and bacon, russet potatoes and greens swimming in a creamy broth.


Serves: 10
Prep. Time: 0:35

1 lb. spicy Italian sausage – crumbled
1/2 lb. smoked bacon – chopped
1 qt. water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 lg. russet potatoes - scrubbed clean, cubed
2 garlic cloves – peeled, crushed
1 med. onion – peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon; drain, set aside.

Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.

Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.

Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.

Tortilla Soup like Cracker Barrel's

This Tex-Mex soup is loaded with flavorful cilantro, tomatoes and cumin and served with chicken, tortilla strips, cheese and avocado.


Serves: 10 - 12
Prep. Time: 2:00

1 bunch cilantro – stems trimmed, washed
4 cloves garlic – peeled
1 sm. onion – chopped
2 serrano chili peppers – tops removed
10 oz. can Ro*Tel tomatoes and chilies
3 quarts (12 cups) chicken stock
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 - 3 tsp. ground cumin
1 - 2 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
Approx. 20 sm. corn tortillas – cut into thin strips
Vegetable oil OR peanut oil – for frying
2 cups shredded grilled OR poached chicken breast meat
1 - 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 avocados – peeled, pitted sliced

In a blender or food processor, puree cilantro, garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes with Ro*Telฎ; pour into a large pot.

Add tomato sauce, cumin and salt to pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Stir cornstarch/water mixture into pot and continue heating over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Deep-fry tortilla strips in small batches in 350 degree oil until crisp. Remove to a cooling rack to drain. Place a handful of fried tortillas into each serving bowl.

Divide chicken into serving bowls, placing on top of tortilla strips.

Pour soup into bowls, then sprinkle tops with cheese.

Garnish with 2 - 3 avocado slices.

Creamy Onion Soup like The Outback's

A longtime favorite, this filling soup has a creamy onion base and is topped with three varieties of cheese.

Serves: 6-8
Prep. Time: 0:20

1 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbls. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground sage
10.75 oz. can Campbell's condensed cream of onion soup
10.75 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
10.75 oz. can condensed cream of celery soup
1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Colby cheese
1/4 cup shredded Provolone cheese

In a blender, combine broth, cornstarch, and sage.

In the top pan of a double boiler over medium heat, combine broth mixture with soups. Mix well. 

When heated through, stir in cheese and heat until melted.

Pour into oven-proof bowls.

Broil in oven until tops are lightly browned.

Notes: Use soup within 3 days; do not freeze.



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