Olive Garden unveils delicious new menu items!

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I recently attended a super fun event to celebrate the delicious new items that Olive Garden has introduced on their menu.

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I joined the Olive Garden team along with several other local journalists and bloggers at Elevated Acre in Downtown Manhattan which is a beautiful outdoor space overlooking the East River with views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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We enjoyed their private label wines out on the deck

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(I love their new Tuscan Red table wine!) and then all sat down at a huge table to start the festivities and get first dibs on the menu tasting. #NeverEndingTable

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We met the Olive Garden marketing team and their Executive Chef who told us about their new menu innovations,

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and then we got to taste all of them over a few hours, which of course was the fun part!

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We all love their classic breadsticks and salads right?

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Well you have to try their new Breadstick Sandwiches – we tried the Eggplant Parmesan and Spicy Calabrian Chicken..delicious!

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The coolest new items we tried are their new Deep Dish Spaghetti Pies..they’re like spaghetti quiches baked in a shell with all kinds of yummy fillings but in pie form! The Chicken Alfredo Pie was amazing…

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and so was the classic Spaghetti and Meatballs Pie made with 7 cheeses, bacon, meatballs and homemade sauce.  So good and totally fun.

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And we can’t forget dessert – they served us an incredible Chocolate and Caramel Lasagna – layers of gooey caramel, chocolate and cake similar to Tiramisu..OMG. TO. DIE. FOR. And the perfect ending to a perfect Italian meal!

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Check out the great photos of the event below and visit their website for more info on these awesome new menu creations and specials in your area.

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Meatball Madness!

Meatball Madness

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year simply because it’s a time when the leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, and you have an excuse to stay inside to watch football with friends and family and gather around the table with some delicious party food!

Whenever I host a party, I like to create a smorgasbord of food that’s easy for people to grab. I love bite-sized finger foods and tapas-style spreads that are fun to make and eat. My idea for a great fall football party is Meatball Madness – an experiment with different types of meatballs paired with unique sauces, fillings and bases to eat them on.


Meatballs are super fun and easy to make with the help of my KitchenAid® Copper Core 12″ Nonstick Skillet and my KitchenAid® Professional-Grade Nonstick Sheet Pans when I’m cooking for a large crowd. Both are great for cooking meatballs easily and evenly with their high quality nonstick coating, and they are both large enough so I can cook big batches of meatballs.

Greek Meatballs

For this post, I decided to make some Greek Beef Meatballs with Tzatzkiki Sauce served on toasted flatbreads,

Asian Meatballs

and some Asian Chicken Meatballs with a Spicy Peanut Sauce served on Gem Lettuce Cups as thought starters for this party idea, but I’d love to hear from you what other themes, flavors and creative ideas you would incorporate when you throw your own Meatball Madness Party!

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You can mix and match different themes with different fillings and flavors for the meatballs, for example – you could make Spanish Meatballs made with pork, chorizo and onions and create a Roasted Red Pepper Aioli to dip them in and serve on toasted pita. Or you could make traditional Italian Meatballs with Cheese and Tomato Sauce on mini slider buns topped with fresh basil and parsley. Or make German Meatballs with Bratwurst and Sauerkraut with a Grainy Mustard Sauce served on mini Rye breads – the possibilities are endless and super fun to come up with!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE RECIPES AND HOW I MADE THEM WITH MY KITCHENAID EQUIPMENT ON THE KITCHENTHUSIAST BLOG! 

Chicken Meatball Soup with Kale, Chickpeas & Orzo

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There’s nothing better than a big pot of soup in the Winter – and this has been the longest one..ever. I’ve always loved my Gram’s Minestrone soup – chock full of veggies, ground beef and pasta and thought I would make a spin on it by making it a combination of her Minestrone and Italian Wedding Soup just for fun. I made a batch of chicken meatballs with lots of parmesan cheese, garlic, onion and fresh parsley..browned them up a bit before adding some kale, carrots, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and orzo and let it all simmer up into a big batch of healthy, heartwarming goodness. I topped it off with some extra grated parmesan, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper and mopped it up with some fresh baked Italian Rosemary bread from Todaro Bros. down the street.

Who says you can’t have some fun during a blizzard? I’m happy as a clam right now. Or as a meatball, bathing in that gorgeous broth with veggies.

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Chicken Meatball Soup with Kale, Chickpeas & Orzo

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • Chicken Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (plain, dried)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced dried onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Tony Chacere's Creole Seasoning (or sub seasoned salt or poultry seasoning)
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Deliciously Dill Blend (The Spice Hunter)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 20 baby carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water (use 3 or 4 if you like a thinner soup)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1 bunch kale, torn (ribs and stems removed)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup orzo or other small pasta (ditalini, pastina, risi or stars)

Instructions

  1. Make the meatballs:
  2. Preheat a dutch oven over medium heat and spray with some cooking oil.
  3. Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir. Mix together well with your hands and roll into small meatballs (about 1 1/2 inch size), place on a baking sheet or plate.
  4. Brown meatballs in batches for about 6-8 minutes until lightly golden brown (but not cooked all the way through).
  5. Remove meatballs, cover and set aside while prepping soup ingredients.
  6. Make the soup:
  7. Add additional 2 tablespoons of oil to the Dutch oven and saute onions, garlic and carrots for about 6 minutes until soft and translucent.
  8. Stir in broth, water, and tomatoes; cook over medium-high for about 5-7 minutes until liquid comes to a boil.
  9. Add kale, chickpeas, orzo to the pot, let soup come to a steady rolling boil for about 5 mins or so.
  10. Add browned meatballs, cover and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until orzo and meatballs are cooked through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve in large soup bowls topped with additional grated parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley for garnish and a side of crusty Italian bread or Rosemary Foccacia bread for mopping up the soup.
  12. Don't forget the wine, fireplace, and your Valentine to make it a complete meal.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2014/02/13/chicken-meatball-soup-kale-chickpeas-orzo/

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Recipe adapted from my Grandma’s Classic Minestrone Soup and Italian Wedding Soup by Whole Foods.

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