Category Archives: Three Stars

Butternut Squash Pasta with Kale and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Sauce

I am a sucker for all things butternut squash, or any squash really, and Hubby really loves leafy greens like kale. Plus, who doesn’t love pasta? So when I saw this recipe I was pretty excited.

When I do my meal-planning, I always try to include at least one day a week of a vegetarian meal. It’s healthy, it’s easier on the wallet (or at least it was when I didn’t live in the desert…), and actually it’s good for the environment. Meat production takes a lot of resources, and just by cutting meat one day a week, you can really make a difference in helping our planet.

This recipe for Butternut Squash Pasta with Kale and Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Sauce from takes it a little farther than I’m used to since it’s actually a vegan recipe, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

squash pasta
This photo belongs to

I had such high hopes for this dish. It looks pretty yummy, and includes lots of things that I like. The problem was, it took too long to put together (you have to roast your squash and cauliflower first, then blend up your roasted cauliflower to make a sauce, boil your pasta, etc.), and when I take a long time to make a recipe, it darn well had better be delicious.

This recipe wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t delicious. The sauce was flavorful and as creamy as a vegan sauce is going to get. Pasta is good, squash is good, kale is good (actually I used Swiss chard because Hubby always asks for it, but I consider them fairly interchangeable), but altogether I wasn’t wowed.

The biggest problem was that when I put everything together and tossed it in the oven to heat up evenly, the pasta soaked up ALL the sauce! So my dish was kind of dry and not all that flavorful. Bummer.

I will say, though, that if you actually are vegan, this recipe is probably worth making. It was good, just not what a non-vegan is used to, I guess.


Flavor: Three Stars – The sauce is pretty tasty, but I wish it had been creamier and coated the ingredients better instead of soaking into the pasta.

Skill Level: Moderate/High – It’s not so much that anything is HARD to do, it’s more that this takes a LOT of time and effort. You have to peel and cube the squash, which, if you’ve never done it before, is pretty labor-intensive. You have to roast the squash and the cauliflower in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour before you can even think about anything else, then you have to take the cauliflower you just roasted and blend it up in the blender with a bunch of other stuff to make the sauce, you have to boil the pasta, tear up your greens, and then you have to toss the whole thing back in the oven to warm through. It just has a lot of steps.

Overall: Three Stars – Too much work for not enough payoff. I probably won’t be making this one again.

EB squash pasta
Here’s mine

Crockpot Zuppa Toscana

You know that delicious soup you get at Olive Garden with the sausage and the potatoes and kale swimming in a light but creamy broth?

This soup is not that.

So many recipes claim to be “copycat” recipes of favorite restaurant foods, and so many fail. Why is that? I’m sure I can’t say.

Anyway, this looked really good when I pinned it. “Mmm!” I said to myself, “I love Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana!”

zuppa toscana
This photo belongs to


I did not love this soup.

I found this pin for Crockpot Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana by (with a name like that I should have known better).

To be fair, this soup isn’t bad. It’s just not very good.

I thought it was greasy and it all tasted the same and I think it could have been done better on the stovetop in a half hour.


Flavor: Three Stars – All the flavors melded together in the crockpot. Not to mention that the bacon in this made it seem just incredibly greasy.

Skill Level: Low – This recipe required browning some sausage and bacon before dumping things into the crockpot. Pretty easy.

Time: Medium/Low – Realistically this doesn’t take that much time, but one of my pet peeves is having to cook things before I put it in a crockpot. Isn’t that the point of using a crockpot? I can just dump stuff in there before walking out the door to work? This ain’t that kind of recipe, y’all.

Overall: Three Stars – Not bad, but not a good recipe either. I’m tempted to bump this down to two and a half stars because Hubby and I both felt it sat really heavy in our stomachs afterwords.

Emily Zuppa Toscana
Here’s how mine turned out


If you really want to make this recipe, I do have some suggestions for making it better.

  1. Replace the regular sausage with spicy sausage. I actually did this already for mine because I seemed to recall the Olive Garden version having some zip to it.
  2. Don’t follow the directions for the bacon. When I cooked the bacon and the onions together, my onions started to burn before my bacon was anywhere near ready. Either omit the bacon altogether and brown your onions with your sausage (probably what I would do), or cook the bacon so that it is nice and crispy then drain off most of the grease and cook your onions in what remains.
  3. Skip the crockpot altogether. Honestly, if you’re going to the trouble to brown your sausage before putting it in the crockpot, simmering it on the stove for 20 minutes is faster and just as easy.

Those are my suggestions for doctoring up this recipe, but truthfully if a recipe requires more than just a little tweak, I’m not likely to make it again. Too many good recipes, not enough time!