Copycat Olive Garden Chicken & Gnocchi Soup


It’s Fall! Which means chilly weather, cozy clothes, and lots and lots of soup! I love creating new family traditions for my own little family, and one that we started for the fall and winter a couple of years ago is Soup Sunday. It’s so fun to find yummy soup recipes and just rotate through them throughout the colder months. Our typical favorites are chili and chicken tortilla soup…that is, until I found this amazing recipe.

I LOVE Olive Garden. We probably only go one or two times each year, but I’m just a huge fan of getting a lot of food for a good price (I know I’m not the only one out there)! Their lunch deal, unlimited soup and salad with breadsticks, makes going during lunchtime worth it. The only soup I’ve tried there is their Chicken & Gnocchi soup. I had never had gnocchi before this, but love how it’s like a combination of a potato and noodle.


When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try to recreate it. But to be honest, I thought I would be highly critical and compare it to Olive Garden’s recipe. But guess what? I ended up liking my version better than Olive Garden’s! I was so shocked! Unlike Olive Garden’s recipe, this one doesn’t only use the icky leftover dark meat chicken, and it also gives you more than like three bites of gnocchi in a bowl!

I’ve already made this recipe twice in two weeks, if that gives you any indication of how delicious it is. It’s so easy, either in the crockpot or on the stove. My personal favorite crockpot is this guy (click on the image for details):

I love how easy it is to use, and that I can turn it on early in the day, and when it’s done cooking, it’ll switch to the “keep warm” setting!

Your family and friends will absolutely love this recipe, so go ahead and add it to your favorites! Enjoy!

Adapted from: Pinch of Yum
Serves: 8-10


  • 1 pound of chicken
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning (or a combo of thyme & oregano if you don’t have it)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp of cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 12 oz. cans of evaporated milk
  • 2 1lb. packages of mini potato gnocchi
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups of fresh baby spinach (or more!)


  1. Place the chicken, onion, celery, carrots, seasonings, and broth in a crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  2. Once done cooking, shred the chicken in the crockpot.
  3. Add the evaporated milk, cornstarch mixture, and gnocchi. Stir and cover.
  4.  Add olive oil and garlic to a pan, and saute for one minute. Add the spinach, and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.
  5. Add the spinach to the crockpot and stir to combine.
  6. Add any additional liquid if needed (I added about two cups of water). Add more salt and pepper if needed.

*Note: I have also made this recipe on the stovetop (when I decided I wanted it for dinner and it was already 4:30PM haha). In that instance, I just sautéed the vegetables with the seasonings in a pot with olive oil until the onion became translucent. I then added the shredded, cooked chicken and chicken broth. After it cooked for about ten minutes, I added the evaporated milk, cornstarch mixture, and gnocchi. I cooked the spinach on the pan like above, and added it to the pot. I then made sure the gnocchi was soft, and added some water because found it also needed more liquid. I thought both versions, stovetop and crockpot, were both amazing!

*For leftovers: I found the soup absorbed a lot of the liquid overnight, so I added a little bit of water before heating it up for leftovers.

Mama Wears: 2016 Fall Fashion Trends


Sad truth: I’m not a super trendy person.

I think I’ve always had good taste when it comes to fashion, in that I love helping other people find pieces that suit them perfectly or that they would never have thought to try on and end up loving. In fact, one of my favorite memories with my brother happened almost ten years ago (wow, that just made me feel really old), when we went to the mall after he got very fit and he let me pick out a bunch of new things for him. I was in high school and thought it was so neat that my big brother was even considering my advice, let alone taking it.

After that, I think my family started to believe that I knew what was “in.” I still love fashion and shopping, but have struggled with keeping up with trends since moving to a smaller town with not many shopping options and since having a baby (I find that I’d much rather buy new clothes for the little man than myself now…never thought that day would come haha).

Nevertheless, I am attempting to make a comeback with my personal style…despite just entering the second trimester of my second pregnancy. This will be interesting.

So I’ve put together some of my favorite 2016 fall fashion trends, especially for my mom friends. These pieces are great for anyone, but I’ve found them to be cute and practical, which I know moms appreciate more than anyone! Enjoy!


  1. I got these booties by Roxy from Famous Footwear for $50, they were originally $90 (they were marked down to $60, and I got a $10 off coupon from their email)! Even that amount felt like a lot to spend on myself, as I rarely go shopping anymore, but it was time for me to treat myself to some new shoes! Believe it or not, these are my FIRST pair of booties ever! I was so hoping to find a stylish pair that would be comfortable and go with anything. This shade of brown is almost between a tan and a taupe, so I find that it goes with any color I wear! And most importantly, my feet are still happy after wearing them all day!
  2. You need this sweater from Target, just trust me. It’s $20 and it is SO comfy and cute. We picked my mom up from the airport recently, and she walked out wearing this sweater and some super fun boots, and that’s when I realized I needed to step up my game haha. My mom took my sister and I to Target to get us both the same exact sweater because we loved it so much on her. I actually got it in a size small (which NEVER happens with my chest…I usually fall between a medium and large). So make sure to order it with that in mind if you aren’t trying it on first! I’m all about layering, as I tend to run pretty warm. So cardigans like this are perfect to pair with a short sleeve shirt for me!
  3. I don’t really do hats, but there was a hat very similar to this hat for only $5 in Target’s dollar spot section last week!! I’m not sure how much longer they will be there, but you should go ASAP to get one because they are so cute (and you can’t beat that price)!
  4. These vests are the best!! My sister’s friend was wearing this vest in the olive color one day at church, and we had to ask her where she got it from. We assumed not nearby, since like I mentioned, we don’t have the best shopping here in Montana. We were shocked when she told us she got it from Vanity (a mostly Midwestern store, AKA where I worked when I was 16)! We went that next week and got them for ourselves haha! I love the olive color, but actually ended up getting it in the merlot color. I would’ve gotten all of them if possible! They’re on sale for $30 right now, so get one now!
  5. This dress, also from Vanity, is so comfortable! I usually don’t like things that just look like a paper bag on me haha, but I’m going to pair this dress with the new vest! And this dress is roomy enough to make room for my growing bump, but can be worn in the future with a belt too, if I ever want to show my figure (who knows when that will be again haha)! It’s currently $25.
  6. There’s not a lot I love more than stretchy pants like these from the Gap Factory. We don’t have a Gap or an Old Navy in town, but oddly enough, we have a Gap Factory store (AKA the Gap Outlet). Whatever, I’ll take discounted Gap! I’ve been wearing these pants for the last year and have them in multiple colors: regular blue denim, black, and gray. They are extremely comfortable and run true to size. I finally lost some pre-first pregnancy weight before getting pregnant this go-around, so I am thankful enough to still be wearing these pants at 14 weeks pregnant. Not looking forward to having to give them up soon, as they are definitely a staple in my yearly wardrobe! Sidenote: Sign up for emails from Gap Factory, as they are always sending out coupons to bring those prices down even further!
  7. And finally, let’s top it off with a little bling–I love these earrings (also from Gap Factory). I got almost an identical pair last year, and they are my go-to earrings. I love simple bling that adds a little pop without being over the top. They’re currently $7.99, but remember what I said about those coupons!

That’s all that I have for you in this round-up of Mama Wears! Let me know what you’re wearing this fall, and where the best deals are at!

Minnesota Hotdish


I love being Minnesotan. Seriously, not a lot makes me more proud than to say that I was born and raised in such a wonderful state. I grew up in an amazing community. Everyone is SO stinkin’ nice–“Minnesota nice” is a stereotype for a reason, dontcha know! If my husband would tolerate the cold winters, I would be all about moving back to my arctic homeland. But I have to say, when your native-Californian hubby loves living in Montana (where we moved to two years ago), it’s a win that I will accept haha.

Ironically, neither my mom or my dad grew up in Minnesota (so sadly, they never quite developed the awesome accent you’re all jealous of). After moving around a lot for various jobs, my parents finally settled down in Minne after their oldest child was born. And for that, we can thank my Aunt Dee-dee, who happened to marry a Minnesotan herself and started the cool Minnesota trend. Anyways, fast forward some years and a divorce, both my mom and dad got remarried–both to native Minnesotans.

Why is this history important, you might ask? I probably would have never experienced a Minnesota Hotdish without knowing my step-mom, Ann. Okay, I probably would have eaten one, but I wouldn’t have come to love it like I do. We went to my Dad and Ann’s house every weekend, and I vividly remember always getting so excited when we were going to have hotdish for dinner. There is nothing more comforting or warming than a good ol’ hotdish.

But you non-Minnesotans might be wondering: Oh heck! What in the world is a hotdish?! Well, it’s pretty much a casserole, but cooler because it’s Minnesotan. A hotdish typically contains a starch, a meat, and a canned or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup. I’m pretty sure beef with noodles is most popular, but you will find a ton of recipes with tater tots as well (a Minnesota favorite haha). There’s a whole page on Wikipedia dedicated to this goodness, and it says, “The history of the hotdish goes back to when ‘budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches.'” Doesn’t that paint just the cutest picture?

Anyways, back to Ann! When I asked her for the recipe for her amazing hotdish a few years ago, she had to guess on measurements of things, because it’s something she has made for so long and just played around with, I’m not sure there was ever even an official recipe for it. I love that! I’m sure this recipe will become like that for me too.

So without further ado, I give you the recipe for Ann’s Minnesota Hotdish! I hope it becomes a comfort meal for you and your family, like it has been for mine. Thanks to Ann for sharing this amazing recipe with us!


  • 1lb Ground beef (I’ve also made it with ground turkey & thought it was just as good)
  • 4 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • Wide Egg Noodles (Ann says you don’t need to use the entire bag, unless you are doubling the recipe)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Start cooking meat on medium-high heat in a pan. When about halfway done cooking, douse the meat with the Worcestershire sauce. Continue cooking until browned. (Ann says: “This is a KEY ingredient & WON’T taste the same without it.”)
  3. Meanwhile, boil the noodles until not quite done. Drain the noodles.
  4. Toss the meat in with the noodles. Add the soups and a few shakes of the Parmesan. Stir until combined.
  5. Put the mixture into a greased 9×13 casserole dish, and sprinkle more Parmesan on top (the more the merrier in my opinion).
  6. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until the cheese on top looks like it’s getting crusty.
  7. Serve up and enjoy some good ol’ Minnesota Hotdish! 🙂

Why I Won’t Kneel For Social Justice

By now, most of you have probably heard of Colin Kaepernick. I’m not the most football-savvy individual, but I am a news junkie and occasionally overhear my husband tuning into ESPN in the mornings, so this story has been all over my radar. Before I dive into my thoughts, I’ll give you a brief summary.

In case you missed it, Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers, decided in the preseason to sit during the National Anthem. When asked about this, he stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” He then added that he would continue to protest until he feels like the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent. In the last preseason game, he decided that kneeling during the National Anthem for this season would be more respectful than simply sitting.

And here’s where my anger comes in: I have loved ones that serve in our military. Now, I was extremely patriotic before these said loved ones joined the military, but my patriotism and pride in my country grew even more upon their enlisting and since then as I’ve seen their sacrifice.

When I think of the National Anthem, I think of the people who have served and are currently serving. I think about their sacrifice–risking their lives, giving up time with their families to fight for our security, domestic and abroad. I am so extremely proud of these amazing men and women who serve, I could never not stand and sing the National Anthem. I could never politicize this song (or the flag) and what it means, because to me, that is so extremely selfish. In the words of a really smart person I know, “The message Kaepernick is sending is ‘I hate America’ and not, ‘I love black people.’ By protesting the flag, he’s protesting what it stands for: freedom and justice for all, which is the opposite of the point he’s trying to make.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement.

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

How an athlete could see men and women in the military standing in front of them on the field during the anthem and NOT stand to respect them is beyond me. Maybe people like Kaepernick don’t have people they care about in the military and can’t quite grasp the magnitude of it all. Maybe it will require having their own family or friends go for a deployment and be left wondering if any news article about a roadside bomb or attack is about their loved one. Maybe once that happens, they’ll understand the undeniable pride one feels for their country. Whatever it takes, I hope he and many others can understand that so many of us are not just upset over a song. He’s right, he has the freedom to make the decision to silently protest–but he has that decision because of the people he’s disrespecting. The irony is palpable.

Yes, there are many things wrong happening in our country today. Yes, I cringe and fight back tears many evenings when I turn the news on. As a human being, my heart breaks when I hear of yet another African-American being shot and killed by law enforcement. It’s unacceptable and things need to change. (Side note: I cannot attempt to understand the bravery that is required to be in law enforcement, especially today. I don’t make any assumptions about any police officers that have shot at any individuals, because I was not there and cannot know the full extent of what took place. I am extremely thankful to all those in blue, and will continue to hold the belief that 99.9% of law enforcement is made up of good people who genuinely want to serve and protect.)

That being said, if you want to fight against injustice, STAND UP. Sitting (or kneeling) gets nothing done–ask our men and women who are serving us today. What if they decided that they weren’t treated fairly, and that they should just take a seat? Our amazing men and women serving in the military are fighting injustice all over the world, so that you and I can go about our normal days. I would respect Colin Kaepernick, and many others for that matter, a heck of a lot more if they put their money where their mouths are (and I mean that quite literally in Kaepernick’s case). What if instead of simply disrespecting those serving our country during the National Anthem, these athletes worked to make a change. A silent protest isn’t going to cut it here, Colin.

And another thing…can the judgmental people of America please stop generalizing all white people?! I am so sick and tired of being told that I don’t feel enough and that what I’m doing is not good enough. You don’t know my heart or my thoughts on this matter. If Colin Kaepernick literally sitting down and doing nothing is motivational enough for you, how is my heart breaking over this not enough? Sweet Moses, let’s just stop making assumptions about one another and just be good to each other!

So here’s what I propose: You want to create change? DO something! Call your local law enforcement and suggest ways to prevent this from happening in your community. Who cares if they’re already working on a plan–YOU could have a new idea they hadn’t thought of before. Better yet, come up with comprehensive plans to educate people in your community on all different matters, but especially on what it means to be a responsible, law-abiding citizen (like this new bill that recently passed in Illinois, or these workshops offered by the New York Civil Liberties Union). Write to your local representative and request an open forum in your area, for community members to be able to talk to local law enforcement openly and candidly about their thoughts and concerns. Talk to others in your area about racial matters and how we can be game-changers to make things better for every single person.

And lastly, this is for all you parents out there: raise good people. I don’t care what race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, etc. you are…it should not be that hard to raise decent humans. Teach your children about responsibility, respect, love, and kindness. If we all really knew these things and acted accordingly, I’m sure our world would look so much different today. It can’t be that complicated, can it?

So America, how will you respond? Will you silently sit (or kneel) by and hope for change, or will you stand up and do something?

15 Years Later


September 11th, 2001.

I’m sure 99.9% of adults can tell you exactly what they were doing or where they were when they heard the first plane hit the World Trade Center (and when the subsequent hijacked planes crashed).

What makes 9/11 different from other significant events is that it was an attack on all of us. A single group of people was not targeted: America and everything we stand for was attacked.

I was in 4th grade that somber day. I can tell you what I was doing and the expression on my teacher’s face as we watched the news, but I can truthfully tell you my naiveté would prevent me from understanding the significance of that day for many years.

As I became more interested in government, history, and politics over the years, I started to understand what that day meant for our future. That this would not just be a one-time event. That these hateful, evil people would continue to commit their lives to ruining ours.

If I could prevent my child from knowing what I now know about the evil of this world, I would do everything in my power to shelter him so he might only know of the good. But unfortunately, this hatred that Islamic extremists have for our way of life is unending. There will not be an end to it until we make it end. As much as I wish we could pray away the evil and hate, we simply cannot. God gave each of us freewill, and unfortunately that means there are those who choose darkness over light.

I wish I wouldn’t have to explain to my son someday that he is hated simply for being born in the most amazing country, where brave men and women willingly risk their lives to fight for our freedoms every single day. A country where on 9/11, people of all races, religions, etc. came together in spite of evil. Darkness didn’t win on 9/11. The people of New York and beyond showed the rest of the world that light cannot be easily extinguished.


You know what gives me hope? Those brave passengers of flight United 93 who fought back so the plane would land in a field, preventing even more death than had the plane reached its target (the Capitol). Or the ferry drivers and boat owners who all came together and drove towards the chaos to rescue 500,000 people from Manhattan who were stranded after the planes struck the World Trade Center, making it the largest boat rescue in WORLD history. Or the CEO of a huge company who lost 600+/900 of his employees that day, and has since on 9/11 every year had his 3,000+ current employees forfeit their pay for that day to go to the families of the victims.  There is so much good in the world, so much hope.


Do I still become enraged, depressed, confused, and heartbroken every time I see footage of that horrible day or when I hear what the victims and their families have endured because of that day? Yes. I didn’t know anyone who lost their life that day, I wasn’t there to see the horror–and yet, I cry every single year when I reflect on this day. It impacted all of us.

So here’s my hope as I reflect on this day, fifteen years later: I pray that each time I am tempted to fall into despair when thinking about our future and our safety, I might be reminded that love is greater than hate. That when people come together, the light cannot be put out. That my God is bigger than all of this, and He is in control.

I am proud to be an American every day, but I am especially proud to be an American on this day.