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    Tuscan Chicken & Vegetable Stew

    I have to say from the outset that there is a lot of chopping going on here. A LOT. It was one of the things that almost kept me from trying this recipe.

    You read – I’ll chop …

    My new dear friend, mentor and cruise ship guru, Chloe, was making this one day while we were working at her home. (CHOP, CHOP, CHOP) Her house was filled with the most wonderful aromas. She assured me that this recipe was easy  … especially if you buy a rotisserie chicken. She gave me the recipe and looking at it, I still wasn’t sold. CHOP, CHOP

    Chop this. Chop that. Chop that other thing. Oh, yeah, and chop that thing over there, as well. And not just the Swedish Chef inspired chopping that I usually do … chopping so things are the same size. UGH! Not my forte.

    The next day, while we were working (yes, I spent a tremendous amount of time at her house), we sat and had this stew for lunch. Well, hush my mouth and pass my chopping knife! You could have added 7 more ingredients to this and I would have chopped away. (Well, not really)

    Chop … chop … chop …

    I acquiesced and tried it at home. This makes a HUGE pot of stew – which is good when you hate chopping neatly as much as I do. The Dear one and I had this for dinner one night and had 3 containers for the freezer. Some toasted bread and a green salad and you’re set on a chilly evening.

    So, Chloe … I went on an interview for a job as a tour guide. I was very content to sit on a tour bus with cruise ship passengers riding around Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island. Tour over, passengers leave, count your tips, done. Chloe and I hit it off instantly. You know, that rare, kindred spirit vibe you find only a few times in your life, if you’re lucky. During this interview, Chloe mentioned that she wanted to retire after the 2017 season. The next thing I knew – and I’m not quite sure what she saw in me, maybe it was my silliness in actually being willing to take the job – she was training me to take over her job when she retired. (chop, chop, chop)

    It was terrifying at first. So much information. So many moving parts. I would sit next to her, day after day, in utter awe at all the information in her head. Her ease with the most difficult people (myself included) was grace personified. Her innate ability to take the most difficult of scenarios, turn it around and make it seem like there was never an issue.

    I am sure many people who began the conversation all fired up had no idea how she managed turn the situation around, or perhaps didn’t even notice that the situation was turned around. She calls this the “please, pass the butter” voice. (I’m still working on that.) It was inspiring.

    But, aside from training me – mentoring really – adopting a bit – for this job of many facets … wait, I’ll explain. Does anyone remember the old Ed Sullivan Show? There was a fella on the show, quite often actually, who had many thin bamboo poles. He would start spinning plates on these poles and run around the stage, watching the plates, jiggling the poles, spinning plates, keeping all the plates up in the air. That, in a nutshell, is my job.

    Sorry, digressed … aside from mentoring me in this difficult transition, she became a dear friend. She and her darling husband Scott (and the dearest Lucy) fed me, wiped my tears, picked me up from the ground when I was at my lowest, taught me, guided me, became my family, laughed with me, drank wine with me at the end of a frustrating day, sighed with me, and guided me through a frantic summer and fall.

    On one of my worst days – I had made at least a billion mistakes – I had stepped away and there were tears streaming down my face. Scott came over, wiped them away and said, “Do you think Chloe has never made a mistake? Chloe has made more mistakes than this. Learn from them. Make new ones. And don’t let anyone see you crying.”

    I am truly grateful to Chloe for so much … more than I can ever possibly express, more than my heart and head can hold at times. It’s that rare type of symbiotic friendship where words are not always necessary, giggles and laughing are ever present, compassion is a given, forgiveness always there, and life is so much richer with them in it.

    Thank you so much, dear woman, for all you’ve done for and given me.

    Anyway, enough mush …

    Every time I make this soup, I think of sweet Chloe and miss the stuffin’ out of her! Hmmm, maybe I should give her a call while I’m chopping freakin’ vegetables …

    I joke about the chopping, but there is a lot. But once that’s done, that’s really it – jut add ingredients and stir. The apple cider vinegar gives it a layer of flavor that brings everything together.

    • 1 tablespoon oil
    • 3 tablespoon butter
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3 cups chopped carrots
    • 3 cups chopped celery
    • 1 large zucchini, chopped
    • 1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
    • ¼ cup flour
    • 4 cups chicken broth
    • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
    • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
    • 1 (19 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 1 cup diced cooked chicken breast (I used rotisserie)
    • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • fresh parsley
    • parmesan cheese

    In a large pot over medium high heat, add the butter and olive oil. Add in the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and saute for about 4-5 minutes, until tender and fragrant.

    Stir in the zucchini and red pepper and cook for another 2 minutes until slightly softened.

    Sprinkle in the flour to create a roux and cook for another minute. Slowly add 1 cup of the chicken broth while continuously stirring until it starts to thicken and comes together. Then slowly pour in the remaining chicken broth.

    Stir in the Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, beans and entire can of tomatoes.

    Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add the chicken and reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

    Stir in the spinach and cider vinegar and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes or until everything is heated through.

    Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese, if desired.

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    Vegan Stuffed Shells #SundaySupper


    It’s been way too long since I’ve been able to or had the head to join the Sunday Supper Movement. This week’s theme is Cheesy Dinner Ideas brought to us by Em. In this new(ish) wave of healthier eating, there are more and more vegans and vegetarians following our blogs. While this doesn’t follow the strict definition of cheesy, these stuffed shells are close enough – and delicious enough – for my vegan.

    Learning to adjust one’s culinary brain when one of your children announces they’re a vegan – or even a vegetarian – is not easy. So now there was a vegan AND a vegetarian AND a dyed in the wool carnivore. How is a girl to cope?

    I’ve learned to start with a base – in this case the marinara sauce and the cooked shells – and then split into two meals. In this case, only the stuffing for the shells. Side by side, the Dear One was hard pressed to know which was which. Taste? Not too bad. I think the seller for me with this recipe was the tofu being ground up. I am not a big tofu fan, but bring ground up and mixed with the rest of the yummy ingredients was a game changer.

    There had been a love hate relationship – mostly hate – with Nutritional Yeast. I have to admit that this hate formed without ever tasting it. It turns out it’s full of B vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein. Hmmmm …. well, it’s good for you. But the name is so unappealing. I tried it sprinkled on popcorn and I was hooked. I sprinkle it on eggs, have used it in a vegan form of pesto, popcorn … if you haven’t tried, do.

    Scroll to the bottom of my post and stop by the other blogs in this week’s Sunday Supper Movement!

    • 1 t vegetable oil
    • 6  garlic cloves , minced
    • 8 oz. baby spinach
    • 1 t salt
    • 1 vegan egg
    • 2 t Nutritional Yeast
    • 12 oz. Onederful® Tofu, drained
    • cooking spray
    • 12 Jumbo Pasta Shells, cooked
    • 16 oz. Marinara Sauce
    • Canola oil (as needed)

    NOTE: There was no opposition to an egg, so I used a fresh egg. I have used Follow Your Heart vegan eggs with no trouble.

    Pre-Heat over to 400

    Heat a sauce pan over a medium flame and add 1 teaspoon of oil. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and half the salt. Cook until the spinach is wilted.

    Place the sautéed spinach mixture in a strainer so the extra liquid can drip out. Set aside,

    Add the tofu to a food processor and pulse several time to break the tofu down to small crumbles.

    In a large mixing bowl, mix together the crumbled tofu, drained spinach, egg, nutritional yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

    Lightly spray a baking dish with the cooking spray. Pour half the marinara sauce on the bottom.

    Fill the shells with the stuffing mixture. Add shells to the baking dish.

    Pour the rest of the marinara sauce over the shells.

    Bake uncovered for 8 -10 minutes, uncovered.

    Serve immediately.

    Cheesy Dinner Ideas

    Cheesy Appetizers and Sides

    Cheesy Main Courses

    Sunday Supper MovementThe Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.

    Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

    PLT #FantasticalFoodFight

    While tip-toeing through the internet, I came across Fantastical Food Fight. And, while I’m REALLY bad at timed anything, this really intrigued me. A dish is picked, make your own version, compare. I liked that.

    And April’s theme … the BLT! Not that I think there’s anything you can do to a BLT to improve it. Bacon, mayonnaise, bacon, lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, bacon, bread. But perhaps, just perhaps, there is another way to have a BLT.

    Crispy pancetta, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes, some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, all tucked inside a ciabatta roll. Well, that works for me.

    The arugula is from our garden. The sun-dried tomatoes too – the last jar from last summer.

    You may find this shocking, but there really isn’t a recipe for this.

    • Ciabatta roll or loaf
    • Thinly sliced pancetta or prosciutto
    • Arugula
    • Sun-dried tomatoes

    Heat oven to 425.

    On a baking sheet, make a single layer of the pancetta or prosciutto. Should take about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

    Pile everything onto the ciabatta.

    Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I suggest a balsamic glaze or reduction)

    DIG IN!