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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.

    Cannoli

     

    One of the best things about the job I started last summer are all the new friends I have made. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some real clunkers, but that happens everywhere, every day, with any job. We won’t dwell on them.

    But, take M&J. Starts off just silly giggles while working to take some of the stress away, a lot of guidance and support and suddenly … BAMMO … you’ve realized just how much you like these folks, realized that this should be more than just a work friendship.

    Dinner invitations go back and forth … lots of laughs … lots of wine … lots of good food.

    One last dinner before we all take off for the holidays? Oh, yes, please! M&J were heading to Viet Nam (so jealous!), the Dear One to Antarctica and me to New York to see my dearly missed parents, siblings and friends.

    What to make, though? I need to show off my culinary chops a little bit, right? The rub is, the Dear One and I were flying out the next morning, not returning – well, me the beginning of the New Year and the Dear One WAY TOO LONG AFTER THAT!!

    One pot, easy cleanup, great to freeze if there are leftovers – Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes, a favorite easy go-to of mine.

    With a really easy dinner, I wanted to get a little nutty with dessert. It can’t be a lot – no leftovers, and no one has a huge sweet tooth. I needed inspiration. None was forthcoming.

    Suddenly, while walking around Hanford’s, there in front of my was my answer! Ferrara cannoli shells! All cooked and ready for filling with whatever your heart desired! This was the answer!

    I buy them and bring them home. I stood staring at them, slightly disappointed. They were perfectly fine. But … well, they just looked too plain to me. If you’re going to go through all the trouble of making a fabulous filling, why not dress up the shells a bit!

    I melted some chocolate, dipped the edges on each end in the chocolate and then dipped them in chopped pistachios.

    The result, was pretty elegant! Well, at least I thought so!

    And before we get to the recipe, just a little pet peeve of mine – and the pet peeve of most Italians I know. Cannoli is plural. Cannolis is not a word. The singular would be Cannolo, not that anybody would know what you were talking about in most places. You wouldn’t say mooses, or mouses, or shrimps, or sheeps … you get the picture. Just remember the Godfather, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

    Now that my shells are fabulous, I need a fabulous cream.

    • 2 C fresh ricotta
    • 2/3 C granulated sugar
    • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
    • 1/3 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

    NOTE: No time? Buy the best ricotta you can find and drain it a bit. I also added a tiny bit or lemon zest to just brighten it up.

    I tried to be fancy and use a star tip to pipe in the cream. The chips kept getting stuck. Into a ziplock the filling went, cut off the tip, and off we went. You want to try and fill them halfway on each side so there isn’t a space in the middle with cannoli shell and no filling.

    Fill them just before sitting down to dinner. Much before that and the shells will begin to get soggy.

    Delizioso! Divertiti!

    Spinach Lasagna Rolls

    done

    So, there’s this girl I know. Well, not a girl, a young lady really. But when I was her age … and yes, I was her age once, I wasn’t born THIS OLD, ya know … being called a young lady made be visibly blanch. She’s becoming very dear to me. In my family, cooking for and feeding people is a way to show (some) love.

    There’s a little glitch in showing this Italian, kitchen-esque type of love to this otherwise lovely girl. She’s a vegetarian. Nothing with a face. Nothing with a soul. Hmmm … tricky. Never gave much thought to strictly vegetarian dishes, and fortunately, she’s not vegan, but tricky going for me just the same.

    Oh! We need to add another level of cooking angst here … her sister is NOT a vegetarian (but that’s a whole ‘nuther magilla which we will get to in recipes and days to come) and, of course, there’s the carnivore. How do you feed all these different needs with one dish and keeping your hair on your head and not clenched between your fingers having just been torn from your head?

    Must be yummy. Must have no faces or soul. Must be hearty. I can do this. I know I can.

    I came across this Giada de Laurentiis recipe from Everyday Italian for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. The original recipe calls for prosciutto (oh, you don’t know what you’re missing) and a bechamel sauce. I opted to leave out the prosciutto and swap the bechamel for tomato sauce. Salad. Garlic bread. Dinner is ready.

    And while it has no faces, this dish certainly has soul!

    • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
    • 1 C plus 2 T grated Parmesan
    • 1 C shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
    • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
    • 3/4 t salt, plus more for salting water
    • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 to 2 T olive oil
    • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
    • 2 C marinara sauce

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

    Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and add a tablespoon of oil.

    NOTE: I normally don’t add oil when I’m cooking pasta, but with the lasagna noodles it seems to help keep them from sticking together and becoming a massive clump.

    Cook the pasta until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

    Butter or spray with cook spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour about 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish and spread to cover. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

    Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll.

    Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, on top of the marinara sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls.

    Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

    NOTE: You can gild the lily a bit here and add a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the marinara. If you choose to do this, after 20 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

     

     

    Bruschetta

    Done

    Hello, computer, my old friend

    It’s nice to type on you again

    Brian fixed you, oh, so sweetly

    Back on my desk, oh, so neatly …

    It’s been a really long slog trying to get my iMac fixed! It just froze and died one day while I was still living in Brooklyn – it’s been dead for over one and a half years!

    I tried to have it fixed while I was still living in Brooklyn. Really, I did. Brought it to the Apple store. Sadly, I have only 2 kidneys to give up and the cost would have required 4 kidneys. I found an Apple authorized dealer. HUZZAH! He could fix it for $600. Well worth it, I thought. A new computer would have cost me at least twice much. And then the phone call. Well, you see, says he, there’s far more wrong with the computer than we thought. Aside from the Logic Board, you need to replace the flaggity gimboboo and the lala hosinfeffer. We’ll have to tack another $600 onto the original estimate.

    WHAT? Are you kidding me or what, says I. No way. As the time approached for me to move, I considered throwing the darn thing away. Really, it’s a planter at this point. The Dear One, so much more level headed than I, interjected and said, bring it with you in the move. I’, sure we can find someone in Maine to fix it for far less.

    Okay.

    And it sat.

    And it sat.

    And it sat some more.

    Sigh …

    The girls get together for breakfast quite frequently. Occasionally, the boys join us. One morning my friend Jenn’s husband joined us. I was lamenting about having to use only the Dear One’s laptop and how difficult it’s been to blog on the laptop. One, it’s so TINY. Two, it’s not mine and I wasn’t comfortable. I wanted my lovely, big, pretty iMac back! WAAAAAAHHHHH!

    Jenn’s husband, the wizard Brian looked at me and said, Bring it to me. I can fix it.

    It took a number of months with the summer and traveling and renting of houses and stents, but one day he calls  … he says to me … it’s done. Come and get it!

    Well, I wanted to just fall off my chair!

    And here I am. Back at my beloved computer, happily typing away, knowing I have a ton of blog posts to catch up on.

    Please, dear followers, if you’re still out there, don’t judge the random out of order, spring, summer and fall posts you’ll read pouring out of here!

    Brian, you are a genius and a dear friend. Thank you so much for fixing my computer and getting me back on track!

    So, back to the Bruschetta … this may be the most requested recipe in our house. Long day, company  coming, misunderstanding, Bruschetta solves it all. Sadly, the Dear One is a little camera/social media shy. If he weren’t I would add a photo of the ginormous smile that spreads across his face every time he eats this.

    It’s so easy to whip up. Even with the sins of off season tomatoes, this is wonderful. The rest of the ingredients sort of hide that flaw.

    This Bruschetta was made with tomatoes straight from our garden … oh, so was the onion, garlic, and basil!

    • 1 baguette
    • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 C diced sweet onion
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/4 t pepper
    • 1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing baguette
    • 1/2 T balsamic vinegar

    Preheat oven to 450. Slice the baguette. brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. In oven until golden.

    Mix all other ingredients in a bowl.

    To serve, either put a spoonful of the tomato mixture on each toast or the toasts on a platter and the bowl of the tomato mixture beside it and let everyone help themselves.

    Enjoy!

    Yes, it’s that easy!

     

    Pasta alla Checca … sorta …

    There’s just a last hurrah of summer left. A few lovely tomatoes, definitely some beautiful basil. I wanted to cook something that really showcased the freshness of 2 of my all time favorite ingredients.

    And along came Giada de Laurentiiis and her Checca Sauce from Everyday Italian. Granted, this is a very loose interpretation of her original recipe, but the inspiration is all Giada.

    Now, according to her recipe in the book, and as I have written below, the sauce is made in a food processor. And I suppose you could make it in the food processor and it would be fine. But I decided to hand cut everything so that it was slightly chunkier.

    • 8 ounces pasta
    • 4 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1 (12-ounce container) cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan, coarsely chopped
    • 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 T olive oil
    • 4 ozs fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    NOTE: I used more than a 1/2 pound of pasta. I also used vine-ripened tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes,4 tomatoes should do it. I removed some of the seeds and pulp so it wouldn’t be too watery..

    Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, 9 to 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, combine the next 7 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree).

    NOTE: I chopped the tomatoes, basil, garlic and cheeses by hand. I really preferred the more rustic approach to this dish.

    Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the tomato mixture and fresh mozzarella in a large bowl. Add some of the reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) if the sauce looks dry. Serve immediately.

    Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

    From the time I was a child, Sunday night in my house has always traditionally been a pasta dinner. Truthfully, I get so tired of meatballs and sauce. I also wanted a pasta without meat to satisfy the vegetarians …

    It’s also been a slow-ish summer for me cooking-wise. Haven’t reached for the books on the shelves recently – and, after all, isn’t that the whole point of this blog?

    So, it had to be pasta, had to be good … running REALLY late (as always), so it had to be quick.

    You don’t get quicker, or tastier, than Giada de Laurentiis’ Sundried Tomato Pesto from Everyday Italian. Not many ingredients, simple prep, and delicious. Must have been … every morsel was gone, always the sign of a successful dinner!

    This pesto is also great as a spread … yum, bruschetta … just leave out the step at the end adding in the pasta water. Oh, and don’t make or add the pasta!

    • 1 lb penne pasta
    • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 C (packed) fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan

    Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

    Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped.

    Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.

    Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

     

    NOTE: And you’re DONE! In the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, dinner is ready. Add a loaf of bread and a salad and you’re off to the races!