What I Ate: Tortellini Soup with Sausage and Spinach

This is so easy I wasn’t going to blog it, but those are famous last words which then became the What I Ate series. I whipped the soup up on a cold day and it was a hit! This is a super easy soup that could easily be customized by what you have around. I had spinach to use up or freeze. I had seen some crock-pot soups with tortellini but that is an ingredient that definitely doesn’t benefit from cooking forever. This could have been a one-pot-wonder if I had only cooked the sausage first.

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Tortellini, Spinach, and Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

1 jar light Alfredo sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
3 sausage links
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
3 cups baby spinach

Directions:

Add Alfredo, broth, and milk into a large pot over low heat.
Cook sausage links and slice into disks when cooked through.
Add garlic, seasonings, cooked sausage and tortellini to the pot, bringing to medium heat and cooking for 7 minutes.
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Test tortellini. When fully cooked, add spinach and stir.
Cook for 1-2 minutes and serve.
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I liked that this one was creamy but not super thick. The spinach reduces greatly even in just a minute so load it up, that’s the healthiest part of the soup!

Corn and Bacon Chowder

Are you stuffed and/or hungover from the Superbowl? This won’t undo any goodies you munched yesterday, but I thought: what food should be the morning-after the Superbowl? Answer: soup!

I’m trying to change people’s impression of soups. I fear they get a bad wrap for being not filling, or for lacking flavor. This recipe has been hanging out a bit because I made a creamy sherry tomato soup and pizza Soup ‎and roasted cauliflower soup all somewhat recently and I thought you might get souped-out. Not to worry though, I have a lighter soup Momma just made that is beyond words amazing. I’ll make it soon-ish. If nothing else, soup helps vary dinner ideas now and then.

This corn and bacon chowder is not exactly the healthiest soup, but the flavors are delightful. I based it off of Tyler Florence’s recipe and loved it. I shaved off some heaviness and calories by using half cream and half low-fat milk. I also used wine in place of some stock. This is a great spot for whole wheat flour since it is only thickening the soup.
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Corn & Bacon Chowder

Adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

2 tbs butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbs garlic, minced
2 tbs flour (I used wheat flour, all purpose is fine too)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or increse stock by 1 more cup if omitting wine)
2 cups corn
2 large potatoes, cooked and chopped
2 cups milk/cream (I used half milk, half heavy cream)
4-6 slices of bacon/pancetta/chorizo
½ tsp liquid smoke (optional)
½ tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper

Directions:

Boil potatoes until cooked most of the way through (or microwave, or bake)
Saute onion in butter until translucent and cooked through over medium heat.
Add garlic and flour, stirring well before adding stock and wine.
Add corn.
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Cook over medium-high heat, gently boiling.
Pan fry bacon.
Add potatoes and milk to the pot cooking at medium-high heat.
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Stir well, allowing potatoes to break down slightly.
Chop bacon.
Bacon, liquid smoke, and spices, and stir to combine.
Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
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I did the whole thing in 1 pot and 1 pan. Score! I boiled the potatoes and when I drained them, I started the soup in that same hot pot.

I love the bacon in here and the liquid smoke plays off that a bit. I think the bacon adds a depth and difference to the sweet corn that is necessary, not optional. I think the herbs could really be anything you have/love. Sage might be interesting? Tyler uses parsley. Basil always makes me think of lightness/freshness. I love chives (and they’re about the only thing I can grow).

Have I proclaimed my love for liquid smoke? I recommend adding it to traditional chili, soups, butternut squash enchiladas, etc. It seems like a special ingredient, but it ends up going with everything. It also doesn’t go bad for about a million years and you only use a little at a time. Ok, are you sold?

I didn’t freeze any of this soup. Cream based soups can seem kind of texturally off after being frozen to me. This made about 4 sizable portions for dinner & lunches.

Sherry Tomato Soup

Nothing says “winter meal” more than soup. Creamy tomato soup…spiked with wine. The nice folks at Tuttorosso sent me some canned tomatoes to try (and I got a beautiful new le creuset from Mr. J for Christmas) to debut so soup was in order. Don’t breeze through this thinking “didn’t she just make tomato soup?” That was different. this is different.
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I made Ree Drummond’s Sherried Tomato Soup and loved it. It stands up to her thought that after tasting it, “solemnity and peace will be within reach”. True story.

It is totally flavorful and comforting. I served it with some grilled cheeses and was thoroughly impressed. I liked how heavy-handed she is with the sherry. She’s also heavy handed with the cream making this delightful and it off-sets the sherry a bit.

Sherried Tomato Soup

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped (next time I’d reduce this to ¼ cup)
3 tbs butter
1 tbs garlic, chopped
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice
2 tbs sugar
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup cooking sherry
1 ½ cups heavy cream
chopped parsley, basil, ground pepper (optional)

Directions:

Heat a pot over medium heat and add onions and butter, cooking until translucent, adding garlic just for the last minute or two of cooking.
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Add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, and broth cooking for 5-10 minutes to heat through and release the flavors and sugars, not boiling.
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While first few soup ingredients are cooking, assemble grilled cheeses or prep garlic bread.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and add sherry.
Now is an opportune time to start grilled cheeses or garlic bread for dipping. Cook soup for another 5 minutes.
Turn heat off, and add cream & herbs.
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Serve & enjoy!

I loved the super strong tang of the sherry. Mr. J thought it was a bit too intense. You can reduce the amount or cook it a bit longer. I think soup gets a bad wrap and should be very flavorful. None of that Oliver Twist watery cabbage junk. This soup is like a warm itch-less-sweater wrapping like a hug around you.
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I liked this one reheated. If you’re feeling fancy, only add some of the cream to the part you’re eating right then. Reheating the soup, with the cream in it, isn’t for everyone. I like it though. A dollop of plain greek yogurt in each bowl, instead of the cream would be good. I got about 5 good-size servings out of this.

Talk about McSteamy! (Also, I know. I’m aware my placemats are still supporting the holidays. All they need is a flip to the reverse to become winter versus Christmas. I’m delaying the holidays-being-over thing.)
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Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: Tuttorosso sent me a set of samples of their canned tomato products to try out and taste. The product samples were completely complimentary but my experience, thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own. They are offering an apron giveaway for the first 4,000 people to “like” their page on facebook and who provide an original recipe. Also one lucky winner gets $500 to cooking.com. 

Pizza Soup in Breadbowls

Today I have a leftovers on rehab which I like to call Tonight & Take 2. It is a great way to use something you prepped or even ate before. Using leftovers and creating them into something new is key especially since I’m cooking for 2 and love to reuse leftovers…creatively. It simplifies dinner planning and is green (environmentally speaking and money saving!).

Speaking of leftovers, why were the ladies on the Bachelor so annoyed that Kacie is on, yet a gal from Bachelor Pad was no big deal? Sometimes leftovers are better the second time around! Not that I realllly want to call her leftovers, she is way more classy than the 50-shades of gray drunkard. Anywho, back to food.

Way back when, I tried my hand at Bolognese sauce (which was a hit) and then I wanted to let the leftovers shine. Along comes another Tonight & Take 2. Take last night’s bolognese sauce and make it into a comforting soup. I froze my leftover sauce so the soup came later and we weren’t eating the same thing meal after meal after meal…

Ingredients:

leftover bolognese sauce or meat sauce
pizza dough
1 cup pepperoni sliced
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tbs Parmesan cheese
3 tbs cream

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Directions:

Start with bolognese sauce, or any meat sauce you like.
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Reheat and add a touch of cream, Parmesan, and pepperoni.
Bake pizza dough in baseball/softball size blobs at 400-degrees for about 20 minutes. The interior doesn’t need to be fully cooked. Once cooled, chop of the top, pull out the interior, and add a few tablespoons of shredded cheese.
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Add soup and top with another sprinkle of cheese.
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This was a great use of leftovers feeling completely different without pasta. You could nix the bread bowls to eliminate a step/ingredient. I like that these guys are balanced and filling. It is flavorful and comforting without being complicated. I have a surprising number of soup posts to catch you up on so hold on tight!

What do you think? Thoughts about leftovers? Do you recreate them or enjoy them again and again as-is? Are you watching The Bachelor?

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Spoiler alert: the soup isn’t life changing. It is good enough. Maybe yours will be better. The flavors were great, it was perfect for a chilly day- I just wish I had a better blender. If you have a good blender, whip up this soup. (literally). I was itching for soup to complete my fall list. It is a good one to celebrate Boxing Day.
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Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
2 tbs good olive oil
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:

Cut the florets off the head of cauliflower and roast in a 400-degree oven coated liberally in olive oil, salt and pepper.
cauliflower_soup_raw_590_390Turn occasionally every 20 minutes. Cook for 40 minutes at 400-degrees.
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Add milk, sour cream, Parmesan, and garlic to a blender or food processor.
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Blend until smooth. (mine was less than silky textured)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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My blending was kind of a catastrophe. I tried my food processor, my smoothie machine, and an immersion blender. My smoothie machine is a Magic Bullet and has been kicking since about 2004? It was my best option here. I just couldn’t do much at a time. It does not chop or dice like advertised. It can puree really well though!

My food processor and blender is one machine and has severely let me down. The blender part doesn’t work well. It whirls and doesn’t seem to do much. The food processor has been great (for the few months I’ve had it) but was dribbling and didn’t even make it smooth.

The immersion is just an attachment to my hand mixer so I don’t expect much…rightly so.

I make frozen fruit & yogurt smoothies verrrrry often to know the liquid ratio is often important, the fill level affects it, and manually scraping the sides or stirring it can help greatly. I was very frustrated and thought it would have looked lovely if it was smoother.

It tasted good. I drizzled a little truffle oil on top since that can make anything better. I served some crunchy toasts on the side for dipping. We liked it, but I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency.

I learned that my tools were inadequate in this circumstance but that Mr. J will make the best of any dinner, despite how frustrated or disappointed I get. It was also a great reminder that roasted cauliflower is reallllly good and I should just make that sometimes. Maybe I’ll redeem myself with another soup. I love pumpkin & black bean. Loaded baked potato could be fun with toppings. Corn chowder is fun. Hmmm. The wheels are churning.

Crock Pot White Chicken Chili

I hosted a mini family dinner and was trying to come up with something easy that I could assemble and not spend the whole visit in the kitchen. All praise the crock pot! I decided I’d try my hand at white chicken chili.
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I took a looksey at Flying on Jess Fuel’s chicken chili since her recipes are always healthier than other folks. (Seriously, check out her collection of fall foods!)

Hers was thickened by mashing up some of the beans which is genius  I opted for a slightly easier approach. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to dump stuff into the crock pot and walk away!

Ingredients:

3 large chicken breasts, pre-cooked & shredded)
29-oz can white beans
2 cans green chilies
1 ½ cup corn
2 cups chicken broth
1 jar light alfredo sauce
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs garlic
1 large head of kale, chopped
1 large onion chopped
1 medium tomato

Directions:

Boil and shred the chicken
Put everything into the crock pot.
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Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 hours.

So easy! This cooked away while we hung and chatted. I made some cornbread muffins the night before. I made them in my whoopie pie pan and they were the perfect size…smaller than my muffin top pan.

When it was time to eat I set up a bar of toppings and let everyone have at it! I had some salsa verde, black olives, sour cream, tortilla strips and the corn muffins.
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I liked the consistency. I was soupy and only a bit creamy. It was so chock full of pieces of chicken, kale, corn, beans, etc that I think if it was thicker it would have been too much. I loved it, but thought I should have sweated out the onions a bit to soften them before dropping them in.

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I have a 6 quart crockpot and it was full to the brim. Five of us ate it that night and I have about 4 more servings for lunches. I also think this counts towards my fall foods list. Check!

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup in Breadbowls

I’ve been meal planning lately and it’s working out great. I’ll go into further detail later, but I think it’s helping me a bit more well rounded. Mr. J might have been a little bit nervous when I popped a soup onto the weekly list but we LOVED this.
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I wasn’t even going to blog this but just after I got going I figured it was worthy! My roux was perfect. That doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve made a few mac & cheeses that haven’t been ideal because my roux ratios were off. This time it was right on and it made the soup velvety and delicious.

Ingredients:

¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter
1½ cup half and half cream
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups broccoli florets
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar (I used a mix of sharp and American)

Directions:

Melt butter and whisk in flour. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on medium low until golden and sticky.
Add in cream and chicken stock, stirring until well incorporated. Add broccoli and cook covered for 15 minutes.
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Slowly add cheese and stir until melted.
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Cook for 15 minutes on low.

I served this soup in bread bowls by just baking lumps of pizza dough and scooping out the middle after the outside was fully cooked. It took about 30 minutes at 375-degrees to cook far enough in. The bread bowls were about baseball size each or a quarter of the dough.
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It was so thick and could easily be thinned out with more milk, water, or chicken stock. We really liked how creamy it was and the thickness was a good thing to us. I owe all the credit to the roux. I normally don’t measure but the equal parts worked magically.

Look at how interested the pup is. Windsor hangs out by the microwave that is set into the island. He was interested in the chicken stock warming up.
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This literally could have been fondue it was that thick and melty.  I think it would have liked it as a dip with crusty bread or to fill baked potato skins.

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Creamy Cream-less Tomato Soup

I don’t make soup nearly enough. I was totally enticed when I saw this tomato soup that doesn’t have any cream in it. It’s not that huge of a deal health-wise, but it doesn’t taste the same when it is reheated and it is just one more ingredient needed since we drink light soy milk and that gets wanky in certain recipes. I made it during one of the very brief winter-weather days here in New England.
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I loved that the bread made it thick and rich.
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I grabbed the canned tomatoes and almost choked when I got home. $5 something?!?! WHAT? In retrospect it was totally worth it for good stuff since there aren’t many ingredients annnnd it is the highlight of the soup. Maybe I ate the soup about 6 times so it is not much cost per serving anyway. Ok, I’m over it.

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Ingredients:

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½  tsp red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice (I used Pastene’s San Marzano Tomatoes with Basil)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Over medium high heat, warm olive oil before adding onion, cooking until translucent and starting to caramelize.
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Stir in tomatoes, sugar, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes.
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Stir occasionally.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium until bread starts to break down.
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Add broth and blend with an immersion blender/blender/potato masher to the consistency of your preference.
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I left mine a bit chunky because I like chunks in ice cream, peanut butter, apple sauce, and soup! I made it smooth when I recreated it for some new parents who I thought could use a meal or two.

I served it with grilled cheese (the secret ingredient was pesto) and it was a fantastic wintry meal. Mr. J isn’t into soup so I ate this myself a million times. It is surprisingly filling.
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Because I’m feeling especially dorky, I looked up what the nutritional facts are and this is a scant 53 calories per serving! A considerably smaller serving of a condensed tomato soup (who shall remain nameless) is 91 calories (with a lot more sugar, double the sodium, and less iron than mine).

Here’s the cost breakdown because I made such a stink about it:
1 can San Marzano Tomatoes: $4.99
3 slices wheat bread: $0.24
1 small onion: $0.99
2 cups chicken broth: $0.22
total = $6.44 (or $1.07 per serving)

Again, more red food in time for Valentine’s Day!
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Chili Cookoff

Way back when, I mentioned a chili cook-off I entered. I didn’t win but it was a great excuse to make some chili. It also got me thinking about my next birthday cook-off/taste-off…especially after last year’s booming success!

Ms. J from Better Than Butter introduced me to the cookoff. Guess what?! She won!! Woohoo!

I made a chili recipe my friend Ms. A graciously gave to me after I complimented her chili profusely about 5 years ago. It is modeled after Wendy’s Chili and it’s realllly good. I told her I’d share my winnings but I didn’t quite win. I came in a pretty respectable 4th (out of 11 or 12?).
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Here’s the recipe, with a few of my own tweaks, to make a HUGE batch. I recommend cutting in half if you aren’t serving an army or if you don’t want leftovers for weeks. It’s just too easy not to make more often.

Ingredients

3 lbs. ground turkey
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz)
1 can tomatoes with green chilis (10 oz)
1 can kidney beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 can black beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 large onion, diced
1 cup green chili, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
3 tbs cumin powder
4 tbs chili powder
2 tbs black pepper
3 tbs salt
3 cups water
1 tsp liquid smoke

Directions

Brown the meat and drain.
Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and onion.
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Add the beans, chilies, celery, and garlic.
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Add the spices.
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Finally add water and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 3 hours

The chili cook-off was a fundraiser for the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. It was $10 to enter a chili and $1 to sample and vote during a fall event they were having. I thought it was fun and it was great to see the community support.

We served non-stop for 90 minutes. I filled a huge crock pot. Most folks ran out even serving small amounts! It was so busy  that we (the chili cookers) didn’t get to sample everyone else’s chili! We were asked to list the ingredients so the tasters could have that info. I would have liked to see what everyone used.

I didn’t serve any toppings but totally should have. People had tortilla chips, cornbread, cheese, onion, etc! I had a bit leftover so Mr. J and I ate that with cornbread muffin tops once I got home.

Chili Surprise

I’m a little backwards on my timeline here but shhh! Don’t tell anyone you haven’t seen honeymoon meals before seeing this honeymoon-return-meal.

I’m lucky to call one of the kindest humans I know, my friend. Ms. L not only supported me through allllll my wedding planning as a bridesmaid, but she cooked a meal and delivered it to me with all the fixings so I could put off grocery shopping after the honeymoon. How well does she know me?!

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She made Ina Garten’s chili and sent onions, sour cream, shredded cheddar, and corn chips for toppings. AMAZING! I ate it for meals on end before actually grocery shopping. It was delicious and I hope she kept some for herself too!

Chicken Chili (Ina Garten’s recipe)

Ingredients

4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving: Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

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Directions

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.
Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.
Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

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It was such a thoughtful gesture and we loved it. I ate it for lunch all week too. I’m totally stealing this idea and giving somebody a meal when I think they’d need one. Thanks Ms. L!

Speaking of chili…I entered a Chili Cookoff! Can’t wait to share that with you too!