Meatless Monday – Bean & Sausage Stew

Fall consistently fills my plate with too much busy-ness. Transitioning kids and family back to school. Swamped at work as new programs kick off and we begin (never soon enough) holiday preparations. This year: add three weeks of Sick Kid, wading through piling-up school/homework and negotiations with teachers and administrators; countless hours of specialist appointments; and four hours/week of physical therapy for me as I deal with an ancient knee injury.

Each day has been a struggle to do necessary tasks, feeling like a schmuck mom unable to snuggle and comfort my boy as I would like. I have had to let other things slide. Cooking and writing among them.

Toward the end of No-School Week 3, I whisked Tween away for a spontaneous after-school visit to his teachers. I listened in as his Language Arts teacher talked with him about how to expand the rough draft of his personal narrative.

“Bit by bit,” she said. “Focus on the small actions, each little bit, adding new little bits to help your reader see the picture.”

“Bit by bit” feels like good life advice. One of my favorites, Glennon Doyle, wrote that she could not take one day at a time, that a day feels too overwhelming. She just needs to take one more step in the right direction, doing “the next right thing.” Step by step. Minute by minute. Bit by bit.

Bit by bit can also be hard. I want to see the Big Picture, to plan ahead, to do All the Things and do them All Well. In this season, that’s just not gonna happen.

So bit by bit. Two weeks ago I wrote a quick draft of this piece you’re reading. I didn’t know if it would ever come out to play, but it was at least worth the few minutes I could give it. A week ago I found time to be a little more creative in the kitchen. It tasted good, so I took a picture. Today I’m doing this bit, putting them together.

I don’t remember where the recipe came from. It might have been intended originally for carnivores, but I only use Field Roast Veggie Sausage. And it was originally titled “Chorizo & White Bean Stew” but Field Roast’s chorizo sausage, while delicious, is necessarily spicy. I have made this before with one chorizo link and two Italian sausage, but my kids won’t eat as much if it’s too spicy, so this time I used three Italian sausage and they devoured it.

The best part, well, other than the yummy taste? It comes together fast, important in this full-plate season.stew

Bean & Sausage Stew
Serves 4

3 links veggie chorizo or Italian sausage
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground thyme
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
2 c veggie broth
salt/pepper to taste
5 ounces baby spinach, lightly chopped (about 10 cups)
Smoked paprika (optional)

Cut sausage lengthwise and dice. In a large pan, cook sausage, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through. Transfer sausage to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, and thyme; no need for oil as the sausage will have released some during cooking. Cook until onion is softened, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes; if necessary, add broth 1 Tbsp at a time to keep onion from sticking. Add beans and remaining broth and cook, crushing a few beans with the back of a spoon to thicken sauce, until slightly thickened, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Fold sausage into stew. Add spinach by handfuls and cook just until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Divide stew among bowls and sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Serve with brown rice or whole wheat pasta.

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