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I'm not sure if it's the unselfish kindness my neighbor showed me or the soup she fed me that I can't stop thinking about.

Several weeks ago, I experienced a migraine for the first time. I found myself stranded at midday at the doctor's office, unable to drive home. My husband was out of town. After several phone calls to friends and family, only to get their answering machines, I called my neighbor Cheryl.

She answered the phone with that breathy nasal sound that always spells a bad head cold. I immediately asked myself who was more pitiful, me stranded at the doctor's office or my poor neighbor with the stuffy head. I told her my dilemma, and Cheryl was on her way no sooner than the words could pass my lips.

By the time we arrived home, I was so out of it I don't think she thought I'd make it through the front door. A good six hours later, as I was coming out of a foggy sleep, I heard a light tapping on the front door. Another friend had graciously taken the kids after school, and unless the cat had learned a new trick, I was going to have to answer the door. There stood Cheryl, soup in hand.

"I know you probably don't want anything to eat, but just in case you do, I brought you soup," she said.

Later, I zapped a bowl full of the soup in the microwave and sat down to sip it. I am always amazed at the healing powers of food. Feeling pretty miserable and alone, the lightly cheesy broth with spinach and tortellini comforted me like a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold, rainy day.

Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing yourself and your soup. Today's quick and easy recipe for Tortellini and Spinach Soup is an adaptation of Cheryl's delicious recipe.


1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium onion (for 3/4 cup chopped)

1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

2 cups water

2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) fat-free roasted garlic seasoned chicken broth (see note)

1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

1 package (9 ounces) portobello mushroom tortellini (see note)

3 tablespoons already-shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Remove the spinach from its package and place on a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at high for 5 minutes to defrost.

Meanwhile, heat the oil on medium in a 4 1/2 -quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Peel and finely chop the onion, adding it to the pot as you chop. Add the garlic, and stir and cook for 1 minute or until the onion is tender. Add the water and broth. Raise the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil.

Drain the spinach well, squeezing out the excess water. Add it to the pot. Add the tomatoes with their juice and the sugar. Stir to mix well.

Add the tortellini and bring the pot back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, maintaining a slow boil, and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile in a 1-cup or larger glass measure, combine the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and egg. Stir vigorously with a fork or a small whisk.

When the soup has cooked for 5 minutes, slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the pot, stirring constantly. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Spoon into shallow soup bowls and serve immediately. Makes 4 generous servings.

Cook's notes: If you can't find seasoned chicken broth, plain chicken broth is fine. Any kind of tortellini is wonderful in this soup.

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