4 Globally Inspired Winter Dishes Made For Staying In

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Smoky Green Chicken Pozole

Forget the burritos and hard-shell kits when you’re craving something south of the border. This Mexican stew is made with flavorful Swanson Chicken Broth and finished with a dash or two of smoky mezcal. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, add beans and top it off with a colorful array of radishes, cabbage, chopped onion, cilantro, and lime.

19 Campbells BA Pozole 6x4

Sticky Pomegranate & Ginger Chicken

Gather your friends for game night and wow them with this robust, Persian-inspired dish made with a base of Swanson Chicken Stock, onion, and ginger. After braising the chicken thighs, serve with pomegranate seeds, jalapenos, and cilantro. It’s the perfect marriage of flavor and texture. As for your friends? They may not leave.

19 Campbells BA ChickenThigh 6x4

Creamed Green, Mushroom, & Corn Slab Pie

You don’t have to be from down south to appreciate this hearty dish that combines fresh veggies and leeks with another homemade favorite: Pie. This nourishing, savory mélange is easy to make (and easier to eat). Just mix your vegetables with Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, pour it into your rolled-out pie crust, and bake.

19 Campbells BA SlabPie 6x4

Vietnamese Braised Short Ribs

Get the global flavor of your favorite pho without leaving the comfort of home. Onion, ginger, carrots, cilantro, and fish sauce enhance the finish on these short ribs. Braised in Swanson Beef Stock with Vietnamese aromatics, then served over rice and topped with carrots and fresh herbs, it’s the perfect meal for curling up on the couch this winter.

19 Campbells BA ShortRib 6x4

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In her short life, little Abby inspired countless acts of kindness. Now even strangers are mourning her death

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Abby was here, and the signs are everywhere. Pink ribbons are tied around the fence posts south of Schomberg, and in town, they’re on stop signs and telephone poles. At a coffee shop, there is a board where red hearts proclaim in permanent marker scrawl who has a free coffee or muffin coming to them. Just one of the many acts of kindness made in the name of the little girl who became a “binding force,” not just in this town north of Toronto, but everywhere she went. Abby Eveson died last week. She was here for five years and four months.

Abby Eveson was born with a rare congenital heart defect that limited the blood flow to her lungs. She had three open-heart surgeries before she was 2. When she was facing a surgery in 2014, her parents, Becky and Craig, began dropping $5 bills at the hospital, buying lunches for strangers, encouraging others to do the same. “It really helped us get through the hard times, just knowing that you’re helping make someone else smile when they’re having a difficult time,” Becky Eveson said earlier this week. “It just helped.”

Charlie Eveson, 7, in front of a picture of his sister Abby at the Schomberg arena, where his words were read out.
Charlie Eveson, 7, in front of a picture of his sister Abby at the Schomberg arena, where his words were read out.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

It was an exchange with the universe, and it became a movement: We Believe in Abby.

Read more:

Paying it forward for Abby: One family’s quest to create positive energy for their very sick daughter

“I know they truly believed that Abby survived for as long as she did because of that positive energy,” said Kate Glassow, a family friend.

On Thursday, the town arena was the only place big enough to hold the hundreds who came to celebrate her life. At centre ice there were flowers, balloons and pictures of Abby, including a recent school photo where she is leaning on some books in an academic pose. Her mom posted a behind-the-scenes version on Facebook about a month ago. Out of the frame, she is kneeling behind Abby to hold her up — “Picture day at school today! Gotta do what you gotta do xo.”

More than 500 people came to the service. Children sat cross-legged on the walking track. Many of them had done good deeds in Abby’s name, some had been on the receiving end, and others had been inspired by Abby. If Abby can do it, so can I. “It carried on forever,” Glassow said.

The Evesons knew that Abby’s life would never be free of medical appointments, but things had recently stabilized. “Out of all the years of being sick sick sick, it didn’t seem like the time,” Becky said. Abby was in school a few hours every day. She loved going on adventures, playing with her brothers, making people laugh. (One day at school, her teacher told her she needed to change her “grumpy pants.” When her mom picked her up to take her home for a nap, she insisted her pants be changed.)

In the middle of October, she went to a Wiggles concert with her mom. “I’ve never seen her beam more,” Becky said. A few days later, she learned she was going to be a big sister again. Her dad asked what they should name the baby, and Abby suggested “Coochie,” after her beloved soother.

In her short life, little Abby inspired countless acts of kindness | Story Behind the Story
The Trisan Centre hosted the memorial, which included an honour guard from King Emergency Services.
The Trisan Centre hosted the memorial, which included an honour guard from King Emergency Services.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Abby woke up early, as usual, on Oct. 24. She played in the bath and had a nap. She was sassy when her mom was too slow to return her iPad. And then she went into distress.

Eveson posted a message on the We Believe in Abby Facebook page. She knew it was bad, and asked for prayers and positive thoughts. “That’s always helped us in the past,” she said.

A few hours later, Abby died at the Southlake Regional Health Centre. Not long after, people in town began tying pink ribbons everywhere. Nearby towns did the same.

A jogger running downtown saw the ribbons. She had a sinking feeling.

“She started bawling,” said Glassow. “She was devastated, and again, she doesn’t know the family. Everyone just knows Abby’s story.”

During the service, Rev. Sheilagh Ashworth spoke for the family, including a tribute from 7-year-old Charlie.

Becky Eveson is consoled by her son Charlie, 7, during the service.
Becky Eveson is consoled by her son Charlie, 7, during the service.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

“She had lots of friends, including me because I am her brother,” Ashworth read, as Charlie stood at centre ice in his green sweater, shuffling behind one of the photos. “I miss her so much, and I am sure all of you do too. I will miss her cute little face and I am sure you will too. I will miss seeing her walk in her orange walker, because she would walk very fast. I will miss her cute feet, because they were really cute. I will miss her.”

King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini also spoke, calling it the “most difficult” speech of his career.

“If you didn’t know Abby you might ask: how could someone so small make such a profound impact on our community?” he said. “It’s because of the size of Abby’s heart.”

The service closed with a Wiggles recording of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It was the only song that soothed Abby when she was upset, her mom said. “Twinkle, Mom,” she’d say, and Becky would sing.

There were many “heart moms” in the stands who had met on the fourth floor of Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital. It can be difficult for friends and family to understand, so they all keep in touch on a Facebook group, offering support.

The stands of Trisan Centre were full as Abby’s service began on Thursday.
The stands of Trisan Centre were full as Abby’s service began on Thursday.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

In 2015, Carol Syme’s daughter Evynn had a heart transplant. It had not gone well, and after Syme posted in the group, she received a gift: a doll for her daughter, who was about to turn 4, and a Starbucks card. It came anonymously in “our last days in hospital.”

The coffee shop in the hospital is open day and night. It is one of the few places parents can go for a break, while still being close to their children. It was a special, thoughtful gift.

“It’s such a simple, tiny little thing,” Syme said. “Because it does get expensive, it does get dreary, or lonely, and it’s just someone random thinking about you, right?”

Even though everybody knew who the gift giver was, Becky “outed herself” after Abby’s death, hoping that someone will continue the tradition, said Melanie McBride, another heart mom at the service. McBride had been to the arena before. Eveson had arranged Christmas parties there for “heart kids” here so they could visit Santa in a controlled environment, and not worry about the germs at the mall.

After the floral arrangements were taken off the ice, there was skating, and a make-your-own-slime room with glitter and confetti. Slime was one of Abby’s favourite things. There was a room with singing and dancing, and an ice cream machine. On the ice, some of the younger children took tentative steps with a parent, their ankles bowed, smiling in disbelief.

This is what the Evesons wanted. A day for families to be together. They want to build an accessible playground in Abby’s memory someday. They believed in Abby, and they still do.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Becky said. “People aren’t just sending condolences. It’s messages of how she touched them, you know? And she’s 5. It’s amazing.”

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Cecilia Chiang Turns 90: The Woman Who Inspired Decades of Chinese-American Restaurateurs

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Two days before her 99th birthday, Cecilia Chiang is holding court with a dozen or so friends and family members at a long blond wooden table. Everyone is gathered for dinner at the Greenwich Village outpost of the fast-casual bing and noodle joint, Junzi Kitchen. The space is minimalist and plant-filled, the lighting is a little harsh, and the table is outlined by young customers wearing Adidas sneakers and white baseball caps who keep strolling in to pick up take-out orders, unaware they’re in the presence of restaurant royalty.

The setting feels appropriate for Chiang’s birthday party in a way. Without her, Junzi Kitchen—launched in 2015 by a couple of Yale students—likely would not exist. In fact, any of your favorite regional Chinese restaurants owe their presence at least partially to Chiang. Her San Francisco restaurant, The Mandarin, opened in 1961 amid a sea of stereotypical, chop suey–slinging spots and forever changed the makeup of Chinese restaurants in the U.S.

At 99 (technically 98, since the party is happening just before her birthday), Chiang certainly does not look her age, or like someone who spent multiple decades in the rough-and-tumble of the restaurant industry. Dressed in a striped black shirt and tailored black pants, her short hair neatly combed back, and large lustrous pearls dangling from her neck and ears (plus two dazzling rings on her fingers), she is a vision of poise. She walks delicately but purposefully, talks slowly but eloquently, and has a jubilant, full-bellied laugh.

If you’ve read anything on Cecilia Chiang, you’re probably familiar with her legendary origin story: how she escaped the Japanese invasion of China in 1942 and walked six months to a relative’s place in Chongqing, then fled China for Japan during the communist revolution, went to visit her widowed sister in San Francisco in 1960, tried to lend some money to two friends for a restaurant while there, and then was forced to take over the lease and move to the Bay Area permanently after the friends backed out and the landlord refused to return her money. She would reluctantly turn that tiny space into The Mandarin—a beautiful banquet-style restaurant serving the sophisticated Mandarin and Sichuan food (beggar’s chicken, smoked tea duck) from her upbringing with excellent service, a far cry from the homogeneous spots that suffused Chinatown. “I wanted high-end,” she says. “When I looked at Chinatown, I was really embarrassed. It was mostly chop suey and dragons and gold—so gaudy. And no tablecloths, no service, no carpets.” The Mandarin was an impeccably designed space, with bamboo, perfectly ironed white tablecloths, and elegant-looking artwork hanging from the walls.

cecilia chiang 3

Photo by Heather Sten

The restaurant industry was especially tough back in the ’60s for a woman, she says, especially a Chinese one. “People were very rude to me,” she says. “They gave me a hard time because I didn’t speak the language; because I was a woman, I had to pay cash every time.” People thought Chinese restaurants were “greasy and dirty,” she says, so distributors were hesitant to work with her. Even more isolating was the fact that because of her education and upbringing, she spoke a different dialect and didn’t dress like most other Chinese restaurateurs in the area, making it hard to find a community.

But thanks to the ingenuity of The Mandarin and Chiang’s bubbly demeanor, community soon found her. The restaurant earned a fan base that included heavy hitters like James Beard (“So tall and…,” she puffs up her cheeks to indicate Beard’s largesse), Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, and Julia Child. One day a young chef named Alice Waters walked into the restaurant, adored the food, and convinced Chiang to launch cooking classes, where Waters, Child, and Jeremiah Tower all came to learn about Chinese cuisine early in their careers.

That was Chiang’s first taste of mentorship, something that would become a central theme of her career, for both chefs like Waters and young Chinese-American restaurateurs who sought to follow in her footsteps.

cecilia chiang 4

Photo by Heather Sten

One of Chiang’s early mentees was her son, Philip, who, inspired by The Mandarin’s success, co-founded P.F. Chang’s, a destination for more casual, affordable Chinese cuisine in 1993. Later on she helped pastry chef Belinda Leong with her celebrated San Francisco bakery, B. Patisserie, and then eventually Ming Bai, Yong Zhao, and Wanting Zhang, who, with Junzi Kitchen, envisioned bringing unfussy, regional Chinese cuisine to the fast-casual realm.

At the start of dinner, the 25-year-old Junzi Kitchen chef, Lucas Sin, nervously tells Chiang how he consulted his own mother about what to cook for her that night, and then a parade of dishes arrives: tomatoes glazed in pat chun vinegar with shiso and watercress; smashed cucumbers with sesame and red amaranth; chun bing, skinny pancakes served with sides of chili-spiked beef shank, braised pork hock, garlic chives, and soy-scrambled eggs and leeks; and a comforting noodle soup of tomatoes and scrambled eggs. It’s simple food, more Chinese home cooking than Chinese banquet, and Chiang absolutely loves it.

She lifts up a few of the garlic chives with her chopsticks. “See?” she points. “Simple food, little oil, no MSG.” She opens up the basket of chun bing, and gingerly picks one up. “This one has texture, it is hand-rolled,” she says of the soft, bouncy crepe. “This is very good.”

She discusses a few of the restaurants she has visited on her trip to New York: the Park Slope trattoria, Al Di La, which she enjoyed; the Jean-Georges restaurant, JoJo, where she found the decor very tasteful; and Eleven Madison Park where “the food is good,” she says of the hallowed restaurant, “but I think people exaggerate too much.” Apparently, as soon as she walked in, one of the chefs saw her and gestured to the entire staff to come meet her. “That was kind of exciting,” she admits.

Chinese-American restaurateurs have it a lot easier now, she says. “They are well-educated,” so it is easier for them to navigate the industry; they understand the importance of investing in good design, quality ingredients, and smart team members. She shows off her hands, which are quite wrinkled and crooked from arthritis—badges of honor, she says, from all the cooking, scrubbing, and dishwashing she did by herself for years.

What hasn’t changed, though, she adds, is the issue of harassment. She has been following the #MeToo movement’s impact on the industry, and asserts that when she was growing up in China, “this happened all the time in show business, but Chinese ladies didn’t say anything,” she says. “It is good that women are speaking out now.” She remembers being a younger woman trying to go to the bathroom and being grabbed by a man from behind. “They really are a bunch of monsters!” she says, recounting a few of the men who have been brought down by harassment allegations. She shakes her head in dismay.

As she continues to taste the various dishes at her birthday dinner, her famously sharp palate is still as on point as ever. She can identify the exact herbs in the tomato salad, and the ingredients in the noodle broth. She inspects the julienned pieces of ginger for uniformity. She breezily sips her Chenin Blanc and leans across the table to toast with her friends. “People always say, ‘You probably don’t eat much,’” she says. “But I tell them that I eat three meals a day regularly. Also, I drink! I have Champagne, and I enjoy it!”

As the party begins to wind down and the last course comes out (a bowl of red fruits, to symbolize prosperity), Chiang, unprompted, tells everyone that she is a Buddhist and therefore she is frequently asked whether she believes in a second life (she does). So, someone asks: What would she want to be in her next existence?

She pauses for a brief but weighty moment, as if to reflect on the 99-year scope of her life, and then laughs.

She loves people, and she revels in hard work, so the answer seems obvious to her: “I think I would still like to be in the restaurant business.”

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