Curry favor with comfort classics

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February temperatures call for hearty comfort food. Bring on the casseroles, soups and such. When the winter chill sets in, make my thick and satisfying Creamy Mushroom Soup. Craving Mexican? Try Creamy Chicken Enchiladas. For an Italian-inspired dish, make an easy and delicious Awesome Pasta Casserole. One of my all-time favorite meals is Chicken or Shrimp Curry. It’s always better on the second day, so prepare on the weekend and reheat for a no-fuss weeknight dinner. Enjoy the recipes!

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cups portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup half-and-half
Croutons or bread for serving (optional)

Heat olive oil and 3 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven. When hot, add shiitake and portobello mushrooms and onion; cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add sage, pepper and salt. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter and flour; cook for 5 minutes. Add bay leaf, garlic and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer; cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Carefully puree mixture (in batches if necessary) until smooth, using a traditional blender/food processor or an immersion blender. Return soup to pot, and stir in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat until hot. Serve with croutons or bread if desired.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Makes 6 enchiladas.

4 cups cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded 
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
2 teaspoons cumin, divided
2 tablespoons oil
1 large white onion
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
1 (10-ounce) can green enchilada sauce
3 tablespoons cilantro, more for garnish (optional)
Cooking spray
6 medium flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese 
Sliced black olives (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)
Salsa for serving 

Heat oven to 350.

Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of smoked paprika and cumin. Set aside.

In a large pan with deep sides, heat oil. Add onion; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining smoked paprika and cumin and flour; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, and cook for several minutes, allowing mixture to thicken. Reduce heat to low, and stir in sour cream, enchilada sauce, cooked chicken and cilantro until combined. 

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Evenly fill tortillas with chicken mixture, and place seam-side down in pan. After all are folded, top with cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted.

If desired, garnish with additional cilantro, black olives and green onions. Serve with salsa on the side.

Awesome Pasta Casserole

Awesome Pasta Casserole
Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces rotini pasta 
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 very small green pepper, diced
4 Italian sausage links, sliced (can use turkey version)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (10-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
4 ounces goat cheese (plain or garlic-and-herb), crumbled
1 1/3 cups shredded Italian blend or mozzarella cheese for topping

Heat oven to 400.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and drizzle with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick, and spread it out in casserole dish to cool.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion, mushrooms, green pepper and sausage. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until sausage is done. Add salt and Italian seasoning.

Place roasted red bell peppers in food processor; pulse until fairly smooth. Add peppers, marinara sauce and goat cheese to pot. Lower heat to medium-low, and stir until goat cheese dissolves into sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour sauce over pasta, and stir until combined. Evenly sprinkle Italian/mozzarella cheese over top; bake for 12-15 minutes, until cheese melts. Serve.

Note: For a faster meal, don’t bake as a casserole, and simply serve pasta with sauce. The Italian/mozzarella cheese can be stirred into the warm sauce or sprinkled on top of each portion.

Chicken or Shrimp Curry

Chicken or Shrimp Curry

Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 very large red onion, minced
3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger or ginger paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder
1     cinnamon stick or 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups cups raw, chopped chicken or raw, peeled shrimp
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, chopped 
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (do not use light)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Hot, white rice for serving
Dried cranberries or raisins (optional)
Sliced banana (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika, curry powder and cinnamon, and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken (see note if using shrimp) and salt; cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in coconut milk. Cook mixture at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Serve over rice, and, if desired, top with dried cranberries and bananas for a sweet accent. (It really goes nicely with the curry flavor.)

Note: If using shrimp, you’ll need to adjust cooking time. When adding shrimp and salt, immediately add tomatoes and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, and cook for 10 minutes at a simmer.

Juliana Goodwin is a food columnist, cookbook author and avid traveler. If you have a question, email julianalovesfood23@gmail.com.

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