Chicken Paprikash

The spice paprika can be found in many recipes that have their roots in Eastern Europe. One such dish is goulash, which originated in 9th-century Hungary. It’s a dish that I’ve found quite tasty, especially a recipe for it that came to me from a co-worker, Brad Schlossman.

The recipe for it was passed down to Brad from his grandmother, Jennie Nartnik, herself of Slovenian descent. (Slovenia is located just southwest of Hungary in the Balkan penisula.)

Another dish that contains generous amounts of paprika and is native to that area of Europe is chicken paprikash, the classic Hungarian stew of onions, peppers and sometimes tomatoes and mushrooms.

With some leftover roast chicken in the refrigerator, today I put together a paprikash dish, the combination of three recipes, each a little different than the other.

The result was easy to make and quite tasty when served over egg noodles, and the perfect comfort food for a winter day.

Chicken Paprikash
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 15-ounce cans stewed tomatoes
4 teaspoons Hungarian or sweet paprika
¾ cup sour cream
Cooked egg noodles (you could sub in rice, potatoes, spaetzle, dumplings, or bread)
Heat olive oil in the Dutch oven and add the sliced onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to medium.
Add the chicken and tomatoes, Cover and let stew for 1 hour. Turn the heat to low. Add the sour cream and paprika stirring until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired. Serve over egg noodles or rice.
Yield: Serves 2.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

What comes to mind when you think of comfort food? To some, it might be meatloaf. Still others will say mashed potatoes. And I’ll guarantee that mac ‘n’ cheese is high on a lot of people’s list.

Those are just three of nearly 30 foods that Americans picked as their favorite comfort food in a recent survey conducted by about.com.

A number of casseroles also rated high in the survey, and that’s not surprising. They are one of my favorite comfort foods, regardless of what the star ingredient is.

Here’s a casserole recipe that I fixed recently. It’s from Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman, who on her website (www.pioneerwoman.com) describes herself as a moderately agoraphobic ranch wife and mother of four.

Ree lives on a working cattle ranch, where she spends her days wrangling children, chipping dried manure from boots, washing jeans and making gravy, and she describes this recipe as one of the all-time greatest “make-before” comfort foods.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
2 cups cooked chicken
3 cups dry spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 4½-ounce can sliced mushrooms
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
¼ cup finely diced green pepper
¼ cup finely diced onion
1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
2 cups reserved chicken broth from pot
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon) cayenne pepper
Salt And pepper, to taste
1 cup additional grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Cook 1 cut-up fryer and pick out the meat to make two cups. Cook spaghetti in same chicken broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients except additional 1 cup sharp Cheddar.
Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp Cheddar. Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately: 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (If the cheese on top starts to get too cooked, cover with foil).
Yield: Serves 8.

Terrific Turkey Meatloaf

If you were to do a survey about the most popular comfort food, there’s a good chance that meatloaf would be near the top of the list. The No. 1 reason, perhaps, would be because of its versatility.

Typically, meatloaf is made of beef or pork, or a combination of those meats. But there are other versions of this American favorite that are just as tasty, including those that feature ground turkey.

Here’s a turkey meatloaf recipe, from the American Institute for Cancer Research, that’s made with a combination of dark and white meat, to ensure that it has minimal fat but maintains its moisture. Mushrooms and onion also help the meatloaf remain succulent.

And if you have leftovers, they can be easily warmed up and enjoyed again, or used to make a sandwich with cold slices.

Terrific Turkey Meatloaf
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
½ pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/8 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 pounds ground turkey (mix of dark and light meat)
¾ cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup ketchup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and mushrooms, add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire, stock and tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large mixing bowl combine turkey, breadcrumbs, eggs and onion-mushroom mixture. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf in shallow baking dish. Brush ketchup on top.
Bake 90 minutes or until meat is cooked through and internal temperature is 165 degrees. Serve hot. Leftovers may be served cold in sandwiches.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate  nutritional analysis per serving: 238 calories, 6 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 14 grams carbohydrates, 30 grams protein, 1 gram dietary fiber, 335 milligrams sodium.

Classic Comfort — Bread Pudding

A lot of people consider bread pudding a classic comfort food, especially those who live in the South or have their roots on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Actually, it’s considered “extreme” comfort food by some Southerners.

But I’ve known a few Yanks who swear by bread pudding. Two of my former Grand Forks exercising cohorts used to travel regularly to a cafe in Mayville, N.D., for bread pudding and couldn’t stop raving about it.

I’ve eaten bread pudding a couple of times and found it to my liking. I was especially fond of the raisins in the tasty dessert.

Here’s a bread pudding recipe, sans the raisins, which caught my eye today. It’s from Los Angeles Time food writer Noelle Carter’s SOS column. Noelle adapted the recipe from Nopa in San Francisco, which uses a mixture of pain de mie and white levain breads in the dessert. But the most interesting ingredient is fresh goat cheese. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Goat Cheese Bread Pudding
3½ cups milk
3½ cups heavy cream
1 cup creme fraiche
8 cups crustless bread cubes, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 eggs
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1 8-ounce log fresh goat cheese, crumbled
In a large bowl, mix together the milk, heavy cream and creme fraiche.
In an 11-by-15-inch baking dish, place the bread, mounding it slightly in the center of the dish. Pour over the milk mixture, gently pushing the bread down into the liquid so it is evenly soaked. Wrap the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, black pepper and ¼ cup each Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses. Pour the egg mixture over the soaked bread. Dot the top with the crumbled goat cheese.
Using your hands, gently but thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients, making sure there are no pockets of unincorporated egg or cream. Don’t worry if the bread breaks down. When everything is thoroughly mixed, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and Gruyere over the top.
Cover the top of the dish with a sheet of greased foil, then place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, carefully pouring in enough hot water to come up the sides of the baking dish by half.
Bake the bread pudding until set when jiggled (the middle will be moist but not runny), 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. Gently remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is browned, about 15 minutes more. Cool the bread pudding completely and chill before slicing, then rewarm the slices before serving.
Yield: Serves 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 382 calories, 12 grams protein, 13 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 31 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 189 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams sugar, 494 milligrams sodium.

Lawry’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

There are just some foods that you associate with comfortable, casual dining. Casseroles are one type that comes to mind. Another is pizza, which can satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

I’d like to add macaroni and cheese to that list. It is classic comfort food, and perfect for a summertime get-together.

The following baked mac ‘n’ cheese recipe was adapted from one at Lawry’s Carvery in Los Angeles, which was covered by Times food writer Noelle Carter.

And yes, it is the same Lawry’s that originated the seasoned salt.

Lawry’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
4¾ cups milk
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon butter, diced
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
4¾ cups plus 1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 pounds penne pasta
1½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Place the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter, and tie together to make a sachet. In a large saucepan, place the milk and sachet and bring to a simmer over low heat, careful not to boil. Remove from heat.
While the milk is heating, in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, careful not to brown. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Stir the roux occasionally for 5 minutes, watching that it does not stick to the base of the pot.
Slowly whisk in one-fourth of the milk to form a paste. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk and the sachet, and season with the 2 teaspoons salt and cayenne pepper. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in 4¾ cups cheese and cream until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth. This makes a scant 2 quarts cheese sauce. Remove and discard the sachet, and set aside.
While the cheese sauce is cooking, make the pasta. In the large pot of salted boiling water, cook the penne to very al dente, about 7 minutes (the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes). Drain the pasta and cool under running water.
Place the pasta in a large bowl, and toss with the cheese sauce. Pour the pasta and cheese sauce into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle over the remaining 1½ cups Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese topping is melted and lightly colored, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 657 calories, 25 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 39 grams fat (24 grams saturated), 117 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams sugar; 514 milligrams sodium.

Grilled Cheese Comfort

Chances are if you ask a dozen people what their favorite comfort food is you might get 12 different answers. I know my answer could be different, depending on my tastes on that particular day.

But one that surely rates high on my list is the grilled cheese sandwich. Some of my fondest childhood memories are those cold winter days when my mom would serve up grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch. Of course, the sandwiches made perfect dunking fare for a hot bowl of soup.

There are probably as many variations of the tasty sandwich as there are varieties of cheese. I discovered another today while watching Claire Robinson’s “Five Ingredient Fix”  on the Food Network. One of the recipes Robinson featured was for Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich. She did something that I’d never seen before. Both sides of her sandwiches were slathered with mayonnaise before they were grilled.

That was news too me, but apparently, not so much for everyone else. My friend, Bob Sullivan, who enjoys talking food with me while we exercise, said he and his wife, Shirley, always coat their grilled cheese sandwiches with mayo. I’ve coated grilled salmon with mayo to keep the fish from drying out but never have done so with grilled cheese. But it’s something that I’ll likely give a try.

Here’s the recipe, along with several others. Take you pick. You may have a new favorite when all is said and done.

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich
1½ cups shredded best-quality sharp Cheddar
½ cup real mayonnaise, plus more for grilling
1 4-ounce jar chopped pimentos, drained
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
12 slices brioche bread, lightly toasted
Pulse the cheese, mayo, pimentos and cayenne in the food processor until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
Spread some additional mayo on 1 side of each slice of toasted bread. Arrange 6 slices, mayo-side down, on a clean work surface. Place 2 heaping tablespoons pimento cheese evenly on the 6 slices of bread and top with the remaining 6 slices of bread, mayo-side facing up.
In a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, cook 3 sandwiches until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt, about 3 minutes. Turn the sandwiches over and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Wipe the pan clean and repeat with the remaining 3 sandwiches.
Yield: Serves 6.
What To Toss In: If you like your pimento really spicy, you can always add some chipotle in adobe sauce to give it a smoky flavor. This also can be used as an entertaining dip. Just arrange some baby carrots and cut up some celery sticks around the cheese.

The Blue Tomato
1 cup (about 4 ounces) Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
½ stick butter, room temperature (divided)
8 slices crusty seeded Italian bread (or other hearty bread such as sourdough)
2 large ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces) cut into 8 slices
½ large bunch of basil, leaves only
In small bowl, place cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Mix well. Butter one side of bread slices with remaining butter. Place 4 bread slices on work surface, buttered side down. Divide cheese mixture evenly over bread slices. Top with tomato and basil. Top with other 4 slices of bread, buttered side up.
Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat 2 minutes. Place sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to soften. Uncover and turn sandwiches with spatula, pressing firmly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until bread is golden brown and cheese is softened and heated through. Turn once more and cook 30 seconds. Remove from skillet and let cool 3 to 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.
Yield: 4 sandwiches.

The Caribbean Grill
½ mango, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 tablespoons red onion, diced)
¼ red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon curry powder
8 slices fresh Italian bread
8 slices (1 ounce each) Swiss cheese
¼ cup honey mustard
In small bowl, prepare salsa: mix together mango, red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside. (This can be made one day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.) Makes about 1 ½ cups.
In small bowl, mix butter and curry. Spread 2 tablespoons butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices of bread on your work surface, buttered side down. Spread mustard on bread. Place about 2 tablespoons mango salsa on bread, followed by the cheese. (You may need to fold cheese slices to fit bread.) Place remaining 4 bread slices on top, buttered side up.
Add remaining curry butter to nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover and turn sandwiches with spatula, pressing very firmly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until bread is golden brown and cheese has melted. Turn once more, press with spatula and cook 30 seconds. Remove from pan and let cool 3 to 5 minutes. Cut diagonally and serve with extra salsa on the side.
Yield: 4 sandwiches.

Smoky Southwestern Grill
2 pasilla or Anaheim chilies (or use canned chilies)
8 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
4 ciabatta rolls, cut in half (or 1 loaf ciabatta cut into 3-inch-wide sections, or use any type Italian bread)
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces mozzarella, coarsely grated (if watery, drain slightly and cut into thin slices rather than grate it)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled or pinched into pea-size pieces
4 large slices tomato, ¼-inch thick
Roast peppers by preheating broiler, or turning on one burner of gas stove. Place chilies under the broiler, or hold one chili with tongs over gas burner flame. Cook, turning frequently, until skin is charred all over. Repeat with remaining chili.
Place chilies in resealable plastic bag and set aside 20 minutes. Using small sharp knife, scrape off charred skin, cut off stems, then cut chilies into ½-inch-wide strips. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Wipe skillet with a paper towel, but do not wash it.
To assemble, pull out some of the center of each roll to create a well. Brush the outside of each roll with the oil. Place bottom 4 pieces on work surface, oiled side down. Distribute mozzarella evenly over these pieces, followed by bacon, chilies, tomatoes and goat cheese. Place remaining 4 pieces of rolls on top, oiled side up.
Using same skillet as before, heat skillet over medium heat 2 minutes. Place sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary) and press firmly with spatula to flatten them slightly. Cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown in places and mozzarella has begun to melt. Uncover, and turn sandwiches with spatula, pressing very firmly. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown in places (the shape of the roll prevents uniform browning). Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula, and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until mozzarella has melted completely.
Yield: 4 sandwiches.

Two-Cheese Mediterranean
2 ounces feta cheese
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
8 slices sourdough bread (¼-inch thick)
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (or use Emmentaler or Monterey jack)
4 whole roasted red peppers (from a jar), drained and cut in half
½ cup baby spinach leaves
In small bowl, mix together feta, olives, capers, lemon peel and pepper to taste. Set aside.
To assemble, butter one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices on work surface, buttered side down. Spread feta mixture evenly over 4 slices. Press Gruyere into feta mixture and top each slice with 2 pepper halves and spinach. Press again to compress filling. Place remaining 4 bread slices on top, buttered side up.
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat 2 minutes. Place sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover, and turn sandwiches with spatula, pressing very firmly to flatten slightly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and spinach has wilted. Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula, and cook 30 seconds, or until Gruyere has melted completely.
Yield: 4 sandwiches.

Grilled Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
1 French-bread baguette (16 ounces)
2/3 cup olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as tarragon, thyme, and rosemary)
¾ cup soft fresh goat cheese (plain, peppered, or herbed)
4 large plum tomatoes, thinly sliced into rounds
2 cups coarsely chopped pitted Mediterranean olives
Prepare grill (medium heat). Cut baguette crosswise in half. Cut each half lengthwise in half to form 4 pieces total.
In small bowl, combine oil, garlic and herbs. Brush all cut sides of bread with half of oil mixture.
Grill bread, cut sides down, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove from grill. Quickly spread cut sides of toast with goat cheese. Top with tomatoes and olives, dividing equally. Drizzle remaining oil mixture on top.
Return open-face sandwiches to grill. Cook until bottom sides are toasted, cheese melts, and tomatoes begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Cut each sandwich diagonally in half and serve.
Yield: Makes 4 sandwiches.

Get Comfy with Meatloaf

There are some things I like about winter. No, it’s not the snow and cold that I find appealing. Actually, the snow and the cold do have something to do with it. They are conducive to serving up comfort food.

And one of my favorite comfort foods is meatloaf, which we are going to have for supper along with some sweet potatoes and corn. I’ve been going over several recipes to find one that most comes closest to the meatloaf we used to have as kids.

I remember watching my mom when she mixed her meatloaf. If my memory serves me correctly, it consisted of ground beef, diced onion, oatmeal, an egg, a little Worcestershire sauce and milk. I came across a couple of recipes that contain those ingredients, including one of the following, which we tried and is very tasty. The other meatloaf recipe calls for bread crumbs instead of oatmeal.

And if you like garlic, check out the recipe for garlic-whipped potatoes.

Economy Meatloaf
1 pound ground beef
1 cup rolled oats
¼ cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan. Combine all ingredients and mix. Pack firmly into pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Maple Syrup-Glazed Meatloaf
Vegetable oil spray
½ cup chopped/diced frozen onion
½ cup chopped/diced frozen green bell pepper
¾ pound extra lean ground beef
2 teaspoons ground sage
½ cup plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons maple syrup (divided)
1 egg white
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Microwave onion and green bell 1 minute on high in a bowl to defrost. Mix in beef, sage and bread crumbs. Add 2 tablespoons maple syrup, egg white and salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Shape into 2 loaves, about 4 by 6 inches, on prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven, drizzle with remaining syrup and bake 3 to 5 minutes, until meat reaches 145 degrees.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 466 calories, 22 percent of calories from fat, 11.7 grams fat (4.5 grams saturated, 5 grams monounsaturated), 216 milligams cholesterol, 42.7 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 2.8 grams fiber, 313 milligrams sodium.

Garlic-Whipped Potatoes
3/4 pound red potatoes
16 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Scrub potatoes (do not peel) and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large saucepan with the garlic and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, 10 minutes. Set aside 1/3 cup cooking water and drain potatoes. Mash them, beating in the cream, reserved water and salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 203 calories, 27 percent of calories  from fat, 6.1 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated, 1.6 grams monounsaturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 35.4 grams carbohydrates, 3.7 grams fiber, 54 milligrams sodium.

Slow Green Chili

Not everyone agrees about what should go in chili.

Some insist chili must have beans. Still others, including those from Texas, say chili with beans isn’t chili at all.

Another argument is that chili has to have beef. A co-worker of mine disses any chili that is without meat or uses chicken or turkey instead of beef. He would be in disagreement with people from New Mexico, who believe the only real requirement for chili is peppers — green or red.

As far as I’m concerned, chili can contain just about any ingredient the cook wants to use. I’ve made chili with beef, elk, bison and venision. I’ve made it without meat. I’ve made a white version using chicken and/or turkey. And I’ve made it with and without beans.

Yesterday, I offered a couple of recipes, one the traditional red kind (with beef), with beans, that most people are familiar with, the other without meat and three kinds of beans.

Today, I’m sharing a recipe that contains chicken and no beans.

Green Chili with Chicken
8 New Mexico or poblano chilies
2 jalapeno chilies (optional)
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 14½ ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup whipping cream or half-and-half
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Chopped chilies, crumbled Mexican cheese, chopped onion, minced cilantro, salsa
Heat the broiler or a heavy skillet over medium heat; roast the chilies, turning, until blackened on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plastic or paper bag; set aside to cool. Peel away blackened skins. (It’s OK if some charred bits remain.) Seed chilies; chop. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onions, garlic and cumin; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the chicken into ½-inch square pieces; transfer to the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring once or twice, until chicken is opaque, about 8 minutes.
Add chicken broth, tomatoes, oregano and reserved chilies. Increase heat to high; heat to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes. Stir in cream and cornmeal; cook 10 minutes. Pass the garnishes at the table.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 299 calories, 43 percent of calories from fat, 14 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 13 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 780 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Chili for a Chilly Day

Most people couldn’t have been happier with the weather we had in April — nice temperatures and dry. I’m one of them.

But so far, May has been a little more than a bit disappointing. We’ve had cold, rainy weather, and the immediate forecast is for snow. Yes, snow.

Well, when the weather goes south like this, my thoughts turn to foods that bring comfort. One of those is chili. In fact, I’m going to make one of my favorite chilis tonight. While I like meat, this one’s a vegetarain version with three kinds of beans and some seasonings and peppers that would make anyone of Mexican origin happy on this Cinco de Mayo.

The meatless chili fits right in with my philosophy of eating about five or six meals a week that are vegetarian or fish-based. I try to limit my meat consumption to one or two times over the course of a week. Not only is this healthier, it also makes me appreciate meat all that much more when we do have it.

Traditional Ground Beef Chili
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ pounds ground beef
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 15-ounce can pizza sauce
1 10.7-ounce can tomato soup
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch each: ground red pepper, freshly ground black pepper
Shredded cheese, diced red onions, sour cream (optional)
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion and garlic. Cook until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beef; cook, stirring often, until broken up and browned, about 5 minutes.
Stir in beans, tomatoes with their juices, pizza sauce, soup, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Spoon into bowls; garnish with cheese, onions and/or sour cream, if desired.
Note: This recipe uses canned diced tomatoes with chilies; regular diced tomatoes will work, too. A teaspoon of cumin also (when you add the chili powder) would add a nice spark of flavor.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 260 calories, 42 percent of calories from fat, 13 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 23 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 769 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Three-Bean Chili
1 15-once can black beans
1 15-once can dark kidney beans
1 15-once can pork and beans
1 8-ounce can sliced mushrooms
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 green pepper, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon cumin
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onions, celery, garlic and green pepper in olive oil until translucent. Add the rest of ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour and serve.

Five-Bean Chili
2 tablespoons vegetarian olive oil
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 each, chopped: sweet onion, green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 each, finely chopped: drained chipotle peppers, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 16-ounce can each, drained: black beans, garbanzo beans, red kidney beans, white kidney beans, cannellini or butter beans
1 14-ounce can vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon each: salt, dried thyme leaves, red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add celery, onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in chipotle and sun-dried tomatoes. Add crushed tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, thyme, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Heat to a boil over medium-high heat; lower heat to a simmer. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 324 calories, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 59 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 1,510 milligrams sodium, 18 grams fiber.

Tuna Casserole

There are some days when I just crave comfort food. Saturday was one of those.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s suffice to say my spirits needed lifting. Plus, it was cloudy, windy a little cooler than it had been all week. So, I turned to one of my favorite comfort foods — tuna noodle casserole. It’s been at the top of my list since my childhood.

I usually don’t have a set recipe when it comes to tuna casserole. This time, all I did was saute some celery and red onion in a little olive oil and added two cans of tuna (water drained), a can of cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup, a half-cup of Miracle Whip Lite, a tablespoon of cornstarch, a half-cup of milk and salt and pepper to taste. I cooked this a bit while my homemade egg noodles (from Hosmer, S.D.) cooked.

When the noodles where al dente, I drained them and mixed them with the tuna in a greased casserole. I then topped this with a little grated Cheddar cheese and baked for about 35 to 40 minutes.

It tasted great.

Here are a couple of other recipes for tuna casserole. Give them a try. I’ll guarntee you feel better if you’re down in the dumps.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick (4 cups)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ cup sherry
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce can tuna in olive oil, drained
6 ounces dried curly egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3¼ cups)
1½ cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices white bread)
4 ounces coarsely grated cheddar (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in 1½ tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then saute until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, five minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Cook noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish, spreading evenly.
Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.
Yield: Serves: 4 to 6

Tuna Rice Casserole
12 ounces water-packed canned tuna, drained
1 10.5-ounce can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup diced onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ cups cooked brown rice
2 teaspoons canola oil
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place tuna in a bowl and flake with a fork. Fold in half the mushroom soup, 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and the onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Microwave brown rice 90 seconds on high or according to package instructions. Place rice on bottom of casserole dish and toss with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread over bottom of dish. Spoon tuna mixture on top, and cover with remaining soup. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes. Place under the broiler to brown top, about 1 minute.
Yield: Serve 2.
Approximate nutritional analysisper serving: 624 calories (27 percent from fat), 18.7 grams fat (7.3 grams saturated, 7 grams monounsaturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 57.5 grams protein, 54.2 grams carbohydrates, 4.3 grams fiber, 682 milligrams sodium.