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TIME FOR COMFORT FOODS

With autumn here, our meal-planning thoughts are starting to include comfort foods such as stews and hearty pasta dishes. This rich-tasting ragout is a winner in both categories. You can serve it either by itself along with crusty whole-grain bread, or over rice or pasta. In fact, you can use your own imagination and come up with so many other ways to serve this tasty stew that you might want to double or triple the recipe just to have it on hand for sandwich, crepe or omelette filling. It is also a great company dish because it can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving. I like to garnish this dish with sunflower sprouts. They add a delightfully fresh look to the plate, and the crunchy texture is perfect with the ragout.

CHICKEN RAGOUT

2 cups fat-free chicken stock

2 cups non-fat milk

3 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, minced ( 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (4 cups)

2 tablespoons Madeira

4 cups diced cooked chicken breast, without skin

2 cups diced cooked carrots

2 cups cooked tiny peas

4 cups sunflower sprouts, for garnish (optional)

Combine the chicken stock and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In another pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the shallots. Cook until soft, then add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Do not brown! Add the simmering liquid all at once, stirring with a wire whisk. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is not thick enough, continue cooking a little longer. Add the salt and mix well. Cover and set aside.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mushrooms start to soften. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking over high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Add the Madeira and again cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the cooked mushrooms, chicken, carrots and peas to the mixture in the pan, and mix thoroughly. Heat to desired serving temperature.

To serve, spoon a generous cup of the stew onto each of 8 plates. Garnish each one with 1/2 cup of sunflower sprouts, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains approximately 282 calories, 7 grams fat, 78 milligrams cholesterol, 315 milligrams sodium, 29 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams protein, 5 grams fiber.

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