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Eating Well: Mushrooms add 'something special' to favorite dish

It seems that either you like them or you don't.

I'm referring to the mushroom, which happens to be celebrated the entire month of September as the 'friendly fungi' vegetable not only good, but good for you, low in calories and high in fiber, containing a variety of B complex vitamins, an excellent source of riboflavin, and a very good source of niacin, thiamine, vitamin B6 and folate.

The agaricus bisporus (scientific name) more commonly known as the white button, because it resembles such, is the most popular, representing about 90 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the U.S. Others following in popularity are the crimini brown, portabella, shitake and maitake.

Overall, more than 2,500 varieties are grown in the world today - to be served sliced and sautéed, breaded and fried, diced in soups and sauces or raw in salad - as the perfect finishing touch to any meal, from gourmet cuisine to traditional down-home cooking.

This week I'm featuring recipes for those who enjoy mushrooms, both easy and containing ingredients readily available. I use the button mushrooms in each, but if you like, experiment with your favorite mushroom choices.

The Creamy Sherry Mushroom Soup is just what the name implies and every bit as good with its rich, delicious base. This recipe is robust enough to be served in a starring role as the complete meal, paired with crusty French or sourdough bread and a little fresh fruit for dessert.

The Georgia Chicken is a recipe I've made time and time again. It is so quick that it can virtually be ready to go in minutes for special drop-in company. Compliment it with a fresh side salad, a little warm bread and you also have the complete meal.

The third recipe with the shrimp and the pasta I am anxious to try and look forward to preparing this weekend for dining guests.

Since I like to give credit where credit is due, the latter two are recipes I've watched as prepared by Paula Deen, but have also seen them in other favorite cookbooks. I love her cooking style that utilizes natural ingredients, without any shortage of butter and cream. Her recipes are noted for their simplicity in preparation and the use of a few basic ingredients in arriving at wonderful mealtime dishes.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking.

Creamy Sherry

Mushroom Soup

¼ cup butter

2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp. flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper

¼ tsp. sage

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

2 cups light cream

1 cup canned chicken broth

1/3 cup dry sherry (can be cooking sherry)

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about five minutes. Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes to infuse flavor. Stir in flour, salts, pepper, sage and nutmeg, cook, stirring for one minute. Gradually blend in cream, broth and sherry. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened. May be served at this point by adding the parsley, or it can be refrigerated up to 24 hours and then reheated over low heat and served. Serves six to eight.

Chicken Georgia

½ stick butter

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp. minced shallots

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

4 ounces grated mozarella cheese

Melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook about ten minutes. Add chicken and cook ten minutes on each side or until tender. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cook and let stand five minutes or until cheese melts. Transfer to serving platter.

Company Shrimp and

Mushroom Pasta

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

2 1/2 pounds fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact

1 cup fresh spinach

1 (16-ounce) package penne pasta, cooked

1/2 cup shredded Italian blend cheese

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, wine, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Mix in the shrimp, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are pink and firm, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute. In a large serving bowl, combine the shrimp mixture and hot cooked pasta, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle with the cheese.