Rustic Red Wine Braised Chicken and Vegetables

This is a perfectly hearty and comforting meal for these cold winter nights.
Serves 3-4
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breast halves, skinned and trimmed
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned and trimmed
2 chicken thighs, skinned and trimmed
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 medium fennel bulbs; halved and sliced
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can peeled whole campari or roma tomatoes in juice
3 cups cabernet sauvignon (I used Yellowtail Reserve) or other dry red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup capers
1/8 cup flat leaf parsley, torn or coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a large pan or dutch oven over medium heat.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then place in the pan. Let cook 10 minutes, turning once, then remove chicken from pan.
Increase heat to medium high and add fennel, onion, carrots, and garlic to pan. Let cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase heat to high and add tomatoes in juice, wine, and balsamic to pan. Let cook 5 minutes until reduced.
Add capers and chicken to pan, then cover and let cook about 10 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.
Add parsley to pan and gently toss, remove chicken, and taste mixture and adjusting seasoning if necessary.
Serve over rice or couscous.


Rosemary, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto Bread

I just received my first bread maker for Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to try out my own homemade bread. I have always thought of making bread as a daunting task, but had I realized how simple it could be to create gourmet bread at home, I would have invested in a bread maker long ago! After trying a few recipes that came with the machine, I am now familiar with the measurements and have begun experimenting with my own flavor combinations. I hope you enjoy the first of many bread recipes to come!
Rosemary, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto Bread
Makes one 2 lb. loaf
*for use with a bread maker
1-1/3 cups water
1-1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. fresh minced rosemary
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
6 oz. goat cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped prosciutto
1/2 cup pine nuts

It's done!

Add water and oil to bread maker pan, then top with salt, flour, rosemary, and sugar. Create a small well with finger in dry ingredients only and pour in yeast, making sure yeast does not come in contact with wet ingredients.
Place pan in bread maker and set for one 2 lb. French loaf. Let mixture go through the first kneading cycle, then quickly add goat cheese and prosciutto.
When bread maker comes to the final rising stage, evenly sprinkle pine nuts on top of dough.
After bread is cooked, let cool slightly before removing from pan and slicing.  

Oh, the endless sandwich possibilities!


Couscous Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash

This is a really fun and impressive dish that is very versatile; it can be served as lunch fare, a side dish, or vegetarian entrée. The dish has nice a textural contrast between the Israeli couscous, pecans, and goat cheese, and is absolutely delicious!

Couscous Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash
4 acorn squash
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp.
2 tbsp. kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 cup Israeli (or Grande) couscous
2-1/4 cups vegetable broth, or substitute chicken
6 dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup packed coarsely chopped arugula
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
4 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut very bottoms off each squash to make a level surface. Cut off the tops, reserving. Remove seeds and any excess flesh. Coat with 1/4 cup olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake squash 35-40 minutes, then add squash tops and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add couscous and let cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until couscous is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. Uncover, remove from heat and let cool.
Once couscous has cooled, combine with dates, pecans, arugula, and vinegar in a medium bowl, tossing to mix. Crumble in goat cheese and gently fold to combine.
Place squash on a platter and fill with couscous mixture, overstuffing slightly. Place squash tops gently on couscous as a garnish.
Makes 4.


Simple Roast Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

I have been making this recipe for years, and it is my boyfriend’s favorite. It’s super simple to make, tastes amazing, and I get rave reviews every time I serve it! Brussels sprouts are in season right now, so you can get beautiful sprouts at any local farmer’s market. I was able to find them fresh still on the stalk, and I could not have asked for a better quality vegetable. I hope you enjoy!

Simple Roast Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

1 (5 lb.) whole chicken, innards removed, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1 large onion, quartered
1 cup Greek vinaigrette dressing
1 cup Italian dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place chicken in an 11x9 glass baking dish and coat with salt and pepper.
Cut each lemon in half and squeeze juice into a medium bowl. Place the squeezed lemons inside the chicken cavity with the onion pieces. Secure legs with kitchen twine.
Combine dressings, balsamic, and garlic with lemon juice and whisk to combine. Pour over chicken, cover loosely with tin foil, and bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, basting occasionally.
Remove chicken from oven and remove foil. Baste chicken again, then add Brussels sprouts surrounding the chicken. Bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, until chicken has reached internal temperature of 160 degrees F and Brussels sprouts are tender.
Serves 2-3


SPOTLIGHT Ingredient: Rosemary

Rosemary is a very common herb that many use year round, but is especially prevalent this time of year. It has a very strong taste and aroma, which can hold up against both meat and poultry alike. I personally love cooking with rosemary, and for me the holidays wouldn’t be the same without it! But did you know that rosemary is also one of the world’s healthiest spices?
Rosemary is one of the herbs that I cannot cook Thanksgiving dinner without. I am always stocked up on fresh rosemary for the holidays, but also keep dried whole and dried ground leaves in my pantry for a few reasons. The dry rub for my Thanksgiving turkey always contains dried ground rosemary, whereas I tend to use the fresh version in my gravy and stuffing. Holidays aside, rosemary is most commonly found in meat marinades. Who would have known that the combination of rosemary and marinating would have a scientific explanation?  
From the ancient Greeks to modern day researchers, rosemary has been utilized as a memory enhancer with positive results. The ancient Greek scholars wore rosemary garlands around their necks to help them study, while modern research has shown increased memory and alertness test results for students after inhaling rosemary oil vapors while studying. And that’s not the only reason this herb is considered one of the world’s healthiest spices. Rosemary’s compounds fight bacteria and help keep meat from spoiling, thus making it a perfect candidate for a marinade. It may even make cooked meats healthier! Kansas State University researchers reported in March that adding rosemary extracts to ground meat helped to prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)—cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.
Since learning of rosemary’s health benefits, I have been trying to utilize the herb as much as possible in my new recipes. Check out my Pear, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Pizza, or my Autumn Harvest Pumpkin and Beef Stew, both of which I have used rosemary with tasty results. Experiment with those old family favorites this holiday season by adding rosemary, or try something completely new! Give your family a healthy dose of rosemary today!


Pear, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Pizza

While pears are still in season, I wanted to experiment with a pear pizza. I know the flavor combinations may sound a little strange, but they really work! Give this recipe a try and experience something both unique and delicious.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 prepared pizza crust
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
6 oz. prosciutto, cut or torn into pieces
5 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and let cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly browned. Reduce heat to low, and add sugar and salt and stir to coat. Cook 25 minutes until caramelized, stirring occasionally, then add rosemary and stir to coat. Cook 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Brush remaining tbsp. of oil on pizza crust. Spread caramelized onions and arugula evenly, then top with pears, prosciutto, and goat cheese dollops.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are browned and pears are cooked.
Let sit for a few minutes before cutting, then serve immediately.


Autumn Harvest Pumpkin and Beef Stew

Once again featuring seasonal ingredients, this hearty stew is the perfect mix of savory and sweet. The flavors of all the ingredients blend together to create a spin on a comforting classic, and is easy and quick enough even for a busy weeknight. Serve your family a full serving of vegetables and protein in this delicious stew tonight!

Autumn Harvest Pumpkin and Beef Stew

Makes 10 servings

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. chopped rosemary
2 pounds of stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tbsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup dry red wine, such as pinot noir
2 cups red potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 cups baby carrots
6 cups vegetable juice
2 cups pumpkin, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 cups fresh corn, cut off the cob
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Tip #2 – Make the most of your harvest - Get a dehydrator!

Dried Habanero Peppers

Since I have gotten into the whole gardening thing, every year I am absolutely overloaded with herbs and peppers. I always go a little overboard on the planting – so I am left with more than I can use or give away. The first year I had my garden I let a lot of herbs go to waste, which is when I decided to purchase a dehydrator. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, you’d be surprised how much some can cost, but I found a cheap suitable one online with plenty of racks with plastic trays. Plus, a dehydrator can be used for so many different purposes like making jerky, fruit rolls, and dried fruit, so it was easy to justify the purchase cost.

Dried Mixed Hot Pepper Flakes

I started out only with chopped herbs, but the process was so effective that I began to experiment with surplus peppers from the garden…and in turn discovered how easy it was to make my own pepper flakes! My boyfriend is a HUGE chili pepper head, so every year I stock him up on mixes of all the hot peppers we grew that season, and it lasts him through the winter until we’re planting again. This year I grew 12 different types of hot peppers, some of which we even dried whole. So, if you’re interested in some serious heat, why use chili powder when you can use chili pepper powder?


Chorizo & Swiss Chard Dip

This recipe is perfect for football parties or tailgating, since it is sure to warm you up even as the weather gets colder. Utilizing a hardy fall seasonal vegetable, Swiss chard, the bold and spicy flavors of the chorizo and chipotle peppers blend perfectly with the creaminess of the ricotta to create a spicy appetizer that everyone will love! I recommend serving the dip with lime tortilla chips. Enjoy J

Note: To cut back on the heat, substitute sweet sausage or omit the chipotle peppers, but you definitally want the adobo sauce for its deliciously smoky flavor.

Chorizo & Swiss Chard Dip

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb chorizo or other hot sausage, removed from casing and crumbled
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups Swiss chard leaves, stem removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
2 tbsp. adobo sauce
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 cups reduced fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup nonfat milk


SPOTLIGHT Ingredient: Sage

I want to take the time to really showcase Sage; an herb from my garden that I know will be showing up in kitchens all over as we get into the holiday season. While I do not tend to use fresh sage in a lot of dishes throughout the summer, fall and winter seasonal produce’s bold flavors are the perfect pairing for this potent herb. Customarily you will find ground or flaked dried sage tucked away at the back of your spice cabinet – mostly full and five years old, only to be broken out for Thanksgiving stuffing and gravy. But this long underutilized herb is being brought into the spotlight. Sage is now considered one of the world’s healthiest spices, and research shows it to have several key medicinal uses!  
Dried ground and dried whole leaves
When the leaves are dried they lose a lot of their potency, so for one not familiar with the flavor I would recommend starting with a dried version of the herb. The fresh leaves should be used sparingly; I tend to use them in sauces or soups, although I have also seen them fried and used as an edible garnish. The acuteness of the sage blends very well many ingredients, but goes particularly well with winter squash, pumpkin, thyme, walnuts, parsley, and rosemary. So this Thanksgiving would be a perfect time to experiment with those tried and true favorites, give them a little kick of sage!
Now to the best part – sage not only tastes good, but it’s also good for you! Herbalists today recommend drinking sage tea for an upset stomach or a sore throat, and one study has shown that college students taking sage supplements showed a significant increase in memory skills. Thus bringing us to the next study, in which preliminary research suggests that sage actually may improve early signs of Alzheimer’s . The herb has been shown to prevent an enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, which is a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. So this season, make sure to utilize this incredible herb and get a healthy dosage of sage!


Grilled Pomegranate-Herb Chicken Drumsticks

I want to share a new recipe that I just came up with a few nights ago. I had some pomegranate juice, herbs from my garden, and chicken drumsticks in the fridge...so I decided to experiment. It was a huge hit with my family for dinner!

Grilled Pomegranate-Herb Chicken Drumsticks
Serves 4
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
My plate....yum!
1 tbsp. rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp. tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tbsp. dried chopped onion
1 tsp. ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper, or to taste
8 large chicken drumsticks

Also needed:
1 gallon sized zip top bag
Nonstick grill spray or oil


SPOTLIGHT Ingredient: Swiss Chard

Rainbow chard straight from my garden
While my plants are still producing beautiful leaves, I wanted to spotlight a vegetable from my garden that I feel is generally underutilized – Swiss chard. It is extremely hardy and has been thriving in my garden since I first planted in early spring! The plants were hit pretty hard with the hot and dry conditions this summer, but pulled through brilliantly. I chose to grow the rainbow variety simply for the color, but I do not find that there is a taste difference in any way from the white stemmed, which is available fresh at my local market almost year round.
Swiss chard is very versatile, and think of it as you would spinach – tender young leaves can be eaten raw, and more mature leaves should be cooked down to reduce the bitterness and to soften. A simple sauté with bacon, garlic, salt, and pepper is the perfect foolproof way to treat mature leaves that have been stemmed and thinly sliced. The mature stems themselves need a bit more cooking time to break down, so if you plan on using them, slice or chop and throw in the pan about 5 minutes before the leaves.
Since it grows so quickly, Swiss chard is a great addition to a backyard garden. For the low cost of a pack of seeds or plant from a local greenhouse, you could have readily available leaves for at least a few months, depending on planting conditions. Otherwise, fresh bundles can be found at pretty much any grocery store in the produce section. Swiss chard is fairly cheap, high in vitamins A, C, and K, rich in minerals, and high in fiber and protein. So basically, the perfect vegetable for you to sneak into your family’s dinner! Throw some thinly sliced leaves into baked mac and cheese, in pasta sauce, or even on top of a pizza – get creative with dinner tonight!


Autumn Apple-Cranberry Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Here the autumn-themed fruits and vegetables work together to redefine a comfort classic. The apples slowly cook down with the cranberries and pork, creating a lot of flavor without a lot of fat. The finished dish gives you and your family a serving of everything you need while still keeping it quick, easy, and budget-friendly.
Also, this recipe would be a great starting point if you’re beginning to experiment with fresh ingredients. If you like a different kind of apple, you already have a different type of cabbage, or whatever modifications you want, try them out! Just remember to keep a balance of sweetness and acidity, with a little bit of a kick.
I personally think this recipe is just perfect for those busy autumn weeknights. It’s super simple to make and cooks for 6-7 hours, so you can easily prep this in the morning or the night before and let it cook all day. If you don’t already have this type of slow cooker, the new ones actually turn off when they’re done and switch to a warming setting, and I absolutely love mine! It saves me so much time and frustration on a super busy day, knowing that my dinner is already taken care of.

Autumn Apple-Cranberry Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Serves 6
2.5 lbs. boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups fresh cranberries, or substitute frozen
6 gala apples, cored and sliced
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, or substitute white vinegar
2 tbsp. hot paprika
2 tbsp. fig balsamic vinegar, or substitute regular balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
6 oversized buns of your choice


Tip #1: Utilize Seasonal Ingredients

Brussels Sprouts Growing
This time of year is full of rich and bold flavors, and there’s plenty more to come as the weather gets cooler. Personally, this is my favorite time of year. My garden is starting to really thin out as the warm weather plants die off, but the fall veggies are absolutely thriving. My Brussels sprouts plants are looking AMAZING (did I mention they were my favorite veggie?) and I can’t wait until frost to harvest them! I have quite a few recipes that will make you rethink what you believe you know about Brussels sprouts that I’m excited to share in a few weeks when the weather’s just right.

In the meantime, I will focus on what’s really fresh right now. Corn, apple, squash, pumpkin, fennel, onion, grapes, tomatoes, peppers, and various herbs are available fresh at markets all over the country. Juicy delicious watermelon is even still in season for the first few weeks of October. So now’s the time to really seize the moment and utilize these wonderful autumn harvest flavors! Over the next few weeks I will be experimenting with different combinations of hearty fall flavors, and I’ll be happy to share recipes along the way. Otherwise, I recommend going to a local farmer’s market to look at some fresh local ingredients for inspiration – see what really speaks to you. This weekend local corn really sang to me… it said make me into corn chowder! The sky is the limit, so just make sure you only pick beautiful, high quality fresh produce to use. The better the ingredients, the better the end result. It really is that simple.


Pomegranate Pesto Crusted Lamb Chops

This recipe is perfect to introduce some of early fall’s seasonal ingredients, and it’s also one of my favorites. Not only is lamb absolutely delicious, but it absorbs the intense flavor of the pomegranate pesto very quickly, so only a short marinating time is necessary. Serve this gourmet but still easy to make dish at your next dinner party and your guests will be completely blown away!
Pomegranate Pesto Crusted Lamb Chops with Creamy Polenta, Blistered Tomatoes, and a Pomegranate-Balsamic Reduction
Serves 4
1 large shallot, cut in 1/4
10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2/3 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
6 tbsp. pomegranate juice
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
8 double lamb chops (cut with 2 bones per chop), 5 to 6 ounces each
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 lb. campari tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup coarse ground yellow corn meal
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, optional


A Little About Me and the Eating FRESH Philosophy

Being All-American born and bred, my knowledge of food growing up was limited to processed ingredients. Not that there’s anything wrong with tuna noodle casserole or taco night; there's a reason why they're staples in the busy American home kitchen. But to me, taco night consisted of ground beef and a boxed taco kit. I mean, have you ever looked at the nutritional information on one of those boxes?!? It’s truly appalling.
So naturally, when I left the nest and actually had to cook for myself, I automatically went to the same processed meals that I already knew how to make. It’s not very hard to follow instructions on the back of a box, but what I really wanted an actual home cooked meal.
So, a friend showed me some basics and soon I was having beef stew and breakfast quiches. I followed online recipes, and then started adding more seasoning and experimenting a little. I wasn’t very familiar with spices in general and was therefore relying only on my nose to guide me. To be perfectly honest, the food wasn’t that great, and we were still eating takeout a few times a week. Now I know that I was over-seasoning, and what little fresh ingredients I was using were completely masked. My food had indeed become more flavorful, but it certainly didn’t make me want to spend the time cooking after a long day at work.