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.