Polenta Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon and Lemon-Dill “Hollandaise” Sauce

Weekend breakfasts have been out of this world lately. Just about every Sunday we sleep in, then cook up a great brunch and listen to our motown playlist while reading the paper. It makes me feel like my life is grown-up in the way I used to think about adults on tv shows as a kid, like Denise Huxtable or most of the cast of ThirtySomething. Anyway, for this, we skipped the traditional english muffin base and used polenta baked with butter and sage, which was incredible. Then, of course, Wild for Salmon’s unbeatable Hickory Smoked Salmon (and seriously, I don’t know if I can ever go back to salmon other than wild-caught like this – night and day difference between the two), gently poached eggies and the lemon-dill sauce. It’s December. Make this then snuggle up with somebody you love this weekend.

– 4 eggs
Lemon-Dill sauce
– 4 precooked polenta circles
– chopped fresh sage, approx. 8 leaves
– 4 tbsp. butter
Wild for Salmon’s Hickory Smoked Salmon 

1. Get the polenta ready. You want to get a package of it precooked, then cut it into 1/2 inch slices.

2. Next, cut circles out of those slices with either a cookie cutter or a measuring cup (Kitchen hacks. You’re welcome). 

3. Melt the butter, chop up the sage, and combine.

4. Brush the polenta on both sides with the butter and sage mixture. Bake at 400 for approx. 30 minutes, or until firmer (crispy-ish) and golden. Set aside to cool while you make the eggs.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta with Crispy Sage

Seriously, I just can’t stop making things with squash this fall. They’re so delicious, need almost nothing for flavor and can be used in a ton of different meals. This butternut squash pasta is a great way to get at least one serving of veggies in with your dinner, and it’s amazingly rich for how healthy it is. Plus: crispy sage. Mmmmmm.
– 1 lb. pasta
– 1/2 a large butternut squash
– 1 carrots, peeled
– about 10 sage leaves
– 1/2 small vidalia onion, diced
– 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
– 1/4 C. freshly grated parm
– 1.5 C. chicken (or vegetable) broth
– 1 tbsp. EVOO
– 1 tbsp. butter
– kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper
1. Roast your butternut squash, then add the 2 peeled, oiled carrots to the tray about 30 minutes into the roasting process. When roasted, peel the squash & roughly chop it, and chop the roasted carrots.


2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt 1 tbsp. butter over low heat. When it starts to brown and bubble, add the sage leaves. Let the leaves get crispy, then remove and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.


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Roasted Chicken in “Lemon Gold”

Bear with me as I walk you through a hodgepodge of a recipe that will create – not kidding – the best chicken you’ve ever eaten. Don’t get nervous about roasting a chicken in milk. And lemon. And cinnamon. Still with me? Good. This totally bizarre-sounding recipe requires a little bit of faith but the end result….oh, man. The end result. This recipe makes your house smell completely unbelievable – sort of warm, and fragrant, and savory all at once – the chicken is the juiciest I’ve ever had, and the sauce – how in the world can little curdles of milk and lemon and cinnamon be so amazing?? Most of the dinner (with a guy who’s probably the best conversationalist I’ve ever dated) consisted 80% of talking about how incredibly great this was. Make sure you have some good bread on hand, too, otherwise you’ll basically be drinking the sauce out of the bowl. This is the bomb. 

CHICKEN IN “LEMON GOLD” (serves approx. 6) – adapted from Jamie Oliver’s “Chicken in Milk”
– 1 whole chicken (I used a 5 lb. one)
– 4 tbsp. butter 
– 2 tbsp. EVOO 
– 2 lemons, zested 
– Juice of 1.5 lemons (save the other half to put in the chicken cavity) 
– Pretty good-sized handful of fresh sage 
– 9 garlic cloves, peeled 
– 2 cinnamon sticks 
– 1.5 cups milk 
– Kosher salt & pepper 

1. Preheat oven to 375° 

2. Ugh, this is the worst part. Always. Rinse your chicken well, then dry it really well, too. I was a vegetarian for a while, and every time I have to clean a chicken it reminds me why. Just steel yourself and keep your eye on the prize! Stuff the cavity with the half of the lemon that you left unjuiced and some of the sage leaves. It helps if you have everything set out beforehand, so you don’t find yoruself needing some salt while you have all chicken-y hands.


3. In a french oven, melt the butter and the EVOO over medium heat. 

4. Season the chicken well with kosher salt & pepper. 

5. When the butter/EVOO mixture is frothy, carefully add the chicken and let it cook for approx. 4 minutes on each side. You can use tongs or two sturdy wooden spoons to turn it over. Let it get really golden and don’t skip this step, because this is where a lot of flavor and color develops. 

6. Remove chicken from the pot and put it on a clean plate. Pour the excess butter/oil from the pot into a heat-proof little dish and set aside – don’t throw this away. What’s left in the bottom of the pan is perfect for cooking the chicken. 

7. Put the chicken back in the pan (I roasted this breast-side up, but next time I’m definitely roasting it breast-side down so it absorbs the max amount of the sauce flavoring) and add the lemon juice, milk, sage leaves, garlic, and cinnamon sticks. Scatter the top of the chicken with the lemon zest. Cook for approx. 1 hour 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees internally. The lid should be on for the first hour, then off for the last 45 minutes.

8. Baste this “when you remember” (I swear, that’s an actual cooking direction). The lemon juice will kind of curdle the milk, but oddly enough, not in a bad way?? It gets kind of rich and flavorful and…right. How great your house smells about halfway through this cooking is nothing compared to how great this is going to taste when it’s ready. 

9. When chicken is done, carefully remove it and set on a plate and let it sit for about ten minutes. 

10. Make the “lemon gold” sauce from what’s left in the french oven. I fished out most of the garlic cloves (some of these will full-blown melt into the sauce) and gave them to Brendan, but I’ve read about people spreading these cloves on good bread they use for sauce dipping, which sounds awesome. I also threw out the cinnamon sticks and most of the sage leaves from the sauce. Then, because the consistency looked a little too dodgy, I blended this really, really well with a hand blender. 

Lemon Gold sauce, pre-blended

— We had this alongside roasted baby potatoes and wilted arugula, put sauce all over everything, and I added a new dish to the rotation. Hope you like this as much as you weren’t expecting you would!

White Bean “Hummus” with Sage and Roasted Garlic

For months now I’ve been in a salad/scoop/soup kind of mood. That’s going to change next week, because my mom just let me know I’m in charge of making a pumpkin pie “with tiny leaves made out of dough” for Thanksgiving. I’ve never made a pumpkin pie. I’ve definitely never made one with “tiny leaves made out of dough”.  Soo…in the interim, let’s get back to the 3 s’s.  This one falls under the “scoop” category, and it’s awesome. 

WHITE BEAN HUMMUS WITH SAGE AND ROASTED GARLIC (makes a side for about 5 people)
– 1 can white Northern beans, rinsed and drained
– couple sage leaves, chopped
– 1 clove garlic, roasted
– 1/4 EVOO (or less. Add this little by little to desired consistency)
– squeeze of lemon 
– Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1. Roast that garlic. Lop the top off of it, place it on a piece of tin foil, cover with some EVOO & salt, wrap the top loosely & place in an oven at 400 for about 30-40 mins.

2. Remove garlic from the oven when it’s soft & golden. Let it cool a little bit.

3. Rinse and drain a can of white beans. Put in a food processor.

4. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the food processor with the beans (you can skip this completely if you don’t like roasted garlic. I do, though!)

5. Add chopped sage & lemon juice & salt/pepper.

6. Add EVOO little by little, blending well, until the “hummus” is combined and fluffy.

7. Serve with french bread, veggies, or (of course) pretzel chips.

— Side notes.  It’s been an incredible couple of days. Without getting into the beginning part of this week and why it was wonderful, in the last 24 hours two of my friends Pat & Peggy got engaged. I set them up at the beginning of this year, and couldn’t be more excited for them. This is the second couple I set up who are getting married!!! I mean that’s got to be a better track record than Patti Stanger, right??

Also, we had an incredible time promoting The Great American Smokeout this morning with one of my favorites, Ryan Leckey, at South Scranton Intermediate. I do PR for Geisinger-CMC. The hospital, and Geisinger in general, is really involved with community health initiatives, so we brought in the Director of the PA Department of Health to talk to the middle school kids about the dangers of smoking, and I built a morning show (“Leckey Live“) around it. I could talk for an hour straight about everything that went wrong while I was trying to coordinate this, but I won’t, because when I walked into South Scranton this morning and saw how they had decked out the whole auditorium with signs and posters and banners etc., I was so psyched about how it looked that I high-fived the maintenance guys who’d shown up at 4am to let us into the school to start taping. South Scranton has a special place in my heart as the school we used to do our high school plays at before Scranton Prep built our fancy stage & auditorium, and it was so cool to be back there as an adult, coordinating one of my favorite morning shows ever, and feel the energy in the place from everyone (90+ kids, cheerleaders, parents, school staff, Geisinger representatives) who was so excited to be there. Ryan and his cameraman Corey just knock it out of the park, every time, but today was something extra special.  

At least once a day I think “I love my job”. Today I had a bunch of those moments. 

Enjoy the clips from the show here and here

Roasted Red Beet, White Bean and Sage “Hummus”

On our way up to Good Commons, one of the snacks they stocked “The Good Bus” with was an incredibly tasty beet and white bean dip. They served it with parsnip sticks, which were crunchy and a little spicy, but I was so surprised by how good this dip was that I knew I had to try and copy it when I got home.

I’ve really tried to incorporate beets into my diet – especially after reading about how beet juice was making the rounds in this summer’s Olympic Village as a natural performance enhancer – but sometimes I just can’t get past the “earthy” (read: dirty) taste they can have.  Roasting them makes them a little sweeter, and the addition of sage lightens the whole dip. I tried to copy this completely by serving it with the parsnip “sticks”, but we went back to old faithful, the pretzel chip.  Celery would be really nice with this too. If you have kids, I’m sure they’d go crazy over the fact that this dip is pink, since it was a cool little detail even for the over 30 crowd (ahem).

ROASTED BEET, WHITE BEAN, AND SAGE “HUMMUS” (adapted from Weelicious)
– 1 small beet, cleaned but unpeeled
– 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
– 1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
– 10 fresh sage leaves, chopped
– 1 tbsp. lemon
– 1/4 c. EVOO

1. Heat your oven to 400.

2. Place washed beet and garlic cloves in a little pouch of aluminum foil.  You want to make sure it’s tightly closed, but also has some space so that air can circulate and the flavors can roast together. Bake for approx. 45 minutes.

3. Remove the pouch from the oven – carefully, some of the beet juice spilled out of mine and it was a MESS – and remove the skin from the beet. Again, beets are messy and will stain just about everything, including your hands.  Either wear disposable gloves when peeling the skin (which should slide right off after the beet is roasted) or use a paper towel to kind of scrub it off. Chop beet roughly, and add to a larger bowl.

4. Remove the skin from the garlic cloves and toss into the bowl with the beets. Add chopped sage, lemon juice, and olive oil, then put the whole mixture into a food processor.

5. Combine in the food processor until smooth. Add kosher salt to taste, then serve “hummus” with celery, carrots, pretzel chips, or parsnip sticks.

Sorry, parsnips. You’re pretty. I tried.

Cold Lemon Souffle with Homemade Lavender-Sage Whipped Cream

A note on this recipe: there is absolutely nothing good in this for you. It’s sugar. Heavy cream. Eggs. Gelatin.  No matter how hard you try, convincing yourself that the detoxifying benefits of the lemon juice and zest exist at all just isn’t going to happen. That said – it’s my mom’s recipe. My parents have been making this on occasion since I was a kid. It looks impressive, is outrageously delicious, and is a perfect light dessert to end any meal. We had this for dessert last night, and with the addition of my sister Collyn’s lavender whipped cream, it was completely worth the “nothing good to be found here!” knowledge of what went into it.

– 1 pack plain gelatin
– 1/2 C. Lemon juice & 1 T. lemon zest
– 1/4 C. water
– 4 eggs – yolks and whites separated
– 2/3 C. sugar
– 1 C. heavy cream
– 1/4 tsp. vanilla
– 1/2 tsp. confectioner’s sugar

Lavender-Sage Whipped Cream:
– 1 C. heavy cream
– Lavender sprigs and Sage Leaves
– Confectioner’s sugar (1/3 c. or to taste)

1. In a saucepan, combine 1/4 C. water, 1 pack gelatin, and 1/2 C. lemon juice. Warm over low heat until clarified. Remove from heat and add zest. Cool before adding to the yolks.

2. In a mixer (my KitchenAid Mixer with the whisk attachment is a lifesaver for all the mixing you’re about to do, but a hand mixer will work too), combing 4 egg yolks with 1/3 C. sugar. Mix until pale and thick.  Add cooled gelatin mix (if mix is warm, it could start to cook your eggs, which is obviously bad), transfer to another bowl, and set aside.

3. In the cleaned mixing bowl, whip eggs until foamy. Add 1/3 C. sugar a little at a time, and whip until glossy and thick.  Add some of the yolk mixture to the whites, then add all the whites to the yolks. Set aside and clean out that mixing bowl again.

4. Whip the 1 C. heavy cream in the cleaned mixing bowl. Add 1/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. confectioner’s sugar. The cream will get stiff – this is perfect

5. Carefully fold the heavy cream into the lemon/egg mixture with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least an hour to set the souffle. 

Lavender Whipped Cream
1. In a saucepan, combine heavy cream and chopped lavender and sage almost to a boil, then simmer. The heat will release the flavor in the lavender. Stir in confectioner’s sugar to taste – how this mix tastes now is how it’ll taste as whipped cream, so use that as your base.


2. Strain the leaves from the cream. 

3. Allow cream to cool completely – refrigerate it even – it won’t whip if it’s heated.

4. Whip the cream mixture in a KitchenAid mixer or with a hand beater until the cream is still and peaks form.  Refrigerate until use, then use as a topping for the lemon souffle. This is also terrific over fruit or for that matter – just about anything else.