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Sage Advice for Home-Cooked Meals:
Food for Thought

Chicken Wellington Chicken Wellington with Long Grain & Wild Rice
and Steamed Broccoli and Carrots
By Cheryl Hill-Burrier

Has that old noggin of yours been a little tired and foggy lately? Well, how about adding some sage to your meals? Seriously, the fact that the word sage means "wise" isn't just a coincidence. Both early and recent researchers have found that this herb actually enhances memory.

What's more, home-cooked meals can also make your mind sharper, as well as give you a leaner body and more energy. So, let's take a few minutes and learn a little more about what we eat and that little herb, sage, and then we'll get down to some recipes that just might turn y'all into brainiacs!

Many folks these days lead such hectic lives that they tend to forgo home cooking for fast, processed or prepackaged foods, which are not only loaded with chemicals, but are fattening and create digestive problems. Plus, the preservatives and additives in these so-called convenience foods can cause swelling and fluid retention, as well as degenerative and deadly effects on the brain and nervous system. What's more these types of foods can actually be addictive!

Addictive? How can that be? Well, according to Alan Goldhamer, D.C., author of The Pleasure Trap, a large percentage of the population is vulnerable to the effects of hyper-stimulation from foods, which include calorie-dense processed foods that trigger dopamine production resulting in a happy feeling. Now, the problem with that is that we tend to eat more because of that happy feeling than actual hunger, but that's not the only reason for our overeating. Michael Roizen, M.D. states "processed foods digest so quickly that they're out of your stomach in no time and you still feel hungry." He also finds that the lack of fiber in these foods creates all kinds of problems, plus eating more than 20 grams a day of bad fats, such as saturated fats and trans-fats, can (among other things) lead to particular cancers and memory loss. It's a domino effect: If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a coke, and so on.

Best advice? Start with more home-cooked meals. They don't have to be fancy. Add fresh fruits, herbs and veggies to your diet, and in three or four weeks, you'll not only begin to see some weight loss, but find that you're retaining less water, thinking more clearly, and feeling more energetic. Also, fast food and processed food will start tasting either too salty or too sweet.

But, how does sage factor into the story? Well, sage has been found to help digest fatty foods and proteins that aren't easy to digest, while keeping acidity under control. What's even more incredible is that researchers from the Medicinal Plant Research Center are looking at sage's ability to improve memory in serious brain disorders such as Alzheimer's. So far, the tests are showing incredible results on recall, and the belief is that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of sage might just be the answer.

All that from a little herb that has more than 900 varieties, including Texas Sage, but the most popular for cooking is the common garden sage (salvia officinalis). And, for first-time herb growers, sage is a "no-brainer" (no pun intended) because it thrives in hot weather, dry soil and lots of sun, something Texas has plenty of. But, sage will do fine in areas as far north as Canada, grown either in the ground or a container.

Sage also contains antibacterial properties that make it a natural preservative for meat, poultry, fish and condiments, and it doesn't lose its potency or color when dried. The flavor is unique and somewhat smoky or woodsy, and so robust that you don't need much when cooking your veggies, meats, sauces, soups, herb vinegars, butters and more.

So, for all of you busy folks out there, I've included a couple of quick and easy recipes to try, including a complete meal with fiber, veggies and an incredible Chicken Wellington (with sage) that takes hardly any time or effort, but definitely looks and tastes gourmet!

Chicken Wellington

Serve this with long grain and wild rice and steamed broccoli and carrots.
  • 2 8-ounce cans Crescent Rolls
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small white onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
Cut slightly frozen chicken into thin slices across the grain of the meat. Set aside. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and black pepper. Sauté until onions until translucent.

Add chicken slices to mixture and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken mixture from heat and place in refrigerator to cool.

Place cream cheese, Dijon mustard, the remaining teaspoon of salt, thyme and sage into a medium-size bowl. Blend together using a fork, cover and store in refrigerator until ready for use.

In a cup or small bowl, beat together one large egg and one teaspoon water to be used as an egg wash for the crescent rolls.

Place a large piece of waxed paper or parchment paper on the counter or cutting board. Remove crescent dough from the can, which is usually divided into two sections. If not, divide dough into two equal amounts. Gently knead the dough to remove the perforations, then lightly flour the paper and your rolling pin and roll out one dough ball at a time to about a 7x7-inch square. Don't worry if it's not perfect. Continue until you have 4 squares of dough.

Place about a quarter cup of the cream cheese mixture into the center of the dough and spread out to about a 5-inch circle. Place about 1/2 cup (or a little more) of the chicken mixture on top of the cream cheese mixture. Take each corner of dough and bring together over the top of the meat and cheese mixture. Press dough sections together and place seam-side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Continue until all four are done. Brush each dough bundle with the egg wash and place in a preheated 375°F oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 4 servings.

Nature Hills
Kitchen tools you'll need
Baking Sheet, Mixing Bowls, Rolling Pin, Skillet

Long Grain & Wild Rice

Measure out enough rice for four servings. Substitute chicken broth for the water called for in the package directions, and add 1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley. Cook according to directions, approximately 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Steamed Broccoli and Carrots

  • 1 pound fresh broccoli
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Cut and discard the lower third of the broccoli stem. Peel the remaining stem and cut into about 1/2-inch x 1-1/2-inch pieces. Cut the carrot into similar size pieces. Next, cut the top of the broccoli into individual florets.

Place a metal colander over a large pot of boiling water and steam the broccoli and carrots covered for 4 to 5 minutes (or use a vegetable steamer). Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Place the steamed broccoli and carrots into a serving dish and add the olive oil sauce. Toss lightly until well coated. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Kitchen tools you'll need
Boiling Pot, Metal Colander, Skillet

Garlic-Sage Butter

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients into a medium-size mixing bowl and stir together until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve on rolls or toss with cooked vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, corn or other vegetables or meat of your choice. Makes 1/2 cup.
Kitchen tools you'll need
Mixing Bowls

Tomato-Sage Sauce

  • 2 10-ounce cans whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Place tomatoes and their juice into a blender or food processor and finely chop. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, parsley, sage, sugar and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes or until thick. Great served over pork chops, chicken or any pasta. Makes 2 cups.

Kitchen tools you'll need
Blender or Food Processor, Skillet
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