Fall Brunch

IMG_0875

Have I mentioned that I love fall? With fall comes so many decorating and baking opportunities, and this weekend I had the pleasure of hosting the “Girls in TV” brunch!

IMG_0895IMG_0896

Planning a menu for a bunch of women in general can be tricky – but especially so for a bunch of women producers, in Los Angeles! Talk about a carb free, gluten free, dairy free, alcohol free, nut free, headache! Good thing I really like these girls.

So I kept a few fully loaded favorites and snuck in a few more healthy options as well.

IMG_0877

Bread pudding – is my ‘go-to’ for EVERYTHING. It’s so easy to make, it’s always a crowd pleaser, and it can be adapted with each seasons fresh fruit. I took my “hot dog bread pudding” recipe and replaced the berries with diced roasted apples. This is now my favorite way to make it! https://wishiwereahousewife.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/berry-bread-pudding/

IMG_0891

You can’t have a fall brunch without a pumpkin flavored item – so I went with this great pumpkin muffin recipe by Something Swanky http://www.somethingswanky.com/pumpkin-pudding-muffins/  The best secret ingredient ever? Instant Pumpkin pudding mix! So this might not be one of my healthy options, but it tastes damn good.

IMG_0887

Since I had two sweet baked items, I decided to bake one last classic brunch staple: Quiche. Once again I turned to Queen Martha for a recipe since I had actually never made quiche. (My mother doesn’t believe in quiche for some reason- but I think this recipe could make her a believer).  http://www.marthastewart.com/868429/shallot-mushroom-quiche#Favorite%20Quiche%20Recipes|/275606/quiche-recipes/@center/276953/brunch-recipes|868429

I changed just a few things to Martha’s recipe – I took out the shallots (for selfish reasons – because I hate anything to do with onions…I know), I used half and half instead of the full cream, I sautéed the mushrooms first and drained the extra liquid,  and I FORGOT to add the fontina! Whoops! But when I brought the left overs in to work one of my colleagues asked what kind of cheese I used because she loved it. Guess I lucked out – or it doesn’t need the cheese.

IMG_0878IMG_0882

Ok so for the healthy guests, I set out berries and honey flavored yogurt and made the cutest tangerine pumpkins with pipe cleaner stems! I also served a kale salad with roasted, diced butternut squash and goat cheese (On the side of course).

IMG_0911IMG_0909

A great ways to frame all the food you’ve prepared is with a natural fiber mesh- with wire, so you can bend and twist it around each dish. It’s a great alternative to a table cloth- which seems dated at the moment. I also love using chargers to bring a pop color (in this case gold) to your table. I found these plastic ones at sur la table and bought them in both gold and red.

Happy fall everyone! 🙂

Shortbread Cookies for Mom

Image

Drinking tea before bed is a time-honored tradition with the women in my family. As long as I can remember, my mom, aunts and grandmother always made a cup of Lipton‘s tea with a dash of milk – sometimes accompanied by a cookie. When my mom helped me move into my LA apartment, the first things she got at the grocery store were Lipton’s tea, milk and shortbread cookies. For this Mother’s Day, I thought I would make her some homemade shortbread cookies to enjoy with her nightly tea!

Image

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 Pound of Butter (Room Temperature)

1 Cup of Sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 Cups of Flour

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Image

Luckily for me, shortbread is relatively easy to bake and only requires 3 ingredients! This recipe is based on Ina Garten‘s shortbread cookie.  First mix the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer.

Image

In a separate bowl,  sift together the flour and salt. Sifting flour brought back my most vivid memories of my grandmother, or Grammy as I like to call her. She was ALWAYS sifting flour, so I made sure not to skip this step, because who wants chunks of flour in their cookies? Thanks Grammy!

Image

Combine the flour and butter mixtures until it comes together as a dough. Kneed together and wrap tightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Image

Cover rolling pin and cutting board with flower, and roll out the dough until its about 3/4 inch thick.

Image

I picked out a cute little star cookie cutter for these cookies. I think making smaller cookies is best, because shortbread is quite rich as it’s packed with butter! Cut out the cookies and arrange on an un-greased cookie sheet. Greasing the cookie sheet causes the cookie to expand on the bottom, loosing their form. Since again, these cookies already have so much butter, they will pop right off the pan no greasing needed. They also don’t expand like other cookies while baking so you can fit a lot on your baking sheet without worry of overcrowding.

Image

Traditional shortbread cookies have little dots in the middle, so I took a fork and pricked three times in the center of each cookie and sprinkled the tops with a little extra sugar.

ImageImage

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes until the edges start to brown. (Ina says 25 minutes, but I found this to be much too long for a smaller sized cookie)

Image

Since my mom lives in Sacramento, I found this adorable cookie tin and ribbon at the Container Store to send the shortbread in. I lined it with wax paper, piled in the cookies and wrapped it all up in a pink polka-dot bow.

ImageImage

My mom is the inspiration for this blog. Even though she works countless hours as a pediatrician, she always makes time to tie the perfect bow, cook the best pot roast, throw unforgettable parties, arrange the pillows just right, and bake a three-tiered cake for my birthday no matter what. Her ability to balance her career and being a mom and homemaker so flawlessly is something I hope I can live up to. She is the epitome of style, class and poise and I’m lucky to have such an amazing role model. Happy Mother’s Day!

Enchiladas A La Gringa

Image

When it comes to Mexican food, I’m totally lost. I’m more literate in Italian cooking, but I realized that they are both very similar in spirit – focusing on comfort foods, made from fresh ingredients, and meant to be served family style. Yes, for this recipe I use a few short cuts, but these enchiladas taste pretty authentic to me!

Image

INGREDIENTS:

16 Small Corn Tortillas

1 Rotisserie Chicken (with juices)

1 Lime

1 1/2 Cups of Corn

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

1/8 Cup Chopped Cilantro

I Can (4 ounces) of Diced Green Chiles

1  Can (19 ounces) of Las Palmas Green Chili Enchiladas Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon of Both Salt and Pepper

1/4 Tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper

Image

The biggest time savor to this recipe is grabbing a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It’s already cooked, super tender, has tons of flavor and no one has to know! Just pull apart the whole chicken removing any fatty bits and skin. Make sure the pieces are  bite size.

Image

Add chopped cilantro, canned green chiles, corn (fresh or canned works), the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1/2 cup of the juices from the chicken. I like to let the mixture sit and marinate for about an hour if I have time – otherwise it’s ready to assemble as is. If the corn tortillas are a little dry or stiff just throw them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 15 seconds.

Image

Take the corn tortillas, add a spoonful or two of the chicken mixture, top with a little mozzarella and roll.

Image

Line the enchiladas in a baking dish. A 10×15 dish can hold about 8.

Image

Cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce. I like a lot of sauce to keep everything moist and fill the baking dish up about half way. I usually I prefer to make everything from scratch, but this canned enchilada sauce is so good I’m sticking with what’s simple.

Image

Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and queso fresco and pop into the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remember everything is already cooked – the oven is just to heat everything up and make the cheese all brown and bubbly.

Image

What’s great about this recipe is you can prepare it in advance, and all you have to do it cook it for 15 minutes when you’re ready. I’m no Mexican chef, but I hope you enjoy my enchiladas a la gringa!

Image

Fresh Meatball Subs

Image

When I moved into my first apartment-style dorm with a kitchen, I freaked out. I really had never cooked for myself before. My first meal? Meatballs. Cooking those first meatballs is what sparked my love affair with cooking. My recipe has come a long way since my dorm days and I hope you enjoy!

Image

MEATBALLS:

1/2 Pound of Ground Beef

1/2 Pound Ground Pork

1/2 Pound Ground Veal

5 Garlic Cloves (grated)

2 Eggs

1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs

1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

FOR THE SUB:

2 Cups of Tomato Sauce

1 Bunch of Fresh Basil

2 Large Balls of Fresh Mozzarella

1 French Baguette

Image

I’m a big fan of combining all three of these ground meats when making meatballs. The pork and veal add a great depth of flavor. To ensure that they are moist and hold together, don’t try to save calories by buying the lean meat. To start, preheat your oven to 350.

Image

I love garlic, but I don’t love crunching down on raw pieces in my meatballs. To get the maximum fresh taste without that hazard, grate the cloves on a microphone or cheese grater. I usually use about 5 cloves, but you can use less if you don’t love garlic as much as I do.

Image

After the garlic also grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Image

Combine the ground meat, eggs, garlic, Parmesan, salt, pepper, cayenne and Panko bread crumbs. Your best tools are your hands, so just get in there.

Image

Once everything is mixed together evenly, you can start rolling the balls! Each should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, but they don’t have to be exact. This should make about twelve meatballs.  Place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.  (If these were going on pasta, cook for 15 minutes and then throw them in the simmering tomato sauce to finish cooking)

Image

Now that they are all golden brown, it’s time to assemble the sub! While the meatballs cook, slice some fresh mozzarella, basil and a french banquette so everything is ready to go.

Image

STEP 1: Place meatballs on bread

Image

STEP 2: Cover with tomato sauce

Image

STEP 3: Layer mozzarella on top.

Image

Pop the sandwich back into the oven at 500 for five minutes until the cheese is all gooey and the bread is toasted. Sprinkle with some basil and serve!

Image

Banana Pound Cake

ImageI always buy too many bananas. My solution? Pound Cake. Once the bananas  turn brown I just throw them in the freezer. I think the process of freezing and defrosting the bananas really helps with the texture and flavor of the pound cake. They look pretty slimy but trust me it pays off! When I collect about six in the freezer it’s time to get baking.

Image

Ingredients:

6 Ripe Bananas (peeled and defrosted if frozen)

1 Cup of Butter (2 Sticks- room temperature)

2 Eggs

3/4 Cup Sugar

2 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Image

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat together eggs, butter, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth. Mash up defrosted bananas and add to mixture.

Image

Slowly add dry ingredients, and be sure to combine everything evenly while being careful not to over mix. (this is true with all cake-like batter, over mixing results in a tough cake) ImageGrease a bread pan with Pam’s baking spray and pour in the batter.

Image

Bake in oven for an hour until it browns and puffs up. You can stick a toothpick in, and if it’s clean it’s all done.

Image

This is great served warm out of the oven for dessert or breakfast!  Enjoy!

Image