Fall Brunch

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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!

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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.

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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/

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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! 🙂

Panzanella

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Panzanella is a classic Florentine dish that simply showcases old stale bread and the juices of plump, ripe, summer tomatoes. Since we are on the brink of tomato season I thought I’d share my favorite salad recipe!

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Ingredients:

4 cups of Chopped Tomatoes ( I like to use all different kinds for color)

4 Cups of Cubed Stale Bread

1/2 Cup Chopped Basil

1/8 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Tablespoon Sea Salt

1/2 Tablespoon Black Pepper

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First things first, using stale bread is key or it will completely fall apart. If you don’t have stale bread around the house, you can buy bread, cut it into 1 inch cubes and leave it out overnight, or pop it in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes and it will be just fine. For my salad I chose a rosemary loaf just to add a little more Mediterranean flavor.

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Chop the tomatoes into nice large, but bite sized chunks and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Combine with chopped basil, salt and pepper and let sit for 10 minutes. If your making this salad before prime tomato season they may need a little help so you can add a little but of red wine vinegar to add acidity and liquid that you would normally get with perfectly ripe tomatoes.

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Combine tomatoes and bread, drizzle with olive oil and serve! I love the simplicity of just using these ingredients however some other fun things to throw in are cucumbers, artichokes, and capers!

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Also if you have a ton left over and the bread is getting really soggy you can throw it in a baking dish and cook for 20 minutes at 350 and you’ll have a warm savory bread pudding!

So excited for summer!

Braised Fennel and Arugula

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Fennel is the most underrated vegetable. It tastes amazing raw and cooked, and does wonders for the digestion – or so every Italian will tell you.

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INGREDIENTS:

3 Fennel Bulbs

1 1/2 Cups of White Wine

2 Ounces of Olive Oil

2 Ounces of Lemon Juice

1/4 Cup of Sliced Cerignola Olives

3 Cups of Baby Arugula

Braising is a method of cooking that uses both wet and dry heat. Meaning that for this recipe, I pan sear the fennel to get a nice brown crust, and then simmer it in the white wine until it is soft and tender.

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To prepare the fennel, first cut off the top stalks. Slice the bulbs into about half-inch thick disks and discard the hard center parts. Break the disks apart into its natural segments.

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Over high heat, sautee fennel with a little bit of olive oil for about four minutes or until the edges are browned.

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While the fennel browns, prepare the liquids. Combine lemon juice, olive oil and white wine.

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I’m a firm believer in cooking with wine that you like to drink, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. I found this bottle of Pinot Grigio at my local market – it’s dry and crisp and was under $7.

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Also slice the olives in quarters and remove the pits.

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Add the liquid and olives to the pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until the fennel is tender.

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Immediately toss with 3 cups of baby arugula and serve – no need for dressing!

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I paired this wonderful salad with a panko-crusted halibut fillet. Please enjoy!

Also check out this Roasted Fennel and Citrus Salad- I can’t wait to try it out! : http://loveandcupcakesblog.com/2013/03/22/happy-friday-from-the-kitchen-roasted-fennel-citrus-salad/

Not Your Average Pasta Salad: Lemon Orzo

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This is my favorite go-to pasta salad. Combining orzo with tart lemon juice, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese and juicy shrimp makes this recipe a show stopper, and it’s so simple to make!

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INGREDIENTS:

1 Box of Orzo

1/4 Pound of Peeled Shrimp

3 Cups of Baby Arugala

2 Ounces of Lemon Juice

2 Ounces of Olive Oil

1 Cup of Artichoke Hearts

1 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes

1/2 Cup Goat Cheese Crumbles

1/4 Cup Chopped Basil

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper

1/8 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

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Cook the orzo in boiling water for nine minutes until al dente.

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While the pasta cooks, I like to make the lemon vinaigrette. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Immediately pour over strained orzo in a salad bowl and mix through until it coats all the pasta. Let the orzo sit for ten minutes to absorb.

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Once the orzo has cooled slightly, toss with the baby arugula.

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Peel the shrimp and remove the tails. I like to use a medium sized shrimp so that it’s easy to eat. Lightly pat them down with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture. Season both sides with remaining salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper.

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Sautee on high heat with a little olive oil for about five minutes, until the shrimp are slightly browned and no longer translucent.

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While the shrimp cook, I like to prepare the other ingredients. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, cut the artichokes into bite size pieces and chop basil.

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Add everything to the orzo and serve! This can be eaten warm or cold – it’s great both ways.

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Sometimes I replace the shrimp with sausage which is also a big hit! What I like about this salad is that there is a treat in every bite. You don’t have to dig through it to get to the good stuff because it’s all delicious. I hope you enjoy!

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This orzo recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s which is always fantastic: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/orzo-with-roasted-vegetables-recipe/index.html