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Milwaukee Birthday Brunch

Gareth took me to Milwaukee for my birthday a couple of weekends ago and we had my b-day brunch at Cafe Benelux (www.cafebenelux.com) in Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward. It had been recommended to us, so we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did, because it was amazing! Their menu is so creative and interesting. Below are a few of our brunch selections.

Stinking Rose Bloody Mary: This bloody mary was magnificent. It is made with garlic-infused hangar one vodka, house-made bloody mary mix, garlic beef stick  and shrimp. It’s also garnished with an olive, pickle and piece of asparagus! We obviously had really good breath the rest of the day! 🙂

Steel Cut Oats: These oats were piping hot and topped with roasted pear and cinnamon sugar. The creamy texture of the oats mixed with the sweetness of the pear was so yummy. It was the perfect breakfast on a cold winter morning!

House-Made Smoked Salmon: This plate was complete with capers, red onions, cucumber salad, rye bread toast and last, but not least, their house-made smoked salmon. It was healthy, fresh and delicious.

Buffalo Chicken Waffle: This was obviously Gareth’s brunch choice. This included a buffalo spiced waffle topped with fried buffalo chicken, shaved celery, shaved carrots and a blue-cheese sauce. The waffle had some sweetness, but overall this was a savory dish. Gareth was in heaven!

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Totally Tetrazzini.

Lower-Fat Cheesey Chicken Tetrazzini

Tetrazzini is a traditional baked pasta dish made with cream sauce and mushrooms. Turkey Tetrazzini is the most well-known dish, but I decided to make a lower-fat (no cream/no butter) version using chicken. This warm, creamy, cheesy baked pasta is a great winter meal!

Serves 5-7.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti whole wheat if you can find it)
  • 1 1/2 cups rotisserie chicken, off the bone and shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 2 cups reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella (1/2 cup for pasta, 1/4 for topping)
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan (1/4 for sauce, 1/4 for topping)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt/black pepper

Begin my heating 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pant on medium heat. Add the shallots and crushed garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and continue to sautee for about 10 more minutes. Next, add the chicken broth and stir in the sour cream, cream cheese and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Reduce the heat so the sauce simmers but does not boil. Feel free to add a bit more broth if you feel the sauce is too thick. Add the chicken into the sauce and continue to simmer. Sprinkle a dash of salt and black pepper to season.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta as directed on the package to al dente. After you’ve drained all excess water, add the pasta directly into the sauce and combine. Toss the pasta with 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella and then pour the pasta mixture into a greased baking dish. Top the pasta with the shredded cheddar, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

A Snappy Salad.

Snap Pea, Mozzarella & Avocado Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette

This colorful salad is a great alternative to a traditional green salad and is full of lots of different flavors and textures that will be sure to keep you guessing! The snap peas and cabbage add a great crunch that pairs well with the softness of the avocado and mozzarella. Yum!

Serves 5.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sugar snap peas, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh bocconcini mozzarella, halved
  • 1 cup sliced purple cabbage
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt/black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Mrs. Dash

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the snap peas and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove them from the pan and place them into a large bowl. After the snap peas have cooled, add the purple cabbage, mozzarella and avocado. To dress the salad, add 1 tbsp olive oil and the juice from 2 lemons. Sprinkle a dash of salt, black pepper and Mrs. Dash and toss to combine.

Fabulous Fried Eggplant.

Eggplant Fritti With Tomato-Basil Sauce

This is my twist on eggplant parmesan. The tomato-basil sauce adds an extra burst of flavor to top the crispy eggplant bites. You could serve this as a side dish, main dish or even appetizer! Keep in mind, the eggplant is lightly fried, so it is on the indulgent side. Try pairing it with a fresh green salad to balance it out. This eggplant is truly scrumptious!

Serves 5-8.

Ingredients:

  • 2 baby eggplant, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (1/4 for sauce, 1/4 for topping)
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 3 eggs
  • olive oil
  • hot red pepper flakes
  • garlic salt

Begin by breading the sliced eggplant. In a bowl, combine the corn meal and bread crumbs. In another bowl, add the eggs and whisk them. To bread, place the eggplant into the bowl with the eggs and coat, then put directly into the bowl with the bread crumbs/corn meal. After all the eggplant has been breaded, heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is heated, put in several slices of eggplant and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. After you fry the eggplant, place the slices on paper towel to drain any excess oil. Repeat this process until all the eggplant has been fried.

While the eggplant is resting on the paper towel, combine the tomato sauce, basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese in the blender and blend until smooth to create the tomato-basil sauce. After you’ve completed the sauce, remove the slices from the paper towel and place them on a large non-stick baking sheet. Sprinkle garlic salt and red pepper flakes over the slices to season. Put a small spoonful of sauce on each slice of eggplant. Then put a small spoonful of Parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.