Session #2 – Wine Country Ranch Brunch

Easy & Effortless Entertaining Series – Session #2
A Wine Country Ranch Brunch Gathering for 8

In Wine Country (year after year) the excitement of Spring’s glory never seems to dim. We awaken to the visual beauty of daffodils, tulips and magnolia in bloom and we watch new birth all around with the farm animals as well as our wildlife. In the vineyards we are greeted with bright yellow mustard between the rows and when glancing at those vines, our hearts skip a beat with the joy of first bud break. All of our senses are alive and eager to move forward with Spring’s treasures, such as arriving at the Farmers Market and realize that we will go home with an abundant bounty of Spring’s glorious vegetables, all so perfect to enjoy with

whatever our hearts desire.  As Anne, Darlene and I share our love of this season we also continue with stories of our favorite springtime gatherings. We all agreed that hosting a Spring Brunch should be the theme for the 2nd Session of B.R. Cohn’s Wine Club Easy and Effortless Entertaining Series.

As in the previous Session, planning is the first step.  Ask yourself, do I want a theme, how many guests, what’s the time frame, would I like to entertain outdoors, do I have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather? Simple menu, elaborate menu or perhaps a potluck affair, these are the get started basics we never fail to rely on. That bothersome task of shopping becomes less stressful when you know what the game plan is, and don’t forget by going into your pantry, refrigerator, freezer and garden will lessen the shopping load even more; as we are about to share with you in this edition.

Yes, Darlene allows these hard working girls a chatting and coffee break when needed

The term “Brunch” conjures up menu ideas based on freshness and by hosting at Darlene’s family ranch located in the rich farmland outside of Petaluma we’ve got half the preparation well underway. At hand, we have a cornucopia of farm fresh i

ngredients such as eggs, milk and cream along with a bountiful garden, berries and fruit trees.  Beautiful hens gift us with fresh colorful eggs for our main dishes of Strata, Pissaladiere, French Toast Soufflé and of course the muffins! Darlene’s father Jim supplies us with homemade sausages from a long held secret family recipe; the farm garden produces perfect tiny spring onions and asparagus and tender greens. This pastoral ranch also supplies Darlene with numerous blackberry bushes assuring berries both fresh and plump for her exquisite jam.

Decorating items for our Farm Table

The ladies heading into the workplace knowing that our Spring Brunch in the Country is soon approaching.


Fresh squeezed Orange Juice and Mimosa’s
Orange Zest Muffins – Darlene’s Blackberry Jam
Prosciutto wrapped Melon
Grilled Asparagus with fresh Herbs
Gambonini Sausage & Wild Mushroom Strata
Rebecca’s favorite Shortcut Pissaladiere
Anne’s Baked French Toast Supreme Casserole
Baked Ham
B.R. Cohn Sauvignon Blanc and/or Rose
Coffee with fresh cream



Orange Zest Muffins

Serves 12
Prep time: 15 min.
Bake time: 20-25 mins.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice (for drizzle)
  • 1 tbsp. white sugar (for drizzle)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners. In a large bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder and raisins together and set aside.

In a small bowl (using a fork) whisk the egg, orange zest and canola oil together. When slightly frothy, stir in the milk to blend well. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed to batter consistency. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared muffin cups.  Bake approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven.  Immediately whisk together the fresh squeezed orange juice and white sugar (until sugar is dissolved) and drizzle over the muffins.  Serve either warm or cooled with a slathering of Darlene’s famous Blackberry Jam (recipe to follow) and a Mimosa!

Brittany, Darlene’s Granddaughter gathering berries for that famous jam

Darlene’s Jam

Makes 6 12oz. jars or 9 8oz. jars

Helpful time saving hints:  “I pick berries throughout the month of August, then rinse and freeze them in one gallon Ziploc bags.  This allows me the ease of making my jam anytime the mood strikes or friends request!”

  • 5 cups berries (feel free to use your favorite berry)
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 box pectin
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice

Method for jar preparation:

Wash jars (either six 12 ounce or 9 eight ounce) in a small sauce pan, place canning lids and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer while you start the jam cooking process.

Jam preparation:

If fresh, pick, rinse and mash berries, (if frozen, defrost slightly and mash) to measure 5 cups of mashed berries.  Place in large pot, add the box of pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Add in sugar, bring back to a rolling boil and add in the lemon juice and butter, cook for 6 minutes, stirring constantly while boiling.  Pour the jam into the sterilized jars leaving ½ inch from the rim clear.  Wipe the jar rims clean (must do otherwise lids will not seal properly), place a hot lid on the jar and seal with the band.  Place upside down on a towel from 5 minutes to heat the seal.  Turn right side up and let cool.  You will hear the “pop” of the jar sealing as the jam cools.

Gambonini  Family Sausage and Mixed Wild Mushroom Strata

Serves 8
Prep time 20 mins.
Rest time: Overnight in refrigerator is best
Bake time is 1 hr.

  • 6 Fresh large eggs (beaten)
  • 2 cups Italian Sausage (out of casings and pressed into measuring cup for accuracy)
  • 10 slices White or Sourdough bread (day old and cubed)
  • 1 ½ cup combination of chopped shiitake, cremini, and oyster mushrooms
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt

Perfect Homemade Gambonini Sausages (Unfortunately Jim is truly keeping the recipe from his Grandfather for these wonderful sausages a secret, but he hints the flavor profile is similar to traditional Italian Sausage and that he makes these up with his Hunting Club members in huge batches.)

Lightly grease a 9 x 12 baking dish, set aside. In a large deep skillet, crumble and brown Italian sausage over medium-high heat until evenly brown.  In accumulated drippings add chopped mushroom combination and sauté until soft and mushrooms begin releasing their moisture.  Drain and set aside with sausage.

Layer bread cubes, sausage, mushrooms and shredded cheddar cheese in the prepared baking dish. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and dry mustard until well blended. Pour the mixture over the top of the bread cube mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

In the morning remove the Strata from the refrigerator.  Remove plastic wrap and let set at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking. In a 350 degree F. preheated oven, bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the Strata stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Rebecca’s favorite Shortcut Pissaladiere (Provencal Pizza)

Serves 8 with 2 Pissaladiere serving 4 each
Prep time: 1 hr.
Bake time: 15 mins.

  • 4 lbs. yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic

Pissaladiere Dough:

Purchase traditional pizza dough for 2 Pissaladiere from your favorite Pizzeria *this is the shortcut portion*

Additional Ingredients:

  • Cornmeal for baking
  • 24 anchovy fillets – 12 for each pizza
  • 24 Picholine cured olives, pitted – 12 for each pizza

Our Farm Table is the perfect altar to showcase Darlene’s collection of FiestaWare

For the topping, heat the olive oil in a very large sauté pan and cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic over a low heat for approximately 45 minutes or until the onions are sweet and cooked but not browned. Be sure to toss the onions a few times during this caramelizing process. After 30 minutes, take the garlic out and roughly chop and add back into the onions to continue cooking additional 15 minutes. Meanwhile begin preparing the purchased pizza dough for your baking sheets. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes then roll lightly with a rolling pin, then stretch it to a 10 x 15 inch rectangle and place on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Spoon the caramelized onion and garlic mixture over the top allowing 1/2 inch border all around. Arrange the anchovies and olives on top and brush the edge of the dough with olive oil. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the crust is crisp. *Note if your oven is not large enough you may have to bake each Pissaladiere separately, however be sure to keep the first warm while you bake the other.  Each pan will serve four.*



Anne’s Baked French Toast Soufflé (it’s very decadent, yet relatively easy!)

Serves 8
Prep time: 8 hours plus
Bake time: 50 minutes

  • 1 large loaf firm bread (a country loaf would work well as would day old croissants)
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup (authentic preferred)
  • 10 large fresh eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup half & half
  • 8 tbsp melted butter
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Cube bread and layer half in a 13” x 9” pan. Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and scatter it across the bread.  Cover with the remaining bread cubes. Whisk eggs, half & half, syrup and melted butter together. Pour egg mixture over the bread cubes. Press the cubes down to absorb the egg mixture. Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the Soufflé for 40 to 50 minutes. Serve with additional Maple Syrup, a dollop of Darlene’s jam and dust lightly with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

The colorful fresh eggs used to prepare our Wine Country Ranch Brunch.

Darlene, Anne and I (Rebecca) would like to thank you for going on this journey with us.  It is our hope the Easy and Effortless Series brings good time memories of shared gatherings with your families and friends. Perhaps you’d like to take the time to share some of those special moments, we are presently working on a Wine Club Easy and Effortless Entertaining Blog page for our B.R. Cohn website.  Once launched we encourage you to join the three of us in conversation, stories and pictures sharing how you entertain, what your favorite go-to recipes are, and how you (our valued wine club members and friends) create an Easy and Effortless Entertaining party.  Cheers!

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