This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series.

It's been six months since I started my Rising Stars portfolio, and I've had a blast hunting for great companies to add to the mix. So far, I have nine in the portfolio and a nice watchlist of potential winners. And while the watchlist is a living, breathing thing that seems to always change, it contains a few companies that have stuck around for a while now.

If you've seen the video explaining my investing approach for my "motley" portfolio, you know that I'm looking for some global exposure. Elbit Systems (Nasdaq: ESLT) the largest non-government-owned defense company in Israel, has caught my eye as a real possibility. With a focus on defense and homeland security, and a broad customer base covering the U.S., Israel, Europe, Asia, and South America, Elbit is truly a global operator.

Let's be clear: I'm a lover, not a fighter. That said, I'm also a realist, and countries will always need defense. The alternative is simply unacceptable. And with Elbit's business so well spread out, I like the global diversity this company has to offer. Having grown revenue at a 16% annualized rate since 2000, and trading today at a historically low 13 times earnings, Elbit looks pretty tempting.

Finger on the pulse
It seems like whenever I mention Masimo (Nasdaq: MASI), people think I'm talking about Mossimo, the apparel line sold at Target. In fact, Masimo is a medical technology company specializing in noninvasive patient-monitoring products. Specifically, Masimo is responsible for inventing measure-through motion and low perfusion pulse oximetry technologies. Put (a tiny bit) more simply, they are perfecting the monitoring of the oxygenation of a patient's hemoglobin.

I love innovative companies that challenge convention. Masimo's CEO Joe Kiani founded Masimo as a "garage start-up" back in 1989 in his quest to "solve unsolvable problems" and hasn't looked back since. With a history of innovation and new products improving health care, not to mention a passionate founder behind the wheel who has a substantial stake in the company, I think Masimo has some real potential. While it's tough to value a fast grower that came to the market in 2007 and is still somewhat new to the market, the stock is trading at about 27 times earnings, which is a bit lower that its five-year average of 39 times.

Panera Bread
(Nasdaq: PNRA) presents an interesting growth opportunity. I recently wrote of my Panera/Starbucks conundrum, and I'm beginning to think there may be room for both in my portfolio. The ubiquitous bakery-cafe chain that is benefitting from the trend toward "fast casual" dining, Panera has a business model that accommodates both company- and franchised-owned stores. And it looks like there is still plenty of room for top-line growth as Panera builds on the 1,467 stores it has open today.

While the company's growing scale is helping improve margins and comparable store sales, I also like management and their mission. Initiatives like table service, expanding drive-through offerings, and catering are adding value and their quality supply chain operation is a key contributor to the success of the company as it continues to grow. And the community-based Panera Cares concept is gaining traction, as well.

At first glance, the stock may seem a bit pricey at 30 times earnings, but for context, Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) swaps hands at 43 times earnings and Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) at about 25 times. True, Panera has about one-third more stores open than Chipotle, but Starbucks is considerably bigger than both. Given the growth prospects that still exist, Panera looks like it could be a real long-term winner even at today's prices.

To wait, or not to wait; that is the question
So there are the three companies that I am keeping a close eye on. I can't really say that one holds priority over another; I like all three of them a lot. And if the price is right, you may just catch all three of these added to my portfolio at some time in the near future. Wanna talk shop? Swing on by my discussion board and say hi. Or better yet, click here and follow me on Twitter.

This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series, where we give some of our most promising stock analysts cold, hard cash to manage on the Fool's behalf. We'd like you to track our performance and benefit from these real-money, real-time free stock picks. Click here to see all of our Rising Star analysts (and their portfolios).