HOW TO: HAVE PEOPLE OVER FOR BRUNCH
Brunch is one of the best meals to host
Set your own schedule. If you’re not an early bird, don’t invite anyone over before 1:00pm. No matter what time you wake up, we’ve figured out how to do a festive, fun brunch with no more than a hour or so of work.
*Tips and Tricks**
Cook One Item on the Stove. That’s it. Dealing with sautéing hash browns, scrambling eggs, all the while entertaining the first few arrivals is just a disaster waiting to happen.
Cook. Assemble. Make Ahead. Choose one item that requires attention the day of (scrambled eggs or hash browns), one that requires assembly (salad or sandwiches), and another that can be made start to finish the night before (quick breads or coffee cake), and brunch will be a breeze.
Simple Scramble Eggs. Eggs are cheap, traditional, and tasty, and they are easy to double and triple according to your party size. Frying eggs and making omelets are stressful and should be avoided. Go for a simple scramble, or choose an egg dish that only requires baking in the oven. A frittata or a strata are great choices. In the case of the last two, they can be completely assembled the night before and baked off the morning of.
Roasted Hash Browns. Since, potatoes are probably more comforting for a hangover than either Advil or hair of the dog (booze), adding them to your brunch menu will increase you popularity. We love this recipe for Spinach Hash Browns but if you want to take a shortcut, simply roast potatoes instead. Halve baby Yukon gold or red potatoes, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast for 50 minutes at 425°F. Parmesan-Roasted Potatoes are fantastic too.
Breakfast Meats. A little sausage and bacon never disappoints. To avoid using your stovetop, bake your bacon and sausage in the oven. Drain the bacon afterwards on paper towels, as you would if you fried it in the pan.
Serve Bread. A loaf of good bread can bulk up your meal for cheap. It keeps people occupied while you finish cooking, too. If you buy your bread the day before, you’ll save time, but it could potentially get a little stale by brunch time the next day, especially if you buy baguette, which always tastes best freshly baked the day of. Toast the whole loaf for ten or fifteen minutes in the oven before serving it. Rubbing a little water on the crust with your hands will help crisp it up if it has gotten rubbery and soft. Getting in the habit of making no-knead breadis a great way to ensure there’s bread on the table without you having to leave the house at all.
Make Sandwiches. Egg sandwiches are a traditional brunch item; BLTs or Pesto Chicken Sandwiches may be more lunch-like, but they’re always winners. Letting guests make their own sandwiches
French Toast. This can be an incredibly easy, cheap brunch option, but frying up individual slices of French toast is a huge pain. Try baking your French toast instead. The bread can soak in the custard mixture overnight if your schedule warrants it, then you can bake off the toast just before your guests arrive.
Pancakes. Nostalgic and delicious, pancakes love variation. Just add some chocolate chips or fresh fruit and you can have pancakes two ways.
Fruit. Fruit satisfies light eaters, and it can brighten up an otherwise monochromatic brunch plate, but platters and salads can get expensive. If you’re cutting costs, best to offer one kind of fruit—a melon, perhaps—or get your fruit serving via compotes.
Baked Goods. Quick breads, coffee cake, and muffins are a great addition to any brunch and are a pretty cheap, filling choice.
Caffeine. If you own a coffee maker, great. Buy an inexpensive roast and whip up a pot. Put out milk and sugar. If you happen to lack a coffee pot, don’t bother with the powdered stuff.
12 Tips for Arranging the Perfect Buffet Table
If you’re throwing a big party or an event, like the wedding reception chances are good that you’ll be setting up a buffet.
A few simple tips, though, will help you avoid pitfalls and take your buffet from good to great. Here are my essential tips for a quality buffet line.
• Position the table away from the main eating area: This ensures people will move around and mingle, two keys to a great party. It also helps to control the crowd that usually congregates around food and drink.
• Start the buffet with plates and end it with cutlery and napkins This leaves hands free to hold plates without worries about dropping things! Offer utensils in jars, saving valuable table space, keeping things neat and making them easier to grab. I like to roll everything up — cutlery and napkins — into one easy package to pick up.
• Think of how the food will be eaten. In the case of Thanksgiving, that would mean arranging the gravy and the cranberry sauce after the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.
• Intersperse old faithfuls amongst new dishes: People tend to congregate around the most popular dishes. Spreading them out means there won’t be a mob at one end of the table. Plus people will be more likely to try new things.
• Leave the middle of the table for a pretty centerpiece: It’s attractive and festive plus it keeps the platters of food towards the outsides of the table where they’re easier to reach and cuts down on people reaching over one thing to get at something else. The less chance there is of dropping the potato salad into the meatloaf, the longer your buffet table will look appetizing!
• Leave salad dressing off the salad: Not only does it wilt the salad, I’ve found that most people like to put on their own.
• Put a drinks station in a separate area Whether it’s mixed drinks or coffee and tea, it’s neater as well as being another way to get people circling.
• For potlucks, it’s nice to label the stuff people brought: People love to hear accolades for what they contributed. This lets you know who made those fabulous cookies. Give them a compliment and maybe they’ll share the recipe!
• Leave plenty of room around the main course: This is the one place everyone will want to get to.
• Stacks can be visually appealing: Especially for small items like cookies, muffins and canapes, use tiered cake plates to put these items in easy reach.
• Present food in easy to grab portions or with serving utensils that can be manuvered with one hand: A ladle with a pour spout for the gravy or an easy to use gravy boat, a long shallow spoon to dig mashed potatoes out of a bowl, tongs to grab a serving of salad, bread and pies cut into slices. If people have to use two hands or cut a slice for themselves, this slows down the line. Plus it keeps the table looking nicer longer, a boon for the host or hostess.
• Don’t put everything out at once: If you’re also serving dessert buffet-style, wait to put out the goodies until after the main meal has been eaten. This allow people to rest and digest between courses, while giving you, the host, control over the rhythm of the party.
How creative recipe ideas, and fun activities.
Ideas to Experience Childlike Playfulness as Adults
Find the ones that appeal to you and try them! Even if they do not make you laugh upfront, assuming there is resonance they will/should loosen you up and prepare yourself for laughter.
- Try lip synching. Turn off the sound on your TV and make up the dialogues yourself.
- Watch funny movies and/or funny pictures.
- Talk to your pet.
- Give gag gifts .
FAIRY GARDEN MASON JAR TERRARIUM
FAIRY GARDEN MASON JAR TERRARIUM
You only need a few supplies to make your own version of this fun craft. I used a few miniatures but actually made my own “door” to the fairy houses in these jars. See how to make the doors below and add them to mason jars. This is also a fun kids craft that they will love to partake in.
- Mason Jars
- Hot glue and glue gun
- Craft sticks
- Clay or small wood bead
- Start by making your fairy door.
- Determine the width of your door (two or three craft sticks should work).
- Use hot glue to secure the craft sticks together with another craft stick across the back. Use scissors to cut the craft sticks into a door shape.
- Stain your door with a brown ink pad (if desired).
- Add a door knob with hot glue.
- I used a ball of clay however a small wood bead would work as well.
- Add rocks to the bottom of your mason jar.
- Cover the rocks with a layer of moss.
- Add moss up the back of your mason jar.
- Add in your fairy door and any miniatures using hot glue.
Fun Family Meals
Mexican Pork Taco Night
• Black bean salad with bell pepper and onions: Combine 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed and drained black beans, 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup chopped red onion, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1 minced garlic clove. Serve at room temperature.
• Lemon sorbet
1. While skillet preheats:
• Prepare black bean salad
• Chop jalapeño pepper, tomato, and cilantro
• Slice onion and squeeze lime juice
2. While tomatoes simmer in sauce, warm tortillas.
Mexican Chili-Cheese Burgers
- 1 pound ground round
- 1 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
- 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Cooking spray
- 4 (3/4-ounce) slices reduced-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
- 4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
- 4 iceberg lettuce leaves
- 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
- Grilled onions (optional)
Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping into 1/2-inch-thick patties.
Prepare grill. Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until done. Place 1 cheese slice on top of each patty; cover and grill an additional minute or until cheese melts.
Spread 1 tablespoon of sour cream over top half of each bun, and set aside. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each with lettuce, tomato, onions (if desired), and top half of bun.
- 4 cups quartered strawberries
- 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 ounces good-quality strawberry jam (9 tbsp.)
- Best Butter Cake
Best Butter Cake
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- About 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup milk
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter until creamy. Crack eggs into a small dish (do not beat) and add vanilla. Add eggs to the butter mixture 1 at a time, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Beat in flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Butter and flour 2 round 8-in. cake pans. Divide batter evenly between pans.
Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool cakes 5 minutes. Invert onto a rack, remove pans, and let cool to room temperature, at least 40 minutes.
Make ahead: Up to 2 days, wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled.
How to Make It
Make filling: In a large bowl, combine strawberries, 2 tbsp. sugar, the zest, and juice. Let sit 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk cream with remaining 4 tbsp. sugar until it holds a stiff peak.
Assemble cake: Using a serrated knife, slice both cake layers in half horizontally. Set rounded tops aside to use as middle layers. Dollop 1 tbsp. whipped cream onto the center of a cake stand (to hold cake in place). Place 1 of remaining layers on stand, cut side up. Spread with about 3 tbsp. jam. Sprinkle with about one-quarter of the sweetened strawberries, along with some juice. Then dollop one-quarter of the cream over strawberries. Repeat with second and third cake layers, using the reserved rounded tops.
Place the remaining layer on the top of the cake, cut side down. Mound the remaining whipped cream in the center and spread to about 1 in. from the edge, then sprinkle with remaining strawberries.
- 8 Smithfield® Fully Cooked Maple Sausage Patties
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
- 6 tbsp maple syrup, divided
- 1 8 oz pkg. light cream cheese
- 8 eggs
- 2 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced.
1. Heat oven to 450°F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. Use pastry blender or two knives to cut butter into flour mixture until the size of peas.
2. Mix together buttermilk and 3 tablespoons maple syrup; stir into flour mixture. Once combined, turn onto lightly floured surface and knead to combine any remaining flour. Pat dough to ¾-inch thick and cut with 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place biscuits 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 450oF. for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
3. Meanwhile, mix together cream cheese and remaining 3 tablespoons maple syrup; set aside. Heat sausage patties according to package directions, and fry eggs as desired.
4. When biscuits are done, slice in half horizontally and spread bottom half with cream cheese mixture. Top with sausage patty, apple slices and fried egg.
Cinnamon Toast Bacon Pancakes
- 1 package Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cups butter, melted
- 2 cups pancake mix
- 1/4 cups cinnamon almonds, finely chopped
- Cook Smithfield Thick Cut Bacon as directed on package.
- Beat together egg, milk and melted butter. Stir in pancake mix and almonds.
- Pour 2 tablespoons batter in long line on hot griddle; place 1 slice bacon in batter. Pour 1/4 cup more batter over bacon to cover. Repeat with remaining batter and bacon. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook until golden brown.
Orange Laced French Toast Casserole with Caramelized Bacon
- 1 pound Smithfield Bacon, divided
- 1 (1 lb) loaf french bread, slice into 1/2 in. slices (12)
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp orange zest
- 1 orange, juiced
- 8 eggs
- 8 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Confectioner’s sugar for garnish
- Orange slices for garnish
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
In a medium skillet, cook 1/2 lb. of bacon until cooked through not quite crispy. Drain on paper towels. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on one side of each slice of French bread. Place bread slices in a greased 9x13x2 baking dish. Layer on cooked bacon slices. Top with another layer of the cream cheese-French bread slices. Blend eggs, milk, cinnamon, orange zest, orange juice, butter and maple syrup until well combined. Pour mixture evenly over bread. Use a spatula to slightly press layers down to moisten. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Put in cold oven straight from refrigerator and bake at 325 degrees F for 60-90 minutes or until center is set and edges are golden brown. Casserole may need to be covered with foil midway through baking process if it looks like it’s getting too brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and garnish with caramelized bacon slices (instructions below) and oranges. Serve alongside warm maple syrup.
For Caramelized Bacon:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place sugar in plastic bag. Add 1/2 lb. of bacon to the bag and toss to coat with sugar. Transfer bacon to a baking rack set on the aluminum lined baking tray. Bake bacon until dark golden brown, turning once, about 8 minutes per side. Allow to cool.
Ham and Sausage Hashbrown Egg Bake
- 4 oz ground spicy Italian sausage
- 2 cups chopped Smithfield Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Ham
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp seasoning of your choice
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 pound shredded potatoes (such as packaged refrigerated hashbrowns)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese
- Green onions for topping
Brown the sausage in a small skillet until no longer pink. Add the ham and sauté together until warm. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk, seasoning and garlic powder together.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small greased baking dish (around 8”x4”), arrange the hashbrowns in a layer in the bottom of the pan. Pour 2/3 of the egg mixture over the hashbrowns. Cover with 1/4 cup shredded cheese, the meat mixture, and then the remaining egg mixture. Top with the last 1/4 cup shredded cheese and cover loosely with greased foil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the egg mixture is firm and the cheese is melted. You can remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking to get your cheese extra browned and bubbly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with green onions, and cut or scoop to serve
6. Steak au Poivre Mix 4 tablespoons each softened butter and chopped fresh herbs. Spread on baguette rounds. Top with thinly sliced steak and crushed peppercorns.
7. Pea-Prosciutto Puree 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas with 1 tablespoon each olive oil and water in a blender; season with salt and pepper. Spread inside a split loaf of focaccia and fill with prosciutto and shaved Parmesan. Cut into squares.
8. Olive-Focaccia Mix 1 cup chopped olives and 3 tablespoons chopped parsley. Drizzle the inside of a split loaf of focaccia with olive oil; fill with the olive mixture and sliced provolone. Cut into squares.
9. Asparagus Mix 3 tablespoons softened butter with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. Spread on pumpernickel bread; cut into rectangles. Slice cooked asparagus tips in half lengthwise; lay on the bread and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Top with chopped hard-boiled egg, salt and pepper.
10. Anchovy–Lemon Butter Mix 1 stick softened butter with 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest. Spread on white bread. Sandwich with anchovies, sliced tomato and Bibb lettuce. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
13. Crab Salad Make Shrimp Salad Sandwiches (No. 12) with 1 cup crabmeat instead of shrimp. Add sliced avocado.
14. Curried Egg Salad Mix 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons each chopped celery, red onion and cilantro, 2 teaspoons each dijon mustard and lime juice, and 1/4 cup mayonnaise. Cut white bread into pieces and spread with mango chutney. Sandwich with the egg salad.
15. Pesto Chicken Mix 2 teaspoons pesto with 2 tablespoons olive oil; brush on thin baguette rounds. Top with sliced cooked chicken breast and halved grape tomatoes. Drizzle with more pesto oil.
16. Bresaola-Artichoke Mix 4 tablespoons softened butter and 1/4 cup chopped jarred artichoke hearts; season with salt and pepper. Spread on thin baguette rounds. Top with sliced bresaola and drizzle with olive oil.
17. Country Pate Spread Dijon mustard on white bread. Layer country pate and chopped cornichons on top. Top with bread spread with butter. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
18. Peanut Butter–Bacon Spread peanut butter on white bread. Layer chopped cooked bacon and sliced banana on top. Top with bread; spread with mayonnaise. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
19. Liverwurst-Onion Spread Dijon mustard on pumpernickel cocktail bread. Sandwich with liverwurst and sliced red onion.
20. Manchego-Quince Trim white toast crusts and cut the bread into pieces. Top with sliced manchego, quince paste and sliced almonds.
23. Meatloaf-Tomato Spread mayonnaise on potato bread. Sandwich with sliced meatloaf and tomato jam. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces. Top with more jam.
24. Prosciutto-Fig Spread softened butter and fig jam on the inside of a split baguette. Fill with prosciutto, sliced pears and Bibb lettuce; season with salt and pepper. Cut into pieces.
25. Camembert-Fig Toast brioche slices and cut into pieces. Spread with camembert cheese. Top with sliced fresh figs and candied walnuts.
26. Eggplant-Yogurt Fill mini pita halves with chopped grilled eggplant and diced cucumber. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with chopped mint.
27. Roast Beef–Horseradish Spread horseradish cream on rye cocktail bread. Sandwich with sliced cucumber, roast beef and watercress; season with salt and pepper.
28. California Chicken Cut whole-wheat toast into pieces. Spread with green goddess dressing. Sandwich with sliced smoked chicken, sliced avocado, diced tomato and sprouts; season with salt and pepper.
29. Salmon Salad Combine 1 cup flaked cooked salmon, 3 tablespoons each mayonnaise, chopped chives and dill, and 1 teaspoon each Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Layer the salmon salad and sliced radishes on pumpernickel bread. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
30. Smoked Turkey–Apple Brush the inside of a split baguette with softened butter. Fill with smoked turkey, cheddar cheese and sliced apple, and season with salt and pepper. Slice; top with a dollop of apple jelly.
35. Sweet Onion Spread softened butter on white bread. Top with thinly sliced sweet onion and season with salt; top with bread and spread with mayonnaise. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces; press the edges in chopped parsley.
36. Pate–Sour Cherry Spread sour-cherry preserves on sliced brioche. Sandwich with duck or goose liver pate. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
37. Smoked Trout Mix 4 tablespoons softened butter with 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Spread on pumpernickel bread. Sandwich with flaked smoked trout and sliced cucumber and onion. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
38. Radish-Anchovy Mix 3 tablespoons softened butter with 4 minced anchovies. Spread on white bread and sandwich with sliced radishes. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
39. Blue Cheese–Grape Spread soft blue cheese on pumpernickel or black cocktail bread. Top with thinly sliced red grapes.
40. Roasted Vegetable Spread goat cheese on the bottom half of a split baguette and sun-dried tomato pesto on the top half. Fill with roasted eggplant and zucchini slices and roasted red pepper strips. Cut into pieces.
43. Strawberry–Cream Cheese Spread softened cream cheese on slices of date-nut bread and sandwich with sliced strawberries. Cut into pieces.
44. Pimiento Cheese Mix 2 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup each shredded cheddar and jack cheese, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste; stir in 1/4 cup chopped pimientos. Sandwich on white bread. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
45. Chicken Salad Whisk 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons each chopped shallot and tarragon, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper; stir in 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken. Sandwich toasted white bread with the chicken salad, watercress and sliced cornichons. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces. Top with more cornichons.
46. Taleggio-Pear Brush softened butter inside a split baguette. Fill with fig jam, sliced pears, taleggio cheese, and salt and pepper. Cut into pieces.
47. Lemon-Berry Cut toasted English muffin halves into quarters. Spread with lemon curd and top with berries.
48. Cream Cheese and Jelly Sandwich softened cream cheese and raspberry or strawberry jelly between slices of whole-wheat bread. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
49. Ricotta-Orange Cut whole-wheat bread into squares. Sandwich with fresh ricotta cheese and orange marmalade.
50. Chocolate-Raspberry Sandwich chocolate-hazelnut spread and seedless raspberry jam between slices of white bread. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.