By Monica Gutherie
Like my playdate snack article, this article is coming from necessity. I am a lazy cook but I love to throw a good party, and that includes the occasional brunch (like Christmas morning, Valentine's Day, Easter or the occasional office party or baby shower). So here are some simple menu ideas that will give you more time in the party and less time in the kitchen. I’m going to be real with you – some of these are made from scratch and others are store bought – but this is exactly my menu for a brunch I’m throwing in a week for a group including adults and children as young as 3 years old.
Buy a bag of mini bagels, cream cheese and jelly. Serve.
This is the easiest drink for me. I prefer delicious Moscato over champagne and I simply buy a large bottle and set it next to a bottle of orange juice. Guests can make their own mixes at the alcohol/juice ratios they prefer. Have non-alcoholic drinkers? Throw open a bottle of sparkling cider! It gives the drink the same fun fizz without the side effects (or if you’re really feeling adventurous, try it with Sprite).
I buy the “just add milk” or “just add water” muffin mix at the grocery store. Follow the directions and then pop those in the oven the night before and warm them up in the oven the morning of to save time. I cook them in a mini muffin tray so that my little one can eat them without making as much of a mess.
To dress up this item, I put them in martini or wine glasses (so fun!). You’ll simply need some yogurt, granola and your favorite fruit. My staple set of layers are vanilla yogurt followed by blueberries (fruit that I don’t have to cut up), followed by more yogurt, followed by some granola cereal (you get more for your buck than if you buy just granola), followed by a little more yogurt, followed by sliced strawberries. I leave them in the fridge until right before the party and then bring them out.
There’s at least one person who wants meat with their brunch – for them bake two packages of bacon in the oven. If the packaging doesn’t tell you how to do it, bake them – single layer – at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to check them (I start checking them at 10 minutes if it’s thin bacon). If you put the bacon on aluminum foil, that makes for an easier clean up.
Difficult (at least to me):
Egg potato tomato casserole
This is my one “big” dish.
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2 tsb chopped garlic
9 large eggs
2 tsb Dijon mustard
1 cup whole milk
2 cups of cheese (I like to mix the Mexican blend with parmesan)
6 cups of shredded frozen potatoes (thawed)
Preheat the oven to 450.
Take 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, half them.
Add two tablespoons of chopped garlic (I buy them already chopped and in huge jars) and mix with tomatoes before putting the mixture on a foil-lined baking sheet (drizzle with olive oil and some salt and pepper if you want). Bake for 10-12 minutes. Set aside.
Reduce heat to 350
Butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
Mix eggs, milk and mustard until blended. Add cheese, potatoes and the tomato mix. Pour mixture into the casserole dish and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Note – you can make this the day before and let the mix chill in the fridge until party time and then throw it in the oven. I think I might add chopped spinach next time.
If you need other ideas for brunch, look up my article on playdate snacks. There are some great ideas there for small guests (for the holidays) my favorite being the mini veggie muffins and fruit skewers.
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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