The ritual of lingering over a leisurely breakfast was once a privilege of the wealthy. But in today’s fast-paced world, a simple but well-prepared breakfast (or brunch, depending on the time and menu) is a great way to entertain friends of all ages. Wealthy or not, we can all linger over our eggs and crossword puzzles once in a while!
“Brunch” is, of course, the combination of breakfast and lunch, and its roots go way back to 1895 when the term was first used by a Mr. Guy Beringer in an article in Hunter’s Weekly magazine. Mr. Beringer pleaded for a meal that would eliminate the need to wake up early on a Sunday. Served around noon, such a repast would start with breakfast items then move on to heavier fare. “Brunch,” he wrote, “is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Indeed!
Brunch – or as one household writer called it in 1924, “company breakfast” – did not catch on in the U.S. until the 1920’s or 30’s, but since then, it has developed into a Sunday tradition for many families, whether dining out at a hotel or restaurant on Mother’s Day or hosting a brunch at home on Christmas or Easter holidays.
So why not consider entertaining in the morning hours? Breakfast foods are typically less expensive and easier to prepare than dinner party fare. Both vegetarians and gluten-free guests will no doubt find dishes to their liking, and it’s the kind of party where kids can be welcomed.
Whether you call it for a Saturday or Sunday morning, any time from 8 to 11 am, be sure to look for one-dish recipes and balance your menu with proteins, starches and of course fresh fruits. I’ve provided a few recipes to get you started below – my French Toast bread pudding, a baked omelet that is a real showstopper, and an easy and colorful fruit salad. For more ideas, listen to my podcast here.
Bon Breakfast Appetit!
French Toast Bread Pudding
This is a one-dish version of one of my favorite breakfast foods. It can be prepared the day ahead, covered and stored in the fridge. Be sure to take it out of the fridge as the oven is preheating, as a very cold dish will take longer to bake.
5 thick slices of day-old Italian bread
¼ c. chopped pecans (optional)
1 c. milk
½ c. heavy cream or half and half
½ c. orange juice
2 t. vanilla
1 ½ t. cinnamon
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. melted butter
Spray a 2 quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Tear or cut the bread into chunks about 1 to 1 ½ inches and place in the baking dish. If desired, sprinkle the pecans evenly over the bread. (Alternatively, serve the pecans on the side.) Lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the liquids, the vanilla and the cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, allowing the bread to soak up the liquid, until all the liquid is used. (At this point, the dish may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated and finished the following day.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the bread and then drizzle with the melted butter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the custard is set. Serve warm with warm maple syrup. Serves 4 to 6.
This one-dish eggscellent brunch item can be prepared with any leftover veggies you have on hand, whatever cheese you have … you could add bacon or ham cubes if you like. In other words, it’s totally your show!
2/3 c. milk
¼ t. salt
¼ t. paprika
Black pepper to taste
1 c. cheddar cheese
2 T. butter
½ medium onion, chopped
2 c. fresh baby spinach (about 2 handfuls)
1 T. Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat the eggs, milk and seasonings together in a mixing bowl; stir in the cheddar cheese. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed, 9 inch skillet that is ovenproof. Saute the onions until translucent; add the spinach and stir until it’s wilted, just a few minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour in the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Backed 20 minutes or until set (it doesn’t jiggle in the middle), puffy and golden. Serve warm. Serves 4 to 6.
This is just one of about a million variations. It’s easy – only 3 fruits, and that feels about right for a basic fruit salad. Combine whatever fruits you like, that look good in the market that day, or that you have on hand. There is no wrong combination! I take a hand from the market and buy a large container of pre-cut melon.
1 small container (6 oz.) blueberries or blackberries
2 c. red seedless grapes
1 qt. honeydew chunks
3 or 4 sprigs of mint
2 T. honey
Wash the berries and grapes and allow to dry. Cut the melon into bite sized pieces and place in a medium serving bowl. Add the berries; halve the grapes and add them to the mixture. Tear the mint leaves from the stem; you should have about 15 to 20. Chop the mint, as coarsely or finely as you like, and add to the bowl. Zest both lemons right into the bowl. In a small bowl, juice both lemons. Whisk the honey into the lemon juice and pour the dressing over the fruit. Toss gently to combine. Allow to chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Serves 4 to 6.Read More