You should probably know that I have a deep love for brunch. I mean, who doesn’t like brunch?! You’ve got coffee, cocktails, breakfast foods, friends, and family all wrapped up in the happiest two-hour little package.
Brunch entertaining is relatively new to me. For some reason, before we had kids, it never occurred to me to have friends over on a Saturday mid-morning. I guess when we were younger we were likely going to the newest brunch spot or, to be honest, sleeping. However, now that almost all of my friends have kids it seems to be the only time that schedules don’t conflict. It’s a time when the kids are happy and awake and the parents are eager to take on the first few hours of the weekend with people who understand the blissful struggle of adulting.
This last weekend I had two of my dearest friends and their families over to spend the morning with us. Our babies were all playing in the living room while we laughed and chatted about life over Brunch Punch in the kitchen (more on Brunch Punch shortly). I was really looking forward to this particular get-together. Usually I feel the need to get pretty fancy with the menu/table setting… but this crew I knew would appreciate any meal I had to offer and drink up every last sip of the cocktail I had to share. That’s my kind of get together these days.
I have some solid and easy brunch recipes in my back pocket to share. My biggest tip? Keep it simple. Your guests can sense when you’re stressed, so do yourself a favor and make it easy.
Easy Cheesy Breakfast Casserole
I’ve used this recipe from Gimme Some Oven for years. It’s seriously delicious. However, I’ve found shredded hash browns work better than the diced she calls for. Another little tip: Make this the night before. Not only is it ready to go when you need it, but I think it tastes better after the flavors meld.
1 pound Italian sausage (I prefer hot, but mild or sweet also work)
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced (or 1 jar of roasted red peppers, drained and diced)
1/3 cup milk
1 (20 ounces) bag frozen hash browns, thawed (I used the cubed kind)
2 cups shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(optional topping: thinly sliced green onions)
Heat oven to 375°F.
Add the sausage to a medium saute pan. Cook over medium-high heat until browned, crumbling the sausage with a spoon as it cooks. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Reserve about 1 tablespoon of sausage grease in the saute pan, discarding the rest. Add the onion and red pepper* to the saute pan, and saute for 5 minutes until cooked. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2 minutes until fragrant. (If using the jarred roasted red peppers, wait to stir them until after the garlic.) Pour the vegetable mixture into the mixing bowl with the sausage. Add the hash browns and 1 1/2 cups cheese to the mixing bowl with the sausage and veggies. Stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and black pepper until combined. Then add them to the hashbrown mixture, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into an 11×7-inch or a 9×9-inch baking dish (a 9×13-inch dish will also work), and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the potatoes in the center are cooked through. (I recommend just using a fork to pull out one of the potatoes in the center of the casserole, and test it to see whether it’s tender and cooked through). Remove and let the casserole rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and serve!
*Update: Some of you have reported back that your casserole took closer to 45 minutes (total) to bake, so I’ve updated the recipe instructions accordingly. In general, just keep an eye on the casserole while baking, and once the potatoes are tender, it’s ready to go!
Champagne Brunch Punch
This drink will sneak up on you, so be careful! It’s a slightly sweet and refreshing drink that pairs perfectly with friendship. 🙂
2 Cups Orange Juice
1 cup Cranberry Juice
2 liters Ginger Ale
1/4 cup Orange Liqueur
1 Cup Strawberries, Sliced
1 Bottle Champagne
Combine all ingredients (except the champagne) into a drink dispenser or punch bowl and stir well. Slowly add Champagne to keep fizz. Stir gently to combine and serve immediately. (I added Blueberries because I had them on hand).
I completed our meal with mixed fruit and a simple Arugula salad with olive oil, lemon, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Everyone, including the littles, were full and happy when our time together came to an end.
I didn’t get a picture of the table this last weekend but here’s a tablescape I set for some friends who came for brunch a few weeks ago. It’s so simple to set a pretty table. Patterned linen napkins, solid white plates, and a little imagination can wow your guests with little effort.
Now, quick! Invite your friends! Saturday will be here before you know it.
Until next time,