Brunch bunch

Once upon a time, before the little peanuts, our group of friends would get together at each others’ houses for game nights and fun, or we’d head out somewhere and hang out and chat and laugh and generally have a good time.

And then we had kids… and our friends had kids… and our get-togethers dwindled to the point where it had been almost a year since we’d seen some of our friends. So, I resolved to host a brunch once a season. We had our friends, with their kids in tow, come for a visit in April and with it being the downhill side of summer, we asked our group back over this Saturday.

My original plan (oh plans… how lovely plans are) was to have an English/Olympics theme since the games just opened. But, alas, I found myself full of good intention, but with no real time on my hands to plan and pull it off. I was disappointed in myself for not getting it together because I had been really excited for the plan, but then I stopped beating myself up about it and remembered the whole point was to hang out with our friends and watch our kids play together and generally have a nice, relaxing morning together.

With that in mind, I chose two recipes that are make-ahead and took some help from the grocery store. A generous friend who offered to bring a dish (thank you Amy!). In fairness, my other friends had offered to do the same, but at the time I was still working on Plan A and I told them they need not bring anything.

On the menu: Overnight Slow-cooker Breakfast Casserole, Overnight Baked Peaches and Cream French Toast, Caprese Salad, Cut Fruit, Mini-Cupcakes (and Amy’s Turkey and Cheese Pinwheels).

Food was consumed in large amounts, but leftovers were still on hand when all was said and done – no need for me to plan dinners for the next couple days!

The best part, though? I had very little to do this morning before people arrived. These two dishes are not only prep-ahead, but they are both relatively easy! Here’s the play-by-play:

Night before:

Prepare the Peaches and Cream French Toast

I used the divine recipe from The Pioneer Woman, adding in a layer of fresh ripe yellow peaches (6, which I peeled and cut into wedges and scattered on top of the custard-laden bread before wrapping to refrigerate overnight). I also cut back on the sugar in the custard (to 1/2 cup) and probably would happily cut back to 1/3 cup next time. In addition, I drizzled about 1/3 cup cream over the peaches before sprinkling with the crumbs.

Prepare the Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

This is something I’ve made before and it couldn’t be much easier. There are lots of variations out there, but this is what I do: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes (shredded potatoes), thawed
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage (loose or patties/links to break up)
  • 3-6 spring onions
  • 1 bag of cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

1. brown 1 lb of breakfast sausage in a pan (optional: use bacon and crumble or combine meats)
2. add 3-6 chopped spring onions to the pan (optional: use a shallot or an onion and cook these along with the sausage)
3. butter or spray a slow cooker with cooking spray
4. layer shredded potatoes, meat/onions, and cheese in the bottom of the greased slow cooker
5. in a bowl, crack 12 eggs and whisk with milk until well mixed
6. pour egg mixture over the layers in the crock pot – you will likely just barely see the egg or hardly at all (it does not submerge the layers)
7. Turn on slow cooker to “Low” setting and cook for 10-12 hours (overnight) – that’s it!

Day of the brunch:

Sprinkle the topping on the French Toast and Bake (1 hour before start time). Place on buffet when finished baking.

Place drinks, plates, cups, silverware, cupcakes (from the grocery bakery) and cut fruit (I bought pre-cut at the supermarket as a time-saver) on the buffet.

Prepare Caprese Salad: Slice tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, tear fresh basil and scatter on top. Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper and drizzle with EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar.

That’s it! It was the easiest prep I’ve ever had before guests arrived, I believe! The egg casserole and the french toast are both unbelievably simple and delicious. They are great together, too, as the the french toast is sweet, while the casserole is savory and slightly spicy (from the sausage I used – it had a bite).

Of course I completely suck and did not break out the camera at all to capture any of it! (I’m going with “I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying my friends’ good company” to take pictures as my excuse!)

How do you spend time with friends? What are your go-to dishes and short-cuts when you have guests over? Thanks for stopping by and reading!

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