If having your big family in for the Big Brekkie is stressing you out beyond reason, we need to talk. Breakfast is the most forgiving meal for entertaining because there are endless options for make-ahead dishes.
Let’s get the easiest stuff out of the way first.
A fruit salad to start is a great way to buy a few extra minutes in the kitchen.
Include whatever you like, chopped into bite-sized pieces, but leave out the banana and apple until morning, if you feel like you have to include them at all.
Add a couple of spoonfuls of orange liqueur or brandy half an hour before serving — adults only, of course — and combine a tub of plain yogurt with some honey to serve on top and you can’t go wrong.
Everyone likes a sweet bite with morning coffee and high quality store-bought scones and muffins mean you don’t have to make them yourself.
While we’re talking about coffee, just about everyone has those one-cup makers these days, which means they stuck the old carafe-style pot in a cupboard somewhere.
You can have a pot of coffee waiting and another in the wings so you don’t have to rebrew halfway through the meal.
Just don’t forget to have sugar, milk and creamer on hand — those are also easy do-aheads.
Toast is a pain if you have a two-slice toaster, so I butter up as many slices of bread as will fit on a baking tray and have them ready to go in the oven while people are eating fruit and pouring coffee.
Stack on a plate and cover with a tea towel and they’ll stay warm and crisp for quite a while.
One last point about de-stressing brekkie, if you’re thinking of bacon and made-to-order fried eggs, you may as well resign yourself to being attached to the stove while your guests enjoy everything else, so rethink that approach — unless you invite them into the kitchen to help, of course.
Baked Smoked Salmon Bagels
I would serve a tray of these as a centerpiece to any brunch.
A sweet and some fruit and you’re done — no fussing with eggs at all.
If you think smoked salmon is expensive, you’re right, but it doesn’t take much to make a pile of these.
On the other hand, if you really hate it, substitute cooked bacon, prosciutto or some other thinly sliced smoked meat.
You can also assemble them in advance, wrapped and ready to pop in the oven in the morning.
They stay warm for ages and continue to become more and more delicious as they cool to room temperature.
Depending on what other dishes you have, you might want to cut these in half, but I haven’t seen much left on plates so it’s up to you.
4 oz. plain cream cheese, regular or low-fat
2 oz. plain goat cheese, optional but delicious
8 plain bagels
8 oz. thinly sliced smoked salmon
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Combine cream cheese and goat cheese with a fork — it doesn’t have to be completely mixed. Halve the bagels and divide the cheese mixture among them, coating both halves of each bagel. Divide the salmon and onion among them, then press the halves together to form sandwiches.
Wrap each sandwich in a double layer of aluminum foil and place in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake at 375 F about 15 minutes or until everything in the middle is hot and the bagel is crispy.
Eggs, Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole
My family goes nuts for potatoes at breakfast, and I could never get away without eggs and meat, so this casserole ticks all the boxes at once.
The ingredient list seems long, but you can do everything the night before. Just remember to take this out of the fridge half an hour or so before you want to put it in the oven. It gets better as it rests after baking, which is nothing but help for you.
This casserole will easily feed eight or more and leftovers are great.
6 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. breakfast sausage, casings removed
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible
In a large non-stick pan, fry potatoes in oil until golden brown and cooked through. Pour onto paper towels to drain. Add onion to pan and fry until soft and starting to take on a little colour. Add red pepper, garlic and thyme and cook another minute, until you can smell the garlic. Stir in half the pepper and the salt and pour mixture into a greased 11 by 13-inch baking dish.
Fry sausage in same pan until browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle over potato mixture.
Whisk together eggs and milk and stir in Swiss and cheddar. Add remaining 1/2 tsp. pepper and pour over everything in the baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake at 350 F for 40 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. If it’s quite cold out of the fridge, it may take longer. Allow to sit a few minutes before serving.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.