Plan Brunch For Houseguests, Fall Hospitality Before Football Games

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Whether you are having houseguests or offering hospitality before a football game, brunch is easy to prepare ahead. Cranberry juice cordials topped with orange sherbet, bacon and cheese squares and baked french toast with praline topping are delectable additions to a brunch menu. Brunch is also enjoyable to savor after church on Sundays.

By Ann Cipperly

With the football season in full swing and houseguests visiting during the fall months, weekend brunches are an easy way to provide hospitality for delectable meals. Brunch dishes can be prepared ahead of time and simply baked in the morning, and have coffee cakes on a sideboard ready to serve.

Brunch, a combination of breakfast and lunch, can be a stress-free way to entertain when most of the menu is prepared ahead. When football games are scheduled for mornings or early afternoons, brunch is ideal for inviting friends over before the game for “tailgating” in the comfort of your home or on the patio.

When having houseguests, brunch is convenient, as they can leisurely dress and relax in the morning. Have coffee and other beverages arranged to allow houseguests to serve themselves.

With brunch dishes prepared ahead, the kitchen will be free of clutter, and cleanup is easier, allowing more time to spend with guests. Fresh fruit is generally the only last minute dish to arrange.

Prepare the bacon and cheese squares ahead and store in the freezer in plastic bags. Take out the amount you need and bake. Set out a tray of these delicious appetizers for guests while brunch dishes bake.

When I was growing up in Opelika, brunch was not popular. My mother and Little Granny served breakfast early, and there was never a brunch. When we visited Little Granny, she was up so early that she would have a big hearty lunch with fried chicken ready by 11 a.m.

Little Granny would be surprised to know that fried chicken is a popular brunch dish served with waffles and syrup. This combination is also served as a brunch appetizer with fried chicken nuggets placed on small waffles.

When we have company arriving before lunch, I will often serve brunch dishes as well as lunch favorites. Shrimp and grits or quiche are good for these meals. I featured several quiche recipes in the spring brunch article. If you missed it, email and I will send you a copy.

I am working on new quiche recipes now since I read about chefs making quiche in spring form pans and using a buttery pastry instead of pie crust. The filling is doubled for a thick slice. If you are interested in trying these kinds of quiche, you can Google recipes from Chef Thomas Keller of the famed French Laundry in the Napa Valley.

Most brunch dishes can be prepared ahead. For making Jennifer’s shrimp and grits casserole ahead, assemble the recipe without the shrimp. Place in refrigerator until ready to bake. Add shrimp just before baking.

The mini ham and cheese brunch casseroles can be prepared ahead and reheated. The recipe goes together quickly since it calls for ham, so you don’t have sausage or bacon to cook first. The mini casseroles make an attractive presentation when served on a platter surrounded by tomato wedges and green onions.

Prepare the Praline French Toast the day ahead and store in the refrigerator overnight. The pecans in a buttery brown sugar topping will be ready to simply place in the oven to bake.

The apple stuffed french toast with apple cider syrup is great for an autumn brunch. The recipe is from a former bed and breakfast in Highlands, North Carolina. This was our favorite place to stay for several years. Co-owner Helene was an outstanding cook and would make a huge breakfast every day. We were sad to see the inn close and was renovated into a family home. I was glad Helena shared her recipes, so we can recreate this delicious French toast dish.

A coffee cake is ideal for brunch since it can be prepared the day before or weeks ahead and frozen. Two excellent ones are Dawn Smith’s grandmother’s coconut pecan coffee cake and Dora James’ plantation coffee cake.

Look over the recipes [page 10] for assembling a brunch menu. While a brunch is great for houseguests and before football games, it is also enjoyable after church around the table with family.

Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Cranberry Juice Cordials

Linda Deyo

Cranberry juice

Orange sherbet

Pour cranberry juice into cordial or other stemmed glasses. Use a small scoop to top each with 1 scoop of orange sherbet. Let these sit while preparing breakfast. When you serve breakfast, there will be an orange foam on top of the cranberry juice.

Bacon and Cheese Squares

Makes a tasty appetizer and can be frozen ahead.

2 cups shredded white or yellow cheddar cheese

½ lb. sliced bacon, finely chopped

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1½ Tbsp. drained bottled horseradish

14 very thin slices firm white sandwich bread

Combine first six ingredients; blend well. Spread about 1½ Tbsp. mixture evenly on bread slices. Freeze covered for about 15 minutes. Trim crusts from bread and cut each slice into four squares.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Can freeze ahead between layers of wax paper. Thaw slightly before baking.

Mini Ham and Cheese Brunch Casseroles

Linda Blythe

8-inch baguette, cut into small cubes

4 oz. cream cheese cut crosswise into 12 slices

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/4 lb. thinly sliced ham, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 scallions, white and green portions, thinly sliced

Ground black pepper

1½ cups half & half

6 large eggs

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1/2 lb. plum tomatoes cut into wedges

Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup halfway with bread cubes. Top each with 1 slice of cream cheese. Set aside.

Over medium heat in a small saucepan heat olive oil. Add ham, scallion whites and a pinch of pepper. Sauté until the scallions are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the half & half and bring just to a simmer, then remove from heat.

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and thyme, then whisk in the warm half & half mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in each muffin cup. Bake until puffed and golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto a cooling rack.

Drizzle the tomato wedges with olive oil; top with green scallions and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the mini casseroles. Can be prepared ahead and reheated.

Egg, Smoked Sausage and Potato Casserole

4 baking potatoes or 2½ lb. red potatoes, cubed

2 large red or yellow peppers, sliced

1 large onion, chopped

Olive oil

1/2 lb. smoked sausage, chopped

8 eggs

½ lb. shredded cheddar cheese

Parboil potatoes. Sauté peppers and onion in olive oil; set aside. Sauté potatoes and sausage; drain. Combine both mixtures and spread into a greased 9 by 13 inch dish. Make eight holes in mixture. Break eggs into holes. Cover with cheese and bake at 350 degrees until set.

Make Ahead Sausage and Mushroom Pinwheels

Two pkg. crescent rolls

1 lb. hot pork sausage

¼ cup minced onion

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 oz. can chopped green chilies

8 oz. cream cheese, cubed

1 egg white, slightly beaten

Poppy seeds, optional

Press crescent rolls into the bottom of a large baking pan, pressing perforations to seal.

Brown sausage in skillet stirring until crumbly; add onion and cook until tender. Add mushrooms and green chilies; sauté until tender; drain any fat.

Add cubes of cream cheese into mixture, stirring until melted.

Spread mixture over pastry in pan. Roll dough. Chill until ready to bake and serve.

Brush pastry with egg white; sprinkle poppy seeds over roll. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice and serve.

Candied Bacon

Chef Jason Tardo calls this Pig Candy at the Inn at Half-Mile Farm.

1 lb. thick hickory smoked bacon

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and ground pepper together in a small mixing bowl. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer in a parchment lined baking pan.

Lightly sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over bacon, using your fingers, spread the mixture evenly over each slice.

Bake the bacon slices 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Avocado Toasts with Toppings

Set out assorted toppings, and let everyone make their own. Double or triple recipe for more servings.

1 avocado, cut in half and pit removed

Fresh lemon juice

Salt to taste

2 slices toasted whole wheat or sourdough breaded or bread of choice

Toppings: Smoked salmon, sliced boiled egg, bacon, soft- cooked egg or sliced cherry tomatoes and feta

Remove avocado from shell and place in a small bowl. Squeeze lemon juice over avocado and mash. Season with salt. Spread over toasted break. Serve as is or select a topping.

Baked French Toast with Praline Topping

1 loaf French bread

8 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Dash of salt

Praline Topping

Cut French bread into thick slices. Tightly arrange slices, cutting to fit, in a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat with a whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Praline Topping:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend well.

Mixture will be thick. Spread topping by dropping small spoonfuls evenly over cold bread mixture. Put a cookie sheet or aluminum foil under the pan to catch any spills. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set in the middle. Serve with maple syrup, if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Jennifer’s Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Carolyn Moore

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup fresh stone ground white grits

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (with peppers optional)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 small onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and cooked

1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Cook grits in chicken broth. Stir in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp and next 3 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until thoroughly hot and cheese is melted.

Apple Cheese Sausage Balls

Linda Deyo

2 lb. bulk sausage

8 oz. grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1 egg

1 pkg. unseasoned breadcrumbs (or make your own using 4 slices of toasted bread)

4 small apples, cored and cut into bite sized pieces

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Using an ice cream scoop as a measure, form into 2-inch balls. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until done, about 30 to 45 minutes. Makes about 24.

Note: This recipe can be prepared ahead and frozen, baked or unbaked. Place the baked sausage balls on a pan and partially freeze. Place in a freezer bag and use as needed. To heat, wrap in foil and heat slowly in the oven for about 30 minutes on 250.

Grandmother’s Coconut Pecan Coffee Cake

Dawn Smith

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

2 eggs

8 oz. sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream sugar and butter; add remaining ingredients. Then add the following:

2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine ingredients.

Put half of dough in a greased tube pan. Add half of crumb mixture and add remaining dough. Top with rest of crumb topping mix.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until tests done.

Apple Stuffed French Toast with Apple Cider Syrup

Recipe is from the former 4 ½ Street Inn in Highlands, North Carolina.

1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 can unsweetened apples

10 eggs

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup maple syrup

Apple Cider Syrup:

1 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups apple cider

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

½ stick butter

Cut bread into 1½ inch cubes; layer half of cubes in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Slice cream cheese into small pieces and sprinkle evenly over bread cubes. Add apples. Sprinkle remaining bread cubes over top.

In a mixing bowl, stir well eggs, milk, maple syrup and melted butter. Pour egg mixture over bread, pressing the cubes down firmly to soak the liquid. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes.

To make syrup, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil and let thicken. Add butter.

Plantation Coffee Cake

Dora James

1 cup butter

2 cups plus 4 tsp. sugar, divided

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, gradually adding 2 cups of the sugar, beating until very light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla.

Fold in the flour, which has been sifted with the baking powder and salt. Combine remaining sugar, pecans and cinnamon.

Place 1/3 of batter in a well-greased 9-inch tube pan. Sprinkle with ¾ of the pecan mixture. Spoon in remaining two-thirds of batter. Sprinkle with remaining pecans and sugar.

Bake 60 minutes or until done. Cool on a rack. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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