Sunday Funday

Brunch is probably my favorite meal to have with friends.  Especially in the Fall.  It’s the perfect combination of many great things- something sweet, something savory, something “pumpkin spice”, and a good reason to drink bottomless mimosas before noon.  I try to dress fabulously appropriate, but I think showing up in the clothes that you wore  out the night before is equally appropriate, and probably makes for better conversation.  I have a friend, who will not be named (*cough* Julia Burns *cough*), who tends to find herself “too hungover” to make it to brunch.  She still doesn’t get it.  That is the POINT of brunch.  But, I digress… You can ask my husband, or many of my friends, I may not be the best cook when it comes to dinner, but I believe that I have masted the art of Brunch. If you’re hosting one at your home, here are a few tips:

1.) The Menu – A biscuit bar perhaps…  This could be made elaborate enough that you need not add anything else to accompany it.  You could choose to theme your menu around a specific season, for example, pumpkin pecan waffles in the Fall, or cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad croissants,  and fruit salads in the Summer.   Another fun idea: Head to a Farmer’s Market the day before (thank you, Atlanta!) and grab whatever fresh produce, meat, or cheeses that catch your eye.  Talk to the vendors – they will suggest things that you never thought of!  You can usually find good local honey and jams as well, and that is ALWAYS good- no matter what you’re serving.

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I feel like Quiche could have it’s own category, but I’ll mention it here… I almost always make a quiche. Who doesn’t like quiche? It’s so delicious, diverse, and easy to make! I change it up each time, to compliment the other menu items. When in doubt, make a quiche. See below for my latest creation…

2.)  Cocktails! – You can even get fancy with your cocktail menu!  Try a champagne bar with different juices and fruit purees.  Or, coffee bars are fun.  You can serve a variety of hot and iced coffees, flavored/regular or a range of roasts, and accompany with Kahlúa and Baileys.  Don’t forget the nutmeg, cinnamon, and whipped cream.  Now, my personal favorite is the Bloody Mary bar.  When done right, a “Bloody Bar” can double as part of the meal itself!  I’ll admit, my family gets carried away.  But that’s how we like it.  I better be drinking it through a meat stick or you can forget about my receiving my endorsements!

3.) Decor – Yes, no matter how intimate your brunch, you should consider the decor.  Do you have a theme?  At our last brunch, I went with a Kate Spade inspired tablescape (a simple version).  Black, white, gold, and berry.  Polka dots, crystal, even the food was black, white, and berry colored.  This can be done by switching out tablecloths, stemware, dishes, and adding florals.  It not as complicated as it sounds.  You don’t need to have a “sit down” formal meal.  Use appetizer plates and serve it buffet style, that way your guests can pick at the spread throughout the party, or sit and eat at their leisure.  I went with a white linen tablecloth, black “confetti dot” runner, and single stem knockout roses (picked from our yard).

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mimosa.jpg

For an easy and inexpensive touch,  provide fun cocktail napkins.  I pick them up in random gift shops wherever I go, and even friends and family have brought me gifts of their own unique finds.  I assume it’s because I always seem to be passing out cocktails –  with an event appropriate cocktail napkin, of course!

Below is the full menu from this brunch, with recipes…

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Since it was the end of blueberry season, I served a LOT of blueberries.  What goes well with blueberries?  Everything… just kidding.  Honey!  My grandparents’ neighbors have hives that produce some amazing honey and we used it on several dishes.

Blueberries.jpg

BlueberryCrostini.jpgI found the recipe on (you guessed it) PINTEREST!! This recipe originated from a food blog called Two Peas & Their Pod, and it is definitely a keeper.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fresh blueberries
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 French baguette, thinly sliced and toasted
Additional honey, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place blueberries on a large baking sheet. Pour two tablespoons of the fresh lemon juice over the blueberries. Drizzle 1 tablespoon honey over blueberries. Gently toss the berries. Roast for 7-10 minutes or until blueberries are soft and almost ready to pop. You want to take them out of the oven before they pop. Let the blueberries cool to room temperature.

2. In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread the baguette slices with the ricotta cheese mixture. Spoon roasted blueberries on top of the cheese. Drizzle each baguette slice with honey and serve.

Note-to toast baguette slices-preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and toast until edges are slightly golden and bread begins to toast, about 5 minutes.

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This is CRACK.  If you’ve never had candied bacon, stop what you’re doing and make this.  I have no real recipe, per se, I just know how it’s done.  When I was in graduate school, I interned for Turner Broadcasting.  One assignment was to assist on a photoshoot for CNN’s “Slow Food” Special, featuring Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch. He showed us how to make candied bacon in the kitchen of Restaurant Eugene, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Maybe that explains the root canal I had earlier today???

Buy some good, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, place on a baking sheet (I line with foil), pile brown sugar on each slice of bacon, and crack some fresh pepper.

Cook at 350 for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through, and adding more brown sugar.  It’s that easy.  And 20 minutes in an estimate.  I don’t even know really.  It will look like a sticky, bacony, delicious mess.  Don’t let it burn.

When you take it out, let it cool and it should be hard like CANDY.  This past brunch, I threaded the bacon on wooden skewers, it makes it easier to handle and much better presentation.

quiche.jpgI use pre-made Pillsbury pie crust.  It’s good, cheap, easy and comes in a pack of two.  For some reason, I don’t know how to make only one quiche.

Keep the pie crust frozen until you are ready to fill it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook vegetables on stovetop – this particular time I used garlic, red, yellow, and green bell peppers, and Vidalia onions.  I cooked it just until slightly soft with some olive oil and garlic, then added fresh basil, thyme, and julienned sun dried tomatoes (from a jar in oil and spices, drained).  I don’t know how much (a big handful)…

Next, spoon hot mixture evenly between two pie crusts, and then cover in shredded swiss cheese, about 1 cup each.

Next, mix 8 eggs with 3/4 cup half and half, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Whisk, and then pour evenly into each pie crust.

Finally, lightly sprinkle each pie with crumbled feta, and drop dollops of herb goat cheese (I buy the Publix brand, sold in the deli.) Yes, these pies have a lot of cheese.  I REALLY love cheese, ok!?

Cook for about 35- 40 minutes, or until the egg mixture is set but jiggles a little when you shake the pan.  I know, that is very scientific and precise.

Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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