Planning Brunch Menus at Home

Brunch is a delightful way to begin any day. Indeed, the word brunch, a combination of the words breakfast and lunch, causes one to sigh in anticipation. Who wouldn't want to sleep in and then be treated to a table overflowing with mouth-watering delicacies that transcend the ordinary?

What Is Brunch?
It's not really breakfast, though most of the time breakfast foods are served. And it's not really lunch, though it often extends through lunch and beyond. In a nutshell, brunch is an internationally recognized meal that allows participants to sleep in. This is especially well-received after a particularly invigorating evening, such as a wedding or late-night travel, and is a perfect way to start any day, especially a day that will be filled with activity. Brunch is also a wonderful way to start a holiday. Letting the entire household sleep in, so that everyone is well-rested before the festivities begin is tantamount to a special gift being handed to each and every person at the brunch table.

The word brunch was coined in 1895, by Guy Beringer, who was a journalist for a now-defunct hunting magazine. Mr. Beringer was indeed onto something when he said he felt brunch-a meal served after the morning hunt and before the heartier meal of the day-would promote "human happiness." Once your family gets a whiff of what's cooking, it won't be long before happy faces are crowded around your brunch table too.

Not Really Breakfast, Not Really Lunch
The word breakfast means the first meal taken after a long period of fasting, as in "breaking the fast". While brunch was originally intended to be a late, light breakfast that combined foods from both breakfast and lunch, it has morphed into a free-for-all, in which any combination of foods may be served.

Brunch usually begins around 10 o'clock in the morning, and often lasts until one or two in the afternoon. You can choose to serve 1 dish or 20. The only real thing to keep in mind is that brunch is unique. Be as unique and spectacular as you can with a brunch, and make sure each dish fits the occasion.

Things to take into consideration:

  • Space is paramount. Make sure you have the room or, for a large crowd, stagger the meal and serve several brunches in one-hour waves.
  • Varietyis the spice of life. Forget what is normally served; serve whatever you want.
  • Costis always a factor. There are thousands of ways to provide a low-budget brunch. Do your homework and then prepare in advance.
  • Consider distancefor travelers. If your guests have to travel to your brunch, take that into consideration. For traveling guests, an 11 AM brunch should be ideal.
  • Mind your manners. Make your guests feel special and your brunch will be the talk of the town.

Talk Amongst Yourselves
Brunch is the perfect place for chitchat. Brunch should never be bogged down by silence, but it also shouldn't be squelched by clock-watchers. By this time of the day, everyone is usually well-rested, showered and eager to get the day going. Lively talk should be expected around the table.

Success is largely a matter of presentation, so display your table to your best advantage. If using a side bar for display, spread food out and make it look like you're feeding an army. If the food will be on the table, use several tiered serving trays for individual foods-sweet breads on one, fruits on another. Keep cold foods on ice and use heated containers for hot foods.

Don't worry about serving or seating guests. Since brunch is usually informal, let them wander in and take care of themselves. Do, however, show off your skills. Make lots of different items but in small quantities, so your guests can sample everything.

Items that deserve a place on every brunch table:

  • Fruit-cut up or on skewers
  • Coffee, tea and juice
  • Sweet breads or other desserts. Make sure you have at least three to choose from

Leftovers that enhance brunch menus:

  • Mashed potatoes are terrific when fried with onion and topped with a fried egg
  • Day-old bread is perfect for French toast
  • Pancake mix can become instant crepes (just make them very thin)
  • Baked potatoes become twice-baked potatoes the next morning

Breakfast Brunch

  • Chocolate-chip pancakes (add chocolate chips to your favorite batter, or use a cookie cutter and cut out designs-hearts go a long way on Mother's Day or for Valentine's Day)
  • Waffles with whipped topping and strawberries
  • French toast with vanilla added, sprinkled with powdered sugar
  • Hash browns and sausage links
  • Muffins (zucchini with walnuts and cinnamon with pecans are no-fail crowd-pleasers)
  • Crepes with your choice of filling

For adult guests, mix up a big batch of mimosas. Use frozen orange, lemon and lime slices as ice cubes.

Lunch Brunch

  • Sandwiches-make several different kinds and cut out shapes with large cookie cutters-perfect for themed brunches or for children
  • Relish tray, condiments and plenty of utensils
  • Quiche, cut into squares in advance
  • Chicken salad croissants
  • Omelets made to order
  • American fries or red potatoes-dice, then boil, and add butter and chives
  • Baguettes with cream cheese and hot bacon slices

Anything Goes Brunch
Start with anything and everything from the above menus, then add the following:

  • Potatosalad, hotdogs, vegetable tray with ranch dip
  • Twice-baked potatoes, hot ham and cheese pita sandwiches (or pizzas), corn on the cob and baked beans with plenty of bacon included
  • Chilior soup, garlic bread or Grecian rolls, cheese wedges, gourmet crackers (know your crowd before serving spicy foods)
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