How to Host Brunch and Still Sleep ’til Noon

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If there is one thing I could change about my apartment it would be my kitchen. My small kitchen, to be more specific. So you can imagine why I was pleased to discover that I’m not the only one who struggles with semi-adequate counter space and less-than-desirable storage for my kitchen gadgets and ingredients.

Today I am very excited to bring you a simple, informative guide on how to host a brunch party (and you can still sleep in!)  from Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine. On Big Girls Small Kitchen, they offer user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. Not only are they clearly as food-obsessed as I am, but they share my penchant for throwing parties with their great party menus and simple entertaining tips.

By Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine

Brunch is one of the best meals to host, since there is a lot more flexibility than at a Friday or Saturday night dinner. For one, brunches can last as long or as short as you like. Most of the time, friends will have plans for the afternoon and won’t stay all day, but sometimes they’ll have nothing to do, and some of our best brunches have lasted almost until dinner. On the other hand, if you have plans, everyone will understand.

Beyond those perks, there is the inevitable con that brunch occurs relatively early. Set your own schedule. If you’re not an early bird, don’t invite anyone over before 1:00pm.  No matter what time you wake up, we’ve figured out how to do a festive, fun brunch with no more than a hour or so of work. That means you can sleep til noon.

Here are our general brunch tips, culled from our experience and borrowed from our book, as well as links to great recipes on both our site and In Good Taste. Raise your Bloody Mary for a toast, and read on!

Cook One Item on the Stove. That’s it. No, really. Put away that second frying pan. Dealing with sautéing hash browns, scrambling eggs, and all the while entertaining the first few arrivals is just a disaster waiting to happen. Think about stovetop items that can be made in the oven. If you’re having more than four people over, skip the omelet (even though this Zucchini Omelet looks hard to skip) and serve a frittata instead. That means skipping pancakes, crepes, and stovetop French toast (though you can make baked French toast) when cooking for crowds.

Cook. Assemble. Make Ahead. Choose one item that requires attention the day of (scrambled eggs or hash browns), one that requires assembly (salad or sandwiches), and another that can be made start to finish the night before (quick breads or coffee cake), and brunch will be a breeze.

Befriend Eggs. Eggs are cheap, traditional, and tasty, and they are easy to double and triple according to your party size. Frying eggs and making omelets are stressful and should be avoided. Go for a simple scramble plain or piled on bread (then you get to call it a “tartine”), or choose an egg dish that only requires baking in the oven. A frittata or a strata is a great choice, as is this Spinach & Cheddar Breakfast Bake with Chicken Sausage. In the case of the last three, you can even assemble the night before and bake off the morning of.

Roasted Hash Browns. Since potatoes are probably more comforting for a hangover than either Advil or hair of the dog, adding them to your brunch menu will increase you popularity. We love this recipe for Spinach Hash Browns but if you want to take a shortcut, simply roast potatoes instead. Halve baby Yukon gold or red potatoes, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast for 50 minutes at 425°F. Parmesan-Roasted Potatoes are fantastic too. In the summer, a potato salad can work too (that one has bacon, killing two birds with one stone).

Breakfast Meats. A little sausage and bacon never disappoints. To avoid using your stovetop, bake your bacon and sausage in the oven. Drain the bacon afterwards on paper towels, as you would if you fried it in the pan.

Serve Bread. A loaf of good bread can bulk up your meal for cheap. It keeps people occupied while you finish cooking, too. If you buy your bread the day before, you’ll save time, but it can then get a little stale by brunch time the next day, especially if you buy baguette, which always tastes best freshly baked the day of. Toast the whole loaf for ten or fifteen minutes in the oven before serving it. Rubbing a little water on the crust with your hands will help crisp it up if it has gotten rubbery and soft. Getting in the habit of making no-knead bread is a great way to ensure there’s bread on the table without you having to leave the house at all. A breakfast tart uses carbs to similar effect and is a great centerpiece for a ladies’ brunch.

Make Sandwiches. Egg sandwiches are a traditional brunch item; BLTs or Pesto Chicken Sandwiches may be more lunch-like, but they’re always winners. Letting guests make their own sandwiches, as Phoebe does on St. Patrick’s Day, will make your life easier.

French Toast. This can be an incredibly easy, cheap brunch option, but frying up individual slices of French toast is a huge pain. Try baking your French toast instead. The bread can soak in the custard mixture overnight if your schedule warrants it, then you can bake off the toast just before your guests arrive.

Pancakes. Nostalgic and delicious, pancakes love variation.  Just add some chocolate chips or fresh fruit and you can have pancakes two ways. Pumpkin Pancakes are wonderful in the fall. Because making pancakes can get messy, we only do it when we have four or fewer guests. If you’re serving a crowd, choose quickbreads or muffins instead.

Fruit. Fruit satisfies light eaters, and it can brighten up an otherwise monochromatic brunch plate, but platters and salads can get expensive. If you’re cutting costs, best to offer one kind of fruit—a melon, perhaps—or get your fruit serving via compotes.

Baked Goods. Quick breads, coffee cake, and muffins are a great addition to any brunch and are a pretty cheap, filling choice. Try Double Apple Walnut CakeCocoa Quickbread, and Banana Chocolate Chip Bread. Also don’t miss out on scones and biscuits; though Toasted Pecan-Oatmeal Scones should be made the day of, if you have space to slip them in the oven your guests will be grateful. Quickbreads are also a good answer to friends asking “What can I bring?”; a mini quick bread makes a great hostess gift.

Caffeine. If you own a coffee maker, great. Buy an inexpensive roast and whip up a pot. Put out milk and sugar. If you happen to lack a coffee pot, don’t bother with the powdered stuff. Serve tea instead, unless you want to ask a friend to pick up a jug from Dunkin Donuts.

Booze. Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and Bellinis are what make brunch worth believing in. You knew we would say this…but: Try to get your friends to chip in by bringing a bottle; you can supply orange juice to mix, or ask someone to get that too. Big Kid (aka Spiked) Hot Chocolate and Irish Coffee are both fantastic brunch beverages.

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  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Barbara @ Barbara Bakes
    August 27, 2011 at 4:07 am

    Brunch is my favorite meal of the day. I should eat it more often. Nice tips.

  • Reply
    emily (a nutritionist eats)
    August 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Great tips! My mother would like a brunch after our wedding so I’m going to send this to her!

  • Reply
    August 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Great tips! Now if only sleeping till noon were a possibility even by using them…

  • Reply
    August 23, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I have a small kitchen too, now that I’m in an apartment. Thanks for the tips! I’m really wanting to try those Parmesan-Roasted Potatoes!

  • Reply
    Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious
    August 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Lots of great tips, thanks for sharing. I definitely follow at least a few of those when I have guests over 🙂

  • Reply
    Alana D
    August 22, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Girl you hit the nail on the head this is exactly my strategy when serving brunch!

  • Reply
    Rob @ How to Cook Hero
    August 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Honestly, brunch is a scary meal to host with any group larger than four or five people.

    Frankly, it’s basically just breakfast foods and I can’t make a decent breakfast without making my kitchen look like a greasy tornado hit.

    Never really thought of just making up a bit of a pancake spread, though. Not a bad idea, and if executed properly would still impress.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Awesome tips! I love brunch but also like to sleep in, so these suggestions are right up my alley!

  • Reply
    A Plum By Any Other Name
    August 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Fantastic summary. I have a small kitchen. I like brunch. And I occasionally need a bloody mary or some potatoes after a night of one too many. Great tips!

  • Reply
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.
    August 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    great tips and blog post! I could really use this!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    There are some really great ideas here. These gals really know their stuff. Thanks for posting this for us. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  • Reply
    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray
    August 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Great post! Lots of good helpful ideas 🙂

  • Reply
    August 21, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I love brunch, so this post totally made me a bit hungry!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2011 at 9:33 am

    those are super yummy photos! I should get that cookbook…

  • Reply
    5 Star Foodie
    August 21, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Excellent tips! I love doing brunches, an easy way to have lots of people over 🙂

  • Reply
    sheila @ Elements
    August 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Such great ideas and recipes! I can’t host any parties because we live in such a tiny apartment and there’s simply not enough space. Dinner for 4 is do-able but barely manageable. 🙁 But I love all the recipes and I’m definitely planning to try some of them! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 21, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Some very helpful tips! French toast and pancakes would be my top choices if ever host one brunch party.

  • Reply
    Nami | Just One Cookbook
    August 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    What a great tip! You always have good information to share here. Haven’t hosted a brunch for a while because getting ready for a short period of time in the morning (while 2 kids running around like crazy) seems impossible. But this post made me rethink about hosting. It’s the matter of how we plan this out. Great resource!

  • Reply
    Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking
    August 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Love brunch and all the different dishes I can make ahead of time! Thanks for the great tips and the post!

  • Reply
    Lucy@The Sweet Touch
    August 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Great tips! My rents will be in town over Labor Day so I will give them a try!

  • Reply
    Christina @ Sweet Pea's Kitchen
    August 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    I love hosting brunch! Thanks for the awesome tips! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    very useful post and bet your brunches rock

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Some wonderful tips Maris!!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for all the helpful ideas! You have me looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Great feature! They have some great recipes for big and small kitchens!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Maris…this is such a WONDERFUL post! Brunch is absolutely my favorite meal to make. It can be a party…or made for one or two. It can be casseroles or finger foods. And the variety….anything from eggs to desserts! If you work out of a small kitchen…we would never know it. Your food is always amazing! : )

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I love brunch. These are great tips – big or small kitchen. Lovely post.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    A great post! On Sundays, I love to brunch, but unfortunately, I have never hosted one…



  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    This post could not have come at a better time. My husband was just talking about how he wanted to have his family up for brunch sometime soon! Thank you!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I love hosting brunches — these are great tips! Thanks!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    You know what..I went to Borders store closing sale yest and saw this book..Never cared to buy..I think I ll go today & check out. Those biscuits look delish!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    August 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love the title of this post! Seriously perfect for me 🙂

    And great tips too!

  • Reply
    Elle @ We can begin to feed...
    August 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Great tips…. I have a very small galley on our sailboat, and I am always looking for ways to make less fuss, mess and juggle things.

    Thanks for this.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Great pointers, now if I ever go back to my condo in Chicago I will need them, now in a really small house but with BIG kitchen and even bigger counter space.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I love the tips here! I totally agree about having only one stove going and prep beforehand! I get flustered if guests arrive early so I always prefer to use the oven or hv simple dishes already assembled. 🙂 my favorite is a Mexican themed lunch!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    These are such great tips. I love the make ahead tips. We like entertaining on Sundays. Had people over last night, what a scramble. Ahem, I mean I had my dirty martini and smoking jacket ready 15 minutes before guests arrived.

  • Reply
    Baking Serendipity
    August 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Awesome tips 🙂 I like sleeping til noon and hosting food parties and I’m fairly certain I will never have enough space for all my kitchen appliances. I think I’m coming to terms with this faster than my husband is 🙂 Happy weekend!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I have their cook book and love it! Brunch is the best meal and these are awesome tips

  • Reply
    Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet
    August 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Great ideas. Sometimes the more humble, simple foods on special dishes work out better than you would think. Good friends make almost anything special. And never skimp on the coffee!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I’ve heard of this cookbook. I may have to grab a copy!

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