Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tips and Menu to host a Fall/Winter Brunch

Once we remodeled our kitchen in the last house, I started hosting brunches for mommy friends.  I love to entertain and I finally had the kitchen to be able to host fairly good-sized brunches and parties.  Our house became the party house.  We could seat 14 without trying.  And we could seat more than that if we needed to by bringing in more tables.  

Unfortunately, my new house is small.  I did try to do one brunch here, but I didn't invite as many people because I don't have the room.  So, it was a small, intimate brunch. 

Today, I'm going to share with you my tips to have a brunch for around 14 - 18 people.  And you'll probably still have food left over, which isn't always a bad thing, because these dishes are yummy!

  • The first thing I do of course is choose a date.  Not everyone is going to be able to come on the same day.  Over-invite so that you get the number of people that you would like to have at your brunch.  If you want to make it really special, mail out invites instead of doing e-vites.  You could even include a copy of your menu.
  • Plan your menu.  I love Fall/Winter brunches because I love the tastes of the season. . . apple, pumpkin, nuts, red wine.
  • When choosing your menu items, try to find things that cook at the same temperature in the oven.  This is important so that you can cook more than one dish at a time and they will all be fresh, warm and ready when your guests are.  You might have to add a little time when cooking more than one thing.  This point is why you will see times and temperatures circled on a lot of my recipes.         

  • Also, try to make sure you have at least one dish with meat in it and one dish that does not have meat in it, just in case someone doesn't eat meat.
  • Once you choose your menu items, make sure you have all of the dishes that you will need.  If you're making 3 different casseroles, then you will need at least three 9x13 baking dishes.  Look a couple weeks in advance in case you need to borrow them or buy disposable ones.
  • If it's going to be a larger gathering, don't be afraid to use disposable plates.  Just make sure they will stand up to the weight of all the food that everyone will likely be trying.  
  • Even if you use disposable plates and paper napkins, you can decorate the napkins.  Use a little piece of twine or yarn to wrap a little cluster of berries or fall leaf around napkins and plasticware at each seat.  Even if you use disposable items, you can still make it special.
  • You will more than likely be serving coffee.  It's nice to have two coffee makers so that you can serve regular and decaff coffee.  Some people like coffee, but don't like the caffeine.  If you don't have two coffee makers, try to make sure you can borrow one at least 2 days in advance.  You don't want to be rushing around the night before trying to get all of the dishes and appliances that you are borrowing.  One of my friends has a really nice coffee maker that is like a thermos.  Once the coffee is made, it stays warm because it's in an insulated coffee pot instead of being kept warm on the burner--which can make it bitter.
  • Make sure you remember a variety of creamers and sweeteners.  You could do basic half and half and one Fall flavored creamer.  Sit your creamers and sweeteners on a nice fall plate between the coffee makers.  I drink my coffee black, so I have to remember that not everyone does.
  • Make sure you have enough coffee cups/mugs for both coffee and mulled wine if you are serving both.  Or use disposable cups that keep drinks warm.
  • Prepare as much as you can the night before.  Pre-chop anything that needs to be chopped.  Start all of your casseroles so that you can just throw them in the oven in the morning.  This is also why I circle the time on the recipes.  If everything works out as planned, they should all cook at the same temp, but some might need more time.  Make a schedule of what times to put each one in the oven.  You want things to be warm for when people show up.  Allow about 30 minutes for everyone to socialize before you start eating.  So, things can be ready any time between the time on the invite and that 30 minute period.
  • Bake all muffins the night before.  You'll be using your oven for the casseroles the day of the brunch.
  • Don't be afraid to ask people for help when they show up if you still need help with a couple things.  People are usually ready, willing and able to help.  Especially if they are the first ones there.  I used to try to be like super-woman trying to make sure everything was done and perfect before the first person even walked through the door.  I guess I thought I wanted people to think that everything just magically happened and poof! there was a perfect brunch.  Now, I don't freak out if everything isn't perfectly done when the first people start arriving.
  •   Usually, the things that are left to be done are any type of salads, unless they're the type of salad that needs to be refrigerated for a couple hours before being served.  Then, those are perfect anyway, because you can make them in advance.
  • It's fun to have a little "door prize".  I think I marked the bottom of one of the plates last time and gave out scrap-booking supplies or a bath and body product.
Here is the menu I used for my last Fall/Winter Brunch.  
Cheesy Ham and Hash Brown Casserole (this one actually was supposed to cook at a higher temp.--I just gave it a little extra time)
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
Turkey Bacon
Orange Juice
Hot Mulled Wine

How often do you have brunches for your friends?  Any additional tips to add?

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