A brunch menu is a great choice for a hostess who wants to be able to enjoy the party, rather than spend time in the kitchen. Most dishes can be prepared ahead of time and served cold or simply reheated. Keep your brunch menu simple and light by serving small portions made from fresh ingredients. Balance the meal with a few heartier choices.
If your guests won't be eating right away, set out a bowl of nuts or some simple appetizers to soften their hunger pangs. Bruschetta is a very easy preparation that involves lightly toasting slices of baguette brushed with olive oil. Dress it up by topping it with a slice of smoked salmon, a sprinkle of ranch-flavored dry mix or a dab of tapenade — a puree of olives, anchovies and olive oil. Stuff mushroom caps with cooked sausage bound with a little bit of bread crumbs, and run them under the broiler until they're hot. Turn these stuffed mushrooms into a kid-friendly appetizer by moistening the bread crumbs with a bit of creamy salad dressing.
Soups and Salads
Soup adds a touch of elegance to brunch. Serve a cold potato leek soup topped with chopped chives in the summer, or a pureed butternut squash soup in the winter. Both are commercially available, but neither is difficult to make from scratch. Serve them in small bowls or cups. If you're serving your brunch buffet-style, shred salad greens smaller than you normally might so your guests don't have to cut them while balancing a plate on their lap. Dress the salad with a creamy dressing just before you serve it so it doesn't get soggy. Top it with chopped hard-boiled eggs and crumbled bacon to continue the brunch theme.
Eggs are traditional brunch menu items, but you can free yourself from last minute preparation if you make a frittata ahead of time. For a healthy version, steam fresh vegetables and place them on the bottom of a square baking pan. Top with eggs or egg substitute scrambled with a little cream, and a large handful of low-fat shredded cheese. Add extra flavor to your frittata by beating a ranch-flavored seasoning mix into the eggs. Cut the cooked frittata into small squares before serving. If you want to skip the eggs, serve a Southern classic: shrimp on a bed of grits. Decadent variations introduce cheese and cream sauces.
Whether you bake them yourself or buy from the bakery, offer an assortment of bread and rolls with savory spreads. Light and flaky croissant are a brunch favorite, as are muffins and breads like focaccia and sourdough. Make muffins easier for your guests to handle by baking them in mini-muffin pans, or by serving just the tops. Freeze the muffin bottoms for a family dinner dessert like bread pudding. Add dry salad dressing mix, chives, dill or other fresh herbs from your garden to softened butter or cream cheese for a spread.
Desserts and Beverages
Fresh fruit dipped in melted chocolate and chilled is one of the easiest dessert preparations. Fruit served in a hollowed-out watermelon shell is a fun addition to the table or buffet. Spice up your coffee and tea offerings by setting out small pitchers filled with flavored creams or flavoring syrups available at your coffee shop. Make fizzy lemonade by combine a can of frozen juice with a bottle of sparkling water. Treat the kids with an ice cream soda made by putting a scoop of ice cream in seltzer water.