Tag Archives: Brunch

Tips for Throwing a Holiday Brunch (plus sweet fruit dip!)

BrunchToday’s post is the last in the holiday brunch series, and I thought I’d offer up just a few more tips on making your brunch a success.

1. Finger foods: Never have I ever seen a holiday home brunch where every single person sat down at a nice, long table complete with place settings and a solid surface to cut their food on. Where’s the fun in that? Keep your food small and finger-friendly, and if you must use utensils, limit it to forks. That way everyone can still eat even if they’re standing, and everyone has a free hand for a cocktail. Duh.

2. Keep it small: No one shows up to a holiday brunch ready to eat their faces off. Okay, MOST people don’t. During the holidays, everyone is up to their ears in cookies from co-workers, sweets at home, and candy cane colored everything. The last thing people want is to be force fed your giant culinary mess. I also like to keep things small so that it’s never apparent how much any one person has eaten. Maybe somebody wants only one slice of apple. Maybe somebody else wants eight pounds of hasbrown casserole. No judgment.

3. Balance the sweet and the savory: One year I attended an office potluck holiday party where someone brought chicken wings… they disappeared in about 3 minutes and at the end of the night there were more cookies and cakes leftover than you could shake a stick at (that’s how that saying goes… right?). The moral of the story is that one cannot live on sweets alone… trust me. I’ve tried. Make sure for every sweet dish, you have a savory.

4. Loosen up: No one cares if your plates match or your house is spotlessly clean. They care that they’re all together under one roof, oftentimes for the only time that year. Forgive the spills, laugh off the food flops, have another cocktail, and remember: brunch is an early meal so you can be asleep by 8. Amen.

The last dish on the brunch menu is one I am a tiny bit embarrassed about… it contains Fluff. That’s right. That disgusting, sticky, white spread that my mom wouldn’t let me have when I was a kid but I would sneak at friends’ houses (sorry, mom). It’s gross. But you know what? It makes a damn fine dip for fruit. And when I started researching “fruit dip” this one came up more than I care to mention. So should you dare to add one of those vintage-labeled jars to your cart at the supermarket, you won’t be disappointed. Cross my heart.

On the menu:
Sweet Fruit Dip
Makes 2 cups

1 7-oz jar of Fluff
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional

Add Fluff and cream cheese to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend the mixture together. Pour into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon for decoration if you wish. Cut up fruit to serve alongside, such as pears, apples, and grapes.

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Mini Ham and Gruyere Frittatas

Mini frittatasEggs are by far one of the most difficult dishes to make for a brunch. Unless you hire someone to work an omelet station, you’re probably going to resort to a frittata or quiche to serve to a group. But even then, you have to slice and serve it… and I was kind of aiming for little to no work during this brunch, you get me? Enter personal sized frittatas.

These are hilariously easy, and although gruyere is on the pricey side, it has that decadent flavor that makes this dish taste way more high end than it actually is.

On the menu:
Mini ham and gruyere frittatas
Makes 12 frittatas

8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated gruyere
6 oz. smoked ham, diced into small chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt until foamy. Fold in the ham and gruyere. Pour into the muffin tins until the cups are almost full.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the eggs are puffed up and slightly browned. Serve hot.

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Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin breadPumpkin bread is one of those dishes you can make for a brunch last minute in case, say, the bread you planned to make that took you 2 hours the night before, the bread you created specially so that your friend who can’t eat gluten could still enjoy every dish at your brunch, the bread that made your whole apartment smell like incredible grapefruit-scented-vanilla cake for an entire day … yes… that bread… came out like a fat, gooey, undercooked, flat brick.

Womp womp.

So I threw this bread together and told my gluten-free-friend to stay far away. But everyone else swarmed in like vultures. #Success

On the menu:
Pumpkin bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, water, and spices. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until incorporated (careful not to overmix).

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with butter and pour in the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool on a rack.

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Holiday Brunch from A to Z

Hashbrown casserole
Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood where all the families were very close. One family’s kids babysat for the younger families’ kids, cups of sugar and milk were always being lent out, and when it came to Christmas time, all the families gathered in one house on Christmas Eve to enjoy brunch and the holidays together. Those brunches are some of my favorite memories, and it was never about the food (of which there was always tons). I decided to host my own little brunch this weekend in the spirit of the holidays… and of day drinking. Now that I’m older, I realize everything is more festive with champagne.

This week I’ll provide you with recipes and tips to host your own holiday brunch that allows you to truly enjoy the company of friends and family without spending the entire party in the kitchen slaving over the stove. First on the week’s menu list is a delicious, decadent, cheesy potato casserole that you can make the night before and pop into the oven the morning of brunch. Little work plus even less time? Hey favorite new recipe. Hey.

On the menu:
Cheesy hashbrown casserole
Serves 8 – 10

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes, whole and oil packed
6 cloves of garlic, minced
9 large eggs
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 cup milk (preferably whole or 2%)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 cups (roughly 1 1/2 pounds) shredded or cubed frozen hashbrown potatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat just until the butter starts to brown. Add diced onions, garlic, and sundried tomatoes and cook until the onions are translucent. Pick out the sundried tomatoes with tongs and discard. Turn off the heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and mustard. Add the milk, salt, and pepper and whisk thoroughly. Fold in the cheddar cheese, frozen potatoes, and vegetables from the skillet. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan. At this point, you can refrigerate the casserole for up to 24 hours.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the top and sides are a golden brown. Serve hot.

NOTE: the original recipe from The Kitchn calls for thinly sliced sundried tomatoes that you do not pick out of the onions. I like the flavor they bring to the dish, but I’m not a fan of chewy sundried tomatoes… and neither are most people I know. The flavor is still there if you pick them out, but it’s not overwhelming. Done and done.

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Sweet Potato, Sausage and Onion Hash with Eggs

It wouldn’t be right to post at all about anything this week without mentioning last week’s East Coast hurricane. The BF and I were incredibly lucky to get through it completely unscathed but I know we’re in the minority. Don’t forget, if you haven’t already, to donate money, supplies, or your time in any way you can. Find out how here.

In happier news, this hash is DELICIOUS. It’s from The Kitchn and the recipe has been sitting in my “To Make” list for over a year now. It seems like there’s always someone I’m cooking for who doesn’t like meat, or sweet potatoes, or onions. But this past weekend I had some dear friends in town and they eat anything (my favorite kind of friends, mind you) so it seemed like the perfect time to finally try it out.

On the menu:
Sweet potato, sausage, and onion hash
Adapted from The Kitchn’s recipe here
Serves 6 – 7

2 large onions
4 medium sized sweet potatoes, skins on and diced to 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 long stalks of rosemary, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 – 7 large eggs (1 per person)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil.

Cut onions in half and then slice each half into thin half moons. Heat a medium sized frying pan over medium heat and add onions, stirring occasionally until the onions cook down and start to brown, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another frying pan, cook the sausage over medium/high heat for around 15 minutes, breaking the sausage apart so it’s in small, crumbly pieces.

Once the onions and sausage are cooked, in one large bowl add sweet potato chunks, sausage, onions, minced rosemary, minced garlic, and olive oil and toss until everything is coated in olive oil. Spread on the covered baking sheet (don’t worry if it’s not in a single layer, it doesn’t really matter). Roast in the preheated oven for 4o minutes, or until sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

In a large frying pan, fry the eggs just until the outside is cooked and the center is still runny. Top each serving of hash with a fried egg.

NOTE: The Kitchn‘s recipe has a lengthy second step where you cook the eggs over the hash in a skillet for 20 minutes, but to me that just meant a lot of extra time and another dirty dish. It looks lovely, but ultimately felt unnecessary.

And lastly… that photo above is missing the egg. I was last to eat (the cook eats last!), and I was too lazy to crack another egg. But the hash looked nice so, voila.

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Free Sangria!

There’s a headline that’ll get your attention, am I right? This past weekend I went out for a delicious brunch with my lovely friend, Ben. When he sent me a list of possible new brunch spots, I saw the words “free sangria” and all other information was null and void. If there’s a better way to kick off your Sunday, I have never heard of it.

Combination plate with scrambled eggs, chorizo, and yuca frita

Agozar 326 Bowery and Bleecker St, New York, NY. Agozar is a Cuban-inspired restaurant positioned in a trendy neighborhood but with friendly prices. The brunch can not be beat! For around $15 – $17 you get an entree and two-hour unlimited free sangria.

On the menu:
Eggs benedict, Cuban style (Spanish ham, poached eggs, chipotle hollandaise, and Cuban toast) with salad
Combination plate: scrambled eggs, chorizo, yuca frita, and Cuban toast
Sangria!

Eggs benedict, Cuban style

Verdict: I don’t know, I’m still drunk.

Kidding! The food was DELICIOUS. An unlimited brunch drink special is no good if the food isn’t worth going for alone, and Agozar did not disappoint. Most would tell you I have an eggs benedict addiction and while they may be borderline correct, I just love trying out a new take on my favorite dish. My only criticism is that I like a thick slab of ham and you can see that this was sliced deli thin. In my opinion, when you have a hearty dish like eggs benedict you need the meat to stand out on its own. The chipotle hollandaise was a slightly spicy take on your standard hollandaise and while not a fan of anything spicy myself, I was putting this stuff on my lettuce and debating licking the plate clean. The chorizo was also perfectly done, crispy and hot off the grill and served in link form, which I prefer to the chorizo crumble you get in a lot of restaurants.

It should also be said that while the sangria was free, it was also very tasty. And they are not shy about refilling your glass! I highly recommend it.

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It’s a Wonderful Town

New York has some characters. Amidst the tourists, the businessmen, the supermodels, and the college kids live some crazy cats, and because New York is a much cleaner, safer town than it used to be, those cats are occasionally hard to spot. Enter Shopsins.

Shopsins Essex Street Market, 120 Essex Street (corner of Essex and Delancey), New York. Shopsins is a tiny diner that used to be located in the West Village and relocated to a stall in the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. Kenny Shopsin, the owner, has some bizarre rules: no parties over 4 people, no cell phone calls, and he has the right to kick you out whenever he feels like it. He hates the press and notoriously denies interviews. As soon as our waiter, Kenny’s son, went back into the kitchen I snuck this picture. The last thing I wanted was to be kicked out before I got my RIDICULOUS meal.

The Leeky Boat

On the menu:

Leeky Boat: fried potato skins filled with scrambled eggs, leeks, and gruyere
Slutty Cakes: pancakes made with pumpkin, pistachios, and peanut butter
Strider: maple veggie sausage, eggs, and avocado on an English muffin

Verdict: I. Love. This. Place. Word has it, Kenny Shopsin loves his loyal, regular customers and I want to be one! When I was sitting at the tiny table, waiting for my crazy incredible meal to be delivered, Kenny himself sat down outside the stall front and yelled out to someone in the kitchen, “WHAT KIND OF F***ING VEGETABLES DON’T THEY LIKE?!” If you’re looking for a New York character, this is it. Think Soup Nazi. And the food was incredible. The fried potato skins were crisped to perfection with the silky smooth blend of leeks and cheese stuffed inside, and the Slutty Cakes (if I was stuffed with pumpkin, peanut butter, and pistachios I’d probably be pretty popular, too) were to DIE for. The cakes themselves were crisp on the outside and the filling (who’da thunk it!) was an incredible blend of salty, sweet flavors. And the kicker? Each plate of pancakes is served with a tiny bottle of REAL maple syrup. Be still my heart.

The real draw of this place, outside of the character who runs it, is the extensive menu. Coconut cinnamon pancakes, hash with eggs and toast over “white trash” gumbo, the Quack (BBQ duck drumettes with chili cheese fries, eggs, and toast), MAC AND CHEESE PANCAKES!, bread pudding French toast, corn fried catfish with gumbo… Does any of this sound good to you? Over 900 menu items. If you can’t find something to love, then I don’t want to know you. There I said it.

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