Food & Drink

Host a brunch - everybody's fresh, rested, ready to visit

I love to host family and friends, but dinners aren't always easy to organize. Our youngest children can be cranky at that time of day, my husband, Paolo, and I are often worn out after work, and it's become challenging to match a free evening at our house with free time in another family's schedule.

But brunch is a different story. At a weekend brunch, everybody’s at their best — rested, fresh and ready to visit. For the past 15 years, Paolo and I have held a monthly brunch for loved ones, and it’s become a much-anticipated event.

We’ve tried dozens of recipes and these three have emerged as favorites. They’d be perfect for a Mother’s Day Brunch. They appeal to kids and adults alike, and each can be mixed up the night before, then easily cooked the morning of the event. Round out your offerings with a bowl of fresh fruit, then sit back, relax and enjoy the gathering.

Gingerbread Waffles

Yield: Makes 14 waffles

4 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 cup buttermilk

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Whipped cream and fruit, optional

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, molasses and buttermilk and mix until blended, about 1 minute more.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in the butter.

Cover and refrigerate the batter overnight or cook immediately in a waffle iron until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with whipped cream and fruit, if you like.

Oven Eggs With Ham and Swiss Chard

Yield: Serves 12

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 medium leaves Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves finely chopped (about 1 cup)

6 eggs

6 egg whites

1 cup light sour cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 1/2 cups cooked, diced ham (about 7 ounces)

2 1/2 cups grated reduced-fat Swiss or sharp Cheddar

In a medium-size skillet, saute the onion in the butter and olive oil until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chard and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Let cool.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs and egg whites. Stir in the sour cream, parsley, ham, chard mixture and 2 cups of the cheese.

Pour the mixture into a greased 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or bake it (uncovered) immediately.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. If the casserole was refrigerated overnight, let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Bake until it has set, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the casserole with the remaining cheese and bake until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.

Little Gem Mini Muffins

Yield: Makes 36

2 cups flour

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Stir in the blueberries and cherries.

In a separate bowl, stir together the milk, butter, eggs and vanilla. If you like, cover both bowls and refrigerate the egg mixture overnight.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and spray or grease a mini-muffin pan or two. Stir the egg mixture if it was refrigerated overnight (the butter will have risen to the top), then add it to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin’s center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.

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