Brunch is easily one of my favorite meals. It’s probably in part because of the inherent social aspect, but also because of the possibility of sweet or savory or, dare I say, sweet and savory all on the same plate. I love eggs, I love potatoes, I love bacon. These are all breakfast staples, so you see how I got here.
I’ve been known to plan extravagant brunch parties, baking 4 dozen muffins a day ahead, and some part of my birthday celebrations almost certainly includes brunch. That said, brunch doesn’t have to be a huge affair. My family’s go-to Christmas breakfast is a simple make-ahead strata that we build on Christmas Eve while my mom is preparing dinner. Win-win — we put it in the oven when we wake up on Christmas morning and we stay (mostly) out of my mom’s way in the kitchen. And while sometimes I’ll go all out cooking up some recipe I found, when I wake up on a Sunday morning feeling lazy, there’s so many things that you can do with leftovers and a fried egg.
Here’s a look at some of my recent morning meals and how I make brunch simple and satisfying instead of stressful. And for more brunch inspiration, Lucky Peach has a fascinating series on what people eat for breakfast around the world.
Just like seemingly every other millennial, especially those of us who grew up in California, I could speak volumes about the magic of avocado toast. Fellow blogger Christine Amorose of C'est Christine even has a whole post dedicated to the best places to find it in NYC. At it’s core it’s simply a hearty piece of artisan bread topped with some sliced or mashed avocadoes. But there’s infinite possibilities in what you can add after that. I think that’s what I like most about it, well besides the avocado, of course.
For my take, I topped my bread with a thick slice of sharp cheddar, then avocado and tomato slices, and finally a buttery fried egg*. It was definitely a knife and fork sort of meal. My fiancé sometimes says I have an obsession with cumin, which I’ll admit might be the case. So next time around, I want to test out this recipe for cumin oil fried egg and avocado toasts from Food & Wine.
*My secret to a beautiful fried egg — sizzling butter. I tend to regularly use olive oil when cooking but nothing compares to butter, in my opinion, when it comes to a good egg. I heat a nonstick pan to medium-high heat, then cut a pad of butter and let it just begin to bubble aggressively. Crack the egg and wait for the whites to start firming. At this point I usually flip and turn the heat off so it just sets the other side. But sometimes I’ll simply baste the egg if I want that perfect in between over-easy and sunny-side-up. Here’s a great how-to on basting eggs from Bon Appetit.
Muffins make for an easy brunch option that can serve a crowd or last you an entire week. Just warm them and add some melted butter to restore the moistness. Plus, if you keep baking basics around the house they’re quick to whip up on the fly. Most recipes take 15-20 minutes tops. Just change flavors depending on your mood or what’s in your pantry.
This is my go-to banana (nut) muffin recipe and it has been since I started cooking. My mom has been using her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook for as long as I can remember and she gifted me one not long after I became passionate about cooking. The recipe has a perfect base recipe with suggested adjustments for different variations, including obviously banana nut. For my recent banana muffins, I subbed in almond milk for regular milk and added some streusel topping. Delicious!
I also recently tried these blueberry muffins from Smitten Kitchen. I used yogurt since I had some leftover in the fridge and found the cake too heavy for my liking. So next time I’ll try the sour cream variation. It’s my secret to great lemon poppyseed muffins, so hopefully it will make the cake less dense than my last try. Pro tip: use frozen blueberries. You can bake muffins year-round, the blueberries distribute a bit better in my experience and you won’t even notice a difference in the flavor.
A great way to make brunch simple, especially midweek, is to repurpose leftovers. In my case that might mean making some hash browns to accompany leftover barbecue or pairing toast and fried egg with yesterday’s lunch. It’s quick to prepare and saves me from throwing away those little bits we all are guilty of saving but aren’t big enough to warrant tomorrow’s dinner.
Here’s some tips for quick, diner-quality hash browns from Food 52 and Bon Appetit.
Sometimes you’re just not hungry in the morning. It happens to the best of us brunch-lovers. In those cases, I turn to fresh fruit, yogurt and grits or oatmeal. Lately I’ve been enjoying pairing apples or berries with a dash of cinnamon to satisfy a sweet tooth and still feel like I’m starting the day off healthy. Grits and oatmeal are great because the flavor is really dependent on what mix-ins you choose. Recent variations I’ve tried include cheesy grits, caramelized apple oatmeal and brown sugar and berry grits. I find quick grits and oats convenient for me personally, but stone ground varieties are ideal for big-batch overnight oats or grit casseroles (like this one). Here’s a great tip sheet for avoiding pitfalls with overnight oats, although my biggest pitfall is remembering I have them soaking in the fridge in the first place. Either way, I buy grits and oats in the bulk or family sizes so I can make a small serving for myself or more for a crowd. Plus, it never hurts to have extra oats around for cookies.
Likewise, I buy plain greek yogurt in 16 or 32 oz containers. I like the thicker consistency of greek yogurt and the more prominent flavor reminiscent of buttermilk. I exclusively choose plain over flavored, because the amount of added sugars in yogurt is off the charts. You’ll add far less sugar by adding a bit of honey or syrup yourself to sweeten it, and then just mix in frozen or fresh fruit.
Most mornings I don’t tackle complicated recipes or multi-course brunches, but I do save a folder for inspiration. That way when I know I have time or I have a potluck coming up, I’m ready. Next up on my list is homemade english muffins. This is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. I absolutely adore all those nooks and crannies. But I know this is more of an experiment and morning-long project than a quick meal.
I’m also looking forward to tackling this grapefruit poppyseed loaf, which has me dreaming of summer. But since the weather in D.C. won’t cooperate and it’s been raining so much, this chai spiced monkey bread seems like a good idea.
My weekly waffle envy. It’s the one kitchen appliance I don’t own. I didn’t think I’d make them enough to warrant it taking up valuable space in my cupboards. Thus I often find myself eating waffles when I go out to brunch since I can’t make them at home. However, recipes like this one for espresso waffles with mocha sauce make me want to run out and buy one. Maybe I’ll just find a friend with a waffle iron instead. Brunch is best when shared with others after all, especially a recipe as decadent as this one.