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I­f you love hosting a meal, there’s nothing like the thrill of creating a menu, planning ahead to ensure there’s enough food to feed everyone, and making sure guests leave happy.

You picture your guests milling around helping themselves to food, chatting, laughing, and having a fabulous time. You imagine yourself enjoying the same experience. You’ve got everything well in hand. You prepared the food ahead of time and you’re able to relax and relish your accomplishment.

Getting to that point requires planning, and if you’re new to hosting, there are a few simple things you can do to make it go smoothly. Start with a more casual event such as a brunch. Set your menu a week in advance and contact the invitees to confirm your head count.

When hosting a brunch, self-serve is the best format. This type of event usually runs between 11am and 2pm, so your breakfast and lunch dishes will work together. We prefer a simple menu with a balance of sweet (muffins, pastries, fruit) and savoury such as frittatas, quiche, and waffles. Bacon, sausage, and ham are popular, pairing well with these suggestions.

To serve pre-prepared food, consider buying warming dishes. Many types are available, from electric to chafing dishes heated with a Sterno burner, requiring no power. Or you can simply put your oven to good use by setting it to 200°F and using it as a warming oven.

When serving waffles, you may want to have guests make their own. Mix the batter and prepare the waffle iron. (This isn’t a good option for every brunch, though. When there are children on the guest list, I make waffles in advance and hold them in the warming oven.)

A yogurt bar is another perfect brunch offering. A selection of Greek and plain yogurts with fresh fruit, nuts, chia seeds, oatmeal, coconut, and chocolate chips makes for a delicious offering.

A drink cart will also allow you more time to spend with guests. Consider a variety of juices, mimosas, and perhaps a Caesar bar. Coffee and a selection of teas will round out the offerings. If you have a self-serve coffee machine, put it where people can make their own.

Atmosphere is equally important and an area where we cause ourselves the most worry. We have a vision of what the room and tables should look like, and we stress ourselves out trying to achieve it.

Relax! Things don’t need to match. We love picking up dishes at yard sales and thrift stores. Dishes don’t have to be from the same set, although we try to keep them in the same colour scheme. Perhaps you only buy blue and white dishes, or if you like a more minimalistic look, go with all white. (While you’re thrifting for dishes, keep an eye out for warming and chafing dishes. You’ll be surprised at how easy they are to find.)

Glassware can also be simple; Mason jars are perfect for brunch. Don’t serve juice and milk straight from the cartons. Glass pitchers are easy to get and inexpensive.

If you’re having more guests than your dining room table will seat, bring in a patio table, small bistro tables, or card tables. Use coordinating tablecloths of different patterns and styles, and no one will know what’s under there.

To hide pet odours, put a simmering pot of water on the stove. Add orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to create a lovely warm aroma.

Music is also important. Streaming services like Spotify and Stingray offer playlists in a variety of genres.

Remember, these are guidelines, not inviolable rules. Your guests are coming to spend time with you, not your dishes, your mother’s “better than everyone else’s” quiche recipe, or your home décor. Let go of the stress and have fun!

 


Savoury Bacon & Cheddar Biscuits 

(Makes 12)

4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) frozen butter
2 cups (500 mL) whole milk
½ cup (125 mL) cooked bacon, finely chopped
½ cup (125 mL) cheddar, grated
2tbsp (30 mL) chives, chopped

Heat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

Put flour, baking powder, bacon, cheddar, chives, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Use a food processer to finely shred the butter, then stir into the flour using a fork. Push the flour to the side and begin adding milk 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Gently knead just to bring the dough together.

Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.


Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches

(Serves 4)

8oz (250 g) shaved country ham
8 spears asparagus
1 tomato, sliced
4 slices Provolone cheese
4 fried eggs
2 tbsp (30 mL) mayonnaise
2 tbsp (30 mL) mustard
Salt and pepper to taste 

Make waffles (recipe below). Spread with mustard or mayo. Assemble ham, cheese, tomatoes, and asparagus. Top with fried egg, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. If desired, drizzle with a little maple syrup.

 


Buttermilk Waffles

(Makes 4 waffles)

2 cups (500 mL) flour
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ (375 mL) cup buttermilk
 cup (75 mL) melted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

 

Place flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar in a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and butter. Beat until smooth.

Add wet ingredients to dry and beat until batter is smooth.

Spray a waffle iron with non-stick spray and add batter according to directions. Cook until crispy.  

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