I majored in brunchology

Yesterday Heath and I had the opportunity to host a stock-the-bar couple’s brunch for our soon-to-be-married pals Mark and Ranjana. It was our first go at hosting a bridal-ish type shower, and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little anxious about it. Normally I’d give myself some prep time before hosting a monumental party for a few friends. You know, spend the day before making a few dishes, cleaning the house, hanging streamers and performing other party prep procedures. Unfortunately, I was shooting a wedding all day on the Saturday before, so party prep would be limited to only a couple of hours on the morning of. That in mind, I opted to forgo dazzling decorations and spend my energy instead on creating a menu that would fill up the masses yet still have the element of intrigue and in vogue you would expect of food stuffs at a bridal brunch.

Here’s what we came up with:

Egg, sausage, jalapeno and cheese braidThis recipe came from MyRecipes.com and seemed like it had all elements you would want in a brunch dish: egg, cheese, meat and spice.  I also like that it included the word “braid” which, to me, screams “HEY!  THIS DISH IS NAMED AFTER A HAIRSTYLE. THERE IS NO MEAL GIRLIER AND MORE APPROPRIATE FOR A BRIDAL BRUNCH THAN THIS.” Of course, when it was all said and done, I didn’t end up braiding the thing at all and instead just sort of folded the dough over the yummy gooey egg filling…sort of like making a bed. Braid or no braid, the dang thing was pretty good. We actually modified the recipe a bit besides just skipping out on the braid. Instead of real sausage, we went with a veggie variety so our vegetarian friends could get in on the action. And we used whole wheat pizza dough instead of regular flour–not out of some grand scheme to be healthier, it’s just all that H-E-B had during our trip to the grocery store. If I make it again, I think I’d try and sub pizza dough for crescent roll dough, which is sweeter and flakier and fits the brunch motif a little better than thick and chewy pizza dough. Either way, served with some salsa, the breakfast braid bread was a winner.

The fixins on the dough before folding it over.

The bread waiting to go in the oven.

On the table and ready to eat.

Migas Casserole. I basically made this recipe up but I love it because it’s fast, easy and flavorful.  The idea is simple enough– sautee onion, tomatoes, peppers, cheese and pieces of corn tortillas with oil and cumin, cover with egg mixture and bake. Voila. in 20 minutes you’ve got a ready-to-eat casserole that feels slightly exotic if not intriguingly spicy. Plus, with peppers and tomatoes instead of sausage and bacon, you can feel a little less guilty about going for a second piece.

Migas Casserole

Banana Cinnamon Waffles.  Heath is the designated waffle maker in the house, and for years has been using a tried and true recipe borrowed from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. But because we were trying to give this brunch a little flair, Heath decided to step it up and add banana, cinnamon and brown sugar–at Martha’s suggestion. It was an incredible addition and we ended up with sweet and moist waffles that mimicked the flavor of banana bread.

Waffles so sweet, syrup is no longer necessary.

We also incorporated fresh fruit, smoked salmon, peach salsa and crackers. And we had a few other friends pitch in with smoked brisket and a crock pot hash brown dish.

The goods.

All of that food paired with either a bloody Mary or mimosa made for a brunch that was almost as delicious as the beautiful betrothed coupled themselves.


Will power is overrated.

Some weeks we gorge on pounds of homegrown lettuce, handfuls of cashews and gallons of freshly pressed juice. And sometimes we eat bacon marmalade and pizza topped with fried eggs. This week was definitely splayed with the latter. Food was the central theme.

The Good.

We chomped down on dishes from some east side establishments we’ve been meaning to try for a long time, but hadn’t yet got around to visiting: Blue Dahlia Bistro and East Side Pies. Blue Dahlia is a European fusion bistro, popular for its patio dining and open-faced sandwiches on soft, freshly baked bread. East Side Pies is nearly the exact opposite—a pizza joint which enjoys notoriety for it’s crispy thin crusts that serve as the canvas for unconventional toppings like salami, sauerkraut and avocados. (Not all on one pizza, though. That would be too bizarre even for Austin standards.) Though each provided quite different experiences, both warrant return visits and reminded me why I love living in city that embraces things like curry pizza and pets on the patio.

Smoked salmon with herb cream cheese from Blue Dahlia Bistro

The Bad.

Of course, once you’ve broken the unhealthy eating seal, it’s easy to justify making poorer (but not really) decisions down the road. Saturday we made three different stops at friends’ homes across Austin that featured slow-cooked braised rib, fried polenta, Niagara Falls portions of home brew and a dessert of strawberry crepes. The calorie count may very well rival the Michael Phelps diet.

The Ugly.

Why stop there? Mondays are the days to start anew. You wake up early and run a quick 5K, down a protein shake before work, eat a salad for lunch and skip dinner altogether, except for maybe a few grapes or a handful of almonds. Yes. That kind of eating is for Monday. Sunday is a day for brunch. And that means a pancake bar, basil mimosas, brown sugar bacon, habanero apricot dip, poached eggs and homemade tortillas. Every bite of brunch was sheer ecstasy, and the food coma that followed was definitely worth it.

Berry fixins for the pancake bar.

Basil mimosa with strawberry

Fresh strawberries

Brown sugar bacon

I’ll just say, it’s a good thing wedding season is nearly over and I don’t have any bridesmaids dresses to fit into in the near future. After this weekend, I may need to fast for the rest of June. Worth it.


Brunch

I get the concept of brunch. You take the first meal of the day, breakfast, and combine it with the second, lunch. Tada…Brunch. Noted. I got the concept just fine; it’s breakfast for late risers.

For some reason I was never a big bruncher. Weekends are precious and we don’t have the time to waste preparing elaborate mid-day meals. The days ought to, instead, be filled with swimming, shopping, dog walking and other activities that are “productive” and don’t squander the best part of a summer Sunday, the morning time.

But when Ranjana suggested a group brunch where each couple spends the morning contributing to a divine breakfast/lunch combo that tickles all the senses and provides a much-needed bonding experience, I found it hard to say no. Brunch it would be.

The menu:
• Pigs in a blanket
• Scrambled eggs with cheese
• Chipotle  sweet potato tamales
• Fresh peaches, strawberries and blueberries
• Bacon
• Bloody Marys, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice
• Salsa

It turns out cooking with friends and enjoying a community meal, even if it is mid-day, is not a squander of time. It’s a celebration of diverse backgrounds, friendship and genuine deliciousness. What better way to create a family away from home than over a group brunch? Consider me sold on Sunday brunch.

Heath prepares the O.J.

A Bloody Mary sans celery and instead with bacon. At the end, the bacon tastes so good. Give it a try.

Even the dogs get to enjoy a little brunching.

Brunch time agrees with Heath.