(Family Features) — Gathering with friends and family for brunch is a fun and budget-friendly entertaining alternative. To transform a brunch celebration from average to outstanding, follow some simple tips from Hollywood chef and caterer Paul McCullough.
“Brunches are the entertaining solution for any occasion. They’re great for baby showers, birthdays, family reunions, weddings, or just gathering for fun. There’s something revitalizing about friends and family coming together in the late morning, enjoying great food, coffee and conversation,” says McCullough.
To get started, plan the menu around one of McCullough’s simple, yet crowd-pleasing recipes:
Coffee Granita: Brew two cups of double strength coffee. Pour into a bowl and stir in a quarter cup of sugar until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Mix in one-half cup half and half. Place in an 8-inch square dish and freeze two to two and a half hours. After the first hour, use a fork to scrape up the coffee crystals; scrape again at the second hour mark. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. For an upscale presentation, serve in a martini glass and top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.
McCullough recommends using Starbucks Natural Fusions Vanilla flavored coffee for this refreshing treat because unlike other flavored coffees, it’s made with natural flavors and real ingredients — like vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg — blended right in with the coffee
Super Hero Scramble: Mix one pound sautéed spinach, one pound browned and crumbled turkey sausage, and one-half cup julienned sundried tomatoes, then set aside. Scramble eggs until almost done but still soft. Fold the spinach mixture through; then sprinkle with eight ounces of seasoned feta.
“A brunch should incorporate elements of breakfast and lunch with harmony. Contrast sweets like blueberry muffins and coffee-glazed scones with savory elements, like smoked salmon with capers and onions. Or try a scramble with new flavor combinations like chicken and asparagus or crab and avocado with a dollop of sour cream and chives,” McCullough suggests.
Once you’ve decided on the menu, set the stage for a special morning with these fresh presentation ideas:
• Liven up bread baskets by lining them with fresh rosemary for added color and aroma.
A cheese board makes for an attractive and functional display. Create the perfect mix of flavors with this twist on a familiar adage: Something old, something new, something smoked, something blue (e.g., aged cheddar, fresh bocconcini mozzarella, smoked Gouda and blue cheese). Water crackers and sliced baguettes will round out the presentation nicely.
• Create centerpiece arrangements using colorful veggies like Swiss chard, kale, parsley and bok choy. These beautiful and unique displays will cost less money than flowers, and can be incorporated into a meal in the near future.
• An omelet bar requires a fair amount of prep work for all the toppings, but it’s a real favorite for guests and a sure way to satisfy picky eaters. Just remember to keep the guest list small or enlist a co-chef to handle all the enthusiastic orders.
Owner of Paul’s Kitchen catering business, McCullough specializes in classic American cuisine and is known for his simple and down-to-earth approach to cooking, resulting in upscale food that’s not uptight.