Many families will be getting together this Easter Sunday. When our children were young, we went to church and then headed to my parents’ house. My three brothers, their wives and all of their children were there — after an adorable Easter egg hunt and lots of pictures, we enjoyed a delicious brunch. Sometimes it was Mom’s famous baked ham, other times it was a breakfast casserole and fruit.
Don’t let brunch stress you out. All of these recipes can be made ahead of time, so you can enjoy your family. Why not be easy on yourself and purchase some fancy paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils?
Orange poppy seed muffins
1 ½ cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons orange zest
Softened butter for buttering muffin tin
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter muffin tin generously. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, poppy seeds, salt, baking powder, baking soda and orange zest.
In another bowl, beat the egg. Whisk in buttermilk, melted butter and orange juice. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until combined. Spoon batter into buttered muffin tin. Bake 18-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Remove from tin and cool on a rack. When cool, store in an airtight container until serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Overnight apple French toast
4 tablespoons butter
3 apples (Cortland or Empire), peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
8 slices Italian or French bread slices (about 1-inch thick)
1 ¼ cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add apple slices and saute five minutes until softened. Add brown sugar, water and cinnamon. Stir occasionally and cook until apples are very tender, about eight minutes. Pour cooked apples into a 13- by 9-inch baking dish.
Top the apples with the bread slices, cutting a slice or two if necessary to make them fit. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in milk and vanilla extract. Pour egg and milk mixture evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, until bread is golden and firm. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. If you want a dazzling presentation, you can invert the casserole so the apples are on top — either way, it is delicious.
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Overnight spinach, artichoke, and red pepper strata
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 ½ cups milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
9 slices firm bread
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained well
2 green onions, sliced
3 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper strips and cook until softened, about eight minutes. Set aside. Place thawed spinach in a colander and squeeze as much liquid out as you can.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and then stir in squeezed spinach, milk, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking dish and butter one side of each slice of bread. Cut the bread into cubes and then spread half of them evenly in the buttered baking dish.
Top with half of the cooked bell pepper strips, half of the artichoke hearts and half of the green onions. Scatter with half of the spinach/milk mixture and half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers and end with the remaining cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator for about 20 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the strata, uncovered, for about an hour until golden brown and firm. Let strata sit for 15 minutes before cutting into squares.