Weekend brunch or make-ahead weekday breakfast: These are your new autumn favorites (column) | SummitDaily.com

Weekend brunch or make-ahead weekday breakfast: These are your new autumn favorites (column)

Recently I attended brunch at Joyce Mueller's for the Chaplains and Volunteer Chaplains of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center (I'm a new volunteer). After begging Carol for her granola recipe, I got to thinking about why brunch is the perfect vehicle for people who might feel intimidated by entertaining. It's because the brunch hour naturally lends itself to a casual atmosphere and menu.

When Joyce sent out her email invitations, she included a list of dishes we could each bring from a main course to a bowl of fresh fruit. There was something for every level of culinary skill. There was even the option not to bring anything at all. This instantly puts guests at ease, allowing the adventurous to bring their favorite dish and the not-so-inclined to bring a bottle of Prosecco and a smile.

As I put the finishing touches on this brunch menu, it occurred to me that each of these dishes are also perfect for busy people who like to prep-cook on weekends. Each dish can be made ahead and either frozen or kept in the refrigerator for breakfast throughout the week.

Granola for Grown-Ups

Not too sweet, just right. This is a granola for grown-ups. Inspired by a recipe from Carol Vagnini.

Ingredients

6 cups of oatmeal (not instant or minute)

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1 1/4 cup of unsweetened dried coconut flakes

1 cup of chopped walnuts

1 cup of raw cashews

½ cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup raw sesame seeds

Syrup

½ cup canola oil (or other neutral oil)

2/3 cup honey (or maple syrup)

1/3 cup warm water

2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate mixing cup, mix together the syrup ingredients. Pour syrup over the dry ingredients and mix well with a large spoon. Spread the granola mixture over a baking sheet in a uniform layer.

Bake for 10 minutes, stir and continue to bake in 5-10 minute increments, stirring each time until the granola is lightly toasted. This may take a total of 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your baking sheet. Cool thoroughly and then store in an airtight container. Optional: After the granola has cooled, stir in a cup of dried chopped dates, dried cranberries or other chopped dried fruit.

Breakfast suggestion: a scoop of granola, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or a decadent splash of half-and-half or heavy cream, topped with a small pile of fresh berries. Decadent!

Pumpkin Carrot Pancakes with Maple Cinnamon Butter

No time for pancakes on weekday mornings? I've got two ideas: Make the batter the night before and cook the pancakes in the morning, or make the pancakes on the weekend, let them cool and freeze them. Microwave for 30 seconds before you run out the door on a busy weekday morning.

Ingredients

2 cups of self-rising flour

2 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Small pinch kosher salt

1 ½ cups shredded carrot

¾ cup plain canned pumpkin

1 ¼ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

3 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions

Mix all ingredients together to form a thick batter. Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle, swipe the bottom of pan or griddle with 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add one ladle of batter for each pancake. Allow batter to cook until bubbles begin to form on the top of each pancake, then flip and allow the pancake to cook through before removing to a plate. Top each pancake with maple cinnamon butter (see below) and more maple syrup! Serve alone or with bacon or sausage.

Maple Cinnamon Butter

Process in the bowl of a food processor 1 stick of butter, 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Blend until a smooth paste forms, taste and adjust maple syrup and cinnamon to your preference. You can then form this into a log, wrap in plastic and cool until firm in the fridge, or serve it as softened butter immediately.

Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Spinach, Leeks and Two Cheeses

This breakfast casserole works two ways: As an elegant weekend brunch main course, or on the weekend — bag individual-sized pieces for weekday grab-and-go breakfast, 30 seconds in the microwave and you've got a delicious breakfast that isn't fast food.

Ingredients

1 pound of breakfast sausage

1 bag of fresh baby spinach (I prefer its taste and texture to frozen spinach)

2 small-medium leeks chopped and rinsed

1 loaf Italian bread cut into bite-size 1-inch cubes

8 eggs

2 cups of milk or half-and-half

1 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup grated sharp white cheddar

Salt, pepper and a grating of fresh nutmeg and paprika

Directions

In a large frying pan, cook the sausage, breaking it into small crumbles. Remove from the pan and put into a bowl. Add to the same frying pan the chopped leeks (and a little bit of olive oil if there isn't enough oil from the sausage). Sauté the leeks until they are softened, then add the spinach. Allow the spinach to wilt, then add a grating of nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the spinach and leeks to the sausage bowl and let all cool.

When it's cool, add it to a 13×9 dish that has been lightly buttered, bottom and sides, and to which the cubes of bread have been added. Add the sausage and leeks and toss so the vegetables, sausage and bread are mixed together.

Next, make your custard by mixing together eight eggs, 2 cups of milk or half-and-half, and grated nutmeg, paprika and the grated cheese. Pour the custard mixture over the bread, sausage and vegetable mixture. Cover and refrigerate for three hours up to overnight. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered with foil, then uncover and bake for 10-20 minutes until the custard is set and the top is golden brown.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Who wants cake for breakfast? I do, I do! You will too!

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups self-rising flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

1 ½ sticks softened butter

2 cups frozen blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a standing mixer, mix together the butter, sugar and molasses until fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Gently fold in the frozen blueberries. Pour the cake batter into a parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan or cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until baked through. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before releasing the cake from the pan. Sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Allow to cool completely (or at least try) before serving. I made this for Joyce's brunch and half was gone within 10 minutes of leaving the oven.

Suzanne Anderson is the author of ten books, available at the Next Page Books and Nosh in Frisco. Suzanne lives in Breckenridge.

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