When the whole gang gathers at your place for a slumber party, family reunion, team meeting or early-morning birthday celebration, put together a nutritious breakfast without a lot of fuss. Stick with a simple menu of healthy food that looks good, tastes great and leaves you plenty of time to enjoy the moment instead of being stuck in the kitchen. Focus on items that can be prepared, at least partially, in advance and take convenient shortcuts for preparing breakfast favorites in large volume.
Put your oven to work roasting up pans of home-fry-style potatoes a day or two before the breakfast. Conserve the nutrients -- and your time -- by leaving the peel on the cut-up potatoes. Baked to a golden brown, with chopped onion, minced garlic and an splash of chicken or vegetable stock, the cooked potatoes may be refrigerated in plastic containers, then warmed in the microwave just before serving. Beat the eggs, thaw frozen broccoli or spinach, and grate cheese the night before to make frittatas -- fluffy, open-face omelets started on the stove top, finished under the broiler, and served in wedges. It takes even less kitchen time to pour the eggs, vegetables and cheese into cooking-spray-coated muffin pans and bake the mixture as individual crust-free quiches.
Make large batches of bacon easily in the oven on rimmed cookie sheets lined with aluminum foil. Make sure the bacon is crispy, browned and completely cooked -- even if you're fixing it a day before the breakfast event -- to ensure that any bacteria is destroyed before you put the strips in the refrigerator overnight. For savory protein with less fat, cook lean turkey sausages in a large frying pan or two. The sausages need to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit internally for safety, so have a food thermometer on hand to test before you remove them from the pan. Warm precooked bacon, sausages, or vegetarian links -- which typically come ready-to-eat from the package -- in the oven or microwave just before setting out breakfast.
Instead of toast, plan on crusty whole-grain baguettes and French bread to save yourself from wrangling with small appliances in the middle of an already-bustling kitchen. Slice the loaves, lightly butter the pieces, then reassemble each loaf and wrap it in foil to pop in the oven for half an hour before breakfast. Quick breads -- like banana or zucchini bread -- take just a few minutes to mix and are a subtle way to slip fruit and vegetables into the breakfast menu. Bake the batter in small loaf pans or mini-muffin tins up to two week in advance. Freeze the baked goods, then take them out to thaw the evening before your big breakfast to slice and stack on a big platter. For the cereal-lovers in the group, toss together rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit and a touch of honey for healthy homemade granola. Toast the cereal on a cookie sheet in the oven and store it in a large airtight plastic container that can double as a handy serving bowl at breakfast time.
Bring bright color to your breakfast spread with fresh berries and fruit when they are in season. Fill bowls with whole strawberries or cherries with their stems still intact as sweet finger-food that you've only needed to rinse and put in bowls. Make a platter of orange slices, kiwifruit slices and clusters of grapes when farm-fresh fruit isn't readily available. For a more formal group breakfast, spoon alternating layers of frozen peaches or berries, vanilla yogurt and granola into short, clear-plastic cups to make attractive breakfast parfaits. When casual and convenient are top priorities, stock up on a variety of boxed fruit juices and a couple bags of ice to fill a tub with handy drinks that invite guests to help themselves.
- Harvard Medical School Center for Health and The Global Environment: Potatoes
- "Simple Food for Busy Families: The Whole Life Nutrition Approach"; Jeannette Bessinger, et al.; 2009
- "Perfect Party Food"' Diane Phillips; 2005
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Bacon and Food Safety
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Sausages and Food Safety
- Go Ask Alice, Columbia University; Breakfast Ideas for Thirteen-Year-Olds, and Everyone Else; April 2002
- Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images