Seven Tips for a Successful Stress-Free Brunch

Entertaining friends or celebrating a special event should be an enjoyable undertaking; do as much ahead as possible so that your "relaxing weekend" is just that, no matter what the occasion.

Set up a self-serve Bellini bar. Puree frozen or fresh fruits and set out with bottles of sparkling wine. No need to break the bank for expensive Champagnes — Prosecco or a mid-priced sparkling wine will work just fine.

Make-ahead dishes rule.
Stratas and savory bread puddings should be assembled the day before for best results. Frittatas, Spanish tortillas and egg roulades can be made the morning of and easily reheated or served at room temperature.

Welcome guests with the smell of home-baked pastries. Make a couple of different types of scone dough, both savory and sweet, the day before. The dough can be cut, placed on baking sheets, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. Bake the scones just before guests arrive to fill your house with mouth-watering aroma.

Fresh fruit is fundamental. Arrange seasonal or tropical fruits on a platter or place in a decorative bowl. Less-than-perfect fruits can be jazzed up with a drizzle of scented simple syrup.

Balance the brunch. A successful meal has something for everyone, including some healthy options. Serve a large bowl of low-fat yogurt and create a yogurt bar with small bowls of nuts, granolas, various chopped dried fruit and honey.

Serve special spreads and "boutique" butters. Even plain old toast or bagels can be spruced up with easy toppings. Mix softened butter with cinnamon-sugar, mashed strawberries, citrus zest or even edible flower petals; chill overnight and spread on waffles, pancakes or toasted English muffins. Pulse carrots, celery and scallions in a food processor until fine and mix into whipped cream cheese for your own "veggie schmear" for bagels.

Coffee is crucial so keep it flowing. Purchase inexpensive thermal carafes to keep a constant supply of steaming hot coffee and tea on hand during the meal.

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