Proper planning is always necessary for a good party, but even more so when your party involves a theme. It makes having guests over all the more exciting and everyone knows what to expect (but surprises are good). Theme parties also make menu planning so much easier, as you are building around the subject matter you have chosen.
While we often have breakfast for dinner at our house, I had never invited people over for a "breakfast for dinner" themed meal. With the upcoming holidays, Johnsonville has released some great breakfast recipes if you are going to have a house full of people, making entertaining that much easier. I decided to try some of those recipes in a themed "breakfast for dinner" party and incorporated many tried and true recipes as well. The result, a fun night of friends, laughter and food...with lots of leftovers to ironically have for breakfast the next day.
Two Weeks Ahead: Invite Guests
While impromptu entertaining is fun, a themed party requires a little more planning. Giving people two weeks notice is the perfect amount of time to ensure your guests availability. Asking guests by phone, Evite and email have all become acceptable ways to invite people to your home for less formal entertaining. I prefer email as it gives people a chance to check their schedule, get sitters and make any other arrangements before accepting or declining your invitation. Evite would offer the same options.
A successful party relies on guests who will interact well together. I like to choose groups of people who have different experiences, careers, are of different ages and walks of life. It makes for much more interesting conversation. I am lucky to have great groups of friends to choose from, with varying professions, personalities and ideas. The best parties include a mix of those kinds of people. And remember, you don't have to invite everyone you know, every time.
Sit down dinners obviously have to be capped at a certain number due to seating limitations, while buffet meals can include a more loosely fit guest list. This is why as a guest it is important to RSVP within two days of a party invitation. If your host is planning a sit down dinner, you want to give them a chance to replace you if you cannot make it. Empty spots at the dinner table are not good. Always remember, being invited to someone's home is one of the most sincere forms of flattery, accept or decline each invitation with grace.
One Week Ahead: Plan Your Menu
When it comes to planning a menu for a theme party, especially breakfast for dinner, things can fall together easily with a little bit of thought. Make note of any allergies or food aversions with your invited guests. Plan for different flavors and hot and cold dishes with cooking and prep times in mind. Incorporate new recipes and old favorites for a more appealing combination of food choices. Even if the recipes don't turn out perfect, it's okay and becomes fun conversation at the table. These are your friends, they won't hold it against you.
One of the main dishes for my breakfast for dinner party was this Texas Style Breakfast Casserole. It has a hash brown crust, lots of Johnsonville sausage, bacon and eggs. A very hearty dish, making it perfect for breakfast and dinner (recipe to follow). This was a new recipe for me, luckily it turned out great.
These "Amazing Muffin Cups" (the actual recipe name) were also served. Another new Johnsonville recipe for me, chock full of sausage, cheese, eggs and red bell pepper, another tasty treat (recipe to follow). I also made "Rise and Shine Muffin Cups" but forgot to take a formal picture, however there is a picture of them on the table that I will point out later in this post. I will also include the recipe at the end of this post.
I also served this Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding because there is just nothing like it. It works perfect as a dinner, breakfast or brunch entree. It can be put together earlier in the day and cooked when guests arrive. The Texas Style Breakfast Casserole and this dish can bake side-by-side in the same oven as they have the same cooking temperature and cook times. Score.
With all of the savory dishes, it is important to serve some veggies. These Orange-Mint Green Beans are the perfect refresh for the palate. The dressing can be made the day ahead and the beans can be blanched early on party day. The dish can be served warm, room temperature or cold. It's the perfect make-ahead side dish.
Roasted Asparagus with Honey-Citrus Dressing is also another make-ahead side dish that was served. The dressing can be made the day before and the asparagus and tomatoes roasted the morning of the party.
What would breakfast for dinner be without sweet jam and rolls. I am lucky enough to have as friends some of the best local artisan jam makers around. They attended my party and brought two of their amazing creations! We adored their Raspberry Vanilla and Fig Orange Ginger selections. I cannot imagine your holiday tables without it.
I would have loved to make homemade buttermilk biscuits for the party but I didn't have time to make dough and roll it out at the last minute. Had I made homemade buttermilk biscuits, I would have used my favorite recipe for the Best-Ever Buttermilk Biscuits (I have tips and tricks for this recipe as well). Instead I used Pillsbury Grands Biscuits and cut them in fours, like I did in this recipe. I placed each piece of dough in a mini muffin pan and baked them into mini biscuits. This is a quick party alternative when you don't have time for the homemade version.
An array of hot sauces are an absolute must when it comes to a breakfast for dinner party. This one was my absolute favorite of the night. Such good flavor without masking the taste of the food.
Even though this was breakfast for dinner, you will still need appetizers. Guests will be hungry and there are so many fun alternatives to serve at a party with this type of theme. Start the night off with Fluffy Silver Dollar Sized Pancakes on skewers, drenched in maple syrup. They are the perfect party starter. Make up your batter the previous day and keep it refrigerated until party time. You can pre-make the pancakes an hour before guests arrive and keep them warm in a 200 degree F oven. Place pancakes on skewers when guests arrive and pour syrup on top.
Bacon, Egg & Toast Cups stick with the theme of the party and are tasty and cute party apps. These can be pre-made the afternoon of the party and baked off before guests arrive. I love these things!!
Deviled Egg Spread is one of my favorite party foods. The egg spread can be made the day before and kept in the fridge. The bread can be toasted several hours before guests arrive and you are not hard pressed to have perfectly shaped deviled eggs. It's a win-win for everyone and it tastes great.
Mimosas go hand in hand with the theme. When guests ask what they can bring, a bottle of bubbly is the perfect addition.
A fun idea would be to ask everyone to bring a bottle from different wine regions of the world; Prosseco from Italy, Champagne from France, Cava from Spain, Sparkling Wine from Oregon, California, New York or Washington to name a few. Have lots of orange juice on hand and of course flutes for serving, these are my favorites. They are nice to hold with very thin glass, which adds to your drinking pleasure. Make sure to have wine charms available for your flutes, otherwise it's hard to keep track of what glass belongs to each person.
It wouldn't be a breakfast for dinner party without a good Bloody Mary bar. Check back later this week for my recipe for the Best Bloody Mary Ever. A side of skewered Carlton Farm's Pepper Bacon and skewered Ore-Ida Tator Tots make this Bloody Mary a meal in itself. The Bloody Mary Mix can be made the day before, adding the alcohol a few hours before party time. The bacon and tator tots can be made a couple hours ahead and kept warm before party time. Also, have on hand a pitcher of Virgin Mary's for anyone who does not drink or is a designated driver that night. They still taste fantastic without the alcohol.
The perfect serving vessel for the Bloody Mary's are Wide-Mouth Mason Jars (16 oz). This is a very inexpensive alternative to buying glassware if you don't already have something appropriate for this type of drink. Plus it looks really rustic and cool.
Don't forget to have lots water (still and sparkling) on hand and other flavored juices if you think your guests would enjoy it.
Setting the Table
Nothing says, "I was expecting you" and "I'm glad you're here" more than a beautifully set table. It is one of the most welcoming features of a party and does not need to cost a fortune. Find inspiration around your home depending on the season and invest in a few pieces you will always have around.
White dinner dishes are an absolute must for me. They fit into every theme and color scheme. I prefer white dishes that are a little bit larger than your average daily dinner plate. This allows guests to sample lots of items, without things falling off the plates. A very simple diner style are best and will last you through many years and events. If you do a lot of outdoor entertaining, I would suggest these plates for their non-breakability.
I love using cloth napkins, it helps dress up the table and makes everyone feel a little more grown up. There are so many styles and options and they can get pricey depending on where you buy them and the material they are made from. Here are a couple cloth napkin options that are both neutral in color and are a fantastic price for a dozen. Look here and here.
And napkin rings, I confess, I have quite the collection. I love how they can add a little bling to the table without much effort. Again, they can be crazy expensive depending on the style. Here is an inexpensive option and a more pricey set. Both will bring rustic beauty to your table if you are looking to create a more polished or elaborate tablescape.
Fresh cut flowers can break the bank when it comes to entertaining. Yes, they are beautiful but if you have a budget, head to your local garden center and pick up a few seasonal green plants for a quarter of the price of fresh cut stems. Place the little plastic pots in brown paper sacks and fold over the tops, tie a ribbon around them if you like. You'll have instant color on your table. This works well for all seasons.
I love these smoked glass water goblets, but I can no longer find them in the stores. Colored glass is perfect for water, while wine should always be served in clear glass to show off its color. The colored glass really dresses up the table and I found these beauties as a close alternative to what I have shown here. I also have a couple of sets of other water goblets. (A set for me is always 12). Check these out for a more whimsical look, I love these and use them for brunches. And for a total casual look, I set the table using these (very inexpensive too).
When you have a lot of people to seat, use square or round chargers or placemats as opposed to rectangular ones. Rectangles take up too much space at the table.
And flatware, I do appreciate a nicely weighted spoon, fork and knife. While matching flatware is not necessary, it is a good investment if you are interested. I have been using the same everyday flatware for years and I love the pattern and feel of it. This is my everyday flatware pattern and it's a MUCH better deal if you buy it as a set.
Casserole dishes that fit into woven baskets are also the perfect entertaining food vessels. They help dress up the dish you just pulled from the oven and look great on the table.
Pre-set your table including the serving dishes you will be using to make sure everything fits. I also used cake stands on the table for the muffin cups I mentioned above.
I make lots of notes. Once I have my menu planned, I look at each recipe and break it down by what I can do the day before the party, the morning of the party and what has to be done right before party time or while guests are arriving or are here.
My Deviled Egg Spread...
Hard boil the eggs - the day before
Make the spread - the day before
Toast the bread - a couple hours prior to guest arrival
Then I make separate to do lists for each of those times, (i.e the day before, morning of party etc). This might sound like a lot of work but it will save you from running around like a crazy person on the day of the event. Add your cleaning chores on those lists too. And once you clean the guest bathroom, lock the door so the kids can't get in there and mess it up (assuming you are able to unlock it once guests arrive).
I have found this to be the easiest way to entertain any size group. Try it and let me know how it goes.
Set the Mood
It's time to clean off the counters and get rid of unecessary junk around the living room. Your house does not need to be perfect but no one needs to see your stack of bills in the kitchen or your slippers in the living room. Fifteen minutes of spiffing up the general party area will go a long way.
Set up an open area for the bar where there is lots of room for glasses, bottles, ice and any drink additions like lemon or lime wedges etc.
Glasses for the Bloody Mary's are prepped with large celery sticks and finishing salt around the rims.
Have flutes available for your sparkling wine. A fire in the fireplace also looks great.
Candles really change and enhance the mood of a party. Place them in lanterns around the room for a warm glow.
Votive candles (sold in large packs) also work well...put them everywhere for that twinkling effect.
Enjoy Your Guests ~ My Rant
Remember, the reason you are entertaining is to be able to enjoy your friends. By pre-prepping for the event you are guaranteed good quality face time with all of them. And for me this means never allowing my guests to do the dishes. Yes, you will have to argue with some of them to stop, but it's your house and what you say goes. Turn off the water faucet and stand there until they go back and sit down.
Yes, you may need to clear a few things before serving dessert and that's okay, but doing dishes during a party is the ultimate entertaining faux pas. It makes everyone feel like the PARTY IS OVER and they better get up and help. If you think for one second that is not true, you are wrong. It makes everyone feel guilty. It ruins the atmosphere you worked so hard to create.
Dishes are the ultimate party buzz kill. When you decide to have a party you are fully aware of what it is going to take to clean it up. You don't invite your guests over before the party to help you clean the bathroom they are going to use. Why should they have to clean the dishes they mess up?
No one can load your dishwasher like you and it just becomes a lot of people asking you where to put things...this is not entertaining, it's work. And I don't want to do the dishes at your house either, it's my time to relax and enjoy. So hey, we're even.
We enjoyed lots of laughs at this party, conversation is always lively when guests feel at ease. It means you've done your job as a host. Look at those smiling faces.
And when the table is filled with food, who isn't happy? There are those Rise and Shine Muffins I mentioned earlier, but didn't have a picture.
Happy friends make a party and a happy home. These folks are smiling because they know they don't have to cleanup!
Tell us your successful entertaining secrets, we'd love to hear about them! Do you do the dishes during your parties? We can help you stop!
Texas Style Breakfast Casserole & Two Muffin Cup Recipes
- 1 package (30 ounces) frozen Ore-Ida hash browns, thawed
- 1 package (12 ounces) Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage Links
- 10 slices bacon
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded 4-Cheese Mexican blend cheese
- 9 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
- 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Amazing Muffin Cups
- 3 cups frozen Ore-Ida hash browns, thawed
- 3 Tablespoons melted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 14 links Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage Links
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Mexican blend cheese
- 1/4 chopped red bell pepper
- chopped fresh chives or green onions
Rise and Shine Muffin Cups
- 3 cups frozen Ore-Ida hash browns, thawed
- 3 Tablespoons melted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 14 links Johnsonville Original Breakfast Sausage Links
- 5 large eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 Tablespoons bacon bits
- For the Texas Style Breakfast Casserole, press hash browns onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook sausage according to package directions; cut into 1/2" pieces. Cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels and crumble. Place sausage and bacon in the hash brown crust. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cheese, chiles, tomatoes, salt and pepper; pour int crust. Sprinkle with cilantro. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until set.
- For the Amazing Muffin Cups, In a bowl, combine the hash browns, butter and salt and pepper. Press mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of greased non-stick muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, cook sausage according to package directions; cut into 1/2" pieces. Divide sausage among muffin cups. Combine the eggs, cheese and bell pepper. Spoon over sausage. Sprinkle with chives. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until set.
- For the Rise and Shine Muffin Cups, In a bowl, combine the hash browns, butter and salt and pepper. Press mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of greased non-stick muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, cook sausage according to package directions; cut into 1/4" pieces. Divide sausage among muffin cups. Combine the eggs, milk, cheese, tomatoes and cilantro. Spoon over sausage. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until set.
Other recipes that work amazingly well for a "Breakfast for Dinner" themed party:
Sparkling Tropical Punch
Biscuits and Gravy Dip
Kicked Up Breakfast Nachos
Cheesy-Sausage-Jalapeno Breakfast Quesadillas
Hilary's Heavenly Eggs
Bloody Mary Soup
Cheesy Pepperoni Strata
Baked Eggs in Bread Bowls
Three Years Ago: Hosting Thanksgiving
Four Years Ago: It Was That Time Again
Disclosure: Johnsonville and Ore-Ida provided me with their products for this fun party. As always, all opinions are my own.