With its prime positioning between breakfast and lunch, brunch has quite a following of hungry fans. Whether celebrating a special occasion or just because, whether it’s an upscale or laid-back theme you’re after, brunch brings people together with much anticipation.Plan a spring gathering everyone can enjoy with a make-ahead menu that includes crowd-pleasing brunch casseroles — and leaves you plenty of time to spend with the family. “Combine all-star breakfast ingredients like eggs, bacon and cheese into a single dish in this cheesy bacon and egg brunch casserole (see recipe), seasoned with ground mustard and nutmeg,” said chef Kevan Vetter of the McCormick Kitchens. “The best part about this recipe is you can assemble it the night before — just add an additional 1/2 cup of milk — chill it in the refrigerator and bake it off in the morning.”For hosts who like to dabble in the classic morning components of eggs, hash browns and other breakfast fare, there are plenty of delicious recipes to serve up. The recipes for Denver hash brown omelet and skillet hash brown frittata supply all the comforts of the diner-menu staple but are very easy to make at home.While savory meals certainly have their place at brunch, a sweet dish is a great complement and the perfect addition for a well-rounded menu. Look for recipes that combine the elements of sweet and salty, like this dish for potato cheese and apple tarts. Finally, serve a spring-inspired dessert topped with a variety of fresh fruit, such as this awesome apple butter breakfast cake, to complement your brunch casserole. (Note: Nutritional analyses were unavailable for these recipes.)Tips for a beautiful brunchWhether you’re planning a brunch for a group of five or 15, a little pre-planning will help ensure the event is big on fun and low on stress.• Take a cue from Mother Nature to establish the theme for your party. Simple bouquets of early-season blooms provide a colorful and welcoming backdrop for a casual brunch hosted indoors or out. Use vases in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors to create a sweetly whimsical look.• A buffet-style brunch makes it simple to serve your meal and it allows guests to mingle and snack as they wish, leaving you free to visit and enjoy a leisurely party, as well.• Big taste comes in small packages. Serve your guests bite-size appetizers, which allows them to sample different flavors. Keep with your spring theme by incorporating fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Denver hash brown omelet
Makes 8 servings
1 carton (4.2 ounces) Hungry Jack Premium Hashbrown Potatoes
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
1 chopped onion, about 1 1/2 cups
1 diced green bell pepper, about 1 cup
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup diced cooked ham
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray.
2. Fill hash brown carton to fill line with hot water. Let stand 12 minutes. Drain any excess water.
3. Heat skillet over medium heat and add butter. After butter melts, add onion and bell pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Whisk together eggs and milk in large mixing bowl. Add salt, potatoes, cheese, ham and vegetables; mix to combine.
4. Transfer mixture to prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and starting to brown.
— Hungry Jack
Cheesy potato and apple tarts
Makes 12 servings (24 tarts)
1 1/4 cups water
3 tablespoon butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cups Hungry Jack Mashed Potato Flakes
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda or Jack cheese
1 box (14 ounces) refrigerated pie crust, brought to room temperature
1 halved, cored and thinly sliced Red Delicious apple
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat water, 2 tablespoons butter and salt to boiling in medium pot. Remove from heat, and stir in milk and mashed potato flakes with fork until smooth. Add shredded Gouda or Jack cheese and stir until melted.
2. Cut pie crusts into 24 circles about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Using mini-muffin tin (with cups the size of 1 3/4 by 1 inch), place one pastry circle into each of 24 muffin cups, pressing slightly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon potato and cheese filling into each cup.
3. Place in oven and bake until pastry edges are golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.
4. In small pan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Add apple slices and saute until just tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and cook 1 more minute.
5. When apple slices are cooled enough to handle, place a slice into each cup at an angle, trimming to fit if necessary. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.
— Hungry Jack
Skillet hash brown frittata
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 carton (4.2 ounces) Hungry Jack Original Hashbrown Potatoes
4 turkey sausage patties or 6 links
6 slices turkey bacon
1/4 cup milk
1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce, based on brand of hot sauce or to taste
Pinch ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
4 slices or 2/3 cup shredded American or cheddar cheese
1. Fill hash browns carton to fill line with hottest tap water. Let stand 12 minutes. Drain any excess water.
2. Cook turkey sausage and bacon according to package directions. Crumble or chop.
3. Whisk eggs, milk, hot sauce and black pepper in bowl.
4. Melt butter in 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Spread hash browns evenly in pan and partway up sides. Cook without stirring until light golden brown and crisp on one side, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled sausage and bacon over potatoes. Pour eggs evenly over and arrange cheese on top.
5. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low; cook until eggs are set in center and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Serve from pan or slide onto platter, then cut into wedges.
— Hungry Jack
Cheesy bacon & egg brunch casserole
Makes 12 servings
8 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 loaf (8 ounces) Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (5 cups)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups milk (see note)
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350 dgrees. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels; crumble and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add onion to skillet; cook and stir 3 minutes or until softened.
2. Spread 1/2 of the bread cubes in 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/2 each of the onion, bacon, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Spread evenly with cottage cheese. Top with remaining bread cubes, onion, bacon, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.
3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with wire whisk. Add milk, mustard, pepper and nutmeg; mix well. Gradually pour into baking dish. Press bread cubes lightly into egg mixture until completely covered. Let stand 10 minutes.
4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown.
(Note: To prep the night before, add an extra 1/2 cup of milk and refrigerate overnight.)
BBQ sauce-glazed pineapple ham picks
Makes 36 servings
2/3 cup apple butter
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)
1 pound cooked ham, cut 3/4-inch thick
1/2 fresh pineapple
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour apple butter, barbecue sauce and mustard into bowl and stir to combine.
2. Cut ham and pineapple into 3/4-inch cubes, about 36 each. Place one pineapple chunk on each toothpick, followed by a chunk of ham. Stand the picks up on baking sheet and brush each one with barbecue sauce mixture. Cover all sides.
3. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm with remaining sauce for dipping.
— Musselman’s Apple Butter
Awesome apple butter breakfast cake
Makes 9 servings
2 1/4 cups baking mix (such as Bisquick)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups apple butter
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. In bowl, stir together baking mix, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, egg and melted butter.
2. Pour two-thirds of batter into 8-by-8-by-2-inch glass baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with apple butter. Drop remaining batter by spoonful on top.
3. Combine coconut, pecans, 1/3 cup sugar and butter. Sprinkle on top of cake.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
Note: Pan will be very full, so do not substitute a smaller pan. You may want to place a cookie sheet under the pan in the oven in case of drips.
— Musselman’s Apple Butter