Keep them happy with breakfast.
Our teenage daughter often has lots of friends over at a time. Sometimes they arrive hungry late at night. Sometimes, they need a big breakfast after they wake up. Same with visitors from out of town…we need to feed them!
When it’s just a few people, I don’t mind being a short-order cook. Want your eggs scrambled medium? You got it! Want two eggs sunny-side up? I can do it! Toad-in-the-hole? I can even do that like a pro!
But when it’s a crowd, I do not want to be a short-order cook. I would be a terrible cook at a Waffle House, because there is no way I would be able to keep up. For those times, I take a different approach. For crowds, I plan ahead.
Last weekend, my daughter had twelve friends over after the Homecoming dance at her school. I knew they would arrive hungry, so I planned ahead. On the day of the dance, I made a grocery store run and stocked up on all the things I would need to feed a hungry crew. Feeding a crew is something I love to do, so I was probably singing as I strolled the aisles of the grocery store!
That evening, my husband and I went to a local country club, where our daughter, her date, and all their friends had gathered for pre-dance photos. They were a good-looking, happy bunch. They didn’t get to have a Homecoming dance last year, because of COVID, so I think they really appreciated the opportunity to have one this year. They were excited to dress up and excited to be together. I was excited to get to take photos of her final high school Homecoming. After all the parents acted like paparazzi for a while, the kids all went inside to dine, and the parents all went on about our evening.
When I arrived at home, I started preparing. Yes, I was excited. A good hostess would have all her fine china out, but there was no way I was going to stay up washing dishes in the middle of the night, so I used paper plates and plastic flatware. Sorry, Martha Stewart…I know I’m a disappointment. I got those out and set them at one end of the island in our kitchen…the island would be acting as my buffet for the evening.
Next, I pre-assembled two giant breakfast casseroles. There were quite a few boys in the group that was coming to our house, and since I grew up with a brother, I know how teenage boys can eat. I got the casserole all put together and stuck them in the refrigerator. They are the kinds of casseroles you can pre-assemble and cook later, so that’s what I did. I also made sure everything else I would need was within reach. I then texted my daughter and asked her to text me about an hour before they headed our way.
She did as I asked, and when she did, I put the two casseroles in the oven. Then, about 20 minutes before they arrived, I cooked the grits on the stovetop, cut up the fruit and put it into a bowl, and plattered the bagels near the toaster oven, in case they wanted to toast them.
When the kids arrived, everything was ready. When I invited them to come into the kitchen and serve themselves, they did. And I was thrilled to see them pile the food on their plates. Fortunately, my daughter’s date happily handled the toaster oven duties, so that cut down on some confusion. I spooned up the grits, and the kids served themselves the casseroles and fruit. And they ate…and ate. In fact, they mowed through the bagels and wanted more, so I started making my “special toast.” I could give away the secret on that, but that’s one secret I need to keep.
The first secret I will share, though, is about grits. For the record, instant grits are OK in a pinch, but real southerners cook real grits. I prefer mine with some butter and cheese added. For this particular event, I purchased Quaker brand Old-Fashioned Grits. I cook them on the stovetop according to the package directions and then add the butter, Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese, and salt at the end.
The second secret I’m happy to share? The breakfast casserole recipe, because all moms should have this recipe on hand. It’s great for a bunch of teenagers, but it’s great for holidays and family gatherings too. It’s super easy and can be pre-assembled. Enjoy!
Here’s my recipe that serves 12 (unless some of them are teenage boys, and then you need to make two casseroles!):
HASHBROWN BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
- 30 oz pkg of Ore Ida shredded hashbrown potatoes
- salt and pepper
- 12 eggs
- 1.5 cups half and half or heavy cream
- two cups cheese of choice, grated (cheddar, colby jack, or pepper jack)
- 2 cups Smithfield cubed ham (or preferred meat)
- optional: Rotel original tomatoes and chilies
Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, mix shredded potatoes and ham, then spread in bottom of greased casserole dish
In another bowl, mix eggs, half and half, cheese, salt and pepper (to taste), and optional can of Rotel.
Pour egg mixture over potatoes/ham in baking dish.
Bake uncovered for one hour or till eggs have set.
Serve immediately, offering sour cream and salsa as toppings.