Celebrate the Season with a Michigan Apple Brunch
During the holiday season, we all look forward to preparing delicious food and celebrating together with family and friends. One of my favorite ways to celebrate this time of year is over brunch – that wonderful meal invention that combines breakfast and lunch. It typically takes less time to prepare and it can be an affordable way to entertain guests while spending more time with them.
It’s also fun to create a theme for your brunch and of course, I think Michigan Apples are perfect for your celebration. Their bright, beautiful color, delicious taste, and healthy benefits are certainly a gift to be shared. Michigan Apples pair perfectly with seasonal spices, sweet treats and savory recipes that are sure to please family and friends alike.
Below I’ve provided some tips for planning and serving brunch along with a complete apple-inspired menu. I even included a recipe for a special take-home gift from your kitchen.
Tips for Hosting a Holiday Brunch:
- Plan a simple menu – An easy to execute menu will make your life easier, especially since you have so many other holiday tasks to contend with. Egg casseroles are an example of an easy-to-make meal and they can be sweet or savory. Your menu can also include whole fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, and berries, or you can cut them up into a colorful fruit salad. Add some kid-friendly brunch options if needed, such as scrambled eggs, muffins, yogurt and granola.
- Assemble your serving pieces – Once your menu is set, make sure you have all the dishes and utensils needed to serve your meal. Consider platters, bowls, baking dishes, serving spoons, spatulas, etc. Make sure you inventory your items well ahead of time so you can borrow or shop for what may be needed.
- Create a holiday centerpiece – Think about using a Michigan Apple theme and let your imagination go! One option is to fill a glass hurricane with red apples on a table runner and add in some seasonal snowflakes, greenery and candles. For a more traditional take, place a large candle on a silver or gold charger and surround the candle with fresh or artificial greens. Place bright red Michigan Apples and pinecones on the greens.
- Serve brunch buffet style – Keep things easy and casual by serving your brunch buffet style. Let guests know where the food line starts by stacking dishes at one end then arrange serving platters and bowls so they are easy to reach. You can have glasses, silverware and napkins preset at the table.
- Set up a drink station – Have a coffee and tea station in the kitchen, complete with holiday mugs, flavored creamers, sweeteners and spoons – include self-serve Holiday Apple Tea in a hot beverage dispenser (see recipe below). A Mimosa bar on a cart in the dining room will also be a hit with a variety of juice options, such as orange, cranberry and pineapple. Place chilled bottles of champagne in an ice bucket for easy self-serving. Don’t forget a pitcher of ice water and glasses.
- Add in some special fun surprises – Play some favorite holiday music in the background, or plan a small white elephant gift exchange. Have coloring pages available for the kids, or a simple non-messy craft. You could also set a small “gift” at each place setting such as wrapped holiday candy, a small ornament, or a homemade jar of Spiced Apple Butter (see recipe below).
Michigan Apple Inspired Brunch Menu:
Coffee and Tea Bar – Holiday Apple Tea (recipe below)
Mimosa Bar with a Variety of Fruit Juices
Apple and Sausage Breakfast Casserole (recipe below)
Apple Cinnamon French Toast Bake (recipe below)
Fresh Fruit Salad (Diced apples, oranges, grapes, berries)
HOLIDAY APPLE TEA
This warm and comforting tea is a perfect winter beverage to add to your holiday brunch. Set out honey or sugar for guests to sweeten if desired.
Makes 8 servings
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 (12-oz.) can frozen Michigan Apple juice concentrate
10 English Breakfast tea bags
Garnish: thin Michigan Apple slices
Place first 5 ingredients and 8 cups water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring until apple juice melts; remove from heat. Add tea bags. Cover; steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags.
Pour tea through a strainer, discarding solids. Place hot tea in a hot beverage dispenser if desired.
Have guests garnish tea with apple slices.
Adapted from Christmas with Southern Living
SAVORY APPLE AND SAUSAGE BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
Michigan Apples, turkey apple sausage and cheddar cheese come together in this delicious casserole to make a perfect savory holiday brunch dish.
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups 2% milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound French or sourdough bread cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Michigan Apples cored and finely diced
1 (11-12-ounce package) cooked apple chicken sausages, sliced then cut into half rounds
8 ounces shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Beat eggs, milk, mustard, sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.
Layer half the cubed bread into the casserole dish. Top with half the apple, half the sausage and half the cheese. Top with the remaining bread, apple and sausage. Save the remaining cheese in the refrigerator until later.
Pour the egg mixture over the casserole trying to moisten evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake casserole, covered, for approximately 50-60 minutes until the center begins to rise. Remove foil, top with the reserved cheese and continue baking until the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown; about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
APPLE CINNAMON FRENCH TOAST BAKE
This sweet brunch casserole is sure to appeal to both kids and adults and it’s loaded with fresh Michigan Apples.
1 lb. loaf whole grain baguette, cut into chunks
3 cups Michigan Apples, chopped (about 3 medium apples – try Honeycrisp, Fuji or Gala)
8 large eggs
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces and softened
Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Combine the bread and chopped apples and lay in an even layer in the bottom of the dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining casserole ingredients – eggs, milk, half and half, sugars, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour mixture evenly over bread and apples. Cover the casserole with foil and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake uncovered for approximately 35-40 minutes.
While casserole bakes, combine the dry ingredients for the streusel in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mash into the dry mixture until it forms a crumbly mixture.
Remove the casserole from the oven and add the streusel topping.
Place casserole back into oven and continue baking for 5 minutes, or until the streusel is melted over the top.
Serve the casserole warm with maple syrup.
Recipe adapted from LifeLoveandSugar.com
GIFT FROM YOUR KITCHEN
When your brunch is over, send guest home with a special homemade apple treat like these festive jars of Spiced Apple Butter:
6 pounds Michigan Apples, peeled, cored, and cubed (approx. 18 apples; try a mixture of both sweet and tart Michigan Apples)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup each, white and brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each, ground nutmeg and cardamom
1/4 teaspoon each, ground allspice and salt
Place the apples in a slow cooker and toss with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugars, vanilla, spices, and salt.
Blend the sugar mixture with the apples in the slow cooker until the apples are evenly coated.
Cook the apples for about 5 hours on high, or for about 10 hours on low, stirring every few hours, until the apples are soft.
Purée the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth, or transfer the mixture to a regular blender (use caution as the apples will be hot).
Return the puréed apple mixture to the slow cooker and cook on low for about 2 more hours, until thick and flavorful.
Carefully transfer apple butter into clean glass containers. Let cool before storing in the refrigerator. (Will keep for approximately 2-3 weeks).
Before gifting, add a label and decorate jars with a holiday ribbon, cinnamon sticks and a sprig of artificial greens and/or berries.