Help-yourself breakfast buffet makes it easy on host, guests

  • This September 2017 photo taken in New York shows mini banana bread. Setting out breakfast for your guests to help themselves when they wake up in the morning is a low-stress, make ahead way for you to offer the morning meal. (Sarah Crowder/Katie Workman via AP)
  • This April 2018 photo shows a leek, mushroom and goat cheese quiche in New York. Setting out breakfast for your guests to help themselves to when they wake up in the morning is a low-stress, make ahead way for you to offer the morning meal. (Mia/Katie Workman via AP)
  • This April 2018 photo shows a leek, mushroom and goat cheese quiche in New York. Setting out breakfast for your guests to help themselves to when they wake up in the morning is a low-stress, make ahead way for you to offer the morning meal. (Mia/Katie Workman via AP)
  • This September 2017 photo taken in New York shows mini banana bread. Setting out breakfast for your guests to help themselves when they wake up in the morning is a low-stress, make ahead way for you to offer the morning meal. (Sarah Crowder/Katie Workman via AP)

Let’s say guests are staying with you for some part of the holiday. You’ve planned a beautiful, robust holiday dinner. You’ve even been prescient enough to make a big batch of soup and buy a graze board’s supply of cheeses, charcuterie, olives, etc. for a casual midday meal. You’ve made the beds, laid out fresh towels, remembered to bump up your wine reserves.

You are ready for your houseguests.

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But yikes, you didn’t think about breakfast. And really, the thought of setting an alarm early to start griddling up omelets when there is so much else to do … no, just no.

Not only is that perfectly OK, it can work in everyone’s favor: An early, full-on, sit-down breakfast means your guests and family also feel obligated to get up at a certain time, whether to help or merely to eat.

A help-yourself breakfast spread checks a lot of boxes. Your guests can relax and start their day at their own speed.

Simply make or buy an assortment of attractive, delicious morning foods. Leave out what can be left out overnight, of course, and in the morning either pull out the refrigerated items yourself or leave a cheery little note for your people, telling them what can be found in the fridge.

Here’s a selection of breakfast buffet items and how best to store them overnight.

At room temperature

Muffins, quick breads, coffee cakes and scones. Consider berry-studded muffins topped with a sweet crumbly layer of buttery streusel topping, or cute one- or two-person mini banana breads, which are also great midday snacks. Remember that many of these things can be made ahead and frozen.

Bagels, croissants, breads

Jams, jellies, honey

Butter

Assorted cheeses

Sausages and charcuterie

Hardier fruits, like apples, pears, oranges, bananas

Granola, muesli, cereals

In the fridge

Softer fruits like cubed melon, or pineapple, berries and grapes, or fruit salad

Cream cheese

Lemon curd

Hardboiled eggs

Frittatas and quiches, such as a vegetarian quiche filled with goat cheese, mushrooms and leeks suspended in a creamy but fluffy egg-based filling.

Milk, juices and other cold drinks

Smoked salmon or other fish

Coffee station

If you have a programmable coffee pot, set it for the early risers. If you have a single-serve pod coffee maker, leave out an assortment of capsules, from coffees to milk chocolate to teas. A bowl of tea bags can also be left out, near a kettle filled with water. Don’t forget sweeteners, spoons, and some sort of milk or creamer in the fridge.

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Leave out a stack of small plates, bowls, napkins and utensils, along with glasses and mugs. Make sure there are serving utensils for everything, and knives for cutting breads, quiches, cheeses etc. Make a toaster (and a trash can!) self-evident.

And in the morning when you hear activity starting in the kitchen, you can decide whether to rise and shine and join your guests or press snooze one more time.

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