We’re taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the week before Christmas to share the winter brunch we did this past weekend as our latest Target Inner Circle activity (more on the Target Inner Circle here). They gave us a gift card and unleashed us to create our ideal Christmas get together.
Greg and I went through a lot of different “party scenarios” in our heads and finally decided on a “Baby It’s Cold Outside” brunch. We ultimately decided to do a brunch rather than an evening party because we thought it would be something different. By this time in the holiday season, almost everyone has had enough of the typical cheese trays, spinach dips and ham, so we thought we would switch it up a little by bringing in some comforting breakfast food. Who doesn’t love breakfast food? Another upside to having a brunch is it didn’t interfere with our friends and family’s party schedules.
As for the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” part, we’re fans of the song (it was on the playlist at our wedding reception), and we thought it would be fun to bring the outdoors in, in a simple rustic way. It didn’t hurt that we have a thing for twigs, berries and faux snow. It makes my heart happy. As a side note, you could really do this sort of party on New Year’s Day or even into January and February. Add a few hearts here and there, and it would be a great Valentine’s Day brunch. So, without further ado, our party…
For the menu, we wanted good comfort food. Here’s what we put together…
We’re putting together a post with all of the recipes, but for this post, we’re just going to talk about the plating and decorating (my favorite part!). Let’s start with the dining area buffet, which we used as a hot chocolate station…
Greg made the chalkboard using a piece of sanded plywood and a few pieces of simple 2″ x 1/4″ trim. He cut the trim pieces to size, stained them with a mixture of Minwax’s Special Walnut and Dark Walnut, then “Liquid Nails-ed” them straight to the chalkboard-painted plywood. Easy peasy! After the paint was cured, it was time to chalk it up. To get the chalk good and dark, I dipped the chalk in water before using it on the board (this has been one of my favorite tricks over the past few months when I write on the laundry room memo board).
On the table, we have everything you need to make the perfect cup of classic hot chocolate…
These carafes come in a set of two. Each has a different colored button on the top that’s typically one for decaf and one for regular. But since we were doing hot chocolate, we used one for Archer Farm’s Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate and the other for their Sea Salt Caramel Hot Chocolate (my favorite!).
We also had a jar of mini marshmallows, jumbo marshmallows (these were a big hit!) and a tumbler filled with candy canes to use at stirrers for a hint of peppermint.
The trees on either side of the buffet are probably our favorite additions to our Christmas decorations (you can find them here). They are very snowy and were perfect for our “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme. They also have little white lights (also covered in snow) that look so pretty lit up at night.
Over on the dining table was the spread of our yummy comfort food. In the center was a large hurricane filled with faux snow, and “icy” and berry limbs. This added a lot of needed height and tied in with the whole “cold outside” theme.
We decided to nix a table cloth and scatter white snowflakes here and there. The snowflakes are actually ornaments; we just cut off the string. I like how they really stood out against the dark brown table.
Now, the food…
Our family always insists that my mom make her famous sausage balls every year, so these were an absolute must. They are so, so good – especially with some honey mustard to dip them in. To dress them up a little, we added a cake pop stick (they can be found in the waffle maker section at Target) and a bit of paper tape wrapped around the top. The Target knit sweater tray helps subtly tie in the with the “cold” part of the theme.
For something a little on the lighter side, I filled some brown paper cups with blackberry preserves on the bottom, Greek yogurt, a fresh blackberry on top and a small wooden spoon.
Another family favorite around here is what we call “Breakfast Casserole”. We normally bake it in a large 13×9 casserole dish, but for the brunch, we thought it would be fun to bake mini versions in small ramekins. These tiny ramekins are so stinking cute. I think they can give pretty much any food an instant cute factor.
We had two of these domed cake plates, one filled with Christmas donuts and the other with pumpkin and blueberry muffins. Tip: If you go to your local Dunkin’ Donuts, you can special order their Christmas donuts with whatever flavor/icing combination you want and pick them up the next morning. I absolutely love the simple modern design of the cake plate, and am already thinking of other yummy things that will look good in them.
You can’t have a brunch with comfort food in Virginia without cheese grits. To put a new spin on them, we put the grits in small juice glasses (similar to these) and topped them with some cheddar cheese (of course!). We put them on a red tray so the white grits would really pop.
This was probably one of my favorite things to prep! We lined up a bunch of “bitty bite” glasses on a large square platter and filled them with organic maple syrup. Then, we put a French toast stick in each glass. I think it’s a fun, modern take on French toast, and the whole presentation came out looking even cuter than I expected, haha.
Fruit skewers are another favorite thing of ours around here. We used these cute little snowflake picks to make mini versions. Oh, and the fruit dip. This is seriously this best fruit dip in the world – and so easy to make! Like I said earlier, we’re doing a separate post with all of the recipes but this one it too easy not to share now. All it is is a package of cream cheese and a small container of marshmallow fluff. That’s it. Seriously, it’s so good!
Ready for some cuteness…?
These are kind of like our Christmas version of the Little Gobblers we do for Thanksgiving. They are so very easy to assemble, and this red tray is my new favorite thing to display them on. The white powdered doughnuts really stand out and make for a really Christmas-y look.
Another southern favorite is ham biscuits. My family has them at pretty much every gathering around this time of year. They are so, so good! The white knit tray was the perfect size for these and a nice subtle nod to the “cold” aspect of our theme.
Over on the sofa table, we set up orange juice, milk and napkins (we had the plates, forks and some soda options over in the kitchen).
For the orange juice and milk glasses, we used Starbucks Frappuccino bottles (they look JUST like the ones you buy at the specialty party boutiques and on Etsy) and sat them down in some snow. Yep, real snow! Okay… it’s really so rather than being made by the clouds way up high, we used a cute little snow cone maker. It was a lot of fun to use and everyone really got a kick out of our snowy drink station.
To add some color, we went with red, blue, green and cream napkins (in Target’s Threshold collection). I rolled them up and tied them with a brown polka dot ribbon and two little jingle bells. I put them all in a metal tub I found in the “Dollar Spot” at Target. The dollar spot gets me every time, haha!
To add some more “outside” elements to the decor, we put this awesome twig runner (also from the Threshold line) on the sofa table.
Every good party ends with a memorable favor. Instead of just giving everyone something to take home with them, we thought it would be fun to do something with a little DIY twist.
We set out a tray of white porcelain coffee mugs along with a couple of tumblers filled with red, green, black and metallic Sharpies. Throughout the morning, people decorated their mugs and wrote their name on the bottom of the mug so I’d know who each one belonged to.
Everyone had a lot of fun decorating their mugs and, the kraft paper came in handy for people to try out their design before they drew it on the mug.
While everyone was mingling and eating, I popped the pan of decorated mugs in the oven on 350 for about 20 minutes. This process “bakes on” the Sharpie and makes the designs permanent. Once they cooled, which only took a few minutes, I slipped into the laundry room and quickly put each mug in a cellophane bag, added a few packets of hot chocolate, and tied it with a brown ribbon, name tag and a tiny mitten ornament. This was a big hit with everyone, and I definitely want to come up with another “interactive favor” like this for next year’s party.
We really had a blast putting all of this together, and we’re really glad our family and friends enjoyed themselves. Are you guys planning anything this weekend, or are you all partied out? We’re planning on just relaxing and taking some good old fashioned time off with our family this weekend, intermingled with a few trips of last-minute shopping, of course! Please be safe and have a great weekend!
Update: Check out all of our recipes in this post!