Parenting Key Rule #87: If you want to socialize with friends who have young children, it’s easiest to do it in one of your homes.
Luckily, I love cooking and hosting, and having two kids hasn’t changed that. Having brunch with friends and their kids can be fun, even with different dietary restrictions and preferences. You can imagine the scene: a 3-year-old eating a truly astonishing amount of grated cheddar cheese (confession: that’s my kid), a 4-year-old who hasn’t eaten vegetables in 2 years, a 6-year-old who’s definitely hungry. One-year-olds who claim to be hungry but not hungry, adults who just want a decent meal in a relatively quiet place, and babies in various stages of eating (or not eating) solids.
Creating a structured diet for everyone can be difficult, so I don’t. Instead, opt for deconstructed meals. After that, each guest can create their own dish and no one has to compromise.
Here are some mildly chaotic branches I’ve thrown for an ever-rotating group of 1, 2, or 3 other families. From 1.5 hours (you get a meltdown like a soccer game) to hanging almost all day (yes, we have snacks too).
Idea 1: Make your own fancy toast
Buy the kind of good bread that you slice with a proper bread knife.
To make (or buy): pea pestoegg salad, or chicken salad
lightly prepare: toasted bread, compound butter (or purchase), sliced tomatoes
For counter/table placement: Whole milk ricotta cheese, jam, fresh herbs such as mint and basil, olive oil, and flaky salt
Idea 2: DIY breakfast taco or breakfast potato bowl
There are several things to cook for this, all of which are very simple. All but the eggs can be made and kept warm early in the morning – making them when guests arrive.
To cook: Roasted potatoes, slightly spicy ground turkey (a spoonful of finely chopped canned chipotle adobo is the main ingredient), scrambled eggs, and caramelized onions.
For counter/table placement: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, arugula, hot sauce of your choice, tortillas (optional)
Idea 3: Choose Your Own Adventure Oatmeal
Make a large pot of oatmeal and keep it on the stove. The rest is seasoning. Place the savory ingredients on one side of the counter/table and the sweet ingredients on the other side.
For savory: grated parm, seared mushrooms, chopped green onions, fish sauce, soy sauce, chilli crisps
Sweet stuff: raisins, brown sugar, walnuts, honey, jam, chocolate chips, shredded coconut
These are the perfect kind of meals to eat anywhere. On the couch when you cuddle your baby, on the floor as you let your toddler get off it, and on the floor while you create your Play-Doh masterpiece. No one expects the atmosphere of sitting around the dining room table. Decent meals that integrate seamlessly with Lego, snippets of conversation, pillow forts, and discussions of local politics because you care about the city council elections. , a brave search for the missing stuffed puffin mango, asking if there’s a dermatologist to recommend. I’m doing it.
It’s delicious, messy, sometimes stressful, but usually great.
What is the theme of Mildly Chaotic Brunch? I want more!
Carrie Police I am an editorial consultant and content strategist living in Washington DC with my wife and two sons. She also has a newsletter. cheese book restaurant stuff.
PS Genius Trader Joe’s breakfast hack and super easy dinner party.
(Illustration provided by: Somali Roy for Cup of Joe)