Food & Home

Unfussy Recipes (and Tips) for Hosting a Weekend Brunch

Written by: Margaret Willes


Published on: March 7, 2024

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Photo courtesy of Dane Tashima

Lidey Heuck will take any excuse to throw a good old-fashioned dinner party, or lunch party, or brunch party—after all, she is the protégé of Ina Garten, the queen of entertaining. But she also knows that some days, getting a homemade meal on the table can be a real struggle.

In her debut cookbook, Cooking in Real Life (out March 12), the Hudson Valley–based recipe developer takes a dual-sided approach to home cooking: While she embraces the practicality of a 15-minute salmon, she also unveils the magic of a showstopping short-rib dinner—and makes simple yet memorable meals easier than ever. Below, Heuck shares recipes for a low-key brunch at home, plus a few foolproof entertaining tips (including one she learned from the Barefoot Contessa herself).

  1. Lidey Heuck
    Cooking in Real Life
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  • Winter Fruit Salad

    Winter Fruit Salad

    Here, Heuck cleverly treats a bowl of fruit almost as if it were a green salad, dressing it with olive oil to balance the acidity of the citrus. “It’s a great example of how with a few tweaks, you can take something that is basically a fruit cup and make it into something that feels elevated,” she says.


  • Red Potato and Leek Frittata with Goat Cheese and Dill

    Red Potato and Leek Frittata with Goat Cheese and Dill

    With fresh dill and hardy leeks, this frittata hints at spring and is a surprisingly simple way to impress your guests. “It’s just a great centerpiece brunch dish that could feel very festive if you’re serving it as part of a spread, but it also could be a really hearty regular breakfast, too,” Heuck says.


  • Plum, Cardamom, and Cornmeal Muffins

    Plum, Cardamom, and Cornmeal Muffins

    “I think cardamom is always a little bit of a surprising spice in a baked good, and a little more interesting than cinnamon,” Heuck says of these fragrant muffins. They’re inspired by a cake she enjoyed while visiting a friend in San Francisco, and they’re easily adaptable if plums aren’t available. Strawberries, raspberries, and apples would all make worthy substitutes.



When you’re throwing any type of party, menu planning can be half the battle (see the first tip below for Heuck’s go-to formula). But with a few other simple strategies, you can ensure that you spend less time in the kitchen and more time mingling with your guests.

  1. Center the menu around one larger dish. For brunch, Heuck loves a baked main such as a frittata (like the one above) or a breakfast casserole, complemented by a few smaller dishes such as a fruit salad or a baked good. If you’re expecting a crowd, try making two versions of the same dish, perhaps throwing meat in one and leaving the other vegetarian.
  2. Work ahead. “Getting as much done in advance is huge when you’re hosting any kind of event,” Heuck says. You’ll have to be especially strategic with a brunch, she adds, because you won’t have as much prep time on the day of. Thankfully, dishes like the frittata can be fully prepped ahead of time—just serve it at room temperature if you’re baking it the day before. Even getting ahead of small tasks, like chopping up fruit, will help alleviate preparty stress.
  3. Delegate. Whether it’s having your guests bring a box of doughnuts or a carton of fresh-squeezed juice, enlist their help. “People love to help and feel involved, and then it’s also less work for you as the host,” she says. “So I think it’s a win-win.”
  4. Set up a self-serve drink area. Heuck often keeps it casual with a station for drinks, setting out pitchers of festive beverages (she suggests a mimosa or a couple of different juices) and empty glasses so guests can help themselves.
  5. Focus on simplicity. “Simplicity, just as a general concept, is something that I’ve learned from Ina in many ways,” she says. “Simple food is always better—simple food with really good-quality ingredients. You don’t need to go over-the-top crazy trying to impress people.” The same goes for the décor and table setting: In fact, Heuck rarely sets the table for brunch—she enjoys the coziness of having her guests eat on the couch.