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The Backyard Brunch

Blueprint, 2007

Throw a Sunday morning meal that parents and their little ones can enjoy -- thanks to a kid-friendly, make-ahead buffet and some fun (read: distracting) activities.

The Recipes
Ham, Swiss, and Tomato Strata
Homemade Granola
Strawberry Cake with Whipped Cream
Apricot-Grapefruit Juice
Bloody Mary



The Plan
A few days before your brunch
Head to the grocery store.
Make the granola. It can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

The night before
Assemble the strata, cover, and then refrigerate.
Bake the cake. Allow it to cool, then cover the layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Mix apricot-grapefruit juice and refrigerate.
Prepare the Bloody Mary mix and refrigerate.
Make vinaigrette. Refrigerate.

The morning of
Whip the cream, assemble the cake, and decorate it with the strawberries.
Cut up the kids crudites and fruit. Place in bowls, then cover and refrigerate.

One and a half hours before guests arrive
Bake the strata.
Set out the toaster station.Keep bread covered with a barely damp towel until guests show up.

As guests arrive
Set out the parfait-making station.
Make fresh coffee, and put out drink carafes and fruit.
Froth milk.
Place the crudites and mugs of juice on the kids' grazing buffet.
Toss the salad.

The Decor
The backdrop for our party was Richard Feifer and Doris Chuns home in Brooklyn, NY. We brightened the yard with vibrant chairs, inexpensive side tables for the kids' grazing buffet, and a fiery orange quilted throw. Urban" chairs, $40 each, and "Lack side tables, $13 each, ikea.com for stores. Blanket, $125, utilitycanvas.com

Adults Table
Instead of using a tablecloth or a long runner, Blueprint made four short runners -- in orange and lime -- and placed them across the width of the table (below). They can be reused later for a dinner for two or on a coffee table. "Judy" linen, $6.50 per yard, graylinelinen.com. Mud Australia medium square platters, $40 each, vivionline.com. Caccia" flat-ware, $71 per four-piece setting, Alessi, 212-941-7300. Iittala "Ego Breakfast" cups, $26 each, finnstyle.com

Kids Buffet
On a few low tables (below left), set out mugs of juice, colorful fruits, veggies, and string cheese so children can help themselves without spoiling their appetites for the main meal. Plastic cafeteria-style trays (below right) make it easy to transport goodies from table to blanket. Sectional trays, $2 each, doitbest.com. Heller Max 1" mugs, $6 each, 212-685-4200 for stores.

Food for All Ages
The secret to a successful menu? Never forget who your guests are. Choking hazards like grapes and whole nuts put parents on edge; weird-looking crudites or strong-smelling cheeses intimidate tots. For this buffet, Blueprint went with sophisticated yet kid-friendly fare that ranged from the sweet to the savory: a yogurt-and-granola bar, a ham-and-cheese strata, and a strawberry cake layered with clouds of whipped cream.

Toaster Station
Set out a toaster and pre-sliced whole-grain bread, butter, honey, and jams. Try a mix of gourmet preserves to make the offerings feel a bit more special (we like Sarabeths Legendary Spreadable Fruit, $10, sarabeths.com). Peanut butter provides a sandwich option, but check first that no child has an allergy (and never serve honey to any child less than a year old).

Strata
A strata -- literally, layers -- is a savory bread casserole. Essentially, you pour an egg mixture over bread and cheese and let it soak in overnight. Then the strata is baked until golden brown. We added tomatoes and diced Virginia ham, though prosciutto or cooked bacon can be substituted for the ham. Serve with a mixed-green salad tossed with a basic vinaigrette.

DIY Parfaits
Though its actually very easy to make, nothing says you care like homemade granola -- especially this version with toasted coconut and dried tart cherries. Serve it with a creamy, rich yogurt (we like Stonyfield Farm Organic vanilla yogurt) and fresh berries, and have guests layer to their liking. Feel free to set out plain yogurt instead -- just make sure there's enough honey at the toaster station.

Drinks
Pairing warm, frothy milk with strong coffee transforms the average urn offering and a mug of the milk with honey can also delight a kid. Just pump the milk full of air in a frother, then microwave it for 30-50 seconds ("Chambord" milk frother, $30, bodumusa.com). Instead of OJ, fill carafes with apricot-grapefruit juice and Bloody Mary mix. Chill bottles of Champagne and vodka to give adults the option to spike drinks.

Diversionary Tactics
Place a few toys on a picnic blanket to engage children. Beach balls (below), Frisbees, pads of paper and crayons, bottles of bubbles, or jump ropes do the trick. Depending on the weather, you might want to provide a gently running hose with plastic bowls for playing. As the party winds down and the children tire, you can offer to play a DVD -- but check with your guests, as some parents may not want their children tempted.