Simple meals that feel really fancy: Brunch at home edition

It has been a LONG time since we’ve been able to go to a fun brunch place in the city.   DH has been baking up a storm, which helps with the bread situation, but even if he wasn’t, one of our groceries in town makes decent bread from its bakery (not great bread, but you know, decent), as does one of the sandwich shops that does delivery.  With decent bread it turns out it’s relatively easy to make a few restaurant quality, or at least nice coffee-shop quality, foods that I often pick when I’m ordering from a trendy place in the city.

The first super easy thing is Ricotta toast.  A nice thick slice of bakery quality bread.  Then a thick smear of Ricotta from the dairy section of the grocery store.  Then I will usually put on a nice jam.  (We have been eating a LOT of nice jam).  That’s all there is to it, but it feels really fancy and it tastes so good.

Avocado toast.  We have been buying a LOT of avocados because they’re a way to up the fanciness of a ton of different foods.  Even the simplest version with sliced avocados on a piece of regular sliced bread toast is delish and indulgent.  But you can fancy it up by adding salad/tomato/cheeses/fancy seasoning/fancy sauces/eggs/etc.  There are tons of suggestions on the internet for things to add.

Burrata with tomatoes or grapes.  One of our local grocery stores finally started carrying burrata and I am in heaven.  (I got addicted to it in paradise and for a long time only got it at a couple of the fancy restaurants in town when we had speakers or job candidates.)  If you’ve got grape tomatoes, you can quickly cook them until their skins burst with some salt and balsamic vinegar, then place them next to the burrata on a plate and finish with some nice olive oil.  Or roast grapes for a different experience.  Then eat with nice crackers or breads.

Roasted vegetables and starches.  Roasting vegetables and potatoes and sweet potatoes etc. is just GOOD.  And when you have leftover, you can add them to other foods to fancy them up.  Leftover beets or eggplant or even roasted potatoes just add a special something to comfort foods that elevate them to something you’d pick off a restaurant menu.

Fancy grilled cheese.  Plain grilled cheese is great (especially dipped in tomato soup), but you can fancy it up just by adding things to the sandwich before grilling.  Put in your favorite veggies (especially roasted, or maybe a thick chunk of fresh tomato and/or avocado, or fresh herbs).  Fruit or jam is another direction to go.

Fancy quesadillas.  Same idea as the grilled cheese, except in a tortilla wrapper.  DC1 recently added fried potatoes and that was pretty amazing.

Random stuff in a pita.  Scalzi puts things in burrito wraps, but you can do the same thing with a pita and suddenly it becomes fancy.  Leftover vegetables (I often have beets) with feta, hummus or tahini or even just yogurt tend to go really well in a pita sandwich wrapper and just taste good.

Bake stuff on flatbreads.  Which is a fancy way of saying make pizza without baking pizza dough.  But if you use a nice flatbread and add herbs and a cheese and a vegetable (tomatoes, roasted eggplant, etc.) or onions or cooked potatoes.

Fancy salad greens with a fancy vinegar.  Grocery stores just sell fancy mixed greens that all you have to do is wash.  Add fresh mozarella and sliced tomatoes while tomato season is still upon us.

Flavored fizzy water.  Get some syrups, or if you don’t want the extra sugar, order fancy balsamic vinegars (with the money you’ve been saving not going out to eat…) to add to carbonated water.  Elderberry syrup is another good addition that is sometimes hidden in the homeopathy part of the grocery store.  Or just increase your La Croix and related beverages consumption.  (Bonus fanciness points for using a metal straw.)

Loose leaf tea.  Sometimes maligned as not being a cure-all, but loose leaf teas are usually better quality than tea bags and there’s a lot of flavors to try.  I like mixing hibiscus and mint, but my new favorite tea is definitely Tulsi (aka Holy Basil).

You can also just add things to your regular meals.  Open up your fancy spreads and dips.  Experiment with fancy hot sauces.  Now is the time to open random bottles that you’ve been saving in your pantry or the back of your fridge for the right meal or the right guest.  The right meal is now and you are the right guest.

Add avocados and beets and pistachios to things.  Or fresh herbs— we’ve been doing a lot of buying of cilantro and parsley since only mint seems to stay alive in our garden.  Parmesan flakes also elevate foods.

None of these things take that much time– they’re quick weekday style meals (even if we usually eat them on weekends out) and make great breakfasts and lunches (or quick dinners).  But they’ve been helping me when I feel like I’m missing out on eating out in the city.

What fancy quick meals do you recommend?  What have you been eating?

40 Responses to “Simple meals that feel really fancy: Brunch at home edition”

  1. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    Simple, fancy breakfasts:
    – extra spice toppings (za’atar, harissa, sesame seeds) over simple meals like soft boiled egg and avocado
    – chia puddings with berries or slivered almonds on top
    – layered smoothies: blend base then add colorful fruit then blend top
    – more work unless you have a bakery nearby, but stove-grilled muffins or banana bread are delicious

  2. Chelsea Says:

    Pesto! Topping a pizza with a big blob of arugula and drizzling some balsamic vinegar on top. Adding sauteed mushrooms and fresh garlic to things. Dill pickle slices on grilled cheese. Fancy nachos as a variation of fancy grilled cheese or fancy quesadillas.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Absolutely!

      And if you want to be super simple, you can try out various jarred pestos from the grocery store (or make a huge batch and freeze it in usable quantities for later).

      And you can go all fusiony with fancy nachos. Indian goes especially well.

  3. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    We do an easy meal that we call Yuppie Hamburger Helper. Pasta or cauliflower rice or the base of your choice, a protein (tofu, baked salmon, chicken strips, sausage slices) and then stuff from jars: olives, roasted red pepper, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, etc., And any kind of sauce.

    Also taco night with prechopped coleslaw mix, cook a protein, open some beans and salsa and cheese, maybe chop some peppers and avocado, it’s dinner.

    I love roasted veggies so much! Especially beets and parsnips. Mostly do it in winter though because it heats up the house so much.

  4. Michael Nitabach Says:

    Burrata is a sooooo fucken good!!!

  5. CG Says:

    Another choice for cherry tomatoes: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-pickle-cherry-tomatoes-234385. We really like these and use them as you suggest above. They keep for a while and get more garlicky with time!

  6. FF Says:

    Homemade popovers are great for fancy brunch. I use this super-easy recipe from King Arthur. https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/popovers-recipe

  7. Debbie M Says:

    My boyfriend fancies up fizzy water by adding grapefruit juice. It stretches the grapefruit juice and is cheaper than La Croix.

    I like to add lemon curd or coconut curd to plain yogurt. Your favorite jams would probably also be good. Also fruit. (Coconut curd plus pineapple, even canned pineapple, in yogurt is my favorite. Can’t figure out where I got that coconut curd from, though.)

    Even normal salad greens with extra random stuff can become fancy. Like feta and apples.

    Also, peanut butter makes apples fancy(-er). And graham crackers.

    I’ve been eating a lot of breakfast tacos. Some are filled with “shipwreck” (eggs and stuff–I add veggie sausage and cheese) or migas (I make mine with eggs, salsa, tortilla chips, and cheese).

    I fancify my toast or English muffins with cinnamon sugar. My parents like to add the butter (or garlic butter) and some parmesan cheese first, then toast in a toaster oven (or regular oven).

    Hot cocoa is a simple luxury, but not as easy as using the instant packets. To one mug of milk I add two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of cocoa and heat it on the stove in a pan until the sugar is dissolved and everything can be mixed properly. (I’m not sure if my mug holds 6 or 8 ounces.) But then you have to clean the pan and the measuring spoon and the stirring implement as well as the cup. Then one could add whipped cream, marshmallows, vanilla, cinnamon, or some combination, but the dark chocolate is fancy enough for me.

    And I eat my veggie burgers on real hamburger buns instead of just sandwich bread for fanciness. My favorite fancy sandwich is Boar’s Head deli turkey, muenster cheese, mayonnaise, and maybe some basil on onion rolls.

    Cream + almost any canned tomato product = delicious soup. I sometimes add a slice of deli meat or tomato to my grilled cheese.

    My aunt likes to slice a banana into a bowl and pour orange juice over it for a breakfast dish.

    My sister likes sweetened condensed milk on pancakes and French toast.

    My boyfriend learned that if you dice potatoes (pre-diced frozen potatoes might work) and microwave them until soft, you can then saute them fairly quickly for delicious breakfast potatoes. Adding salt and maybe some chili powder normally takes care of my urges for fries.

  8. middle_class Says:

    Burrata is amazing. I would recommend just adding salt and extra virgin olive oil without balsamic vinegar though. I like using gruyere, fontina or other ‘fancy’ cheeses to make grilled cheese sandwich fancier.

    If I drink orange juice and coffee, I always feel like I am having a fancier breakfast.

  9. Lisa Says:

    Sauteed greens make a fried egg feel fancier to me. If I happen to have a side of sourdough toast with fancy jam, so much the better! Another thing we’ve enjoyed a lot this summer is potstickers (https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/05/spring-vegetable-potstickers/). Not exactly quick, but it doesn’t take too long to make a batch with the kids helping in an assembly line. Now that we’re in peak produce season, sometimes I’ll just make veggies for dinner (often on Thursdays, which is when we get our CSA box). Beet salad with goat cheese and arugula feels fancy, and corn on the cob isn’t fancy but it is yummy. We’re on team hot chocolate 100%! We use a lot of the powdered mix (which is so bad for us, but so yummy and easy). But in the winter, I’ll up our game – I have a hot chocolate maker and add milk, some high quality powdered cocoa and even some blocks of chocolate and let it stir. It warms everything up and adds a bit of froth as it dispenses into each mug. Also with a crushed candy cane! I wish it wasn’t 100 degrees today!

  10. Matthew D Healy Says:

    We’re in Iowa so for a simple but delicious summer meal we often do LOCAL 🌽 on the cob, LOCAL 🍅 with herbs from pots on our deck, WISCONSIN cheese, and soup.

    The soup was made on the weekend, by adding fresh produce and canned garbanzo beans to the remainder of the old soup. Used to often be Goya canned garbanzo beans but now we use another brand.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Too bad Goya decided to throw their lot in with the Trump administration. Ugh. (Though we’ve always just bought the store brand… hopefully not also Goya under a cheaper label, but if it is then at least they’re getting less markup for it.)

      • Lisa Says:

        Gotta put in a plug for Rancho Gordo dried beans – a lucky pandemic find for us! They are really amazing, stick in a crock pot for the day and they’re much better than canned beans. They make the best soup, chili, black beans, etc. Although I also use canned beans and like them, too. Now I’m wondering where our store brand canned beans come from…

  11. SP Says:

    For easy fancy brunch: bagel creme fraiche, smoked salmon/lox, capers. Also been doing caprese sandwiches (with crushed red pepper), but also can do them on toothpicks with the little mozerlla balls. I bought some marash red pepper to fancy up my avocado toast, copying a local cafe.

    I made gazpacho this weekend which is yummy on a hot day, but a bit of work with all the chopping and such.

    Roasted or grilled peach with goat cheese and honey.

    To fancy up a taco or mexican dish, mix sour cream with some canned adobo pepper (can add mayo too).

    Also, good bread can be turned into any sort of little crostini / bruschetta. That works will with your burrata sections. Also can be done with good fresh anchovies and the right spread… we had a “recipe” for that once.

    Capistrano olives.

  12. omdg Says:

    My husband learned how to make tzatziki sauce this weekend which made otherwise boring fish taste amazing.

  13. Alice Says:

    Not a meal, but you mentioned a hot beverage in there. I adore Harney and Sons’ Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. I’ve taken to ordering the bags of the loose kind so as not to be too awash in tins. (Though I pour the bag’s tea into the tins I already have, because I like the tins.)

    Highly, highly recommend if you like cinnamon. It’s an integral part of my Good Start to the Day routine.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Lovely. We picked up some Harney and Sons from a tea/pastries/nitrogen ice cream shop in a city suburb. Man, I hope that place stays in business. It’s good stuff.

      Cinnamon tea reminds me of Cost Plus as a kid, back before it became a big chain.

  14. Leah Says:

    We have a nice bakery in town, so we love getting a loaf of foccacia and using some fancy dipping oils with it. We have not been doing a lot of decadent meals, but it has been nice to eat at home (not the dining hall) — I have not gained much weight this pregnancy. That’s actually planned and a good thing, as my doctor suggested I target a 15 pound gain. I am right on track for that.

    Big decadences include a little more convenience food from Trader Joe’s (when we can get up to the cities), mochi ice cream (Target carries it now!!), and making homemade lemonade with the kids. One of our neighbors also gave us a portable fire pit/stand thing, so we’ve also made s’mores a few times.

  15. Rick Rodriguez Says:

    I cook quick and healthy chips in the microwave. You need to very thinly chop the potatoes, put them on a dish. Spices to taste and send to themicrowave until tender. My children love them very much.


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