My favorite part of any holiday is the food, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are no exception. What I want most this year is to sit around the table with family eating and laughing. One of my new favorite ways to make everybody happy, including me, the cook, is to set up one of these easy food bars. Because I don’t want to be rushing around the kitchen, stressing about cooking, and missing all the good conversation. And I really, really don’t want my kids to whine about the food either.
Setting up a food bar is easy, even at the last minute, since it can be put together from either homemade or store bought food; a combination works, too! Food bars also work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, so you can make one of these for any kind of entertaining, no matter what time of day you’re celebrating.
It’s really as simple as putting out toppings in bowls and letting everyone make their own meal just the way they like it. Whoo!
Top: French toast bar | What’s Gaby Cooking?
French Toast Bar
It’s kind of cliche, but I do love brunch for Mother’s Day. Or any day. To put a fun twist on it, set up a French toast bar with these tips from What’s Gaby Cooking? While you’re making the French toast — maybe this Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast at Damn Delicious that can be made ahead — you can have the kids fill bowls with toppings. I’m dying over Gaby’s Nutella and lemon curd topping ideas. (Not together.) My kids would request chocolate chips, coconut, sliced bananas, peanut butter, or ricotta cheese. Add a side of bacon, but make it easy on yourself by cooking it in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. So much better than standing over a frying pan of hot grease when you have a crowd.
Bruschetta or Crostini Bar
If you’re going for a savory meal, set up a bruschetta appetizer bar for your guests like this beautiful spread from What’s Gaby Cooking? where we always find nifty ideas. If you’re not craving Italian flavors, you can let everyone choose their own toppings by putting together an easy crostini bar. We love the range of sweet to savory toppings on the one at Honestly Yum. Either way, you can easily swap in store bought ingredients to make this at the last minute. This is a smart way to keep your guests nibbling while they wait for the main course or just call it lunch. Works for me!
There’s no reason why Mom can’t crave a taco bar from Wicked Tacos [note: site is no longer up] —don’t forget one of these amazing margarita recipes—over quiche for Mother’s Day. I love that this spread at Wicked Tacos Online has so many easy options that can be pulled together with minimal effort. Grilled shrimp takes no time, seasoned beef can be made ahead, and verde chicken is as easy as mixing together rotisserie chicken and your favorite green salsa. Want a vegetarian option? The pinto bean recipe comes together in a snap. Lots of salsas and sauces is a good idea, too. You can get store bought or try my current favorite: ranch dressing with a handful of cilantro and some jalapeños in the blender. Yum!
It’s not just for weddings! To make a fun, easy dessert bar, whip up some panna cotta or one of our favorite simple pudding recipes (which the kids will love!) and let them chill in individual jars. If you don’t have time for such things, you can always buy pudding at the store. When it’s time for dessert, set out different toppings, from chocolate sauce to fresh berries with herbs, like the ones pictured here from Food 52. It’s a light finish that is still incredibly delicious. And so, so easy. Of course, there are always cookies, cakes, or other baked goods.
Mother’s Day is a pretty good excuse to splurge on a drink with more flavor. It’s so easy to set out iced tea with fruit juices splashed in for a kick of flavor; my favorite is tea with orange and pineapple juice and a bit of ginger ale. Or go classic with a mimosa bar like this pretty one with fresh fruit garnishes at Green Wedding Shoes. Isn’t that clever? Just set out a bottle of Sprite or Ginger Ale for those who don’t want the alcoholic version.
An important note: Please, please, please mamas, do not stress about your food bar looking as picture-perfect as these do. Mother’s Day is about celebrating our mothers, not being queen of Pinterest. That said, if you mix-and-match your dishes, add natural touches like a cutting board, a wooden spoon, or some craft paper, and make your textures interesting with pretty dish towels or cloth napkins you can wow your guests, too without a lot of effort. Have fun, relax, and enjoy your day with your family. You deserve it!