Last weekend, I hosted eight 5th grade girls for a slumber party to celebrate my daughter Belle turning the big 11. This was not our first rodeo—last year Belle had her first birthday slumber party and what I’ve learned thus far from both experiences is the following:
-No matter what you do, the girls will still be wide awake and giggling like lunatics at 2am.
-A revolving disco light from the dollar store is the only decoration you need.
-If scary stories happen then you will have children, who are not your own, creeping into your room at 2am.
-Cell phones are party-fun killers, so collect them all in a bowl at the beginning of the night and hold them hostage ‘till morning.
-Light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-board is still the most fun you can have in pajamas (one of Belle’s friends screamed out “this is voodoo!” the first time it worked).
-And if you’re gonna bust out with one meal, make it breakfast instead of dinner.
Because it’s more fun, unexpected, and easy. And I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that despite what it may seem, I’m not the kind of mom who typically creates elaborate and whimsical dishes for child-related events. I have never sculpted a Pixar-themed birthday cake out of fondant, or scissorhanded a hot dog to look like an octopus, or assembled a rainbow fruit kabob. I learned my lesson early on when once, just once, I made the mistake of sweating over a huge batch of homemade fried chicken for a school potluck dinner, and then witnessed another mom make the pro-move and shove my platter over with her bucket of extra-crispy KFC. Message received.
So although I did create a delightful waffle bar for my daughter’s 11th birthday slumber party (if I do say so myself), I also served them pizzeria pizza for dinner and store-bought cupcakes for dessert. Not only was the not-from-scratch dinner fine by them, it also allowed me to conserve my energy and keep the kitchen clean for breakfast.
I’ve done pancakes for a group before, but pancakes require more effort (flipping) and cooking space (griddle or several pans at once). Waffles require just one trusty iron. It has taken me years to identify the best waffle batter recipe. Years and a lot of crappy waffles. But I finally discovered what I think is the best of the best…It comes from one of the most essential cookbooks in my library: The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. Unlike today’s glossy cookbook affairs, Cunningham’s tidy classic has no photos, just a few line-drawings. But it’s a master class on the subject of breakfast. She includes several waffle recipes, but I use the one for yeast waffles because you make the batter the night before, allowing it to rise by morning, and it produces waffles that are crispy on the outside and airy on the inside.
Along with the waffles, I put out a selection of toppings that Belle helped me pick out:
-Nutella, berries, pumpkin butter, maple syrup, whipped cream (Ok, I did whip my own cream, it just tastes better), rainbow sprinkles, roasted pineapple (so easy to do, just dot pineapple chunks with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, roast for about 20 minutes at 400, turning often), and chocolate chips. Of course, you could add or subtract to this list, and add your own favorites (sliced bananas, mango, Greek yogurt and toasted coconut would be nice for something tropical; candied bacon would be amazing too). I laid everything out in bowls on our version of a kitchen island (an old enamel-topped farm table) and let the girls make their own. I didn’t police the topping selecting; If they wanted to pile on the whipped cream, sprinkles, and chocolate chips, then God bless (although the most popular item was the berries, so kudos to them).
In the end it all comes down to keeping it not too fussy but still a little celebratory. And best of all, I made everything while still in my pajamas.