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HER RECIPE FOR SUCCESS INCLUDES AN EARLY START

Cindy Tippett, of Tonawanda, is an accomplished brunch hostess. The last brunch she prepared was for 30 people to celebrate her mother-in-law's 70th birthday.

"We could have had it caterered," she says, "but people really like homemade things."

Through the years, Tippett has learned this secret to her success: "I like to have everything done the day before." And that means cooking everything ahead of time.

Tippett also has built up a collection of suitable recipes. Some of her favorites include a do-ahead French Toast casserole and a Reuben Brunch casserole. She makes lemon-flavored muffins, filling the center with blueberries. And sometimes she makes a gruyere, blue cheese and ham strudel, using frozen puff pastry sheets, each identified with a little card as it stands on the buffet table.

And because so many guests ask for the recipes, she copies the recipes onto cards and gives them out as favors. It's a much appreciated thing to do, she says.

Though Cindy Tippett serves buffet style, she sets up the tables well ahead of time. "I don't use place cards," she explains, "because sometimes I think people want to sit with someone special. My philosophy is I serve the best food I can -- and you can sit where you want."

Tippett will serve brunch on Christmas morning and plans to have the table set, the coffeecakes prepared and the quiches assembled before she goes to bed the night before.

"I'll put them in the oven while the kids are opening their gifts."

If it's a bigger party and she needs more oven space, she's not above "borrowing" the ovens of neighbors, she says. "I'm always careful to give them some of the food in return."

To makes it easy on herself, she'll use the best quality paper plates. And on her buffet table, she uses disposable foil pans with little Sterno receptacles. "I don't cook in those pans," she explains, "but they keep things warm."

Even the recipes she uses are "the kinds of recipes even an inexperienced cook can make if she follows directions. They don't need fancy ingredients or special tools.

"You really don't have to do too much for a brunch party to be a success."

A couple of Cindy Tippett's recipes:
REUBEN BRUNCH CASSEROLE

10slices rye bread, shredded

1 1/2 pounds cooked corned beef

2 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese

6eggs

3cups milk

1/4 teaspoon pepper
This must be done the day before. Sprinkle the bread on the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Coarsely shred the corned beef and distribute evenly over the bread. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.

Beat eggs, milk and pepper together and pour over the corned beef mixture. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake covered in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes, then bake uncovered for 10 minutes until bubbly and puffed. Cut into squares and serve hot. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

CHEESE AND HAM STRUDEL

4ounces ham, finely chopped

1cup shredded gruyere or swiss cheese

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

2tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Mix together: ham, cheese, celery and pepper.

To prepare pastry, unfold onto a 20-inch sheet of waxed paper. Using a floured rolling pin, roll pastry into a 15 x 9-inch rectangle.

Spread filling lengthwise in a 5-inch strip down center of pastry sheet to within 2 inches of the edges. Fold pastry over filling to enclose, folding in short sides first. Seal down edges firmly.

Place strudel seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Remove waxed paper. Brush strudel with melted butter. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes more. Cool slightly before serving. Makes about 8 servings.

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