On Christmas Eve we send the children upstairs to bed so that Santa will visit, but they are so excited that it takes forever for them to finally fall asleep. Then Santa’s elves can go to work. We wrestle with toys that are supposed to be “easy” to put together, passing them from one to another to see if they next person can figure them out, while whispering so we don’t wake up the kids. A few glasses of wine usually help us figure out the directions, but the giggling that ensues can get a little noisy – it is too much fun to be Santa’s helpers!
When Christmas morning dawns, the children run straight for the presents while the adults collapse on the sofa because they’ve been up all night putting the toys together! Now I understand why my parents were so exhausted on Christmas morning, LOL!
When you’ve been up most of the night, the last thing you want to think about is fixing breakfast in the morning. That’s why I like having dishes that are assembled or prepped ahead, that I can cook quickly and easily in the morning. If they happen to incorporate holiday flavors, all the better.
Today’s Recipes call all be made ahead and either cooked or reheated in the morning. I think you will like this combination: Eggnog French Toast, Cranberry-Apple Compote, Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Muffins, Grits and Sausage Casserole, and Old-Fashioned Farm-Style Sausage.
I love not having to worry about spending hours in the kitchen when I would rather be out with everyone else enjoying the morning festivities. The compote, while fantastic on the French toast, would be just as amazing on waffles, pancakes, or even vanilla ice cream.
Pumpkin muffins are yummy, very seasonal tasting and actually fairly healthy. You can bake them a day ahead and rewarm them gently or serve at room temperature.
Making sausage from scratch sounds like I must be off my rocker, but it is really quite simple. Once you have tasted homemade, you will find excuses to make it! I like that I can control the ingredients and quality. You can use a mixture of ground meats to make it a bit healthier. My favorite is half pork and half dark turkey. It has that wonderful country flavor from my childhood.
I always make a big batch, separate what we’re going to use immediately and then freeze the rest. To make it a little easier, rather than making links, I form the mixture into patties. Stack them, separated by a square of waxed paper or parchment, about 5 patties high, then wrap snugly in plastic and finally in aluminum foil. They will hold in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or about 4 months if frozen.
In the morning, start by baking the sausage and grits, then increase the oven temperature and bake the French toast. While it is cooking, slice some fresh oranges and quickly cook up the sausage (if not using it in the grits). Warm the syrup if your family prefers it or you can use it in addition to the cranberry-apple compote. Warm up the muffins and set out some butter.
Then when everything is ready, arrange the food so that the oranges and compote are on opposite sides of the plate – you want the bright colors to stand out! When everyone sits down at the table, you will see their smiles and hear their sighs of delight as they enjoy this delicious holiday feast!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you are making any dish with ground meats and want to check to see if the seasoning is correct, take a small piece and fry it quickly. Never taste the raw meat! Adjust seasonings as needed, and cook a little more to be sure you have it balanced.
- 3 cups hot cooked grits (made according to package directions)
- 1 lb bulk hot or mild sausage - you can also use homemade sausage, see recipe below
- 2-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch pan with vegetable spray. Set aside.
- Prepare grits according to package directions or to your taste. Measure out 3 cups of the cooked grits. While hot, stir in cheese and butter. The heat of the grits will melt them. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Meanwhile, fry sausage. Use a fork to break it into small crumbles as it is frying. Use mild or hot sausage. Hot is especially good. A better grade of sausage will mean a better casserole. Spread the cooked sausage (fat drained off) in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish greased lightly or sprayed with Pam.
- Stir together the eggs and milk. The milk should be whole milk. Lower fat milk will make the casserole runny. Mix the milk mixture in with the grits mixture. Pour milk and grits mixture slowly over the sausage in the casserole dish. The dish can be made to this point the night before, covered, and stored in the refrigerator, then baked off in the morning.
- Bake uncovered for an hour. Serve hot.
- Yield: about 4 servings
- 4 cups purchased eggnog
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 (14.5 oz) loaf country white bread, challah, egg bread or other artisan loaf, ends trimmed, loaf sliced in half horizontally, then each piece cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (use ends for another purpose)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- Powdered sugar
- Warmed syrup, optional
- Cranberry-Apple Compote, recipe follows
- Whisk eggnog, eggs, nutmeg and cinnamon in large bowl. Place bread slices in single layer in two 13x9x2-inch glass baking dishes. Pour custard over bread, dividing equally. Cover dishes and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter 2 large rimmed baking sheets with some melted butter.
- Using spatula, transfer bread slices to prepared baking sheets. Brush bread with remaining melted butter. Bake 10 minutes. Turn over bread slices and bake until golden brown and crisp on the outside but soft on the inside, about 6 minutes longer.
- Place 2 French toast slices on each of 8 plates. Dust generously with powdered sugar; serve garnished with Cranberry-Apple Compote.
- You can use the custard to make French toast in the traditional manner, by frying them piece by piece as well as the method shown here.
- 2 cups apple cider
- 6 tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
- 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
- Whisk apple cider, corn syrup, and brown sugar in heavy large saucepan. Boil over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add 4 tbsp butter; whisk until melted. Remove from heat.
- Melt remaining 4 tbsp butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add apple pieces; sauté 2 minutes. Add cranberries and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until cranberries begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Stir in reduced cider mixture. Boil until reduced to syrup consistency, about 6 minutes. Stir in more sugar, if desired.
- Transfer compote to bowl and serve warm. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. To reheat, stir over medium heat until heated through.
- Yield: Makes about 6 cups
- Streusel Topping
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 4 tbsp softened butter
- 1 cup dark raisins (see Note)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1-1/4 cup granulate sugar
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 c vegetable oil
- 1-3/4 cups flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin pans. Soak raisins (from the muffin ingredients) in the 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes. Do not drain.
- Make Streusel Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until evenly blended. Using two knives, a pastry cutter or use a food processor to cut the butter in until crumbly.
- Make the Muffins: In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Stir in pumpkin, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Add oil, beating well to combine.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder and soda. Add to pumpkin mixture with *half* of the raisin/water mixture. Stir well to mix. Add remaining raisins and water and stir well.
- Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops with streusel topping. Bake about 25 minutes or until tops spring back when touched lightly.
- Yield: about 12 large or 16 medium muffins.
- If you want to use golden raisins, you do not need to soak them, but you will need to still add the 1/2 cup water to the batter.
- 2 tsp finely minced fresh parsley
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp rubbed sage
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground red pepper, optional
- 1 tsp dried basil, optional
- 1 tsp dried oregano, optional
- 2 lb ground pork, at room temperature (or a combination of ground pork and ground dark turkey – if using turkey, cook in oil)
- 1/3 c grated onion (use the largest holes on a box grater or use your food processor’s grating blade)
- To make sausage, in a small bowl, combine all the seasonings together, stirring to fully blend.
- In a deep bowl, combine the meat with the seasoning mix and onions, using your hands to blend thoroughly. In a skillet, cook a little piece of the sausage. Taste to check flavor and adjust seasonings as needed. Keep in mind that the flavors will blend and become slightly more intense as the sausage rests overnight.
- Shape and roll mixture into 2 logs, 6 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight. Sausage may be made ahead and frozen. To make it easier to separate portions later, shape sausage into patties, wrap individually in plastic wrap, combine 4 to 5 wrapped patties and wrap them in foil then freeze.
- To serve, slice the logs into rounds about 1/2-inch thick and fry in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat in a little vegetable oil until browned, then reduce heat to medium low, cover, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes more on each side or until done. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately or cover and keep warm in a low oven. Note that this sausage has much less fat than normal sausage and can dry out if not watched carefully.
- If preparing ahead, freeze until ready to serve. Slightly thaw sausage logs, slice into 1/2-inch rounds, and place, still frozen on a baking sheet. Set sheet in a cold oven, turn on to 325°F, and bake for about 15 minutes or until done. You can also use this technique when you are cooking for a crowd!
- Yield: about 8 servings