• 81°

Joni Woolf: Brunch foods for Christmas morning

In many homes, Christmas morning comes on strong, like a hurricane just came through. In others, where there are only adults in the room, and they are not in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything, life proceeds a bit slower. But everyone must eventually find something to eat, and for both these groups — and others — a late brunch may be the right answer. Brunch offers several advantages: for those who love breakfast foods, there are plenty of those on the menu. For those who prefer richer fare, there are hearty recipes that push lunch back toward dinner, so two meals suffice for the entire day.
Recipes that can be prepared ahead are especially welcome, so that when one finally goes to bed on Christmas Eve, they can take a happy, deep breath, knowing that a casserole is in the refrigerator, marinating through the night, to be popped into the oven late Christmas morning. The following recipes work equally well with adults and children, so invite a friend over to enjoy your holiday repast, and share a holiday memory or two.

Sausage Casserole
1 lb. sausage, cooked and drained
6 slices bread, cubed
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups sharp cheese grated,
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
dash cayenne pepper
Dip bread cubes in melted butter. In a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, put sausage, then bread cubes, then one cup of the cheese. Beat eggs, milk and dry ingredients together and pour over the mixture in casserole. Top with remaining cheese. Let stand overnight. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes. (This recipe, with minor alterations, appears in Food and Faith, a cookbook featuring recipes from members of Calvary Episcopal Church. This delicious recipe comes from Calvary member Julie Megginson.)

Banana-Sour Cream Coffee Cake
1- 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle half of mixture in a well-greased 12-cup Bundt pan. Set remaining mixture aside. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, beating 4 or 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears. Add banana, sour cream and vanilla, beating at low speed just until blended. Combine flour and next three ingredients; fold into butter mixture. Pour half of batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with remaining pecan mixture. Top with remaining batter. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes.

Glazed Apples
4 large Granny Smith or Rome apples
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar (or less)
Whipped cream, if desired
Core apples, and cut each into half-inch thick rings. Stir together apple juice and next three ingredients. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; cook apple rings, in batches, until browned on both sides. Return all apple rings to skillet; drizzle with juice mixture, and sprinkle with sugar. Cover and cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until tender and glazed. Serve warm, with whipped cream, if desired.

Golden Potato Pancakes (A classic Hanukkah dish, called latkes)
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
Combine all ingredients except oil in a bowl. Heat a half-tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Drop 3 tablespoons batter (1 per pancake) into the pan. Flatten each pancake with a non-stick spatula. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until golden brown — 5 minutes each side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat, using all the batter and the remaining oil as needed. Serve warm. (Note: potatoes and onions can be grated ahead and placed in baggies, then mixed with other ingredients when ready to cook.)

Tomato-Spinach Quiche
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (these may be omitted for vegetarian dish)
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 unbaked, 9-inch, frozen, deep-dish pie crust
Garnish: Italian parsley sprigs
Drain spinach in a wire-mesh strainer, pressing with several paper towels to remove excess water. Set aside. Toss together diced tomatoes and bread crumbs. Stir together spinach, eggs, half-and-half, bacon and next four ingredients in a large bowl. Gently fold in tomato mixture. Pour mixture into frozen pie crust and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand 20 minutes before cutting. Garnish, if desired.

Much of the preparation for these dishes can be done ahead, making a Christmas morning brunch a delightful, not-too-stressful family and friends affair. Add something green, like marinated asparagus, some country ham and biscuits, perhaps a Bloody Mary, or a glass of sparkling cranberry juice, and you have the perfect meal for celebrating all the good things in life.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net