This Christmas Brunch Casseroe is a hearty make-ahead morning meal to start your Christmas celebrations.

A festive breakfast is served

Whenever you celebrate the big day — Dec. 24 or Dec. 25 — Cathi Litzenberger offers some delicious make-ahead breakfast ideas

Merry Christmas, everybody! And all the best is good health, happiness and prosperity for the coming new year.

It is my usual practice this week to offer make-ahead breakfast/brunch ideas for the holidays. Especially for Christmas morning when all parents and hosts/hostesses want and deserve to be with the family and not stuck in the kitchen preparing their breakfast.

Ingredients in these recipes can be easily substituted to accommodate a variety of restricted diets, such as gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. Add fruit or a fruit salad, perhaps a few pastries, and you’ll have a lovely brunch to carry you through to the turkey feast.

Breakfast Casserole

4 slices white bread

Butter, for greasing

1 lb. mixed mild and medium sausage

2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper

Dash hot sauce

6 beaten eggs

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced, optional

1- 1/2 cups thinly sliced, cooked unpeeled red potatoes

1 cup grated Cheddar

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Cube the bread and place it in a lightly greased 8-by-11-by-2 inch casserole.

Fry the sausage until it is almost browned completely and drain on some paper towels.

Mix the half-and-half, dry mustard, salt, pepper, hot sauce and eggs together.

Layer sausage over the bread and top with a generous layer of potatoes. If you are using mushrooms, layer them in before the potatoes. Sprinkle the cheeses on the top. Pour the beaten egg mixture over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the casserole until it is set and does not jiggle in the middle, 30 minutes. (Recipe courtesy Susan Greene.)

Orange Pecan French Toast

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/3 cup chopped pecans

12 (3/4 inch thick) slices French bread

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup 2% milk

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 egg whites

2 eggs

1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar for dusting

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, melted butter and corn syrup. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish, and spread evenly. Sprinkle pecans over the sugar mixture. Arrange the bread slices in the bottom of the dish so they are in a snug single layer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, egg whites and eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread, pressing on the bread slices to help absorb the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the cover from the baking dish, and let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Christmas Brunch Casserole

1 pound bacon

2 onions, chopped

2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon butter

4 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

1 pinch dried parsley

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Place bacon in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly browned. Drain and set aside.

Add the mushrooms and onion to the skillet; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent and the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.

Grease a 9×13-inch casserole dish with the tablespoon of butter. Place potatoes in bottom of prepared dish. Sprinkle with salt, garlic salt, and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon, then add the onions and mushrooms.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and parsley.

Pour the beaten eggs over the casserole and top with grated cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until set.

Breakfast Enchiladas

(1-pound) package hot ground pork sausage

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

14 large eggs, beaten

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)

8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños

Toppings: halved grape tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro

Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from pan; drain well, pressing between paper towels.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and cilantro, and sauté 1 minute. Add eggs, salt and pepper, and cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set on bottom. Draw a spatula across bottom of pan to form large curds. Continue to cook until eggs are thickened but still moist; do not stir constantly. Remove from heat, and gently fold in 1-1/2 cups Cheese Sauce and sausage.

Spoon about 1/3 cup egg mixture down the centre of each flour tortilla; roll up. Place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Pour remaining Cheese Sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Serve with desired toppings.

Cheese Sauce

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup flour

3 cups milk

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained

3/4 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in remaining ingredients.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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