Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Make it ahead

Christmas recipes, Christmas breakfast, make it ahead so you can relax

Just when I started to believe there was no such thing as a Christmas Grinch, I met two in one day. Neither looked green, but I know it was there, as they whined and complained about waiting.

Showing no regard for anyone’s feelings, they sighed and fussed and behaved just like children.

The first was in line at a grocery store where a new cashier was trying to go as fast and accurately as she could. Obviously not fast enough for this lady, who proclaimed loud and nastily that she’d been “Waiting five minutes already!” Then, back into her buggy she threw all the items, and bumping and pushing she wedged her way back out of the line with a parting remark that, “This was ridiculous” and she’d go to (another store).

I was aghast with this rudeness, this lack of patience and, being next in line, tried to lift the cashier’s spirits. The second Grinch was no different, belittling and making fun of a service person trying to accommodate his wishes. Don’t they get it? We are so blessed in this country, perhaps a little time waiting in line could be better used to give thanks for all that we have instead of complaining.

Today, as in past years at this time, I offer two recipes for Christmas brunch that can be prepared ahead of time and popped into the oven Christmas morning.

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1-1/2 (12 ounces) packages cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup fresh blueberries (raspberries also work))

12 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon butter

Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until centre is firm and surface is lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour into a pitcher for guests to pour over individual servings of the baked French toast.

Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

9 slices bread, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup diced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

16 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cups cubed cooked ham (or spicy sausage meat if desired)

8 eggs

2 cups milk

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer half of the torn bread in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the mushrooms and green bell pepper evenly over the bread layer. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with remaining bread pieces, then layer with the onion and ham. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Whisk together eggs and milk; pour over the entire pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake, covered, for 35 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until top is evenly brown.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.