Make it ahead to enjoy the day

Cathi Litzenberger offers delicious recipes for dishes savoury and sweet that can be prepared ahead so moms and dads can relax Christmas Day

Easy Country Breakfast Casserole is just one of the many recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated Christmas morning.

Easy Country Breakfast Casserole is just one of the many recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated Christmas morning.

Cathi Litzenberger

Morning Star Columnist

So often on Christmas morning, it’s the mom we see rushing between the tree and the kitchen, while the rest of the family sits around leisurely opening gifts and being in the present. Someone, after all, has to be responsible for that wonderful traditional brunch when all the unwrapping is over.

To make things easier on Mom, or whoever else might have this responsibility, I’m always on the lookout for make-ahead recipes that will free up time, enabling the family cook to be a full participant in the family excitement.

Today, we have four such recipes for you to choose from. The first is a flavourful strata and if you’ve never heard of a strata, relax. It’s just another name for a savoury bread pudding, perfect and appealing for any brunch main dish. This one needs to be made at least a day in advance so that the bread can absorb some of the custard prior to baking. There are also two make-ahead French toast recipes, one eggnog, the other a peach delight, as well as a hearty breakfast casserole to chose from. There’s still time to pick up the ingredients, so let’s get at it. Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas.

Bacon, Cheddar, and Scallion Strata

1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 bunch scallions, sliced thin (1-1/2 cups)

8 cups cubed crusty French or Italian bread

8 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (2-1/2 cups)

6 large eggs

3-1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

Cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and pour off fat.

Add butter to skillet and in it cook scallions, stirring, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.

Spread out half of bread in a buttered 13- by 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with half of the cheese and half of bacon. Repeat layering again.

Whisk eggs in a bowl, then whisk in milk, Worcestershire, and salt. Pour evenly over bread and cheese and chill, tightly covered, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and let strata stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, about 50 minutes.

Game Plan: The day before, slice and cook bacon. Slice and cook scallions. Cut bread and assemble strata in pan. Cover tightly and chill.  Next day pull strata out of fridge 1/2 hour before baking so that it can come to room temperature. Allow at least 10, if not 15 minutes to preheat oven.

Strata is best when warm but if it cools to room temperature it’s still delicious.

Overnight Eggnog Baked French Toast

7 large eggs

2 cups eggnog

1-1/2 ounces rum (optional)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 French bread, cut into 1 inch slices

Icing sugar

1/4 cup butter (melt the butter while the dish is baking)

Beat together eggs, eggnog, rum, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.

Dip both sides of each slice of bread in this mixture and place them side by side in a greased oven proof pyrex dish. Pour any remaining mixture over the slices.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. (If you wish you can freeze the dish and put in fridge to defrost the evening before you wish to serve it). Bake in 450 F oven on bottom rack for 20-25 minutes (watch the bottom doesn’t get too brown). Place on rack to cool slightly and dust with icing sugar. Serve with Canadian maple syrup and the melted butter.

Easy Country Breakfast Casserole

2 cups frozen hash browns

2 lbs. cooked and drained sausage or 2 lbs bacon (can use a bit of both.)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

12 eggs

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

12 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Line a prepared 9 x 13 baking dish with frozen hash browns. Top evenly with cooked sausage (or bacon), onion and green bell pepper.

In a separate dish, mix together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and dry mustard. Pour this over meat and hash browns. Top everything evenly with the grated cheddar cheese.  Refrigerate overnight.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 45 to 60 minutes (or until done and slightly brown).


Pecan Peach French Toast

1 loaf French bread cut in 1-inch slices

1 quart home canned sliced peaches, drained (if you have to buy them, do so, 4 cups)

6 large eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup half and half

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cinnamon (more if you like)


3/4 cup softened butter

1-1/3 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp. dark corn syrup

1-1/3 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick spray. Fill the pan with bread slices. Top each slice of bread with peaches. Place second layer of bread on top and add second layer of peaches on each slice of bread. Set aside.

Mix eggs, milk, half and half, vanilla and spices. Pour over the bread and peaches. Press down lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Mix topping and set aside for morning.  In the morning, set the oven to 350 F. Take the dish from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for at least 1/2 hour. Just before baking, add the topping and spread evenly on top. Bake for about 50 minutes; till puffed and brown. Dust with icing sugar and serve.  Yummy! (I like mine with maple syrup and whipped cream.)

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

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