Tradition: The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.
Novels, magazine articles, television shows, advertisements, movies, and Norman Rockwell paintings all showcase the formal Christmas dinner as an annual rite to be embraced and passed on as a tradition from generation to generation.
I grew up in a very poor family, so there was no plump roast goose or succulent honey-baked ham. However, if memory serves, I am pretty sure that mom prepared a modest chicken with stuffing (and the mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, and pie that are a part of the package).
Well, that sounds like too much work and fuss for me. My family enjoys a leisurely Christmas Day brunch.
What Is Brunch?
Brunch, of course, is a playful combination of the words "breakfast" and "lunch" but the origins of the word (and practice of combining the two meals) are a bit less clear.
Some historians believe the concept originated with the English hunt breakfast—a lavish multi-course meal prepared to encourage and invigorate the mighty hunters on horseback. Others think it might be the salvo for Catholics who fast on Sunday morning until taking mass.
The word "brunch" first appeared in print in an 1865 issue of Hunter's Weekly. The author of the article "Brunch: A Plea" was Guy Beringer, and he was suggesting an alternative to the heavy meat-and-potatoes post-worship Sunday meals.
''Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.''
Make-Ahead Christmas Brunch
I like to do as much as I can ahead of time so that on Christmas Day I can relax with my family. I serve foods that can be:
- Prepared ahead of time
- Kept warm in a slow-cooker (crockpot)
- Cooked quickly in the microwave
Recipes in This Article
- Cinnamon rolls
- Breakfast quiche with potato puff crust
- Caramelized onion tart
- French toast stuffed with brie
- Speedy spinach quiche
- Cheese platter
- Spiral sliced slow-cooker ham
- Slow cooker breakfast casserole
- Slow cooker fruit compote
- Microwave apple or pear crisp
1. Cinnamon Rolls
These perfect cinnamon rolls are just as good, if not better than Cinnabon. If you've never baked bread, don't worry. Every step of the process is laid out for you. I will be right by your side. Together, we can do this.
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cup raisins, (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix boiling water and potato flakes. Add milk, oil, salt, sugar, yeast and beat well. Add eggs and mix until blended. Add 4 1/2 cups of the flour, one cup at a time, until all flour is incorporated.
- Sprinkle remaining one cup flour on board. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Put in a warm place and let rise until doubled about 1-2 hours.
- Punch down dough gently. Divide into two equal portions. Roll each into a 10x15-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup softened butter on each portion. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly on each dough rectangle. Add nuts and/or raisins if desired. Roll up, starting at the long edge and cut each roll into 12 cinnamon rolls.
- Place cut rolls in a 9x13-inch baking pan or two 8-inch round pans coated with cooking spray. Let rolls rise for 1 hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.
— A. A. Milne
2. Breakfast Quiche With Potato Puff Crust
This breakfast quiche is not your standard egg and cheese tart with a pie pastry crust. Potato puffs (also known as potato rounds, potato crowns, or tater tots) take the place of ordinary pie dough. If you have avoided making a quiche because you don't want to face the prospect of making a pastry, this dish is for you.
- 3 cups potato puffs (tater tots), thawed
- 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup cooked sausage, diced
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Generously spray a 9-inch pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tater tots in the prepared pan in a single layer. Press gently on them to compress them and completely cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese, the bell pepper, and cooked meat on the crust. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated cheese.
- Whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour over the cheese/bell pepper/meat mixture in the crust.
- Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Bake the tater tot filled crust for about 30 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes then slice and serve.
3. Caramelized Onion Tart
Three types of onions are sliced thinly and sauteed slowly to tame their heat and bring out their sweet nature. They are mixed with three kinds of cheese and folded into a purchased pie crust to make a tart that is pretty enough for company.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 pound yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound cipollini, vertically sliced in 1/4 inch slices
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 of a 14-ounce package refrigerated pie dough
- 1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Peel the onions. Using a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor, thinly slice the yellow and red onions. Slice the cipollini with a sharp knife. Line a baking sheet with paper towels; place the onions on the paper towels, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes to remove some of the excess moisture. (Did you know that onions are 89 percent water?)
- Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Place the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the onions are softened and begin to turn golden brown. Don't hurry the process by turning up the heat--the onions will burn and taste bitter. You want them to caramelize.
- Line a 10-inch tart pan with the pie dough.
- Sprinkle feta cheese on the pastry, followed by the parmesan and gorgonzola cheeses. Top with the onion mixture. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool for 10 minutes.
4. French Toast Stuffed With Brie
I developed this recipe for French toast stuffed with brie cheese in the midst of a lovely daydream. I'm not a big fan of breakfast quick bread (waffles or pancakes) but I love French toast, sturdy bread dipped in egg batter and crisp-fried in salty-sweet butter. What could improve on this perfection? What about swoon-worthy creamy, melted brie cheese. It's tangy, funky, and luxuriously delicious.
- 1 baguette
- 3 ounces of brie, chilled for easier slicing
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- fruit topping (apple pie filling, sliced bananas, berries, etc.)
- Slice the bread on the diagonal (this gives you larger slices of bread), making the slices about 3/4-inch thick. Discard the ends or save for another use.
- Slice the chilled brie into thin slices. Cover one-half of the baguette slices with the brie and then top with the remaining slices (you just made a brie sandwich).
- In a shallow bowl, beat together the milk, egg, and salt with a wire whisk until well blended. Dip the baguette "sandwiches" into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat both cut sides.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. of the butter; as it melts tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Add as many of the baguette slices as will fit in the pan without crowding. Cook until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn over and cook the other side until brown. Remove from pan and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining butter and baguette slices.
5. Cheese Platter
A Christmas brunch is the perfect place for a cheese platter. Choose at least three cheeses (for a simple, economical platter I would suggest a Cheddar, a Swiss/Gruyere, and a blue-veined cheese).
You will also want a crisp cracker (I think unflavored water crackers are best because they provide a crunchy texture with no flavors to compete with the cheese), and some fresh and/or dried fruit. Best choices for fruits are apples, pears, grapes, dates, figs, and dried apricots or perhaps a mellow honeydew melon. Avoid citrus.
Nuts such as walnuts, pecans or almonds are also a good go-along.
6. Speedy Spinach Quiche
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
- 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Cool slightly.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle both cheeses over the bottom of unbaked pastry shell. Top with spinach mixture. Beat eggs, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach. Bake until filling is set, about 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.
Note: Quiche can be prepared the day before, cooled, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Warm briefly (10 minutes) in a preheated 350° F oven.
7. Spiral Sliced Slow-Cooker Ham
My daughters are vegetarian, but a few of us still enjoy the Christmas ham. Since our numbers are few I opt for a pre-formed ham rather than a bone-in ham (it's smaller). This bake-in-the-crockpot sliced ham is work and worry-free. Just set it and forget it.
8. Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
What is breakfast without eggs? But preparing eggs for more than a few people can be a bit of a challenge. This recipe for a slow-cooker breakfast casserole cooks for eight hours in the crockpot so it can be assembled before Santa's arrival and be ready for breakfast the next morning.
9. Slow Cooker Fruit Compote
Perhaps it's my British roots, but I love a fruit compote. It's part of a proper full English breakfast. I like to toss a few dried plums (aka prunes) in this too, but I've noticed that my family picks them out. There is no accounting for taste.
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 2 small apples, peeled and sliced
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1 8-ounce can of pineapple chunks, undrained
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 21-ounce can peach pie filling
- Place apples, cranberries, raisins, apricots and pineapple with liquid in the slow cooker.
- Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Pour in orange juice.
- Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours. Just before serving stir gently and then stir in pie filling.
10. Microwave Apple/Pear Crisp
Apple or pear crisp is also another favorite. Here is a recipe that can be prepared in the microwave:
- 6 cups sliced peeled apples or pears (see note below)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Combine prepared fruit and 3/4 cup brown sugar and place in microwave-safe 8-inch baking dish.
- Mix together flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, oats, butter and cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of prepared fruit.
- Microwave at full power for 9-12 minutes, rotating dish one-half turn after 5 minutes.
Note: If using pears, a pinch (about 1/8 to1/4 teaspoon) of nutmeg tossed with the fruit would be a nice addition.
© 2015 Linda Lum