All was calm, thanks to an easy Christmas brunch

We learn in the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” that when ’twas the night before Christmas, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” The poem’s author, Clement Clarke Moore, might not have taken note of the hosts who not only stir, but also whisk, mix, blend, whip and knead plenty as they prepare all manner of holiday foods for family and friends.

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

After all they do to make spirits bright, wouldn’t it be wonderful for these merrymakers to have a relaxed Christmas morning? After all, even Ol’ St. Nick has the morning of the 25th to recharge from the frantic holiday lead-up.

An easy breakfast that features make-ahead items will result in a laidback, festive brunch where all the day-of efforts are totally doable from the comfort of one’s pajamas.

My friend, hostess extraordinaire and Los Altos resident Yvonne Spencer, makes the most of the season’s citrus with her make-ahead orange salad. Yvonne carefully peels and slices nine oranges and places them in a bowl, removing the white pith. She then zests a lime and a lemon. She juices a 10th orange, the lemon and the lime and mixes the juices with two tablespoons of sugar. This mixture is poured over the top of the oranges, which she keeps in the refrigerator and serves cold on Christmas morning.

Take advantage of store-bought items and assemble this casserole the day before. On Christmas morning, you need only pop it in the oven at 375 F for 40 minutes.
  • 1 jar diced pimento peppers, drained
  • 4 ounces shitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 20-ounce package of store-bought hash browns
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Add olive oil to pan and cook mushrooms, red onions and garlic over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Brush bottom and sides of large casserole dish with olive oil. In large bowl, combine hash browns, drained diced peppers, mushrooms, red onion, garlic and thyme. Mix until well combined and pour into prepared casserole dish.

Crack eggs into now-empty bowl, add milk, cheese, salt and pepper, and whisk thoroughly. Pour over potato mixture.

Cover and place in refrigerator overnight.

This is such an easy way to cook a pound of bacon. Brushing maple syrup atop one side of the bacon adds a tasty specialness.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay bacon out in single layer on paper and brush with small amount maple syrup. Bake 450 F for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon.

For filling cups with cheer, my easy Prosecco cocktail comes together in minutes flat.
  • 1 bottle Prosecco
  • 1 cup raspberry vodka
  • 1 cup raspberry sorbet
  • Rosemary sprigs (optional)
In large pitcher, whisk all ingredients together, then divide into six flutes. Garnish with sprig of rosemary, if desired.

This make-ahead cake has all the spices of the season and stays super moist, thanks to the addition of Greek yogurt.
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin or apple pie spice mix
  • 1/4 cup white sugar 
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, incorporating one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In separate bowl, mix all dried ingredients.

Pour flour mixture into batter alternatively with Greek yogurt mixing until just combined.

In small bowl, mix pie spice and white sugar.

Add half of batter to prepared Bundt pan. Sprinkle spice-sugar mixture over batter and top with remaining batter.

Bake 8 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 F and bake additional 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before turning cake out onto cooling rack. Once cool, wrap well with plastic wrap and store in cool, dry place for up to two days before serving.


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