First, We Brunch | Festive & Easy Holiday Entertaining

Feeding the family or a crowd amidst the chaos of the holiday season doesn’t have to be stressful. Even if you aren’t a morning person, with easy, make-ahead recipes, breakfast or brunch can be a snap to pull together.

BLOODY MARY MIX
Mimosas and Bloody Marys are nearly synonymous with brunch. A Mimosa is so simple to make, it doesn’t need a recipe at all—just some fruit juice and bubbly and you’re good to go. Bloody Marys, however, are a different story. Though some recipes feature dill pickle juice, oysters and raw eggs; this basic recipe appeals to the masses and allows for individualized tastes and garnishes.

  • 3 T dijon mustard
  • 3 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T prepared horseradish (or finely grated horseradish root)
  • 2 T hot sauce (Cholula or Tabasco)
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 T olive brine (juice from a jar of olives)
  • 1 t celery seed
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 t kosher or sea salt
  • 64 oz V-8 juice (regular, lowsodium or spicy hot)

To make several drinks at once, pour 1/2 cup of mix in a pitcher, then add a quart (32 oz) of V-8. (This is especially helpful if you want to make up pitchers ahead of time.) When ready to serve, add your alcohol of choice, stir well and pour over ice.

To make your Bloodys extra special, pick up a package of Bloody Mary Rimmer, a combination of pre-mixed salt and spices. Alternatively, create your own combination of salt and spices, or make a Maryland Bloody Mary rimmed with Old Bay seasoning—easy and super tasty! Run a lime or lemon wedge around the glass rim and dip it into the mixture to coat it like salt on a margarita glass.

A great trick to keep your drink from diluting is to pre-mix a few to your liking and freeze in ice trays. When ready to serve, pour the Bloodys over the frozen cubes. Serve them in an ice bucket alongside the glasses so guests can help themselves.

For garnishes, put out long toothpicks in shot glasses so guests can skewer their garnishes. Keep it simple with celery stalks, olives, cocktail onions, lemons and limes for a classic cocktail, or offer crispy bacon, cubes of cheese, cold shrimp and pickled vegetables like green beans, pepperoncini and okra to take your Bloody Mary over the top.

HOME-MADE IRISH CREAM
For most, coffee is a must at breakfast or brunch. At the holidays it’s nice to offer something special for a little extra panache. Whether you prefer your coffee iced or hot, Irish cream is a boozy, delicious addition; your guests will be impressed when you tell them you made it from scratch!

  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 t instant coffee powder or espresso
  • 1/2 t cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c Irish whiskey
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Combine 1 T cream with the coffee and cocoa powders to make a smooth paste. Slowly add remaining cream, whisking until smooth. Add whiskey, vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk; stir to combine. Pour into a 24-oz jar and keep refrigerated, up to 2 weeks. To serve, shake the jar or stir the pitcher to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. Then, pour into coffee and stir. This divine concoction also makes a lovely after-dinner drink served over ice. (Saveur)

Breakfast casseroles are similar to quiche, but much easier to make since you don’t have to fuss with a pie crust. When you need to feed a crowd, but have little time to spend in the kitchen, you’ll love having these in your recipe file. You can whip them up the night before and pop them in the oven in the morning, leaving you time to enjoy that delicious cup of joe with your family or guests!

HAM & CHEESE BRIOCHE BREAD PUDDING
This particular casserole is like a savory bread pudding. The buttery brioche combines with melty cheese and salty ham to create a light, yet filling meal.

  • 1 T butter, for greasing the pan
  • 1 (12-oz) brioche loaf or smaller brioches, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 c half-and-half or whole milk
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 c thinly sliced scallions
  • 6 oz thinly sliced ham, cut crosswise into matchsticks (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 oz grated Gouda or Gruyere cheese (about 4 cups)

If you plan to make and bake this at once, heat the oven to 375 degrees, or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.

Butter an 11 X 11-inch baking dish. Fill with brioche cubes and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs well. Whisk in half-and-half, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne and scallions. Pour mixture over cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle ham and cheese on top of the mixture, and press down to make sure everything is submerged. Refrigerate overnight if desired, or go ahead and bake it now. If baking after refrigerating, remove casserole from the refrigerator while the oven heats to 375 degrees. Set baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer baking dish and baking sheet to the middle shelf of the oven, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the casserole emerges dry. Let rest for 10 minutes or so before serving. (New York Times)

SPICY EGG & CHEESE CASSEROLE
This casserole is a vegetarian version, but feel free to add your favorite cooked breakfast meat and sautéed vegetables to jazz it up. My sister-in-law shared this family recipe with me just after I married my husband, and it has been a staple for almost every holiday breakfast and brunch since. You can make it and bake it in the morning, but I like to whisk it all together in a mixing bowl, put a lid on it, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Pour into a pan in the morning and pop in the oven with zero mess!

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 (8 oz) carton sour cream
  • 1 can Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (drained)
  • 3 drops Tabasco or Cholula (not very spicy—add more or less to taste.)
  • 8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Beat eggs with a whisk. Blend in the remaining ingredients and pour into a greased 11 X 11-inch baking dish. Bake for an hour at 350. Start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. The casserole is done when the top is lightly brown, and a skewer inserted in the middle of the dish emerges dry. (Susan Sellers-Butram)


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