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Please help me survive Christmas morning! Make-ahead brunch items?

Trying hard to feel festive about it, but kind of not . .

I am hosting DH's family for Christmas Eve, and mine for Christmas Day. We usually try to work things out so this doesn't happen, but (this is where I could easily skid off the Chowhound rails into a Dear Abby-style vent, but I shan't) this year I have both.

I have done Christmas Eve dinner enough to feel I can manage it, but how do I also prepare a Christmas brunch for my family (10 adults, 5 kids) when I am also trying to enjoy Christmas morning with my children? Can anyone suggest menu items I can prepare as much as possible in advance?

Thank you!

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  1. What about stratas or quiches you prep the night before? Maybe some banana/pumpkin/cranberry/whatever bread? Yogurt and granola and fruit?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hobbert

      Stratas are your friends here. Make them ahead - also add a very simple melon/berry salad and sprinkle with coconut. Looks like a million bucks. For the adults, add a splash of champagne on the fruit salad. Oh, so good

    2. Here's a post of mine about two crustless quiches I've made and frozen:


      With a great fruit something and good bread, that's going to be our brunch.

      1. Baked French toast casserole made the night before.

        1. A breakfast "casserole" that gets assembled the night before. Here's one of many:


          And this is supposed to feed 12.

          I figured out not long ago that going with ham for breakfast is way, way easier than sausage or bacon. Why it took me so long I don't know.

          8 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            Bacon in the oven is doable but needs a bit of babysitting. Way better and less messy than on a skillet, though!

            1. re: Hobbert

              Ya know, I tried bacon in the oven and it took so doggone long I could have done it stovetop. This was for a group. I should try it again just for the two of us and see if I want to do it again.

              1. re: c oliver

                Haha! That's why I do it in the oven...time seems to speed up if I'm trying not to burn bacon :)

                1. re: c oliver

                  Put a layer of parchment on a cookie sheet. Now put a cooling rack on the cookie sheet and lay the bacon out on the cooling rack.

                  Put it in the cold oven, and turn the oven on to about 400 -- by the time the oven is preheated, the bacon will be done, or nearly so.

                  Works out just about perfectly with a batch of pancakes!

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    ALRIGHT! I'll do this. Sounds pretty no-brainer-ish :) Thanks.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      It's awesome -- total no-brainer, you don't have to fiddle with it, more room on your stovetop, NO SPATTER, less grease because it drips off, and the parchment makes for easier cleanup.

                      What's not to love!

                      1. re: sr44

                        oh, heavens yes. I forget that not everyone uses the rimmed type.

              2. And we're here for your vents too.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Allieroseww

                    We LOVE vents ;-)

                    I didn't get all the way through, but why not just bagels, muffins, scones, jams, lox, cream cheese (or whatever is popular in your neck of the woods) something you can just lay out and people can nibble as they arise?

                    OK I see you are looking for a main meal, maybe put out my aforementioned early and then when everyone is up, I like your idea of ham as a center dish, maybe with eggs and biscuits etc.

                1. Although more breakfast than brunch, this Creme Brulée French Toast is always a big hit. You assemble it the night before and toss it in the oven for less than 45 minutes.


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: JoanN

                    THAT just got saved. Wow, does it ever sound good!

                    1. re: c oliver

                      It really is. I have regular overnight guests who now request it.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        We'll likely/hopefully have the kids and grandkids here this winter. I'm seeing this. Thanks, JoanN.

                    2. re: JoanN

                      I like this recipe, too. I use maple syrup instead of the corn syrup called for. Works great, better flavor.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        That's what I do, too. I also gild the lily a bit and sprinkle a bit of turbinado sugar at the end and torch it to give just a little bit of a bruleed crust.

                    3. When you say that you are "hosting your family for Christmas Day", I have to ask, is that the main "meal" your family will have that day? Will your family have breakfast or brunch with you and move on to someplace else to have a dinner?

                      Are you looking for basically breakfast ideas or a full on bunch that will sustain people throughout the day?

                      What is traditional for your family?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Springhaze2

                        Springhaze, this brunch will be the main meal for the day. There have been a lot of changes (all good ones) in the past couple of years and we're trying to find our new tradition. I am thinking about ordering a ham from Whole Foods (shhhh) to be the centerpiece, then doing make-ahead casseroles or frittatas to go with it? Definitely some fruit as well.

                        1. re: Allieroseww

                          Do it! Take the help from whole foods! They make an awesome fruit platter too, i've ordered it for work breakfasts often

                          1. re: Allieroseww

                            First off, Christmas morning needs to be all about enjoying the time with your children! They grow up way too fast. The rest of the family needs to wait until you get done with that special time.

                            Since this is the main meal, I would definitely go with a ham from Whole Foods. Another option would be a smoked turkey. Add a cheese plate and a selection of bread and rolls. A veggie frittata/strada/casserole is easy and can be prepped ahead and baked the last 1/2 hour before serving. Let me know if you need suggestions. We raise chickens and always have fresh eggs that we need to use up.

                            Some sweet bread/muffins like banana or cranberry/nut. Can be homemade or store bought.

                            Definitely, fresh fruit, you can buy it already cut at Whole Foods or whatever you have local.

                            Roasted veggies, like, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, yellow squash, red/orange/yellow peppers and onions can be made ahead and just stuck in the oven to warm or served at room temperature. Does not need to be "hot".

                            There are several make ahead home-fried/potato hash recipes out there.

                            Something sweet like an overnight French toast or cinnamon rolls.

                            Homemade granola, served with yogurt and some fresh berries and dried fruits.

                            1. re: Springhaze2

                              I second the whole strada/quiche idea as they can be made way in advance and frozen. This is a semi-expensive shortcut but I think Dole has pre-cut slices of citrus in jars you just pour out and serve. They are not packed in syrup so they do taste like fresh fruit. Another idea is to buy all sort of berries (preferably raspberries and blackberries that don't need to be picked through) and toss them with a bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar. Another idea for something sweet is a coffee cake. I swear by the Barefoot Contessa recipe and it stays moist overnight.

                              1. re: Springhaze2

                                Thank you a million zillion times over, Springhaze.

                              2. re: Allieroseww

                                I think the ham is an excellent idea. Then there is no need for last minute bacon or sausage. Ham + biscuits/mini buns; vegetable strata you can throw together the morning of Christmas Eve (dry your bread ahead, cut and par-cook the vegetables on the 23rd). Bagels from the store, and some mixed berries. Done. :)

                            2. I've done make ahead brunch a few times -- a strata, some night-before french toast (I can't find the recipe I've used, but it's not a casserole-- it soaked overnight then got crispy in the oven the next day), and this potato-bacon torte, which is my favorite brunch ever with a simple green salad: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/me... (I use more bacon and gruyere than it calls for).

                              Add some fruit, maybe a quick bread or coffee cake, mimosas, and it would definitely feel like a holiday to me :).

                              Good luck -- I'm also hosting two days in a row, but at least it's day-day, not evening-morning.

                              1. I second stratas or quiches. I'd make a couple of quiches if I had to do a brunch. They are so versatile. Good warm, chilled or at room temp. Stick some bacon in the oven early and it will be done in about 20 minutes, I think. Make a fruit compote the night before, and buy some fancy bread.

                                There you go!

                                1. About a dozen years ago, my husband's secretary shared her Blueberry French Toast recipe. This is a decadent wow strata that would be perfect. I've only made the first sauce -- not the alternate version.

                                  L's Blueberry French Toast Casserole

                                  6 slices bread, cut into 1-inch cubes’s (brioche or challa)
                                  8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
                                  1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
                                  6 eggs, beaten
                                  1 cup milk
                                  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
                                  1/4 cup maple syrup
                                  butter for baking pan

                                  L’s sauce:
                                  1/2 cup sugar
                                  1 tablespoon cornstarch
                                  1/2 cup water
                                  1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
                                  1/2 tablespoon butter

                                  Alternate sauce from a different recipe:
                                  1 cup blueberries (about 6 ounces)
                                  1/2 cup pure maple syrup
                                  1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

                                  Butter a baking dish. Arrange half of the bread cubes in the dish. Top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1/2 cup blueberries over the cream cheese. Top with the remaining bread cubes.

                                  In a large bowl, mix the beaten eggs, milk, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight if serving the next day. If not, continue with freezing instructions.

                                  Freezing and Cooking Directions: Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and place inside a labeled one or two gallon freezer bag. Remove excess air, seal and freeze.

                                  To serve, thaw if frozen (takes about 12-14 hours in refrigerator). Remove the casserole from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.

                                  Bake covered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and continue baking 25-30 minutes until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.

                                  For L’s sauce:
                                  In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly cook 3-4 minutes. Mix in the remaining blueberries (1/2 C. per recipe). Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter and pour over the baked French Toast Casserole.

                                  For alternate sauce:
                                  In a small saucepan, cook blueberries and maple syrup over moderate heat until blueberries have burst, about 3 minutes. Pour syrup through a sieve into a heatproof pitcher, pressing on solids. Stir in lemon juice. Syrup may be made 1 day in advance and chilled, covered. Reheat syrup before serving.

                                  1. My strategy is going to be make ahead what I can. I don't do anything casserole because then my carbs are in an eggy thing, and I want brioche! I can not do both an eggy-bread thing and brioche and still fit in my pants.

                                    So, I am making a large brioche recipe from Flour by Joanne Chang. Half will be made into a bread and half will become her famous sticky buns. Both will sit in the fridge overnight, and the first person up will put them out. I will also have the lemon ginger scones in the fridge ready to pop into the oven. The lemon glaze will already be in a squeeze bottle.

                                    For my egg dish, some years I coddle them in the oven, but this year I am thinking about a frittata. My other thought is to poach eggs the day before, and just warm them to order.

                                    Fruit that doesn't brown, will be cut. The other fruit can be added at the last minute. Sausage and bacon will be oven bound though I know some people who cook that the day before and just "finish" it in the morning. Orange juice will already be in a glass pitcher and if we do a bubbly wine for mimosas, that will be chilled as well. Granola will be made, and yogurt will just need to slip into a pretty serving bowl.

                                    All the serving dishes, silverware, and dishes will be on the sideboard.

                                    I believe that it will take less than 30 minutes of active time to have a full brunch on the table. But first we have to do STOCKINGS! No one under the age of 25 this year, but stockings are the very best part.

                                    1. I concur with the suggestions of make ahead breakfast casseroles that are assembled the evening prior and then baked in the morning. Maybe one that is savory (eggs, frozen hash browns, peppers, onions, cheese, sausage) and another that is sweet ie...baked French toast. Accompanied by a quick bread or muffins, fruit salad or a bowl of fresh fruit and coffee, tea, cocoa.

                                      1. What a wonderful community. I am reading every recipe you're posting. Thank you and please don't stop!

                                        1. Smitten kitchen has a whole make ahead brunch entry.

                                          We just do bagels and lox, capers, roasted red peppers, red onions, mimosas or bloody Mary's and lemon poppyseed cake with a winter fruit salad.

                                          26 Replies
                                          1. re: magiesmom

                                            Now that IS the way to go! If the family will accept it.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  My family would love it...of course, we are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas but we still have to eat!

                                                  1. re: valerie

                                                    us too, but we usually serve this for brunch and everybody loves it.

                                                    1. re: valerie

                                                      I was planning just this thing for a Christmas Eve brunch with our daughters and her family. One daughter turned up preggers so lox are out for now. And none of us are Jewish. It's just a perfect meal, isn't it?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        please say lox is out, not plural ;). ANd why is it out?

                                                        it is not raw, it is cured. had huge lox cravings thoughout my pregnancy, it was all I ate for about a month

                                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                                          cured and cooked are not the same thing. Lox (same word, plural or singular) are cured, not cooked.

                                                          Uncooked fish is right at the top of the list of thing pregnant women should avoid, because of the disastrous side effects of contracting listeriosis.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            ok, i"m not going to be pregnant, so not worried.

                                                            Lox is never used with "are," this I know.

                                                            1. re: magiesmom

                                                              Thanks for that. Makes sense :) Kinda like grits.

                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                              Thanks for subbing, sunshine. Also verboten is deli meats. I forget why :)

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                More listeria -- also raw cheeses!

                                                                (I did look it up -- "lox" can be singular or plural, therefore either "is" or "are" is correct)

                                                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                                                    Totally with you, magiesmom, on both counts! Lox is singular, never plural. And not dangerous if you are pregnant...I ate it all the time and have 2 very healthy kids.

                                                                    1. re: valerie

                                                                      Well, I'm pregnant and even though I made 3 lbs of gravlax for our Hanukkah party, I won't eat it or traditional lox or sushi for four more months, (or raw cheeses or pate, sniff sniff) and it would make me sad to have it be the centerpiece of a holiday buffet that I couldn't take part in. Sure, plenty of women do fine -- just as plenty of people survive a lifetime of driving without seat belts or smoke until they're 99 -- but that doesn't mean there's not a very high and dangerous risk involved. To someone who has lost a pregnancy, "you'll be fine, I was" is a pretty insensitive and irresponsible answer and people say it ALL THE TIME. Anecdote does not equal science.

                                                                      1. re: Mediumgoof

                                                                        Sorry, didn't mean to be insensitive.

                                                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                                                          It's alright -- I didn't mean to rip into you, either! Chalk it up to the hormones? In reality, it's just my soapbox. It's amazing how many people feel fine to opine on a pregnancy in the way they wouldn't with other things. I guess it's just to get us parents ready for trying to gracefully field everyone's unsolicited opinions on child-rearing!

                                                                          1. re: Mediumgoof

                                                                            One of our daughters when pregnant two years ago rewarded herself with a nice new camera for all the food and beverage things she gave up :) Congratulations btw.

                                                                    2. re: magiesmom

                                                                      then please take it up with Mssrs. Merriam and Webster.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  unless you're pregnant in japan where moms-to-be regularly eat raw fish. :)

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Most people freeze the salmon before making lox or gravlax, to kill the parasites. Haven't heard of any lox-related listeria where I live.

                                                                    1. re: prima

                                                                      A quick search shows a number of separate incidences. Here's just one:


                                                                      Better to be safe.

                                                                  2. re: magiesmom

                                                                    Do a Google search for Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy...

                                                                  3. re: c oliver

                                                                    Well you're not pregnant! Keep the lox! Make the new mommy a fried egg for her bagel instead....

                                                                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                      Oh, I've already got two quiches in the freezer! But Bob and I will be having lox at some point.

                                                          2. re: magiesmom

                                                            +1 on checking out Smitten Kitchen, she has tons of make-ahead brunch suggestions. Ham, strata, and fruit sound like a great start. How about some great biscuits or sweet potato biscuits to serve the ham with? Unlike muffins, any scone or biscuit can be made, cut, and frozen days in advance, then baked from frozen in about 20 mins. that morning -- so you could do a whole basket worth now and be done! A rich coffeecake (esp, one with sour cream) should also hold up.

                                                            You might also check this page out:

                                                            1. As previous suggestions the bake ahead eggy strata.
                                                              -one savory eggy strata
                                                              - one sweeter baked french toast casserole dish
                                                              - large platter of fresh fruit: sliced melon, quartered oranges, grapes, whatever looks good
                                                              - whatever breakfast meat/sausage/etc you prefer
                                                              - maybe muffins or a quick bread
                                                              - mimosas (made with seltzer for the kids)

                                                              1. Another vote for stratas or overnight french toast. I like this one.


                                                                1. I just wouldn't do a strata and a baked french toast as they're both essentially bread pudding.
                                                                  A crustless quiche or egg bake paired with a french toast casserole would strike a nice balance.
                                                                  Here's an egg casserole of mine:

                                                                  1. I've really liked these scones, adapted from the Martha Stewart Living cookbook. The bonus is that they're supposed to be frozen before baking, so they're easy to make ahead, even a few weeks. Then they can be baked day of.

                                                                    Raspberry Oat Scones
                                                                    1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
                                                                    2 cups all-purpose flour
                                                                    3/4 cup sugar
                                                                    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
                                                                    1 teaspoon baking soda
                                                                    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
                                                                    2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
                                                                    1 cup frozen raspberries
                                                                    1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
                                                                    2/3 cup buttermilk
                                                                    just before baking:
                                                                    1 tablespoon heavy cream
                                                                    1 tablespoon raw sugar

                                                                    In a mixer, combine the dry ingredients (flours, 3/4 c sugar, salt, soda, powder, oats) and mix. Gradually add butter and blend until it looks like pie crust. Add the buttermilk and blend just until it comes together. Gently mix in raspberries by hand.

                                                                    On the counter, lay out a 18" piece of plastic wrap, and turn out half the dough. Form the dough into a 4x16 log that's about an inch and half to two inches tall. Cut into three sections, and then cut each section in half into two triangles.

                                                                    Place the sections back into the shape of the log and wrap with plastic wrap. Wrap with foil and freeze (2 hrs to a few months). Repeat with the remaining dough.

                                                                    When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Take out dough from freezer, unwrap and space on cookie sheet. For each log, brush with 1/2 TB cream and sprinkle with 1/2 TB sugar. The dough will still be frozen to bake. Depending on how cold the dough is, bake for 45-55 min

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: cookingofjoy

                                                                      This is the perfect answer for my household: make well ahead. Thanks!

                                                                    2. Big pot of coffee..
                                                                      Couple pans of cinnamon rolls..hot out of the oven.
                                                                      Fresh fruit..
                                                                      Orange juice, bloody Mary mix...lots of green olives, horsey and other great bloody sides..Vodka..Champagne for Mimosas.

                                                                      Hot chocolate with whip/ marshmallows..for kids
                                                                      Have some Baileys or Duggans for coffee drinks..whip cream

                                                                      Open presents in PJs ..Xmas music and let it all fall organically. .
                                                                      Enjoy the moment.

                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                        For 15 people who are there for "brunch"?

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          I equate 'Christmas Morning' as everyone is opening presents and they want a no fuss, easy peasy cinnamon buns hot of the oven, coffee and drinks..

                                                                          Brunch is close to noon..
                                                                          OP states she's trying to enjoy the morning with her kids..

                                                                          I don't know their full schedule or have read every single post.

                                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                            I equate Christmas morning as giving Rudolph and his friends a bath and a good feeding.

                                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                              OP is talking about brunch though regardles of the time of day.

                                                                              1. re: c oliver


                                                                                Let it go.

                                                                                If the OP thinks BC's suggestions are inapt, the OP can deal with it on her own terms, and at her discretion.

                                                                                BC knows full well what she is responding to, and full well what her suggestions are.

                                                                                LET. IT. GO.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Others have suggested the same thing, but I don't see you all over them.
                                                                                  It's the holidays, can we play nice..

                                                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                    I apologize. I truly thought you were just talking about putting out some pastry and coffee, not a full spread that included meats, cheeses, etc. I should read more carefully when having my first/only cup of coffee.

                                                                                2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                  OP says later on in the discussion that the "brunch" will be the main meal for the day. It is replacing a more traditional formal dinner with a more casual "brunch".

                                                                                  She wants simple/make ahead things so she can enjoy the morning with her children, rather than working in the kitchen. I get the impression that the guests are arriving late morning, not actually there for the morning ritual.

                                                                            2. I also vote for strata but if that won't do are you near a Trader Joe's? The unbaked croissants in the freezer dept are the way to go if you can safely leave them out to rise Christmas eve. Both the plain and the chocolate are really good and bake quickly when you are ready. We have also had good luck with the cinnamon buns in the refrigerator section.( think they are available as Grands in the large chain stores) Juice and coffee/tea or hot chocolate. Festive paper plates and napkins. Someone said bagels and I have already picked up a tray of smoked salmon (again at Trader Joe's as it is reasonably priced there) and will probably serve that on french bread with butter and capers for brunch on Boxing Day.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. buy the ham, for sure. if you want bacon too, bake it a few days before and just reheat christmas morning.

                                                                                crustless "quiche" -- make 2 for 15 people. i use ruhlman's ratio recipe and this turns out even better after 1-2 days rest. fillings are infinitely adaptable.

                                                                                if you're making muffins or quickbreads of any kind, make them NOW. they freeze and reheat beautifully.

                                                                                if you want more carbs, the french toast "casseroles" would be nice, especially for the kids, and need no last minute fussing, other than pulling out of the oven.

                                                                                offer clusters of grapes, cut pineapple and orange slices for fruit. they're sturdy, juicy and won't brown.

                                                                                i never want salad or separate veggies for brunch. protein, protein and carbs. and.... a bloody mary, lol.

                                                                                1. Our family's Xmas breakfast is Daniel Bouloud's make ahead croque Monsieur. It is easy and delicious. You could always replace the ham with asparagus and serve the gam on the side.
                                                                                  I am hosting a brunch this WE and serving:
                                                                                  Spanish potato tortilla with spicy romesco sauce
                                                                                  Sweet potato biscuits with ham and honey mustard
                                                                                  Brie and peach and pepper jelly turnovers
                                                                                  Bagels lox and cream cheese
                                                                                  Fruit salad
                                                                                  Pastel de vasco
                                                                                  Quick reads and assortment of cookies.
                                                                                  Everything will be made ahead of time

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. I also have to make ahead a Christmas brunch ( to take to a rental home) where I am not sure of the kitchen equiptment. I also have to take into consideration a gluten free person and two vegetarians ..... So..... Here are my ideas thus far:

                                                                                    One or two crustless quiches, both veg
                                                                                    Lemon ricotta pancakes (GF flour) with lemon curd and blueberries
                                                                                    Precooked bacon in the oven
                                                                                    Lentil salad, room temp
                                                                                    Pumpkin roll

                                                                                    People can pick from sweet or savory, or both. It will be an "all you can eat" buffet style :)

                                                                                    1. I like making a huevos rancheros-inspired breakfast casserole, ready to go into the oven Xmas mornng. Served with salsa and guac, it looks quite festive.

                                                                                      I also like to bake cinnamon buns or sticky buns for Xmas morning, but we tend to have so much baking around the house, that we usually eat stollen and/or panettone on Xmas morning.

                                                                                      1. I'm glad you posted! I'm almost in the same boat, but it's all my family. I will have 16 people Christmas morning and for dinner. Some of them will be here from Dec 20-27.

                                                                                        I'm printing out some of the wonderful ideas people have given you.

                                                                                        Hope all goes well with your family!