Ho, Ho, Holiday Brunch

Gathering around the table with family and friends can be the most joyful times of the holiday season. From noshing at office parties to New Year’s Eve merrymaking with our closest friends and heartwarming festivities with extended family, the neverending savory feasts and sweet treats keep us indulging right through to January.

A happy holiday brunch tops the celebration list of joyous gatherings. The dishes are lighter fare, they can be a variety of sweet and savory, and you can sip a little sip or two of spirits to keep you in the seasonal spirit.

Whether hosting a large brunch for family or an intimate get-together for a few friends, the ultimate goal is to feed many people without feeling overwhelmed by the task. These dishes promise to turn eyes and fill tummies.

They’re the dream menu items for a fabulous brunch--cheesy, salty, sweet, and slightly intoxicating—and they’ll wow your guests with minimal stress. The alcohol is optional, of course, but the merriment is mandatory.

Happy hosting!

Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients:

3 day-old everything bagels,

cut into bite-size pieces

1 bell pepper, chopped

3/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes or chopped regular tomato

6 slices cooked bacon, chopped

9 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese

1/2 tsp. ground mustard

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

6-ounce block of cream cheese,

cut into bite-size pieces

OPTIONAL GARNISH: 

everything bagel seasoning, scallions

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 9-by-13-inch baking pan or 3-quart casserole dish.

Layer bagel pieces, chopped pepper, tomatoes, and bacon into dish. Whisk eggs, milk, cheese, ground mustard, salt, and pepper together in large bowl and pour evenly over bagel mixture. Top evenly with pieces of cream cheese and sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning, if desired. Bake 40-50 minutes or until center is set and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before topping with scallions, if desired. Slice to serve. Leftover casserole can be covered to refrigerate for up to one week.

Slow Cooker Egg Nog

Adapted from

Ingredients:

7 egg yolks, beaten

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar

3 1/2 cups milk, any kind, with fat,

room temperature

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, full fat canned

coconut milk or whole evaporated milk, room temperature

OPTIONAL:

1/4 cup rum

1 whole cinnamon stick

2 whole nutmeg seeds, plus more for grating as garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl or 4-quart slow cooker, whisk together egg yolks and granulated sugar until smooth. (Larger slow cooker will work, but will need to be monitored and whisked more often.) Add milk, cream and optional rum in slow stream, whisking constantly until well-combined. Add cinnamon stick and whole nutmeg seeds. Mixture will be smooth and relatively thin. If you’ve used a large bowl, transfer mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 1.5 to 2 hours, whisking occasionally, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overcook. Discard nutmeg and cinnamon. Unplug slow cooker and allow to cool for at least an hour before transferring to covered container and refrigerating until chilled. Serve cold or warm with sprinkle of grated nutmeg.

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cheesecake

Adapted from tasteofhome.com

Ingredients:

1 package (4 ounces)

cannoli shells

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp. grated orange zest

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. rum extract

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

OPTIONAL: chopped pistachios

Instructions:

Pulse cannoli shells in food processor until coarse crumbs form. Add sugar, cracker crumbs, and melted butter and pulse again until just combined. Press onto bottom and up sides of greased 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour. Beat first four filling ingredients together until blended. Beat in ricotta cheese and extracts. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into chilled crust. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. If desired, top with chopped pistachios before serving.

Vanilla Cranberry Mimosas or Punch

Adapted from honeyandbirch.com

Ingredients:

1.5 ounces vanilla vodka

1.5 ounces cranberry juice

Sparkling wine (champagne, prosecco, cava)

OPTIONAL GARNISHES: fresh cranberries, whole vanilla beans

Instructions:

In cocktail shaker, combine vanilla vodka, cranberry juice, and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into champagne flute. Fill glass to top with sparkling wine and garnish as desired. To make as punch, multiply cranberry juice and vanilla vodka by six and use an entire bottle of sparkling wine. Double or triple as necessary, depending on number of guests.

Strawberry and Orange Salad

Adapted from onceuponachef.com

Ingredients:

1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved

or quartered if large

3 oranges, peeled

1 tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste

2 1/2 tbs. light brown sugar, packed

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint, plus a sprig for garnish

Instructions:

Place cut strawberries into serving bowl. With sharp knife, cut orange segments out from between membranes into bowl with strawberries. Over separate small bowl, squeeze remaining membranes to release orange juice, add lemon juice and brown sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over strawberries and orange segments and gently toss to combine. Sprinkle with fresh mint. Add more lemon juice, if needed, to taste. Refrigerate for at least

30 minutes or up to six hours. Garnish with fresh mint.

Crispy Potato Pancake Poppers

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

3 tbs. butter, melted

2 large russet potatoes, peeled

1/2 tbs. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper,

or to taste

1 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

OPTIONAL GARNISHES:

sour cream, chives

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously brush melted butter into 24-cup mini-muffin pan. Set aside. Fill 1/3 of large bowl with cold water and grate potatoes into water. Then fill bowl with more cold water and swish potatoes around to rinse off starch. Pour off water and refill with more cold water, rinsing until water runs clear. Let potatoes drain in colander for a few minutes and then transfer to clean kitchen towel, wrap, and squeeze out all liquid. Put potatoes in clean bowl and add garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and olive oil. Sprinkle flour over top, then add Parmigiano-Reggiano. (Note: Add flour and cheese in order listed to avoid clumping.) Toss gently with hands until thoroughly combined and damp. Grabbing potato mixture from bottom of bowl to get as much moisture as possible, fill greased muffin cups. Mixture can go over pan by up to an inch. Bake in center of preheated oven until golden brown on top, caramelized on the bottom, and crispy all over, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for 5 minutes before flipping them over onto baking sheet. Serve with sour cream and chive garnishes, if desired.

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