I expected the first Christmas I was married to be peaceful, romantic, and special. I had visions of my honey and I quietly sipping cocoa and exchanging gifts in our cozy little apartment, enjoying just being together, and then taking a leisurely evening trip across town to visit our loved ones and revel in the Christmas of various nieces and nephews (we were in a blissful state of kid-less-ness that I can no longer recall- no matter how hard I try). Much to my chagrin, these newly-wed, Norman Rockwell images were far from our reality. With two sets of divorced parents we found ourselves traveling to no less than 4 different Christmas celebrations. All of which were hosted by well-meaning family members whose sole goal was to out-host our next stop. I will spare you the details of the evening- rest assured it is the stuff movies are made of. Let’s just say by the end of the night we were tired, grumpy, and FULL (seriously- how many servings of glazed ham and au-gratin potatoes can one couple be expected to eat?) We vowed that the next year would be different.
So when November rolled around and hubby gently reminded me that we needed a plan, I set to work. After much negotiation among the families (that included a few offenses, followed by forgiveness and make-up hugs) we worked out a schedule for the big day. Our plan worked and we had a full but joyous day of celebrations. In fact, one of our most loved traditions came out of the plan- the family Christmas Eve breakfast.
What started as a desperate attempt to space out familial obligations, has become a festive holiday tradition that the whole clan enjoys. We eat breakfast, exchange gifts, play a board game, and those who can spare the time head out to the movies. Of course the key to a successful holiday party is the food and I am sure most of you will agree it’s pretty hard to go wrong with breakfast foods. We mix things up a bit each year but have some key dishes that have probably crossed the line from tradition to requirement…it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without them. I will warn you- most of these favorites are not healthy or figure-friendly. They are fun, delicious, and comforting. Just the thing a holiday celebration should be.
Dutch Oven Breakfast Casserole is one of those “must-haves”. We like making it in our cast iron Dutch oven (this makes yummy, crispy edges) but really any oven-safe, deep casserole dish will work fine. The great thing about this recipe is it can be made the night before and so all you have to do is pop it in the oven an hour or so before you are ready to serve it up. While using fresh diced potatoes is usually my first choice I have been known to sub frozen, shredded potatoes and even Tator Tots. This Casserole tastes great on its own but is really wonderful topped with homemade salsa.
Orange Glazed Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are a decadent but completely necessary indulgence for Christmas Eve. The recipe I am sharing here takes a bit of work but is TOTALLY worth it. If you are not an experienced bread maker (and are a little intimidated to try for a big holiday) I would recommend using Rhodes frozen bread dough loaves. (Shhh it will be our little secret. Believe me the filling, glaze, and frosting I am sharing are so good no one will complain.)
While the rolls are cooling top them with the orange glaze of your choice. I always seem to have my favorite Orange Vanilla Jam on hand thanks to my great BB citrus add-ons. I thin some of that out with a little water and then brush it on. If you do not want to go to the work of making the jam just mix some orange juice with a little bit of powdered sugar and some vanilla until you get a glazey consistency and brush that on. Then, while the rolls are still warm add dollops of the cream cheese frosting. If you are like me you will need a little extra container of the frosting- like that famous food court favorite but WAY, WAY better!
Virginia’s Festive Fruit Salad is one of those dishes that you will either love or loathe. The family is split on this one but those in the “Love” camp will not let a holiday pass by without it. (I will not sway you in one direction or another by telling you my position on the fruit salad- you’ll just have to try it for yourself)
Rudolph’s Red Smoothies are a fun way to get some fruit into the morning menu and the kiddos absolutely love them. The key to making these really special is to top them with a nice dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle that with cinnamon to get a brown reindeer tint, and then place a halved cherry or red berry in the middle so Rudolph’s nose will shine away. Top it off with two little chocolate or pretzel stick antlers and mini chocolate chip eyes. It’s generally warm enough in Las Vegas to enjoy these smoothies throughout the holidays. If you live in a colder climate this could easily be done with Hot Cocoa.
The family Christmas Eve breakfast is a tradition that we happened to stumble upon but I am so glad that we did. It is one of our most treasured moments each year. I hope that this holiday season will find you making room for the moments that count. Scramble up a casserole, snuggle up to a Rudolph smoothie, and gather the family for a breakfast tradition you will never forget.