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8 breakfast recipes worthy of Christmas morning

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

It’s Christmas morning. The presents have been opened. Everything is festive and there is a sense of good cheer in the air.

Now: What’s for breakfast?

Christmas breakfast is a special occasion that does not get the attention that is given to many other noteworthy meals. But it should stand out as a particularly happy time, a meal for celebration. A bowl of Cheerios just won't cut it.

If you had the good fortune to grill a standing rib roast for Christmas Eve, the next day’s breakfast is a no-brainer: Chop up some of the leftover beef, add diced potatoes and slap a poached egg on top, and you’ll have the best hash of your life.

But if you happen not to have leftover grilled standing rib roast on hand, Christmas breakfast can still be a time of comfort as well as joy.

To prove that theory, I made seven dishes — or so I thought. When I later checked, I discovered I had actually made eight. I am apparently not great at some of the higher levels of advanced math, such as counting.

In my defense, one of them is so easy it barely registers as a dish. But it is too good to ignore. Tangerine-Grapefruit Juice is made by combining freshly squeezed tangerine juice with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

It’s simple, but it’s wonderful. The juice is light and refreshing, without the heaviness and sour tang of orange juice. The flavors of the two citrus juices play off each other in a most delightful way, and there is something else about this drink, too: It is even better with a splash of gin. You know, to make your day merry and bright.

All the best breakfasts begin with muffins, so I appropriately started mine with Coffee Pecan Muffins. They were so insanely addictive I probably ate far more of them than I should. In fact, these are the muffins that will launch a thousand day-after-Christmas diets.

The coffee flavor is subtle in them, but it is also the most important taste. The pecans and brown sugar in the batter bring out the best undertones in the coffee, but none of the bitterness. The recipe comes from a now-closed inn in California that said the muffins were one of their most-requested items in their rotating breakfast buffet, and it is easy to see why. If you stayed there, you’d ask for these muffins, too.

Because Christmas breakfast is a dressed-up brunch, I decided to make an irresistible brunch favorite, Deviled Avocado.

These are always the first item to go at any brunch. They are the same idea as deviled eggs, but with an avocado. Instead of a mashed yolk-and-mayo mixture in the hole, these have homemade hummus. This hummus is an especially easy recipe that only takes a few minutes to bring together.

A bit of turmeric turns the hummus an appealing (and yolk-like) shade of yellow, and a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds — also known as pepitas — I got them at my local grocery store — adds a pop of nutty flavor and a nice crunch.

Any brunch worth its syrup involves one of the Big Three morning carbohydrate plates: French toast, pancakes or waffles.

I made French toast, but it was far more than French toast. Cubes of bread soak in eggnog, eggs, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla extract and orange zest, and are then baked in the oven like a strata.

If that were all that is to it, it would be pretty amazing. But this insanely decadent dish reaches to the stratosphere, courtesy of a middle layer dotted with cream cheese and berries.

I used fresh berries. That way the whole thing was, um — healthy?

Obviously, protein was called for. So I made a truly fabulous potato quiche. It is a quiche without a crust, which is a good thing if you are also eating Baked Eggnog French Toast.

This is a hearty, filling quiche, just the thing you want on a chilly day. It is the sort of brawny quiche that real men love to eat.

Coincidentally, a number of the same ingredients that went into the quiche — potatoes, onions, bacon, eggs, half and half — are also part of the other main course I made, a Hobo Breakfast.

Do not let the name concern you; a Hobo Breakfast is a sophisticated, multilevel meal.

The base is a meatless hash, just potatoes and onions cooked together until the potatoes are crispy. On top of that layer goes poached eggs, and few foods create more of a sense of elegance than poached eggs.

And on top of that is a cream sauce, but it is so much more than a cream sauce. This sauce begins with a roux, which is pretty fancy to begin with, and then adds half-and-half, bacon and shredded cheese that melts into the sauce.

Hobos never had it so good.

I also took the festive route for dessert. I made Aromatic Pears, which are pears that are poached in a simple syrup spiced with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and a bit of ginger.

When you eat it, you will not be the first person to say, “This tastes just like Christmas.”

Don’t forget to serve whipped cream on the side. Not only does it add another dollop of luxury, it also softens and rounds the tones of the spices that have soaked into the pear.

And then I made one more dessert for your family and guests to nibble on while they sit at the table after the meal is over but they are not yet ready to leave the good company and good feelings that come from a wonderful meal.

Cinnamon Cookies are just the thing for that lazy time of post-meal fellowship and love. They are simple to make, crisp and unfussy. They taste of nothing but cinnamon, butter and brown sugar; an unbeatable combination that everyone loves.

Think of them as one last Christmas present.

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COFFEE PECAN MUFFINS

Yield: 16 smaller muffins, 12 larger ones

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pecans, divided

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease muffin tins and set aside.

2. Mix butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, egg and coffee granules, and mix well. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup of the chopped pecans. Add the milk/brown sugar mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just mixed, being careful not to overbeat.

3. Fill prepared muffin tins 3/4 full. Mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped pecans with the granulated sugar and sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes.

Per serving (based on 16): 242 calories; 9 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 27 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 40 g carbohydrate; 28 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 55 mg sodium; 83 mg calcium

Adapted from “Four Sisters Inns Cookbook”

AROMATIC PEARS

Yield: 6 servings

1 lemon

1 cup dry white wine

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

1 stick cinnamon

2 whole cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

6 firm-fleshed pears or 12 Seckel pears

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks and chilled, or 2 cups whipped cream

1. Grate zest from the lemon and set aside. Cut the lemon in half, extract 1 tablespoon juice and set juice and lemon halves aside.

2. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine lemon zest, wine, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, peel pears with a vegetable peeler, leaving stems on. Rub the surface of the pears with the cut side of a lemon half to prevent them from darkening. Poach pears in the syrup, turning occasionally, until their flesh can easily be pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let pears cool in syrup for 10 minutes.

4. Remove pears from syrup with a slotted spoon and arrange, stem-side up, in a shallow serving dish. Return syrup to a boil over high heat until reduced to 11/2 cups. Stir in lemon juice. Allow syrup to cool to lukewarm.

5. Carefully strain syrup over pears. To serve, pass pears accompanied by whipped cream in a separate bowl.

Per serving: 325 calories; 15 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 45 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 41 g carbohydrate; 29 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 14 mg sodium; 60 mg calcium

Recipe by “Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook”

BAKED EGGNOG FRENCH TOAST

Yield: 12 servings

4 cups eggnog

6 eggs

1 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 1/2 loaves sourdough bread, diced

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries, plus more for garnish

Powdered sugar, sifted, for garnish

Mint leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. Beat together eggnog, eggs, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla and orange zest. Put about 3/4 of the diced bread in a large bowl. Add eggnog mixture and let bread soak for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Layer unsoaked diced bread in prepared baking dish. Dot top with pieces of cream cheese. Sprinkle with berries. Spread soaked bread over berries. Bake 50 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with blueberries or raspberries and a mint leaf.

Per serving: 414 calories; 14 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 162 mg cholesterol; 15 g protein; 60 g carbohydrate; 28 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 485 mg sodium; 195 mg calcium

 

Adapted from “California Bed & Breakfast Cookbook” by Melissa Craven and Jordan Salcito; recipe by Tamarack Pines Inn

POTATO QUICHE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

5 eggs

2 large russet (baking) potatoes, grated

1/2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups sour cream

1/4 cup half-and-half

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch or 10-inch quiche pan or tart pan.

2. Beat eggs well in a large bowl. Add potatoes, bacon, onion, sour cream and half-and-half. Season generously with salt and pepper, and mix well. Pour into prepared pan; the pan can be filled very full.

3. Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 35 to 45 minutes, or until firm.

Per serving (based on 6): 335 calories; 17 g fat; 9 g saturated fat; 188 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 31 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 226 mg sodium; 162 mg calcium

Adapted from “Four Sisters Inns Cookbook”

CINNAMON COOKIES

Yield: About 30 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Sift flour, cinnamon and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat until light. Add flour mixture and blend well. Cover and chill cookie dough in refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

4. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of dough 1/8-inch thick. Use a 21/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out cookies and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the second half of dough. Sprinkle cookies with granulated sugar.

5. Bake in the center of the oven 7 to 8 minutes, or until firm and just beginning to brown around the edges (you may have to do this in 2 batches). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Store in a tightly covered container.

Per cookie: 62 calories; 3 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 14 mg cholesterol; 1 g protein; 8 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 79 mg sodium; 7 mg calcium

Recipe from “Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook”

HOBO BREAKFAST

Yield: 6 servings

5 large red potatoes

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half, or more if needed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon, optional

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

1 tablespoon white vinegar

6 eggs

1. Boil potatoes in large pot of boiling water until easily pierced with a knife or fork. Drain and dice; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Remove onions and set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil in the large skillet. Add potatoes, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until potatoes are browned and crisp. Stir in parsley and potatoes.

3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add half-and-half and cook, stirring, until thickened; add more half-and-half (or milk) if needed. Add lemon juice and bacon pieces if using. Add 3/4 cup of the cheese; cook until melted and combined. Keep warm.

4. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese over the potatoes and place in oven until cheese melts. Remove from oven — remember, the skillet handle will be hot.

5. Meanwhile, fill a saucepan half-full with water and add the vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then crack eggs gently into the water (do this in batches). Poach eggs for about 3 minutes; remove carefully with a slotted spoon. Gently place poached eggs on top of the potatoes. Top with cream sauce.

Per serving: 548 calories; 26 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; 242 mg cholesterol; 22 g protein; 59 g carbohydrate; 7 g sugar; 6 g fiber; 785 mg sodium; 342 mg calcium

Adapted from “California Bed & Breakfast Cookbook” by Melissa Craven and Jordan Salcito; recipe from Green Gables Inn

DEVILED AVOCADO

Yield: 8 servings

1 (15-ounce) can or jar chickpeas — also called garbanzo beans — rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons tahini

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon fine salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 avocados, halved and pitted

1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika

Flaky salt, for serving

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted, see note

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Note: Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are available at some grocery stores and specialty stores.

1. In a food processor, process the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, lemon juice, oil and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. Add a little more water, tablespoon by tablespoon, as needed until creamy but still scoopable. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.

2. Scoop 2 rounded tablespoons of hummus into each avocado “’hole,” as for deviled eggs.

3. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the paprika, flaky salt, pumpkin seeds and chives.

Per serving: 245 calories; 20 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 0mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 8 g fiber; 640 mg sodium; 37 mg calcium

Recipe from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier

TANGERINE-GRAPEFRUIT JUICE

Yield: 5 to 6 servings

6 tangerines, halved

3 medium grapefruit, halved

Squeeze juice from tangerines and grapefruit. Combine and chill. This juice is great by itself or mixed with a little gin or vodka.

Per serving: 100 calories; 1 g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; 2 g protein; 25 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 4 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 61 mg calcium

Adapted from “Crabtree & Evelyn Cookbook”