Dinner Diva column by Leanne Ely
The countdown has started and now is the time to get the food ready for the Christmas holiday. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas (and we’re in the midst of Hanukkah right now), but everyone enjoys the festivities of a celebration and when we can break bread together and feast together, it makes life rich and full. That is why I am so passionate about keeping the family dinner table a well-loved and well-used place to bring the family together.
Although we are still a few weeks away from Christmas morning, it’s nice to get things done well in advance and have your menu pre-set, and the shopping done. You can buy everything here now (just freeze the French bread for the Strata and thaw before using). To keep it simple, I have an easy and doable menu that you make the night before Christmas morning.
· Christmas Eve Shortcut Cinnamon Buns
· Christmas Morning Strata
· Chilled Tangerines (no recipe – just chill ’em in the fridge for a sweet treat that morning)
Christmas Eve Shortcut Cinnamon Buns
Makes 20 buns
These are made the night before and popped in the oven Christmas morning when the kids are attacking their stockings!
– 20 unbaked frozen dinner rolls (Bridgeport is a brand I have used)
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
– 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
– 1/3 cup butter, melted
Lightly grease a 10 inch bundt cake pan. Place frozen rolls into the pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, the pudding mix, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over the top. If you don’t have a bundt pan, you can use a muffin tin, but they turn out better in a bundt pan.
Cover with a clean, damp cloth and leave overnight at room temperature to rise.
In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake rolls for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Turn rolls out onto a serving plate and dig in!
Christmas Morning Strata
– 1 loaf French bread, cubed (either by hand or with a knife)
– 2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
– 3/4 pound Provolone, chopped
– 14 large eggs
– 2 1/2 cups milk
– Salt and pepper, to taste
– 2 teaspoons dry mustard (optional, but adds a nice little bite)
– 3/4 pound cheddar, shredded
Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Make a single layer of bread cubes in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the bread evenly with the spinach. Then add the chopped Provolone cheese. Top with another layer of bread cubes.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings. Pour over the layers evenly making sure that all of the top layer of bread is moistened. At this point, you have two options: refrigerate it overnight or bake for 1 hour (350 degree preheated oven).
When you bake it, watch it starting at about 50 minutes It shouldn’t be ready to pull until its puffed up a bit and just starting to get golden brown (you don’t want it too brown).
If you want to test it, a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. While it is cooling, top with the cheddar cheese and allow it to melt by itself. You might need to return it for just a minute to the oven to finish melting.
Makes 6-8 servings—depending on how hungry you are!