I would like to wish all of you a very merry Christmas and blessings of the season. I hope you create many memories with friends and family.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have a special magic about them that comes with family traditions. The traditions may include attending candlelight services, hanging Christmas stockings, enjoying a special Christmas Eve supper, having a delicious morning breakfast to go along with opening gifts or a Christmas dinner.

Food is always an integral part of our festivities, and for many families, certain foods must always be present. For instance, since my daughters and I began the tradition of enjoying shrimp, crab and cheese fondue, along with salad and French bread for our Christmas Eve supper, they want those foods included each year, even if other foods are served to accommodate other guests. If you are interested in trying a new recipe for dinner or breakfast, celebrate with one of the following.

Crème Brulee French Bread

French toast is a popular choice and this version makes it extra special. You can make breakfast preparations easier by assembling the casserole dish the day before. Remove it from the refrigerator in the morning, bring it to room temperature and bake. Serve with bacon or sausages and fresh fruit.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

6 (1-inch-thick) slices French bread (from a wide 1-pound loaf)

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Ingredients:

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and arrange bread slices over it in a single layer. Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla and liqueur in a bowl. Pour over bread, then chill, covered, 8 hours or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dish from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Bake, uncovered, until puffed and lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (if using).

Source: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition “Greatest Hits” All Recipes, 2017.

Ham, Egg and Cheese Sliders

Another breakfast dish that can be assembled the day before and refrigerated overnight is this strata recipe. What could be easier than using the King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls that usually are used as dinner rolls, and creating baked sliders from them instead? The rolls are cut through horizontally and the whole sheet of rolls is placed in the baking pan. The rolls are cut into individual sliders after baking.

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

1 package (12 ounces) King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (12 rolls)

1 package (6 ounces) deli fresh Black Forest ham

6 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup butter, divided

1/2 cup Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon poppy seed

Directions:

Transfer rolls from package to cutting board, taking care to not separate rolls. Use serrated knife to carefully cut block of rolls horizontally. Place bottom half of rolls, cut sides up, in 13-by-19-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking spray; top with folded ham slices. Whisk eggs and milk until blended. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large non-stick skillet on medium-low heat. Add eggs; cook 4 to 5 minutes or just until set, stirring constantly; spoon over ham. Spread cream cheese spread onto cut sides of tops of rolls; place cut sides down, over sandwiches in pan. Microwave remaining butter in microwaveable bowl 20 seconds, or until melted. Stir in mustard and poppy seed; drizzle over sandwiches. Let stand 20 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees; bake sandwiches 20 minutes or until heated through.

*These sandwiches also can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bake as directed after removing from refrigerator.

Source: Kraft "Food & Family,” Holiday Edition 2017.

Crabmeat Pot Pie

If you like to serve seafood for Christmas Eve, try serving this delicious pot pie. This seafood dish is a popular specialty served at the Harvey Cedars Tavern on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup celery, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup fish broth or chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream or half-n-half

4 ounces peas (1 cup), blanched

1 cup carrots, cooked and chopped

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of cayenne

1/2 cup quality white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped

1 pound crabmeat

1 package puff pastry or pie crust mix

Egg wash

Directions:

Saute onions and celery until soft in butter. Add flour to thicken. Heat broth and cream and whisk into flour mixture. Add peas, carrots, Worcestershire, cayenne, wine, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer 5 to 8 minutes. Add eggs and fold in crabmeat. Pour in ramekins, cover with puff pastry or pie crust mixture of your choice. Brush egg wash on top. Put in refrigerator for 45 to 60 minutes. Bake in oven at 475 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Watch them closely or they may burn!

Source: “Flavors of Harvey Cedars,” A Collection of Recipes by the Harvey Cedars Activity Committee, New Jersey.

Bernie Mason has written the Local Flavor column for the Billings Gazette for three years or so. She was Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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