For more than 100 years, brunch — derived from the words “breakfast” and “brunch” — has been a popular weekend or special occasion midday meal. With New Year’s Day falling on Sunday this year, it’s the perfect solution/excuse to squeeze in one more holiday party. A brunch buffet, mostly make-ahead recipes leaning more toward breakfast foods than lunch fare, is one of the easiest ways to celebrate, so add one of these to your holiday table.

Cranberry Mimosa

Make 2 drinks

For a cool, less traditional brunch drink, you’ll love this festive mimosa that combines citrus flavors with cranberry juice and Champagne. If you prefer a non-alcoholic version, substitute sparkling cranberry juice for the Champagne, or use Prosecco.

2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cranberry juice, chilled
Champagne
1 small strawberry, halved, for garnish

Divide liqueur, lemon juice, and cranberry juice equally between 2 Champagne flutes. Fill glasses with Champagne and garnish with the strawberry, if desired.

Sausage and Swiss Strata

Serves 8 to 10

This strata is a savory bread pudding to which you add cheese, meat, or vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach, or asparagus. It’s assembled ahead of time by layering the ingredients in a casserole dish, refrigerating overnight, and baking on the day of the brunch. For a breakfast casserole without bread, try the variation that follows.

1 pound breakfast sausage or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 (8-ounce) baguette, cubed
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups grated Kerrygold Swiss cheese
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Dubliner cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Spray a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Place half the bread in prepared dish and drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with half the sausage and half the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, sausage, and cheese.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, wine, sour cream, chives, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour evenly over bread mixture; press down with a spatula to ensure bread absorbs the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove casserole from refrigerator 1 hour before baking, unwrap and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake casserole for 55 to 60 minutes, or until center is set and the top is browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Variation: Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Bake

Serves 10 to 12

Cook sausage as above. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, 12 eggs, 2 cups (plus more for sprinkling) grated Kerrygold Cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper; stir in sausage. Spray a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mixture into the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Remove casserole from refrigerator 1 hour before baking, unwrap and sprinkle with additional cheese. Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake casserole 45 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and the top is browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Baked French Toast

Makes 12 toasts

Another make-ahead dish for your brunch buffet, this French toast is drizzled with maple syrup and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. You can also serve it topped with fresh fruit.

1 loaf soft Italian bread, cut into 12 slices
4 tablespoons softened butter
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups half-and-half
3 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Maple syrup, for serving
Fresh berries, for serving (optional)

Spray a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with butter flavored cooking spray. Butter the top of each slice of bread and arrange slices in a single layer in prepared dish buttered-side-up.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Pour evenly over bread, pressing down with a spatula to ensure bread absorbs the liquid. Cover with buttered aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before baking; unwrap.

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the bread pieces to the pan in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, turn over, and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until golden brown; dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Breakfast Strata

Breakfast Strata

Holiday Muffins

Makes 6 dozen mini muffins

These muffins combine three traditional holidays ingredients in one scrumptious little treat: creamy pumpkin, fruity mincemeat, and tart dried cranberries. You can bake them up to 2 weeks ahead and freeze them, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin
1 (9-ounce) package condensed mincemeat, such as Borden’s None Such brand
1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray three 24 mini-muffin cup pans with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sweetened condensed milk, and sugar with an electric mixer on medium until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add pumpkin and mix until well blended. Gradually stir in flour mixture, mincemeat, and cranberries.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for about 16 minutes, or until lightly browned. (Rotate pans from bottom to middle oven racks after 8 minutes). Remove from oven and let muffins cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, freeze, or store in airtight container.

Margaret M. Johnson’s “Favorite Flavors of Ireland” is a “labor of love and tribute to her thirty years of travel there.” It offers more than 100 best-loved recipes from her previous ten cookbooks and celebrates the special flavors of each Irish season: Spring/An t-Earrach, Summer/An Samhradh, Autum/An Fómhar, Winter/An Geimhreadh.” To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com.

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This article originally appeared in the Irish Echo. You can see more from them here at www.irishecho.com.

French Toast with fruitIrish Echo