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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By Sherrie Norris

How we arrived at this time of year is still a mystery to me — it seems to have come so fast! And, as usual, I am scrambling to get those last minute things done, this time with jury duty and medical appointments thrown in for good measure! Still, I’m so blessed and trying not to be stressed. I love Christmas and all that it represents, but I don’t like that we, as a society, have turned it into such a “hustle-bustle” and so often, the reason for the season is the last thing considered.

Hopefully, in the next few days, we can stop long enough to hear the familiar carols sung and let their words resonate within our hearts. Let’s pause to consider the manger scene and the birth of Christ, which is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

It’s still bittersweet for many, I realize that, when facing first holidays without loved ones, or dealing with other situations that cause pain. My heart aches for you. I’ve been there. I know the hurt — and I do not forget.

But hopefully, as we gather with those who remain with us, we can focus on all that’s good and try hard to make every moment count.

After the gifts are opened and the kids (big ones, too) are trying out their new toys, it’s a tradition in many homes to start the day with Christmas brunch. I always try to do as much as I can prior to Christmas morning so that we all can relax and enjoy the day.

Here’s hoping that you will be able to do the same — and here’s wishing you and your family peace and joy at Christmas.


Breakfast Casserole

8 slices bacon

2 Tbsp. butter, divided

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

6 slices thin sandwich bread

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

8 large eggs

1½ cups milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with remaining butter. Lay bread in baking dish. Top with mushrooms. Crumble bacon over mushrooms and cover with cheese. Beat eggs and milk; add salt and pepper. Pour evenly over cheese, making sure to cover all of the bread. May be baked immediately or refrigerated overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake breakfast casserole 45 minutes or until golden and slightly puffy.


Bread Pudding

2 cups whole milk (or 2 cups half & half)

¼ cup butter

2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark, depending on taste)

3 eggs

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups bread, torn into small pieces (French bread works best)

½ cup raisins (optional)

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk (or half & half), just until film forms over top. Combine butter and milk, stirring until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm.

Combine sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add milk mixture. Place bread in a lightly greased baking dish.

Sprinkle with raisins, if desired. Pour batter on top of bread.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Serve warm.


Orange Cranberry Brunch Rolls       

1 pkg. (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

¼ cup sweetened dried cranberries

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

1 Tbs. packed brown sugar


½ cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs. fresh orange juice

½ tsp. grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Unroll crescent roll dough on another piece of parchment paper to form large rectangle; sprinkle dough evenly with cranberries, pecans and brown sugar. Roll up, starting at long side; pinch edge to seal. Cut into 16 pieces. Press slightly to form round shape.

Arrange pieces, cut side up, 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

For glaze: Mix powdered sugar, juice and grated orange peel in small bowl until well blended. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls. Serve immediately. Makes 16 rolls.


Candy Cane Cocoa

(4 servings)

4 cups low-fat milk

3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

4 regular-sized peppermint candy canes, crushed

4 mini peppermint candy canes

1 cup whipped cream

In a saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Add chocolate and crushed peppermint candies and whisk until everything is melted and smooth.

Divide hot cocoa between four mugs; garnish with whipped cream and serve with a candy cane stirring stick.