Who wants to spend Christmas morning stuck in the kitchen while the family or guests mingle around the tree? That’s not how it has to go down. With so many breakfast and brunch dishes that can be easily warmed, and lots of prep work that can be done ahead, there’s no reason to be isolated at the kitchen counter.

Warm It Up

Michelle Martinez, one of the owners of Toast and Jam in Schererville, offers a couple of recipes that work well as make-ahead meals. One is a Mediterranean Strata that can be baked ahead and re-heated and works well for a big crowd. “With the breakfast strata, you can make it your own and add other cheeses and different ingredients,” Martinez says. “You could have fun and put on different toppings. Eggs typically warm well, especially once they’re baked and in casserole form.”

The second recipe is for a breakfast calzone that can also be easily customized to satisfy different tastes. “For kids I make ham and cheese or you can have a veggie one,” she says. “And those you can freeze. I make them ahead and freeze them for my kids to have before school.”

If you want to opt out of cooking altogether, Toast and Jam has homemade doughnuts available daily along with homemade jams. You can also pre-order some of their banana nut bread or blueberry bread made in-house.

Take-Home Treats

Timbrook Kitchens in Munster has a variety of breakfast specialties that change slightly each day, and many of them work well to take home and warm up later, such as chorizo, egg and mozzarella hand pies, bacon cheddar hash brown breakfast pies or brioche cinnamon rolls. Others need no reheating at all, including cinnamon cigars, almond dark chocolate croissants or berry pop tarts with lemon lime glaze.

Owner Chris Monroe provided a recipe for a make-ahead dish that’s on the sweet side, Strawberry Donut Bread Pudding. It uses stale glazed doughnuts and is finished with a rich chocolate sauce.

Hearty and Delicious

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Chef Joe Trama knows a thing or two about serving breakfast as his catering company prepares a weekly Sunday brunch served at the Center for Performing Arts in Munster as well as additional special occasion and holiday brunches. His first recommendation for a good make-ahead breakfast meal is an egg casserole. He says that you can start with the same basic ingredients and tailor it as you wish to give it an ethnic flair.

“You basically use a dozen eggs, 9 slices of bread that you cube, a teaspoon and a half each of seasoned salt and dry mustard, a half teaspoon of white or black pepper, two cups of shredded cheese and a pound of whatever meat you choose,” he says. “You cook at 350 degrees in a conventional oven, covered with foil for 45 minutes in a water bath. Remove and then bake for another 15 minutes.”

The water bath is important, he says, because it encourages more even baking and reduces the harshness of the heat. Trama suggests using Italian sausage, mozzarella, and roasted red pepper for an Italian version of the casserole, or chorizo, Chihuahua cheese and roasted poblano pepper for a Spanish-inspired egg casserole. “It’s in-between a quiche and a frittata texture,” he says. Remember to sauté any vegetables before adding them to the mixture.

Another popular breakfast dish that Trama recommends where much of the prep can be done in advance is cheese blintzes. “Those are easy to heat up and could have some nice fruits with it, like blueberries or raspberries or a nice strawberry glaze or an apple topping,” Trama says. The cream cheese filling can be pre-made and stored in the refrigerator.

Time Savers

There are a lot of other time savers for typical breakfast foods. Trama says it’s an old hotel trick to pre-brown sausage and then warm it before serving. “We would pre-cook sausage and just put it on the grill to warm up, and that gives you some extra time to spend with guests,” he says. He also mentions that you can easily cut time by steaming or boiling potatoes the night before so that they are ready to fry in the morning to make hash browns.

A make-ahead dish that is sure to impress guests is one that Trama has served for brunch, a cranberry-vodka cured salmon. You actually make it several days ahead, because it needs about four days to cure. Trama puts a three-pound salmon in a shallow pan sprinkled with salt and brown sugar and two cups of cranberry sauce, a shot of vodka and some fresh dill. Once prepared, it should be turned about every 12 hours and then served chilled.

Carry It Out

Round the Clock in Valparaiso and Chesterton also carries a variety of delectable breakfast items for takeout. Their breakfast quiche is a flaky baked pastry crust filled with ham, cheddar, mushrooms, peppers, and onions, and it can be made vegetarian upon request. For extra convenience, they also offer a house-baked muffin try, with a choice of banana nut, blueberry, chocolate chip and peanut butter muffins.

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