Joys of holiday cooking

A serving of The Times’ holiday food stories and traditions.


Holiday Egg Casserole

By Allison Roberts

What I remember most vividly about Christmas as a kid is my brothers waking me up at 4 am, my parents begging us to go back to sleep until 6 am, and the adrenaline rush I got while opening presents. Food? Not so much. When I got a little older, I became more aware of family traditions, and the food linked to those traditions. My mother’s Christmas brunch egg casserole was my favorite. Though not gourmet or complex, it was delicious and comforting. My mom has been gone 16 years now and I miss her. Surprisingly, I had forgotten about her egg casserole until a few years ago, when my daughter and I made it one Christmas morning. It was bittersweet, but when I started whipping up the eggs, I felt as if my mom were right there with us.

Serves about 6.

6-8 eggs (more if you have a large group)
¼ cup of milk, any kind you prefer
½ small sweet white onion, chopped
⅓ cup of fresh herbs of your choice (sage, rosemary, oregano), chopped
dash of Kosher salt and pepper
3 or 4 strips of bacon (turkey, pork, or vegetarian)
½ cup (or more) cheese of your choice (I prefer shredded Cheddar)
Croutons, homemade or store bought
One to two red potatoes, chopped small
Everything but the Bagel spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease a loaf pan or use parchment paper.

Cook onions in a frying pan until soft and translucent.

Add chopped potatoes to the pan (to speed up the cooking time, put them in the microwave for a bit first) and cook until they are relatively soft and crisped up a bit.

Remove onions and potatoes and put the bacon in and cook until lightly browned.

Mix eggs, milk, herbs, Everything but the Bagel spice, and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Stir in shredded cheese.

Pour mixture into pan, place sliced or crumbled bacon and croutons on top, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. If you have a larger baking pan, it may take a bit longer to cook through. I check mine here and there by putting a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Optional ingredients to add: tomatoes, spinach, kale, feta, and olives. Serve with toast, scones, muffins, or any other carb that tickles your fancy. Oh, and don’t forget the coffee.


Peppermint Chocolate Pretzel Snaps 

By Nicole Jackson

Hershey’s snack size milk chocolate bars
Snyder’s Butter Snap pretzels
Candy canes

Take pretzels and lay them flat on a baking sheet.

Break each snack size chocolate bar in half and place each half on a pretzel.

Crush candy canes — this isn’t easy, a good technique is to place them in a bag and whack them with a meat mallet, hammer, or a heavy canned good.

Put the baking sheet with the chocolate topped pretzels into the oven on low heat until you see the chocolate just begin to soften and lose its form.

When you see the chocolate softening, immediately take the tray out of the oven and sprinkle the peppermint crunch on top before the chocolate hardens.

Put them into the fridge for a couple minutes, or let them sit on the counter to harden up and they’re ready to enjoy!


Super Moist Carrot Cake Crunch 

By Sharisse Scott-Rawlins

3-6 cups grated carrots
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
4 medium eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (yes, you can use melted butter instead!)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup crushed pecans (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional)

Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1 package cream cheese
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(Add ⅓ cup of heavy whipping cream for a lighter frosting.)

Preheat the oven to 350°

Dry Bowl: In a medium bowl, add flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda.

Wet Bowl: In a separate large bowl, add vegetable oil, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and whisk. Add dry ingredients into the “wet” bowl, and also add carrots (and nuts and/or raisins), and whisk until fully distributed.

Pour the mixture into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans for a layered cake (or you can even make cupcakes!) Bake for 35-45 minutes (shorter time for cupcakes). Let cool completely. Take room temperature butter and cream cheese and put them in a medium bowl. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, whisk until smooth, frost as desired. I like to add crushed pecans around the perimeter for an added crunch!