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6 big-batch breakfasts for holiday entertaining

House full of guests? These recipes will make your mornings go much smoother.

Christmas is the season for entertaining in my household. With no family living less than three hours away, our guests always stay overnight, and usually in substantial numbers. What I've learned over the years is that planning meals in advance is crucial to having a good time, especially breakfast. That's the meal when guests are least likely to pitch in (because they're still in bed while I'm up with young kids) and I feel the least like hanging out in the kitchen. So I've developed an approach that works reliably – make breakfast in a large batch, preferably in the oven.

These ‘pan-based' breakfasts, as I think of them, are much simpler than cooking individual things like pancakes, waffles, or even toast and eggs. It gets the job done in one big effort, pleasing the guests with its novelty and minimizing the work I have to do. Some can even be made partially the night before. Here are some of my favorites, and please share any ideas you might have in the comments below. I'm always looking for ideas.

1. Baked French toast

Make your favorite French toast recipe as usual, dipping bread slices in the milk-egg mixture (best if you let soak 15 minutes), but then spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375F for 25 minutes or until browned and puffed. Alternatively, you can spread the plain bread slices in a 9″x13″ baking pan that's been greased and sprinkled with brown sugar, and pour the egg-milk mixture over top. Let it soak overnight in fridge, then bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Here's a recipe.

2. Baked oatmeal

A family favorite, this is easy, healthy, and hearty, and can be doubled or tripled as needed to feed a crowd. I often add shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, chia seeds, and frozen blueberries before baking. You can find the recipe here.

3. Frittata

Bon Appétit shared a great recipe for a frittata with spiced chickpeas and greens in its holiday issue last year. Although it was suggested as a dinner dish, it makes a great breakfast, too, especially if you're a savoury fan, as I am. Here's the recipe.

4. Huevos rancheros

I make a highly Anglicized version of this Mexican classic, but authenticity is the least of my concerns when I have a crowd of hungry guests. I like huevos rancheros because it is packed with flavor and can cook a good number of eggs at the same time. Sometimes I get 2 pans going at the same time. My recipe comes from the old 1976 More with Less cookbook, but I've jazzed it up a bit:

Sauté in 3 tbsp oil:
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 x 28-oz can diced tomatoes, or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, occasionally mashing tomatoes.
Break 6 eggs into hot sauce. Cover with a sprinkling of grated Cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Cover skillet and poach for 3-5 minutes until as firm as desired. Serve with toast or tortillas.

5. Baked sweet potato hash

This recipe comes from Canadian cook Bonnie Stern, and it's another healthy, filling option packed with flavor. Serve with toasted whole-wheat English muffins.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 chopped jalapeño, and cook till fragrant. Add 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced, and 1/2 cup water. Cook 10-15 minutes or until water has evaporated and potato is tender.
Add 1 cup corn kernels, 1/4 lb smoked ham (or vegan alternative), optional, 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes longer.
Spread in a lightly oiled shallow 6-cup baking dish. Break 6 eggs over vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or mozzarella on top. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until yolks are completely set and cheese is melted.
Serves 6.

6. Cinnamon buns

When I'm feeling really fancy, I make a batch of homemade cinnamon buns. Start the dough in the afternoon of the day before you want to eat the buns for breakfast, and let it rise. Shape the buns, put them in a greased pan, and refrigerate overnight. Take the pans out of the fridge while the oven preheats, then sit back with your coffee and let the house fill with the heavenly aroma – the greatest alarm clock ever! You may have a favorite recipe already, but if not, this is one I use.

House full of guests? These recipes will make your mornings go much smoother.