Merry Christmas to All


At our house, the main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve with family and friends.

After the first star is spotted in the sky, the youngest person in the gathering gets to carry the Baby Jesus to the manger where his family, the shepherds and the angels await.

Then we gather round the table to enjoy company, conversation and a recreation of the meal mom always turned out: roast beef with all the trimmings.

We exchange presents after watching Midnight Mass from the Vatican and before bidding each other fond farewells.

This year, we’re aiming for 8 a.m. Mass on Christmas Day at Holy Family Church on County Line Road in Lakewood where longtime friend  Hannah Havens, will be one of the readers.

Then it’s off to the home of very good friends Paulette and John Shavel for the wonderful brunch that’s become an annual tradition at their home.

I’ll be contributing an Apple Raisin French Toast Strata adapted from allrecipes.com where it’s described as a “simple but elegant way to make breakfast fast.”

Stratas are typically put together the night before and popped into the oven in the morning so I plan to assemble it after all the guests leave. It really only takes a few minutes.

This recipe tested like a dream. It was, as they say, delish!

Christmas Strata

Ingredients: 1 pound loaf cinnamon raisin bread, cubed; 1 (eight ounce) package cream cheese, diced; 1 cup diced peeled apples; 8 eggs; 2 1/2 cups light cream; 6 tablespoons butter or subsitute, melted; 1/4 cup maple syrup; extra raisins.

Directions: Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange 1/2 of the cubed raisin bread in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the cream cheese evenly over the bread and top with apples. If you like extra raisins, add them now. Top with remaining bread. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the light cream, butter and maple syrup. pour over the bread mixture and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so that all the bread pieces are soaked. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and bake at 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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