My family isn’t steeped too deeply in family traditions.

As kids, we didn’t go to the same summer vacation spot year after year nor did we play the perennial party games at the annual family reunion.

FoodieCrush Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

But we did always gather as a group on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that’s why it’s my favorite time of year. Memories of us all getting together to eat, share, arm wrestle—and beat—my boy cousins and watch TBS’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon.

Mommy’s little piggy: my all-time favorite scene:

Every Christmas morning for each of my 29 ‘plus’ years, I’ve had this Breakfast Casserole—officially named Ham Souffle but really more of a strata—made the night before and then baked on Christmas morn in all of its gooey, cheesy, ground ham find me under the mistletoe union.

And it is special.

My mom found the recipe in the Ogden Junior League Cookbook under the section “Beautiful Brunches”—a rag tag binder copy that I still have—and would make it only on Christmas morning, for all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to covet and savor.

On Christmas Eve day, my sister and I would help my mom prep: tear the bread, mix the eggs, shred the cheese and start layering over the ham. We’d toss the filled casserole pans in the fridge to rest overnight, ready to be popped in the oven the next morning as we lounged in our PJs and took turns opening presents.

Once the family arrived, slipping off snow shoes and swapping stories of what Santa brought, we’d pull the bubbling casseroles from the oven, and serve buffet style with blueberry muffins and Angela’s Frosty Cranberry Mold, savoring every single bite. And the occasional serving of fudge.

The dish never dared make another appearance at any other time of the year because then it would be somehow tarnished, its sparkle dimmed just a touch.

Now that us kids have all gotten older, and are having kids of our own, we’ve all dispersed and no longer get together as a group on Christmas morning.

But the tradition lives on, with my sister, cousins and extended family sharing Breakfast Casserole with their own families.

Check out Reluctant Entertainer’s Pear and Vanilla French Toast on page 32 of FoodieCrush magazine and see Sandy’s 5 tips for a stress-free Christmas morning.

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Souffle Casserole
 
Serves: serves 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1½ loaves white bread
  • 2 pounds ground ham
  • 1 pound medium cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
Instructions
  1. Prepare 9 X 13 pan with softened butter. Tear slices of bread into 1 inch pieces and cover bottom of pan with bread, fitting tightly.
  2. Layer half of the ground ham over bread, and then layer half of the cheese over ham.
  3. Add another layer of bread slices, then ham and then cheese. Finish with a final layer of bread.
  4. In a 1 quart measuring cup, mix together eggs and milk. In a small bowl, take 1 tablespoon of egg and milk mixture and mix in mustard until smooth. Add into quart measuring cup and mix well. Add parsley and pour over casserole, evenly distributing wet ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until eggs are set. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Notes
makes 9 X 13 casserole pan
allow time for casserole to sit in refrigerator overnight

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