Merry Christmas Friends!
I know, I am a couple of days early. But it really feels like Christmas here.My Dad is here. My brother is on his way. And we had a wonderful celebration go Kevin’s birthday last night.
My kids are on Christmas break, and I had so much fun volunteering at Kyle’s classroom Christmas party yesterday. I had been asked to work (substitute), repeatedly over the last few weeks. Believe it or not, many teachers take off the last day before Christmas break. I don’t remember that from when I was in school, but it seems to be pretty common here. I know some of them are traveling to visit family or enjoying those first precious days with their own children who have flown the coop and are back home for the holidays. But, some, I think are just trying to avoid the craziness that is a classroom hours before the longest (and most exciting) break of the year.
I’m just kidding. About the avoidance part. Not the craziness part. Trust me – a classroom might be even more chaotic than the mall in the hours leading up to Christmas break. Last year I did sub on the Friday before break. In kindergarten. In a room that had never had a substitute teacher before. I think it was the longest eight hours of my life. Even longer than when I was in labor.
But this year I denied to take the day off myself. Not because last year was so crazy, but just because my little guy is getting older and we have just one more classroom Christmas party in our future. So when I was asked to organize a game for his party I jumped at the chance, after first confirming with him that he did in fact want me to be there of course.
Knowing what I know about classroom parties and fourth graders I prepared a series of “Minute-to-Win-it” type games for my station and while I was glad to have more than one activity planned the kids had so much fun playing “O Christmas Tree” – trying to stack 36 cups into a Christmas tree” and “Snowball Toss” – trying to toss as many cotton balls as possible into a Santa hat in one minute, we never even got to them all. But there was lots of laughter and silliness and all in all it was a successful Christmas party.
I look forward to playing these games again over the weekend and enjoying some silly times with my family. I know my nephew will love the “O Christmas Tree” challenge. And I also have a marshmallow building challenge and paper plate drawing game in the works. I can’t wait!
And that’s why I have worked so hard (and not slept at all) in the last few weeks – because when the holiday finally arrives I want to spend it with my family – playing games, watching movies, making memories. I don’t want to spend it in the kitchen, by myself. We are going to bake one batch of cookies tomorrow afternoon – but just one. And we will all be together in the kitchen, so I won’t feel like I am the only one missing out on the fun.
Which brings me to today’s recipe – Easy Spinach & Cheese Oven “Frittata”. This has been my go-to Christmas breakfast for the last several years. I love it because it is quick and easy to throw together. It can be prepared ahead of time, which is a necessity for Christmas morning. It brings a healthy, but also delicious, dose of protein to a morning that is otherwise filled with sugary-laden confections. And it keeps everyone full until dinner.
Okay, maybe not that last part isn’t true. We usually break out some cheese and crackers or a bag of chips around 3:00 p.m., but it is a nutritious and satisfying breakfast. It can also be easily modified to satisfy different tastes. I pretty much always make spinach and ricotta with feta cheese. But you could easily sub in broccoli or add some mushrooms and you could use Italian cheeses like Romano or parmesan, or even Swiss or cheddar cheese if that’s more to your liking. You could even add some meat to the recipe if your family eats meat.
You can also make this dish with either cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Cottage cheese provides a slightly fluffier finished product (that doesn’t test anything like cottage cheese, I promise).
I start by spraying a 9X13 baking dish with olive oil. This makes clean up much easier. Then I heat some olive oil in large skillet and cook my onion over medium heat until they are softened and lightly browned. I add in some garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring the whole time so it doesn’t burn. There is nothing like burnt garlic to ruin a dish.
Meanwhile, I wilt some spinach in a pot with just an inch or two of water. I don’t have an actual steamer, so this method work for me. I place the spinach in a large pot and add 1-2 inches of water – you don’t want to cover the spinach completely and when it begins to simmer, I cover the pot, turn off the heat and allow the spinach to steam for 3-5 minutes until it is wilted. Then I drain it well and add it to casserole dish. You cold also use frozen spinach that has been thawed, just be sure to drain it really well. I pour the onion and garlic over top of the spinach and give it a quick mix with my wooden spoon.
In large bowl I beat together 10 large eggs and 1/2 cup of milk. Then I add in my spices, flour, baking powder, cottage or ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and mix well. I pour the egg mixture over the veggies in the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining feta cheese.
Then I usually cover my dish with aluminum foil and pop it in the refrigerator over night. If you do this too, bring it out of the refrigerator about thirty minutes before you want to bake it so it comes to room temperature before baking, or plan to increase your baking time by about 10-15 minutes. You can also can put it directly in a 375 degree oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the edges are lightly browned and the middle is just set. Let the dish set for about ten minutes before cutting.
On Christmas morning I prepare a full spread – we’ve got bacon, sausage, homemade bread, fruit salad, fresh-squeezed orange juice, muffins and my husband makes either scrambled eggs or fried eggs for those in our group who won’t eat vegetables. I’m looking forward to it already. But I also frequently make this recipe for us to enjoy for breakfasts and lunch during the week. Then I typically serve it with a piece of toast or simple salad.
Whatever you are eating for Christmas brunch, I hope you have a very happy holiday!