Traditions are an important element of the Christmas celebration; they are what makes the holiday a holiday. Growing up, my family had many Christmas traditions we held onto firmly, considering them sacred and unbreakable. Sure, my dad teased us often about opening presents Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve (oh, the horror at even the mere mention!), or he would threaten not to make the usual Christmas Eve shopping trip and pizza buffet lunch... but we knew he would never seriously follow through.
Because tradition is tradition.
And because it wouldn't be Christmas without those traditions.
I'm not a child anymore; I am married now and have my own child. The past several Christmases have been spent trying to sort through which family's traditions to keep, which ones to pass on, and which new ones to create. The last part has been the hardest. Our little family has spent a great deal of thought and energy in trying to satisfy both sets of in-laws (and will continue to do so, don't worry - extended family is worth every ounce of effort!) but we have neglected our own nucleus of father, mother, son (and soon son #2).
That is changing this year. Of course, one year does not a new tradition create, but at least we are attempting to make special memories with our own little family, and hoping that one or more of these intentionally memory-making moments will become a tradition to last a lifetime... or at least until our children get married!
One of these memory-making moments took place this very morning. Christmas Eve morning seemed like the opportune moment to carve out a special time that was just us. There are no family obligations on either side for this portion of time, so I took advantage of that and made it ours: our own Christmas Eve breakfast.
I will admit it wasn't easy, given our family's dietary issues, especially our Certain Little Someone's allergies. Most brunch and breakfast items involve wheat, eggs and dairy, all of them major no-nos. And I could never bring myself to make a special holiday meal that he couldn't eat. No way. It had to be safe for everyone.
And yet special.
I found the answer on my friend Robin's blog, Big Red Kitchen. She has been churning out some amazing ideas for the holidays in her Advent series, and this week she focused on some breakfast/brunch ideas. I was immediately attracted to her gorgeous Sausage Apple Ring. It fit all my requirements:
- special enough for a holiday
- delicious to everyone
- easily adaptable to our diet
I pulled out all the stops: I molded the ring with my heart-shaped bundt pan, served all the food on our fine china (even for our Certain Little Someone!), and served hot chocolate topped with marshmallows to boot!
Here's my dietary-adjusted version of Robin's recipe. Feel free to try it or go for the original!
No-Wheat-No-Eggs Sausage Apple Ring
2 lbs bulk sausage
1 cup quick oats
1 apple, grated
1/2 cup apple cider or juice
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Baked Apple Filling (I used this recipe)
Mix together the sausage, oats, apple, juice and seasonings. Stir together until thoroughly blended. Line a bundt pan with plastic wrap and press the sausage mixture firmly into it. Fold the ends of the plastic wrap over the surface of the sausage. Flip over onto a plate and refrigerate at least two hours, or overnight.
To cook, line a cookie sheet with foil, then carefully slide or flip the sausage ring onto it. Cook at 350F for 50-60 minutes, or until browned. Carefully place cooked sausage ring onto serving platter and fill the hole in the middle with the apple filling. Slice and Serve!
We all enjoyed this very much! (Thanks, Robin!) Even my DH said to be sure and note that he thought it was very good.
Was it QUICK? Not exactly, considering it takes quite a while to cook up in the oven. I did, however, find it incredibly convenient that I could mix it up the night before and then just slide into the oven in the morning. While it cooked, I made the rest of the meal (the apples, home fries, and hot chocolate).
It was definitely EASY, though, but very impressive (a perfect combination for impressing your in-laws if you are hosting them!).
CHEAP, not so much. I found the sausage on sale for a great price, but even at that it was still just under $5 for the 2 lbs. For a special Christmas tradition, though, I consider it money well spent! (If I bought the healthy sausage I would like to buy, it would be even more expensive - maybe next year!)
Perhaps not super HEALTHY, although I'm not one to run from the saturated fats found in sausage, bacon and the like. When it comes to those foods, I'm more concerned about the nitrates and nitrites and other non-food ingredients that go into them. To be really healthy, it should be made from homemade sausage or sausage that is nitrate-nitrite-free and all natural.
Merry Christmas Eve!