Holiday Breakfast and Brunch Recipes

Make your holiday breakfast or brunch special with these easy, festive recipes.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

There are so many things that make the holiday season special, but one thing is the food -- am I right? For many of us, this is the only time of year we enjoy certain dishes, some of which have cultural significance. So now is the perfect time for a few festive (but healthy) breakfast and brunch recipes!

More than perhaps any other time of year, people are likely to be making special breakfasts and sitting down to eat with visiting friends and family. The way I see it, there are four ways to celebrate the season with breakfast or brunch before, during, and after Christmas Day:

  • Enjoy favorite holiday foods. This is the time of year to make gingerbread cake, pumpkin spice muffins, or cranberry nut bread.
  • Give your regular breakfast foods a holiday twist. Whipped butter for your biscuits becomes orange butter when you blend in orange marmalade. Or, make holiday cream cheese by blending light cream cheese with cranberry-orange or cranberry-raspberry sauce. French toast is festive when made with slices of pannetone -- an Italian bread baked in a round, tall-sided pan and made with pieces of dried or candied fruit. Turn scones into a holiday treat by making cranberry-orange scones.
  • Celebrate your heritage (or someone else's). This might be the only time of year you think to make a breakfast from your heritage, like strata (an Italian dish made by layering bread, eggs, and other ingredients in a casserole dish), German apple pancakes, Swedish pancakes, pannetone, or -- my own favorite -- stollen. Since my parents were Dutch immigrants, December in our house always meant a Christmas stollen -- a loaf whose shape resembles a swaddled baby Jesus. I loved this dried-fruit-studded and almond-paste-filled treat, and after a couple of slices, I was perfectly content to wait until the next Christmas to have it again. To this day, I always buy one stollen around the first of December.
  • Create a new holiday breakfast tradition. When you start a household, each partner brings holiday traditions from his or her youth to the kitchen table. But there's always room to create your own. For example, one Christmas eve when my daughters were very young, we made cinnamon rolls and let them rise overnight in the refrigerator. Then, on Christmas morning, while my husband started the coffee and my girls raided their stockings, we popped the pan into the oven -- and 15 minutes later we had piping hot, cream-cheese-glazed cinnamon rolls. We've made these cinnamon rolls on Christmas eve every year since.

4 Holiday Breakfast or Brunch Recipes

Here are four festive breakfast or brunch recipes. Two are easy holiday spreads for biscuits, muffins, or other breakfast breads; the others offer a holiday twist on two popular breakfast foods: gingerbread muffins and cranberry orange scones.

Orange Butter

4 tablespoons whipped butter
2 tablespoons less-sugar orange marmalade


  1. In custard cup or small serving bowl, blend whipped butter with orange marmalade using a small spoon.
  2. Serve with biscuits, toast, or muffins.

Yield: About 4 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving (just the orange butter): 85 calories, 0.2 g protein, 4.5 g carbohydrate, 7.7 g fat, 4.7 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 0.3 g fiber, 80 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 79%.

Cranberry Cream Cheese

2/3 cup light cream cheese
1/3 cup raspberry cranberry sauce, home-style cranberry sauce, or orange cranberry sauce


  1. In mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and cranberry sauce while beating on low speed.
  2. Spoon into serving bowl, cover, and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve as a spread for sandwiches, crackers, biscuits, toast, or muffins.
Yield: About 16 tablespoons

Nutrition Information Per tablespoon (just the cranberry spread): 32 calories, 1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fat, 1.1 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 0.1 g fiber, 51 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 48%.

Cranberry-Orange Scones

Canola oil cooking spray
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar (or substitute 1/2 cup Splenda plus 1/2 cup sugar)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup less-fat margarine (use a brand with no less than 8 grams of fat per tablespoon)
1/2 cup light cream cheese (or fat-free cream cheese)
2 tablespoons fat-free half-and-half
Zest from 1 orange, finely chopped
1 large egg, higher omega-3 if available, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda and set aside. In a food processor, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar and pulse to blend well. Add the margarine and cream cheese and pulse to cut them in. (If you don't have a food processor, cut in the margarine and cream cheese with a pastry blender.)
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour mixture, sour cream mixture, half-and-half, orange zest, beaten egg, and cranberries. Beat on low speed just until a dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured piece of wax paper and knead a couple of times. Pat the dough into a 3/4-inch round. Cut the round into 12 wedges and place them an inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake scones for 15 to 20 minutes or until they're golden brown on the bottom. Serve warm or cold.

Yield: About 12 scones

Nutrition Information: Per scone: 311 calories, 8 g protein, 55 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g fiber, 500 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 21%.

Gingerbread Muffins

1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup light or fat free cream cheese or sour cream
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (optional)
1 large egg, higher omega-3 if available
1/4 cup egg substitute
Powdered sugar for dusting over the top of the muffins if desired


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add muffin liners to 20 muffin cups.
  2. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with boiling water, stir briefly, then set aside. In a large bowl, combine flours, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder with whisk.
  3. Fit your electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Then, in a large mixing bowl, combine canola oil, light cream cheese or sour cream, and brown sugar together by beating on medium speed. While beating on low speed, add molasses, the baking soda mixture and the flour mixture. Now beat in the egg and egg substitute.
  4. Fill muffin cups each with about 1/4-cup of batter. Bake until the top center of a muffin barely springs back when gently pressed (about 22-25 minutes). Let the muffins cool, then dust the tops with powdered sugar if desired.

Yield: 20 muffins

Nutrition Information: Per muffin: 139 calories, 3 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 1.1 g fiber, 149 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

Published December 18, 2007

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