Brunch on the Range

Your Holiday Survival Guide

Food blogger and cookbook author Molly Yeh shares easy, festive recipes that blend her Midwestern, Jewish, and Chinese roots.


By Molly Yeh
Photos by Christopher Testani

During the holidays, you have to allow yourself indulgences. We think brunch is a great time to do so because, technically, it takes the place of two meals, so you can splurge.

Helping us with this mission is Molly Yeh (pronounced "yay"—how appropriate), an award-winning blogger and cookbook author (see more on her new book, Molly on the Range, below) known for infusing recipes with multicultural accents and a whole lot of fun. Molly and her husband, Nick Hagen, generously opened up their home and their sugar beet farm, on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, to spread a little holiday cheer.

Brunch offers a relaxed approach to holiday entertaining with friends and family. Mornings are just brighter, in more ways than one. Each day begins fresh, with the promise of delicious things to come. Plus, this time of year, "the sun goes down at 3 or 4 in the afternoon," says Molly, "so if we want to get together in the daytime, it's naturally going to happen around brunch." Plenty of holidays revolve around "big dinners, like Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve," she says. "But I just love the morning time. I love waking up early and seeing the freshly fallen snow, and baking and waiting for people to come over." Here, Molly shares a make-ahead brunch menu that's full of joy and meant for sharing. It's one you'll be happy to serve your friends and family.


Rosemary-Citrus Parfaits

Active | 35 min. Total | 45 min.

You'll make more rosemary syrup than you need, but it's great to have extra on hand. It keeps well in the refrigerator, where it will last for 2 to 3 weeks. Molly suggests stirring some into club soda to make a rosemary soda, and mix with vodka or gin for a cocktail. Or, she suggests, "If you have a clean yard with freshly fallen snow, you can put some in a cup and drizzle the syrup over it" for a homemade snow cone. "That's really, really tasty," she says. You can also share the syrup with someone on your holiday gift list; attach a card with suggestions for how to use it.

Rosemary Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Parfaits:

  • 4 cups plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled and cut into segments
  • 2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into segments
  • 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and cut into segments
  • 2 red grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
  • Rosemary sprigs (optional)

  • To prepare rosemary syrup, combine sugar, water, and rosemary sprigs in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Boil for 5 minutes. Cool; discard rosemary sprigs. Stir in lemon juice.
  • To prepare parfaits, spoon ½ cup yogurt into each of 8 glasses; top evenly with citrus sections. Drizzle 2 teaspoons rosemary syrup over each parfait. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired.

SERVES 8 (serving size: 1 parfait)

CALORIES 182; FAT 2.5g (sat 1.5g, mono 0.7g, poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 11g; CARB 32g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 28g (est. added sugars 8g); CHOL 8mg; IRON 0mg; SODIUM 39mg; CALC 123mg


Kale and Pomegranate Salad

Active | 25 min. Total | 35 min.

"I like having salads at the beginning of the day," says Molly. "I can go through the day knowing I've had all my vegetables and can have more cake later on."

  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 6 bacon slices
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 10 oz. lacinato kale, stems removed and roughly torn
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils
  • 3 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add canola oil and shallots; cook 6 minutes or until slightly crispy, stirring. Remove from pan.
  • Cook bacon in skillet over medium until crisp. Remove from pan, reserving drippings. Coarsely chop bacon. Heat drippings in pan over medium-high. Add almonds; cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Transfer almonds to a paper towel. Discard drippings. Coarsely chop almonds. Place kale, pomegranate arils, shallots, bacon, and almonds in a bowl.
  • Combine pomegranate juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over salad; toss to coat.

SERVES 8 (serving size: about 1½ cups)

CALORIES 176; FAT 13.5g (sat 2g, mono 7.9g, poly 2.3g); PROTEIN 6g; CARB 11g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 5g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 6mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 180mg; CALC 83mg



Baked Marzipan Donuts

Active | 45 min. Total | 1 hr. 30 min.

Molly admits that her love of marzipan is "never-ending." You can use the sweetened almond paste both as an ingredient in baked goods and as a decorating tool, she explains. "Since I don't have great [decorating] technique, I like using marzipan cutouts," she says. "They're so easy." The paste can get sticky, so Molly suggests dusting it and your work surface with powdered sugar. And if you're new to it, she advises approaching it like it's Play-Doh: "You can use gel or liquid food coloring with it, and just knead it into the marzipan." Look for it on the baking aisle in large supermarkets or in specialty baking stores.

Donuts:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4.5 oz. all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.38 oz. white whole-wheat flour (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 large egg

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract

Decorations:

  • Food coloring
  • 1½ oz. marzipan

  • To prepare the donuts, preheat oven to 375°F. Coat 2 (12-cavity) donut pans with cooking spray, and set pans aside.
  • Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, oil, ¼ cup water, vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and egg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Fill a piping bag or ziplock bag with batter; if using a ziplock bag, snip a hole in bottom corner. Pipe batter into pans, filling each cavity halfway. (This could get a little messy.)
  • Bake at 375°F for 12 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into a donut comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove donuts from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
  • To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, cream, and ¼ teaspoon almond extract, stirring with a whisk until smooth (add a little water if glaze is too thick). Dip donuts halfway into glaze to coat tops; turn over, and dry on wire rack.
  • To prepare decorations, knead a few drops of food coloring into marzipan; cut into shapes with small cookie cutters, and place on donuts.

SERVES 20 (serving size: 1 donut)

CALORIES 157; FAT 5.2g (sat 1.3g, mono 2.3g, poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 26g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 18g (est. added sugars 16g); CHOL 15mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 136mg; CALC 30mg


Breakfast Hot Dish

Active | 20 min. Total | 1 hr. 20 min.

If you're not from the Upper Midwest, you may not be familiar with hot dish. Traditionally, it's a casserole of starch (often french fries or tots), meat, and vegetables held together by a creamy sauce. "It's an easy way to feed a crowd," says Molly, "and it's perfect for the dead of winter because it's so hearty and warm and comforting." Her update uses sweet potatoes flavored with Aleppo pepper. To get a head start, you can roast the potatoes and brown the sausage a couple of days ahead.

  • 1½ lb. sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into ⅛-in.-thick slices
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Aleppo pepper (or 1 Tbsp. hot paprika)
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 3 oz. reduced-fat white cheddar cheese, grated (about ¾ cup)
  • ½ lb. turkey or chicken breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Toss sweet potatoes and onion with oil and Aleppo pepper; spread into an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until tender.
  • Place potatoes and onions in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and black pepper. Pour egg mixture over potato mixture; fold in cheese and sausage. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray; pour in egg mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and browned on top. Cool slightly before serving. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

SERVES 8

CALORIES 340; FAT 19.9g (sat 5.5g, mono 8.6g, poly 3.2g); PROTEIN 18g; CARB 23g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 7g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 241mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 626mg; CALC 197mg


Harissa Bloody Marys

Active | 15 min. Total | 15 min.

Kick off your festivities with this fun take on the classic brunch beverage. Molly likes to boost her version with harissa, a traditional Tunisian chile paste with a spicy, pleasantly bitter edge. "I just love those flavors," she explains, "and they're not common around Grand Forks, North Dakota. I really like being able to introduce a new ingredient like harissa to my community through a more familiar thing like a Bloody Mary." Look for harissa in cans, jars, or tubes on the international foods aisle or with the specialty sauces. If you can't find it, substitute a few dashes of hot sauce. Garnish as desired with celery stalks, lime wedges, and pickles. You can combine everything except the club soda a day ahead; give it a good stir before serving, and top off with club soda at the last minute.

  • 4 cups low-sodium tomato juice
  • 1¼ cups vodka
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. harissa or hot sauce
  • 3½ tsp. celery salt, divided
  • 1½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground horseradish
  • ½ tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • ⅛ tsp. black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Lime wedges
  • 2 cups chilled club soda
  • Pickles and celery for garnish (optional)

  • Combine tomato juice, vodka, lime juice, harissa, ½ teaspoon celery salt, Worcestershire, sugar, horseradish, caraway, pepper, and garlic in a pitcher.
  • Run a lime wedge along half the rim of 8 glasses; coat moistened rims with remaining 1 tablespoon celery salt. Add ice to glasses. Pour ⅔ cup tomato juice mixture into each glass; top each serving with ¼ cup club soda. Garnish with pickles and celery, if desired.

SERVES 8

CALORIES 115; FAT 0.2g (sat 0g, mono 0g, poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 1g; CARB 7g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 5g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 300mg; CALC 23mg


Spiked Hot Chocolate

Active | 15 min. Total | 15 min.

This warming treat is the perfect accompaniment for a walk through the snow: A hint of peppermint schnapps will give everyone a little pep in their step. Think of it as more of a dessert than a beverage, as this hot chocolate is a bit of a splurge. Canned coconut milk gives it full-bodied richness and makes it an indulgence. Molly explains that "coconut goes well with chocolate and mint, so it really brings this hot chocolate together nicely."

  • 2 (13.5-oz.) cans light coconut milk
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Dash of kosher salt
  • ½ cup peppermint schnapps
  • Peppermint sticks and miniature marshmallows (optional)

  • Whisk together first 7 ingredients in a large sauce-pan. Heat over medium until very warm. Remove from heat; stir in schnapps. Garnish with peppermint sticks and marshmallows, if desired.

SERVES 8 (serving size: about ¾ cup)

CALORIES 185; FAT 6.5g (sat 5g, mono 0.3g, poly 0g); PROTEIN 5g; CARB 27g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 19g (est. added sugars 16g); CHOL 5mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 66mg; CALC 74mg

Be sure to check out Molly's new book, Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from an Unlikely Life on a Farm. (Rodale Books, $24)