I’m not entirely sure when my mom first made the "French Toast with Grand Marnier Fruit Sauce" from Southern Living’s 1990 Annual Recipes* cookbook (from which this recipe is loosely adapted). It caught her eye because it was a crowd-pleasing holiday recipe she could make ahead—perfect for our relative-packed home. Meg and I loved it for the sweet strawberry sauce we would lick off our plates. Every year, after opening our presents, we’d rush into the kitchen to help stir (and sample) the sauce before setting the table. Christmas morning without it seemed unimaginable. —Katie Macdonald
Make a horizontal pocket in each bread slice; set aside.
Combine cream cheese with sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon, stirring well. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons mixture into each bread slice, spreading evenly.
Place 8 slices in a buttered 12x8x2-inch baking dish and 4 slices in a buttered 8-inch square baking dish.
Combine eggs, half-and-half, and milk; beat well. Pour over bread, turning slices to coat evenly. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately with strawberry sauce.
To make ahead: Prepare, but do not bake. Refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let stand 30 minutes at room temperature, then bake.
Frozen strawberry sauce
Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan; add butter, stirring until smooth. Add Grand Marnier, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add strawberries; cook 1 minute. Yield: 3 cups