I love to have my family and friends over, especially at holiday time. Most of our relatives tend to gather at our home for special occasions since cooking and decorating for the different seasons are my passions.

Our Christmas dinner may vary some from year to year as I try out a new dish or two on my husband, Eugene, and the crowd. But Crab-Egg Cracker Spread, Sage-Rubbed Roast Turkey, Baked Corn Pudding and Lemony Sweet Potato Pie are traditional favorites they've come to expect.

I grew up on the Eastern shore, where crabmeat was plentiful. Mom always made the Crab-Egg Cracker Spread at the holidays. Since it’s such a hit, I serve this appetizer often. It's a great treat before the meal or to enjoy as a snack anytime.

Turkey and the Trimmings

I love bringing my best roast turkey and dressing to the holiday table. Golden brown and seasoned with sage and paprika, the turkey meat is moist, tender and delicious. I always get compliments on the flavorful seasoning. The leftovers are great, too!

Baked Corn Pudding is a recipe from a church cookbook. I love the sweet corn flavor in this delicious side dish. It has a pleasant custard-like consistency.

The recipe for Lemony Sweet Potato Pie came from a wonderful old-fashioned cook, my sister’s mother-in-law. I recall going to her home on Christmas a few times when she cooked on a woodstove (she preferred it to her gas stove). The aromas and tastes of those delicious foods are a wonderful memory.

I asked her for the pie recipe, then added a little lemon flavoring since lemon is Eugene’s favorite—it’s what makes this pie unique.

My mother and grandmother were both very good cooks and have been a big influence on my cooking style. Mom was a great baker and taught me from-scratch methods for cakes and pies.

Tips from Peggy

  • The herb rub I use on the turkey forms a thin crust as it bakes. To keep it from breaking apart, use a tube baster instead of a brush.
  • My crab spread is delicious on small bread slices and toasted bread chips as well as crackers…and makes a great chunky dip for vegetables.
  • To give Baked Corn Pudding extra-fresh flavor, I use frozen corn from our garden instead of canned kernel corn.

During the summer months of my childhood, I stayed with my father’s parents during the day. I stood on a chair in the kitchen to “help” as Grandma canned and froze garden produce and made jams and preserves.

Now that Eugene and I are both retired, we spend lots of time in our own garden in spring and summer. We like to freeze vegetables we’ve raised and can relishes—especially pepper relish.

I’m enjoying being home full-time and having more time to spend with my two grown stepchildren and other family members.

Eugene and I also go antiquing and shop at flea markets for treasures to sell in a couple of booths that we rent in a local antiques mall.

When the weather turns colder, I turn my attention inside, decorating our home and planning hearty menus. I hope you’ll enjoy the one I’m sharing here as much as we do. Happy holidays!

Countdown to a Hassle-Free Holiday

Planning ahead for a holiday gathering reduces stress and lets the hostess enjoy herself, too! Here’s a checklist that Peggy suggests:

  • At least 3 weeks before the party, plan the menu and start a running list of groceries and other necessities.
  • Purchase all nonperishable items well in advance—often you can catch a sale on seasonal ingredients such as frozen turkeys, cranberries, sweet potatoes and such.
  • A few days in advance, polish silver, locate special serving pieces and press the tablecloth.
  • The day before, make sure the house is clean and in good order. (I send my hubby outside to check all the Christmas lights and trims.)
  • Set the table the night before or get up early the day of the party and do it first thing.
  • Enjoy celebrating with your guests!