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November 30, 2023 10 minute READ

It Just Would Not Be the Holidays Without

tags At Home | Recipes
locations All
Delicious food shared with friends and family

... Our favorite foods! Food is universal because everybody’s got ta eat! And the last two months of the year are filled with more than their fair share of family meals, work gatherings, special outings to favorite restaurants, tins filled with homemade cookies and fudge, and the anticipation of food traditions handed down from generation to generation

According to an article in SELF magazine, making foods together and then enjoying the dishes at a common table strengthens family ties. It goes beyond the basic need for nourishment, much deeper, with aromas awakening warm shared memories that help form tighter bonds. Family food traditions connect heritage and history through secret ingredients and recipes that aren’t written down but are instead measured by feel and sight.  

I asked my co-workers to share some of their favorite holiday foods. My query was to learn what they take to “finger food” gatherings, what they prepare for family meals, or what has to be on the table for it to REALLY be the holidays. Here’s what they shared.

Ashlyn works in our Receiving Department. One of her favorite holiday recipes is a Southern classic.

Sausage Balls

1 pound sausage (choose your favorite from regular, hot, sage, etc.)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup biscuit mix
3 ounces water

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix together sausage, cheese, biscuit mix, and water in a medium bowl. Roll “sausage dough” into one-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until crispy.

Ashlyn said, “Sausage balls seem to make everyone happy. I used to only make them for my family, but one year I brought them to work   for a Christmas potluck, and everyone was going bananas! I guess you could call them my holiday specialty.” 

Sausage Balls are at home at any gathering and can be made ahead of time and frozen. 

Brett works in the Marketing Department and does a lot of writing. You’ve probably enjoyed an e-mail or a blog that were pulled together from his quiver of creativity. Here’s what he shared via Cortney (his girlfriend) and Bobbie (Cortney’s mom):

This dish makes its way to the table at all our family’s holiday season gatherings. The recipe belongs to my girlfriend’s grandmother and was passed down to her daughter, my girlfriend’s mom, who featured it in a church cookbook when their family lived in Georgia. Today, as my girlfriend makes it for our family, it’s a reminder of home and childhood Christmases.

Whether it’s amongst the sides or the desserts, this Sweet Potato Souffle is a simple, classic, and reliably delicious staple that complements any assortment of festive foods. In fact, it often steals the show and provides everyone with ample reason to go back for seconds.

Sweet Potato Souffle

3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and milk in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Pour into a 7.5” x 12” x 2” casserole dish. Sprinkle with topping.


1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Cut butter into sugar and flour then stir in the pecans. Sprinkle on top of potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes.  

Tim is our Director of Stores and works with all aspects of the Mast Store. He started as part of our team at the Greenville store when it opened in 2003. Tim and his wife Lori met in high school. She started her journey at the Mast Store in Hendersonville in 2002 and is now a member of the store's training team.  

The recipe he shares has been a staple on the holiday table since the middle of the 20th century. Tim shared, “This is my Granny’s (Leona Camp) Chicken and Dressing recipe. She lived in Houlka, Mississippi (1916-1987). The smell of the dish as it’s being prepared fills the whole house and reminds me of so many Thanksgivings with my family from my past and present. I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and this dish has always been there. I think of it as a connection to those that I love and those who have loved me. When it’s finally time to eat, the taste is always the same; familiar yet amazing!” 

Chicken and Dressing

Tim's Family's Chicken & Dressing recipe1 whole chicken*
Salt and pepper to taste on the chicken itself
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 cake of cornbread (not sweet), cooled 
1 tablespoon sage
2 eggs
2 cups broth from pot
Chopped onions and celery to taste

Salt and pepper the chicken and place in a large pot. Add poultry seasoning and salt to the water. Boil until cooked through. Pick the chicken off the bones.

Grease a large baking dish. In a large bowl, add crumbled cornbread, picked chicken, sage, eggs, broth, onions, and celery and mix well. Turn into baking dish and bake at 375° for 45 minutes to 1 hour until browned. While it’s in the oven, you can start the gravy.

Giblet Gravy  

Gizzards and liver from chicken, chopped 
2 cups broth
2 tablespoons flour
2 boiled eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine gizzards, liver, broth, flour, boiled eggs, salt, and pepper in a large skillet. Bring to a boil while stirring. Reduce heat and stir often to keep from sticking until thickened. 

*Lori said that they usually only use half of the chicken for the dish. They save the rest for sandwiches. She added, “I’ve made this recipe every year we’ve been married – that's the last 30 years! Tim’s mom helped me write the recipe down one year on a piece of paper torn out of a spiral notebook. For years, I would pull out that food-stained piece of paper and make everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dish that our family has been sharing on this day now for 4 generations.”

The picture above was taken in 1946 with Tim's mom’s siblings. They believe his grandmother was pregnant with his mom in the photo. 

Lillian is part of the team that onboards products for Mast Store Online. We have lots of conversations about food descriptions on the website. There’s always lots of laughter, and sometimes funny faces, when we are tasting new additions to our food and candy collections.

Lillian said about her recipe, “I will always have a special place in my heart for the cranberry sauce that holds the shape of the can and can be sliced, but nothing beats the delicious complexity of freshly homemade cranberry sauce!”

My Cranberry Sauce Recipe

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
3 Granny Smith apples; cored, peeled, and diced into ½ inch pieces
1½ cups sugar
Juice and zest of 1 large orange
½ cup cranberry juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Add cranberries, apples, sugar, orange zest and juice, cranberry juice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a medium size saucepan and heat until simmering. Cook until cranberries are soft and begin to burst (about 7-10 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remember to remove the cinnamon sticks after the sauce has cooled a bit.  

She added, “I usually make this sauce a couple of days ahead of time to allow it to thicken and become more flavorful in the refrigerator! It makes the whole house smell like the holidays.”

It’s a good thing that Lillian shared her favorite holiday recipe, because it can be used in this one of mine.

It just isn’t the holidays without Cranberry Salad. I make this two, maybe three, times a year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and maybe New Year’s. It is so good; I don’t know why I don’t make it at other times. I can still see my Mom in the kitchen chopping up all the ingredients and making the fresh cranberry sauce.  

Cranberry Salad

Cranberry Salad1 3-ounce box strawberry gelatin
1 3-ounce box raspberry gelatin
1 large orange, cut into small chunks
1 large apple, cut into small pieces (I used a golden delicious)
1 cup small pecan pieces
1 cup grapes, cut into small pieces
1 14-ounce can whole cranberry sauce (this is an easy cheat; you can always make your own fresh cranberry sauce)

In a large serving bowl, mix your gelatin following the directions on the package. Place in the refrigerator to chill until it begins to set up – this might take 2-3 hours or more. Once it starts to take on a little body, fold in the orange, apple, pecans, grapes, and cranberry sauce. Mix well, return to the refrigerator, and chill until jelled. 
It’s best to make this the day before you want to serve it. 

The second recipe I’ll share was lost for more than 30 years. It’s for a fruitcake. Now, before you run away hollering that you don’t like fruitcake, hear me out. It’s not like what I’ll call your typical fruitcake. It doesn’t have candied fruit in it, and there’s no need for baking, but you do have to have a little time to make it (like at least two weeks).

Famous Fruitcake

The Fruitcake process1 pound graham crackers, ground (plus a little more)
1 pound English walnuts, ground
1 pound pecans, ground
1 pound dates, cut into small pieces
1 pound small marshmallows
1 pound raisins
1 cup pineapple juice 
5 ounces apricot brandy (plus a little more for later)

In an extra large mixing bowl, combine graham crackers, walnuts, and pecans and mix well (all of these ingredients should be finely ground - almost like flour). Add dates, marshmallows, and raisins. Pour in pineapple juice and brandy and mix until all ingredients begin to come together.

Grind a few more graham crackers and put a thin layer in an angel food cake tube pan, then pack the fruitcake mixture tightly into the pan. Add a thin layer of graham crackers on top. Cover with foil and place in a cool place (I put it in the refrigerator) for three days.

After the cake haThe Fruitcake Recipes set for three days, remove it from the refrigerator. Lay out two sheets of foil that are long enough to cover the cake entirely in a crisscross pattern. Soak cheesecloth in brandy and lay out in the same manner as the foil. Turn the cake out in the nexus of the cheesecloth/foil and wrap well with the cheesecloth then with the foil. Return the cake to the refrigerator for at least one week, but the longer you leave it, the better it is!

When my Mom passed away, this recipe was lost. My Dad and I had searched through every recipe box and recipe book that had miscellaneous recipes and notes filed away to no avail. We reached out to some of her co-workers, all of whom remembered the cake but none of them had the recipe. We made several attempts to recreate it, and while the internet is a great resource, there wasn’t anything like it out in cyberspace.

Then, it dawned on my Dad that she had made one for her brother and mailed it to him along with a recipe. Uncle Jack had since passed away, but when I reached out to my cousin, she told me she would check Aunt Audrey’s recipe boxes. And there it was... In my Mom’s handwriting. Last year was the first time it had been made in more than 30 years. It was one of the most anticipated Christmas gifts of the year. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it, too! 

These are a few of our favorite recipes. Maybe there are a few you’ll want to try and then add to your list of things that make the holidays for you and your family. Take a few minutes to write down your favorite family recipes to share at the holiday gathering, so those special flavors, stories, and memories will continue far into the future.

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