Special thanks to Ally Phillips

Next up on our Holiday Recipe Roundup, we’re heading to South Carolina to team up with the dynamic Ally Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen. Ally is one woman who’s always on the go and constantly whipping up treats for family, friends and neighbors this holiday season (or actually any time of the year). While some of you may have seen Ally on TV on various cooking shows or traveling across the country sharing her recipes, we wanted to bring you her holiday stories and share some of her traditions during this festive time of year. We hope you enjoy getting to know her better and then be sure to check out some of her favorite holiday recipes that we’ve highlighted below.  

VRAI Magazine: What was one of your favorite holiday traditions growing up?

Ally Phillips: Gosh, it has to be Christmas morning and finding all the goodies Santa had left! Days before Santa arrived, we four kids would pick out a chair or spot in the living room of our small tiny home, only two bedrooms and one bath for the six of us, to have Santa leave our toys. There wasn’t much furniture in that little room, maybe a couple of chairs and a sofa, a table or two, a radio and old black and white television with rabbit ears. It was a big deal to pick your ‘spot’ for Santa to leave the surprises!

It was always magical waking up, oftentimes at three or four in the morning from sheer excitement, and seeing there in the chair, sofa or spot selected the toys! Each item was meticulously laid out, usually not wrapped and not many things, but always one ‘big’ thing like a new doll. The next thing we kids would do would be to see if Santa had eaten the cookies and milk we’d left for him! Then the day would start! No going back to bed! Oh, the squeals and happiness playing with shiny new toys and seeing that Santa had brought many practical things, too, like PJs and panties!

VRAI: Tell us about a holiday tradition that you celebrate today.

Ally: One of our most treasured holiday traditions started way back when my boys were young and we still do today. And, that is making Christmas Eve really special. The day is full of cooking and planning for a big family dinner that evening after we all attend the Christmas Eve church service. Everyone who’s here, and that has changed since all the kids are now married with their families and in-laws, gets really dressed up for church because it’s always a beautiful candlelight service.

After we return home, the table is spectacularly set, and the evening begins with wine, cocktails and nibbles. Dinner is usually at about eight or nine at night, and it has all the bells and whistles! Yes, there’s plenty of laughter, debate, conversation and reminiscing of holidays past. After dinner, we all gather in the living room around the fire with fresh libations, a nearby dessert table and sometimes a hilarious Chinese gift exchange that entertains and occupies everyone into the wee hours! We actually celebrate oftentimes into ringing in Christmas Day then all nestle into our cozy beds waking much later in the morning to most of the day in our jammies, a late brunch, more gift opening and checking out the newest movies debuting during the season!

VRAI: Is there a holiday dish that family and friends always request from you?

Ally: Definitely the holiday dishes that are traditional have been handed down by my Croatian Mom. One is her dressing balls that are divine creations of breads, croutons, spices, turkey broth, sautéed onions and celery then topped with lots of butter and baked in a hot oven. Crunchy goodliness on the outside and tender, moist on the inside, these ‘organically’ shaped artisan dressing balls, about the size of a large baseball, are topped with homemade turkey gravy laden with small chunks of gizzards and livers. Nothing in our home is wasted!

The second dish that we always have is a fresh chopped cranberry salad choked full of pineapple tidbits, walnuts, celery, maybe Mandarin oranges and sugar. It’s made very early in the day (and refrigerated) or a day ahead of time so all the flavors and textures can combine and become even tastier!

VRAI: Tell us about a dish that someone else (family member or friend) makes for the holidays that you love.

Ally: My older sister, Kat, always made the traditional 1950s green bean casserole! Yes, the iconic mushroom soup, canned green beans (or frozen) and crispy onions on top! Seeing how she’s not really into cooking, this dish was perfected by her and continues to be popular when she’s spending the holidays with us! Actually, it’s dang good and I always look forward to it!

VRAI: What are the holidays like where you live?

Ally: Depending upon whether we’re spending the holidays in South Carolina or Colorado determines what the holidays are like. If we’re in the Vail Valley (CO), it’s absolutely, unequivocally magical. It has everything you could think of from a Norman Rockwell setting– stroll through Vail Village that’s blanketed in fluffy white snow, skiers buzzing by and twinkle lights donning about every evergreen tree on the highway and in the village. There’s also horse drawn sleigh rides in the snow, roasting marshmallows around a roaring bon fire in the chilly, cold Rocky mountain air, and enjoying downhill skiing or snow shoeing into the back country on Christmas Eve day and Christmas Day.

If we’re in South Carolina during Christmas, the weather can be balmy and even warm, so there could be strolls on the beach, golf and turning on the AC! Between the two places, it’s definitely more magical and ‘Christmas’eee’ in the mountains!

Ally’s Holiday Favorites

Pineapple Tidbit Brown Sugar Walnut Upside Down Cake

Pumpkin Pineapple Ginger Tart

Old World Russian Tea Cakes 

Serrano Corn Souffle

Holiday Walnut Bread Provitica

Hallmark Croatian Cheesecake

For more of Ally’s creations, be sure to check out exclusive recipes in Ally’s Boho Living magazine!

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