Photos by Keith McCoy

As the holidays draw closer, thoughts turn to making special memories with family and friends.

Many of these memories will include another holiday favorite — food.

Many holiday recipes have been passed down from generation to generation or passed around from friend to friend. While the meat may take front and center, creative sides and dessert are often the most talked about dishes.

Local cooks shared a few of their favorites, sure to please any crowd. Many of them have made the same recipe, tweaking and perfecting as they went, for years. The dishes have been shared with friends, family and at Chilton County Senior Connection events. These cooks also shared their complete recipes, which are featured alongside this article.

Potatoes usually find their way into the holidays in one form or another. For Barbara Collino, Cheesy Potato Soup is her favorite way. The original recipe came from her daughter’s coworker.

“I have been making it ever since,” she said.

Collino has been dishing up the soup for about 30 years.

“It’s just cheesy and good,” Collino said. “I love it, especially in the winter time.”

She said the recipe makes a large quantity of soup.

“It has Velveeta cheese, celery soup, cream of onion, Pet milk, four cups of water and six cups of potatoes,” Collino said.

The soup can be topped with green onions and bacon bits. Collino often eats corn bread with the soup.

Collino said she takes the dish to holiday gatherings and church dinners, often sharing the recipe. She said she thinks of her daughter every time she makes it.

Another staple side dish gets a makeover in Nell Littleton’s baked beans. While baked beans have been a favorite summer dish, taste buds will enjoy the tangy flavors any time of the year.

Littleton starts with canned beans and mixes in onion, onion powder, garlic powder, green pepper, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and her secret ingredient — pineapple.

When asked her inspiration for adding pineapple, Littleton said, “I just like changing up things.”

“I like to make mine at night and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight because your flavors mingle better,” Littleton said.

The original recipe was created by Littleton’s mother about 60 years ago. Littleton made some changes to enhance the flavor.

“Over the years I changed it to Grillin’ Beans and also added the pineapple,” Littleton said.

Littleton said she likes the sweetness of the dish.

Those looking for a new dessert to add to the holiday spread might enjoy Sammy Wyatt’s coconut cake or Myra Patten’s pecan pie.

Wyatt said she has made the cake for about eight years. Even though she did not especially like coconut, when Wyatt tasted this cake, she knew she wanted the recipe.

She said this is the way she finds most of her recipes.

“Usually I get it from someone that I have tasted the recipe (and said), ‘Oh, I want that recipe,'” Wyatt said.

Just which friend created the recipe, Wyatt is not quite sure, but she thinks she first tasted it at church. She said the majority of her favorite recipes have come from church friends.

She said the cake is “really good. It’s moist” and simple to make.

“You use a regular yellow cake mix and cook it as directed. Then, you punch holes all in it. You mix up cream of coconut and Eagle Brand (condensed) milk and you pour that all over the cake. Then, put the Cool Whip and the coconut,” Wyatt said.

She said the cake is her go-to dessert for gatherings of friends. She has also been known to deliver them to her doctor from time to time.

“It is just about the most simple recipe you will ever want to do,” Wyatt said.

A cake made from this recipe once brought $300 during a silent auction fundraiser at the Chilton County Senior Connection.

Pecan pie has long been a holiday favorite, but someone new to Patten’s take on the classic might not recognize it as first.

“I love the texture,” Patterson said. “Most people make it with halved pecans, but I grind my pecans. Most people use cornstarch as a thickener. I use self-rising flour.”

She uses “an old-fashioned salad shooter” a kitchen gadget used to try lettuce, to grind her pecans.

She has been making the pie for at least 30 years.

While the original recipe came from a friend, Patterson said she has “added to and taken away until I perfected it.”

To simplify the recipe, Patterson uses store bought pie crusts.

Patterson gives the pies as gifts to the staff at her church for Christmas.

“I have one son-in-law that anytime he visits, he carries home a pecan pie,” Patterson said.

She said the pie is delicious at any temperature, and some people like to top it with Cool Whip.

Those planning to take one of these delicious desserts to an event might want to double the recipe as servings will go quickly.