Two Opelika City Schools teachers, Erica and Zac Skidmore, began early getting organized for Christmas for seven children. They had some children by birth, some by adoption and others through foster care.

As Christmas Day approaches, the gifts have been wrapped, the freezer has been filled, the pantry is full and most of the food has been prepped, allowing them time to relax and enjoy being together.

Zac teaches history at the middle school in Opelika, while Erica teaches English as a second language to students from kindergarten through fifth grade at Carver Primary, Jeter Primary, Southview Primary, Northside Intermediate and Morris Avenue Intermediate. The students are mostly Hispanic, with a few Asian and South American children.

“I teach them how to speak English and listen,” Erica said. “They are the best-behaved children.”

While growing up in Glencoe near Gadsden, Erica enjoyed plenty of good food during the Christmas season with her mother being a church hostess and an excellent cook. Erica and her siblings were often in the kitchen with their aprons on, watching their mother cook. Her Grandmother Mary was a good cook as well, and Erica learned a great deal about cooking from her, too.

Erica learned easily how to make cornbread but found making biscuits the most difficult. She watched her mother and later found a recipe that worked. She now makes biscuits with fried chicken as a favorite breakfast dish on Christmas morning.

Her mother was the church hostess at the Baptist church in Gadsden and would prepare meals, such as fried chicken, on Wednesday nights.

At Christmas, the focus was not on having lots of gifts in Erica’s home. They often received needed items in their stockings. It was more important at Christmas to cook and deliver trays of treats to neighbors and those who were homebound in their church. Her mother also hosted family for meals during the holidays and cooked for international students. They would invite friends to go caroling with them.

Erica looked forward to visiting her grandparents in Pensacola, Florida, during the Christmas season.

After high school, she attended Gadsden State Community College and Jacksonville State, then began teaching school. Later, she received her master’s degree at UAB. She taught international students on the college level, and at that time had students with nine different languages in her classes.

Erica’s mother passed away five years ago, and she said that thinking of her being in the kitchen loving to cook brings comfort and wonderful memories. Her mother would set a lovely table, and Erica is following in those footsteps as she gathers her family around the table.

“It is not just for the holidays but year-round,” she said. “When I set a special table, the children feel special. Eating at the table with family is my favorite part of the day. We talk about the high and low parts of their day.”

During the Christmas season, Erica said she enjoys decorating the table with fresh greenery and flowers. The dining room table is covered with her mother’s vintage tablecloth and set with a mixture of her mother’s Christmas dishes. Some pieces were broken in the move, so it is a combination of two sets.

Along with four biological children, the Skidmores have two adopted children and have fostered many children over the years from DHR. They recently added one of her former students to the family.

The Skidmore family includes Daniel, who lives in Los Angeles, California, and owns Symba Marketing; Jack, 9 years old; Kate, a junior at Auburn University in pre-med biomedical science; Gabby, a senior at Auburn High School; Charlie, 7 years old; Isabella, a senior in nursing at Auburn University; and Grace and her husband Rocky with their daughter Ruthie, who is 1 year old.

The Skidmores moved to Lee County almost three years ago from Gadsden. They are active in the Church of the Highlands and are enjoying the Advent box they received from the church.

Zac also enjoys cooking and helps prepare meals. They both plan menus a week ahead and get groceries on Saturdays. They are organized and have meals planned daily for a week at a time. They keep supplies on hand and prep ahead for meals. A plentiful supply of beef purchased from a cattle farm and venison are frozen and ready to cook.

In celebrating Christmas this year, they will go to Hilton Head a week or so before Christmas Day to visit Erica’s sister and brother. The siblings come to the Skidmore home every other year.

At home, the Skidmores will celebrate with a prime rib dinner on Dec. 22 or 23.

“We have our largest meal early, since we want Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to be very relaxed with the family,” Erica said. “On Christmas Eve, we will go to the candlelight service at the Church of the Highlands, and then we go eat at a Mexican restaurant.

“Afterwards, we drive around the area to look at Christmas lights and decorations. When we return home, we tell the Christmas story about Jesus’ birth.”

On Christmas morning, they open gifts first, and then Erica serves Fried Chicken and Biscuits, Sausage Cream Cheese Bake and Fruit Kabobs. After brunch, the children take a nap, and the family will play pickleball in the afternoon. Christmas night, they will go to the movies.

Last year, Erica delivered Christmas treats to some students, and then the family flew to Miami for a vacation. They ate Christmas dinner at a Greek restaurant one of the children selected.

“This year I am thankful to be home and have everything planned, as it takes the stress out of getting ready,” Erica said. “It also helps the budget when everything is planned. The tree is decorated early, and wrapped gifts are placed under the tree.

“Now that both my parents are gone, Christmas is even more special because it is a time of getting together with your family as your children grow up and move away. It is coming back to where it all started. We appreciate each other. I love when they are here. Christmas is a special time to celebrate the Lord and our families that God has blessed us with as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The biggest thing my mother influenced me with was reading God’s word. I am practicing what she taught me.”

Triscuit Teasers


Onion and chive cream cheese, softened


Spread the cream cheese on a Triscuit. Add a jalapeño and enjoy the simplest, yet scrumptious hors d’oeuvre.

Fruit Charcuterie and Fruit Dip

Chocolate-covered strawberries



Apple slices

Cream cheese

Fruit dip




Arrange fruit in an appealing appearance and serve with the fruit dip. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary, if desired.

Fruit Dip:

8 oz. block cream cheese, softened

½ cup powdered sugar

In a mixer bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar; beat until smooth.

Cheese and Vegetable Charcuterie





Wheat thins

Gouda cheese

Muenster cheese

Aged cheddar



Various nuts

Arrange ingredients on a wooden cheeseboard. Add slices of oranges, apples, lime, lemon and rosemary for garnish.

Creamed Spinach

2 ½ cups spinach, fresh or frozen

2 Tbsp. butter

½ onion, finely chopped

½ cup heavy cream

1 cup shaved Parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste

Add spinach to a large pot of salted boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat add onion and cook until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more.

Add spinach to mixture and stir.

Add heavy cream and shaved Parmesan and stir continually for 5 minutes until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Green Bean Bacon Bundles

16 oz. green beans, fresh or frozen

1 pack bacon

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup melted butter



Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish. Cut bacon strips in half, and cut green beans in half as well. Roll 6 to 7 green beans up onto the strip of bacon.

Place bundle of green beans into the baking dish, repeat with the remaining ingredients. Combine brown sugar, butter, salt, pepper, soy sauce and garlic powder. Sprinkle on top of bundles and bake for 20 minutes or until bacon is brown.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1-2 bags Brussels sprouts

1/4 cup butter



1 Tbsp. Cavender’s Seasoning

¼ cup Balsamic vinegar

1 clove fresh garlic or minced garlic

½ cup Parmesan

Cut sprouts in half. Place them on a large sheet pan lined with wax paper.

Drizzle olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, Cavender’s, salt and pepper over sprouts. Toss to coat evenly. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Roasted Roots and Veggies










Cavender’s seasoning

Olive oil

Cut vegetables in chunks to preferred size and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with seasoning and olive oil. Cover with foil.

Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Uncover last 5 minutes.

Thyme Chicken

This is a family favorite. I also use this same mixture with duck.

1 whole chicken

1 stick softened butter

1 pkg. fresh thyme

3 cloves or 3 tsp. chopped garlic

1 onion

1 apple

1 lemon

Olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse chicken and clear cavity. In a bowl, combine softened butter, fresh thyme leaves and chopped garlic, along with salt and pepper. Scoop a spoonful of this mixture and insert in between the skin and meat of each breast leg and wing.

Insert whole or half an onion, apple and lemon into the cavity of the chicken.

Coat outside of chicken with olive oil and sea salt. Bake covered for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 30 minutes or until completely cooked. Baking times will vary based on the size of chicken.

Standing Rib Roast

One standing rib roast

Olive oil


Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Coat standing roast heavily with olive oil and salt. Sear in oven uncovered at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Then cover with foil and cook at 250 degrees for 2 ½ hours, more or less, depending on preferred doneness. Cook until it’s 145 to 165 degrees for medium rare.


  • Fried Chicken with Biscuits
  • Sausage Cream Cheese Casserole
  • Fruit Kabobs

Fried Chicken to Serve with Biscuits

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut in half and beaten with a mallet (If time permits, marinate chicken the night before in pickle juice).

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. seasoning salt

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. pepper

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

Oil for frying

Combine flour and seasonings in one bowl, milk and beaten eggs in another bowl. Dredge chicken in milk/egg mixture, then in the flour mixture. Place in skillet of oil over medium heat, and fry each cutlet until completely cooked. Serve with Easiest Homemade Biscuits.

Easiest Homemade Biscuits:

2 cups self-rising flour

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place flour in bowl. Add heavy cream, mix lightly and place on floured surface.

Flatten dough and fold 4 times, then roll biscuits and cut with biscuit cutter. I double and triple this recipe for my large family. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve fried chicken on each biscuit and enjoy!

Sausage Cream Cheese Casserole

1 roll sausage

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 cans crescent rolls, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While oven preheats, spray baking dish and roll out one can of crescent rolls in bottom of dish; keep intact. Leave in oven during preheat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile in skillet, brown sausage and add cream cheese. Add mixture to base of baking dish with crescent rolls and add the other can of crescent rolls on top.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cut into large squares for serving. Serve with mustard and orange juice.

Fruit Kabobs


Bananas slices

Orange slices


Allow children to assemble their own fruit kabobs to enjoy this edible activity.


Drink is named after my dear friend Tammy.

LaMarca champagne

Pulp-free orange juice

Fill your champagne glasses with champagne and with a slight slip of the wrist, add a tiny splash of orange juice.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

1 cup Karo light or dark corn syrup

3 eggs

½ cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1–½ cups (coarsely chopped pecans

9-inch) unbaked or frozen deep-dish piecrust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla using a spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in pecans.

Sprinkle chocolate chips onto bottom of pie crust. Pour mixture into piecrust. Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours on wire rack before serving.

Easy Steak Tips and Rice

Good serve with creamed spinach.

1/2 sirloin steak, cut in cubes by the butcher

Olive oil, salt, pepper and preferred marinade or seasonings for steak

Cooked rice

Season steak with salt and pepper. Add steak marinade or seasonings and olive oil. Allow beef to come to room temperature. Cook in skillet until medium or preferred doneness.

Serve over rice.

Strawberry Cake

1 pkg. white cake mix

3 oz. pkg. strawberry Jell-O

1 cup strawberries, chopped

1 cup oil (I use olive oil)

½ cup milk

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Mash one cup of chopped strawberries.; set aside.

Combine cake Mix, Jell-O, oil, milk, eggs and strawberries into a large mixing bowl.

Blend in stand mixer or with an electric mixer for two minutes. Divide batter into he two prepared pans. Bake cakes for 28 to 30 minutes until they start to turn golden brown and pull away from the sides. Cool cakes on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and continue cooling on wire racks until completely cooled. Once cooled, prepare the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick butter, room temperature

3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

¾ cup chopped strawberries

Beat cream cheese and butter in a mixer medium bowl. Slowly add sugar ½ cup at a time and continue mixing on low. Add strawberries and beat the frosting for another minute. Frost cake. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if desired.

Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake


1 ½ cups chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


Four 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3/4 cups heavy cream, room temperature

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1 ½ Tbsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. peppermint extract

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. peppermint extract

Garnish: crushed and whole peppermint

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9-inch springform pan with non-stick baking spray.


Blend chocolate cookie crumbs and sugar with melted butter. Press mixture into bottom of springform pan and bake in oven for 10 minutes.


In bowl of mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until completely blended. Add heavy cream, and then add in eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Add sour cream, vanilla, peppermint, cocoa powder and flour; mix until batter is smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Pour filling into prepared pan.

Bake cheesecake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and let cake cool in oven with door closed for 4 additional hours.

Remove cheesecake and cool completely before placing in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Whipped cream:

Beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and mint extract; beat until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped cream in center of cheesecake. Garnish with crushed peppermint sprinkled over whipped cream, if desired.