Brewers enjoy entertaining friends during Victorian Front Porch Tour

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Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

Located in the Northside Historic District, the enchanting home of Beth and Charlie Brewer is decorated for Christmas with ten festive Christmas trees, adorning rooms from the kitchen to the bedrooms in the house built around 1900. Each tree is decorated with a different theme and sets the tone for celebratory entertaining during the Victorian Front Porch Tour. The Brewers will invite friends to stop by their home to savor Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hot Chocolate with a variety of yummy toppings.

The Brewers generally start decorating for Christmas after Thanksgiving, but they began early this year. Beth has been collecting ornaments since she was in the fourth grade. One tree in the kitchen displays pink ornaments from her childhood and photos of their children, Sarah and Chas, while another tree in the kitchen is decorated with cookie cutters that belonged to Charlie’s mother and grandmother.

In a bedroom near the kitchen, a tree features Madame Alexander dolls and ornaments. This year, Charlie gave Beth a Madame Alexander nativity set, which is also on display.

Her favorite tree is in the dining room with Victorian ornaments and others she has collected over the years, as well as special ones friends have given them. Charlie’s mother made an ornament from fabric on the dress she wore to their wedding. The ornament is trimmed in tatting lace Charlie’s grandmother made.

In the living room, the tree is decorated with vintage photos. Beth got the idea from a magazine. When they first moved in the house in 1995, they didn’t have many pictures. She attended an estate sale in Auburn and found many older photos. She added to the collection from photos on e-Bay.

The Brewers collect clocks, which is also part of Charlie’s vocation, as he repairs antique clocks at the Old Timers and Chimes Clock Shop in the Gingerbread House in Opelika. Their favorite one is a grandfather clock from 1815 in the living room. Beth was smitten with the antique before she noticed it had the name “Brewer” on the clock’s face.

Their love of clocks is reflected in the front bedroom on a tree, which is covered with clock ornaments.

Other decorations include greenery on the staircase, stockings hanging from mantels and a nativity scene on the piano, among others throughout the house. The décor mingles with family antiques.

The Brewers’ children enjoy the decorations. Sarah generally helps decorate, but she is attending the University of South Alabama in Mobile. Chas, a freshman at Opelika High School, is a distance runner for the cross country team at the high school.

Beth grew up in Butler and also lived in Connecticut and Oregon when her father was transferred with his job. The family moved back to Alabama when she was in the fourth grade.

She enjoyed cooking from an early age and knew she wanted to be a teacher but wasn’t sure what she wanted to teach. The first time she walked into her ninth grade home economics class, she knew immediately she had found her calling.

She excelled in home economics and being involved in 4-H in her hometown of Butler. Beth was the state 4-H winner in food and electric kitchen appliance demonstrations.

While attending Auburn University she was active in student government, serving as a senator for three years, and an official hostess for the School of Human Sciences. Beth met Charlie, who was working in the school of forestry, when she attended a reception as a senator in graduate school.

She had been told Charlie knew several people in Butler. It turned out he knew her father and brother. When Beth asked her brother about going out with Charlie, he not only gave his approval but said she should marry him!

After Beth and Charlie were married, they moved to a small house on North 8th Street in Opelika. Beth dreamed of one day having a large, older home. Charlie noticed the house on the corner of North 10th Street and 4th Avenue was for sale. Although the house was in terrible condition, Beth envisioned how beautiful it could become with restoration and loving care.

Old shag carpet was removed to reveal gleaming wooden floors. High ceilings and original mantels and molding added character and charm. A few years after moving in, they added a large kitchen, breakfast room and bath. A garage and bath were built on the back of the house. Antiques from both families decorate the rooms. Beth made the drapes in the living room.

“We love knowing the history of the house,” adds Beth. They know Roberta Greene, whose father’s grew up in the house. The house was a gift to Roberta’s grandmother before she got married. Old photos show the house looked Victorian with gingerbread trim. At some point it got a facelift, and the trim was removed.

Beth enjoys the home and has a love for cooking and home arts. She teaches family and consumer science classes at Lanett High School where she has been teaching since 1993. She received Teacher of the Year Award in 2012-2013 and 2018-2019.

“We feel blessed to have found this house,” says Beth. “I love the location of our home. Being so near town we can walk to church. Opelika still has the heart of a small town. We are very thankful we found such a wonderful community and to be a part of it.”

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Sarah’s Chocolate Chip Cookies for Santa
3 sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp. vanilla
5 cups flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
3 cups chocolate chips (1 ½ 12 oz. bags)
Preheat the oven to 375̊ .
Cream together the butter and sugars.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix again.
Then hand stir in flour, salt and baking soda.
Finally, hand stir in the chocolate chips.
Spoon out the cookie dough onto the cookie sheets. Make sure the cookies are small. Place 12 cookies per cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.

B.B. Mother’s Orange Cranberry Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. melted butter
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup cranberries that have been cut in-half
¾ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 325.
Grease a loaf pan. Then place parchment paper in the bottom and sprinkle a bit sugar over the parchment paper.
Stir dry ingredients together with a spoon.
Add the liquid ingredients and stir again.
Finally add cranberries and pecans and stir gently.
Bake the bread for 1 hour and 10 minutes. If making the smaller loaves, bake for 40 minutes.
Glaze for Orange Cranberry Bread:
2 Tbsp. orange juice
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
Mix together and spoon over cooled loaves.

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd with Assorted Toppings
2 quarts heavy whipping cream
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
2 cans evaporated milk
1 container Hershey’s cocoa
2 cups powdered milk
5 quarts water
3 cups sugar
Mix everything together in a large stock pot.
Heat on low for 30 minutes or until it reaches the desired temperature.
Toppings
Chocolate Covered Cherry Syrup for Hot Chocolate:
1 packet cherry Kool-Aid – no sugar added
¼ cup Hershey’s cocoa
¼ cup water
Combine the Kool-Aid with the cocoa and water and mix well.
Place about 2 tsp. syrup in the hot chocolate cup.
Add hot chocolate and stir.
Garnish with a mini cherry candy cane.
Caramel Hot Chocolate:
Store bought caramel sauce
Reddi-Whip
Caramel bites
Squirt about 2 Tbsp. store bought caramel into the hot chocolate cup.
Add hot chocolate and stir.
Garnish with whipped cream drizzled with caramel sauce and caramel bites.
Peppermint Syrup for the Hot Chocolate:
¼ cup Hershey’s cocoa
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp. peppermint extract
Reddi-whip
Crushed Andes Mints
Mix cocoa, water and peppermint extract.
Place about 2 tsp. syrup into the hot chocolate cup.
Add hot chocolate and stir.
Top with whipped cream and garnish with the crushed Andes’ peppermint candy.

Maple Bacon Crack
8 slices bacon
1 tube crescent rolls
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup chopped pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook bacon in a skillet until soft; not crunchy.
Drain bacon and cut into pieces.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
Roll out crescent roll dough onto parchment paper.
Pinch seams to make a single sheet.
Prick crescent roll dough all over with a fork.
Spread half the maple syrup on top the dough using a pastry brush.
Then top with a single layer brown sugar, doing your best to cover all over.
Top with pecans and cooked bacon, distributing evenly, and drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
Bake until golden, 22 to 25 minutes.
Let cool completely before slicing into pieces and serving.

Red and White Christmas Pancakes with Candy Cane Chocolate Syrup
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
Red food coloring
Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk.
Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
Take half the batter and transfer it to a second container. Add red food coloring to this half the batter and mix well.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray.
Pour 1/4 cupful batter onto the skillet to make both red and plain pancakes.
Cook until bubbles appear on the surface.
Flip with a spatula and cook until browned on the other side.
Present the pancakes alternating red and plain pancakes like a candy cane.

Candy Cane Chocolate Syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
12 medium crushed candy canes
Peppermint essential oil – optional
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Extra crushed candy canes for garnish
Prepare the candy cane chocolate sauce first before preparing the pancakes.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, crushed candy canes, corn syrup and cocoa powder.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer and stir until the candy canes are completely dissolved. For additional peppermint taste, use a few drops peppermint oil or melt more crushed candy canes.
Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted. Let the sauce stand until completely cool, which will give it time to thicken, or chill in the fridge.

Overnight Blueberry French Toast
12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup blueberries
12 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese cubes.
Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and syrup.
Pour egg mixture over bread cubes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bread cube mixture from refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the pan with foil and bake 30 minutes.
Uncover the pan, and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
Blueberry Syrup for the French Toast:
1 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 Tbsp. butter
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and water.
Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes.
Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst.
Stir in butter and pour over the baked French toast.

Chas’ Cherry Pretzel Salad
1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
4 1/2 Tbsp. white sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, room temperature
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (21 oz.) cans cherry pie filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the pretzels, 4 1/2 Tbsp. sugar and melted butter.
Press this mixture into the bottom a 9×13 inch pan.
Bake for 10 minutes and no longer. Set aside to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
Fold in whipped topping.
Spread evenly over cooled crust.
Add two cans cherry pie filling on top of the cream cheese mixture.
Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 1 hour.

Christmas Punch
2 cups orange juice
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup pineapple juice
Ginger ale
Make sure all the ingredients are chilled.
Pour the cranberry juice, pineapple juice and orange juice in a large drink dispenser and mix.
Then add in ginger ale and give it a quick stir.
Optional: You can garnish with fresh cranberries and orange slices if you prefer to make this festive. You can also add some ice.

Loaded Breakfast Biscuits
2 ½ сuрѕ аll-рurроѕе flоur
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 lb. ground brеаkfаѕt ѕаuѕаgе
4 eggs, ѕсrаmblеd
1 сuр ѕhrеddеd ѕhаrр cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk
Melted butter
Preheat оvеn to 425 degrees.
In a large skillet, crumble sausage and sauté until browned through.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl add the flоur, baking powder and salt.
When the sausage іѕ browned, drain well and then add it to the flour mixture. Stir to соmbіnе until the ѕаuѕаgе іѕ fully соаtеd.
Scramble beaten eggs into the pan and cook to a ѕоft ѕсrаmblе. Add the ѕсrаmblеd eggs to the flour mixture and ѕtіr to соmbіnе.
Next, add cheese and milk.
With a spoon, stir the mixture until all the flour іѕ іnсоrроrаtеd and a slightly ѕtісkу dough forms.
With a ѕрооn, drор biscuits into the buttered cast iron skillet or ѕhееt раn.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Brush the tops the hot biscuits with melted butter.

Cheesy Breakfast Casserole
1 lb. sliced bacon, diced
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
9 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 1/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir bacon and onion until bacon is evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Transfer bacon and onion to a large bowl.
Stir in potatoes, eggs, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese and Swiss cheese.
Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
Bake in preheated oven until eggs are set and cheese is melted, 45 to 50 minutes.
Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Spiced Cranberry Apple Cider
2 quarts apple cider
1 1/2 quarts 100% cranberry juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice
3 sticks cinnamon broken into pieces
Pour the apple cider and cranberry juice into a crockpot.
Add sugar and spices to the juices.
Heat the liquid.
Strain the spices, then discard them before serving warm cider.

Charlie’s Rich Savory Grits
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
½ cup half and half
¾ cup quick grits
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. white pepper
½ cup cheddar cheese
Bring chicken broth, water and half and half to boil over medium-high heat.
Gradually whisk in grits.
Reduce heat to medium low and cover the pot with a lid.
Cook for 5-7 minutes or until thickened; stir occasionally.
Then add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.
Remove from heat.

Tex-Mex Breakfast Casserole
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced potatoes
2 links cooked chorizo sausage, diced (3 1/2 oz.)
2 cans (4.5 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
2 cups shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
12 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
1 small avocado, sliced
1 cup chunky mild salsa
Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
Spread potatoes evenly over the bottom of baking dish.
Top with diced sausage, green chilies and 1 cup cheese.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, scallions and seasoning salt with a whisk until well blended. Pour this mixture over potato mixture.
Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight, if preparing the night before.
When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
You can also skip the refrigeration step to prepare and cook all on the same day.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Bake uncovered for 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
Remove from oven; top with the remaining 1 cup cheese and jalapeno slices.
Bake 2 more minutes, until cheese melts.
To serve, cut into squares and serve with salsa and avocado.

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