Corleys celebrate Christmas at new country home

Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

Nestled against a wooded backdrop in Waverly, the lovely country home of Beverly and Ricky Corley provides cozy fireside seating indoors, as well under a covered porch for dining and relaxing with a stone fireplace. The Corleys moved into their new home in June and are looking forward to celebrating their first Christmas with family at their secluded haven.

This fall they have enjoyed dining by the outdoor fireplace on the covered porch with a wicker dining area on the other side. A heater lamp provides warmth on chilly evenings. Another porch in the front of the home provides seating for savoring the outdoor scenery while sipping morning cups of coffee.

The outdoor fireplace was built from stones found on the property. After nine truckloads of stones to construct the fireplace wasn’t enough, a neighbor invited them to collect stones from their grounds to finish the tall fireplace.

Beverly has a love for cooking, and her kitchen reflects the love of spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. A huge island and kitchen counters constructed from Sylacauga white marble provide generous workspace. On one wall, glass front cabinets display china.

Gleaming floors are repurposed wood from Langdale Mills and add character to their new home. Old brick around the hearth of the fireplace in the living room came from the former Pepperell Manufacturing Company.

Beverly and Ricky are both native Opelikans. Ricky, who built the house, is the owner of R.L. Corley Construction, while Beverly teaches at Southern Union.

Beverly graduated from Opelika High School and Auburn University. She began teaching when their youngest child was in the first grade. She taught at Drake Middle School in Auburn, Samford Middle School and Beulah High School before going to Southern Union where she has taught for 17 years.

The Corleys have three sons who grew up in Opelika. Jonathan and wife Casey, both local attorneys, live in Auburn and have two daughters, Anne Katherine, 10, and Mary Charles, 9. Rusty and Krissy, who is from Auburn, reside in Birmingham and have two daughters, Taylor Grace, 8, and Coco, 5 , while Seth and his wife Jennie live in Nashville and have a baby, Helen.

When Beverly was growing up, her grandmother lived with her family and did most of the cooking. Nearly everyone in the large, closely knit family came to their house for Christmas.

Her grandmother baked coconut cakes for friends and neighbors during the holidays. Beverly watched her grandmother cook and learned a great deal about baking cakes. She remembers her grandmother would grate fresh coconut and use the milk in the Coconut Cake. One of Beverly’s aunts, Gladys Hillyer, was known for her caramel cakes.

“I love cooking for my family,” says Beverly. While she bakes a few Grandmother’s Coconut Cakes, she mostly bakes pound cakes for friends.

“Since I bake anywhere between 10-20 cakes and deliver them,” says Beverly, “I tend to be organized with my planning and baking. Sometimes I make sugar cookies with the granddaughters, but I usually enlist their help baking cakes. I like to cook, so I am a happy girl in the kitchen for several days!”

Until last year when her mother passed away, Beverly and her sisters would go to the church service at First Baptist Church and then to their mother’s for dinner on Christmas Eve. It was an adjustment to change the tradition. This year Seth and his family will be there Christmas Eve. Jonathan and Rusty and their families will come over on Christmas Day.

Her brunch menu includes a Scrambled Egg Casserole that was Dora James’ recipe in a column years ago. Beverly clipped the recipe and made it a brunch tradition for her family. She substitutes the ham in Dora’s recipe for Capps sausage. She serves it with Grits Casserole, Vicky’s Fruit and Monkey Bread.

She plans to make both the Christmas brunch and dinner recipes ahead of time. She will make both breakfast casseroles a couple of days before, along with the Strawberry Pretzel Salad, Ms. Carolyn’s Gourmet Potatoes and Brownie Trifle. Vicky’s Fruit and Monkey Bread are prepared the night before, and she puts the green beans in the slow cooker Christmas morning.

She prepares the Refrigerator Rolls ahead or rolls them out Christmas morning.

The dinner menu features dishes Beverly and her friend Libba Herring prepared for a Christmas dinner party every year for about 20 years.  While Libba made a four layer chocolate dessert, Beverly prepared her grandmother’s Coconut Cake. The only difference was, instead of turkey tenderloins, they served grilled chicken breasts.

If you are entertaining during the Christmas season, try this tried and tested menu.

Beverly has decorated her dining room table with a Williamsburg apple tree with boxwood tucked among the apples. Silver reindeer flank the centerpiece.

While she had a flocked tree with shiny ornaments at her former home, Beverly is drying fruit and making citrus clove pomanders for decorations at her country home.

Beverly is looking forward to having her children and grandchildren in their new home. On Christmas Day, the family will play games, and sometimes the children will entertain with a show. After gifts are opened, they enjoy a wonderful dinner with the homemade dishes Beverly has prepared, as she carries on the traditions from childhood in celebrating Christmas surrounded by loved ones.

Cipperly can be reached by email at


Christmas Brunch Menu
Scrambled Egg Casserole
Grits Casserole
Vicky’s Fruit
Monkey Bread

Scrambled Egg Casserole
Adapted from Dora James’ recipe
1 ½ lbs. mild sausage (Capps is best), browned
1 dozen eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped onion
Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup soft breadcrumbs
¼ tsp. paprika
Prepare cheese sauce. Brown sausage and onion. Fold in eggs and cook until set. When eggs are set, stir in cheese sauce. Spoon into greased 13×9 baking dish.
Combine the melted butter and breadcrumbs and spread evenly over casserole. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Cheese sauce:
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 ½ Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Melt butter; blend in flour and milk. Cook until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and cheese.

Grits Casserole
1 cup grits
1 tsp. salt
4 cups chicken broth
Garlic powder (optional)
½ cup butter
1 jar Old English cheese spread

½ cup cream
2 eggs, beaten
Grated cheddar cheese
Cook grits in chicken broth. Add butter and Old English to grits and stir until melted. Stir in cream and eggs; mix well. Pour into greased 3 qt. casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Top with grated cheese and cook additional 5 minutes.

Monkey Bread
1 bag frozen yeast dinner rolls
3 oz. pkg. butterscotch pudding
½ cup melted butter
Red and green Maraschino cherries
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
Generously grease a Bundt pan. Place a few red and green cherries in the pan, and then sprinkle chopped pecans in bottom of pan. Place frozen rolls around and on top of each other over nuts and cherries. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over rolls.
In a saucepan, combine butter, sugar and cinnamon over medium heat until combined. Drizzle mixture over rolls. To prevent the dough from forming a hard crust while rising, cover with a lightly damp tea towel over top, or place a piece of plastic wrap very loosely over the top and allow to hang at sides (do not make the wrap tight as the rolls will rise to double).
Allow to rise overnight at room temperature. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Vicky’s Fruit
1 can peach pie filling
1 large can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 large can chunk pineapple, drained
16 oz. container frozen strawberries, thawed
3 bananas
Drain pineapple and oranges and mix all together.

Christmas Dinner Menu
Beef Tenderloin or Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy
Ms. Carolyn’s Gourmet Potatoes
Slow Cooker Green Beans
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Refrigerator Rolls
Brownie Trifle or Grandmother’s Coconut Cake

Beef Tenderloin
1 (5 lb.) whole beef tenderloin
6 Tbsp. olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
Trim off excess fat; fold thin tip end under to approximate the thickness of the rest of roast. Tie with butcher’s twine, then keep tying the roast with twine every 1 ½-2 inches (to help the roast keep its shape). Mix oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt; rub over roast.
Either build a charcoal fire in half the grill or turn all gas burners on high for 10 minutes. Lubricate the grate with an oil-soaked rag using tongs. Place beef on hot rack and close lid; grill until well seared. Turn meat and close lid, grill until well-seared on second side.
Move meat to the charcoal grill’s cool side or turn off burner directly underneath the meat and turn remaining one or two burners (depending on grill) to medium.
Cook until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest section registers 130 degrees for rosy pink, 45 to 60 minutes, depending on tenderloin size and grill. Let meat rest 10 minutes before carving.

Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy
3 cups dry Madeira or Fino sherry
¾ cup red wine vinegar
12 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp. kosher salt, divided
4 lbs. turkey tenderloins
2 Tbsp. cooking oil, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp. butter
3 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp. sifted all-purpose flour
Stir together first 4 ingredients and 2 tsp. salt until salt dissolves. Reserve 1 ¼ cups. Pour remaining mixture into a zip-top bag. Add tenderloins; press out air, seal, and chill 2 to 4 hours, turning every 30 minutes.
Remove tenderloins from marinade, discarding marinade. Pat tenderloins dry. Brush with 1 Tbsp. oil, and sprinkle with pepper and remaining 1 tsp. salt.
Cook tenderloins, in batches, in remaining 1 Tbsp. hot oil in large cast-iron skillet over high heat 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate; discard oil. Reduce heat to medium. Add butter and shallots to skillet, and cook, stirring constantly until butter melts. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring often, 3 minutes or until shallots are tender. Whisk in reserved 1 ¼ cups sherry mixture and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place tenderloins in a 13×9 baking dish; pour sauce over tenderloins.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165 degrees. Transfer tenderloins to a cutting board, reserving gravy in baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and let stand 10 minutes. Cut into 1/2 -inch-thick medallions and serve with gravy. (From Lee Brothers Cookbook)

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
¾ cup butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups crushed pretzels
1 large container Cool Whip
8 oz pkg. cream cheese
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
6 oz. pkg. strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
1 cup mini marshmallows
Two 10 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries
Melt butter and add 2 Tbsp. sugar. Mix with the pretzels and press into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes; cool.
Combine cream cheese, Cool Whip, confectioners’ sugar and marshmallows. Spread over cooled pretzel crust.
Combine Jell-O, water and strawberries, mixing well. Cool for about 30 minutes in refrigerator; pour cooled Jell-O mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Chill until firm. Cut and serve with a dollop of Cool Whip or whipped cream.

Ms. Carolyn’s Gourmet Potatoes
5 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
6 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup chopped chives
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup crumbled bacon
½ pint whipping cream
½ tsp. each salt and pepper or to taste
Peel potatoes and slice them. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and mash gently with a potato masher. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Add melted butter, sour cream, and cream cheese. Whip potatoes until they are smooth and fluffy. Stir in chives, salt, and pepper.
Pour potato mixture into a greased 13×9 dish. Top with bacon and cheese. Pour whipping cream over cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
(This dish can be made ahead of time. Be sure to remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking and add 8 to 10 minutes to baking time.)

Slow Cooker Green Beans
8 slices bacon
2 lbs. fresh green beans or 4 cans green beans, drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth, or enough to cover green beans
Cut bacon into small pieces and brown them. Place green beans in the slow cooker and pour the bacon grease over them. Cover with the chicken broth and bacon. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

Brownie Trifle
1 family size brownie mix
Eggs and oil for brownies
1 large box instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk
1 large container Cool Whip
1 pkg. Heath bar pieces
Prepare brownies according to package directions and bake. Cool completely. Combine pudding mix with 3 cups of milk and prepare according to package directions. Crumble half of brownies in the bottom of a trifle dish (or any bowl). Spoon half of pudding over brownies in the bowl; top with half package of Heath bar pieces. Add a layer of Cool Whip. Repeat with remaining brownies, pudding, and a layer of Cook whip. Sprinkle remaining Heath bar pieces on the Cool Whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Grandmother’s Coconut Cake
(I use fresh coconut, but frozen coconut, dairy milk and coconut flavoring can be substituted.)
1 fresh coconut
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup shortening
1 ½ cups coconut milk plus whole milk
5 tsp. baking powder
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 egg whites
1/3 cup white corn syrup
¾ cup sugar
Dash salt
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 cup coconut milk or water
1 tsp. vanilla
Poke holes in both ends of the coconut and drain the milk from the coconut. Reserve 1/3 cup for frosting and remainder for cake (if you don’t get enough coconut milk, you can substitute whole milk/water; see above). Grate the coconut.
Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Add shortening and 1 cup milk; beat for 2 minutes. Stir in baking powder; then add eggs, ½ cup milk, and vanilla. Pour into greased cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.
Combine all ingredients in a double boiler. Beat in a double boiler for seven minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and let cool. Frost each cake layer and top with grated coconut. Place remaining grated coconut on top and sides.

Judy Gullage’s Lillian’s Refrigerator Rolls
1 quart milk or water
1 cup Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 pkg. yeast
¼ cup warm water
8 cups flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
Scald milk; add Crisco and sugar. Cool to lukewarm. In a cup, mix yeast and ¼ cup warm water. Add yeast mixture to milk mixture and work in 8 cups flour. Let rise until double in bulk.
Punch down and add salt, baking powder and soda. Kneed 10-15 minutes, then put in a covered container. You may store dough in refrigerator for several days. If you plan to use immediately, let rise again until double in bulk; then punch down and make into desired shape. (I dip each roll in melted butter and fold over to make Parker House rolls.) Let rise 1 to 1 ½ hours in a warm place.
Cook at 350 degrees until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. May be frozen after they are slightly brown. Makes 10-12 dozen.


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