Christmas Menu

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays: Ali in the Valley’s Christmas Menu

I can’t believe the year has flown by so fast.  I guess it’s true – the older you get the faster it goes.  This year was a challenging year for me!  I had a tough time figuring out what were my next steps in growing to my true potentiality! I had to take lots of risks, believe in myself and trust my gut to get closer to my goals.  Can’t say that I have reached them all, but I’m on my way with a clear path in sight! I know I’m getting closer and closer each day! As the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”  That’s the story of my life!

I’m so thankful for my beautiful life! My amazing husband never ever lets me forget how powerful our true selves can be if we believe in ourselves and do the work!  My kids are true miracles (although both came with challenges) and they’re sprouting and growing like wild flowers! My family makes me prouder every day and keeps me on the grind to be a better person for them!

The Christmas season to me is the time to enjoy our families and eat and be merry! Always giving thanks for making it through another year as a stronger and smarter person, hopefully!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,

Ali in the Valley

The Ball-Kilmer Christmas Menu:

Cranberry Champagne Cocktail


Fried Chicken

Mac & Cheese



Homemade Apple Pie

Cranberry Champagne Cocktail:


1-ounce cranberry juice (sweetened) 1 wedge lime Champagne or sparkling wine Cranberries (fresh or frozen)


In a chilled Champagne flute add cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. Top off the glass with Champagne. Garnish with 3 or 4 cranberries.

Ali in the Valley’s “Gumbo”


1 1/2 cups Medium Dark Roux, see “How To Roux,” recipe follows 2 cups diced onions 1 cup diced celery 1 cup diced green bell pepper 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 2 quarts shrimp, crab or chicken stock 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds, browned in a skillet, and drained on paper towels 2 bay leaves 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Dash hot sauce 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows 1/2 pound crab legs 12 fresh oysters and juices from jar(2) (optional) 1/3 cup green onion tops, chopped 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley leaves 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves 1/2 cup file powder, or to taste Steamed white rice, for serving


Heat the roux in a medium-sized heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions, celery and bell pepper. Stir mixture until onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add the browned sausage, bay leaves, Worcestershire, hot sauce, cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Bring gumbo to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until gumbo is slightly reduced, about 50 minutes. (Gumbo should cook long enough for the roux flavor to mellow and for any floury taste to dissipate.)

Season the shrimp with the Essence in a small bowl. Stir in the seasoned shrimp, crab legs, oysters, green onions, parsley, thyme and basil. Cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Sprinkle in file powder and cook, stirring, 2 minutes more, or pass file at the table for guests to thicken as desired. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve in warmed soup bowls over steamed white rice.

How to Roux:


3 cups vegetable oil 5 cups all-purpose flour


Place a heavy, iron Dutch oven, (or iron skillet with deep sides) over medium heat and heat the oil until just smoking. Whisk in flour, a little at a time and cook, whisking constantly, until roux becomes smooth and thick. Continue to cook, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon and reaching all over bottom of pan, until roux darkens to desired color. Be careful not to produce specs of black. The roux must remain an even color throughout process. If specs appear you must start over. For a Light Brown Roux, cook the mixture, over medium heat for 1 1/2 hours, or until the color of peanut butter. For a Medium Brown Roux, cook the mixture, over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the color of a copper penny when ready.

ESSENCE Creole Seasoning:


2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme


Combine all ingredients thoroughly. (Keep left over for future use)

Shrimp Stock:


All shrimp and lobster shells 1 bay leaf Zatarain’s Crawfish and Shrimp Crab Boil 1 lemon cut in quarters Salt Water to cover all ingredients


Combine all shells and the above ingredients in stockpot add 4 quarts water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim to remove any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce to heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove stock from heat and strain. Use only the liquid in the Gumbo. Discard shells!

Fried Chicken:


1 quart buttermilk or half and half 1/2 cup essence, recipe follows 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed 2 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) chickens cut up or chicken parts 4 cups all-purpose flour Peanut oil or Olive oil, for frying


Combine the buttermilk, 1/4 cup Essence, salt, sugar, and garlic in a large bowl. Stir to blend. Immerse the chicken in the mixture and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Combine the flour and the remaining 1/4 cup Essence in a large doubled brown paper bag or plastic freezer bag and shake to blend. Drop the chicken, a few pieces at a time, into the flour mixture and shake thoroughly to completely coat. Remove the chicken and shake off the excess flour. Repeat the coating process with the remaining chicken pieces. Place the coated chicken on a large wire rack set and let rest until ready to fry, at least 20 minutes.

Heat 4 inches of oil to 300 degrees F over medium-high heat in a medium deep fryer or heavy pot. Fry the chicken in batches, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn and fry until golden brown on the second side, 8 to 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels. (Note: An even oil temperature is the key to success; a clip-on thermometer should be kept in the pot at all times. The temperature should remain between 280 degrees F and 300 degrees F at all times.) Allow the chicken to rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Essence Seasoning:


2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme


Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Mac and Cheese:


6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 pound elbow macaroni 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3 cups whole milk 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper Pinch cayenne 2 1/2 cups grated sharp and extra sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces) (half or each) 6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped) 1 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.

Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown. Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well. Add the noodles and stir well. Pour into the prepared dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese with the garlic, and Essence. Sprinkle evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Essence or Creole Seasoning:

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Trader Joe’s Southern Style Greens:


2 Tbsp. olive oil 4 slices of bacon, diced (optional) 1 yellow onions, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar (optional) 2 packages of mixed greens, 2 lbs 2 cups of chicken stock (option use vegetable stock) 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider wine vinegar 1 lemon, sliced 1/8 teaspoon salt


Over medium heat, fry the bacon strips until crisp, about 5 minutes. (If not adding bacon) Start here: Add olive oil, cook the onions, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until melted. Add the greens then the chicken stock, add the rest of the ingredients.  Blend all the ingredients and cook until wilted, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Homemade Apple Pie:


2 9-inch pie crusts (one for the top crust, one for the bottom crust) 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg Dash of salt 2 tablespoons butter 6 cups thinly sliced and cored apple


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, and salt. Stir in the apples.  Place into pie crust, dot with butter. Cover with top crust, and slit evenly to let steam escape. Seal the top crust to the bottom by pinching the edges together. Cover edge of the crust with a three inch strip of aluminum foil.  Bake 40-50 minutes, until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through top.



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