Neighborly Cheer

At Christmastime, the women of Winford Estates devote an entire day to partying. Every year, nearly 20 neighbors from the West Mobile subdivision get together during December for a progressive party and tour that starts in the morning and ends with dessert and wine in the afternoon. It’s a day devoted entirely to fun, fellowship and food. “It really should be called an eat-a-thon, ” says Paula Brewington, one of the fete’s founders, “because we start with breakfast and keep eating until evening.” 

The tour, now in its 12th year, winds its way through six or seven homes, all decked out for Christmas. The festivities include a stop for lunch, one for piano playing and caroling, and, finally, a dirty Santa gift exchange at the end of the event. “It is a highlight of the year, ” says Dee Harper, another of the original party planners and the recognized matriarch of the group, “and everybody is involved in some way. The ones who don’t host at their houses bring food.” 

{Scroll down for more pictures of the day!}

Each year, in the true spirit of the season, along with the feasting and frivolity, the women also adopt a charitable project. For example, last year they sent care packages to the soldiers in Afghanistan. This year they are collecting teddy bears for the children at Penelope House and the Child Advocacy Center.

Winford neighbors have big hearts and are very close, says Kathy Zoghby, another hostess. She says they are there for each other through the good times and especially the bad — including death, divorce and, on occasion, a move. When Karen McGill relocated a few years back, she says, “We had a big packing party and then an unpacking party at the new house.” Even after they leave, former neighbors still return for the tour. “Once you’ve lived in the neighborhood, you’re always our neighbor, ” McGill says.

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Citrus Bourbon Slush

This snappy libation, from Karen McGill’s friend Kathryn Coumanis, is an ideal eye-opener for brunch or breakfast. For a sparkling, nonalcoholic alternative, the ladies also serve a punch of equal parts chilled white grape juice and chilled ginger ale garnished with berries.

2 family-sized tea bags
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large can frozen orange juice
concentrate, thawed
1 large can frozen lemonade
concentrate, thawed
2 cups bourbon

1. Steep tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water.
2. Dissolve sugar in 7 cups of boiling water. Let both mixtures cool.
3. Combine and add juices. (Do not dilute.) Add bourbon, mixing well.
4. Pour in a plastic container and freeze. Mixture will be hard if frozen for several days, so let thaw prior to serving. If frozen overnight, it will be slushy. Serves approximately 10 – 12.

Crème Brûlée French Toast

A hint of Grand Marnier liquer kicks Jeny Williams’ scrumptious dish up a notch.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 (8- to 9-inch) round or large oval loaf of country-style bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. Cut 6 1-inch thick slices from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use, and trim crusts. Arrange bread slices in 1 layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.
3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, Grand Marnier and salt until combined well. Pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring bread to room temperature.
5. Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 – 40 minutes. Serve hot French toast immediately. Serves 6, as a breakfast entrée or 12, as a buffet side dish.

Linda's Fruit Salad

This pretty fruit salad, made by Linda Vogtner, is served at the holiday breakfast, but it also works well atop pound cake for dessert.

1 can peach pie filling
1 large can chunk pineapple, drained
1 can mandarin orange segments, drained
1 package whole frozen strawberries (You may use fresh strawberries.)
3 – 4 bananas, sliced

1. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 10 – 12.

Ruby's Turnip Green Soup

This hearty, savory dish is simple to prepare and a perfect way to warm up during cold weather. Ruby Wells always prepares it for the lunch stop at Winford Estates; it is one of the few recipes that is served every year. 

2 (1.4-ounce) packages Knorr
vegetable soup mix
1 pint water
2 (15-ounce) cans turnip greens drained, liquid reserved
from 1 can
3 – 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 (15.5-ounce) cans navy beans, undrained
1 pound Conecuh sausage, sliced

1. Combine soup mix with a pint of water. Add turnip greens and the reserved liquid from 1 can. Add potatoes and let cook for about 15 – 20 minutes. Stir in beans.
2. Meanwhile cook sausage, drain and add to soup. Let simmer for about 45 minutes. Serves approximately 10 – 12.

Paula’s Crawfish Bisque

Neighbor Paula Brewington, who has Louisiana roots, shares this easy, pleasing Crock-Pot version of crawfish bisque.

1 stick butter, melted
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 (10.75-ounce) cans cream
of potato soup
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream
of mushroom soup
2 cans whole kernel corn,
1 quart half-and-half
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, melted
2 (1-pound) bags frozen crawfish tails, thawed
Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, several good shakes, or to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot. Heat for a couple of hours on low. Serves 10 – 12.

Chocolate Eclair Dessert

This delicious treat comes from Vi Wall.

1 box graham crackers

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 cups milk
8 ounces Cool Whip

1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter

pecans or strawberries, to garnish

1. Line the bottom of a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish with graham crackers.
2. To prepare the filling, combine the pudding mix and confectioners’ sugar with 3 cups of milk; then fold in the Cool Whip.
3. Pour half of the filling over the layer of graham crackers. Add another layer of graham crackers over the filling, then follow with another layer of filling, ending with a final layer of graham crackers.
4. In a saucepan, mix ingredients for the frosting. Bring mixture to a rolling boil; remove from heat. Beat until cool.
5. Pour the cooled frosting over the final layer of graham crackers. Garnish with whole pecans or whole strawberries. Chill for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Serves 10 – 12.


text and styling by Sallye Irvine

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