At the Garner, N.C., home of American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, Christmas is such a big deal that when the family built the home six years ago, they made sure to include a dedicated “Christmas closet” on the second floor. A walk-in storage space brimming floor-to-ceiling with garlands, bows, ornaments, lights, candles and crafts, “it even smells like Christmas in there,” says Scotty, whose new album Clear As Day evokes home on songs like “Water Cooler Town.” When it’s time to deck the halls each year, he adds with a grin, “we go a little crazy.”
Yes, Christmas at the McCreerys is a twinkling, month-long celebration that would do the North Pole proud: 12 trees, hundreds of white lights, Christmas music on constant rotation, piles of color-coordinated gifts and—until just a few years ago—matching Christmas morning PJs for Scotty, 18, and his sister Ashley, 21. “It was so corny!” confesses mom Judy, 48. “When they were little, they loved it. I’m traditional like that, and they’re totally okay with it.”
This year the family’s many longtime traditions are taking on even more meaning in the wake of what Scotty calls his “wild” year. After winning Idol in May, he and Judy immediately hit the road to tour while dad Mike, 46, and Ashley, a college student, remained in North Carolina. After so many months apart, the family is more eager than ever to enjoy the holidays together. For Scotty, that means singing “Mary, Did You Know?” at church, reading the Bible around the tree and indulging in his favorite homemade dishes—all washed down with gallons of sweet tea. As for gifts, Scotty’s family admits that topping an Idol win will be tough. “I don’t know what I’m going to get Scotty this year,” says Ashley. “He has everything!” For the new star, though, the best present of all is the simplest. “I’ll be home for Christmas,” he says. “I can’t wait.”
GRANDMA JANET’S BROCCOLI CORNBREAD
Serves 8 to 10
1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cottage cheese, drained
1 tsp. salt
1 (8½-oz.) package corn muffin mix
½ cup butter or margarine, melted
1 small onion, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 9×13-in. baking pan. Pat broccoli dry on paper towels.
2. Stir together eggs, cottage cheese and salt. Add muffin mix, butter, onion and broccoli, stirring until just blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake at 400° for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan.
GRANDMA PAQUITA’S SPANISH FLAN
Serves 8 to 10
2 cups sugar, divided
6 large eggs
2 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Cook 1 cup sugar in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring as needed until sugar melts and is light golden. Quickly pour syrup into a 9-in. round cake pan. Tilt pan to evenly coat the bottom. Set aside.
3. Whisk together eggs and remaining sugar. Gradually whisk in milk, salt and vanilla. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into prepared cake pan. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Place in a roasting pan and add hot water to roasting pan to a depth of 1 in.
4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Remove pan from roasting pan. Uncover and cool on wire rack. Cover and chill 4 hours.
6. Run a knife around edge of flan to loosen, then invert onto a large serving plate.