QUINCY — Don’t expect to find traditional fare on Stacy Boll’s holiday table.

“We’re very untraditional except for Thanksgiving,” the Quincy woman said.

While Thanksgiving features turkey, dressing and all the trimmings, Easter this year meant sliders instead of ham for Boll and her family.

Best Cheese Dip provided an appetizer, and “they thought this cheese dip was so good that they were putting it on top of their sliders,” she said.

Another favorite dip, shared by an aunt, calls for an uncommon ingredient.

Dill Pickle Dip “is so simple,” Boll said. “It’s just different.”

The nontraditional approach, and ingredients, match Boll’s cooking style, which she describes as “pretty basic” with a few twists of her own.

“It’s a lot of the standards but just the way I was taught to do them from my aunt, my grandmothers, my mother-in-law,” she said. “I had some really good cooks in the family. If nobody ever shows you or spends the time or makes it look fun or easy, that’s when you don’t have an interest in it.”

Boll’s family spurred her interest in cooking starting in childhood.

“I just enjoy it. It’s relaxing,” she said.

After most days of work as the administrative assistant at the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce, Boll cooks for herself and her husband Ryan. “It’s not always elaborate, but we do eat at home almost every night,” she said.

Even more fun is bringing together the family — between them, the Bolls have three children, one son-in-law and a grandson — for a meal.

“My family is such meat-and-potato eaters, but they’ll also do salads,” she said.

Mandarin Salad “is kind of a go-to. It’s a light salad, and it pairs well with chicken,” she said. “You make it up a little in advance, then throw dressing on at the end.”

Boll makes her Vegetable Soup the same way as her aunt — with meatballs instead of a beef roast — and Jane’s Sugar Cookies, a recipe from her mother-in-law, is a favorite for the Christmas holidays.

“Ryan and I will do them together. You do dough that sits overnight, then you roll it out. It’s a long process,” she said. “We’re going to do those with (grandson) Dylan and try to frost them.”

Watching cooking shows and online searches provide inspiration for Boll to try something new, tasting along the way and patiently working on the dish.

“Being a good cook is enjoying cooking, liking being in the kitchen, experimenting and trying new things,” she said, and you’ve got to have eaters to enjoy doing it. Otherwise, there’s no gratification in it.”

Best Cheese Dip

1 pound spicy pork sausage

½ pound ground beef

1 (two-pound) loaf of Velveeta

1 can Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and green chili peppers)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Cook ground beef and sausage in a skillet; drain. Put into a slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Cook on high until cheese is melted, about 90 minutes. Serve with taco chips.

Dill Pickle Dip

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

5 to 6 tablespoons pickle juice

⅓ cup finely chopped dill pickle

1 tablespoon fresh dill (or substitute dry dill)

Mix cheese until soft. Add pickle juice a little at a time to desired consistency. (Dip will thicken when refrigerated.) Stir in chopped pickles and dill.

Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving with vegetables, pita chips or pretzels.

Mandarin Orange Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce

1 (15-ounce) can Mandarin oranges

1 (16-ounce) bottle Italian dressing

1 (two-ounce) can sliced black olives

1 small red onion

½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese


Chop lettuce. Drain and add Mandarin oranges to lettuce, then drain and add black olives. Dice red onion, and add. Mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until right before serving. Add Italian dressing and parmesan cheese. Top with croutons.

Vegetable Soup

4 (32-ounce) cartons beef broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 pounds 80% lean ground beef

1 small bag frozen peas

1 bag fresh carrot matchsticks

4 medium russet potatoes

1 can corn

1 can dark kidney beans

2 teaspoons garlic salt

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons celery salt

2 teaspoons chili powder

Add broth and tomatoes to a large soup pot, and start to simmer. Add all dry ingredients; stir.

In another small pan, blanch the peas and carrots. Heat through until peas are thawed and start to turn bright, then drain and add to the soup pot. Peel potatoes, and boil for 5 minutes (potatoes will not be very soft). Drain potatoes and add to the pot. Drain corn, and rinse and drain beans; add both to the pot. Bring to a boil.

Roll hamburger into one-inch balls and drop slowly into the boiling pot just a few at a time so they don’t stick together. Simmer for 1 ½ hours or until meatballs are cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: Adjust amount of dry seasonings to taste. Add more or less to your liking.

Jane’s Sugar Cookies

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

2 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into halves, and roll each out to 3/16-inch-thick on a lightly-floured board. Cut into desired shapes, place on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes.


3 cups powdered sugar

⅓ cup butter, softened

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

About 2 tablespoons milk

Mix sugar and butter. Stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth and of spreading consistency. Color with food coloring.

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