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An ‘untraditional’ holiday dinner is part of the Parson family celebration.

Linda Geist, Writer

November 21, 2019

5 Min Read
First Lady Teresa Parson makes peanut brittle in her kitchen for the holidays
AT HOME: Whether it is in her kitchen on the farm in southwest Missouri or the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City, Teresa Parson enjoys making peanut brittle for the holidays.Missouri Governor’s Office

Amid the holiday elegance of the Missouri governor’s mansion, Gov. Mike Parson and first lady Teresa Parson remain true to faith and family in their Christmas traditions.

The Parsons attend church services in Bolivar, Mo., each Christmas. Before opening gifts, a different member of the family reads aloud the story of the birth of Jesus Christ each year.

The family Christmas dinner menu has not changed since Parson became the state’s 57th governor in June 2018.

“Our Christmas menu is a little untraditional,” the first lady says. After the governor’s mother died, he began making her Christmas meal of beef enchiladas. After all, the couple raise cattle in southwest Missouri. The tradition continues 12 years later.

“It was such a hit with the kids and grandkids that the tradition stuck, and it’s the one time of year the governor is in the kitchen,” Teresa says.

Teresa learned to cook through 4-H and home economics classes. She grew up on a farm and learned to cook for her father and farm hands since her mother worked an off-farm job. Her strawberry pretzel salad is a family favorite and an annual request from the six grandchildren.

But the first lady’s holiday baking includes more than family. It also involves friends. The first Saturday in December, she and some of her friends gather to cook and visit for an entire day. Each person makes a different cookie or candy to share. Teresa’s specialties are peanut brittle and toffee candy. 

“After the day wraps up, we would all have our candy and cookies done for the upcoming gatherings,” she says. “I quickly learned that if you did something for long enough, you would start to get good at it.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson stand with the governor's brothers, Kent and Jim Parson, surrounded by holiday decorations at the Governor's Mansion

FAMILY TIME: Family and faith top the holiday for Gov. Mike Parson and first lady Teresa Parson. Some of the family and friends joining them in the governor’s mansion last year were the governor’s brothers, Kent (left) and Jim (right).

Christmas at the mansion

Last year was the first year for the Parsons to host traditional holiday events at the governor’s mansion. They refer to the mansion as “The People’s House,” opening the mansion to the public for many events.

It is the kind of hospitality they brought with them from Polk County. Their sun porch is where the couple reads their weekly Bible verse, sent to them from their home church, Bolivar First Baptist Church. They have two rocking chairs for the mansion’s front porch.

Teresa remains in awe of the mansion’s beauty during the holidays and the speed with which the staff decorates it. The staff decorates the first floor with fresh Missouri-grown trees. The trees remind her of the cedar scent that filled their farm home during the holidays.

Each year, the staff presents several themes to the first lady. This year’s theme is “traditionally elegant,” with a gold color scheme with red and green accents.

About the mansion

Built in 1871, the brick Renaissance revival-style mansion with its mansard roof took eight months to build. It cost $74,690 to build and partially furnish. Prisoners from the nearby penitentiary did much of the work. The mansion underwent extensive repairs this year, primarily to the heating and cooling system and plumbing.

The Parsons will hold free candlelight tours of the mansion, 100 Madison St., Jefferson City, from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, and 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 7. Reservations are not needed.

Geist writes from Columbia, Mo.

rocking chair, pine cones columns decorated with evergreens on porch of Missouri Governor’s Mansion

READY TO ROCK: The Missouri governor’s mansion will be open Dec. 6-7 for tours. Gov. Mike Parson and first lady Teresa Parson have two rocking chairs on the porch. They share their rural roots and Christmas traditions with those who stop by.

Parson family holiday recipe

The first family of Missouri still has its down-home appetites and recipes while serving in "The People’s House."

In Gov. Mike Parson’s first year, the mansion’s food bill was less than half of that of the previous governor. The governor quipped, “I like bologna and tomato sandwiches.”

As a former county sheriff and gas station owner, he was no stranger to bologna sandwiches on the run. He and first lady Teresa Parson enjoy dining at home, whether in Bolivar or the mansion.

Here is the recipe for the Parson Christmas beef enchiladas that are a family favorite.

Parson family enchiladas

By Teresa Parson


Sauce. One to two 28-ounce cans of enchilada or Mexican red sauce (our family prefers the Old El Paso brand)

Meat. 2- to 3-pound ground beef; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 1/2 teaspoon salt

The rest. 10 to 14 corn tortillas; 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese; 1 small bottle of ketchup


For the meat. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef, onions and salt. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the sauce. Pour enchilada sauce into a medium saucepan and heat to a low simmer.

For the rest. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray nonstick cooking oil in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch-baking dish. Cover bottom of baking dish with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. Dip each corn tortilla in the sauce. Place the sauce-soaked tortilla on a plate. Spoon a generous portion of the meat mixture on the shell, add a thin strip of ketchup over the meat, and top with grated cheddar cheese. Fold the tortilla from each outside edge to the middle and pin with wooden toothpick.

Place the tortilla in the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and drizzle the top with sauce, ending with a generous sprinkling of cheese!

Bake the enchiladas for 30 minutes, or until the wooden toothpick starts to turn brown at the top. Serve and enjoy!

About the Author(s)

Linda Geist

Writer, University of Missouri Extension

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