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Cooking contest winner continues tradition

From left, Alabama Living editor Lenore Vickrey; first-place winner Mary Lyons; second-place winner Tif Smith; third place winner Jamie Davis; and Creative Living Center director Ann Ball.

Story and photos by Allison Law

Many folks say that cooking ability is in the genes, passed down from one generation to the next. For this year’s winner of the Alabama Living “Crockin’ It” contest at the Alabama National Fair, not only is cooking in the genes – so is winning.

Mary Lyons of Tallassee won first place in the October contest for her dessert creation, Alabama-made Praline Crock-Pot Bread Pudding. Lyons has entered the contest for the last four years, and two years ago she won third place with her Crockpot Tropics Sipper.

Her adult son, Levi, followed in his mom’s footsteps. That same year, 2016, Levi Lyons won second place in the contest with his Crock-Pot Spinach Sausage and Ricotta Shells.

Levi Lyons didn’t enter this year, but his mom continued to make the family proud.

The inspiration for her sweet dish came from Pinterest, the free online platform that allows users to discover and save ideas – everything from recipes to renovation projects to clothing.

The recipe she found on Pinterest was for regular baking, not for a Crock-Pot. It also didn’t feature an Alabama-made ingredient, which is one of the requirements for the Alabama Living contest. She decided to use Luverne-made Sister Schubert’s rolls, baking them first in the oven and slicing and soaking them in the egg mixture. She also used Alaga syrup and found vanilla flavoring that’s made in Birmingham.

The third place winner, Jamie Davis, is Mary Lyons’ friend, and she’s the one who suggested that Lyons enter the praline dish. Obviously, it was good advice!


Alabama-made Praline Crock-Pot Bread Pudding

First place
Mary Lyons, Tallassee
  • 1 package Sister Schubert’s rolls
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups half and half
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans

Praline sauce:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup Alaga cane flavor syrup
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

Whipped cream:

  • 1 small carton Borden’s whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bake rolls as directed on package. While warm, cut into pieces. Arrange pieces in single layer on a flat surface; cool completely. In a large bowl, beat eggs; add half and half and sugar and mix well until blended. Add cut up rolls and mix well; let stand 15 minutes. Spread mixture evenly in slow cooker and press down slightly. Cook on high for two hours. Watch the sides for browning; take top off and allow top to brown for the last 30 minutes of cooking. Turn down to warm. Check center with a knife to make sure center is done; knife will come out clean. Sprinkle pecans over the bread pudding.

Sauce: melt butter in saucepan on medium heat. Add Alaga syrup and mix well. Add brown sugar and pecans and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and slowly stir in heavy cream and simmer 2-3 minutes more, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken. Let stand 10 minutes. Pour over warm bread pudding.

Whipped cream: With a mixer on medium, beat whipping cream and gradually add sugar and vanilla. Mix until it forms a peak. Serve this cream on top of the pudding and sauce.


Pineapple and Pulled Pork Crock-Pot Baked Bean Camp Stew

Second place
Tif Smith, Montgomery
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 pound Conecuh sausage
  • 1l arge white onion, chopped
  • 128-ounce can baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 116-ounce can baked beans
  • 115-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 115-ounce can yellow corn
  • 120-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained
  • ½cup Alaga maple syrup
  • 115-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups pulled pork
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon
  • mustard
  • 5 shakes Alaga hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce

Chop raw bacon and Conecuh sausage and fry over medium heat until crispy and done. Drain on paper towels. Drain grease, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Cook onion in grease until soft. Combine all ingredients in a large slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours.


Crock-Pot Low Country Boil

Third place
Jamie Davis, Tallassee
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bottle of Truck Stop Honey beer
  • ¼ cup Alaga hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Old Bay
  • seasoning
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ pounds red potatoes (about 10-15 small)
  • 10 small ears sweet corn (frozen or from the garden)
  • 1 pound Conecuh sausage, cut into two- to three-inch links
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, deveined
  • Optional condiments: cocktail sauce, additional lemon wedges, melted butter

In a six- to seven-quart slow cooker, combine water, beer, hot sauce, seafood seasoning, salt and cayenne pepper. Add potatoes, corn, sausage and lemon wedges. Cover and cook for 3 ½ hours on high. Add shrimp and stir until incorporated. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Spoon mixture into a large rimmed dish and serve with optional condiments.