Navigate / search

Hot stuff

Bringing the sizzle, 

just in time for Valentine’s Day

BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY

FOOD/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BROOKE ECHOLS

“If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” While this phrase is rarely referring to an actual kitchen or a literal rise in temperature, it has its basis in fact. Cooking makes things hot (including the spaces surrounding its activity, and during winter, that’s not a bad thing). But with this month’s reader-submitted recipes, you don’t have to be anywhere near the kitchen to feel the burn. These dishes are packing heat in another sense. Thanks to fresh peppers, dried chilies and other seasonings, they’re full of flavor and spice. Some like it hot; they get a kick out of a little singe. Testing the limits of what our tongues can take has actually gotten pretty popular. Just look at the hot sauce market. With names like Wild Fire, Devil’s Tongue and Sudden Death (plus labels picturing flaming skulls), some brands make no attempt to hide the pain their ingestion will cause, and yet, people buy them. Other people find zero pleasure in the discomfort that can come with super spicy foods and choose to keep their plates and palates on the mild side. No matter what camp you fall into, remember, you can adjust any recipe to be less fiery by reducing (or leaving out) its blaze-bringing ingredients. Or, you can turn up the temp by adding even more. Whatever you do, don’t shy away from these dishes. Intense and intensely satisfying, they’ll warm you from the inside out, and their tastes are worth the risk of a little heartburn.


Cook of the Month: Sandra Rhodes, Central Alabama EC 

Sandra Rhodes first made her Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls a few years ago when she had some leftover buffalo chicken in the fridge, a common occurrence because she and her family love the dish. “We eat a lot of buffalo chicken and use it all kinds of ways,” she said. “We had some buffalo chicken sandwiches for dinner, and I figured I’d use the leftover chicken to make myself lunch the next day.” She realized she was out of buns. But she did have some egg roll wrappers. And some cheese and a packet to make Ranch dressing. “So I really just threw it all together,” she said. She loved it, so she made it again for her husband and son. “It was a hit. The combo of the crunch, the spice and the gooey cheese is great,” she said. She stressed that you can make it less spicy if you want, using a milder buffalo sauce. But in her house, they usually make things hotter. “My husband likes super-spicy food, so we even kick it up some. You can add chopped jalapeños, substitute pepper jack for the mozzarella and use a really fiery sauce,” she said.

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

  • 1 package egg roll wrappers
  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Sweet Baby Rays Buffalo Sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella (more if you like it cheesy)
  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Buttermilk ranch dressing (for dipping)

Boil chicken until tender and easily shredded. Shred chicken and add to a medium bowl, add mozzarella cheese and half of the dry ranch packet, then add enough buffalo sauce to coat well. Add about a tablespoon of chicken mixture to middle of an egg roll wrapper. Dip the edge of a paper towel in water and go around all edges of the wrapper, then fold it like an envelope. Either deep fry at 350 degrees for a couple minutes until they are nicely browned and crisp, or fry in a couple of inches of oil in a cast iron skillet, turning to brown all sides. Serve with buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping.


Southwest Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 package hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 sweet onion, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 2 cans Rotel, undrained
  • 8 fajita size flour tortillas, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese or cheddar
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonful garlic powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoonful cayenne pepper, optional
  • Black pepper, to taste

Cook sausage, pepper and onion in a skillet, breaking sausage into small crumbles and cook until vegetables are soft and sausage is cooked through. Drain fat if needed. Return sausage mixture to pan and add Rotel. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until combined. In a 9×13-inch dish layer half the tortilla pieces to cover the bottom. Top with half the sausage mixture then half the cheese, and repeat layers one more time. Pour egg mixture over the entire casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees and remove casserole from the refrigerator. Bake covered for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until cooked through and bubbling around edges.

Emily Nebrig

Joe Wheeler EMC


Slow Cooker Beef-Chorizo Taco Chili

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, casings removed
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes with peppers
  • 2 14-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 cups bell peppers, sliced
  • 1 ¼ cups yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 cups beef stock
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, sliced jalapeno, lime, avocado, shredded cheese and corn chips

In a large skillet set over medium heat, add ground beef and chorizo sausage (casing removed). While breaking up the meat, cook until no longer pink. Remove meat from pan and drain on paper towels to remove grease. Add cooked meat to a large slow cooker along with diced tomatoes, black beans, jalapenos, tomato paste, bell peppers, yellow onion, corn, taco seasoning, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, kosher salt and pepper. Stir together. Start off by adding in 3 cups beef stock, and cook on high heat for at least 6 hours. The chili should not get dry but if it does, simply add more stock a little at a time. Serve with various toppings: sour cream, sliced jalapenos, lime, avocado, shredded cheese or corn chips.

Nancy Repking

Baldwin EMC


Jen’s Salsa

  • 2 14.5-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes, drained 
  • 1 16-ounce jar sliced jalapeños, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency. Serve with chips and enjoy. Cook’s note: If you want a thicker salsa you can add a can of tomato paste.

Jennifer Turner

Wiregrass EC


5-Alarm Spicy Wings

1 package chicken wings, sections or whole

1/2 cup Sriracha hot sauce

1/2 cup Louisiana hot sauce

1/2 cup Tabasco sauce

1/2 cup Zatarains Cajun sauce

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 stick of butter

2 4-ounces cooking oil

Wash chicken and split into sections if whole. Heat oil to 300 degrees in a deep fryer. Drop chicken pieces into oil, cooking for 12 minutes. While chicken is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan, then add all sauces and cayenne pepper. Once chicken is done, drain grease off chicken. Toss the chicken in the sauce mix. Preheat oven on 400 degrees. Once all wings have been tossed, place in oven for 15 minutes. Halfway through, toss with remaining sauce. Once they are done, enjoy with some ranch dressing and celery sticks.

Sharlene Parker

Baldwin EMC


Hot Corn

  • 3 7-ounce cans white shoepeg corn, drained
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Jalapeno peppers, sliced (to taste)

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until heated through. The more jalapenos you add, the hotter the dish is.

Peggy Key

North Alabama EC


Coming up in March…Honey!

It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!

Themes and Deadlines

April: Bread | Feb. 8

May: Junior Cooks | Mar. 8

June: Heirloom Recipes | April 8

Submit your recipe here.

Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.