Gardening is often a way to escape the fast-paced world of technology. We can get our hands dirty instead of wearing out our fingers swiping and typing. However, the time may have come when we may actually want to take technology with us to the garden.
These days, I admit I never fully escape technology when I garden. I tuck my smartphone into my gardening apron along with my clippers and gloves so that I can still take phone calls or listen to podcasts and music as I work. But I’ve begun to realize that my phone is more than a source of distraction; it can be a useful gardening tool that lets me tap (literally and figuratively) into gardening resources and expertise through the ever-widening selection of gardening applications.
Curious about just what apps are available to gardeners, I did a simple Web search for the term “gardening apps” and was linked to all kinds of articles and lists touting the latest garden-related apps, some of which are free and most of which are less than $5 to download to smartphones and tablets.
Got a gardening question or need? There’s probably an app for that.
Among the options are apps that help you identify plants, pests and birds (with photos even!) in the garden; apps that help you design a landscape plan; apps that let you keep an electronic garden journal or remind you when to do seasonal gardening chores; and apps that calculate soil management and watering needs.
A number of the apps are available directly from national and regional gardening magazines or blogs and from seed and plant companies. Some apps focus on specific types of gardening—vegetable, ornamental and organic gardening, for example. Others help you learn new (and old) gardening techniques: There are even applications that teach you how to plant by the moon.
And gardening technology does not stop with apps, either. My Web surfing unearthed a wide array of high-tech gardening gadgets. Among them are sprinkler systems that automatically come on when soil moisture levels are low; robotic lawnmowers that cut the lawn by themselves; and garden drones that ward off pests from our yards. Granted, some of these are out of the typical home gardening budget or beyond our needs, but it’s interesting to explore the options.
For me those options are both exciting and frustrating. For example, I don’t want to download every app (especially the more expensive ones) and clutter up my phone with unused icons and programs, but I do want to find some that are truly useful to my personal gardening needs.
With that in mind, I’m kicking 2014 off by spending some cold winter days and nights at my computer or with my tablet or phone in one hand and a warm cup of something in the other and really researching the capabilities of all this technology. Who knows, while I’m at it I may finally learn how to use Pinterest to organize my gardening schemes and dreams for the coming year!
And, to be perfectly honest, I also plan to let my fingers do some leafing the old-fashioned way: through the pages of printed catalogues and books.
Plant shrubs, trees, fruit trees and roses.
Prune fruit trees and summer-blooming shrubs.
Service lawnmowers and other motorized lawn equipment.
Shop for outdoor tools and furniture that may be on sale this time of year.
Keep newly planted trees and shrubs watered if winter rainfall is limited.
Keep those birdbaths and feeders full.
Start selecting and ordering seed for spring and summer planting.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs.
Dust the leaves of houseplants and look for signs of insect or disease problems.
Set out cabbage plants and hardy annuals.
Plant basil and other culinary annual herbs in pots and keep them in a warm sunny spot in or near the kitchen.
Apps to Try
Below are a few of the many gardening applications available for smartphones and tablets. These are constantly being updated and revised and there are many others to choose among so let your fingers—and thumbs—do some walking to check out the ones that are right for you.
Gardening Toolkit – $1.99, for Apple devices
Garden Snob – free, for Android devices
Pocket Garden – free to $0.99, for Apple and Android devices
Vegetable Gardening Guide – $1.99 for Apple devices; $2.99 for Android devices
Mother Earth News Food Gardening Guide – free for Apple and Android devices
Landscaper’s Companion – $6; for Apple devices; $5 for Android devices
Garden Compass – free for Apple and Android devices
Leafsnap – free for Apple devices; under development for Android devices
Gardens – free, for Apple devices
Gardener – free, for Android devices
Plants Vs. Zombies – free, for Apple and Android devices
Pocket Garden (game), free, for Apple devices
Moon Gardening – $1.99, for Apple devices
The Gardeners Calendar – $1.61 for Android devices
The best anglers in the world will compete on one of the best largemouth bass lakes in the world at the best time of the year for catching giant fish when the 2014 Bassmaster Classic visits Lake Guntersville on Feb. 21-23.
“Without a doubt, Lake Guntersville is one of the premier bass lakes in the nation,” says Mike Iaconelli, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion. “It’s an amazing numbers lake, but can also produce giant bass. In most lakes, we try to get about a 3-pound average in a tournament. On Guntersville, I’m not happy until I get about a 4- to 5-pound average.”
Lake Guntersville ranks Number 4 on the 2013 Bassmaster magazine list of the top 100 bass waters in the United States. Every year, Lake Guntersville produces many bass exceeding 10 pounds and countless largemouths in the 3- to 8-pound range. Charlie Bertus of Huntsville, Ala., holds the official lake largemouth record with a 14.50-pound lunker he caught on Feb. 21, 1990. Duanne McQueen of Stockbridge, Ga., landed the lake record smallmouth, a 5.85-pounder that he caught near the dam in 2010. The lake also holds Kentucky spotted bass approaching five pounds.
“The lake has always been a great bass lake, but in the past few years, it’s really exploded for big bass,” says Jonathan Henry (256-647-3532, guntersvillebasswhacker.com) with BassWhacker Guide Service in Grant, Ala. “It’s incredible how many big fish come out of that lake. I know of at least one 13-pounder weighed in during a 2013 tournament.”
Lake Guntersville snakes 75 miles along the Tennessee River through northeast Alabama into Tennessee. The largest lake in Alabama covers about 69,100 acres and drops to about 60 feet deep in places. Some better bass creeks include North and South Sauty, Siebold Creek, Brown’s Creek and Town Creek.
“The majority of fish that win tournaments on Lake Guntersville come from North Sauty Creek down to about Brown’s Creek,” Iaconelli says. “Guntersville is such a great lake because it has so much grass. With so many vast grass flats, much of the lake looks the same. I look for ditches. Water depth doesn’t really matter as much as depth change. It doesn’t even have to be a radical drop. Just a drop of a foot or two might make a difference.”
Some people punch through grass mats with heavy jigs. What might look like a dense, imposing raft on the surface may provide bass abundant maneuver room beneath the canopy. Frequently, thick mats limit sunlight reaching any other submerged vegetation growing beneath them.
“Bass feed heavily upon bream in the mats,” explains Gerald Swindle, a bass pro from Warrior, Ala. “In low light, I fish a 1/2-ounce jig. As the sun gets higher, I’ll switch to a 3/4-ounce and fish the thicker clumps. For the jig color, I stick with browns or greens. I like to fish the main river channel and flip the edges where hydrilla and milfoil mix with a little current moving through it.”
Besides grassy flats, anglers can also fish ledges, drop-off edges, humps, natural rock piles and docks. Bridges and riprap offer more cover. In the backs of creek, throw shad-colored crankbaits or spinnerbaits. Bang crankbaits off the rocks or work over the area with shaky heads or worms.
Big bass hang around the bait
“In the winter, big bass frequently hang around the bridges because that’s where the bait goes,” Henry says. “Find the bait and that’s where the big bass will be. In the winter, the best technique is to throw an Alabama rig. Anglers can also catch good fish on single swimbaits, jigs and crankbaits. Another good technique is a lipless crankbait.”
In late winter, bass begin moving from the depths to the shallows where they spawn in saucer-shaped beds hollowed out from the bottom. The smaller male bass typically begin moving shallow first to prepare the beds. The bigger females generally follow about two to three weeks later. A healthy female full of eggs could weigh several more pounds in February than in June after dropping her precious cargo.
“Winter through early spring is the best time to catch monster bass on Lake Guntersville,” Henry says. “In February, fish will be surprisingly shallow. Most bass will be in less than 10 feet of water, usually in two to eight feet of water. They’ll be staging before going to the spawning beds. The bigger fish start spawning around mid-March.”
While spawning, bass do not eat. However, before spawning, bass gorge themselves on shad and other baitfish to build up energy and strength for the arduous spawning process. For this reason, fishing fans should see some awesome catches during the Classic in February.
The professional bass anglers will compete for the $500,000 top prize and possibly millions in endorsements. After fishing, the anglers will haul their catches to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in downtown Birmingham each day for the public weigh-in. For more information on the Bassmaster Classic, see www.bassmaster.com/tournaments/2014-bassmaster-classic.
Last fall, we asked our readers to vote for the best places, products and entertainment venues in Alabama, and you told us! We’re proud to present the winners of the very first Alabama Living “Best of Alabama” contest in this issue. We received several hundred entries from across the state, and some of the winners were a surprise.
Congratulations to Kenny Baskins of Arab who is the winner of a $250 cash prize for entering the contest. Rev. Baskins is the pastor of Arab First United Methodist Church and is a loyal Alabama Living reader.
Alabama’s 53rd governor lives in the historic Governor’s Mansion, but he never forgets that he once lived in a rural Alabama home with no electricity.
It’s not an easy task to get Gov. Robert Bentley and First Lady Dianne Bentley together at the same time, in the same place, but Alabama Living was able to snag the duo for a morning interview recently. Our conversation wasn’t political, but more about how their lives have changed since they moved into the Governor’s Mansion in 2011, and how they make time for family and keep their privacy while in the public limelight. As we learned, it’s not always easy.
Gov. Bentley was a dermatologist in Tuscaloosa for 36 years and served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives before becoming Governor. Mrs. Bentley, a homemaker who raised four sons, often drove her husband to and from campaign stops in 2009 and 2010 as they traveled the state. But as the First Lady, she’s not as free to jump in the car and run to the grocery store for a quart of milk as she once was. That’s just one of many ways their life has changed in the past three years, as we learned during our conversation.
Alabama Living: How has life changed in the past three years you’ve lived in the mansion?
Mrs. Bentley: For me, it’s been a drastic change. He was a dermatologist in Tuscaloosa and his office was maybe two miles from the house. He would come home at lunch, have a light lunch and rest a minute and then go back to work. It was just us, and I was a stay at home mom with four sons. en grandchildren started coming and they all lived close by so I could carpool or go by and pick them up whenever I wanted. To come down here, and it’s a positive, but you’re surrounded by people from 6:30 (a.m.) on. We have a staff of ten. I learned my first week when I came downstairs in my bathrobe that you don’t come downstairs until you’re fully made up and dressed. People ask us, “What’s your favorite room?” Well, I don’t roam around down here; this is the public area. So it’s hard to adjust to people being around you all the time. You know they’re good and they’re necessary. I’m not saying it’s a negative, but sometimes you just like your space.
AL: Tell us more about living in the mansion. The upstairs is family quarters, right?
Mrs. Bentley: The upstairs is family quarters. When we have friends over, we take them upstairs. A lot of people ask to see the upstairs but it’s not anything special like the beautiful architectural design downstairs. There are two guest rooms, my office and a bedroom we use for a living room. Not anything interesting for a tour. Now the first lady of Mississippi lets people tour her whole house.
AL: Do you know her?
Mrs. Bentley: Yes. We belong to the National Governors Association. They divide you into 2 groups; one goes to spouse’s school and the other to governor’s school. Some have their own careers. Some have children. They just throw you into (situations where you learn) how to handle the press, and other things. They gave you helpful advice because they have been though it. I loved that.
AL: How long have you been married?
Mrs. Bentley: 48 years. We were married July 24, 1965 at the First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. I grew up in Montgomery and went to Lanier High School. We had our 50th reunion two years ago. I invited my classmates over here for a tour and they were just totally appalled. One of my classmates said, “You never said a word in high school.” I said, “I know, I’m really shy and here I am in this job!”
AL: But you’ve really blossomed.
Mrs. Bentley: Well, thank you.
AL: How does that make you feel, knowing that no one ever expected you to be here when you were in high school?
Mrs. Bentley: Well, it’s a good feeling. I was so scared during the campaign, I told them, “I’ll show up, I’ll be there but don’t ask me to speak.” Speaking just scares me to death. So I did two speeches and my knees were going just like this, and once we got here, I said, “OK, Lord, this is a part of this job. You put us here. You’ve got to give me the power to speak. And He has just blessed me. People say, “You’re a lot better now than you were” and I don’t know how to take that!
[At this point in our interview, Gov. Bentley joined us after a busy morning in his office at the Capitol.]
AL: Thank you for being with us. I know you’ve got a busy schedule.
Gov. Bentley: I’ve just got a lot of things going on. But I love it, I do. I love solving problems and we’ve got some real problems. Some are tougher than others.
AL: I’d asked your wife how life has changed since you moved into the Governor’s Mansion. When you were a dermatologist, I understand you got to come home for lunch.
Gov. Bentley: That’s right. I’d come home about 11:30 and I’d x me a diet Lean Cuisine pizza that I’d eat every day. It was only 330 calories. I’d rest for about 20 minutes and go back to the office about 12:30. So I would have usually an hour or 45 minutes. My oce was very close. Sometimes I’d sit down and try to relax for 10 minutes.
Mrs. Bentley: He’s good at taking power naps. He learned that in his medical school days. He can do that for about ten minutes and wake up refreshed. I can’t do that. I think that’s what’s helped him.
AL: And no power naps now?
Gov. Bentley: No, except Sunday we went to church, and Diane thought I was asleep and she punched me.
Mrs. Bentley: He’d just gotten in from Japan and Saturday we thought he was doing good, but it was a 12-hour trip. He slept late and I had to go wake him! And I looked over there (during church) and he was nodding.
Gov. Bentley: I was praying.
AL: Do you go to one church?
Mrs. Bentley: Whoever invites us, we go there. I grew up in First Methodist and that’s where we were married. It’s really kind of fun, we bop in and surprise them. One Sunday, our pilot was telling us “Ya’ll need to come to church” (with him), so we went to Hayneville Baptist.There were probably 90 people there.
Gov. Bentley: We go to Frazer (Memorial United Methodist) a lot, First Baptist Prattville. always go back to First Baptist Tuscaloosa. I go to a regular Sunday School class and Diane still works in the nursery.
AL: So that’s how you keep the home ties?
Gov. Bentley: Yes.
AL: Who does the cooking? You have a cook, don’t you?
Mrs. Bentley: We have a cook and he cooks during the week. And for receptions and parties for us, which is fantastic because that would overwhelm me. On the weekends, I can’t cook in that kitchen. It’s like a commercial kitchen. is weekend I burned the soup. I’m not used to cooking in there. We have a great grill. So he’ll (the governor) grill hot dogs and hamburgers and things like that. We do simple things on the weekend.
AL: Do you have a favorite thing she/he cooks?
Gov. Bentley: Oh yes, Diane makes the best cornbread of anybody. I love her vegetable soup and cornbread. She fixes good chicken and dumplings, I like that. She makes good chili and good spaghetti.
Mrs. Bentley: One thing he likes to do is to have a garden and we’ve had a garden every year. He loves fresh tomatoes. Last year we planted cream peas, and zipper peas, and froze them. We love fresh vegetables.
Gov. Bentley: We had two large gardens this last year, one behind Hill House over here and another large garden by Winfield. We had peas, corn, two strains of okra, and watermelon – a lot of watermelons.
Mrs. Bentley: But they didn’t do very good.
Gov. Bentley: No, they weren’t sweet because there was too much rain. We had some squash. And a lot of tomatoes.
Mrs. Bentley: We had so many tomatoes I was threatening to set up a stand out here on the street and sell them. We could raise money for this old mansion, selling governor’s tomatoes!
AL: We want you to have your very own copy of our Alabama Living cookbook, a compilation of recipes from five years from the readers of Alabama Living. Do ya’ll ever get to see our magazine?
Mrs. Bentley: Oh, yes, I tear out recipes all the time.
AL: What’s a typical day like for you? What time do you get up?
Gov. Bentley: We get up a little after 6. I wake up but I still have an alarm. Then I get to the office. I try to leave a little after 7.
AL: What do you eat for breakfast?
Gov. Bentley: I eat the same thing every day. I eat Grape Nuts.
Mrs. Bentley: That shows age!
Gov. Bentley: It kind of fills me up. I do pretty well until I eat lunch. I’ve been on a diet lately. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds.
AL: Was that through Scale Back Alabama?
Gov. Bentley: No, I joined that last year and gained 10 pounds! (laughs) You know, I learned a long time ago there are no tricks to losing weight. You either burn it off with exercise or just normal routine activities or you don’t eat it. It’s calories in, calories out. I do it the real way, which is, I eat less calories. Dianne and I like to walk. We haven’t lately because I had surgery about a month ago, but I’m doing great. I had a hernia repair. We walk right out here in that circle, which is one-tenth of a mile. So we walk 15 times. A mile and a half, 3, 4, or 5 times a week. We do it at night. Our security guards stand out here and they watch from the street. Sometimes people will stop. Sometimes I just want to speak to them. Some are riding by on their bicycles and they stop and talk and we talk to them.
AL: How do you nd time for each other?
Gov. Bentley: When we get home at night, I try to get home by 6, maybe 6:30 or it may be 7. en we eat, and go out and walk. Sometimes I’ll have several phone calls I have to make before bedtime. We honestly don’t have the time together that we’ve had in the past. Now we’re here together, but we’re busy… but we are in the same room together.
Mrs. Bentley: Sometimes I’ll send him an email.
Gov. Bentley: Or she’ll send me a text. She’ll say, “Hey, look over here at me.”
AL: I know you told our quilt ladies that you both like to watch “Dancing with the Stars.”
Gov. Bentley: We do like to watch that, although I’ve never danced in my life. We really don’t watch a lot of TV. We will usually watch the news at night. I hate to say it because that will tell what we’re watching but we watch the 9 o’clock news, then I watch Andy Griffith. That’s my favorite show. I saw one last night I never had seen.
AL: Do you have a favorite episode?
Gov. Bentley: I like Ernest T. Bass. I like the earlier ones that had Barney on. The later ones were not that good. It usually tells a kind of a moral story. It’s light humor. And you know what? It’s just like people I grew up with. I grew up in Columbiana in Shelby County. 1,800 people. So I know every one of those (characters), I knew the barber, all of those.
AL: Do you get to go back?
Gov. Bentley: I go back as often as I can. I was actually born back up in the woods about 10 miles outside of town. We lived there with no electricity and no indoor plumbing until I was school age when we moved to town. I was around 6 or 7. at was the rst time I’d ever had electricity. We had kerosene lamps and obviously heated with coal. We did not have a refrigerator, so every Saturday we’d go to town to Columbiana and buy a block of ice and put it in the icebox. It truly was an icebox. It would last till Thursday. We kept all of our milk in there. In fact a lot of our milk we kept in the well; we’d lower the milk in the well and it would keep the milk cool. I still have the churn that my mother used. We had a cow. We made our own butter. She cooked on a wood stove. I still have my old home place, the land. The house was blown away by a tornado. But I still have the land. It’s 40 acres. I’d already bought 20 acres from my daddy. The day before he died, he said, “Son, I want you to have that other 20 acres. And I said, ‘Now daddy, it may upset the others. (I was one of five). I promise you this, I will buy the rest of the land from all the others and I will always keep it and I will never sell it.’ And it’s still there. I clear cut it, I replanted it. It’s just good hybrid new loblolly pines. When I go back to Columbiana, they always take me out and I always check to see how my pine trees are doing. Nobody’s living on it. In fact, when I fly over in my helicopter I can identify it. ere’s a small lake my daddy built in 1960. There’s a fire tower close by. I will always keep it. I was born there. I really don’t care if anything is ever named after me in this state. But in Columbiana, they have made the sign, “Welcome to Columbiana, home of Gov. Robert Bentley.” That’s the only thing named after me. at to me is an honor, that’s my hometown.
AL: So you can really relate to people in Alabama who grew up the same way.
Gov. Bentley: Oh, yes, there are so many people who grew up the same way, a lot of people my age and older. I grew up after the depression. My brother grew up during the depression. I can well remember we had a mule. We plowed. We raised our own food. We would dry our own fruit, the apples and peaches. We would dry our own fruit on a tin roof and you’d cover them over so the flies wouldn’t get on there. My mother would dry those and put them in a paper bag and keep them during winter. She would make apple tarts.
Mrs. Bentley: She made the best fried apple pies.
AL: How did y’all (you and Mrs. Bentley) meet?
Gov. Bentley: We didn’t really meet in college even though we started college at the same time. I remember Dianne because we were in physics class together. It was an early morning class and she was still almost asleep. We did not date at that time.
Mrs. Bentley: I am not a morning person!
Gov. Bentley: She roomed with Jeanine Mullins. Bob Mullins, who was my first Medicaid commissioner, and I were roommates in medical school and we grew up in Columbiana together. They were engaged. And Bob said, “I need someone to ride back and forth to Tuscaloosa with me to keep me awake. I want you to meet Jeanine’s roommate.” It was a blind date. We met in late October 1964. On December 31, I asked her to marry me.
AL: You knew her for two months?
Gov. Bentley: Two months. I gave her a ring that cost $248 on March 12. en we got married July 24, 1965.
AL: You move fast.
Gov. Bentley: I did. She did, too.
Mrs. Bentley: We say we were older and we knew what we wanted.
Gov. Bentley: We weren’t old!
AL: How old were you?
Gov. Bentley: We were 22. We just thought we were old!
Mrs. Bentley: I was a science major and just had taken an elective, a course for fun called “Marriage and Family.” At the end of the course, you had to write your biography and put down your goals for your future husband. Well, I hadn’t started dating him then. I listed all these goals. Then he gave me the ring, and I thought, ‘Oh, what have I done?’ So I went and got those goals and he met every single quality on there I had for a husband except one: He doesn’t dance.
Gov. Bentley: But I do like “Dancing with the Stars.”
Mrs. Bentley: So I said God put us together and he had a plan for that. He matched every one of my other desires. He was a Christian, first of all, and he loved children and family.
Gov. Bentley: What was funny was her professor, who later became one of my patients, wrote on the paper. What did he write?
Mrs. Bentley: He gave me a grade and at the end of the paper, he wrote, “Ha ha, good luck.” Years later, I wanted to say, “Ok, I did it!”
Add this to your 2014 New Year’s resolutions: Eat a cow patty at Sweet P’s Eats & Treats in Pike Road. It may not be the most appetizing name for a dessert, but its rich, decadent layers of moist chocolate cake glued together with buttercream and enrobed in cooked cocoa icing are so endorphin-eliciting delicious, you won’t care what it’s called (or that checking this item off your list actually negates that other resolution where you swear off sugar).
Plus, dubbing their chocolate extravaganza a “cow patty” is just one part of the clever marketing campaign that is centered on this bakery and sandwich shop’s mascot, Sweet P, the pink cow. And not just the cute cartoon version of a pink cow that’s in Sweet P’s logo. She’s a real live cow who is Pepto-Bismol pink and, if you’re lucky, she’ll be at the restaurant to greet guests during your visit.
The Sweet P story started with owner Kadra Parkman’s burgeoning baking business. She was making cookies and selling them from her home for a few years, but as demand grew, so did her need for more space. Her husband Brendon owned a building on a bluff overlooking Highway 231 that was the former home of Partridge Pines restaurant, so she began work there. The original idea was to use the commercial kitchen for her baking and use the front of the restaurant as a little shop that was only open during summer to lure folks in for something sweet while they were on their way down to or back from Florida’s beaches. Whether it was the spark kindled on the couple’s first date years ago at Partridge Pines still lingering in the air and adding something special to the food or simply Kadra’s strengthening culinary skills, when the doors first opened in July 2011, the positive response was overwhelming. So much so that Kadra almost instantly decided to stay open year-round and to add sandwiches and salads to the menu of baked goodies.
Today, Sweet P’s is bustling, especially around lunch, when it appears plenty of people have zero problem going out of their way to get their midday meal there; Kadra’s savory items are threatening to surpass her desserts’ popularity. Her personal favorite is the French Dip sandwich. The “Happy Plate” is another great choice and aptly named; a scoop each of sharp pimento cheese, peppery chicken salad and potato salad with a kick of bacon plus a little cup of heaven you can hold in your hand (a cupcake in the flavor of your choice), should leave you feeling just fine.
But what about that pink cow smiling at you from the rug when you enter the restaurant or from the mural behind the cupcake display? Where did she come from?
“My two-year-old daughter Raley,” Kadra says. Kadra married into the Parkman family that owns Parkman Cattle Company, so cows are a big part of her and her children’s lives. While struggling to find the right logo for her new venture, Raley’s passion for pink and their proximity to pastures saved the day. “We are off the beaten path, so I knew our logo had to be memorable,” Kadra says. “Raley loves pink, and we were riding down the road, passing some of our cows, and she just kept saying, ‘Pink cows mama! Pink cows!’ I thought, ‘That’s it!’”
And so Sweet P was born, the P standing for Parkman. They had a designer draw the happy heifer for the logo, but Kadra wanted to go further. “I wanted to use a real cow, too,” she says. They picked a pure white female out of some cows being delivered to the cattle company, one who was gentle and had a “perfect pink nose,” to be the official Sweet P, a role the same cow is still cheerfully playing. “She is so docile, and she actually poses for pictures,” Kadra says. She doesn’t stay pink though. She’s re-colored with a safe, non-toxic hair dye made each time she’s called upon for an appearance or photo op. When she’s done with her close-up, she is hosed down and the bubble gum hue washes right off.
It’s fun to meet Sweet P the cow, but the true “sweet” P may be Kadra herself. Funny and bright, she’s also practically dripping with the kind of tempered warmth that defines a Southern lady. Her hard work and determination are obvious in every facet of Sweet P’s, from the fabulous foods made using recipes she’s developed and those given to her by family and friends, to the colorful local art she’s procured for the walls, to her most recent successes, the bottling and sales of her Sweet Vinaigrette Dressing – she’s sold 100 gallons in the last nine months – and the equally stellar sales of her refrigerated cookie dough.
Sweet P’s motto, “Simple food. Simply sweet,” describes the pure basic delights you’ll find there; there’s nothing too fancy or contrived. Yet the saying belies the massive effort that Kadra and her family have put into creating something really good and sharing it with others. Simple, yes. But an authentic simplicity that’s not so easy to achieve.
Sweet P’s Eats & Treats
11775 Troy Highway
Pike Road, AL
If you want to find out when Sweet P will be at the restaurant, check her Facebook page. You’ll also find info on daily specials and the current cupcake flavors available.
Happy New Year! I can’t believe it is 2014. I know some of you are already trying to stick to your new year’s resolutions, but don’t stress over them too much. Last year one of my resolutions was to take 5 minutes a day for myself. Just to be by myself, doing something just for me. One would think it to be an easy task to fulfill every day, but sometimes I go a week and forget about making specific time, which is hard in the midst of my everyday routine. I feel it’s important to regroup and take a deep breath to enjoy life every day, the good along with the stressful times. I hope you enjoy these soup and chili recipes. Thank you to our cooks who share their special recipes for us to share with our readers. Submit your recipes and check us out on Facebook for updates throughout the month. –Mary Tyler Spivey
Cook of the Month
Santa Fe Soup
Loucrecia Hollingsworth, Cullman EC
3 cans shoe peg white corn (I sometimes substitute 2 cans Lilly White whole kernel corn)
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can diced or chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 pounds ground chuck
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing mix
2 cups water
shredded cheese of choice
tortilla chips or hot cornbread
Brown ground chuck and drain. Mix all ingredients together and cook until heated through. (I love to throw mine in the crockpot in the morning and let it cook either 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.) This is great served with sour cream and/or shredded cheese, tortilla chips or hot corn bread.
Sausage corn chowder
1/2 pound sliced Kielbasa sausage
1 onion, chopped
2-3 large potatoes**cubed with or without skin
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 small jar chopped pimentos
1 can cream-style corn
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a large pot, brown sausage slices and chopped onion. Add potatoes and water to just cover. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add chilies, pimentos, corn and half and half, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat on low until soup is steaming; do not boil. Serve with crusty bread. **Can use leftover baked potatoes, cut in cubes.
Victoria Motyka, Baldwin EMC
Cream of chicken and artichoke soup
1 pound of chicken breasts
1 – 6 to 7 1/2 ounces of marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup of butter or margarine
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 small onion, diced
1 ⁄3 cup of all-purpose flour
4 or more cups of water (for cooking chicken)
3-4 chicken-avored bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Add bouillon and enough water to cover chicken breasts in a 5-quart pot. Bring to a boil, then add chicken breasts. Cook until done. In the meantime, drain marinade from artichokes and chop up into bite-size pieces; then set aside. Remove chicken breasts from pot and shred or cut into bite-size pieces; set aside. Reserve 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth and set aside. In the same 5-quart pot, add butter or margarine, lemon juice and onion. Sauté over medium-low heat, until onion is tender. Once onion is tender, stir in our until blended; cook 1 minute, stirring the mixture constantly. Gradually stir in the 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Stir in salt, pepper, shredded chicken, diced artichoke hearts and cream. Reheat just until soup is boiling.
Lisa Killen, Arab EC
The best chili I ever ate
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds any ground meat
1 cup diced onion
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce can tomato juice
1 16-ounce can pork and beans
1 16-ounce can kidney beans
1-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cups corn meal mix
1 15-ounce can cream corn
1/2 cup milk (add more milk if batter is too thick)
1/2 cup sugar
In a large pot, brown meat and drain. Add onion, green bell pepper, tomatoes, tomato juice, pork and beans, kidney beans, salt, garlic, chili powder and red pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a separate bowl combine cornmeal, cream corn, milk and sugar. Pour chili in a deep 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Pour cornmeal mixture evenly over top of chili. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until cornbread on top is golden brown. Serves six.
Shena Blocker, Covington EC
Crockpot cream cheese chicken chili
1 can black beans
1 can corn, undrained
1 can Rotel, undrained
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 8-ounce package light cream cheese
2 chicken breasts, frozen or thawed
Drain and rinse black beans. Place chicken at bottom of pot, then pour in whole can of corn (undrained), Rotel, and black beans. Top with seasonings and ranch mix. Stir together. Place cream cheese on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir cream cheese into chili. Use two forks to shred chicken. Stir together and serve.