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Medal of Honor winner saved by a tiger

Opelika native and retired U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins received the nation’s highest military award in 2014. Photo by John Oliver

By Miriam Davis

The tiger saved us,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins (U.S. Army, Retired) matter-of-factly. “The North Vietnamese soldiers were more afraid of it than they were of us.”

Adkins, 84, is speaking of the aftermath of the Battle of A Shau when, in 1966, he and other survivors evaded the enemy after a team of 17 American Special Forces and about 400 of their South Vietnamese allies were attacked and overrun by a North Vietnamese division of 16,000 troops. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Adkins the Medal of Honor for his actions during that battle. Adkins and co-author (and Alabama Living gardening columnist) Katie Jackson tell his story in their forthcoming book, A Tiger Among Us.

“I was just doing my job,” insists Adkins. “It was my training. … When you’re picked out to be one of the elite, you try to live up to that.”

Adkins’ job was as a Special Forces intelligence sergeant. After being drafted into the Army in 1956, he found being a clerk-typist “not for me.” Special Forces was a challenge both physically and mentally.  But, says Adkins, “I had too much pride to quit.”

In 1965, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was sent to the A Shau valley to advise South Vietnamese forces and to impede infiltration of the North Vietnamese into the south. The valley, which runs along Vietnam’s border with Cambodia and Laos, became part of the trail along which the North Vietnamese brought provisions and troops down into the south and as such was, as Adkins describes it in his book, “a hotbed of activity.”

“I can tell you that none of us were happy to be in that camp,” Adkins says in A Tiger Among Us. Sitting in that valley, “about thirty miles from another friendly camp …. [w]e were like fish in a barrel.”

Risking his life

Adkins’ team had been warned that an attack was imminent, and the Battle of A Shau began about 4 a.m. on March 9, 1966, with a deafening North Vietnamese artillery and mortar barrage. Adkins ran to take his position in a mortar pit from which he and his crew fired illumination and high-explosive rounds.

Wounded 18 times, Adkins repeatedly risked his life during the battle. He was blown out of his mortar pit three times by direct hits from enemy mortars and lost several entire mortar crews. But he continued manning his position until the mortar pit was finally destroyed by RPGs (rocket propelled grenades). Disregarding enemy mortar and sniper fire, Adkins also rescued American and Vietnamese wounded and transported them to safety, and then – again under direct fire –  loaded them onto evacuation helicopters. When a load of desperately needed supplies was inadvertently dropped into a mine field, Adkins rushed into the mine field to retrieve it.

After 38 hours of intense fighting – hungry, thirsty, and exhausted – the Americans were ordered to evacuate. In the chaos of the withdrawal, Adkins went back to rescue a badly wounded comrade. When they returned to the evacuation point, the helicopters had already gone.

Though Adkins was nominated for the Medal of Honor shortly after the battle, he didn’t receive it until nearly 50 years later. collection of bennie adkins

Which is where the tiger came in.

Adkins and a small group of survivors had no choice but to evade the North Vietnamese in the dense jungle until they could be rescued. On their second night, Adkins and his men could hear enemy soldiers searching for them. They also heard another sound – something big rustling in the undergrowth nearby. Then Adkins heard a low growl and saw eyes glowing in the dark – a tiger, drawn by the smell of blood covering the wounded survivors.  The war had given tigers a taste for humans.

The North Vietnamese heard the tiger, too, for they hastily pulled back, allowing Adkins and the other survivors to slip away. They were picked up by helicopter the next day.

Shortly after the battle, Adkins was nominated for the Medal of Honor. Nothing happened at the time. But in 2014, Adkins received a phone call from President Obama informing him that he was to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor.

“Super humbling,” is how Adkins describes it. “I’m very humbled to be one of the few living soldiers to wear this medal.”  He now speaks all over the county trying to inspire in people a love of country and the desire to be a good citizen.

“And an appreciation of the military,” adds Adkins’ co-author Katie Jackson. She points out that less than 1% of the population has served in the military and that “the general population doesn’t understand the military.”

Left, the cover of “A Tiger Among Us,” published by Da Capo Press this month and available at DaCapoPress.com. Below, Katie Lamar Jackson, who co-authored the book.

Adkins and Jackson, an adjunct instructor in Auburn’s School of Communication and Journalism, worked on the book for three years. This involved tracking down and interviewing the five other survivors of the battle. “All of them have a deep admiration and respect for Bennie,” says Jackson. “Even years later, they all say he’s amazing. … He was the one who really did things that were superhuman.”

Any money made from A Tiger Among Us will go to the Bennie Adkins Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships for Special Forces enlisted personnel transitioning from the service. “One of the reasons this is so important to Bennie,” says Jackson, “is because he knows what it’s like to move from the military to the civilian world, and it’s not easy.”

Last year the foundation awarded the first scholarships; 25 will be awarded this year.

All of this was made possible by the 400-pound Indochinese tiger that saved Bennie Adkins all those years ago.

“That tiger was my friend,” chuckles Adkins.

Ivey signs Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act

High-speed internet is no longer just a luxury for our rural areas. It is a necessity to help rural residents conduct business, to expand education opportunities, to create avenues for remote health care and to spur economic development.

During this legislative session, the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), which publishes Alabama Living magazine, and its member cooperatives championed the bill known as SB149, or the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act. The legislation will encourage private investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas.

In late March, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law.

“This common sense legislation will help us attract new broadband to areas that need it most, especially in rural Alabama,” Ivey said.

The bill, which is just a first step in a long process to bring internet to rural areas, was sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield and Rep. Donnie Chesteen.

The act creates a grant program to be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Individual grants may be awarded for up to 20 percent of the project costs to telecommunications companies, cable companies and electric cooperatives.

Alabama will be further helped by a pilot program, grants and loans from the federal government. Congress, through an effort led by Congressman Robert Aderholt, included in the omnibus spending bill a $600 million pilot program that will enable applicants to finance a project by combining loans and grants to provide broadband to eligible rural and tribal areas.

Ivey’s office estimates that more than 842,000 Alabamians are without access to a wired connection capable of 25 megabits per second download speeds. One million have access to only a single wired provider, and another 276,000 don’t have any wired internet providers available where they live.

Electric cooperatives hear updates at 2018 Annual Meeting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Kay Ivey was the opening speaker for the 71st Annual Meeting of the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives in April. Ivey spoke to delegates from Alabama’s 22 electric cooperatives about the progress her administration has made since she was sworn into office a year ago, and laid out her platform for the next four years if she is elected. Allison Flowers, right, of Prattville, and Alabama’s representative to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Leadership Council, spoke to the delegates about her YLC experience and thanked them for their support. She is a member of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, and was given a $250 check from Regions Bank to further her education. Delegates heard updates from the heads of several state associations and agencies, including information on the court system, the 2020 Census, upcoming elections, tax reform and issues affecting farmers and agriculture.

A healing place

An aerial view of Storybook Farm near Opelika, which recently added 26 acres of pine timber forest. The new acreage will allow the farm to expand its programming to include more time with the horses and additional agricultural outlets.
PHOTO COURTESY STORYBOOK FARM

By Lindsay Miles Penny

It all began while folding laundry.

Storybook Farm Director Dena Little was completing household chores while thumbing through Practical Horseman when she came across a story about a horse therapy farm in Virginia.

Little, who grew up caring for and competing on horses, had taken a hiatus from farm life as she ran a bakery in Atlanta and cared for her two small children. It was 2002, and she had just sold her bakery and moved her young family to a small farm in Auburn. She yearned to get back to her roots and share her love of horses with her children.

That’s when the article struck a chord.

Little immediately got in contact with the owner of the horse therapy farm in Virginia. Soon after, she gained certification for her farm to provide equine-assisted therapy for children needing support, and Storybook Farm was born.

“I really had no idea the impact that Storybook would have, or its longevity, and I didn’t realize the need for programming like this,” Little says. “When Storybook opened, we quickly had a waitlist. I felt the Lord was leading me down this path to utilize my background with horses and to translate that to helping families that are facing crises and uncertain futures. Getting to walk alongside these families has become my distinct honor.”

Children from age 2 to young adulthood who face obstacles such as autism, cerebral palsy, cognitive delays, sensory integration issues and bereavement situations come to Storybook Farm for horseback riding and weekly lesson plans, including games and activities. They learn how to care for animals and develop social skills by interacting with farm volunteers. Horseback riding also provides physical benefits such as improvements to balance, motor skills, muscle strength and coordination.

Personal attention

More than 250 Auburn University students a week volunteer at Storybook Farm — greeting children and families, securing riding helmets, leading and walking alongside riders, exploring and learning in the Secret Garden, helping with lesson plans, cleaning stables, repairing fences and other chores.

An English literature major in college, Little wanted to create a whimsical, real-life fairytale for every child. Willy Wonka, Mrs. Potts, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are just a few of the horses to come through the farm. Driving up to the farm and looking out over the lush, rolling acres immediately transports anyone into a storybook.

“We started with three children, and will have about 1,500 this year alone,” Little says. “We don’t turn anyone away. We always make it work. One of the greatest compliments a family has ever given me is a parent saying, ‘I feel like our child is the only one who rides at Storybook.’ That’s what I want it to be. I wanted it to be so personal and special for everyone who comes to the farm. Many of the children we see and serve at Storybook have ambulatory issues, and they’ve never had that mobility and that freedom to just be one of the kids. To be one of the kids and not be set apart by the condition that brought you to Storybook is so important to me.”

Not only are the children and families impacted by Storybook Farm, but the effect the farm has on volunteers is evident. With more than 300 volunteers each week from Auburn University and the community, the people at the farm are committed to carrying out the farm’s mission. 

“I started out as a volunteer not really knowing anything about children with disabilities or horses,” says Andrew Skinner, executive communications director. “I’d originally started coming out to the farm with a friend. At the time, I wasn’t doing much with my life. I remember painting a fence, and looking around seeing all the kids riding horses and smiling, and looking back at that now, I realize it was what I needed in my life at the time and that it was a little pat from God.”

Skinner quickly became part of the Storybook Farm staff, and hopes to instill an attitude of service with current and future volunteers.

“Our goal is to give these kids a chance to just be a kid,” said Skinner.

Families are referred to the farm by counselors, pediatricians and therapists, and most commonly, by word of mouth from other families.

Gardens as therapy

A newer addition to Storybook Farm is the Secret Garden. Located in the middle of the farm, the garden provides a wealth of activities to help farm goers improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills and socialization.

An aerial view of Storybook Farm near Opelika, which recently added 26 acres of pine timber forest. The new acreage will allow the farm to expand its programming to include more time with the horses and additional agricultural outlets.
PHOTO COURTESY STORYBOOK FARM

The horticultural programming the Secret Garden provides allows those with physical limitations an opportunity to strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance and endurance. The garden also teaches children about nutrition, caring for plants and the importance of a healthy diet.

Partnerships with Auburn University and Mobile Studio, a company that specializes in creating outdoor spaces, allowed the garden to be created with maximum accessibility in mind.

The bounty harvested from the garden is given back to the community and shared with food insecure families.

The services provided at Storybook Farm, which is served by Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative, are free to families, thanks to funding through corporate sponsors, grants and fundraisers.

“Our biggest fundraiser is our Kentucky Derby Dinner and Auction,” Little says. “It’s grown from less than 100 people to hopefully over 500 people this year. People come dressed in their Kentucky Derby best, eat and enjoy a really fun event.”

The Kentucky Derby Dinner and Auction will be May 5. Tickets are available at hopeonhorseback.org/events/derby.

For more information on Storybook Farm’s services or volunteer opportunities, call 334-444-5966 or info@HopeOnHorseback.org or visit hopeonhorseback.org.

Already a fishing legend at 23

In 2015, 23-year-old Jordan Lee of Grant became the youngest competitor on the top-tier Bass Angler Sportsman Society Elite Series. So far, he’s only fished four Bassmaster Classics, the world championship of professional fishing, but has already won two of them. In 2017, he became one of the youngest champions at 25 when he won his first Classic. In March 2018, he became only the third man in history to win back-to-back Classics in the 48-year history of the event with his victory at Lake Hartwell, S.C. – John Felsher

How does it feel to join the ranks of legendary bass anglers like Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam to win back-to-back Bassmaster Classics at such a young age?

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I was going to win the 2018 Classic. It really is overwhelming. I’ve never won a Bassmaster Open event. I’ve never won an Elite Series event. I guess there’s just something about this tournament for me. I didn’t have a game plan for Hartwell. I didn’t have one magical spot. I knew that with the warm weather, docks were going to be a player. I saw tons of big bass suspending under every dock. It was just amazing to see that.

How did you first get interested in fishing?

I got interested in fishing through friends at small lakes and ponds. At the age of 10 was the most memorable. That’s when I caught the fishing bug, when I started fishing my grandfather’s pond in my hometown of Cullman. I remember that day vividly as I was pulling out 4- and 5-pound bass with my first rod and reel. I knew at that moment that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

Years later, my parents saw a growing passion and bought me an aluminum boat to fish local tournaments on Lake Catoma. Fast forward 10 years and my dreams began unfolding one tournament at a time. Fishing on the Auburn University Team was a life-changing, growing experience that opened the doors to my future in fishing.

How did you get started in professional fishing and work your way up to competing in the biggest event in the sport?

I started fishing local tournaments throughout high school. Then I began fishing for the Auburn University bass fishing team. I qualified for my first Bassmaster Classic through the Carhartt College Program. After college, I fished the Bassmaster Opens for one season and then qualified for the Elite Series.

You and your older brother, Matt Jordan, compete directly against each other on the tournament trail. What’s the competition like between yourself and your brother?

I get this question a lot, There are 108 more anglers, so the competition is equal among all of us. It’s not just me against him.

As a young competitor fishing against some former champions and other legendary anglers, how do you prepare yourself to compete against all those other great, experienced anglers?

It’s just me against the fish. I don’t worry about other anglers and their experience versus mine.

How did winning your first Classic in 2017 at such a young age change your life in the months that followed?

The amount of exposure has changed. With that the workload and travel has increased. I also feel like I am well known wherever I go now.

Did you personally change in any way after winning a Classic?

No. I stay levelheaded throughout the ups and downs. Stay humble, always.

What was the strangest or most unexpected thing to happen to you as a result of your winning the Classic?

I’m amazed by the amount of people who know who I am. I’ve had people from Germany who are big fans waiting for me at the boat ramp one day after I finished fishing.

After winning two Classics back to back, what’s next on your life goals or bucket list?

I want to win the Angler of the Year title. I also want to win an Elite Series tournament and enjoy spending time with my wife-to-be and our dogs.

What advice would you give to young anglers now looking at you and your success who would like to become professional bass anglers and perhaps compete in a Bassmaster Classic in coming years?

Just focus on fishing. The sponsors will come. Stay in school! College programs are a great way to work your way up and help your skill level increase.

Besides fishing, what other things do you like to do?

I enjoy playing golf, traveling and watching professional basketball and college football.

Stacy’s is the place for fresh cooked fare

Demopolis eatery draws locals as well as visitors

Stacy’s Café is in historic downtown Demopolis.

Story and Photo by Emmett Burnett

In a park across the street from Stacy’s Café, a stone marker notes the 1919 chicken auction that funded construction of nearby Rooster Bridge. Coincidentally, today’s special at Stacy’s is fried chicken. It, too, is monumental. The entire menu is.

Occupying the ground floor of 123 W. Washington St. in Demopolis, Stacy’s Cafe seats about 115 and does so often.

“I loved this place from the first visit,” says frequent fan and Marengo County attorney Abisola A. Samuel, recalling her first encounter.

“On a friend’s recommendation, I visited, ordered something with rice and gravy, and was amazed. It tasted just like home cooking. I remember saying ‘wow, who is this lady?’”

Stacy’s steak plate is a customer favorite.

This lady is Faunsdale, Alabama’s Stacy Averette Pearson, wife, mother, U.S. Air Force veteran, and owner of the namesake café with a Demopolis and ever-expanding statewide following. Many restaurateurs start out dreaming of being in the food service field. Stacy did not.

“My experience was basically working in fast food places during college and later as a waitress at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill,” she recalls, while checking menus for today’s customers. “My intentions were to attend college and study science.”

After graduating from Demopolis High School in 1984, the future restaurateur enrolled in Livingston University. But she left college in 1987 to join the Air Force and served a three-and-a-half year hitch, working as a computer programmer.

In 1991, Stacy returned home. As a waitress at the Faunsdale Bar and Grill, she learned a lesson in projecting the daily business of running a restaurant: “You can’t,” she says. “The only one thing in the restaurant business you can predict every day is every day is unpredictable.”

Recognizing her culinary talents, family members encouraged Stacy to take a bold step, which sent life in a new direction.

Stacy Averette Pearson, seated, owner of Stacy’s Cafe, takes a break outside her restaurant. Standing behind her are servers, from left: Cailin Bamberb, Andrea Reynolds and Heather Ward.

In March 1999, the waitress bought the diner-bar that employed her, changing the name to Faunsdale Café. She still owns it, 14 miles from Demopolis. But she sought more, wanting to venture into catering from a larger restaurant. She wanted Demopolis.

On Sept. 26, 2017, she took a new culinary plunge, opening Stacy’s Café. “I knew the town would support me because many from Demopolis visited our Faunsdale location,” she recalls. “But many were apprehensive about it being off Demopolis’s main highway. We are in downtown. If you want to eat here you have to find us.” Not a problem.

“If I am in Demopolis I am at Stacy’s,” says attorney Samuel. “The food here is the best, bar none. Not sure I can pick a favorite dish, but one would be the grilled chicken Greek salad.”

In addition to the previously referenced monumental chicken, entree options include steaks (ribeye and hamburger), catfish plates, oyster platters, po’ boys, seafood gumbo, and red beans and rice. Side dishes of greens, mashed potatoes, okra, fried green tomatoes, and vegetables accentuate the menu. And may we have a serious discussion about cornbread?

Stacy’s cornbread comes in varieties – regular, Mexican, and a new entry chocked with crawfish. You heard me, crawfish. “Her crawfish cornbread and crawfish bisque are delicious,” smiles husband Eddie Pearson, offering a testimonial about his wife’s latest project, a crustacean creation.

He adds, “Everybody loves it.” Which is good because there is much to love. Cornbread is served slab size.

Such innovations are sparked by original thought. New dishes are the result of experimentation. “I come up with an idea, then do research, cook it at home, and serve to my family,” Stacy says. “After tweaking and re-testing, it may premiere at the restaurant.”

  She credits success to a simple concept: “Everything we serve is homemade, hand prepared, and cooked fresh.” It takes work.

Though open for lunch at 11, staff arrives by 8:30. There is no time to dilly-dally. “Demopolis is a 12 o’clock eating town,” Stacy says. “We don’t have one particularly busy day.” But when church lets out on Sunday, as the old saying goes, Katie bar the door. But typically every day is brisk and preparation starts early.

“Our salads are from hand cut leaf lettuce, not bagged,” Stacy says. “Burger patties are hand-patted and fries hand carved. Catfish is locally raised.” Gravy on mashed potatoes or rice has never seen a can nor spent the night in a package.

The menu changes daily with specials. Customers frequently call inquiring about shrimp and wild rice casserole or when seafood gumbo will again grace the menu. Other items are everyday fixtures, including burgers, salads, chicken fingers and salad varieties such as ham, bacon, and popcorn shrimp.


Worth The Drive: Stacey’s Cafe from AREA on Vimeo.

123 W. Washington St.
Demopolis, AL 36732
334-654-5120
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m
Sunday–Friday
Menu updates are available on the restaurant’s Facebook page – or by asking anyone in Demopolis.

 

Kids can cook!

Junior cook tip: find a guide. The internet is packed with lists and charts of age-appropriate cooking tasks. But remember, they are rough guides. All kids have different temperaments, maturity levels and dexterity, so use your judgment on what cooking tasks the child in your life can tackle. Pictured here: Nicole Esco and daughter Addi, age 6, of Wetumpka, baking Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cupcakes.

BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY  | FOOD/PHOTOGRAPHY BY BROOKE ECHOLS

Ask any chefs and avid home cooks you know when they first got interested in cooking, and there’s a good chance more than a few will tell you it was at a young age. Maybe it started as hanging around to sneak a spoonful of pie filling or hoping for permission to lick icing-coated beaters. Maybe they wanted to spend more time with their mom or nana or some other beloved relative. Whatever drew them to it, once they knew just a little, they wanted to learn more.

     Getting your kids in the kitchen is a great way to spend more quality time with them, time away from a screen of some sort. It offers the chance to pass along family recipes, share memories and make new ones. You can teach them about nutrition. You can augment the things they’re learning in school; your kitchen will become an interactive science and math lab, turning abstract concepts into applications they can eat.

     Once picky eaters see and understand what goes into a dish, they’re more likely to try (and like) new foods. And you’re teaching them a practical skill that will come in handy when they set off on their own. Plus, as they get more and more proficient, you gain a willing and helpful hand come dinnertime.

     When it comes to imparting kitchen wisdom, it’s best to start simple. Try a selection from this handy dandy roundup of kid-friendly, more “bite-size” recipes submitted by our younger readers. They’re just right for your budding junior cook’s beginner lessons.


Junior Cook of the Month:

Ella Grace Stapleton, Baldwin EMC

Ella Grace Stapleton, age 12, learned to cook from her dad, who owns a catering company. While she loves to bake sweets like cookies and brownies, she also loves the Stuffed Shells recipe she submitted. “I like it because it is so cheesy and creamy and because you can add or delete different things in the filling,” she said “I’ve had some versions with bell peppers, and I don’t like them, so I leave that out.” She enjoys eating her creations, but she’s also proud to be a help to her mom. “Sometimes my mom works late, and so I cook dinner for us, and I like being able to take that off her plate,” she said. She encourages other kids to get in the kitchen for the same reasons. “You can do it, and then you can be a help for your parents. Plus, it’s fun.”

 

 

Stuffed Shells

  • 1 package of jumbo stuff-able pasta shells
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of onion powder
  • 30 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups of mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 eggs

Before you start to do anything, make sure that you steam the shells completely. Turn your oven on 375 degrees so that it can heat up while you are mixing. Mix pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, ricotta cheese, eggs and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese well before piping in the shells. Place your mixed ingredients in a Ziploc bag, and cut a hole in one of the bottom corners of your bag so your ingredients can enter the steamed shell easily. Seal the bag and then gently squeeze the filling out of the corner hole into the steamed shells. After stuffing the shells, you must get a pan that all your shells will fit in. Spray the bottom of the pan with canola oil spray so that the shells will not stick. After you apply the oil, cover the bottom of the pan with marinara sauce (usually about ½ of the jar), but make sure that you still have enough to apply to the top. Add your shells into your pan and cover the top with the other half of the sauce. Now add 1 cup of mozzarella on top of the sauce. Before you place in the oven, be sure to cover with aluminum foil.  After you place in the oven set a timer for 50 minutes. When 50 minutes is over, remove foil and place back in the oven for 10 more minutes. When 10 minutes is over, take it out of the oven and be wowed.


Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 13/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 to 1 cup boiling water
  • Marshmallow Frosting:
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-3 teaspoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (198 g) container of marshmallow fluff
  • Salt, to taste

Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

Cupcakes:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners. In a large mixer bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for three minutes. Stir in boiling water by hand (batter will be thin). (NOTE: I prefer using in between 3/4 cup and 1 cup of boiling water just until it is perfect to my eye.) Pour into cupcake pan. Because they have a tendency to overflow, fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 min. Cool 10 min; remove from pan to wire racks.

Frosting:

Sift powdered sugar and set aside. In a mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. You’ll have to scrape the sides of the bowl several times. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and heavy cream and beat until smooth. Beat in the marshmallow fluff until smooth.

Caramel Sauce:

Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into jar.

Assemble:

Pipe icing on top of cupcakes. Drizzle on caramel sauce and you can put a pretzel on top.

Sarah Camp

Coosa Valley EC


Southern Pralines

  • 2 cups sucanat (sugar cane natural sweetener– a natural alternative to brown sugar)
  • 2 cups pecans (chopped or whole)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, plus extra to butter wax paper
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Roast the pecans by pouring them on a pan and placing the pan in the oven. Once the pecans are in the oven, turn the oven on to 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Combine sucanat, roasted pecans, butter and water in a pot and stir until sucanat has partially dissolved. Cook over medium heat until mixture reaches 240 degrees (soft ball) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Stir until mixture thickens and loses some of its gloss. Drop immediately onto buttered wax paper. After pralines have cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Makes about 18 pralines. NOTE: Be sure to use buttered wax paper. The wax paper helps to lift the pralines after they are hardened, and the butter helps them not to stick to the wax paper. Optional: Brown sugar can be used in the place of sucanat.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Working with cooking sugar can be tricky. It can bubble and pop and really burn, so we suggest this recipe for older and/or intermediate kid cooks.

Kathryn Tipton

South Alabama EC


Ethan’s Banana Cake

  • 1 butter cake mix
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted in butter and chopped
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

Mix the cake mix according to box instructions. Add the bananas and pecans. Pour batter into a well greased and floured 13×9-inch dish. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. While warm, pour on glaze.

Glaze:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/8 cup water (2 tablespoons)

In a small saucepan, boil all ingredients for 3 minutes. Pour over warm cake in pan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Working with cooking sugar can be tricky. It can bubble and pop and really burn, so we suggest this recipe for older and/or intermediate kid cooks.

Ethan George, age 12

Marshall-DeKalb EC


Tucker’s Potato Soup

  • 3-4 large potatoes, washed
  • 1 32-ounce carton chicken broth
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • ¼ cup of real bacon bits

Pour broth into large pot and bring to a boil. Chop potatoes and add to broth. (Peeling potatoes is optional.) Cook until potatoes are soft. Add cheese to melt. Sprinkle bacon bits on top.

Tucker Eason, age 8

Tallapoosa River EC


Baked Oatmeal

  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 egg

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Spread mixture in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until it is set. Cut into squares and serve warm topped with milk. The mixture will be crumbly. It makes a great breakfast.

Sierra Joachim, age 15

South Alabama EC


Peanut Butter Blender Muffin

  • 1 medium banana
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup peanut butter (almond butter may be substituted)
  • 5/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put all ingredients in blender, except for chocolate chips, and blend well. Grease muffin pan or use cupcake liners. Fill muffin cups about 1/3 full of batter then sprinkle chocolate chips on the top of each muffin. Stir each muffin gently with a toothpick just enough to incorporate chocolate chips. Bake for 14 minutes. Makes 12 regular size muffins (or 24 mini muffins).

Anna Catherine Douglas

Arab EC


Coming up in June… Heirloom Recipes!

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

July: Frozen Treats | May. 8

August: Corn | June 8

September: BBQ | July 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.