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Play it cool: Tips to help you stay comfortable this summer

Since most solar gain enters through your home’s windows, awnings and shade trees are effective in making your home cooler during summer months. Photo Credit: David Sawyer, Flickr

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

Q: My energy bill was pretty high last summer. Do you have any tips for how to keep comfortable this year without breaking the bank?

A: Absolutely! There are several ways to make your home more comfortable this summer. Some of the solutions are low-cost, while others require a bigger investment. In the end, you can be more comfortable and have lower energy bills this summer.

The first step is to reduce your home’s solar gains – the heat energy it collects from the sun. Since most solar gains originate through your home’s windows, awnings are an effective solution. They can reduce solar heat gain by as much as 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows. You can also try less expensive solutions on the outside or inside of your windows, like reflective films and solar screens. Heavy window coverings also work and have the added benefit of reducing heat loss in winter.

Two areas that can be major sources of heat gain are skylights and attics. Reflective film or specially designed window coverings are potential solutions for skylights. Attics can become extremely hot and radiate heat through the ceiling into your living space. Abundant venting through the roof, gable or eaves is one solution, but you also need adequate attic insulation.

Another important step is to seal air leaks around windows, doors, plumbing and wiring penetrations to keep warm air out and cool air in.

Excess heat can also be generated inside your home – and at your expense. Here’s a quick list of simple steps you can take:

Make it a habit to turn off lights and TVs in rooms that aren’t in use.

Incandescent light bulbs generate a lot of heat. Replace them with LEDs.

Unplug devices you aren’t using, like chargers, computers, monitors and consumer electronics. Many of these use phantom power that keeps them on constantly (even when they’re not in use!), which generates heat.

Maintain appliances for peak efficiency. For example, clean your refrigerator coils.

Lower your water heater temperature to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit and your refrigerator to no lower than 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Also consider insulating your hot water pipes.

Minimize use of your oven, and don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until they are full.

Now that you’ve worked on keeping heat out of your home and minimizing the waste heat generated inside, let’s look at how to make the inside air cooler. That starts by assessing your air conditioning (AC) system.

If you have central AC, make sure it’s working efficiently. Replace the filters regularly, and check to see if your supply registers are open. AC systems need to push an adequate amount of air into the supply ductwork to function properly.

If you do not have central AC, window units can be an efficient solution if they are ENERGY STAR®-certified and only used to cool part of the home, part of the time. Make sure to seal any openings around the window unit.

The least expensive way to cool yourself is air movement. A ceiling fan or portable fan can make a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler, but keep in mind, fans cool people. Turn them off when you’re not in the room.

If you live in an area where the night air is cool and not too humid, you can exchange your hot air for cool outdoor air by opening the windows and turning on your kitchen and bath fans. Or you can place a fan in one window to exhaust the warm air and open another window at the opposite end of the house to allow the cooler night air inside. The permanent (but more expensive) option is to install a whole-house fan.

Remember, there are several ways to keep cool and increase comfort. I hope these tips will make your summer more enjoyable than the last!ν

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on staying comfortable during summer months, visit: www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.

Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to energytips@collaborativeefficiency.com for more information.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For ideas on how to save energy through radiant head that comes in through windows and skylights, see:

energy.gov/energysaver/energy-efficient-window-treatments

energy.gov/energysaver/windows-doors-and-skylights/skylights

To look further into maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your AC system, check out these links:

energy.gov/energysaver/room-air-conditioners

www.consumerreports.org/window-air-conditioners/energy-efficient-window-air-conditioners/

energy.gov/energysaver/central-air-conditioning

And for general weatherization tips for all seasons, visit:

www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_checklist_consumers

Toothy terrors!

Water wolverines provide outstanding sport

Cliff “J. R.” Mundinger shows off a chain pickerel he caught on a spinnerbait. Photo by John N. Felsher

By John N. Felsher

Often called jackfish, southern pike, duckbill, and other names – including a few unfit to print – chain pickerel hit extremely hard and fight with speed and ferocity, but most Alabama anglers consider them a major nuisance.

Sometimes erroneously called pike, chain pickerel resemble northern pike, but seldom exceed 30 inches long or weigh more than three pounds. The Alabama state record weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces and came from the Perdido River system in Baldwin County. A similar species, redfin pickerel, range across southern Alabama, but rarely weigh more than a pound. The state record redfin only weighed 13 ounces.

“Chain pickerel are native to Alabama, but not many people target them,” says Chris Greene, an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division biologist. “Chain pickerel are found throughout the state. They look similar to northern pike, but a chain pickerel gets its name from the chain-like markings on its side.”

Chain pickerel range from southern Canada to Florida and west across the Mississippi Valley to Texas. Abundant in most Alabama river and reservoir systems, pickerel thrive best in large sluggish streams and oxbows with minimal current and thick vegetation. The rivers, lakes, bayous, creeks, sloughs and backwaters of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta near Mobile probably offer the best pickerel fishing in Alabama.

“Chain pickerel tend to go more in the backwaters, but anglers can find them in main channels and secondary creeks,” Greene says. “They generally prefer more clear water and tend to orient toward aquatic vegetation. Some better Alabama waters for catching chain pickerel include the Mobile-Tensaw River drainage, the Tennessee River, Warrior River and other places.”

While small in stature, chain pickerel more than compensate with swiftness and viciousness. These voracious killers love aquatic weeds, the thicker the better. In dense grass or lily pad patches, pickerel typically hover motionless, using their splendid splotchy green camouflage to hide as they wait to ambush enticing morsels that wander into range.

When they spot something irresistible, pickerel viciously flash out with incredible speed to sink their needle-like teeth into prey – or lures!

“I’ve always caught pickerel in the backwaters and up the creeks around weeds,” says Cliff Mundinger, an angler. “They love being around thick matted grass, lily pads, hydrilla and other vegetation. Pickerel are very exciting fish to catch. When they hit a bait, you know it. A 3-pound chain pickerel will put up a great fight, especially on light tackle.”

Highly aggressive, pickerel feed primarily upon fish, including threadfin shad, sunfish, shiners, minnows and other succulent morsels, but may attack anything. These opportunistic predators occasionally eat crawfish, lizards, snakes, amphibians and even mice or small birds that venture too close to the water. Sometimes, they grab dragonflies perched on grass stems or even leap from the water to snatch low-flying insects from the air.

Caught by accident

“A pickerel will hit just about anything a bass might hit,” Greene says. “A lot of anglers consider them trash, but they can be fun to catch. They are powerful fish and hard hitters.”

In Alabama, anglers mostly catch chain pickerel by accident when fishing for bass. Crappie anglers also frequently catch pickerel when fishing weedy waters with minnows, threadfin shad, shiners or other live bait. Almost any lure or live bait that might tempt a largemouth bass or crappie could provoke a vicious strike from a chain pickerel, including spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, spoons, crankbaits and similar lures. They occasionally hit topwater baits and relentlessly pursue weedless frogs buzzed across matted grass.

When hooked, they put up a spirited fight with lightning runs and powerful lunges. They frequently jump like largemouth bass. People intentionally fishing for these water wolves should use short steel leaders to prevent them from slicing through line with their razor teeth.

“My two favorite baits to catch jackfish are spinnerbaits and jerkbaits,” Mundinger says. “Jacks absolutely love a jerkbait because they are primarily fish feeders. I also like to catch them on topwater frogs run through the lily pads. In the middle of summer, anyone throwing a frog over grass in the backwaters will most likely catch a jack.”

Big pickerel make excellent eating, but smaller versions of these long, skinny fish don’t yield much meat. Most people release them because of their numerous small bones, but the white, flaky meat tastes delicious with a mild flavor and no oily taste.

Handle pickerel with care. Sometimes called snakefish, these agile toothy beasts often bend their bodies and shake violently looking for something to bite when grabbed. If they don’t bite a person, they might drive a hook into a finger. Also pay attention to the very sharp gill plates that can slice flesh. Use pliers to remove the hooks in order to avoid those teeth.

Although pickerel don’t receive much love or attention in Alabama, they can turn a humdrum day into an exciting excursion for any light-tackle enthusiast fishing in weedy waters.

John N. Felsher lives in Semmes, Ala. Contact him through Facebook.

Hurricane season

“Squalls out on the gulf stream

Big storm’s comin’ soon”

Jimmy Buffett

“Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”

Some start as tropical waves off the coast of Africa.

Others just spring up from a depression down in the Caribbean.

They grow and grow and move until something makes them stop – usually land. This is their season. Here come the hurricanes.

Though many of you are far from the coast, you need to keep in mind that those storms can have an enormous, tragic impact inland.

Well, if you get one, I hope you can find someone to call, someone like “Doll Baby.”

Let me explain.

First, don’t let the name fool you. “Doll” (as friends call him) is much a man. Well over 6 feet tall, with bulk to go with it, he lives in South Alabama with his wife Wanda. Like so many folks down there, Doll has made his living in the woods, and as they say, “he ain’t afraid of work.”

Back in 1990 Doll and Wanda were driving through South Carolina’s Francis Marion National Forest, a few months after Hurricane Hugo. Trees were still scattered every-which-a-way. Trucks couldn’t get in to clean up without tearing up what was left. Seeing the mess, the Alabama couple stopped at the Ranger Station and told the attendant, in so many words, “what you need is mules.” And since Doll had some, a deal was struck.

So, he went back home, rounded up a crew, loaded up the mules — Linda and Lisa, Mutt and Jeff, Maude and Rock — and headed to Carolina where they snaked logs until the weather got too hot for man and beast. In the process, Doll and his mules became celebrities — newspapers wrote about them, students from a nearby college “studied” them, and a kindergarten class visited them. The local TV station sent out a cute young female reporter to interview Doll, who took time from his work to show her the ropes — a little too much time, Wanda said.

Personally, I figure he was just being nice.

Of course, folks down Doll’s way know about hurricanes. Living some 80 miles above Mobile, they count on getting the backwash from storms through the summer and into the fall.

September gales, old folks called them.

But at times they were more than gales.

Back in 1969, Category 5 Camille tore into the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its counterclockwise winds caused damage deep into Alabama.

As the storm approached, coastal folks, the smart ones, began heading north. The roads were jammed and motels full. So upcountry churches began setting up shelters and sending out the word to their members that if they had an extra bedroom the refugees sure could use it.

My folks had one, so for a few days they hosted a fine family from Baldwin County. Then it was over, and the guests headed home to survey the damage.

For years after that, as hurricane season approached, my parents got a package from those folks.  In it was a ham, and card asking them to reserve a room, just in case.

They always did.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University and a regular contributor to Alabama Living.  He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

Alabama Bookshelf

In this periodic feature, we highlight books that are either about Alabama people or events or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to bookshelf@alabamaliving.coop. Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

Alabama’s Frontiers and the Rise of the Old South, by Daniel Dupre, Indiana University Press, $35 (history) Alabama endured warfare, slave trading, squatting, and speculating on its path to becoming America’s 22nd state. Dupre captures the riveting saga of the forgotten struggles and savagery in Alabama’s — and America’s — frontier days.

 

 

 

Medusa’s Lair: A Chic Spark Novel, by Kenneth L. Funderburk, Archway Publishing, $11.99 (crime novel) Chic Sparks is a clinical psychologist and part-time investigator who begins a reckless search for his missing friend, who is a notorious crime boss. Sparks’ actions put him in the middle of a deep criminal conspiracy, and he sets out to unveil the truth – and locate his friend. The author lives in Phenix City.

 

 

Wilson’s Raid, by Russell W. Blount Jr., Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, $21.99 (military history) In the closing months of the Civil War, Gen. James Wilson led a Union cavalry raid through Alabama and parts of Georgia. The author, an Alabama native, examines eyewitness accounts and diaries chronicling this defining moment in America’s bloodiest war.

 

 

The Tuskegee Airmen Chronology: A Detailed Timeline of the Red Tails and Other Black Pilots of World War II, by Daniel Haulman, NewSouth Books, $25.95 (military history) This chronology provides an overview of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, embracing important events in the formation of the first military flying training for black pilots in U.S. history. Their performance proved that with opportunity and resources, black men could fly and fight every bit as well in combat as their white counterparts.

 

 

The Woman Left Behind, by Linda Howard, William Morrow, $26.99 (romantic suspense) Jina Modell is thrilled with an assignment to an elite paramilitary unit. Her team leader, Levi, doesn’t have much confidence in her, but her courage wins him over. When Jina’s position is attacked, Levi must bring back the woman he’s fallen for, dead or alive. The author lives in Gadsden.

 

 

At First Light, by Sandy Harris, Moonshine Cove Publishing, $13.99 (mystery, suspense) The sheriff’s office thinks high school senior John Bateman viciously murdered three friends while on a deer hunt. On the verge of being indicted for murder, evidence begins to surface that something strange happened in the woods that day. Could his unbelievable story be true? The author lives in Wetumpka.

Social Security: Facts you should know about enrolling in Medicare Parts A & B

Understanding Medicare isn’t as difficult as you might think. It’s a benefit most working Americans can count on. Here are some facts you might not know about the program.

Can I still get Medicare at 65?

Yes, you’re still eligible for Medicare starting at 65, no matter what year you were born.

If you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, you’re eligible for Part A (hospital insurance) at age 65 for free. Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay. It also pays for some home health care and hospice care.

You’re also eligible for Part B (medical insurance) if you choose to get it and pay a monthly premium. Part B helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventative services. If you are receiving Social Security benefits already, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B at age 65. Because you must pay a premium for Part B, you can choose to turn it down. However, if you don’t enroll in Part B when you’re first eligible for it, and choose to enroll later, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage.

If you’re not receiving Social Security benefits, you have a seven-month period (your Initial Enrollment Period) to sign up for Part B. Generally, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after your birth month.

If you are covered under an employer group health plan, you may have a special enrollment period for Part B.

If you are 65 or older and covered under a group health plan, either from your own or your spouse’s current employment, you may have a special enrollment period during which you can sign up for Medicare Part B. This means that you may delay enrolling in Part B without having to wait for a general enrollment period and without paying the lifetime penalty for late enrollment. If you think a special enrollment period may apply to you, read our Medicare publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/, and visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Medicare.gov.

To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your Health Savings Account (HSA) at least six months before you apply for Medicare.

You can withdraw money from your HSA after you enroll in Medicare to help pay for medical expenses like deductibles, premiums, coinsurance, or copayments. If you’d like to continue contributing to your HSA, you shouldn’t apply for Medicare or Social Security benefits.

How much does Part B coverage cost?

You are responsible for the Part B premium each month. Most people will pay the standard premium amount, which is $134 in 2018 if you sign up for Part B when you’re first eligible. This amount can change every year.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/medicare.

Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at kylle.mckinney@ssa.gov.

Pet Health: Vaccinations critically important for companion pets

“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history.” — Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance

Many times when I go to work, there are one or two tiny puppies in the isolation room suffering from severe diarrhea and vomiting, looking miserable from the parvo virus. Some do not make it home. This does not need to happen! Timely vaccination could have prevented their sufferings.

Your veterinarian is the best person to address your situation, but here are some guidelines.

Proper protection should start with vaccinating the mother before she gets pregnant. A vaccinated mother will have an immunity that she transfers to her babies. In an ideal breeding situation, it is assumed that the puppies are protected for the first 8 to 9 weeks of their life. However, we see an inordinate number of puppies whose mothers were not vaccinated and do not fall under the “ideal” category. 

That’s why many veterinarians will recommend starting the first distemper/parvo vaccine as early as 6 weeks of age. Vaccines should be given every 2-4 weeks until the puppies are 16 weeks old. For high-risk situations, the last vaccine can be given at 19 to 20 weeks of age. So, if you start at 7 weeks, the sequence will be 7, 10, 13 and 19 weeks. If you adopt an unvaccinated older dog, you will need to give the initial vaccine and one booster three weeks later.

Now about rabies. Dog, cat and ferret owners are required by Alabama law to have their pet immunized for rabies when the animal reaches three months of age. The rabies vaccine must be given by a veterinarian, or a licensed vet tech in the presence of a veterinarian. Many communities hold annual low cost rabies vaccination clinics. I have seen rabies vaccines given in a town-sponsored event for as low as $5!

Frequently I get asked if the vaccine from the co-op is as good as ours. I don’t have an answer, as I have not come across a study comparing both. My recommendation is to go through your vet as they provide a lot more than just a “shot.”

I feel the puppy/kitty visits are THE most important vet visits of all! This is the time where early health issues are discussed and lifelong health habits are established. However, if getting to a vet is impossible for you, I have to suggest that you get your vaccines from a place that stores and handles their vaccines properly.

Last, but not least, here’s a little bit on cats. Cats also get a parvo-like disease called Feline Distemper or Panleukopenia. Vaccination should start as early as 6 weeks and be boosted every 3 weeks until they reach 16 weeks. Outdoor cats should also get Feline Leukemia vaccine.

Now, for the folks who are little leery of “over vaccination.” The issue of what constitutes “over vaccination” and related health problems is a highly contentious issue and best kept aside for a consultation with your vet.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works part time at Grant Animal Clinic and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative.

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.