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Made-in-Alabama film released

Alabama filmmaker Renee Williams is celebrating the recent national release of her first feature film “Traces of Indignity,” produced by ClassA Entertainment. Talent from across Alabama and the Southeast can be seen in the direct-to-video film, which was shot almost entirely in Montgomery.

“My goal as a writer, producer, and director working in the Southeast is to not only touch lives, but change lives,” Williams says. “The Southeast has become a growing mecca for entertainment and I’m just here doing my part.”

The film’s protagonist is an accomplished author and public speaker who has achieved fame and fortune in her career. She and her family fall victim to stalking and media backlash that leads her to unveil her secretive past through a number of twists and turns.

“’Traces of Indignity’ follows a wealthy African-American character whose focus is not only to entertain the masses, but to uplift and inspire others as well,” Williams says. “But she is not without her own faults and indiscretions.”

In her feature film debut, Weber is played by actress Kris Lloyd of Montgomery, who served as the film’s lead and its executive producer. Also featured is actress Michelle Sanford from Auburn, who plays story-hungry journalist Ruby Sayers, and actress Jessica Osborn from Prattville, in the role of Dr. Weber’s publicist, Sonya. “Traces of Indignity” is available at Wal-Mart or Amazon.

Swarming bees are nothing to fear

Each spring, healthy colonies of honeybees swarm – their natural way to procreate. While it’s vital for the colonies to swarm, the mere thought of thousands of bees in close proximity causes home and business owners to become fearful, especially if children are nearby.

But please, don’t kill the bees. That’s the word from Vince Wallace, a Tuscaloosa County beekeeper and president of the West Alabama Beekeepers Association.

When they swarm, the honeybees are simply in transition between residences, because the original colony has grown to capacity and needs room to expand. Wallace says that a swarm of bees is actually very docile, because they are gorged with honey and simply in a transitional phase while scout bees search for a new residence.

Honeybees are vital to our food supply, because they pollinate the plants that humans and animal species rely on for survival.

“There are numerous beekeepers that would gladly come and retrieve bees” from anxious property owners, Wallace says. He asks that instead of turning to insecticide, first contact a professional beekeeper. There’s a swarm removal list, sorted by geographical location, at alabamabeekeepers.com

This month in Alabama History: May 18, 1933

President John F. Kennedy speaks at Muscle Shoals on TVA’s 30th anniversary, May 18, 1963.

Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the nation’s largest public power company. Congress charged the TVA, a New Deal agency, with regulating the flow and navigation of the Tennessee River, producing inexpensive hydroelectric power, developing chemical fertilizers, conserving natural resources, and increasing industrial development in the valley. The valley, which was deeply affected by the Great Depression and includes north Alabama, benefited greatly from TVA. Between 1929 and 1950, manufacturing employment in the region grew from 222,000 jobs to 382,000 while income from manufacturing increased by 442 percent. Today, the TVA continues to employ nearly 2,000 individuals and serves more than 504,000 households in Alabama alone.

Social Security honors and supports military members

Every year, on Memorial Day, the nation honors service members who have given their lives for our freedom. Social Security acknowledges the sacrifice of our military’s service members, and we honor these heroes and their families who may need help through the benefits we provide.

Widows, widowers, and their dependent children may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. You can learn more about those benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors.

It’s also important to recognize those service members who have been wounded. Social Security offers benefits to protect veterans when an injury prevents them from returning to active duty or performing other work.

Wounded military service members can also receive expedited processing of their Social Security disability claims. For example, Social Security will expedite disability claims filed by veterans who have a 100 percent Permanent & Total compensation rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both the VA and Social Security have disability programs. You may find that you qualify for disability benefits through one program but not the other, or that you qualify for both. Depending on the situation, some family members of military personnel, including dependent children, and, in some cases, spouses, may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits. You can get answers to commonly asked questions and find useful information about the application process at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

Service members can also receive Social Security in addition to military retirement benefits. The good news is that your military retirement benefit generally does not reduce your Social Security retirement benefit. Learn more about Social Security retirement benefits at socialsecurity.gov/retirement. You may also want to visit the Military Service page of our Retirement Planner, available at socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/veterans.html.

Please share this information with a military family who may not know about these benefits. In acknowledgment of those heroes who died for our country, those who served, and those who serve today, we at Social Security honor and thank you.

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

Rural dental care a challenge in Alabama

By M.J. Ellington

Each workday morning, Dr. Dwayne Albritton leaves his home in the greater Birmingham area and heads to his general dentistry office. Three days a week, the office is a few miles away. Two days of his work week, however, his office is 60 miles away in a different county.

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Albritton drives a few minutes to his office in Vestavia. Wednesdays and Fridays, he travels over an hour through the countryside to his office in rural Rockford. Melding the needs of the two practices is something he’s done for 22 years. He is the only dentist office in Rockford, population 447 and the county seat of Coosa County.

Rockford is just one example of the growing concern that dental and public health experts have as they try to address an alarming shortage of dentists in Alabama’s small rural towns.

Albritton is no stranger to small towns. The town where he grew up in Massachusetts had fewer than 10,000 people. The atmosphere in Rockford reminds him of childhood. “There is a need for a dentist in Rockford,” Albritton says. “I love it down there.” But people graduating from dental school now usually skip small towns and set up shop in larger places.

Alabama health care planners look at patterns showing where dentists live and work and their current age.

Planners say new dentists often leave school owing $250,000-$300,000 or more in dental school debt. The debt is a major reason dentists choose a larger city practices.

“Sometimes it is the travel time, the schools, other family needs,” Albritton says. “If there were incentives to a new dentist to go to a rural area, it would be great.”

Recruitment a challenge for rural towns

The way Albritton acquired his Rockford dental office shows the challenge that small rural Alabama communities face when trying to recruit dentists. The town’s only dentist had been killed in a car accident. The dentist’s family had tried for some time to find a buyer for the practice with no success.

Albritton sold another small dental practice in Ashville to a colleague and bought the one in Rockford, where he is able to treat patients with typical dental needs, some with dental insurance, some children with Medicaid, others who pay with cash. He sees more adults needing teeth pulled in the rural practice, and some rural patients may wait longer between dental visits if funds are tight or transportation is a problem.

Dr. Stuart Lockwood, a retired state dental officer and epidemiologist with the Alabama Department of Public Health, grew up in Union Springs and opened his first dental practice there.

Lockwood then specialized in public health epidemiology, at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Washington, D.C. before returning to Alabama. As an epidemiologist, Lockwood looks at causes of disease and injury and then seeks ways to stop problems that can have negative impact on health.

Lockwood studies the ages of Alabama dentists and where they locate their offices and compares that data with parts of the state that have the greatest dentist shortages. Lockwood then can determine where the provider gaps are and help predict future needs. He gets his figures by studying the Dental Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Longer waits ahead without help

Lockwood said planners believe if current patterns in dental care availability remain, rural Alabamians in the future will face longer waits for dental appointments and travel greater distances to get to the dentist. He is working with The Alabama Dental Association, providers and other advocates who want the Legislature to fund dental school tuition scholarships.

Dr. Zack Studstill, dental association executive director, said the scholarships would fund four $45,000-per-year ongoing tuition scholarships for qualified dental students who agree to practice in a small Alabama town. Studstill said if new dentists can be drawn to rural communities in exchange for tuition help, some will love life there.

“Small-town Alabama is such a good life. Small-town Alabama deserves good health care,” says Studstill, who grew up in Andalusia. The dental organizations and other providers helped secure passage of a tuition scholarship in the 2016 session of the Legislature, but the scholarship funding was cut in budget negotiations. As of press time, a tuition scholarship bill, SB144, was under consideration again in the 2019 legislative session.

A taste of small-town practice

Students at the state’s only dental school, at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in Birmingham, get a taste of what a dental practice would be like during placements at community health programs.

The dental school partners with 14 community health centers across the state, including some that have dental care for patients, says Dr. Conan Davis, assistant dean for community collaborations.

Davis says the dental school credentials health center dentists to serve as adjunct faculty to mentor students. He also teaches a class in community dentistry that teaches students to be advocates for their patients. Davis called the class a way to give students “a broader view of the world beyond people just like them.”

Others view of Alabama’s dental needs

Dr. Richard Simpson, a pediatric dentist in private practice in Tuscaloosa, is chair of the Oral Health Coalition of Alabama.

Simpson said more than 90 percent of Alabama children have oral health coverage either through dental insurance, All Kids, Medicaid or other programs that provide care for children. He hopes that children who receive regular care now will not have the dental problems that adults without dental care now have.

State Dental Director Tommy Johnson was in private practice in Mobile before he came to the Alabama Department of Public Health a year ago.

Johnson said Alabama provides coverage for children’s dental care, but adults, especially if they are low-income and live in rural areas, have challenges finding and paying for dental care. Transportation can be a problem.

Alabama does not pay for dental care for adults on Medicaid, so adults with income well below the poverty level often end up having problem teeth pulled as a result. But Alabama Medicaid Director Danny Rush said the program does have some non-emergency transportation funding to help patients get to a doctor’s office.

Alabama rural health advocate Dale Quinney is a retired director of the Alabama Rural Health Association. Quinney questions whether dental hygienists could clean and check teeth for problems in rural areas and use telehealth to connect with a dentist who could check for problems.

Johnson said the public health department already uses telehealth, and designs and builds programs to communicate with public health clinics around the state.

“I would like very much to be able to incorporate tele-dentistry in public health at some point, but the Alabama Dental Practice Act requires direct supervision of dental treatment by a dentist,” Johnson says.

The dental association’s Studstill said current Alabama law requires that a dentist be in the same location as a hygienist or other dental professional doing cleaning or other preventive or diagnostic treatment.

Studstill said the requirement is a patient safety issue in case a patient has problems with bleeding or other medical issue needing quick response of a dentist. The law is one that he said the dental association and the Board of Dental Examiners support.

But along with the telehealth tools that the Department of Public Health has, Studstill said the dental school is developing telehealth capabilities to help dentists practicing in small towns consult with specialists who are usually in larger city settings.

Bradley W. Edmonds, executive director of the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners, says the board is aware that there are concerns about access to dental care in rural areas. He said the board earlier this year voted to allow dental hygienists with additional training to administer local anesthesia by injection, something he said is a step toward better access to care.

Alabama People: William E. “Bill” Barrick

Dr. William E. “Bill” Barrick is an expert on garden plants and design, but he’s also a believer that gardens are places for people as much as for plants. That belief has constantly informed his 40-plus year career as an award-winning horticulturist and public garden director, first at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., and then at the 65-acre historic Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Ala. As he prepares to retire in July after 18 years as Bellingrath’s executive director, he looked back on the path that first led him to gardens and to making Bellingrath a major Gulf Coast tourist destination that attracts 110,000 visitors from across the globe each year. – Katie Jackson

Why horticulture?  

I grew up in Dothan, Ala., and was surrounded by neighbors who were avid gardeners. One of my neighbors was even named Mrs. Flowers and she had a fulltime gardener named George and her own greenhouse where she grew flowers for her home and garden. Another neighbor was an FBI agent who hybridized daylilies as a hobby. My third-grade teacher’s father lived in our neighborhood and hybridized camellias. But perhaps the greatest influence on my life was my grandfather, who took care of a two-acre vegetable garden until the age of 100, so I caught the gardening bug at an early age.

What drew you to it as a career and kept you in it?

I attended Auburn University, majoring in botany for my undergraduate degree, and received a master’s degree in horticulture two years later. After a two-year stint in the Army, I attended Michigan State University, where I received my Ph.D in landscape horticulture, then I taught at the University of Florida for four years before going to work at Callaway Gardens, which began my career in public gardens. My career at Callaway was an exciting time and, over the years, I was part of the design team that led to the construction of the John A. Sibley Horticulture Center, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the new Brothers’ Azalea Garden.

How does managing Bellingrath Gardens compare with managing Callaway Gardens?

In some sense, managing both gardens is quite similar as both share a legacy of having visionary founders and both have an emphasis on display, rather than on maintaining documented collections of woody plants. The major difference from a career standpoint was that my emphasis at Callaway was on creating new garden amenities for our visitors, while at Bellingrath my emphasis has been on garden restoration. While a major emphasis at Callaway was growing and displaying native species of Southeastern flora, the majority of plantings in Bellingrath Gardens — camellias and azaleas — have their origin in the Orient.

Bellingrath Gardens and Home are located in a hurricane-prone part of the state.  How have storms such as Hurricane Frederic and others affected the estate? 

I don’t have a personal knowledge of the efforts required for rebuilding Bellingrath after Frederic — which struck on Sept. 12, 1979, and closed the Gardens and Home until March 1, 1980 — but I can fully appreciate the efforts required to remove virtually all of the downed tree canopy. Overnight, the Gardens transitioned from the deep shade provided by the live oak canopy to a full sun garden, so the Gardens essentially had to be replanted with azaleas and camellias along with restoring the tree canopy. Fortunately, in my tenure, Hurricanes Rita, Ivan and Katrina did minor damage by comparison to Frederic. 

How do you prepare for storms today? 

With modern-day weather forecasting, hurricane preparation is much easier, but the Bellingrath Home, Boehm Gallery and Chapel have to be boarded up to prevent damage to these buildings, or to the Bessie Morse collection of antique furniture, porcelains and silver. Typically, the gardeners move planters, hanging baskets and cast-iron furniture to safer locations.

What do gardens such as Bellingrath provide to community and to humanity?

Throughout my career in public horticulture, I have been made fully aware of the value of public gardens. Increasingly through technology and the pace in which we all live, we are separated from nature. Gardens offer visitors the opportunity to restore their souls and be inspired by the beauty of God’s creation. We are called to be stewards of God’s creation and, in the case of Bellingrath, to be inspired by our founders’ vision and their generosity to preserve part our state’s cultural heritage.

What are you planning after retirement?  Are there other gardens in your future? 

Jessica and I plan on continuing to live in Mobile, but she is hopeful we will spend more time in Asheville, N.C., where she grew up.  Both of us want to continue to serve in other cultural organizations, too. The gardens in our future will be ones we visit as we love to travel and see other public and private gardens. And, I hope, my back will allow me to garden, for a change, in my own back yard.ν

UTI problems are common in cats – but why?

In the days of my frequent travels, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Every time the suitcases came out, our cat Rabi (another Siamese cross) would start visiting the litter box often, and pass small amounts of blood tinged urine. Many cat owners have experienced this.

According to one study by pet-insurance groups, a bladder problem is the second most common reason cats come to a veterinary clinic. I cannot count how many times owners have come and said that their cat jumped on the counter (or sink) and passed red urine. They believed that their cat was telling them something! In those days, I used to think yeah, right!

Now, many years later, I think the owners are right; on occasions these cats probably share their distress with their trusted friends. They are lot more clever than we give them credit for! Whether the cats are guiding their owners to an imminent problem or not, a red tinge in the urine is a real issue. It simply means there is blood in the urine, which should not be there.

Before we explore the nature of this disease, a little primer on the urinary tract. Kidneys filter toxins from the blood and make urine, which then dribbles down via two narrow tubes to the bladder for temporary storage. Then, when the time is right, a slightly bigger tubing brings the urine from the bladder out to the world.

In the case of cats, when we see blood tinged urine, almost inevitably it is coming from the bladder. However, just because there is blood in the urine doesn’t mean that there is infection. In fact, repeated research has shown that in vast majority of the cases, there is no infection present!

What happens is this: The inside of the bladder wall is lined by layers and layers of loosely bound cells which is fed with fine blood vessels called capillaries. When there is inflammation (pain and swelling), some of these capillaries can leak out blood and that’s what shows up in the urine. The sensation of pain, burning and bladder spasms (extrapolated from human experience) is what causes the poor kitty to visit the box again and again and strain in hope of finding some relief.

A very similar thing happens in humans called Interstitial Cystitis. It is more common in women where there is significant pain in the bladder, and it does not respond to antibiotics.

So, now that we understand this disease, what to do about it? And is there a connection between urinary problems and emotional distress? We’ll visit that in the July issue.

Goutam Mukherjee (Dr. G), DVM, MS, PhD., has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Clinic in Crossville. Email questions of general interest to drg.vet@gmail.com.

Fishing for channel catfish fun for any level of angler

Many people start fishing by catching channel catfish. Unfortunately, most grow out of chasing catfish as they turn to other species, but this fish can still provide incredible excitement and excellent table fare.

One of the most widespread and abundant game fish in North America, channel cats populate just about every freshwater system in Alabama. Although they can’t reach the size of their giant cousins, blue and flathead catfish, channels can top 50 pounds. Most run in the one- to five-pound range, but Donald Cox set the Alabama standard with a 40-pounder he pulled from Inland Lake, a 1,557-acre impoundment in Blount County near Oneonta.

“Channel cats can be found almost everywhere and are not shy about biting,” says Brian Barton, a Tennessee River guide from Muscle Shoals. “If they’re in an area, they will bite. Channel cats tend to like shallower water than blue cats and usually seek out shoreline structure, like logs, stumps, weeds and rock piles. Channel catfish usually school in small numbers, so if a person catches a channel cat off a piece of structure, that angler should continue to fish the area.”

With about 10,000 taste buds per square inch of its skin, a catfish swims through the water like a giant tongue tasting everything. Their sensors can perceive odors down to one part in 10 billion parts of water, so catfish can detect minute food particles or scents from long distances. They miss few opportunities to grab a tempting morsel and they eat almost anything. Some excellent baits include shrimp, nightcrawlers, minnows, fish pieces, clams, dough balls, crawfish, cheese, livers, gizzards, commercial stink or blood baits and even such odd items as soap, among other things.

The more it smells, the better they bite

“In general, the more it smells, the better channel cats bite it,” Barton says. “A glob of shad guts is my favorite bait. I also use chicken livers, slightly spoiled shrimp, cut bait and nightcrawlers.”

Countless people catch channel cats with perhaps the simplest forms of fishing. They dangle nightcrawlers, shrimp, crickets or other baits from bobbers. Toss the rig next to good cover and wait for the float to disappear. Other anglers prefer to fish on bottom with a sinker rig and wait for a tug on the line.

Of course, the old methods still work, but anglers can catch channel cats many other ways. For fishing sloping shorelines or other deep structure not directly under a boat, try a slip-float rig. With a slip-float rig, a small weight pulls the line through an eye on the float. A stopper keeps the line from slipping too far, allowing the bait to suspend at the desired depth. With a slip-float rig, an angler can make a natural vertical presentation without sitting on top of the structure or fish, thus keeping the bait in the strike zone longer. Experiment with different depths.

“With a slip-float rig, I primarily fish deeper ledges, humps or rock piles where I want to suspend my baits just off the bottom,” Barton explains. “I typically try to position my bait about one to three feet off the bottom. In river environments, look for channel cats in eddy pools and slack current areas just outside the main flow.”

Channel catfish normally prefer natural baits, but anglers occasionally catch them on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, plastic worms, jigs, flies or other artificials. Barton tips weedless spoons with succulent bait and throws them into places where conventional catfish rigs would probably snag. Tipped with a strip of skipjack, mullet, shad or other temptation, the bait undulates through the water like a live fish swimming. The natural scent and oils coming oozing from the bait add to the enticement. Throw this rig around weed beds, fallen trees or logs and retrieve it slowly just off the bottom. Pause the retrieve occasionally.

For hot freezer-filling action, Alabama anglers don’t even need boats. The state regularly stocks channel catfish into many of its 23 managed public fishing lakes located in 20 counties. Some better catfish lakes include the ones in Bibb, Dallas, Fayette, Geneva, Lamar, Madison, Marion and Walker counties.

For more information on Alabama public fishing lakes, visit www.outdooralabama.com

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

Southern haiku

Illustration by Dennis Auth

You can pretty much count renowned Southern poets on one hand.

Or at least I can.

And Southern poets who write in the ancient Japanese form, haiku, one finger.

Or at least I can.

(You know who you are.)

So, you can imagine my surprise when I was going through some old notes and found among them 14 poems under the category “Southern Haiku.”

I don’t know the author (s), but from the subjects and style, I’d say that he, she, or them are from around here. For example, one titled “Beauty” reads:

Naked in repose

Silvery silhouette girls

Adorn my mud flaps.

Brings a tear, don’t it?

Some deal with overcoming disappointment. Southerners are good at that. 

“A New Moon”

Flashlights pierce darkness

No night crawlers to be found

Guess we’ll gig some frogs

And our love of the simple things.

“Exuberance” 

Joyful, playful, bright

Trailer park girl rolls in puddle

Of old motor oil.

Some of the subjects reflect life’s tragedies, of which Southerners have many.

“Alone”

Seeking solitude

Carl’s ex-wife Tammy files for

Restraining order

And  

“Remorse”

A painful sadness

Can’t fit big screen TV through

Double-wide’s front door

Or the passions we feel:

“Desire”

Dern, in that tube-top

You make me almost forget

That you’re my cousin

And my particular favorite:

“Gathering”

In early morning mist

Mama searches Circle K for

Moon Pies and Red Man

With these few verses, my whole opinion of Southern poetry and poets changed. 

Why didn’t they teach me this in American Lit at Clarke County High School back in the 1950s?

“Deprived”

In Walmart toy aisle

Wailing boy wants rasslin’ doll

Mama whips his butt.

If they had taught that back then, I might have studied harder.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

Festive and flavorful

The almost-endless array of Tex-Mex dishes makes it effortless to enjoy the cuisine’s festive flavors as often as you like.

BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | STYLING/PHOTOS BY BROOKE ECHOLS

Long before “Taco Tuesday” became a thing, Old El Paso was making it easy for moms (or dads) everywhere to make a meal that was simple to put together and was practically guaranteed to be a hit with everyone around the dinner table. With its pre-packaged crunchy corn shells, zippy seasoning packet and peppery sauce, the Texas-based company gave home cooks everything they needed to whip up pretty tasty tacos, which are classic examples of Tex-Mex cuisine.

Tex-Mex is a style of food that actually originated north of, not south of, the border. Tex-Mex dishes are characterized by Mexican influences but often rely on items not usually found in traditional Mexican foods, things like ground beef, shredded cheddar and spices like cumin. As the first part of its name suggests, it originated in Texas, created by Texans with Mexican or Spanish roots (as well as Mexican immigrants who made their way to the Lone Star state). They blended flavors from Mexico with Texas “cowboy-culture” tastes and used readily available ingredients. Mexican restaurants started modifying menus and came up with items like burritos and nachos to please American palates, and the appeal of Tex-Mex began to spread like warm cheese dip poured over a pile of tortilla chips.

The term Tex-Mex is relatively new; it first showed up in print in the 1940s, and most sources say it was the 1970s before it was widely used. Today, we hear it regularly, and there’s been some insinuation that Tex-Mex is inferior to or a corruption of “authentic” Mexican food (which is now much easier to find). But many argue it’s not; it’s simply different and truly its own distinct category.

The popularity of Tex-Mex doesn’t seem to be in question at all; we definitely have an appetite for it. At restaurants of all types and at home, folks continue to consume it in massive amounts. In the South, we’ve even folded it into regional favorites like casseroles. And thanks to the long list of Tex-Mex recipes available, you can extend Tex-Mex’s hearty, spicy and zesty essence beyond Taco Tuesday and relish it every day of the week. Try a few of these sent in from your fellow readers.


Cook of the Month

Sheila Summers, Joe Wheeler EMC

Sheila has been making her beloved Tex-Mex recipe, Chiles Rellenos Casserole, since before the phrase “Tex-Mex” gained common usage, first whipping it up more than 40 years ago. A friend at work who hailed from Southern California shared it with her, and her first bite was her first taste of chiles. “I’d never had anything like it, but I loved it,” she says. She’s continued to make it because everyone else who’s ever tasted it loves it, too. “Every time I fix it, no matter who is eating it, they can’t get enough.” If there do happen to be leftovers, they’re equally delicious, another reason the dish maintains a permanent place in Sheila’s recipe repertoire. “When you reheat it, the cheese kinda gets caramelized around the edges, making it even yummier,” she says. And the cheese is what makes her version of her friend’s recipe distinct; the original had more Monterey Jack, but Sheila switched things up and added more cheddar. One thing you can’t mess with is the chiles. “Don’t use the diced; I tried that. It’s just not the same,” she says. “Use the whole peppers.”

 

Chili Rellenos Casserole

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons flour

2 twelve-ounce cans evaporated milk

4 four-ounce cans whole chilis, drained and seeds removed

12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated and divided

12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated and divided

1 eight-ounce can tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixing bowl, blend eggs and flour until smooth. Add evaporated milk to egg-flour mixture and mix well. Set aside. In a greased 9×11-inch baking dish layer 2 cans of the drained chilies, then layer 1/2 of the cheddar cheese, layer the remaining chilies, then layer the remaining cheddar cheese. Top with 1/2 Monterey Jack cheese. Pour egg-flour mixture over the cheese and chili layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Top with tomato sauce. Return to oven and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10-15 minutes before serving.


Nacho Grande Casserole

2 pounds ground beef

1 onion, chopped

2 sixteen-ounce cans chili beans

1 twenty-nine-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained

1 fifteen-ounce can tomato sauce

2 packages taco seasoning mix

1 can mild Rotel tomatoes, drained

3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

3 cups tortilla chips, crushed

Optional toppings: chopped

tomatoes, green onions

Cook ground beef and onions in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring until beef is no longer pink; drain. Add beans, corn, tomato sauce and seasoning mix; stir until blended. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13×9-inch baking dish. Top with cheese and tortilla chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until bubbly or golden. Sprinkle with green onions and chopped tomatoes, if desired.

 

Angie Cousins,Central Alabama EC


 

Mexican Cornbread

3 cups self-rising cornmeal

3 jalapeno peppers, chopped (add to your taste)

1 large onion, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 can cream corn

1 cup water

1 cup vegetable oil, divided (3/4 cup and ¼ cup)

1 ½ cups Mexican blend cheese

Mix first 7 ingredients and ¾ cup oil. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Pour ¼ cup oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place skillet with oil in oven to pre-heat for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon cornbread mix in skillet to cover bottom. Add cheese, covering batter, keeping cheese away from sides, to keep it from sticking. Spoon rest of mix on top of cheese. Bake 40-45 minutes.

William Ring Sr., Tallapoosa River EC


Slow Cooker Picante Chili

3 pounds ground turkey or chicken

1 onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

Dash of olive oil

1 seventy-ounce container picante sauce

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

2 cans dark kidney beans

Rice, cook’s choice

Brown the ground turkey or chicken with the diced onion and diced bell pepper in olive oil. Add picante sauce, sliced mushrooms and kidney beans. Simmer 2-4 hours in a slow cooker. Serve picante chili ladled over your favorite rice.

Dolores Pope Watkins, Cullman EC


Mexican Fudge

2 pounds cheddar cheese, divided

6 eggs, beaten

Jalapeno pepper, to taste

Put one-pound grated cheddar cheese in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Combine beaten eggs and peppers and pour over grated cheese. Sprinkle remaining pound of cheese over egg/pepper/cheese mixture. Bake 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees. Cut into squares and serve. Great for football tailgate snack.

Mary McGriff, Cullman EC


Mexican Grits

5 packets of instant grits

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 large can diced chilies

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Salsa, cook’s choice

Prepare grits by package directions for microwave. Stir in cheese, garlic powder, chilies and butter. Stir until butter and cheese melt. Spray a 4-quart crockpot with olive or canola oil. Pour grits mixture in crockpot and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours. Serves 8-10. Serve for breakfast or brunch with fresh fruit on the side and your favorite salsa on top.

Peggy Goodlett, Joe Wheeler EMC


Migas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2/3 cup diced onion (about 1 small onion)

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

Salt and pepper

4 corn tortillas, cut or torn into 1/2-inch pieces

8 large eggs

1/4 cup salsa

1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or Mexican Blend cheese

Heat the oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat until simmering. Add the onion and jalapeños, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Meanwhile, place the eggs and salsa in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine; set aside. When the onion is ready, add the tortillas and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the eggs. Scramble until eggs are almost set, then fold in the cheese and remove from heat. Serve with salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, avocado, guacamole, corn or flour tortillas or beans.

Belinda Bazinet, Central Alabama EC


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