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Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives send help to Fla., S.C.

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When Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Atlantic coast, Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives mobilized what is likely the largest number of crews in recent history to stage in areas of Florida that were bracing for the worst.

The Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), a member-owned federation of the state’s 22 electric distribution cooperatives, estimates that 170 people total – service and construction crews – were sent at one time. Thirty-one crews from 17 co-ops were en route on Oct. 6 to two co-ops in Florida that anticipated serious damage from the hurricane, which was expected to make landfall as a category 4 storm.

Co-ops in eastern and central Florida suffered much of their damage from high winds and storm surge Oct. 6-7. Although it was downgraded to category 2 strength by the time it made landfall along South Carolina’s coast early on Oct. 8, that state was hit hard.

Matthew knocked out electricity to more than 600,000 electric cooperative meters in four states.

Alabama’s crews went to Florida in advance of the storm, so they could be ready to go directly into the affected areas once the storm passed. After finishing helping the Florida co-ops restore power to their members, some crews traveled on to South Carolina co-op areas to help there, while other Alabama co-ops sent fresh crews to South Carolina.

AREA coordinates with other states to send linemen and other operational personnel to restore power. In true cooperative spirit, most of Alabama’s co-ops are ready and willing to send help to sister co-ops when asked. Coordinating that response so that the right types and numbers of crews are assigned is one of AREA’s most important services. AREA also sends safety personnel to hard-hit areas.

Consumer Wise: November 2016

Do you have an energy hog in your home?

By Patrick Keegan and Amy Wheeless

Q: I’m trying to make my home as energy efficient as possible. I recently installed a new heat pump and efficient water heater, and increased the amount of insulation in my home. I also enlisted the help of a home energy auditor, and he didn’t find much in the way of air leakage. However, my energy bills still seems higher than they should be. Can you point out other areas of the home that I might be overlooking?
A: It sounds like you have made some solid investments with your focus on space and water heating, which are usually the major uses of energy in the home. Your energy auditor may be able to provide information about how your home’s energy use compares to similar homes in the area—and if it is substantially higher, what could be causing the problem.

Your electric co-op could also be a valuable source of information. Many co-ops have installed smart meters at their members’ homes, which can show detailed hourly energy use. This information can sometimes help pinpoint a large energy user. For example, you may be using more electricity on weekends, which would be an important clue to discovering what is driving up your energy costs.

Armed with whatever clues you can glean from your energy auditor or your co-op, you are better able to search for an energy hog in your home. Are there uses of energy outside your typical living space that are “out of sight, out of mind?” Below are some possible unconventional energy uses that could be adding to your energy bill:

Swimming pools and spas

A swimming pool and spa are nice amenities to have in your home, but they can significantly contribute to your energy bill.

  • Your pool pump keeps the water circulating through its filtering system and could be the most energy intensive part of your pool. Older pool pumps run continuously on a single, high speed setting, but this circulation is more than the typical residential pool needs. An ENERGY STAR-certified pool pump can be programmed to run at different speeds depending on your pool’s needs—and can pay for itself in as little as two years.
  • If you heat your pool, try using an efficient heater. Pool heaters that run on natural gas or propane are the most common, but an electric heat pump water heater or a solar water heater could be a more cost-effective option. Remember to put a cover on the pool when it is not in use to keep your heater from working as hard.
  • If you have a hot tub or spa that you occasionally use, consider turning it off when it is not in use. If you use your spa frequently, use a cover with a high insulation value to keep the water warm and your electric bill low.

Pump systems

Water pumps often run on electricity and can be found in many areas of your property.

Irrigation: If you have a larger property, you may have an irrigation system. Leaks in your irrigation system can greatly increase your pump’s electricity use.

Wells: If your home uses well water, you have a well pump that helps bring the water from the well to your home. A malfunctioning well pump may run continuously to try and maintain proper water pressure—this can cause a significant increase in your electricity bill.

Garden fountains: Fountains make a charming addition to your garden, but the pumps that run them use about as much energy as a small lamp. If you have multiple fountains in your garden, look into installing a timer so that the fountains only run part of the day.

Non-living spaces

You may have some energy hogs in your garage, outbuilding or basement. For example:

 Do you have a second working, but inefficient, refrigerator or freezer plugged in? Is it in use, or can you consolidate its contents into your kitchen?

 Do you have a recreational space in an uninsulated part of your home, like the garage or basement? Using space heaters or portable air conditioners in uninsulated spaces can definitely lead to higher bills.

 Do you have a block heater to help warm your vehicle on cold mornings? Plugging in your heater overnight will use far more electricity than needed—use a timer to start the block heater just a few hours before you need your vehicle.

Home business

If you run a business out of your home, there could be a large energy user contributing to your electric bill. For example, regularly using welding equipment, ceramic kilns or power carpentry tools can contribute significantly to your electric bill, as can equipment that supports home farming operations.

Look for energy hogs around your home, and try to limit their use if possible. Find more ways to be energy efficient by contacting your local electric co-op.


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.

Have you met a president?

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Tell us your story! If you have met a U.S. president (either before he was president, during his term or after he left office), and you have a picture to illustrate the story, we’d like to hear from you. We may feature you in an upcoming issue of the magazine! Email your story and photo to Allison Griffin at agriffin@areapower.com. The postal address is 340 TechnaCenter Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117. (Be sure to include your return address. We’ll be glad to return photos, but you may want to take a digital photo of your original, or have your original photo scanned just in case. Many retailers offer scanning services.)

Nuclear Power: The overlooked power source

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The most recent nuclear power plant is the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 near Spring City in eastern Tennessee. It was connected to the power grid in June 2016. In the U.S., 100 nuclear reactors at 60 sites in 30 states produce about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Source: TVA

Will the controversial source of electricity grow, shrink or stay about the same?

By Paul Wesslund

As energy headlines scream about a war on coal, fracking that’s pumping up a lot of low-priced natural gas and the rise of wind and solar power, one form of electric generation quietly continues to keep the lights on.

About one in every five electrons running through the wires in your home comes from a nuclear power plant. Even if you already knew that, you probably haven’t given it much thought lately. There are good reasons for that lack of attention: Nuclear power has been reliable and affordable.

Nuclear became one of our main fuels for electricity by overcoming huge obstacles to a pretty simple idea—heating water into steam that turns a turbine that generates electricity, similar to the way a coal-burning power plant works. The difference is that in a nuclear power plant, the fuel is uranium, and it doesn’t burn. Instead, the heat is generated by splitting the uranium atoms, releasing large amounts of energy from very small amounts of fuel.


Electric co-ops support nuclear power

But the details are hugely complicated. Highly advanced physics and engineering were needed to build the first nuclear plants in the 1950s. And the dangers of radioactivity called for extreme safety measures. Regulating the technically complex industry falls to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), an independent agency of the federal government, and its nearly 4,000 employees and $1 billion budget.

In the U.S., 60 nuclear power plants operate 100 nuclear reactors (some plant sites have more than one reactor) in 30 states. In addition to regulation by the NRC, those plants operate under a variety of agreements with groups as varied as the Department of Homeland Security, state and local governments, emergency responders and academic researchers.

The regulation and cooperative agreements are called for because of the high-stakes concerns with nuclear power. In addition to the health and safety concerns, cybersecurity and safeguards against possible terrorism are regularly reviewed.

Do all these protective efforts work? The fact that nuclear power provides one-fifth of the electricity in the U.S. offers evidence of its acceptance.

Electric co-ops as a national group see nuclear power as a valuable part of the mix of fuels that make our electricity. An official membership resolution of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) calls for “legislative and regulatory initiatives to support the continuation and expansion of nuclear power.”

Dale Bradshaw describes why electric co-ops see nuclear power as a good way to generate electricity. Bradshaw is CEO of Electrivation LLC, a firm that consults on power generation and delivery with groups that include NRECA.

“Nuclear power is safe and emits no carbon dioxide,” he says, noting the industry’s safety and security systems and the lack of greenhouse gas. Bradshaw also sees advantages of nuclear power over the increasingly popular renewable energies of wind and solar, since solar doesn’t produce energy at night and wind doesn’t work in calm weather.

“We need nuclear for reliability; it runs around the clock,” he says, adding, “existing nuclear reactors are basically cost competitive—it’s a low-cost resource.”


A bright future for nuclear power

So if nuclear power is so great, why isn’t it used for more than 20 percent of our electricity?

The need for fuel diversity is one reason, but Bradshaw says growth in nuclear power use is being restricted by a unique combination of forces. The drilling boom of the past several years has dramatically lowered natural gas prices, and various government subsidies have reduced the costs of wind and solar. Electricity markets base energy prices on the lowest cost producers and because of the recent low cost of natural gas and continued subsidies for renewables, prices are too low to support the building of new nuclear units. When utilities make their buying decisions, nuclear power often is not the preferred choice these days.

But Bradshaw sees a potentially bright future for nuclear power, referring to today’s market forces as “a short-term problem.” He notes that natural gas prices have started rising, and that the tax breaks keeping wind and solar costs low will expire in a few years. He adds that researchers are developing nuclear plant designs that will be even safer, lower in cost and will extend the life of existing nuclear fuel.

“There are advanced reactor technologies in the early stages of development that might allow us in the next 20 years to build these technologies for 25 percent of the cost of existing nuclear plants,” says Bradshaw. “Advanced nuclear will more efficiently use the fuel and become essentially sustainable with thousands of years of fuel supply, and be more price competitive in the market.”


Paul Wesslund writes on cooperative issues 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.

Greetings from Alabama

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Dexter Avenue, looking East, showing the state capitol, Montgomery, Alabama.

New book chronicles Alabama’s past through vintage postcards

By Emmett Burnett

It’s probably been awhile since you’ve received a handwritten postcard, because open-faced letters can be paraphrased with a Vivien Leigh-Clark Gable movie line: “Look for it only in storybooks, for it is gone with the pen.”

Or maybe not.

A newly released book, Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards, captures memories, slices of life, and nostalgic times when text messaging required pencils. But the book’s 1800s to mid-20th century postcards convey more than “having a good time; wish you were here” sentiments. Wade Hall’s collection is a glimpse into our thinking, attitudes, and the way we were, in Alabama, before Facebook.

Over 400 postcards are represented in the work, published this fall by NewSouth Books (224 pages; $24.95). Topics include big city attractions, small community events, World Wars and peacetime. It chronicles vacation destinations, industrial giants, military installations, and postcard categories far exceeding “See Rock City.”

Notes of historical significance, like Montgomery’s State Capitol, Enterprise’s Boll Weevil, Selma’s Edmund Pettis Bridge, and Mobile’s Mardi Gras are featured. There are old churches, stately courthouses, majestic hotels, and forever on guard Confederate statues. Postcard photos depict topics still with us today and those that have been gone for decades.

But it’s not just a list of quant pictures. “Physical attractiveness was not the top of our selection criteria,” notes the book’s co-editor, Dr. Nancy B. Dupree, about the labor of love she and co-editor Dr. Christopher Sawula researched. Both are curators with the University of Alabama Libraries and wrote the cards’ captions for the book.

 

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Hollywood Country Club, Birmingham, Alabama
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View of the business section, Birmingham, Alabama

 

“We were more interested in what the cards depicted and what was interesting,” Dupree says, about the selection process. “We were not necessarily interested in just what was pretty.”

Greetings from Alabama draws from the collection of the late Wade Hall, the book’s posthumous author. A Bullock County native, Hall was a philanthropist, writer, poet, interviewer, and postcard collector of thousands. “He traveled the state, visiting estate shows, garage sales, secondhand stores to buy entire lots – crates of postcards,” Dupree says. But at one point he had a setback.

“Hall was traveling with a car full of postcards when he stopped at a gas station, went inside, but left his vehicle unlocked and motor running,” says the editor. When he returned the postcards were gone and so was the car, neither ever seen again.

But even with the loss, Hall accumulated an estimated 10,000 cards, which he later donated to his college alma maters: Troy University (Troy State Teachers College) and the University of Alabama. Of the thousands, about 400 were selected for the book.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” Sawula says. “It shows what Alabama looked like in the early 20th century, before and after modern industrialization, during World War II, and other times throughout our history.”

Hall’s postcards include Dothan’s original post office, Birmingham’s coke mines, Mobile Bay workers unloading cargo barges, and an early forerunner of Bryant-Denny Stadium, proudly seating 20,000 people (today it holds 100,000). “They wanted us to know, this is how we cheered football back then,” Sawula says. “This is how we played, worked, lived.” And these are the themes featured in the book.

There are architectural marvels: great dams, bridges, and old churches. “Modern” previous century roads are depicted, like those in Mobile and Montgomery, paved with state-of-art oyster shells. Fairhope and Daphne were promoted as beach destinations. Lake Guntersville touted itself as a boat racing capital.

As seen in the cards, the Vulcan statue was a World’s Fair attraction before someone in Birmingham said, “let’s put him on a mountain.”

“Part of the fascination of these cards is seeing what people were proud of back then,” Sawula says. The growth of Tuskegee, rise of Gadsden, and birth of Huntsville’s Rocket City was big news, back in the day.

 

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Modern shrines and missions, closer view facing south, St. Bernard College
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“Old Gaineswood” as it looked in 1860, Demopolis, Alabama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The selected postcards’ written messages are not included in the book, due to privacy issues. But researchers could not resist reading some. Many are insightful, some are funny. One older woman, visiting an Alabama city, wrote, “I have not seen anything that I would enjoy yet but hope I will soon.” Sawula laughs, “It may have been an interesting scene but that doesn’t mean the person enjoyed the experience.”

As for the purveyor of postcards, Wade Hall, after spending most of his life in Kentucky, died in 2015. He is buried near Union Springs. “I met him once,” Dupree recalls. “He was a pleasant man. He probably wanted his collection published as a book.” And it is.

Greetings from Alabama reminds us of the state we live in and a state of mind. Both changed in many ways over the years, yet in many ways, remains the same. The Vulcan, once the toast of the World’s Fair, is still an icon of Birmingham. Mardi Gras floats, once pulled by horses, currently parade by gas engines. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a National civil rights landmark, and civil rights issues are still with us. World War II ended but new battles continue.

And the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s all in the cards.


Greetings from Alabama is available at bookstores or from NewSouth Books, 334-834-3556, www.newsouthbooks.com/greetingsfromalabama

Social Security covers you when you’re abroad

Social Security has you covered, even outside our nation’s borders. We’re with you through life’s journey, even if you’re traveling outside the United States. Many people who travel or live outside the country receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you’re not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. Once you’ve been outside the United States for at least 30 days in a row, we consider you to be outside the country. Whether you’re off to Europe, or considering a stay in our newly reopened neighbor, Cuba, you may be able to receive your Social Security benefits even while you’re outside the United States. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot receive benefits if you’re outside of the United States for a month or more.

If you’re traveling outside the U.S. for an extended amount of time, it’s important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back, no matter how long you expect your travel to last.

You can use this online tool to find out if you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside the United States or are planning to go outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html.

This tool will help you find out if your retirement, disability, or survivor’s payments will continue as long as you are eligible, stop after six consecutive calendar months, or if certain country-specific restrictions apply.

When you live outside the United States, we send you a questionnaire periodically. Your answers will help us figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your payments will stop. In addition to responding to the questionnaire, notify us promptly about changes that could affect your payments.

You can also read the publication titled Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Securing today and tomorrow is our priority, no matter where you might be living.

Just in time for the holidays: A new Alabama Living Cookbook

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Alabama Living will publish its first cookbook in eight years this month. The Best of Alabama Living features more than 250 recipes, including the “Cook of the Month” winners from past issues of the magazine from 2009 through 2015. Also included are the winners of the “Best Alabama Cake” contest and the “Crockin’ It with Alabama Living” contests from the Alabama National Fair, both sponsored by Alabama Living.

The cookbook was organized and designed by the staff of the magazine’s statewide edition. Staff members prepared many of the recipes, including shopping for the ingredients, cooking the dishes, and then styling the food to be photographed.

Several recipes were made and photographed at the kitchen of Bon Appetite Catering in Millbrook, graciously provided by owner Brenda Fryer. Two of the winning cooks prepared recipes for the book: Gretchen Loftin of Prattville baked not one, but two, of her delicious Olivia Belle’s Southern Pecan Cheesecakes, and Sandra K. Paul of Millbrook made her delectable Caramel Carrot Cake.

A new addition this year is a special forward by Alabama’s own Patricia Barnes, better known as Sister Schubert, founder of the well-known line of homemade rolls and biscuits. The book also features short articles on several regular contributors to our recipe pages from around the state.

Copies are $19.95 and are available at HERE, or you can send a check for $19.95 for each book ordered to: Alabama Living Cookbook, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Order no later than Dec. 12 to ensure delivery by Christmas.

Turkeys and more

Turkeys at the Bates farms are raised as free-range birds, which the family believes produces a higher-quality product. Photo by Michael Cornelison
Turkeys at the Bates farms are raised as free-range birds, which the family believes produces a higher-quality product. Photo by Michael Cornelison

Bates turkeys remain a tradition at Thanksgiving and year-round

By Carolyn Tomlin

After flying countless bombing missions in Europe during World War II, Bill Bates returned home and declared, “I never plan to stand in another line or ask anyone for a job.” Instead, he had one purpose in mind: To produce the finest turkeys ever to grace a table.

Many Alabamians are familiar with how the turkey farm business was started by Bill’s parents. In 1923, W.C. and Helen Hudson Bates, Bill’s mom and dad, received nine turkey eggs from his Aunt Mamie Bates as a wedding present. In 1935, with the Great Depression taking its toll on small farmers, this small gift became the source that saved the farm as the bank allowed the turkeys to be used as collateral. When Bill returned from the war, his parents needed help with the growing industry. He stayed, and the turkey business has grown significantly from those original eggs.

Known as “Mr. Bill,” the legendary Alabamian from Fort Deposit died Aug. 23, 2013, at the age of 89. “Throughout his life, this Southern gentleman was known as one of the best poultry ambassadors for Alabama,” says Huck Carroll, communications director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.

Part of this legend started in 1949 when he presented Gov. James “Big Jim” Folsom a turkey named Clyde to pardon for the traditional Thanksgiving table. Each year this custom continues, and Clyde 67 will receive his pardon later this month. Today a member of the Bates family carries on this special presentation of the “biggest” and “best” bird.


Raising turkeys the old-fashioned way

The Bates family continues to raise flocks by the same methods they’ve used for years, producing about 100,000 turkeys each year.

“Sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same,” says Becky Bates Sloan, who now manages the business with brothers John and Pete. Although technology has changed the way they handle the growing industry, they rely on methods that have been successful for years.

The Bates family believes in raising free-range birds. When the poults reach about 8 weeks, they’re moved to a shady pecan grove on the shores of a small lake. “We feed our turkeys only vegetable feed,” Sloan says. “We pay a little more for our feed, but we never use any feed with animal fats.” The family believes that the most succulent meat comes from raising the birds in a stress-free environment and feeding them a diet rich in nutrients and free of drugs.

Sloan knows that the turkey is an intelligent fowl. “For example, I tell our employees who care for the birds to never let them see you eat a pecan. Or else they would feast on the tasty morsels. Also, don’t talk when you are working among them. Otherwise, they will strut over, stand around, and hinder your work.”


Giving back to the community

Bates Turkey Farms is a vital partner in the community. Dedicated to cancer research, the Bates family is an active participant in the Butler County Relay for Life event. The company hires many young people, and several years ago the Bates family endowed a scholarship at a local community college for an employee of the Bates family enterprises. Safe Harbor for Children in Greenville also receives support and food.

An annual event for the community involves a small cedar tree planted by Mr. Bill about 35 years ago. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, people from the area gather for the “Lighting of the Tree,” which is now 50 feet tall, followed by steaming cups of hot chocolate.

“We couldn’t run our farm without the support of Pioneer Electric Co-op and Quality Co-op in Greenville, where we purchase fertilizer, seed and other products,” Sloan says. “An electric fence protects our turkeys from predators. Our processing plant depends on electricity. And our freezers must have power. If we have a problem, they respond quickly.”

Bates Turkey Farm and the Bates family are longtime members and close friends of Pioneer Electric. “We value them as a business on our system and enjoy our relationship with the Co-op Connections Card program, where they give a discount (every Tuesday) at the restaurant,” says Casey Rogers, communications specialist at Pioneer Electric. “Their restaurant is a prominent stop on the interstate that most travelers acknowledge as a favorite stop along their way.”


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Turkey and more

Always an entrepreneur, Mr. Bill decided to expand the turkey business. Local people in Greenville needed a family-style restaurant. Tourists driving to the Gulf Coast on Highway 31 and Interstate 65 were searching for a unique food experience. And those traveling between Mobile and Birmingham were looking for a home-cooked meal, with no fried foods. Bates House of Turkey opened in 1970, with his wife Teresa in charge.

The restaurant serves everything turkey — old-fashioned roast turkey dinners with all the trimmings, Southern-style hickory smoked turkey sandwiches, open-faced turkey sandwiches, turkey cold plates, turkey salad, turkey gumbo and more.

“Bates Turkey restaurant is always a scheduled stop for my family when we travel south from our home in Birmingham,” says author and writer Denise George. “We look forward to a delicious, healthy dinner, kind and courteous service, and a friendly, comfortable dining room. Bates also serves up lots of smiles that make us feel like part of the Bates family. Knowing their incredible story makes the dining experience that much more enjoyable.”

In addition to the restaurant, Mr. Bill envisioned a delivery service where customers could call in or order online. He designed a unique Low-Boy Ice Chest that could ship a roasted turkey via UPS. Five years ago, the company changed the chest to one with thicker walls and which meets stricter specifications for shipping their products.

“One of the goals of our father, Bill, was to raise the healthiest turkeys possible for the consumer,” Becky says. “With five generations of Bates in the business, we plan to continue to produce the best turkeys on the market, while developing new recipes for turkey products.”


Turkey talk

Do you know these turkey facts? A four-ounce serving of roasted breast, skin removed, contains:

  • 153 calories
  • 34 grams of protein (higher than many other cooked meats
  • Riboflavin and niacin, important B vitamins
  • 94 mg of cholesterol (lowest in cholesterol of popular meats)
  • Nutrition needed for those watching their weight, diabetics and heart patients

Source: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association


For more information on Bates Turkey Farm, Inc. call (334) 227-4505. For the Bates House of Turkey Restaurant, located on Interstate 65 at Exit 130, call (334) 382-6123. Visit the farm online at batesturkey.com.

Alabama Recipes: Biscuits

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Beyond the Basics

By Jennifer Kornegay | Photos by Michael Cornelison

Unlike your average roll, biscuits are far more than just some side bread; it may be humble, but the biscuit is an undeniable staple of Southern cuisine. Sure, they’re functional, useful for sopping up grits, gravies or for pushing that unruly little pile of purple-hull peas up on your fork.

But biscuits can also stand on their own. Some Southern restaurants can credit their biscuits almost entirely for their success. Think back on some of the truly delicious meals you’ve had, and if biscuits were there, they may have stolen the show and surely played a strong supporting role at the very least.

All of this evidence pointing to the prominence of biscuits in our culinary culture helps answer the question, “Why make biscuits?”. The reply for “How should I make biscuits?” is a bit more subjective. Some will swear that the quintessential biscuit of our region must be made with shortening and buttermilk. Plenty of authentic Southerners opt for butter and whole milk instead, proving there is more than one way to bake a “real” biscuit.

They come in many sizes, ranging from “catheads” the size of a baseball, to diminutive half-dollars you can eat in one bite. They even come in shapes other than round. True biscuit lovers usually aren’t picky on these points; I’ll happily take a warm biscuit of any size or shape, any day.

Once you’ve found your favorite version of the “basic” biscuit, consider your options for add-ons. Biscuits certainly don’t require any embellishment (more than a pat or two of butter), but that hasn’t stopped folks from developing new recipes that call for fruit, cheese or even fresh herbs.

I’m not suggesting you stop making the biscuits you and your family already know and love. But it never hurts to try something new too, so check out the twists on tradition that came in with this month’s reader-submitted recipes.

− Jennifer Kornegay


Cook of the Month

Aileen Russell, Joe Wheeler EMC

Aileen Russell took a biscuit recipe from her grandmother and spiced it up a bit, adding aromatic cinnamon as the star ingredient to create her Cinnamon Biscuits. She first made them for some hungry Boy Scouts. “My husband is a Scout leader, and we always have Scouts at our house. I made these to feed them one day, and they gobbled them up in a matter of seconds,” she said. She figured if teenage boys liked them that much, maybe others would too. And they do. “The Scouts always ask for them, and others love them as well. It has become a go-to recipe for me,” she said.

She sent it in for our food pages so she could share the simple way to satisfy any kind and any size crowd. “I thought others may like to add this to their recipe repertoire because they are so good, and it is so easy to adapt. You can make more or less depending on how many people you are serving,” she said.

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Cinnamon Biscuits

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped golden raisinsGlaze:
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir dry ingredients and raisins together. Add sour cream and mix well. Dump dough out onto a floured surface, and using well-floured hands, pat dough down until it is about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a biscuit cutter. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tops turn light brown. Spoon glaze over hot biscuits. Makes around 14 medium sized biscuits.

Glaze: Mix all ingredients together. If too thick to spoon easily, add a couple drop of water.


Sour Cream Biscuits

  • 2 sticks real butter, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
    Dash (less than 1/8 teaspoon) garlic powder OR a sprinkling (approximately 1 teaspoon) of fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary

In a bowl, combine softened butter with sour cream. Add the flour and mix all ingredients. Drop a rounded tablespoonful into greased miniature muffin pans. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown. Yields 24.

Note: If you do not wish to serve immediately, cook until almost brown. Remove from pan and store at room temperature. Just before serving, place on a cookie sheet and warm in oven. To freeze, cook until almost brown. Cool then freeze.

Fran Turner, Baldwin EMC


Angel Biscuits

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1½ packages yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk (can use 2 cups regular milk plus 2 tablespoons of vinegar)
  • Cooking oil

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening. Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Add this and buttermilk to dry ingredients. Grease the batter with 2 tablespoons oil. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use. May be kept indefinitely. When ready to bake, spoon out as many as you need on a greased pan, and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Myrtle Waters, Southern Pine EC


Cream Biscuits

  • 1½ cups self-rising flour
  • ½ pint whipping cream (not whipped)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder

Mix all ingredients quickly. Knead slightly. Cut and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

LaCretia W. Bevel, North Alabama EC


7-Up Biscuits

  • 4cups Bisquick
  • 1 cup 7-Up soda
  • 1cup sour cream
  • Butter

Mix all ingredients together. Melt ¼ cup butter and pour onto baking sheet. Lay biscuits on pan. Cook at 350 degrees until golden brown. Makes 10-12 biscuits

Christa Atchley, North Alabama EC


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Quick Cheese Biscuits

  • 1½ cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese

Spray pan with nonstick spray. Mix ingredients to soft dough. Beat 30 seconds. If too sticky, add more Bisquick (up to 1/4 cup). Drop onto baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees.

Lisa Mask, Tallapoosa River EC


Cream Cheese and

Chive Biscuits

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½cup chopped green chives
  • 18-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and chives until well combined. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the cream cheese into the dry ingredients until it forms pea-size pieces. Add the buttermilk and stir just until combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Roll or pat to ½-inch thickness. Cut into 12 rounds with a 3-inch cutter or make 30 small biscuits with a 1½-inch cutter. Press straight down without twisting or they will not rise properly. Put the biscuits, barely touching each other, in an ungreased 12-inch round pan. Bake either size for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve at once.

Pamela Pack, Coosa Valley EC


Mayonnaise Rolls

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise

Mix ingredients together and drop into well greased muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Makes 6-8 rolls. Serve warm with preserves or honey. (Can be made as drop biscuits using a greased cookie sheet.)

Jenifer Zamora, Central Alabama EC


Wheel Biscuits

  • 2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup Crisco oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a small cast iron skillet with cooking spray. Add buttermilk and oil to flour. Mix until well blended with a fork until you get it to the desired thickness. Pour into prepared skillet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until desired brownness, and until done. Place cooked wheel on a serving dish.  Cut into serving sizes. Enjoy! Serve with syrup, jelly, preserves or just by itself.  

Rebecca McCarter, Pioneer EC


Freezer Biscuits

  • 5 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shortening
  • ½ cup warm water

Sift dry ingredients and cut in shortening. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk. Add milk and dry ingredients and mix well. Turn onto floured surface and knead several times. Roll and cut to desired thickness. Freeze. Defrost 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 400 degrees until brown. Yields about 35 biscuits.

Julia Barnard, Union Grove, Ala.


Send us your recipes!

Please send us your original recipes, developed by you or family members, and not ones copied from a book or magazine. You may adapt a recipe from another source by changing as little as the amount of one ingredient. Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

Recipe themes and deadlines:

January – Comfort Food, Nov. 8

February – Cooking for Two, Dec. 8

March – Lemons, Jan. 8

Gardens: Saving the Season

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Keep holiday plants alive and thriving for years to come

The gorgeous blooms of fall mums and holiday plants such as amaryllis, Christmas cactus and poinsettias are a delight to see this time of year. The fate of those plants once they’ve bloomed their hearts out, however, can be troublesome.

Though all these plants bring festive color, texture and sometimes fragrance to our homes and offices, all too often they are tossed in the trash or compost once their splendor is spent or the season is over. It seems such a waste, but that waste can be reduced, if not avoided, with a little nurturing.

Since each plant species has different, specific needs, knowing how to nurture their individual needs is important. However, many times these plants don’t come with care instructions, so you may have to do some research on your own. If that’s the case, consult your local garden center or Alabama Cooperative Extension System expert or research the plants at your local library or online (though make sure to use credible garden resources; not everything we read on the internet is true!).

What’s important is to care for them properly from the minute they come in the door, which ensures they are healthy and happy throughout the season and prepares them for a long and happy future. Using your research findings, provide them with the proper amount of light and water and make sure they are not exposed to extreme cold or heat.

When they stop blooming or you’re through using them for seasonal decorations, it’s time to settle them in for those long winter nights. If you’re planning to keep them in their original containers for a while, remove any foil, paper or plastic holiday wrapping from around their pots and make sure the pots have holes in the base to allow water to drain away. If the plants seem root-bound or crowded in their current containers, transfer them into larger pots for overwintering.

A number of plants, such as mums and the small rosemary shrubs often sold during the holidays as decorative potted plants, can become permanent additions to your outdoor landscape. Other plants that you want to repot for the coming year can be put into a sheltered spot in the landscape or placed in a cold frame for the winter, then repotted in the spring. Still others, such as poinsettias and Christmas cactus, can be kept in their existing pots, but need to be tucked away in a dark, temperate spot for a while to give them a rest period before they will re-bloom.

Again, each plant species likely has specific needs, so make sure you do that research to ensure you are giving them the appropriate kind of nurturing. To get you started, here are some basic hints for two of the easiest plants to save this fall and winter.

Mums
While they are blooming, keep the soil around your mums moist but not soggy, and give them lots of sunlight. You can also pinch off spent flowers to prolong bloom.

Once it finishes blooming, store a potted mum in a protected area, such as a garage, basement or storage shed, or plant it in a sunny spot in the landscape and give it a blanket of loose mulch. Keep the mum lightly watered and leave dead foliage on the plants until it begins to put out new green growth, then trim off dead plant material and watch it come back to life.

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Amaryllis
Keep flowering amaryllis in a cool area of the house and water just enough to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Cut off flower stalks as each bloom fades but leave the foliage. New flowers may emerge throughout the winter so don’t give up on them right away.

When they stop blooming entirely, you can leave them in their pots as houseplants throughout the year or plant them directly into the landscape. At this point they need lots of sunlight to encourage foliage growth.

If you want an amaryllis to re-bloom for the holidays, stop watering the bulb in mid-August and place it in a closet or other cool, dry place. Eight to 10 weeks before you want it to bloom, bring the amaryllis out of storage, place it in a sunny spot and begin to water it regularly. New flower stalks should begin to emerge just in time for a holiday show.


November Tips

  • Cover outside faucets to protect them from freezing.
  • Drain hoses and store them in a frost-free location.
  • Plant beets, carrots, radishes, garlic, asparagus and strawberries.
  • Plant cold-hardy annual flowers such as pansies.
  • Plant woody shrubs, vines, trees and roses.
  • Seal containers of unused pesticides and store them freeze-protected locations.
  • Turn the compost pile.
  • Mulch newly planted trees and shrubs and tender perennials.
  • Clean mowers and other gardening tools before storing them for the winter.
  • Start collecting seed and plant catalogs.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.