Home cooks whip up some cheesy pleasers

Alabama Living Magazine
The ‘Say Cheese, Please’ winners, from left, Mary Lyons, Margaret Goins and Tif Smith, stand with Alabama National Fair 2021 president Seth Gowan.

Every fall, the Creative Living Center cooking contests at the Alabama National Fair draw an array of contestants hoping to score a ribbon (and some prize money) for their culinary concoctions.

Alabama Living continues to sponsor a contest at the Fair, and this year we continued with the theme of “Say Cheese, Please.” Our contestants whipped up some tasty dishes, and we’re happy to share the recipes with you. 

Next year, we’re planning to change our contest’s sponsored theme. What kind of food would tempt you to enter? Send an email to contact@alabamaliving.com and let us know!

First place Smoked Cream Cheese and Bacon Jam

Tif Smith, Montgomery

  • 12 ounces bacon
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • Spice Supreme brand of Smoky Rub  for Beef or Pork
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Alaga maple syrup
  • ¼ cup of your favorite jam (I use caramel apple jam made by Chicken and Sweets Southern YardBird of Prattville)
  • Red pepper flakes to taste

Fry bacon and retain grease. Add onion and saute until tender; set aside. Using a basting brush, apply bacon grease on one side and around edges of the cream cheese block and season with Smoky Rub seasoning. Place cream cheese, seasoned side down, inside a round iron skillet. Brush top with bacon grease and apply dry rub. Score cheese with backside of knife. Place in smoker for 1 hour and 45 minutes at 250 degrees F. I used pecan wood for smoking.

Bacon and sweet onion reduction:

While cheese is cooking, mix together vinegar, brown sugar, remaining bacon and onions and cook over medium heat until reduced. Add Alaga syrup and jam. Let simmer until it gets thick. After cheese comes out of the smoker, add the bacon jam to the top of the smoked cheese skillet. Serve with corn chips.


Second place Farmers Pie

Margaret Goins, Montgomery

  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • ½ chopped onion
  • 2 cups Colby cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped and blanched
  • 1 cup cooked brown wild rice
  • 1 tomato, cored and chopped
  • Small can sliced black olives
  • 1 pie crust
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage about five minutes; add onion and continue to cook until onion is fragrant and translucent. Drain thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, broccoli, rice, tomato and olives. Transfer into pie crust. Combine together eggs, whipping cream, garlic and pepper. Pour over sausage mixture. Back 10 minutes; reduce to 400 degrees and bake additional 35 minutes or until brown. Optional: Sprinkle more cheese on top and place back in oven five to 10 minutes to melt.


Third place Five Cheese Cheesy Pimento Spread

Mary Lyons, Tallassee

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup cottage cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup shredded white sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Gouda cheese

1 cup Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese

½ cup drained and pressed dry pimentos

In the mixing bowl attached to a stand mixer, add cream cheese, cottage cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and mayonnaise; mix well (about three minutes). Add shredded cheeses one at a time. Keep mixing until thoroughly mixed. Add pimentos and mix again. Spread on mini flatbreads or crackers or as a sandwich.

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