Setting the Bar

-- By Alabama Living Magazine

If the past five months of staying at home have taxed your culinary skills, it might be time to spice up family meals with a “bar” party. “Bar” food can mean anything from serving up the ingredients for stuffing a taco shell, topping a baked potato, sprinkling a bowl of ice cream, or even, as in the case of our September Cook of the Month, filling a melt-in-your-mouth crepe.  Creating a food bar, which is really just another name for a make-your-own buffet, lets your guests choose their favorite fillings and fixings, in whatever amount they like. Pull out your favorite bowls and cups (it doesn’t matter if they don’t match) and fill them with pre-cut veggies, fruit slices, ground beef, chicken, shredded cheese, chopped nuts, or whatever your crowd prefers. The recipes our readers have provided this month are just starters, so use your imagination, and set the bar high for some delicious, and different, mealtimes. – Lenore Vickrey


Crock Pot Baked Potatoes are an easy way to feed a large crowd. A baked potato bar is one of the easiest ways to have a delicious meal with very little work involved.

   Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market, set up your crock pot in the morning to bake your potatoes and voila! You have an easy meal with very little effort. 

   Set that crock pot to warm to keep them toasty once done. Put out all of the fine fixin’s and you have yourself a great meal that can be customized to fit anyone’s tastes! We love them with Alabama white sauce. That recipe plus many more can be found at thebutteredhome.com.

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

  • 6-8 russet potatoes, equal in size
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons sea salt

   Wash and dry potatoes. Pierce potatoes with a fork on all sides. Drizzle a little canola oil on top of an aluminum foil square. Sprinkle all sides with sea salt and wrap tightly in foil. Do this for each potato.

   Place in crock pot. If you are baking more than what will cover the bottom, it is ok to stack them on top of one another. For six to eight potatoes, cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. For nine or more potatoes, cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours.

   Carefully remove from crock pot, bust open and serve with all of your favorite toppings!


Italian Salad Bar

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Black or green olives
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Pepperoncini peppers
  • Croutons
  • Sliced cucumbers

Shred both lettuces and toss together in a large bowl. Line up small bowls of ingredients by the lettuce bowl. Place bottles of dressing (cook’s choice) by the salad. Place your main dish or dishes (lasagna, rigatoni, spaghetti, ravioli, etc.) and a basket of toasted garlic bread beside the salad. Do not dress the lettuce ahead of time as it will wilt. Use large serving spoons and let everyone help themselves.

Glenda Weigel, Baldwin EMC


Bloody Mary Chicken Tacos

  • 1 whole chicken or your choice of chicken parts 
  • 1 bottled Bloody Mary mix (we use Zing Zang)
  • 11/2 white or red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Shredded quesadilla cheese or cheddar cheese
  • Corn tortillas or taco shells
  • Pico de gallo
  • Avocado, sliced

In a slow cooker, place chicken and sliced onions. Add enough bloody Mary mix to almost cover chicken. Cook on high until chicken is tender. Shred chicken and place back into crockpot. Brown tortillas or warm taco shells. Fill tortillas with chicken, pico de gallo, cheese and sliced avocado.

Kathryn Torres, Dixie EC


Cook of the Month: Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC

Robin O’Sullivan loves the idea of a crepe bar for a different twist on our “bar food” theme. As a vegetarian, she doesn’t serve meat or fish, but always wants her guests to know that “plant-based meals can be delicious and exciting!”  For the savory part of her crepe bar, she likes to offer a spread of seasonal, local vegetables, “finished with a savory sauce. Carnivores could certainly offer chicken, beef or shrimp,” she adds. “I’m definitely a sweets person, so chocolate-filled crepes will always be my first choice” for the sweet portion of the bar, as well as fresh fruits topped with homemade whipped cream. If you want to keep your crepes warm, you can keep them in the oven or on a warming plate, “though they taste fine after being at room temperature for a while.”

Robin, who teaches history at Troy University, hasn’t had much opportunity to entertain due to the pandemic, but when it’s safe to gather again, she says, “I would like to hostess a crepe bar party for my colleagues!” We could go for that!  – Lenore Vickrey

Optional Savory fillings

  • Swiss cheese
  • Chèvre scrambled eggs
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Sautéed spinach
  • Mashed black beans

Optional Sweet fillings

  • Sliced fruit
  • Chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Caramel dip
  • Chocolate chips
  • Almond butter

Make crêpes ahead of time: In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add milk, butter and flour; beat until smooth. Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease lightly with oil. Pour scant 1/4 cup batter into hot pan, immediately tilting pan until batter covers bottom. Cook until edges start to dry and center is set. Turn and cook other side until light brown. Set crêpes aside, separated by waxed paper or parchment paper, until cool. When it’s time to have your crêpes bar, set piles of crêpes at one end of the table. Spread toppings on table in individual dishes. Allow each person to fill crêpes as desired.

Themes and Deadlines:

Dec.: Cinnamon | September 4
January:  Winter Greens | October 2
February: Chocolate | November 6

3 ways to submit:

Online: alabamaliving.coop
Email: recipes@alabamaliving.coop
Mail:  Recipes, P.O. Box 244014 Montgomery, AL 36124

Please send us your original recipes (developed  or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50 and may win “Cook of the Month” once per calendar year.

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