Navigate / search

New touch-control faucets save water and energy

Q: My kitchen faucet has a very slow drip and the finish is worn. I want to replace it with one that is attractive and convenient to use. I often wash dishes by hand, so what is the most efficient design to purchase?

A: Most people think of a kitchen faucet as just a simple valve to turn water on or off and to set the water temperature. But the proper selection of a kitchen faucet has a significant impact on water and energy savings, not to mention convenience, health and kitchen decor.

You should never ignore a dripping faucet, even if it seems to be leaking cold water. The leak may actually be coming from the hot water side, but it feels cold by the time it gets to the faucet and drips out. Even a slow leak from the hot water line can add up to substantial energy costs over time. Keep in mind, heating water is the greatest home energy consumer following general home heating and cooling.

Although you will not see it directly on your electric bill, using cold water consumes energy too. It requires a great deal of energy to purify, pump and treat.

Two primary factors affecting water and energy efficiency of a kitchen faucet are the maximum flow rate and the convenience of controlling the flow and temperature. For many years, two-handle (hot and cold) controls were popular. Today, one-handle kitchen faucets are almost always used. In addition to defining your style and decor, the size and shape of the faucet may impact your overall water consumption.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a listing for plumbing products, similar in concept to EnergyStar for appliances, called WaterSense. To qualify for a WaterSense label, the faucet must be 20 percent more efficient than standard products in a category. The industry standard is 2.2 gpm (gallons per minute) maximum water flow rate. Look for the WaterSense label.

The most recent, convenient and efficient feature for kitchen faucets is the touch-control feature. Without having to turn off the water via the handle, the water flow can be controlled with the wave or touch of a hand. By not having to adjust the handle each time, water is not wasted by readjusting the temperature.

This provides significant water and energy savings – particularly when rinsing during food preparation and when washing dishes by hand. For most people, using a standard faucet consumes more water and energy when washing dishes by hand than when running a properly loaded efficient dishwasher. With the touch-control feature, careful hand washing can be more efficient than the dishwasher.

Another advantage of this feature is the faucet handle is touched less often with dirty hands, so the attractive finish lasts longer. Also, with all the health concerns today about diseases from cross contamination of foods, touching the handle less is a real plus. Very few people wash the handle each time they have touched it.

Of the two no-hands technologies, I use the type that senses touch from your body (hand, forearm, elbow, etc.). It detects the slight electrical change from your touch to open or close a special valve. For example, when I am rinsing dishes, I can hold several plates in each hand and just tap anywhere on the faucet fixture with my elbow to start the water flow and stop it when they are rinsed.

The other technology has a proximity sensor on the top and in the front of the faucet neck. Waving a hand over the top sensor triggers the solenoid. This does require one free hand. The sensor on the front of the neck senses hands when they are in a typical hand-washing position.

Tall spouts with a pull-down sprayer are convenient to use and also result in savings. They provide a professional look, which is popular in today’s kitchens. Depending upon the under-cabinet clearance, select the tallest one you can. Some are as tall as one foot. You will appreciate the height when you have to rinse a large platter or fill a large pot.

The pull-down sprayer increases the functionality of the faucet. If you use the sprayer feature option often, select one with a pause button. This allows you to stop the flow temporarily when moving utensils or rinsing various foods without having to wave over or touch the fixture.

The following companies offer efficient kitchen faucets: American Standard, 800-442-1902,; Delta Faucet, 800-345-3358,; Kohler, 800-456-4537,; Moen, 800-289-6636,; and Pfister, 800-732-8238, A

James Dulley is a nationally syndicated engineering consultant based in Cincinnati.

Control triggers to reduce asthma episodes


Asthma is recognized as one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. The good news is that although there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled through appropriate medication use and environmental awareness.

Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disease that causes the airways of the lungs to tighten and constrict, leading to wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. The inflammation also causes the airways of the lungs to become especially sensitive to a variety of asthma triggers that make asthma worse. The particular triggers and the severity of symptoms can differ for each person with asthma.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that asthma affected 7 million children and 18.7 million adult Americans in 2010. According to the 2011 National Vital Statistics report, there were 3,388 primary asthma deaths in the United States in 2009. This is equal to nine American asthma deaths daily. One out of every ten school-age children has asthma, and it is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to a chronic condition.

Asthma typically begins during the childhood years, but it can be difficult to diagnose. I know because it has affected my own family. We learned that one of my sons had exercise-induced asthma only when he passed out at school after running a mile. Beginning with that experience, he started carrying an inhaler and is now an adult doing fine. Remember that children cannot always control their own environment, and may need you to advocate for them.

When people come in contact with an asthma trigger, it can cause a sudden worsening of symptoms. The American Lung Association has made the following suggestions to help reduce environmental asthma triggers for children and adults.

  • Do your best to avoid respiratory and sinus infections; get a flu vaccine every year.
  • Discuss any medicines or food allergies (such as peanuts and shellfish) you may have with your health care provider.
  • Control sources of indoor air pollutants; avoid all types of smoke.
  • Limit time outdoors during high pollen times of the year (spring and fall) and in extreme temperatures (summer and winter).
  • Control animal allergens; vacuum and damp dust weekly and keep pets out of bedrooms.
  • If prescribed, use quick-relief medicine 15-30 minutes before physical activity and monitor air quality if exercising outside.
  • Control cockroach and pest allergens; reduce exposure to dust mites.
  • Choose fragrance-free perfumes, deodorants, and cleaning supplies.
  • Clean up mold and control moisture.

Finally, stress can be a significant trigger of asthma flare-ups. Emotions such as laughing or crying too hard, feeling anxious, angry, fearful, and yelling can trigger an asthma episode. Your health care provider can help you recognize what makes your asthma worse and help you find solutions.

Jim McVay, Dr.P.A., is director of the Bureau of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Ring in the new year with a COLA

Happy new year from Social Security! Put down the champagne and ring in the new year with a COLA! And we don’t mean the soda. In 2015, nearly 64 million Americans who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase to their monthly benefit payments of 1.7 percent.

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2015 is $1,328 (up from $1,306 in 2014). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2015 is $1,165 (up from $1,146 in 2014).

For people who receive SSI, the maximum federal payment amount increased to $733 (up from $721 in 2014).

Other Social Security changes in 2015 are also worth noting. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000 in 2014). A worker will earn one credit toward Social Security coverage after paying taxes on $1,220 in earnings in 2015 (up from $1,200 in 2014). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about 10 years of work).

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at

The Social Security Act outlines how the COLA is calculated. To read more about the COLA, please visit

To learn more about other changes in 2015, read our fact sheet at

Kylle’ McKinney, Alabama Social Security Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached in Montgomery at 866-593-0914, ext. 26265, or at

Tiny houses

Energy efficiency and the ‘tiny house movement’

By Thomas Kirk

A “tiny house movement” has gained attention nationally as a reaction to the increased construction of larger homes. Popularized by the documentary “Tiny,” a television show, and other media coverage, these homes typically measure less than 1,000 square feet – a far cry from the typical American home.

In 1973, the average U.S. home measured 1,660 square feet. Since then, U.S. homes have grown by over 60 percent to reach an average size of 2,598 square feet in 2013 – despite a slight dip in 2008 through 2010.

A “tiny house movement” has gained national attention as some individuals are looking for extreme ways to save energy and be more efficient. But what are the factors that determine how much energy a home consumes? Photo by Boneyard Studios
A “tiny house movement” has gained national attention as some individuals are looking for extreme ways to save energy and be more efficient. But what are the factors that determine how much energy a home consumes? Photo by Boneyard Studios

But do smaller homes actually use less energy? What are the factors that determine how much energy a house consumes?
As the size of homes increases, so do the energy demands on it. There’s additional space to be heated or cooled, more lighting is required, and it’s likely that the number of appliances will increase as well. Examining only a home’s size will show a strong positive correlation between the square footage of a home and its energy consumption.

To look at an extreme case, homes that measure over 6,400 square feet (the top 1 percent of homes) use two and a half times as much electricity as home sized at 1,600 square feet; but this isn’t the whole story. Other factors such as the age of the home, climate, income and behavior influence energy consumption as well. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that homes built after the year 2000 use only 2 percent more energy than homes built before 2000 even though the newer homes are on average 30 percent larger and contain more electronic appliances.

There are several reasons for this equilibrium in energy use despite the greater building size. First, homes are becoming more energy efficient. They are lit with CFLs and LEDs instead of incandescents and use more efficient appliances. For example, an older refrigerator can use about twice as much energy as a newer model of similar capacity.

Second, homes are being built with more energy-efficient features. This includes better building shells, modern windows and more insulation. Larger homes in particular are more likely to include these types of energy-saving features. These changes are due not just to technological advances but policy changes that tightened building codes and raised the minimum energy efficiency standards for appliances. Programs such as EnergyStar have helped to educate consumers about the efficiency and cost-savings of their products.

Lastly, more Americans are moving south to more moderate climates. This means that less energy is used on space heating, and although the southern migration has resulted in a 56 percent increase in energy used for air conditioning, it’s not enough to offset the space heating reduction.

What this ultimately means is that the amount of energy a home uses is not pre-determined by its size. While moving into a tiny home may not be practical or possible — they are often not allowed under current zoning regulations and only make up around 1 percent of homes – realize both large homes and small homes have the potential to be efficient or inefficient.
Rather than moving into a tiny home to save energy, consider looking into energy-efficient retrofits and contact your electric cooperative for ways to save.

Thomas Kirk is a technical research analyst specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Alabama Bookshelf: Jan. 2015

Each month, we offer a summary of recent books about Alabama people, people with Alabama ties, and/or written by Alabama authors. Let us know about any books you’ve read recently that meet those criteria by emailing us at

Tinsley Harrison, M.D

Tinsley Harrison, M.D.: Teacher of Medicine, by James A. Pittman Jr., M.D.; NewSouth Books, January 2015; $45

Tinsley Harrison – a physician, teacher, researcher and writer – is one of the most important medical figures of the 20th century. He edited the first five editions of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, considered an essential medical text; he also served as the dean of three different medical schools, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Author Pittman studied with Harrison and spent six years interviewing him at the end of his life.


Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism and African-American Literature, by Trudier Harris; University of Alabama Press, November 2014; $49.95

This book is a study of how the character and persona of King, one of the most revered figures in American history, is captured and reflected in works of African-American literature. King has been one of the strongest influences upon the creative world of generations of writers of varying political and social persuasions.


The Historian Behind the History: Conversations with Southern Historians, edited by Megan L. Bever and Scott A. Suarez; University of Alabama Press, December 2014; $49.95

This collection of interviews with leading Southern historians, conducted over the course of a decade, will be of interest primarily to graduate students and professors. But the themes covered in the interviews – antebellum and African-American history, Reconstruction, civil rights, the Depression, the New Deal and Jim Crow culture, among them – may interest an audience beyond academia.


The A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Landmark, by Marie A. Sutton; The History Press, November 2014; $19.99

Traveling in the South in the 1950s could be difficult for African-Americans, as many hotels and restaurants didn’t open their door to minorities. But in Birmingham, black entrepreneur A.G. Gaston created a first-class motel and lounge that became a symbol of pride for the community. This book chronicles its history as a headquarters for the civil rights movement and a place of rest for famous entertainers and activists.

Alabama Outdoors: Fishing new lakes

David Bruce of Ranger, Ga., shows off a catfish he caught while fishing on the Alabama River at Selma.

New year, new waters!

Try fishing new lakes for the adventure of it this year

By John N. Felsher

Although old familiar waters run deep with memories, many anglers love to fish new lakes, if for nothing else than a change of scenery.

“If somebody fishes every weekend at the same spot with the same bait, it gets old,” remarks Gary Klein, a professional bass angler. “Force yourself to try new lures and new techniques. It’s fun to do something different. It’s adventure. Go, learn and push yourself. You’ll become a better fisherman.”

With so many good lakes and rivers all across Alabama, anglers don’t need to travel 3,000 miles to visit an entirely different habitat type. From any point in the state, anglers can find new adventures after just a short drive in any direction. From the cold, clear trout waters of the Sipsey Fork below Lake Lewis Smith to the massive delta estuary near Mobile, anglers find many diverse habitats and species all across Alabama.

Professional anglers like Klein might fish a tournament in a steaming brackish tidal delta one day, a deep glacial lake a week later and a rocky desert impoundment or swift, rain-swollen river following that. Even anglers who fish the same waters every weekend for years can’t possibly learn everything about an area, so how do professionals quickly master new waters and consistently catch fish under all conditions? Before ever launching a boat, professional anglers develop a game plan.

Developing a game plan begins with research. Talk to guides or anglers who fish the chosen area regularly. Call local bait and tackle shops. Talk to the state biologist for that area. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources publishes good information about fishing across the state at

“I try to gather enough information from local sources to know what the fishing is like,” recommends Ken Cook, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “At this point, I’m not interested in where to fish. I just want to know what the fishery is like. I want to know what to expect.”

To update an old telephone book slogan, “Let your mouse do the crawling.” The internet provides an almost inexhaustible source of information. Anglers can find articles from local newspapers, sporting magazines and other websites. Many guides regularly post information, tips and photos about their favorite lakes.

Jimmy Mason, a bass pro from Rogersville, shows off two smallmouth bass he caught on an Alabama rig while fishing at Pickwick Lake near Florence. Photo by John N. Felsher
Jimmy Mason, a bass pro from Rogersville, shows off two smallmouth bass he caught on an Alabama rig while fishing at Pickwick Lake near Florence. Photo by John N. Felsher

With a click of a mouse, anglers can also view internet maps and detailed satellite photos for no cost. Viewers can frequently zero in on a particular shoreline or cove to find channels, tributaries, hidden backwaters and other places that might hold fish. Satellite photos might even reveal deep holes, humps, sandbars and underwater structure. Some websites even give GPS coordinates for selected points. Using this technology, anglers can eliminate marginal waters to avoid wasting time.

“Anyone can eliminate 90 percent of the water before they ever get to the lake by knowing seasonal patterns and weather conditions,” explains Denny Brauer, a former Bassmaster Classic champion. “That means a good fisherman needs to search only 10 percent of the water to find that magic one percent that fish are utilizing. Then, that angler needs only to figure out how to catch them in that one percent of the water.”

Of course, internet browsing cannot match time spent on the water. On a large lake, anglers cannot possibly learn everything they need to know in a short time. Pick a cove, creek channel or shoreline and study it. Remain in that area and resist the temptation to fish all over the lake.

Technology and a good plan can help anglers find likely spots, but can’t make fish bite. Find out what the locals use or start with proven, time-tested lures and tactics that worked elsewhere under similar conditions. Try to mimic the size or color of dominant natural forage in that lake at that time of year.

“Keep in mind what fish should be doing at that time, depending upon the season,” Brauer advises. “Water temperature dictates which baits are most productive. Once anglers start getting bites, they can usually establish a pattern.”

People wishing to explore an unfamiliar lake might book a day with a licensed charter captain. By hiring a guide, anglers avoid a lot of guesswork. Good captains keep up with fish movements and activity for their areas. Most captains provide the proper baits and equipment. Some captains even provide food and refreshments or clean the catch.

Paying a guide for a day of fishing costs money, but anglers who only fish a few times a year may actually save cash by hiring a captain instead of buying a boat. While a boat sits idle, owners must still make note and insurance payments, not to mention perform maintenance and repairs. Before fishing, boat owners buy fuel, bait, ice and other items. Add up all those expenses and anglers might buy three or four charter trips a year and still save money.

Before fishing any waters, set a simple goal – just to have fun! If nothing else, a little change of scenery occasionally can’t hurt. Enjoy yourself on the water this year.

Alabama Gardens: Garden Reading


A garden of reading delights to wile away the winter

January Gardening Tips

  • Make a year-long list of monthly yard and garden projects to tackle.
  • Clean up limbs, leaves and other trash from the garden and yard.
  • Plant dormant trees and shrubs, roses and spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Sow seeds for early spring vegetables.
  • Keep newly planted landscape plants watered.
  • Attend gardening workshops, short courses and events.
  • Look for more winter deals on gardening and outdoor equipment.
  • Test your soil.
  • Keep windows and houseplants clean.
  • Feed the birds.
  • Plant a kitchen herb garden.

January may not be the best month for gardening outside, but it is a great time to curl up with some good gardening reads.

If you need a little garden inspiration flavored with humor, introspection and soulfulness, check out a newly released collection of columns and essays produced by GreenPrints, “The Weeder’s Digest.”

GreenPrints is a quarterly print and e-journal that took root 25 years ago when its founder, Pat Stone, left a job as a garden editor at Mother Earth News and, along with his wife Becky and a small but dedicated staff, launched GreenPrints as a little black-and-white magazine that focused on the human, not the how-to, side of gardening.

Since then, GreenPrints has published stories showcasing the heart, soul and art of gardening, earned the adoration of many subscribers and won two Best Small Garden Magazine in America awards.

It just published its 100th issue filled with stories from the likes of Mark Twain, fantasy writer Garth Nix and other less famous but exceptionally gifted writers. Their stories about Barbie flower fairies, hummingbirds in hand, duck-invaded gardens and many other topics are a delight and the illustrations are as beautiful as the words. To get a copy, go to or call 800-569-0602.

If you’re in the mood for more literary reading, get a copy of Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets, a collection of poems about gardening and farming edited by Alabama poet, freelance writer and educator Jennifer Horne. This lovely book actually came out in 2003 but it remains one of my go-to favorites, especially when I crave a moment of reflection or want to be inspired in my own writing and gardening. It’s available in paperback online or at local bookstores.

And if you want to turn your reading time into learning time, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has information on all things gardening, most of which is available (often at no charge) through its county offices or at

A new ACES book that is only available on iBooks at the moment is also fabulous. Gardening in the South uses Master Gardener training and university research to provide detailed information, tips and tricks on successful Southern gardening, all enhanced with great illustrations and videos as well as quizzes at the end of each chapter. Search for it in the iTunes store.

If you want to fill your calendar with reasons to celebrate gardening and the great outdoors, check out the National Day Calendar website at Here you’ll find monthly lists of national and international celebrations, from the traditional to the quirky, such as National Weed Appreciation Day (March 28), National Water a Flower Day (May 30) and National Johnny Appleseed Day (Sept. 26).

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

Worth the Drive: Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort: Traditional favorites made with the freshest ingredients


By Jennifer Kornegay

| Video – Chef Tripp Mauldin talks about his fresh approach to southern cooking |

What’s in a name? At Southern Comfort in Hope Hull, a lot. The moniker is a spot-on description of what you’ll find inside: Southern food, including Alabama-style barbecue, and comfort, from the delicious preparations of the dishes you grew up with to the friendly service.

Walk past the pig logo on the front door and a sincere “Welcome home!” from one or more of the wait staff greets you before you’re quickly seated. Drinks come out fast, and if you know what you want, an attentive server will take your order in a jiffy.

But this is no time to rush, because while you’ll probably recognize everything on the menu, this is not your average meat ’n three lunch place. Southern Comfort’s owner Tripp Mauldin is a classically trained chef. The Montgomery native graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school in Colorado and cooked in San Francisco and Napa Valley, Calif., before returning home and opening the restaurant in early November 2014.

Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean he’s messing around and “fancying up” your favorites; his background mainly influences his ingredient choices. “I wanted to do Southern staples, but I wanted to do them with the best, freshest ingredients,” he said. “And to make everything from scratch, here in-house.”

There are no frozen or processed foods lurking in the kitchen at Southern Comfort. Sauces and dressings don’t come from a bottle. The barbecue is smoked in the pit out back. And you can taste this attention to detail on every plate.


Tripp is especially proud of his barbecue, and after a few bites of his smoked chicken quarter with white sauce, you’ll be proud of him, too. Soft shreds of yard bird come off the bones clean, and the pepper and vinegar punch of the mayo-based condiment (one of our state’s most famous claims to barbecue fame) amplifies the subtle flavor of the smoke-soaked meat.

Other standouts include fried chicken (Tripp believes they’ve got some of the best anywhere), country-fried steak, fried okra, collard greens and pulled pork, which you can dress with one of several homemade barbecue sauces. The one dubbed “spicy” packs a hint of heat that plays perfectly with the sweetness. The Dirty Fries (crispy potato slivers smothered in gravy and cheese sauce) are a necessary indulgence. And Tripp’s twist on beanie wienies will spark childhood memories.

Tripp is also using his barbecued meats in some refreshing ways, adding them to classics from regions even farther south than central Alabama. Try the barbecue Cuban sandwich or the barbecue chicken quesadilla.

And since no self-respecting Southern lunch would be complete with out dessert, Tripp whips up several sweet treats for his guests. The banana pudding is everything you’d expect but presented with a little extra flair, nestled in a mini-Mason jar under a cloud of real whipped cream.

In keeping with the Southern traditions the restaurant is honoring with its food, Southern Comfort is a family effort; Tripp’s parents are co-owners, and his mom Morning is usually there with him, serving her son’s dishes with a smile.

Next time you’re in need of some home cooking and the warm fuzzy feelings that come with it, grab a table at Southern Comfort. You’ll be fulfilled (and filled) by the familiar dishes offered and elated by Tripp’s expert execution of them.

Southern Comfort
210 Wasden Road, Hope Hull, AL

Jennifer Kornegay travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at Check out more of Jennifer’s food writing, recipes and recommendations on her blog, Chew on This at

Alabama Recipes: Soups


Happy 2015! Did you make a new year’s resolution? I try to come up with something easy every year so hopefully I don’t end up doing it only for a month or so. This year I hope to limit the amount of time I spend looking at my phone/tablet at the end of the day. It’s always fun to keep up with social media, the news and emails, but I know I spend too much time on those things and I want to spend more of that time with my family. I hope you enjoy these soup and chili recipes. Thank you to our cooks who share their special recipes for us to share with our readers. Submit your recipes here and check us out on Facebook for updates throughout the month.


Mary Tyler Spivey is a graduate of Huntingdon College
where she studied history and French but she also has a
passion for great food.

Contact her at

Cook of the month: Carissa Pittman, Age 12, Joe Wheeler EMC


Harvest Delight Soup

  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk  (use powder only; do not add water)
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 1/4 cups corn
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of thyme

Cut the green beans and celery. Peel and slice the carrots, and peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into about ¾-inch pieces.  Steam the carrots and potatoes.  Prepare the vegetable stock. When carrots are finished steaming, put them on a cutting board.  With a fork, mash the carrots well.  In a blender, blend the mashed carrots until smooth. Pour the mashed carrots into a pot.  Add the vegetable stock and stir.   Stir the milk powder and cornstarch into the soup.  Add the green beans, corn, celery, and potatoes.  Add the pepper and thyme; mix well.  Place the soup on the stove on medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Ladle soup into bowls and serve.  Garnish with whole wheat Club Crackers if desired.

Black-Eyed Pea Gumbo
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 4 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas with liquid
  • 1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound sausage, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion, pepper, and celery until tender. Pour in the chicken broth, and mix in rice, black-eyed peas with liquid, diced tomatoes and green chilies, diced tomatoes, sausage and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add water if soup is too thick.

Cynthia Rodgers, Southern Pine EC


Chicken and Dumplings

  • 3 quarts of water
  • 3-4 large chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 can cream of chicken
  • 1 large can evaporated milk
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 12 large flour tortillas torn into pieces (some small and some big pieces)

Boil chicken until done and tender. Take chicken out of water; let cool and shred chicken. Put last four ingredients into water and bring to a boil. Put pieces of tortillas into boiling water, stirring often, careful to not let stick. Add shredded chicken. Add water for thinner soup or more tortillas for thicker soup. If you let it sit, it will be better.

Donna Gilliam, Tombigbee EC

Chicken Corn Chowder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 8-oz. package sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 14.5-oz. cans chicken broth (99 percent fat free)
  • 1 16-oz. package frozen shoepeg corn or a can of shoepeg corn
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breasts (or rotisserie chicken from the store)
  • 1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • ½ cup orzo (found in pasta section) or use instant rice
  • Several fresh rosemary leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch

Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat; add mushrooms and onion, sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add chicken broth and all other ingredients except milk and flour. Simmer 10 minutes or until orzo is tender. Stir together milk and flour (or cornstarch) in a small bowl until well blended. Gradually stir into chowder and simmer 5 minutes.

Earnestine Pace, North Alabama EC

Easy Peasy Cheesy Potato Soup
  • Soup_Potato_1200

    4 cups diced peeled potatoes

  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery (optional)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can of water or milk
  • 1 can green peas (drained)
  • ½ pound Velveeta cheese

Cover potatoes and onions with water and boil until tender.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  For thicker soup, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch to 1/4 cup water or milk and add to soup mixture. Enjoy with cornbread or corn chips!

Mary F. Haga, Arab EC

Shrimp Bisque
  • Soups_ShrimpBis_300

    1 can cream of mushroom soup

  • 2 cans cream of potato soup
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 pint half and half
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning salt, to taste
  • Scallions as desired

Put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for four hours.

Terasa Driggers, Joe Wheeler EMC

8 Can Taco Soup
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.25 oz. can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 12.5 oz. can white chicken breast, drained*
  • 1 10.75 oz. can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 10 oz. can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1 packet taco seasoning

* I use shredded rotisserie chicken for a meatier soup.

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, cilantro or red onions.

Dotty Thomas, Baldwin EMC

Crock’n it contest winners

Cobbler recipe wins Alabama Living crockpot contest

A close-up of Kendra Lausman’s winning entry, Lausman’s Berry Delicious Crockpot Cobbler.

Kendra Lausman started using crockpots years ago when she was working full-time and raising four teenagers. Now retired, she still likes coming up with creative crockpot recipes, though she’s had to downsize the amount of food she makes.

Lausman, who lives in Montgomery, won $500 in the “Crockin’ It! with Alabama Living” contest at the Alabama National Fair in October. Lausman’s Berry Delicious Crockpot Cobbler took the top honors in the field of 24 dishes, judged by a panel that included several Alabama Living staffers.

Lausman says she has at least 300 cookbooks at home, and over the years each one has grown to include her hand-written notes and ideas. “I just keep experimenting until I get the taste I want.”

She didn’t expect to win, and was genuinely surprised when her name was called as the winner. “Everything that could go wrong did,” she says. But the judges like the creativity of her recipe, and the flavors of the berries meshed well with the cookie dough, which made up the dough part of the cobbler.

Recipes were required to include at least one Alabama product.

The magazine also sponsored “Alabama’s Best Cake” competition, which drew nine entries. Olivia Belle’s Southern Pecan Pie Cheesecake, made by Gretchen Loftin of Prattville, won first place and $125. We hope to continue our partnership with the Alabama National Fair in the coming years and will continue to share the winning recipes. – Allison Griffin

Crockin’ It with Alabama Living winning recipes

Berry Delicious Crock Pot Cobbler


Kendra Lausman, Montgomery
First place

  • 21 oz. strawberry pie filling
  • 12 oz. frozen blackberries
  • 12 oz. frozen raspberries
  • 21 oz. blueberry pie filling
  • 1/4 cup V8 Fusion strawberry/banana juice
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry extract
  • 1/4 cup Alaga Yellow Label syrup
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 16-ounce package Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • Optional: fresh berries and powdered sugar for topping

Spray butter-flavored cooking spray into large crockpot. Add strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Add pie fillings, V8 juice, strawberry extract, Alaga syrup and cornstarch. Mix well. Place sugar cookie dough over the top evenly. Cook on low for 5-6 hours until berries are thick and the topping is crispy. When cool enough to serve, garnish with fresh berries and powdered sugar. Can also serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Crockpot Chocolate Raspberry Mason Jar Brownies


Nicole Penn, Montgomery
Second place

  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced
  • 2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Alaga Yellow Label syrup
  • 1/3 cup + 6 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 half-pint Mason jars
  • Non-stick cooking spray


  • Fresh raspberries, whipped cream, finely chopped walnuts

Melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan on low. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, 1/3 cup of jam, vanilla and eggs. Add flour and baking powder, combining well. Divide batter among sprayed jars and add 1 teaspoon each of the remaining jam to tops of each jar. Cover each jar with foil and place in slow cooker. Pour enough water into the slow cooker until it comes about halfway up the jars. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm with whipping cream and fresh raspberries.

Cream cheese, Havarti and corn fiesta dip


Dennis Itson, Montgomery
Third place

  • 32 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes
  • 4 cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 8 oz. Havarti cheese
  • 11/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup Barber’s milk
  • Golden Flake tortilla chips

In a crockpot add cream cheese, Rotel, Havarti cheese, butter and corn. Start the pot on low until the key ingredients melt. Mix well, then turn on high to thicken right before serving. Add milk to taste and if it seems to thicken too quickly. Dip with Golden Flake tortilla chips.

Alabama’s Best Cake

Olivia Belle’s Southern pecan pie cheesecake

Gretchen Loftin, Prattville
First place


  • 1 3/4 cup vanilla wafers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • Pie filling:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla


  • 24 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla


  • Caramel
  • Toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the crust, combine wafers and brown sugar. Add butter, using a fork to blend. Press into a 10-inch spring cake pan, pushing crust mixture up sides of pan. Place on baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Turn oven down to 325 degrees. To make the pie filling, combine those ingredients above in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes to thicken. Pour into crust. To make the cheesecake, slowly mix cream cheese till creamy. Add sugar and blend. Add eggs one at a time blending after each. Add flour and blend. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla, then pour on top of pie mixture. Bake for one hour on 325 degrees and do not open the oven. Turn off oven, leaving cake in for an additional hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Place in fridge overnight. Remove from pan. Drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with toasted pecans.