Navigate / search

Alabama Recipes: Chili

Chili_Updated Chili_pot2

Fight off the chill with Chili

There’s nothing more comforting on a cold day than a warm bowl of chili. It may be thick; it may be thin. It may be mild, with just a hint of spice, or it may burn the taste buds right off your tongue. There are countless ways to make chili, and everyone thinks theirs is best.

The quest to find the perfect recipe has spawned myriad chili cook off contests held around the country every year. There’s a National Chili Day (on Feb. 26) and even an International Chili Society, and according to the folks who organize it, chili has a long history in America, with the first batch being made in the early 1700s by immigrants from the Spanish Canary Islands. It became popular in our country as an easy but filling dish that cowboys could whip up over a campfire out on the range.

Today, regional specialties have popped up, leading to an often-heated argument over the addition or deletion of beans. Many in the Deep South include legumes, but in Texas, if it’s got beans, it ain’t chili. Folks in the heartland actually serve it over spaghetti noodles. No matter how you make it, when you do, go ahead and make a lot. It’s simple to create this hearty one-pot-wonder, leftovers freeze great, and it can be enjoyed as is or as a topping for hot dogs or burgers, even baked potatoes. So when the weather is chilly, follow suit and cook up a big batch. Here are a few of our favorite recipes from folks in Alabama.

– Jennifer Kornegay

P.S. My favorite way to eat chili is in the form of Chili Pie. It’s nothing fancy. Just put a layer of Frito corn chips on the bottom of a wide shallow bowl, top with chili, add some shredded cheddar and a few slices of pickled jalapeno.
Plop a dollop of sour cream on top and, if you like, a sprinkle of chopped scallions, too.

Cook of the Month

Barbara Frasier, Sand Mountain EC

Chili Supreme

  • 1 12-ounce package bacon
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 15-ounce can tomatoes with garlic seasoning
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, plus 1 can water
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans
  • 1½ tablespoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dash cayenne pepper
Fry bacon until crisp in a 2-quart heavy pot, then remove. Stir in pepper, onion and beef and cook on medium high until beef is brown. Drain grease. Add crumbled cooked bacon and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Barbara came up with her “Chili Supreme” by taking the best of several other recipes she had tried. “I do that a lot,” she said. “I love to cook, so I’ll take the things I like from a few recipes and leave out the things I don’t like to create my own.”

The addition of bacon adds a smoky note to the background of this dish that enhances but doesn’t overpower the other flavors, and Barbara gave her new twist on traditional chili its name because she thinks it describes the taste. “It really is good!” she said.

“It’s the only chili I make now, and I’ll only eat homemade chili. The stuff in the can shouldn’t even be called chili.”


Chunky Beef Chili

  • 4 pounds boneless chuck roast cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 32 ounces beef broth
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper

Brown meat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove meat but leave drippings in the pot. Add chili powder and cook, stirring constantly for two minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook five minutes. Return beef to the pot. Stir in broth and next nine ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally 1.5 hours or until beef is tender. Serve with desired garnishes like crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese and chopped onion.

Harold Batchelor, Covington EC

Firehouse Chili

  • 1 package of lean ground sirloin or lean ground pork loin
  • 1 tablespoon Southern Flavor garlic seasoning
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers (green, yellow and red)
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • 1 package chili seasoning mix
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomatoes with green chili peppers (Rotel or equivalent)
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can dark or light red kidney beans
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice squeezed from 1 fresh lime

Brown the ground meat with the seasoning, add fresh peppers and onions to sauté into the meat mixture. Add tomatoes and canned ingredients. Stir in cilantro and lime juice; let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with shredded Mexican cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions for toppings. Really good with tortilla chips or cornbread!

Linda Daniel, Baldwin EMC

Easy “2” Make Chili

  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 cans chili or red beans (un-drained)
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • Hot water
  • 2 ounces chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 2 ounces hot sauce (or to taste)

Brown the meat until about halfway done, then add the chopped onions. Cook until the meat is brown, then drain. Put the meat and the remaining ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours or more.

Mike Veazey, Joe Wheeler EMC


White Chili

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 15-ounce cans Great Northern Beans
  • 1 pound Velveeta cheese, sliced thin
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 onion, sautéed
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 11-ounce cans white shoepeg corn
  • 1 10-ounce can diced Rotel tomatoes

Mix all ingredients and simmer approximately 20 minutes after cheese melts.

Jean Thompson, Pioneer EC

Kay’s Famous Tex-Mex Chili

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 small minced onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 1 can petite-diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can light kidney beans
  • 2 cans chili beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 pound hamburger meat or beef tips

In a pot, brown your choice of hamburger or beef tips with the minced onion, then drain excess fat. Rinse kidney and black beans, drain corn, and add all the ingredients including spices to the pot, stirring occasionally on medium high heat until beans are tender. Takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes to simmer until done.

Kayla Davis, North Alabama EC

Char’s Cinnamon Chili

  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • ½ ounce bittersweet chocolate, finelychopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 cup cooked pasta
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese, finely shredded (about 3/4 cup)

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add beef and chopped onion.

Stir in vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, salt, red pepper, chocolate, garlic, and tomato sauce. Partially cover and cook 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in kidney beans; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat. In a separate pot, cook pasta. Drain and combine cooked pasta, ¼ cup water and oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until water evaporates and pasta is lightly browned, stirring occasionally (about 12 minutes). Coarsely chop noodles. Serve chili with pasta and cheese.

Charlotte Petre, Covington EC

Upcoming recipe themes and deadlines:

  • March Garlic January 15
  • April Greens February 8
  • May Chicken Salad March 8


Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014
Montgomery, AL 36124

We welcome 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.

Share a story about your recipe! Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cake or your uncle’s camp stew, every recipe has a story behind it. We’ll pay $50 for the best recipe-related story each month.


Worth the Drive: Bobby’s Fish Camp


Tombigbee River fish camp serves up catfish, with a side of history

Story and photos by Jennifer Kornegay

At the end of a winding, red dirt road in Bladon Springs, Ala., past silver Airstream trailers and a little white cottage nestled among the pines, you’ll find a thin stretch of the Tombigbee River. And just over to the right, on a small bluff overlooking the water, sits a modest cinderblock building with a small deck out front.

It’s Bobby Dahlberg’s Fish Camp, and it’s been in this spot for almost 60 years. It is so tucked away that folks just a county or two over don’t know it’s there, while others as far away as Canada never miss a chance to stop in and fill up on fried catfish. It’s the river that brings the people from out of state and out of the country; much of the fish camp’s business arrives by boat.

Owner Lora Jane McIlwain, Bobby’s daughter, explains. “Among people who travel the river, my dad’s place is known over the world,” she says. “We’ve had visitors from Germany, Spain, Sweden, Hawaii, Canada, Chicago and more.” McIlwain keeps a book for guests to sign, and it’s full of names from places many, many miles away from rural Alabama.

Most are cruising all or some portion of the “great loop,” a water journey that takes boats from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico via parts of the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers and the Tennesee-Tombigee manmade waterway, then through the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Florida and back up the Atlantic Coast and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the Hudson River in New York. They often stop at Bobby’s for a break. It has fuel, cabins to rent, water and electricity hookups on the dock and wi-fi.

The Fish Camp also gets emergency calls at least once a month. “Our part of the river can be tough to navigate, and sometimes folks get stuck out there. We help or get them help. We’re the rescue squad around here,” McIlwain says.


While Bobby’s plays several important roles for the current river traffic, the offering that’s really made the place famous is the food, specifically the catfish. If you choose fried filets (you can opt for a whole fish), they’ll arrive still warm from the blazing oil. The meat is mild with no muddy taste, and the barely-there crust is salted just right. “We still use my dad’s recipe, and after 60 years, it ought to be good!” McIlwain says. “And we always get good fish. We do some pond-raised and some river fish, and our customers are particular about which they want, so we make them all happy.”

They’re both served with a choice in sides like sweet, ice-cold coleslaw and hushpuppies, whose amber exteriors crack open to reveal pale yellow insides punctuated with air pockets that make each bite light with just a hint of chew. “We use the same old recipe for those too and make them fresh daily and fry them in peanut oil,” McIlwain says. Burgers, shrimp, chicken and other items round out the menu, but catfish is by far the most popular dish. “It’s definitely our claim to fame.”

But Bobby’s serves more than traditional Southern fish camp meals. It dishes out a bit of Alabama history too, sharing the long story behind its particular bankside spot. “We’ve tried to be a kind of mini museum and informational place about our area for the travelers,” McIlwain says. “We may be only place in Alabama they ever visit, and I want them to get a good impression.”

The interior of the low-slung structure is dominated by folding plastic tables with framed newspaper clippings, yellowed by age, and vintage photos covering the walls. They tell the site’s tale. The Fish Camp sits on a former docking point and warehouse for the steamboat traffic that chugged up and down the river in the mid-1800s. It was called Bladon Landing and was a major hub of activity since before the railroads, steamboats were a key part of transportation and communication in the area.

“In 1880, my great grandfather bought Bladon Landing and the lands around it, and our family ran the warehouse and would ferry boat passengers to two area resorts by buggy when they docked,” McIlwain said. These relatives had come to America from Sweden only a few decades earlier, and there’s a tribute to that heritage lining one wall of one of the dining rooms.

When the trains did come in the early 1900s, things changed at Bladon Landing. With fewer and fewer steamboats, there was no longer a need for the warehouse, which had been used to store goods being shipped on the boats. The family closed it down, but opened a general store across the street.

In 1956, when he returned stateside after serving in the Air Force in Japan, McIlwain’s dad Bobby decided to open a restaurant at Bladon Landing. “They were beginning to build the nearby lock and dam on the Tombigbee Waterway as well as the paved highway and the big bridge across the river, so there was in influx of men and engineers coming to do the work,” McIlwain says. “He knew they’d need a place to eat.”

He was right. They came in droves then, and Bobby’s has done a steady business ever since. Bobby passed away in 2010, and his daughter took over. “I’d been helping him full time since 2000, and the place has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. We even lived in the back room at the restaurant when I was just a baby,” she said.

She’s made some improvements over the years, but none that affect the fish camp’s unique character. “I want it to always have the feel of the old place,” McIlwain says.

And she doesn’t have any plans to close the doors. “The boat folks love us, and this has been a business of some sort or other in my family for over 100 years and was my dad’s life’s work. I can’t let that stop. We’ve been here a long time, and we’ll stay here.”

Best of Alabama 2016


By Allison Griffin

Did your favorites win?

Here at Alabama Living, we’re always interested in the people, places and sights that make Alabama great. With our annual Best of Alabama survey, you have a chance to cast your vote for your favorites.

We published the ballot in the August, September and October issues, as well as online, and were pleased to have more than 1,500 responses to such questions as “the best uniquely Alabama experience on your bucket list” and “best Alabama-made snack.” Thanks to everyone who participated!

An out-of-this-world attraction

U.S. Space and Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL: U. S. Space & Rocket Center: training crews, Big Shot rides, lunar vehicle docent/trainer from moon exploration era, various hands-on exhibits for public, space camp training for in-space work on shuttle.

Education in Alabama is always in the news, and we’re fortunate to have several competitive learning environments that serve children and adults alike. In the category of “best learning museum,” you voted the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville as your favorite.

Since it opened in 1970, nearly 16 million people have toured the center, from Alabama and all over the world. Many of the more than 600,000 annual visitors are students, who get a unique chance to experience space science – and even be an astronaut for a day.

The USSRC, in addition to being home to the largest spaceflight museum in the world, also hosts Space Camp, Aviation Challenge Camp and Robotics Camp. It’s also the official NASA Visitor Center for the Marshall Space Flight Center, and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

For more information about the USSRC and about Alabama’s unique place in American space flight history, visit

Best NASCAR driver (past)

Bobby Allison

Though he was born and raised in south Florida, NASCAR legend Bobby Allison is forever linked with our state, thanks to his status as a founding member of the “Alabama Gang,” a group of drivers who operated out of a garage in Hueytown in the late 1950s. Allison and his brother, Donnie, along with their friend Red Farmer, dominated in racing the 1960s and 1970s, the formative NASCAR years.

That was a time, some will argue, when drivers were heroes and humans, before they became celebrities.

Bobby’s son, Davey, started racing and joined the gang, as did another Hueytown driver, Neil Bonnett. Davey Allison died in July 1993 while trying to land his helicopter in the infield at Talladega; Bonnett died during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500.

Today, fans can visit the Bobby Allison Racing Showroom and Collectible Store, open by appointment only, at 140 Church Ave. in Hueytown. The number there is 205-965-3102.

Bobby Allison, who was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, continues to make public appearances and autograph signings; find and “like” his official Facebook page for information.

Best non-barbecue Alabama-based food franchise

Zoës Kitchen

The votes in this category were the closest of the contest. Zoe’s Kitchen narrowly won with 30.69 percent, just edging Momma Goldberg’s (29.96 percent) and Chicken Salad Chick (28.87 percent).

Zoe’s is a Mediterranean-inspired fast casual restaurant that was founded in 1995 in Homewood by Zoe Cassimus. Cassimus drew on her Greek heritage to create dishes that celebrated life, health and sharing.

The restaurant offers healthy fare, such as shrimp, veggie or chicken kabobs, steak and chicken rollups, hummus, all white-meat chicken salad and veggie pita pizza.

Cassimus’ son, John, helped the restaurant expand into other areas in Birmingham, followed by Tuscaloosa, Nashville, Huntsville and Montgomery. It’s now in 17 states, with an appetite for further expansion. Learn more at

Best Alabama-based BBQ franchise


There’s lots of good barbecue to be had in this state, but readers seem to connect with Dreamland and the story of its humble beginnings. Tuscaloosa native John “Big Daddy” Bishop started serving his legendary ribs in 1958 at the original location off Highway 82. The store still retains its down-home feel and charm, but now multiple locations serve up a variety of meats and other goodies, including pulled pork, barbecue chicken, smoked sausage and its famous banana pudding.

The saying, “Ain’t Nothing Like ‘Em Nowhere” is a well-known catchphrase in the South, and Dreamland’s unique flavors can be found in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery and Northport, along with two locations in Georgia. Learn more at

Best boxer from Alabama (past or present)

Joe Louis

One of the choices in this category was current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, the 6-foot 7-inch, 220-pound native of Tuscaloosa who has helped rejuvenate the sport of boxing. He reportedly took his nickname, “The Bronze Bomber,” as a tribute to fellow Alabamian Joe Louis, who was known as “The Brown Bomber.”

But the knockout winner in this category was Louis, born in 1914 in rural LaFayette, Ala. When he was about 10, his family moved to Detroit, where he would take up the sport and record an amateur career record of 50-4. As a professional fighter, he had 72 wins, 3 losses and 57 knockouts, holding the world heavyweight boxing championship from 1937 to 1949.

History records his impact beyond the ring, too. Due in part to his patriotism and the image of a gracious victor, he is widely regarded as the first African-American to achieve the status of a national hero.

Best uniquely Alabama experience on your bucket list

Attending the Iron Bowl

Football reigns supreme in Alabama, so it was no surprise that the annual Alabama-Auburn game defeated the World’s Longest Yard Sale and hiking in the North Alabama mountains in this category.

The first Iron Bowl was played in Birmingham’s Lakeview Park on Feb. 22, 1893, when Auburn won, 32-22. The inaugural game drew less than 5,000 people; the estimated attendance at the 2015 game at Jordan-Hare Stadium was 87,451. ESPN reported that more than 13.5 million watched the game in 2014.

Its nickname is a reference to Birmingham, which hosted the game for decades. Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant suggested the contest be referred to as “the Brag Bowl,” because the winning team’s fans claim bragging rights for the next 364 days.

Best baseball player from Alabama (past)

Hank Aaron

“The Hammer,” as he was known, had a 23-year Hall of Fame career, and he’s considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He broke Babe Ruth’s home-run record with his 715th homer in 1974, but his place in MLB history was cemented with his 755 career home runs. The record stood for more than two decades.

His beginnings were humble. Raised during the Depression in Mobile, he excelled in sports as a youngster, and got his start in the Negro Leagues before quickly moving in to the majors. He confronted racism throughout his long career and was vocal in the call for African-Americans to have a role in baseball beyond the playing field (he later became one of the first minorities in MLB upper-level management). He became a successful businessman and philanthropist, creating his Chasing the Dream Foundation to help underprivileged children.

Best Alabama sportscaster/commentator

Eli Gold

For Alabama fans and listeners on more than 50 radio stations around the South, Eli Gold is the familiar voice of the Crimson Tide football team, a nationally known sportscaster who has called the action of every Tide game since 1989, according to

Though his name is synonymous with Alabama athletics, he’s actually a New York native with a background in a variety of sports: He’s been a part of coverage for the NFL, the Arena Football League and the NHL on both radio and TV. He also hosted “This Week in NASCAR,” a live call-in show, for seven years. He now calls Birmingham home.

Best place to take the family for a weekend getaway

Gulf beaches

It’s no surprise that the beaches easily won this category, with opportunities for fishing, fresh seafood, water sports and bird and wildlife watching. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism officials point with pride to the 5.7 million people who visited Baldwin County in 2014, who spent an estimated $3.5 billion. The continuing upgrades and restoration work at Gulf State Park will only enhance the coastal area and improve vacation opportunities.

Best Olympic athlete (past)

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens, born to sharecroppers in Oakville, Ala., in 1913, overcame racial and socioeconomic barriers to win four gold medals in track and field at the Berlin Olympics.

Now, 80 years after that record-breaking feat, a biographical sports-drama film titled “Race” will tell Owens’ story. The film, directed by Stephen Hopkins (“Under Suspicion,” “The Reaping”) stars Stephan James in the lead role, along with Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons and William Hurt.

Though the Owens family moved to Ohio when Jesse was 10 years old, the Jesse Owens Memorial Park near Moulton honors his life and achievements, both on and off the track. A museum in the park (shown below) features interactive kiosks, a mini-theatre and a resource center. The park itself provides athletic facilities, a statue of Owens, a replica home and broad-jump pit.

Best public golf course

Capitol Hill, Prattville
Capitol Hill , Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Prattville, Alabama

One of the most popular sites on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is Capitol Hill, which opened in 1999. The Prattville site features three 18-hole courses that have won accolades from golfers and writers alike. The Judge course plays along the Alabama River; the Senator is a traditional, Scottish-style layout; and the Legislator plays in and out of pine trees and along a bluff.

Capitol Hill is the home of the Yokohama LPGA Classic, which will be May 2-8, 2016. For more information, visit

Best singer/songwriter (present)

Lionel Richie

The multiplatinum-selling artist and music icon has sold more than 100 million albums and won four Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

But he’s from Tuskegee, Ala., and joined the legendary group the Commodores during his college years. He began his solo career in the early 1980s and has been writing and recording music ever since. He launched a global tour in 2013, with a two-hour set that spans his entire musical catalog.

Now, the music icon has launched a home entertaining and dinnerwear collection, and has signed on for a Las Vegas headlining residency show at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino beginning in April.

In recognition of his career and charitable work, he will be honored as the 2016 Musicares Person of the Year in February at a benefit gala and concert in Los Angeles.

Best singer/songwriter (past)

Hank Williams

Born in rural Butler County in 1923, Williams went on to become a country music legend, creating music that has continued to influence countless recording artists.

His mother gave him his first guitar as a boy, but his musical influence came from a Montgomery street singer, Rufus “Tee Tot” Payne. After his mother moved the family to Montgomery in the mid-1930s, Williams formed the Drifting Cowboys and recorded songs that would become standards throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. He died in 1953 at the age of 29.

If you’re in central Alabama for New Year’s, join the annual wreath-laying at the graves of Hank and Audrey Williams at Montgomery’s Oakwood Cemetery Annex at 10 a.m. Jan. 1. After the service, join other fans at the Hank Williams Museum for a celebration.

Best actor/actress from Alabama (present)

Channing Tatum

Tatum started out as a fashion model and in TV commercials, but branched into acting as a young man, and today has also become a producer and production company owner with his wife, Jenna.

He was born in Cullman, Ala., in 1980 and later moved to Wetumpka. Though the family moved to Mississippi when he was 6, he continues to visit Alabama, where his mother’s family lives, according to his web site.

He is perhaps best known for the 2012 film “Magic Mike” and its sequel, “Magic Mike XXL,” based on his eight-month experience as a male stripper in Florida. But he’s also had more serious roles, as a soldier in “Dear John” and in 2014’s “Foxcatcher,” which was nominated for five Oscars.

(Ed. note: Also receiving several write-in votes was Decatur native Lucas Black, who’s appeared in “Sling Blade,” “Friday Night Lights,” and currently is seen in “NCIS: New Orleans.”

Best historical museum

USS Battleship Alabama

The Battleship Memorial Park, located on Mobile Bay just off Interstate 10, opened to the public on Jan. 9, 1965, and in that time more than 14 million paid visitors have graced the decks of the USS Alabama.

The battleship, the sixth vessel to bear the name Alabama, was launched in 1942 and saw 37 months of active duty in World War II, earning nine Battle Stars. After the war, she was mothballed in Bremerton, Wash., in 1947.

A campaign began in 1964 to bring her home to Alabama, for which the state’s school children raised almost $100,000 in mostly nickels, dimes and quarters. A corporate campaign raised the rest.

The World War II USS Drum submarine joined the Alabama in 1969.

The park features a recreational area, an aircraft collection, memorials to America’s heroes and an array of military equipment. For more information, visit

Most influential Alabamian (present)

Condoleezza Rice

Birmingham native Rice is the first black woman to serve as the U.S. national security adviser (2001-2005), as well as the first black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State (2005-2009).

She has said that she has no desire to be a politician, and that she intends to continue as an educator. She has been on the Stanford University faculty since 1981 and served as provost from 1993-1999. She is currently a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; a senior fellow on public policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of political science at Stanford. In October 2013, Rice was selected to be one of the 13 inaugural members of the College Football Playoff, Playoff Postseason Selection Committee.

Rice is also an accomplished pianist, and in a New York Times article said that playing chamber music was relaxing and “transporting.”

Best craft brewery

Back Forty

For years the craft beer market in Alabama was largely non-existent, and laws kept small, independent brewmasters away. But the Back Forty Beer Co. of Gadsden, along with the other breweries in this category (Good People and Avondale, both of Birmingham) have made an impact on the craft beer market nationally, earning awards and national distributor deals.

Back Forty began brewing and bottling in a former Sears Roebuck appliance repair center in 2009 and has grown steadily, eventually moving to a larger headquarters. The brewery makes several different beers, including the award-winning Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale. Learn more at

Best Alabama-made snack

Golden Flake chips

Golden Flake was founded in 1923 in the basement of a Hill’s grocery store in Birmingham, making “Golden Flake the South’s Original Potato Chip!” In the early days, potatoes were sliced, fried and packaged in wax paper bags, stapled shut and sold to various retailers throughout Birmingham.

Some 92 years later, Golden Flake Snack Food products are manufactured in Birmingham and Ocala, Fla., plants and provide consumers with over 150 sizes and assortments of snacks. Golden Flake has a family of more than 650 employees living and working in Alabama. Learn more at

Best Alabama-made automobile

Mercedes GLE SUV, GL SUV, C-Class and GLE Coupe SUV
2013 Mercedes-Benz C300.

Alabama now boasts three automakers, but the first to call us home was Mercedes, which completed its $300 million Tuscaloosa County plant, its first passenger vehicle manufacturing facility in the U.S., in 1996. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. (MBUSI) began production in January 1997 of its M-Class SUV for the worldwide market.

As of today, Daimler AG has invested more than $4.5 billion and continues to invest in MBUSI in Tuscaloosa County. MBUSI is responsible for more than 22,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion. Learn more at

Best Alabama-made non-alcoholic beverage

Milo’s Tea

Milo’s has its roots in the hamburger shop of the same name, which opened in 1946 on 31st Street and 12th Avenue North in Birmingham. Milo Carlton and his wife, Bea, set out to give customers a unique experience – and in the process Milo came up with his presweetened tea, which customers loved.

Milo’s continues to brew its Famous Sweet Tea, along with a host of others, including unsweet, no-calorie sweet and lemonade. It’s sold at retailers across the Southeast. Learn more at

Baldwin EMC member wins top prize


Sometimes just a phone call will make someone’s Christmas. That’s what happened when we called Chester Carr to let him know his name was drawn as the winner from more than 1,500 entrants in the “Best of Alabama” contest.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “How about that!” He said the $500 prize would certainly make his Christmas. Carr lives in Montgomery, but owns beach property on Alabama’s Gulf Coast and has been a member of Baldwin EMC since 1982. He is a retired longtime insurance agent.

His son, Robert Carr Jr., who now runs the insurance business in Montgomery, said his father, who is 88, was so excited about winning the contest he was like “Ralphie getting his Red Ryder BB gun in ‘A Christmas Story.’”

Thanks to all who entered the contest. We plan to have a similar reader opinion survey for 2016, so let us know any categories you’d like to see. Contact us at

2015 “Crockin’ It” winner

Winners of the “Crockin’ It” contest show off their certificates and ribbons. From left are Glenda Yarbrough, director of the Creative Living Center at the Alabama National Fair; Cathy Cartier, first place winner; Melissa Palmer, second place winner; Kayra White, third place winner; and Lenore Vickrey, editor of Alabama Living magazine.

Central EC member wins Crock’n It fair contest

All she needed to hear was “Sweet Home Alabama …”
Cathy Cartier hugs editor Lenore Vickrey after winning first place.

As soon she heard those three words, an exuberant Cathy Cartier gave a shout and ran down the aisle as she was announced as the winner of Alabama Living’s “Crockin’ It” crockpot cooking contest at the Alabama National Fair. She even gave magazine editor Lenore Vickrey a big hug on stage.

Cartier, who lives near Pine Level in north Autauga County and is a member of Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, was the first-place winner at the Creative Living Center for her “Sweet Home Alabama Stuffed Meatballs.”

She’d found a recipe for mozzarella stuffed meatballs online, but wanted to add her own magic touches. The contest instructions call for at least one Alabama-made product in each recipe entered, so Cartier added Conecuh sausage, some Alaga Hot Sauce and Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls to give it some “Sweet Home Alabama” flavor.

Believe it or not, it was a recipe she hadn’t made before the day of the competition.

“I tested them on a couple of people at work. They said, ‘these are good!’” And her friend Chris Dowing, who accompanied her to the contest, was the inspiration for adding the pork to the recipe.

Each contestant is scored not only on the taste of the food, but also the decorations of the entry’s place setting. Cartier wanted to play off a Southern, hometown theme, so she included blue pom poms and a small megaphone to pay tribute to Marbury High School, where her children went to school.

Cartier works at Maxwell AFB for the Air Force War Gaming Institute. After she won the $500 prize, Cartier said she planned to donate half her winnings to the Combined Federal Campaign, the workplace giving program of the federal government.


Sweet Home Alabama Stuffed Meatballs

Cathy Cartier, Deatsville
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Conecuh Hickory Smoked Sausage Link, ground fine
  • 6 slices cooked and crumbled Zeigler bacon
  • 1 cup crumbled Sister Schubert’s day-old dinner rolls
  • ½ teaspoon Alaga Hot Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 package whole mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 40-ounce bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce
Mix thoroughly all ingredients except mozzarella cheese and BBQ sauce. Take a spoonful of the meat mixture and form into a ball. Take a cube of mozzarella cheese and stuff it into the meatball. In a skillet, lightly brown the meatballs. Cover the bottom of the crockpot with BBQ sauce. Place some of the meatballs in the sauce. Repeat two or three times till all meatballs are in the pot. Set crockpot to high and cook for 2 to 2½ hours.

Second place, Melissa Palmer, Wetumpka

Taco Soup

    1 can whole corn

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 2 small cans roasted garlic tomato sauce
  • 1 package mild taco seasoning
  • 1 package Ranch Dip mix
  • 1 jar mild restaurant-style salsa
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package Conecuh Sausage
  • ¼ cup Alaga Hot Sauce

Pour corn and both cans of beans in crockpot with the juice. Add tomato sauce, taco seasoning, Ranch mix and salsa. Brown ground beef and drain the grease; add to crockpot. Cut sausage into small pieces and brown in skillet. Drain grease and add to crockpot. Add hot sauce and stir. Cook on high for 2 hours. Serve with corn chips, cheese and sour cream.

Third place, Kayra White, Tallassee

Chicken Hashbrown Soup

    4 cups shredded chicken

  • 1 bag shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup Borden milk
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 2 blocks cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pour hash browns into crockpot and add the chicken. Pour milk, broth and soup over the chicken and add the cream cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Stir occasionally.

Alabama’s Best Cake

Alabama Living also sponsors the annual “best cake” category at the Alabama National Fair.

This year’s winner is Peggy Simmons, Prattville

Terrific Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake
  • ¼ cup melted and cooled butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 7-8 fresh pineapple slices (reserve juice)
  • Fresh blueberries
  • ¼ cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
  • 3 eggs
  • Rum or water
  • ½ cup tasteless coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup Alaga Yellow Label corn syrup
  • 1 box cake mix of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt cake pan. Pour melted butter into cake pan; roll pan to allow butter to cover the sides for a couple of inches. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Line bottom and evenly around the edges with pineapple slices. Add Alaga syrup. Place one blueberry in each pineapple slice hole. Place pecan halves in open areas between pineapple slices.

Pour reserved pineapple juice into a measuring cup. Add enough water or rum to make one full cup. Add juice and eggs to bowl and beat together. Add cake mix and oil. Mix for about 2 minutes. Carefully pour into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Invert cake onto heatproof plate. Cool completely before serving. Can be served with whipped cream.