October 2017
Homeplace & Community

The Co-op Pantry

I guess I should start by telling you a little about myself. I was born and raised in Decatur and have lived here my whole life, except for two years when my husband was in the Army and stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. After he was discharged, we couldn’t get back to Alabama quick enough!

We came back to Decatur and, by that time, we had our son Jake. About three years later, our daughter Sarah joined us. Six years ago, we were blessed with our daughter-in-law Grace. And our granddaughter Lucy joined us in April of this year. Needless to say, we are over the moon in love with her. Now I know what everyone kept telling me about being a grandparent. It’s the best thing ever!

I was a stay-at-home wife and mother until May 2003 when I came to work at Alabama Farmers Cooperative as the receptionist. After a couple of years, I was able to join the Purchasing & Property department, where I still work.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons of the year (although, I do love going to the beach!). I especially love the month of October. To quote a line from the book "Anne of Green Gables" written by L.M. Montgomery, "I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." It just so happens to be my birthday month as well.

Along with the beautiful colors that are part of it, I love the food associated with this season - soups and stews or just good, old comfort food on a chilly day. I always look forward to making my first pot of chili. We’ve always said it’s not fall until we have a pot of chili.

When my dad was alive, October was always the month he made his famous chicken stew. We all would gather at their house on the chosen Saturday to eat. He had his own recipe he wanted us to think was a big secret he couldn’t share. We recently found his recipe written in his own handwriting on the back of an old scrap piece of paper. That is a treasure to us all now that he is no longer with us. Nothing made him happier than to have all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at their house to share a meal. And he loved to eat. He always said if it started with an alphabet he would eat it.

Fall is also when one of our favorite foods is made, and that is molasses. Whether we are eating it on a hot buttered biscuit or something made with it, we look forward to getting some freshly made molasses each year.

We usually take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in October and love going to Cades Cove. During the month of October at the Cades Cove visitors center, they have a demonstration of molasses making using a horse-powered cane mill and wood-fired cooker to produce sorghum molasses. It is interesting to watch and get a taste of some. I have included a couple of our favorite recipes using molasses.

Fall brings in another of our family favorites … football. In the past, some have played the game while others have watched and supported the players. Nowadays, we love watching games together. Along with that comes having plenty of food to snack and eat on during the game.

I love appetizer-type foods. They are usually easy to fix and you can have a variety of things to choose from to please everyone.

Some of my fondest memories revolve around food. From holiday meals at my grandparents’ houses, Fourth of July celebrations where we could have all the "cokes" we wanted and making homemade ice cream during the summer. A favorite childhood memory is coming home from school to a pan of warm gingerbread and a glass of milk.

Daily, my parents, my three siblings and I ate breakfast and supper meals around our kitchen table together. There is something special about sharing a meal with the people you love. People don’t do that as much now. As a child, you don’t realize and appreciate how special those times are. As adults, we find ourselves wishing we could go back and have one more meal with those we’ve loved and lost.

My mother is a great cook, so I learned from the best. Now that I have grown children and a granddaughter, I can say nothing makes my heart any happier than to have all my chicks around my table sharing a meal together. I love cooking and baking for my family. I look forward to the day my granddaughter Lucy is old enough to join me in the kitchen.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!


Makes: about 3 dozen cookies
¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
Sugar, for coating

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, beat shortening and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. In a different bowl, combine flour, soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Add dry mixture to molasses mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until dough is chilled. Pour some sugar into a bowl. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar. On greased baking sheet, place balls 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; transfer to wire rack.

Note: It would not be Christmas if I didn’t make these. They are one of our traditions. I usually have to make 2 or 3 batches.


½ cup shortening
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2½ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, combine first 7 ingredients and cream until fluffy. Add egg and cream. Mix. Add molasses. Mix. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture and blend. Add boiling water and beat until smooth. Pour into a 9x13 greased pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Note: This is my Mother’s recipe. We loved coming home from school to find the house smelling of gingerbread.


½ cup butter, melted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk

1/3 cup butter
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark Karo syrup or molasses
1 cup chopped pecans

For crust, in a 9x13 casserole dish, pour butter. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar and milk. Pour over butter. For filling, in a bowl, mix all filling ingredients together. Pour over crust mixture. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until done. (I cooked it only about 25 minutes.)

Note: This recipe has all the goodness of a pecan pie in a casserole dish.


Butter, softened
½ loaf white bread (I usually use 10 slices)
1 cup raisins
4 eggs
2 cans evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger

Heat oven to 350°. Butter both sides of each bread slice. Cut slices in ½-inch cubes. In a sprayed 9x13 baking dish, place cubes. Sprinkle raisins over cubes. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, milk and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Add dry mixture to egg mixture. Mix. Pour over bread cubes and raisins. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sweetened condensed milk

In a saucepan, mix all ingredients. Boil for 3 minutes. Pour over warm pudding.

Note: I love bread pudding and this is a really easy recipe that is delicious.



1 pound bulk pork sausage
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes
4 ounces Muenster cheese, grated
2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dried ground sage

Heat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. In a skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, crumbling as it cooks, until browned and cooked through. Remove sausage from skillet with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, place sausage and remaining ingredients. Stir until well-blended. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, spreading it even. Bake for 1 hour, or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers, veggies or your favorite dipping vehicle.

Note #1: This dip can be assembled in advance, up to 1 day, covered and refrigerated before baking. You may need to add 5 more minutes to the baking time - just keep an eye on it and bake until browned and bubbling.

Note #2: This can also be made in a slow cooker, although it will obviously not get browned. Place cooked sausage along with all other ingredients in slow cooker. Stir. Cook on high for 1-2 hours, until cheeses are melted, stirring occasionally.


1 pound hamburger meat, cooked and drained
2 cans ranch-style beans
2 (15-ounce) cans minestrone soup*
2 (15-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes

In a crockpot, combine all ingredients. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

* I couldn’t find 15-ounce cans. I used 3 cans condensed soup with 3 cans water instead.

Note: Quick and easy recipe for a great pot of soup.


1 cup macaroni
5 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon salt
½ stick butter
½ teaspoon pepper
1¾ cups milk
½ cup evaporated milk
3 eggs, beaten
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, cubed
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed

In a pot, boil macaroni in water and salt until tender. Drain and put in medium bowl. Add butter and pepper. Mix until butter is melted. Add milks, eggs and cheeses. Mix well. Grease a 2½-quart casserole dish. Pour in macaroni and cheese. Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes.

Note: I usually double the ingredients and put it into a 9x13 dish. When we have family meals, this is always a requested side. It has so much cheesy goodness.


1 pound sweet/mild Italian sausage (or can use
1 cup chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tablespoons minced
  garlic in oil)
8 cups beef stock
2 cups (2 cans) petite diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) tomato sauce
1 large zucchini, sliced thinly (I cut in slices then
   slivered those)
1 large carrot, sliced thinly (same as zucchini)
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup Worchester sauce, mixed with ¼ cup water
2 Tablespoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
8-10 ounces fresh cheese tortellini (I used 2 8-ounce
Parmesan cheese, grated

In pot on heat, brown sausage. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until clear. Add stock and rest of ingredients (except pasta and cheese). Simmer until veggies are tender. Add tortellini about 20-30 minutes before serving. Top with cheese.

Note: This is a delicious Italian soup that is a crowd pleaser.

October Healthy Recipe


1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 (5-ounce) box sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
   (powder only)*
1 (16-ounce) container sugar-free or light whipped topping
½ Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
½ Tablespoon cinnamon
Small pumpkin

In a large bowl, put pumpkin, pudding mix, whipped topping and pumpkin pie spice. Mix by hand.
Chill dip mixture for several hours before serving. Meanwhile, scoop insides out of small pumpkin.
Fill pumpkin with dip mixture. Sprinkle top of dip with cinnamon and serve with apple slices, pear slices and ginger snaps! (Or any other fruits or cookies you prefer – I serve mine with cinnamon graham crackers.)

* I couldn’t find a 5-ounce box, so I used a large box and a small box!

Note: This was a fun dish to make and really, really tasty!! I didn’t hollow out my pumpkin. I used a fall-colored bowl for the dip and my pumpkin as part of my table decoration!!

This recipe was sent to Jenna Cooper-Dow’s FB page by Charlene Morrow Rodriguez who shared it from FB’s Homestead & Survival page. It always amazes me how recipes are shared and passed from person to person and become personal favorites!


Robin Moore works in AFC’s Purchasing and Property department. Jena Klein is AFC’s Wellness Program Coordinator.


We are looking for cooks of all ages, cooking traditions and skill levels to feature in this column. We want to hear from those in Alabama as well as our out-of-state readers. The simple requirements for being a featured cook are to love to cook (and eat) and to share your story with us. Get those recipes coming! Any featured cooks during 2017 will receive a free copy of our new cookbook.                                     -- Mary & Jena