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October 17, 2008   Email to Friend 

Rivertown Recipes Help Shore-Up Church
By Kellie Henderson

Hope Brannon, left, pictured with her husband, Alfa Agent Jimmy Brannon, painted "Shall We Gather" for the cookbook cover.
While raising funds for a new worship space, members of the Trinity Episcopal Church of Wetumpka found themselves searching for a new rector.

"During the search process for a new pastor, we needed something to keep us focused on the fact that we needed a new space as well," says church member Phyllis Kennedy.

"I first started talking to people individually about the idea of doing a cookbook as a way to keep people talking about, thinking about and focused on the building project. After a while, several people were very excited about it, and the cookbook project began to take on a life of its own," says Phyllis. And so began the two-year project of compiling and testing recipes for the cookbook Shall We Gather: Recipes and Remembrances of a River Town, which has sold more than 4,000 copies to benefit the building of a new worship space for Trinity. Having previously worked on a Junior League cookbook in Atlanta and a family cookbook to commemorate her parents' 50th wedding anniversary, Phyllis said she knew a little about the process of assembling a cookbook before she became chairperson of the Shall We Gather project.

"Everybody was surprised at how many meetings it took, but we had a cadre of the most loyal, hardworking folks imaginable giving their time and efforts for this cookbook," Phyllis says. Unlike many fund-raising cookbooks, Shall We Gather does not feature the names of the individuals who contributed each recipe, and Phyllis explains why.

"From the beginning, we knew we weren't going to include five recipes for Sour Cream Pound cake, so we planned to test all the recipes and choose only the best, eliminating any duplicates. There are no names for that reason. We wanted to choose each recipe for quality alone," she says.

But the ladies of Trinity Episcopal didn't stop with quality recipes. A far cry from the black and white spiral-bound cookbooks one might expect from a local congregation, Shall We Gather has a hard cover featuring a painting of the same name by local artist Hope Brannon, wife of Alfa Insurance Agent Jimmy Brannon of Wetumpka.

The Brannons have been members of Trinity for more than 20 years. Hope, a retired art teacher, now operates her own fine arts school in Wetumpka named Art Quest. She said she sought advice from church committee members before she started on the painting, adding that she wanted to make sure it depicted life in a small town - their small town.

"The bridge, of course, is recognized as a local landmark," Hope said. "The painting also includes the church steeple in the background. All of it shows scenes of how we gather - food, fellowship, family, friends and church."

Each chapter in the book opens with a slice of charming history from the Wetumpka area, and John Berendt, author of the best-selling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, wrote the book's forward. Seasoned throughout with cooking tips and tidbits of local legend, Shall We Gather is a collection of all that gives the Coosa River Region its unique flavor.

And while Trinity Episcopal found its new rector in 2006, the congregation is looking to break ground on their new building in October.

"We're aspiring to furnish the new building with proceeds from the cookbook," says Phyllis, and she goes on to explain one marketing strategy that has proven especially helpful for book sales.

"We've found people buy more books when they can taste the food, so we've done lots of coffee hours and parties where we've prepared a recipe or two from Shall We Gather. Anytime people can taste something the book has to offer, they're eager to buy," Phyllis says.

The recipes that follow all appear in Shall We Gather, and copies of the book can be purchased by calling the office of Trinity Episcopal Church at 334-567-7534 or visiting www.trinitywetumpka.org .

Country Ham Sour Cream Biscuits
2 to 4 slices country ham
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sour cream


Cook ham in a skillet until brown; drain. Let stand until cool and chop into cubes. Combine the butter, flour and sour cream in a bowl and blend until smooth. Drop by spoonfuls into miniature muffin cups. Press some of the ham into the center of each muffin cup. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Note: Biscuits may be frozen and reheated when ready to serve. Makes 4 dozen.

Very Special Brisket
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 (8 to 10 pound) beef brisket
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
½ teaspoon sugar


Rub salt and garlic salt into the surface of the beef. Place in a shallow baking dish lined with a double layer of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the beef. Combine Worcestershire and remaining ingredients and pour over the beef. Wrap the beef in foil, securing the seam and ends well. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Bake, wrapped in foil, at 250 degrees for 10 hours. Serves about 20.

Chicken in Basil Sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
4 (6-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, left whole or cut into bite-size pieces
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup regular or fat-free half-and-half 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped or 1 small yellow tomato and 1 small red tomato, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 2 Tablespoons dried basil
Hot cooked pasta
Additional basil leaves and tomato slices for garnish


Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet until sizzling. Stir in the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and cook over medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Stir flour into pan drippings until combined. Add the half-and-half and garlic and cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in the chopped tomato and basil. Return the chicken to the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over pasta. Garnish with basil leaves and tomato slices.
Serves 4.

Field Pea Casserole
2 (15-ounce) cans field peas
3 large tomatoes, sliced
3 green bell peppers, cut into rings
3 large white onions, sliced
½ cup (2-ounces) grated parmesan cheese
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt to taste
6 slices bacon


Alternate layers of field peas, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions in the order listed in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish until all vegetables are used. Sprinkle with cheese, cayenne pepper and salt. Arrange the bacon slices over the top. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Uncover and broil until the bacon is cooked through and crisp. Serve hot. Serves 8.

Apple Spice Cake
Cake: 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 or 4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Caramel Sauce: 1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (optional)

To prepare the cake, sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the dry ingredients gradually, beating constantly until combined. Fold in the apples and pecans. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until the cake tests done. Cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the cake just before serving.
To prepare the sauce, combine the brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the sauce. Serves 12.


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