"My pride and joy are my children and grandchildren, and I love my church. That pretty much sums up my life. But what else is there, really?" said Sharon Dyar of Cullman County.
Retired for the past four years, Sharon spends much of her time cooking, but that’s nothing new for her. Sharon met her husband of 38 years, Terry Dyar, while working in her mother’s restaurant, and she later worked in the school cafeteria in Arab. And she still cooks big, even in her kitchen at home.
"All three of my children and my three grandchildren live on the farm, so there has to be lots of food in this house. I never know how many people will be here at any given meal," she said, adding she’s always happy to have any of them that can make it.
"My grandkids get off the bus here in the afternoons, so I try to make sure they have a good little snack when they get in," Sharon said.
In addition to spending time in their grandmother’s kitchen, Sharon’s grandchildren all love farm life.
"They’re all avid farm kids. Carleigh is 11 and has already started showing cows, Ross is eight and will start showing next year, and Mattie is two-and-a-half and just crazy about chickens. They are really busy kids," she said, adding her own children were very active in 4-H and she’s proud to see her grandchildren carrying on that tradition.
Sharon and Terry have a commercial Angus cattle operation and currently run about 200 head, although Sharon admitted her farming days are fairly well behind her.
"I can’t do everything I used to, but I still find plenty to keep myself busy," she said.
Sharon encourages everyone to give cooking a try and keep trying in the face of discouraging results.
"Really and truly, some of the things I cooked when I was young were really bad, but I had brothers and sisters who needed food to eat. I’m not one to give up. I’ll read a recipe over and over until I figure it out. The trick is not to let things intimidate you," Sharon said.
One of her most well-received treats is her Pumpkin Roll, a dessert many people won’t attempt.
"It really isn’t hard though, and it’s so good. My son Richard, grandchildren Carleigh and Ross, and one of my nephews have all made it for 4-H bake-offs, and it has won every time it was entered," she said.
In addition to the award-winning Pumpkin Roll, Sharon shares several other recipes perfect for the holidays, like Christmas Bark and New Sweet Potato Pie.
"It is the best sweet potato pie. Even people who don’t like sweet potatoes rave about it, and my daughter Tarron shared it with me," she said.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.
1 sleeve saltine crackers
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
½ cup brown sugar
12 ounces milk or semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ cup nuts, chopped
Cover a jelly roll pan with a piece of parchment paper. Place crackers side by side over paper. In a small saucepot, melt butter. Add brown sugar and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and stir for 3 minutes, until caramelized. Pour and spread over crackers. Bake at 350o for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven; pour chocolate morsels evenly over crackers. Let melt then sprinkle with nuts and spread with a knife. Refrigerate 1 hour. Take out and break into pieces.
1 pound of pecans
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter
Beat egg white until frothy. Add water, sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter in a 9 by 12-inch pan. Pour pecans into egg mixture; stir well. Pour coated pecans in pan. Bake at 250o for 1 to 1½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes.
MEXICAN CORN BREAD
2 cups corn meal, plus more for skillet
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons flour
½ cup cheese, shredded
¼ cup cooking oil, plus more for skillet
1 (16 oz) can creamed corn
¼ cup milk
¼ cup jalapenos, diced
¼ cup water
Preheat oven to 350o. Add oil to a large skillet and place in oven as it preheats. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle hot skillet with cornmeal; pour in cornbread. Bake 20 minutes or until sides are brown. Turn cornbread out onto a plate and serve hot.
2’ BY 4’ SOUP
2 (16 oz) cans black beans, do not drain
2 (19 oz) cans Progresso minestrone soup
2 jars salsa
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and simmer until warm. Serve with cornbread.
6 to 8 slices bread, cubed
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound sausage, cooked and crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Place bread over the bottom of dish. Beat eggs; add milk, salt and pepper. Pour over bread. Top with cheese. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 350o. Top casserole with sausage and bake 30 minutes.
1 stick butter
1/3 cup cocoa
½ cup milk
2 cups sugar
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk. Mix sugar and cocoa together. Add to liquid mixture. Cook over low heat until thick. Serve over hot buttered biscuits.
Note: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for later use. Reheat in microwave.
NEW SWEET POTATO PIE
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup sugar
2 prepared graham cracker crusts
2 (3 oz) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
¾ cup milk
2 cups (1 large can) sweet potatoes, mashed
Dash of cinnamon
1½ cups whipped topping, divided
Preheat oven to 350o. Thoroughly mix cream cheese and eggs. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Spread mixture into pie crusts and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, stir together pudding mix and milk until smooth and thick. Add sweet potatoes and cinnamon. Mix well. Fold in 1 cup whipped topping and spread into cooled pie crusts. Garnish with remaining whipped topping.
Note: Sharon uses two small containers of whipped topping, adding more to the tops of pies.
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon spicy brown mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
Cut the tenderloin in half; place in a 3-quart slow cooker. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and pepper; pour over pork. Cover and cook on low for four to five hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat; shred with two forks. Return to the slow cooker; heat through.
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small jar pimento
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp bell pepper, chopped
1 small package macaroni, cooked and drained
Mix first five ingredients together. Add macaroni. Spray a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Add mixture to pan and bake at 350o for 25 minutes.
1 cup sugar
¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 cup pecans, chopped
1¼ cups powdered sugar, divided
¼ cup butter (softened)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
Beat eggs at high speed in mixer bowl for 5 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating constantly. Sift next six ingredients together. Fold into sugar mixture. In a separate bowl, stir together lemon juice and pumpkin; mix well. Fold into batter. Pour into a greased and floured 10 by 15-inch jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 375o for 15 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
Sprinkle a kitchen towel with ¼ cup powdered sugar. Invert cake onto sugared towel. Roll towel and cake together. Cool to room temperature.
Combine cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl; beat well. Add vanilla and remaining cup powdered sugar and mix well. Unroll cake. Spread filling over cake and reroll.