By Ann Cipperly
Located in the historic 1895 Whitfield-Duke-Searcy house, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in the growth and prosperity of Opelika since 1910, offering over 200 events, programs and an array of benefits.
While the staff wears a variety of hats as they plan a spectrum of activities, they also enjoy fall entertaining and tailgating on the Plains and at home watching Auburn or Alabama football. They are sharing their favorite recipes for tailgating this weekend for homecoming at Auburn University.
Pam Powers-Smith has been president of the Chamber since January of this year. “It has been a crazy, fun year,” she says. “Other members of the crew have been here ten years or more. It is interesting to see what they have been doing. There is something going on all the time.”
When preparing food for tailgating, Pam prefers using easy recipes that are crowd pleasers. Since her husband, Robert, is busy photographing weddings on game days, Pam attends friends’ tailgates. She enjoys hosting tailgate parties at home for watching the game on television.
Dinah Motley, who is the marketing director, has worked at the Chamber nearly ten years. She is busy with the weekly, monthly and quarterly newsletters, the magazine, press releases and is on radio programs.
She also updates the website and does the electronic membership mailer, as well as working with Career Discovery (Region 5), Plant Managers Round Table and directing the Young Leaders program in high schools.
Dinah and her husband Joey have been tailgating on the Auburn campus for years and have had over 200 attend their tailgate. After graduating from Opelika High School, their son, Matthew, played football at Auburn from 2003 until 2008.
For years, the Motleys tailgated with Dr. Ron and Libba Herring, whose son, Will, also playing football with Matthew at Opelika High and Auburn. Dinah and Libba would take turns going to the Auburn campus on Friday afternoons before a home game to reserve their plot until they would put up a tent.
Some of the football players, who were Matthew and Will’s friends, would come by their tent with their families to eat with them after the game. “We cooked 200 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs one night,” remembers Dinah. “We didn’t eat because I was afraid we would run out of food. We picked up a Krystal burger on the way home.”
Now, the Motleys tailgate with ten couples and use Tailgate Guys, so they don’t have to set up their own tents. The couples e-mail each other what they are taking. With her busy schedule, Dinah starts cooking on Wednesday night.
The Motleys use a folding wagon to transport their food to the tailgate site. “Now that we don’t have as many people,” she says, “it is much easier, and we don’t have to take the grill.”
Jill Robinson Barnes, director of membership, has been at the Chamber for ten and a half years. As membership director, she is also in charge of recruiting new members, retaining current ones and revamping programs that interest members. She also coordinates their annual golf tournament in May.
“We all do event planning, not just one person,” says Jill. “It is easier and more fun when we get together to brainstorm ideas. That was how we came up with the Diamond 75th Anniversary celebration for the Christmas reception last year by giving away 75 door prizes during the night.”
The staff will celebrate the Chamber’s 76th anniversary this year with a Christmas reception the second week in December. They will kick off the season with the Christmas Parade Dec. 2
On Sept. 29, the Chamber staff is excited to host a First Responders breakfast at the Education Resource Building.
“We also channel information to our members,” adds Jill, “whether it is updated with health care, small business issues or large business issues. We also do workshops, seminars and continuing education for our members to keep them updated on things they need to have for their business.”
Jill also heads the Total Resource Campaign, a six week sponsorship campaign. This year, the staff started a Women’s Business Council.
While Jill and her husband, Stacy, sometime attend friends’ tailgate parties at Auburn, they are Alabama fans. “We tailgate from our couch,” she says. The Robinsons have two children, Gracie, 16, and Molly, 9, who invite their friends over to watch football.
“We serve simple dishes,” says Jill. “We will pick up Boston butts from fundraisers in the fall and serve a lot of crock-pot dips. We have plenty of good food and a good time.”
Vivian Anthony, who grew up in Opelika, has been the Chamber’s administrative assistant for 13 years. Her front office responsibilities include greeting and directing visitors, working alongside the Chamber president and providing a wide range of secretarial and office support functions.
She is also the director of the Opelika Christmas Parade and assists in all Chamber events.
Vivian and her husband, Art, who served in the Air Force, lived in several area of the country before moving back to Opelika. They have two children and two grandchildren.
While she mostly serves take-out for tailgating, Vivian prepares soup when the season turns cool. One favorite is the Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup. It is a hearty soup that only takes a few minutes to assemble and is served with assorted toppings.
Whether you are tailgating on campus or from the comfort of home, look over the following recipes for planning your menu for homecoming on the Plains this Saturday. The following recipes will provide plenty of scrumptious food on game day.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Chamber and would like more information, contact 334.745.4861.
Ann Cipperly can be reached at email@example.com.
Avocado, Tomato and Feta Appetizer
2 avocados, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, trimmed and chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
Combine avocados, tomatoes and onion in a bowl. Mix gently. Stir in cilantro. Add feta cheese, olive oil, vinegar, cumin and salt; mix until combined.
Chill covered in the refrigerator. Serve with warm pita wedges, tortilla chips or crostini. Refrigerate leftovers.
Cheesy Artichoke Dip
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup chopped, drained canned artichoke hearts
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Mix all ingredients and serve with crackers.
2 pkg. angel hair slaw
1 pkg. Roman Noodles
5 – 6 oz. almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup oil
Crunch noodles. Toast together crunched noodles, almonds and sunflower seeds with melted butter. Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and oil; set aside until ready to serve. When ready to serve, mix slaw with noodle and oil mixture.
Glazed Kielbasa Bites
Jill Robinson Barnes
2 lb. Kielbasa sliced (bite size)
14 oz. can pineapple pieces (save 2 Tbsp. juice)
2 Tbsp. honey
Preheat oven 425 degrees.
Combine honey and pineapple juice.
Combine 1 piece of pineapple on top of Kielbasa; secure with toothpick.
Brush lightly the honey/juice combo over the pieces.
Place on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup
This chicken enchilada soup recipe only takes about 10 minutes of prep time, and it is delicious and comforting.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
2 cups good-quality chicken stock
1 1/4 cups (or 10-oz. can) red enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought
2 (14-oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
14-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juice
15-oz. can whole-kernel corn, drained
4-oz. can diced green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt or more/less to taste
Optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, diced red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips/chips
Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken.
Serve warm, with optional garnishes.
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
2 cans shoe peg corn, drained
2 cans Rotel tomatoes, drained
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
12 green onions, shopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. parsley flakes
16 oz. bottle Zesty Italian dressing
1 can black beans, drained (optional)
Mix all together in large container. Serve with Fritos or Tostado chips. Keeps in the refrigerator for long time.
Quick Sticky Buns
These are great for overnight guests.
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and thinly sliced into 10 pieces
1 medium banana, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (2 oz.) pecans, chopped
3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
7.5-oz. tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
Heat oven to 375.
Drop a piece of butter in the bottom of each of 10 compartments of a muffin tin. Arrange the banana slices on top. Sprinkle pecans and brown sugar over the bananas.
Top each compartment with a biscuit. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
Peanut Butter Ritz Cookies
1 box Ritz Crackers
1 jar smooth peanut butter
1 lb. chocolate bark
1 tsp. Crisco (not the liquid)
Melt chocolate in double boiler. When melted, add Crisco. This helps the chocolate to dry faster. Place peanut butter between two Ritz Crackers and dip into the chocolate. Place on wax paper to harden.
Easy Chicken Nacho Dip
4 cans Fiesta Cheddar Cheese Soup 2 cups salsa 3 cans Swanson’s Chicken White Meat 2 cans chopped black olives Few drops of Tabasco Green onions, chopped for garnish
Mix all ingredients (except onions). Heat on low until heated through. Put into chafing dish. Top with onions and serve with tortilla chips.
Bacon Wrapped Smokies
Jill Robinson Barnes
1 lb. bacon
1 pkg. cocktail wiener/smokies
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap bacon pieces around cocktail wieners. Secure with toothpick. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar generously.
Bake approximately 40 minutes or until brown sugar is bubbly.
Cheese Chicken Dip
1 large can chicken, drained
16 oz. carton sour cream, fat free
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, whipped
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup onion (optional)
Round Hawaiian bread
Combine chicken, sour cream, cream cheese, 2 cups cheddar cheese, pepper, salt and onion. Reserve 1 cup grated cheese for topping. Hollow out bread, making a bowl. Spoon mixture in bowl and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
When almost ready, put remaining cup of cheese on top and melt. Use the cut out bread pieces for dipping.
Cream Cheese Bars
These are always gone at parties. Everyone loves them.
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
2 pkg. (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 350.
Unroll 1 can of dough. Place in bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Stretch to cover bottom of dish, firmly pressing perforations to seal.
In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and 1 cup of the sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Spread over dough in baking dish.
Unroll second can of dough. Carefully place on top of cream cheese layer. Pinch seams together.
Pour melted butter evenly over top. Mix remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter.
Bake about 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Refrigerate for easy cutting. Cover and refrigerate any remaining bars.
Perfect for fall
1 pouch (1lb 1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 cups (18 oz.) milk chocolate chips
4 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Heat oven to 375. In large bowl, stir together cookie mix and crumbs. Stir in melted butter until soft dough forms. Press into ungreased 13 x 9-inch pan.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until set. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Spread chocolate evenly over crust.
Set oven control to broil. Sprinkle marshmallows over melted chocolate. Broil with top 5 to 6 inches from heat 20 to 30 seconds or until marshmallows are toasted. (Watch closely; marshmallows will brown quickly.) Cool 10 minutes. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Serve warm. Store any remaining bars tightly covered.
Candy Bar Fudge
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
30 caramels, unwrapped
1 Tbsp. water
2 cups salted peanuts
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
Combine butter, cocoa, brown sugar and milk in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until mixture comes to a boil – about 2 minutes.
Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour into lightly greased 8×8-inch baking pan; set aside.
In another microwave-safe bowl, combine caramels and water on high until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in peanuts; carefully spread over cocoa mixture.
Combine milk chocolate and butterscotch chips in microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until melted, about 1 minute. Drizzle over caramel layer.
Chill until firm. Let stand 15-20 minutes at room temperature before cutting into squares.
For the cake:
Nonstick cooking spray
9 oz. cake flour, approximately 2 cups
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
5 1/4 oz. sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
15 oz. fresh whole blueberries, approximately 3 cups
For the topping:
3 1/2 oz. sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1 1/2 oz. cake flour, approximately 1/3 cup
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
2 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spray a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Add egg and beat until well incorporated, approximately 30 seconds.
Add 1/3 of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the milk and beat until incorporated. Repeat, alternating flour and milk until everything has combined. Gently stir in blueberries and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
For topping: In a small bowl combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add butter and work into dry ingredients using a fork to combine. Continue until the mixture has a crumb-like texture.
Sprinkle mixture on top of cake. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes or until golden in color. Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Pecans
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
Dash of salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans in greased and floured Bundt pan.
Cream butter and cream cheese: add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
Add flour and salt; stir well. Add vanilla and nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until center is done.
Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
6 cups Rice Krispies
Heat syrup and sugar to boiling in heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat; stir in peanut butter until melted. Mix in Rice Krispies. Pour mixture into greased pan and let cool. Cut into squares.
These are great for putting into molds. I made these for my children’s classes when they were in elementary school. I put them in various molds and made eyes, noses, and buttons out of M&Ms.
Jill Robinson Barnes
3 avocados, into chunks
1/8 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup red onion
3 Roma tomatoes
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients. Serve with regular tortilla chips or lime tortilla chips.