Carol Pridgen enjoys preparing fall dishes, decorating, crafting  

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By Ann Cipperly

Brilliant yellow chrysanthemums and autumn décor provide a warm welcome at the home of Carol and Keith Pridgen of Opelika. The fall decorations continue indoors along with the sweet aroma of caramel. Carol has a love of decorating, crafting and cooking that is reflected in her lovely home for each season and holiday.
Carol savors being at home. She homeschools their son, Cade, who is 13 years old, and tutors students in various grades in the afternoon. Keith is a financial advisor with the Wilson Investment Group.

When Carol is baking, Cade is helping to measure ingredients. Sometimes it is part of his math lesson. She especially enjoys baking and keeps the freezer full. Carol will freeze slices of cakes in individual servings to pull out for dessert on hectic days.
Since she bakes so much, she will share with friends. Sometimes when friends need a dessert, they will call to see what she has in the freezer.
Carol and husband Keith both grew up in Opelika. With her mother, Becky Stillwell, being a good cook, Carol developed an interest in cooking at an early age. When she was a senior in high school, she would have dinner cooked when her parents came home from work. Her interest in baking has grown over the years.

After college, Carol taught at Jeter School for 20 years, a school she had attended growing up.

When their son Trace was in high school, Carol learned she was expecting another child after she had been told it would be impossible. “When Cade was born,” says Carol, “I decided I wanted to stay home with my miracle child.”

Trace and his wife, Annie, live in Marietta, Ga. He is the student worship leader at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, while Annie is a vet.

Both of the sons and her mother have birthdays in the fall. Carol will bake and decorate cakes for the celebrations. “We get excited about fall,” says Carol. ”We start getting the decorations out the first day of fall. Cade will help put decorations around.”

Carol creates a great deal of the decorations. She has a silhouette machine that imprints lettering on platters, mugs, trays and other items. She makes wreaths and mailbox swags. Her creations are available at local festivals and craft shows. She will be at the Auburn United Methodist Church arts and craft sale Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

She received her love of cooking from her mother, who also enjoys cooking. Along with giving exercise classes at Oak Park, her mom works in the boutique at the Spencer Cancer Center, has a boutique at the Magnolia on Main in Lafayette and an online boutique called the Willow Tree.

Carol travels with her mother as her assistant on organized travel bus trips.

During the fall season, Carol enjoys baking apple and pumpkin desserts and creating festive snacks for Cade. She doesn’t have time for long recipes. She prefers to cook goodies that are easy to prepare but taste delicious. The Pumpkin Patch Cookies uses a sugar cookie mix.

For each season, she combines a snack mix to keep on hand when friends stop by. The Fall Candy Snack Mix has pretzels, orange and black Reese’s Pieces and other candies.

Another fall favorite is the Healthy Candy Corn Cups, which are prepared with pineapple and mandarin oranges to provide the colorful look of candy corn.

“We enjoy the seasons,” adds Carol. “It has been more fun with Cade helping in the kitchen. I enjoy getting ready for the seasons and changing menus. It is important for the family to be together for meals.”

She is sharing two of her go-to make ahead dishes, Baked Spaghetti and Chicken Enchiladas, that are ideal for fall dinners. She serves the Chicken Enchiladas with Almond Salad and 7-up Biscuits or Cheesy Ranch Bread. While the enchilada recipe called for the chicken filling to be rolled in tortillas, she found it is easier to serve if she breaks the tortillas into strips. She assembles this a day ahead or freezes it.

The biscuits go together quickly and are simply patted out, cut into squares and baked. The Almond Salad makes a tasty side dish that adults and children will both enjoy. She generally doubles the almonds to have extra for snacking.

Carol is organized and plans menus ahead. She prefers to cook meals that will be enough for two nights. She uses Alexa on an Amazon Echo to keep the shopping list and send it to her phone. Cade and Keith can tell Alexa to put items on the list. This prevents her from having to run to the grocery store at the last minute for an ingredient. She also keeps her to do list on Alexa.

Clip and save Carol’s recipes for scrumptious meals and baked treats during the fall season for your family.

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Candied Apples
2 bags Kraft caramels
2 tsp. water
Apples
Chocolate candy melts
Heath Bits, Mini M&Ms and miniature chocolate chips
White candy melts
Wash apples and drop them in boiling water for about a minute or two to remove wax. Place stick in apples.
Melt caramels melted with 2 tsp. water. Dip apples in melted caramel. Place in refrigerator for about an hour for caramel to get firm.
Dip apples in melted chocolate candy melts. Then roll in Heath Bits, Mini M&Ms or mini chocolate chips.
Melt white candy melts and pipe them around the top.

Caramel Apple Dump Cake
2 cans apple pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks melted butter
1/2 cup caramel sauce ( ice cream topping )
Whipped cream or ice cream
Mix apple pie filling in a 9 x13 greased pan. 
Pour apple pie filling into bottom of prepared pan.
Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over caramel and apples. Drizzle melted butter over dry cake mix, covering well. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool slightly before and serve with ice cream, or whipped cream.
Drizzle caramel sauce over ice cream.

Pecan Pie Cobbler
Butter-flavor cooking spray
1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
2 1/2 cups light corn syrup
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 1/2 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 cups pecan halves
Vanilla ice cream
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 13 x 9 -inch three qt. glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray. Remove 1 pie crust from pouch; unroll on work surface. Roll into 13x 9-inch rectangle. Place crust in dish; trim edges to fit.
In large bowl, stir corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs with wire whisk. Stir in chopped pecans.
Spoon half of filling into crust-lined dish. Remove second pie crust from pouch; unroll on work surface. Roll into 13×9″ rectangle. Place crust over filling; trim edges to fit. Spray crust with butter-flavor cooking spray.
Bake 14 to 16 mins or until browned. Reduce oven temp. to 350. Carefully spoon remaining filling over baked pastry; arrange pecan halves on top in decorative fashion. Bake 30 mins longer or until set. Cool 20 minutes on cooling rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
32 oz. chicken broth
2/3 cup ranch dressing or can use one pkg. dry ranch dressing.
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 pkg. mild taco seasoning
14 oz. pkg. frozen corn mix southwestern blend
Add all ingredients to pot and place over medium high heat and allow to come to slow boil.
Reduce heat to low. Cover partially with lid and cook for 20 minutes. 
For the last 5 minutes of cooking time remove the lid and allow it to continue to simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 
Serve with cheese and tortilla chips.
Can be cooked in crockpot. 

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
2 (14 oz.) pkg. gingerbread mix
1 (5.1 oz.) pkg. cook and serve vanilla pudding mix
1 (30 oz.) can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1 (12 oz.) frozen whipped topping or whipping cream
Bag of gingersnaps
Bake gingerbread according to directions. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool.
Stir the pumpkin, sugar and cinnamon into the pudding.
Crumble one batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a trifle bowl.
Pour 1/2 pudding mixture over gingerbread. Repeat.
Then add a layer of whipped topping.
Sprinkle top with crushed gingersnaps.
Refrigerate overnight.

Fall Candy Snack Mix
4 cups coarsely chopped pretzels
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2/3 cup dry milk powder
1½ sticks unsalted butter
1 bag Reese’s Pieces, fall M and M’s, or Halloween chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 275.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Melt butter and pour into a large bowl.
Stir in the sugars and milk powder until fully combined. Stir in pretzels and spread them on a lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until lightly brown and fragrant.
Allow pretzels to cool completely before breaking them apart and adding them to chocolate candies.
Store in airtight container.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip
16 oz. container frozen whipped topping, thawed
5 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix
15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Healthy Candy Corn Cups
1 can chunk pineapple, drained
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 small container Cool Whip or whipping cream
Layer pineapple chunks, Mandarin oranges in a clear glass. Top with dollop of Cool Whip or whipping cream.

Pumpkin Patch Cookies
These are nice to have for children on the Thanksgiving dessert table.
1 pkg. sugar cookie mix
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
Sugar, several tablespoons
Chocolate candies (Chocolate Kiss), unwrapped
Marshmallow pumpkins
Mini cupcake liners and mini cupcake baking pans
First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Mix first three ingredients together until a soft cookie dough forms.
Take 1 rounded teaspoonful of dough and roll it in sugar. Drop each one into the cupcake liners.
Then, bake cookies for about 7-8 minutes. Pull out pan and press a piece of chocolate into each cookie.
Place cookies back in the oven and bake for another 2-5 minutes until the edges of the cookies start to turn golden. (Note: The baking time may vary depending on your oven and size of your cupcake pan.)
Remove cupcakes from the oven and immediately press a marshmallow pumpkin on top of the chocolate pieces. The chocolate should be slightly melted, and the pumpkins will stick to the chocolate securely.
Allow cookies to cool in the pan before you remove them.

Apple Brickle Dip
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. pkg. toffee baking bits
16 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced
Beat together cream cheese, sugars and vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth.
Stir in toffee bits.
Store in refrigerator.

Owl Cupcakes
Chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate icing
Bag of Oreos
Bag of Reese Pieces or M and M’s
Make your favorite chocolate cupcake or use store bought cupcakes. If making cupcakes, use brown cupcake wrappers.
Frost with chocolate icing of your choice.
Untwist two Oreos, then carefully push two brown candies onto the white part of the Oreos. Place the Oreo eyes onto the cupcake. Then put an orange candy on its side between the eyes to make the owl beak.

Hot Vanilla Drink
For each hot vanilla:
Microwave 1 cup milk and 2 or more tsp. sugar in a mug until hot (about 90 seconds). Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Top with a dollop of chocolate cream (recipe below) and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.
Chocolate Cream
In a medium bowl beat 1/2 cup whipping cream until frothy. Add 1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup. Continue beating until peaks form. Makes enough to top about 6 drinks.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Tortillas
2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 golden delicious apples, diced
8 oz. raspberries (optional)
1 lb. strawberries, chopped
2 Tbsp. white sugar
3 Tbsp. fruit preserves, any flavor
In a large bowl mix fruit, sugars and preserves. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes. Serve with Cinnamon Sugar Tortillas.
Cinnamon Sugar Tortillas
10 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Butter flavored cooking spray
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat one side of each tortilla with butter spray. Cut into wedge shapes.
Arrange on single layer on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Spray again with butter spray. Bake 8-10 minutes. Can cut tortillas into shapes for holidays.
 
Chicken Enchiladas with White Sauce
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 (3 oz.) can (mild) chopped green chilies
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 pint sour cream
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1 pkg. flour tortillas, sliced in strips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 by 13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place layer of tortillas on bottom of pan.
Toss together chicken, Monterey Jack cheese and chilies.
Then add soup and sour cream. Spread layer of chicken mixture over tortillas. Top with layer of cheddar cheese. Finish with layer of tortillas and sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.
Can prepare a day ahead and bake or freeze. 
 
Baked Spaghetti
1½ lbs. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 jar (any kind) spaghetti sauce
1 (8 oz.) box angel hair pasta
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
Cook ground beef with onion until done. Mix with spaghetti sauce. Cook and drain angel hair pasta; drain. Place pasta in a 9 by 13-inch dish. Spread meat sauce over noodles.
Mix cream cheese and sour cream together. Spread over meat sauce. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until bubbly. Freezes well.
 
Almond Salad
Red leaf lettuce
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
Caramelized almonds (recipe follows)
Caramelized Almonds
2 Tbsp. sugar in a heavy pan
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Stir over low heat until sugar melts, turns brown and collects on almonds. Takes 5 -10 minutes. Remove from heat. Break apart.
Dressing
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. vinegar
Few dashes of Tabasco
Combine all ingredients.

7-Up Biscuits
2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-Up
1/4 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cut sour cream into Bisquick mix. Add 7-Up. This will make a soft dough. Sprinkle counter with Bisquick. Add dough. Roll or pat it out. Melt butter and pour into a 9-inch baking pan.
Cut biscuits into squares with knife. Place them on top of melted butter. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Cheesy Ranch Bread
1 loaf French bread
1 (8 oz.) pkg. grated sharp cheese
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing
Cut French bread in half lengthwise. Place on cookie sheet.
Mix cream cheese with as much of dry ranch as desired. Spread mixture on bottom half of bread. Sprinkle with cheese.  Broil until crispy.

Carrot Casserole
3 lbs. carrots
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 Tbsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. flour
1 cup melted butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Peel carrots. Chop into 1-inch cubes. Boil until fork tender; strain.
Mash carrots with potato masher. Put butter in carrots; mix.
Add dry ingredients. Beat eggs, then temper eggs by adding some of the carrot mixture. Add mixture and blend well.
Pour into 9 by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Sugar Coated Pecans
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water
1 lb. pecan halves
1 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease one baking sheet. In mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Add pecans to egg whites; stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove nuts and toss them in sugar mixture until coated. Spread nuts out on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

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