Prudence Hilburn

On Aug. 1, longtime Anniston Star food columnist Prudence Hilburn, 82, passed away peacefully. Hilburn grew up in the Mill Village in Piedmont, and her hard-earned talents in the kitchen took her around the world, from the finals of the national Pillsbury Bake-Off to New York City to France. The Food Network even came to Piedmont to see her.

Her first column for the Star appeared on Feb. 19, 1986. She said, “Anyone should be able to cook — it just takes time and a little devotion to what you’re doing. I want the column to rekindle an interest in cooking.”

Here are some of our favorite Prudence recipes from 26 years of columns.



“While experimenting in the kitchen, I came up with date and pecan quiche. I was trying for a flavor similar to a date and pecan candy that my mother always made during the holidays. This is a rich dessert, but so is the candy it imitates.”

  • 1 ¾ cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¼ cup chopped candied cherries
  • 10-inch pre-baked quiche shell

Put the pecans on a cookie sheet in a 375-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until lightly toasted. Be careful not to burn them.

Keep ¾ cup of the pecans warm.

Put the remaining cup of pecans in the bowl of a food processor. (A food processor is necessary for this recipe as you will be making a pecan butter.)

In a small stainless steel or aluminum saucepan, heat the granulated sugar and water to a boil. Add the corn syrup and allow to cook over medium-high heat until the syrup begins to turn a light brown. Remove from heat immediately and with a wooden spoon stir in the ¾ cup of warm pecans. Pour this nougat mixture onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Add the brown sugar to the nuts in the food processor. Process until the mixture resembles peanut butter. This should take about 6-8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the half-and-half and eggs together and beat slightly. Add to the pecan butter mixture along with the dates and cherries. Stir just to blend. Pour into the baked quiche shell.

When the nougat has cooled and hardened, chop it coarsely with a knife in small pieces. Sprinkle over top of quiche. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until browned and set.

Serve with whipped cream. If desired, put dollops of whipped cream around the edge of the cooled quiche before serving.



“Muffins are one of the easiest breads to make, even for a beginning cook.”

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup peach preserves
  • ⅓ cup oil

In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir just to mix.

In medium-sized bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream, preserves and oil. Beat with a fork until blended. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just to mix. Spoon into two well-greased muffin tins (or use paper cupcake liners). Fill about ⅔ full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Yield: 12 large muffins.



“Especially good as a dip with peach slices or strawberries. You might also want to try it with melon balls, fresh pear slices, fresh pineapple chunks and bananas. Personally, I think this new dip would also be great served with small squares of pound cake.”

  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

Blend dry ingredients, add juices and stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. This should take about 2 minutes. Add a small amount of the hot mixture to the slightly beaten eggs, mixing well. Add the egg mixture to the juice mixture and continue cooking over low heat until the mixture thickens. This will probably take 3-5 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Beat into softened cream cheese. Chill.



“When our daughter, Debra, was 17 years old, she won a trip to the National Pillsbury Bake-Off in Phoenix, Ariz., with her Spiced Tea Cake made with a mix. This idea started with a base recipe for a beverage: Russian Tea. With a little creativity, any recipe can be converted to make it original.”

  • 1 box Pillsbury yellow cake mix
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant tea with lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ¾ cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Glaze (recipe follows)
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 12-cup fluted tube pan. In a large bowl, blend first 8 ingredients. Beat 2 minutes at highest speed. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool upright in pan 15 minutes; turn onto serving plate. Spoon glaze over top and sprinkle with nuts.


  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and milk. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over cake.



“Recently, I have been in a creative mood that has centered around soups. Perhaps this is because you can make soup out of almost any foods you might have on hand.”

  • 1 tablespoon garlic and herb butter spread (Land O’Lakes)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 cups chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons flour (can use self-rising or all-purpose)
  • 1 can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 2 ½ cups half-and-half or milk
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese (see note)
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper (if not available, you can use black pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • Salt to taste (I used ½ teaspoon)

Heat the garlic butter and oil in a soup pot. Add the chicken pieces and cook until the chicken changes color. It is not necessary to brown the chicken. Remove from pot and add onions and mushrooms and saute until tender. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the onion/mushroom mixture and stir. Add the chicken, broth, broccoli and half-and-half. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken is tender. Stir in butter and cheese. Cook until soup begins to thicken. Add pepper, thyme and salt.

NOTE: I bought mozzarella and parmesan cheeses already combined in one package, but if this is not available use about 1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup shredded parmesan. Also, if you do not have the garlic butter, you can use regular butter or margarine, but the flavor will vary a little.



“This past week, I was in the mood to bake cookies, and decided to combine the chocolate chip cookie and the peanut butter cookie. After all, we all know that these two flavors belong together.”

  • 1 (11 ounce) box pie crust mix
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine pie crust mix, sugars and baking soda. Stir to mix. Add peanut butter and eggs. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop from tablespoon (about size of golf ball) onto ungreased baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet immediately and place on rack to cool completely before storing. Maes about 2 ½ dozen cookies.



“The following cake is only for those who don’t count calories because it is loaded!”

  • 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 8-ounce milk chocolate candy bar, melted
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Combine all ingredients in large bowl of electric mixer and beat at medium speed until just mixed and no lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool on wire rack 15 minutes before removing from pan. Remove to plate and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Great served warm with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.



“I was a finalist in the national Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1963. If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone, because I certainly wasn’t an accomplished cook at that time.”

  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) refrigerated biscuits
  • 4 ounces American or cheddar cheese, cut into 20 pieces (3 inch-by-¼ inch-by ¼ inch)
  • 2 tablespoons melted margarine
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ cup finely crushed potato chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 11-by-7-inch pan. Separate each can of biscuits into 10 biscuits. Pat each biscuit to about a 3 ½-inch oval. Place piece of cheese on each. Wrap dough around cheese, pressing all edges to seal. Place in two rows in pan. Combine margarine, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt and brush on top of rolls. Sprinkle with chips and gently press into rolls. Bake 18-22 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 20 rolls.



“Some of my dishes might not be traditional, but they have that south-of-the-border flavor. Such is the case with a casserole that quickly became a family favorite.”

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 ½ cups medium salsa
  • 1 (10 ounce) can Mexicorn, drained
  • ¾ cup Miracle Whip dressing
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • 2 cups crushed tortilla chips, divided
  • 2 cups shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese blend, divided
  • Shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the meat and drain well. Add the salsa, corn, dressing and chili powder. In a 2-quart casserole, layer half of the meat mixture, chips and cheese. Repeat. Bake for about 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Just before serving, top with shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and a dollop of sour cream.