By Sherry Kughn
For many years, homemaking and cooking have been important aspects of Elizabeth Renfroe’s life, and she has made a business out of preparing and selling flavored mixes. Called Elizabeth’s Gourmet Creations, she makes packages of seasonings and spices that customers can mix with sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese in order to prepare dips for chips or raw vegetables. Also, she has a line of dessert mixes for making no-bake cheesecakes and dips for fruits or cookies and flavored bread-dipping oils. Any of the 41 varieties can be used to make seasoned crackers, too. Some of her mixes she buys prepackaged due to the cost of high-quality ingredients.
She and her husband, Alan, the assistant director of Alumni Relations at Jacksonville State University, started selling the mixes at a Christmas craft show at First United Methodist.
“Then we started selling them at other events and on Facebook,” Renfroe said.
A few times each year, Renfroe rents a commercial kitchen and makes up a large volume of her mixes. She sells them at craft shows and as a fundraiser option for schools and other organizations and enjoys using them in her own recipes for friends and family members. She takes a break from shows between April and September to spend more time with her family and travel.
Once a year, for the past 13 years, the Renfroes help prepare a giant meal for those in the JSU Alumni Association. This year, the event will be on Oct. 11, postponed from April because of the March 19th tornado that destroyed the Alumni House. Now, the Alumni Relations office is in the former Kitty Stone Elementary School that has been renamed the School of Business and Industry Complex. For the guests, Alan prepares shrimp, sausage, boiled potatoes and corn.
Renfroe is a Jacksonville native who met Alan while she was a student at JSU. They married and raised two children, Wil, a JSU junior who is now 21, and Juliana, 18, who recently started attending JSU.
Throughout the years, the family enjoyed and “made memories with” many favorite recipes, such as homemade hummus, which Renfroe experiments with by using her different seasonings. Also, the family loves herchicken alfredo pasta bake and beach cookies. The latter got their name for being a priority item whenever the family went on vacation.
At the Renfroe house, now that their adult children are gone much of the time, the couple enjoys preparing simple, healthy foods focused on roasted vegetables and lean meats. Renfroe usually freezes half of them for when they get busy and need meals in a hurry. Below are some of the family’s favorite recipes.
Hot Tomato Grits
8 c chicken broth
2 c quick grits
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 can Rotel tomatoes, reserving 2 T for topping (Add a second can if you really like it spicy. I use the mild Rotel for our crew. )
2 ½ c sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Bring chicken broth to a boil and slowly add grits, stirring constantly while adding to prevent lumping. Turn heat down and continue stirring until desired consistency. Add salt and pepper and tomatoes. Add cheese. When cheese is completely melted, transfer to heated crock pot. Add crumbled bacon and garnish with extra tomatoes and 1/2 cup extra cheese.
1 lb dried garbanzo beans, rinsed
12 c filtered water
3 c cooked garbanzo beans, still warm
½ c warm bean cooking liquid
¼ c tahini
3 medium cloves garlic
1 large lemon, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ t ground cumin
¼ t smoked paprika
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
To cook the beans:
Rinse garbanzo beans and discard any stones. Place in Instant Pot insert along with 12
cups of filtered water. Close lid, make sure vent is set to “sealed” and set Instant Pot to manual for 45 minutes. Allow Instant Pot to naturally release pressure when done. If you are pressed for time, allow InstaPot to release pressure naturally for at least 15 minutes and then do a slow quick pressure release. Carefully drain the beans, making sure to reserve the liquid.
To make the hummus:
Transfer 3 cups of warm, drained, cooked garbanzo beans to the bowl of food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add all other ingredients except olive oil. Process until smooth and slowly add the olive oil in through the tub, 1 tablespoon at a time. Hummus should be smooth, creamy and taste almost whipped. It can take a few minutes to get this texture but it’s worth it. Serve topped with an Elizabeth’s Gourmet Creations herb and spice blend, smoked paprika and a splash of olive oil.
InstaPot Chicken Alfredo
1 ½ c chicken broth
1 ½ c heavy cream
½ stick unsalted butter
1 t minced garlic
salt and pepper
½ lb. dry penne, bowtie or rigatoni noodles 1 8-oz block cream cheese, cubed
¾-1 c shaved parmesan cheese
2 c cooked chicken, warmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (Leftover rotisserie chicken is a great timesaver.)
Add the broth, cream, butter, garlic, salt, pepper and noodles to the instant pot in that order. Do not stir, but make sure all noodles are covered. Set your Instant Pot to manual setting for 6 minutes. (I like my noodles with a little bite to them, if you like yours softer, I’d recommend cooking for a minute or two longer.) Let InstaPot naturally release its pressure for an additional 6 minutes then quick release. Add cubes of cream cheese. Let the noodles and sauce sit for a minute or so. (Your cheese will not melt into the sauce if it doesn’t cool for a minute or two.) Gradually stir in the parmesan cheese, then add your chicken. The sauce will thicken as you stir it.
“These amazing cookies are full of delicious add-ins, and it makes a huge batch. We’ve taken them on beach trips since the kids were little, thus the name. It’s a Team Renfroe tradition.”
2 ¼ cups self-rising flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c brown sugar
¾ c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 t pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ c Rice Krispies cereal
1 ¾ c of your favorite chocolate chips
1 ½ c sweetened coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars in mixing bowl on medium-high until fluffy. On low speed, add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix in self-rising flour, cereal, chocolate chips and coconut on low speed just until dough is slightly uniform. Add additional mix-ins if you want. Drop by teaspoon or use a small cookie scoop on an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, just at the golden, softly set upstage. Let them cool on the sheet for a minute or two and transfer to wire racks. (They can burn quickly, depending on the oven. Start watching at 10 minutes.) Makes 5 dozen cookies