Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Auntie Em’s Holiday Green Beans

Here is another really simple but good recipe– if you can even call it a recipe!

You need frozen green beans (no more canned ones for me!), some chopped onion, fresh Baby Bella mushrooms, garlic, and some olive oil and/or butter or bacon grease. (Just a bit, for good flavor. It’s what we do in the South. Chopped bacon is good to add, too!)  ingredients holiday green beans

Heat a large skillet– you want to braise, not boil the beans, so you don’t want them to be real thick in your pan. Add a tablespoon or so of oil.

oil in skillet

saute onion till translucent

Chop an onion finely and sautee 5-10 minutes, till they begin to soften and get translucent but not brown. I used about half a cup for a large bag of green beans. Put the rest in a freezer bag in the fridge if you cook with chopped onion pretty regularly, in the freezer if it will be a while. Be sure and use a FREEZER bag, not a regular storage bag, or your fridge will stink!

Add garlic now if you want to; remember it will cook and burn faster than onion.

Next, clean your mushrooms– I used 5 large ones. Paula Deen says to wipe them with a damp paper towel, don’t dunk them in water, so that’s what I do. Chop them as fine as you like. Now at this point if Mr X liked mushrooms as much as I do, I would put them in with the onion, but since he (and honestly, almost everyone else in the family) doesn’t, I make a whole different pan of onion and mushroom sautéed in butter. Then we mushroom lovers can add as much as we want. This is also excellent to top hamburgers or baked potatoes!

sautee mushroom and onion onions and mushrooms

After sautéing the mushrooms a few minutes, add the green beans. Stir to coat with the oil, and cover tightly. You want to sautee the beans, not boil them, so don’t add any liquid unless the beans begin to brown. You will need to stir them occasionally, and cook them just till they get really bright green. They will still be firm. (If you like them more cooked, add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of chicken broth and cook longer. I’m going to show you how to make your homemade turkey broth last in a later holiday cooking post.

green beans in skillet

After about 10 minutes they are done! Serve them up in a colorful bowl to show off the beautiful color!holiday green beans

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage

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Always use real butter

Along with the reigning Queen of Butter, the Crown Princess Auntie Em is a believer in real butter!

Not only real butter in the literal sense, but the figurative sense too: You should consider its intended use, and buy the best quality that you can afford. A mattress and your tires come to mind. You use them every day. Your back comfort and your very life depend on them, so don’t pinch pennies there! Mr X used to be a carpenter/contractor, and he taught me this principal that ties nicely into my “Be frugal” rule. Now at first sight, the idea of spending more money might not seem like a frugal thing to do, but Auntie Em says look at the whole picture, not just the price tag. In the case of Mr X, he was making our living with his tools. They had to be dependable and long-lasting, so it was smart to spend the extra money on heavy-duty tools for his everyday jobs.

When I cook, I want it to taste GOOD! Many times you can get good food for less money– store brand milk and canned veggies are normally just as good as name brand– but Velveeta and Little Debbie are the only brands I’ve been happy with for cheesy goodness and snacks, so no off-brand for me there!

For clothes, you can apply this principle by considering how much wear a garment is going to get. One of Sis’s friends said she gives it the $1 rule. She can buy a $50 pair of pants if she will wear them at least 50 times. (I’ve had black pants that I’ve worn at least that many times!) Staples, like solid pants and skirts, especially ones that fit really well and are well-made, are good investment pieces. For trendy pieces and accessories, get them on sale for a little of nothing.

Now shoes are in a category all by themselves! I find that the older I get, the more crucial it is to have comfortable shoes. Gone are the days of buying inexpensive, trendy shoes to match an outfit; I’ve got to have some serious support, so I buy more expensive shoes less often.

If you need something NOW, like a dining table or car, and can’t wait till you can save up your money to buy a higher quality one, I suggest buying the CHEAPEST dependable one you can find. Ask around! Sunshine got a dining table and matching chairs from a friend who works for Bill Clark, when one of his customers was getting a new set and wanted to give away the old one! Or… swallow your pride… and drive the Mawmaw car with 10,000 miles on it but is definitely not cool! Then save your money till you can get exactly what you want.

Where you are willing to cut corners will be determined by you, and everyone might not understand your reasoning. That’s okay. Figure it out for yourself, what’s important to you! As always, I recommend visiting Dave Ramsey’s website and reading his books to help you formulate a financial plan.

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Auntie Em’s Board of Directors

Who influences you? Who is your role model? Whose style do you study and copy?

We all are influenced by someone. I think it is wise to examine yourself, determine where you need guidance, and then deliberately choose your role models, instead of just accepting the ones who are shoved at us day in and day out. (Paris Hilton, anyone? Maybe not.)

For Style:

I have always been very intrigued by the British Royal Family. I was born just a few months before Princess Diana, and she was one of my stars for a long time. I wore ruffles and opaque tights like she did. I coveted a sapphire and diamond ring; never got one, but I did get a really nice knock-off! I was very sad about all her personal problems, marriage breakup, and untimely death. Now I’ve shifted my style love to her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. If only I were 9 inches taller I might could pull off some of her looks! However, what I love about her besides her great fashion sense and beauty is her modesty, confidence, kindness, and sense of duty. She seems very comfortable in her skin, and those are great qualities to emulate.

In real life, my colleague at work, who is 16 years younger than I, is my role model. My guiding principle has always been comfort, and if I liked an article of clothing in 1986, then I probably still do! In our first year of teaching together, she hid my bathing suit (that I was so proud of, being able to fit in it 15 years after I bought it), then took me on a “What not to wear” shopping expedition! I also consult my daughters- I don’t want to be one of those women who, at 50, is trying to look 25, but a little fashion sense never hurt anyone!

The designer and decorator Laura Ashley managed to capture my decorating tastes completely. I bought several of her books to give me starting places. I love Shabby Chic and have recently discovered Pottery Barn.

For things spiritual: of course the authors of the Bible, but some others have influenced me too.

C.S. Lewis has written some of the best, most thought-provoking literature I’ve ever read. His children’s series (The Chronicles of Narnia– if you haven’t read them, go get them TODAY!) are perfectly entertaining as stand-alone stories, but so much deeper when you look at them through the lens of his Christianity. His Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity are 2 of my all-time favorites. He has influenced me time and again.

Andy Stanley, the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia speaks the Truth so eloquently and creatively; every time I listen to him it’s like a V-8 moment!

For mothering: My sister. She is 5 years older than I am, and I got to spend lots of time with her and her young kids before I ever married, so I had a lot of experience going into motherhood.

For music: my piano teacher, Jay. I took lessons from him from 8th grade through college, and a bit again after all the children were here and I needed to work my brain. Then he taught both my girls, so we have maintained a close relationship. If I can’t remember the name of a piece of music, I call him and hum it; he will be able to tell me what it is!

For mental and emotional health. TeeKay of AThimblesWorthofWisdom.wordpress.com . She left her position as choir teacher to study counseling. I got her job, and the benefit of her new career! She has been a friend and mentor for 30 years now.

For cooking: My mother-in-law and Paula Deen… Use more butter!

For wisdom in decision making: Mr X. He is very level-headed, and can see all sides of a situation easily. He can anticipate problems so that we can work them out in advance, which is very hard for me. I always think everything will work out just fine!

For how to be kind and giving, and to “bloom where I’m planted”: my mother. My goodness, she was the sweetest person you could meet. She took care of people – that was how she related to everyone. She was a 2nd grade teacher, and everyone I ever knew that had her or worked with her praised her kindness. After her stroke, when she lived  alone in an apartment complex, she was the young one of the circle of little old ladies living there. She organized domino games, took them out to eat, drove them to the grocery store or ran errands for them. . When she moved into a nursing home the last 3 years of her life, she had the same sweet spirit among the residents– she was a party waiting to happen!

So dears, think about it. In what areas of you life do you need encouragement or improvement? Choose a board of directors for yourself!

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Auntie Em’s Black Bean Salsa (thank you, Paula Deen!)

The other night we had a fellowship after chuch (that’s what you call when Baptists all bring food and chow down!) and I brought Paula Deen’s black bean salsa, which was a big hit! Here is the recipe, although of course, you know I didn’t really follow it. It was more of a “suggestion”.

2-15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

1- 17 oz pkg frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed (I used 2 cans of regular corn)

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (1 used 1 can of Rotel and 1 can chopped tomatoes, though I wish I had just used 2 cans of Rotel, because I like it hot!)

1 large avacado, peeled and chopped (optional)

1 small onion, chopped

1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I had dried cilantro from my garden!)

3-4 TBS lime juice

1 TBS red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste.

Mix it; cover and chill overnight. (I did not do this step!) Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

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