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


Auntie Em’s Famous Gumbo

Cooler weather is finally hitting Southeast Texas, and that means GUMBO! Gumbo is a Cajun food, which you should always try if you get a chance! (In case you don’t know, Cajuns are the people of French from South Louisiana, chere, who are known for their good food and joie de vivre!)

I’ll print easy, all-in-one-place directions at the bottom.


Start with chicken pieces or, if you really want to be authentic, boil a hen. Hens are richer and the meat will hold its flavor. It’s more trouble of course, because you have the skin and bones to remove, but if you’ve got the time, it’s worth it! However, I used breasts and thighs. I boiled half, so I could get broth, and roasted the others, to hold on to more flavor. I had boiled the chicken the night before so I had it chopped and had the broth in a pitcher.

To boil, cover chicken completely with water in a tall stock pot. Salt and pepper liberally!

gumbo, chicken broth

To roast chicken, line a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with tall edges) with parchment or foil for easy cleanup. Spray the roasting rack with Pam. If you don’t have one of these gizmos, get one ASAP! They are great for roasting meat and veggies!

how to roast chicken, gumbo

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, then roast at 400 35-50 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the meat gets to 180 degrees. Boneless meat like these thighs will cook faster than bone-in parts like the breasts. If you don’t have a meat thermometer either, you need to get to the store!

chopping onion, gumbo

Next chop a large onion and 4 or 5 stalks of celery. My son the chef introduced me to a chef’s knife like the one above. I was a little scared to use one, till he brought his and gave me an inservice. Now I love it! You keep your fingers well out of the way- just rock it up and down and keep your hand on top. Along with a meat thermometer and roasting pan with rack, a good knife is a MUST in the kitchen! Go ahead and invest in a Wusthof or something comparable. It might run $100, but it will last forever. Keep it sharp. It’ll change your life.

chopping onion, gumbo

You can see, you need a lot of onion!

chopping celery, gumbo

You can chop a lot of celery with a big knife!

While you’re chopping the veggies, melt a stick of butter on medium-low heat in a heavy skillet, then add the veggies. saute onion and celery, gumbo

After the onion and celery cook a bit, add some garlic. Lay your knife on top of the clove and smash it! Then mince it.

saute garlic, saute onion, saute celery, mince garlic, gumbo

You want to cook the veggies till they are soft and transparent– this will give you an idea: saute garlic, saute onion, saute celery, mince garlic, gumbo

While the veggies are cooking down, begin chopping up the meat. We like ours in fairly small bite sizes; cut them like your family likes. Again, with a big, sharp knife, you can make quick work of the chicken and sausage! This gumbo was a 3-night- affair, so most of my chicken was already cooked and chopped. I just had to debone and chop the roasted breasts. Here’s a handy hint: If you boil your chicken ahead of time, refrigerate the broth; the fat will solidify on the top and you can remove most of it easily.

roast chicken, gumbo

Now I think the roux is what scares people about making gumbo. I’ve made traditional roux, roux with browned flour only, and jarred roux mix, and I promise, I like the jar as well as any other, and it’s much less time-consuming! There is a trick though, you must get your broth to a FULL, ROLLING boil when you add the mix, or it will never dissolve. Follow the directions for the amount to use. If you like thicker broth, add more; for thinner add less. Then stir, stir, stir! This is the color to expect when it’s blended: I’ve heard it described as a melted Hershey bar.

how to make roux, gumbohow to make roux, gumbo

Once your roux is smooth, add the veggies and the meat, then let it simmer a bit.

Serve it up over rice, and if you are really feeling Cajun, plop some potato salad into your bowl! (I’ve talked to my Cajun friend Peggy and she says it’s so you can get your gumbo and potato salad, but have a free hand for your dessert!)

chicken gumbo

MMM! C’est si bon!

Auntie Em’s Famous Gumbo (serves at least 12– great for freezer meals!)


Boil 1/2 large pkg chicken breasts and 1/2 large pkg chicken thighs.

Roast the rest of the chicken at 400 degrees.

Chop all cooked chicken into desired size.


Chop 1 large onion, 4-5 large stalks celery. Sautee with 1 stick butter in heavy skillet. Add a large clove of minced garlic. Cook till soft and transparent.


Bring chicken broth to a full, rolling boil. Add roux mix. (I use Savoie’s or Tony Chachere’s.)


When roux is smooth, add meats and veggies. Simmer, covered as long as you can stand it.

Serve over rice, and add potato salad for a Cajun experience! Find a Cajun music channel on Pandora and l’aissez les bon temps roulez, chere!

Today I’m linking with The Shabby Creek Cottage and The Lady Behind the Curtain– go visit and see what other goodies you can find!
shabby creek cottage
Cast Party Wednesday


Perfect Hamburger Patties

Summertime is here– time for cookouts and grilled hamburgers– and I’ve updated my grilled hamburger patty post. Hope you enjoy and get a lot of mileage from it!

Perfect hamburger patties

Nothing beats homemade, grilled hamburgers– unless you don’t know how to make them! Auntie Em makes some slap-your-sister-good ones, and I’ll tell you how:

First- go start your grill. I always scrape the grates and spray them with Pam first.

To make the patties: Start with ground meat. Get at least 15% fat ground beef– too lean and it will be tough and chewy. And I like to add ground pork too.. Yum! Season like you like–I use salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and Chipotle Tabasco sauce.

Mix it all up really well- the meat has different textures so you don’t want them to look separate. You’ll probably have to use your hands to do it well. Sorry!

Then begin shaping them into patties. They need to be uniform sizes and not too thick- about 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Rotate them between your palms, using your thumb to even up the edges. Don’t smash it down, though; you don’t want it tough.

As is my normal practice, I make more than I need for one meal and freeze the rest! Wrap patties with

parchment paper, then put into a Ziploc freezer bag.

I do my own vacuum-seal by closing the bag except for a little gap, then sucking out all the air myself! (Tightwad Food Saver!)

Ta-da! Now I can take out as many as I want and they won’t stick together.

I grill them 6-7 minutes. They should be a little brown around the edges, and getting gray on top.

Carefully lift to check the bottom for raw spots. None here!

So go ahead and flip them over, and cook about 1 minute less than you did the first side.

Hungry yet?

And there you are- perfect hamburger patties. Top it off like you like- cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms, lettuce, onions. pickles, mayo, mustard, good soft warmed buns….


Update: Auntie Em’s Country Squash and Italian Zucchini


Auntie Em fixed squash for supper tonight. (We have “supper” in the country!) I love summertime, when I can get it fresh. True confession, though: I like *zucchini better. You can fix it just the same way. As always, measurements are guesstimates and you need to adjust flavors to suit your family!

Preheat a skillet on fairly high heat- I like to use a cast iron for this. When the rim is hot to the touch, drizzle some oil. Next, chop some onion. I used about 1/2 cup. Put it in to sauté

   20120803-190314.jpg                   20120803-190422.jpg

Then slice your squash. I like to split them longways, and split the fat part again if it’s too big.

Then slice about 1/4 -1/2 inch thick. Put them in (A real chef would say wait til they are all chopped and put them in together so they will chop evenly, but whatever… 4 chopped squash won’t fit on my cutting board, so in they go when I get too crowded!) At this point I added a couple of small cloves of garlic. It tends to burn, so I don’t put it in at the beginning. I do the Rachel Ray “smash”, then peel and mince.


Stir everything up good- add some butter! Salt and pepper. Squash is pretty bland so I like a lot. Cover and lower the temp a little. Don’t cook it too long, and add broth if there is not liquid visible on the bottom. Depending on the squash, some amount of moisture will cook out so you might not need to add any. Not too much, you don’t want it soggy!

Serve it up hot and you will love it!

*NOTE: Added August 12, 2012– I fixed zucchini like the squash, but added a large can of Italian chopped tomatoes and a little water, covered, and cooked till tender. YUM!!

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