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 DIET Rolo/Pretzel Snacks

Have you seen this picture from Pinterest?

Wow Pecans, Rollos and Pretzels why didn't I think of that?

I pinned it and decided to make them! They were SO easy, and wonderful. I decided to make some more for our family Thanksgiving dinner at Granny’s house. (By the way, in Texas, Thanksgiving DINNER is at noon, not in the evening.) I got “mini” pretzels just like before, but noticed they were a good deal bigger than the last ones I used. Mr X said these are a different brand than before. Then I got out my bag of  UNWRAPPED Rolos, which I was happy to discover because all that unwapping was a pain! I began placing them on the pretzels and noticed they were smaller than the last time. Mr X said, “See? It says MINI.” oops. All I saw was “unwrapped” and my laziness resourcefulness took over and I skipped over the much larger “mini.” However, my optimism decided that they will now be DIET candies.

ingredients rolo pretzel pecans rolos on pretzels

Here’s the skinny (HAH… get it? Diet candy?) on how to make them.

Preheat your oven to 350.

1. Place pretzels on a cookie sheet. In hindsight, I’d use one with sides. I got nervous moving this sheet in and out of the oven.

2. Put a Rolo on each pretzel.

3. Bake 3-5 minutes, till soft. If you use mini Rolos, it will be less time!

pecan rolo candy pecan rolo candy

4. While they are hot and squishy, mash a pecan half into it. 5. Let cool and eat ’em up!

*NOTE If you use the large pretzels, the Rolos will melt down onto the pan and make removal difficult. Let it cool some. But not too much or the pretzel will break when you try to remove it from the pan! I think I’ll try lining the pan with parchment paper next time. broken pretzel candy

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage12 Days of Christmas 2012


Roasted Holiday Turkey

15 pound turkeyAt our house, nothing says Thanksgiving and Christmas like turkey and dressing. I’ve somehow become the turkey girl — I’m glad because it’s very easy. Buying more than one when they are available and inexpensive is a good idea– they are still good to eat later in the year!

When you buy a turkey it is usually frozen. There will be thawing instructions on the package, varying depending on the weight of the turkey and the temp of your fridge. I put this one in the fridge Wednestay evening and it still was a bit frozen inside on Sunday morning– so plan ahead! Of course you can thaw it in water or out on the countertop, but it’s not recommended.

Open the package in the sink– there will be lots of liquid that will make a mess if you don’t.

Now let’s get cooking!  I use Ina Garten’s herb butter recipe to start:

Preheat your oven to 375, and get out a shallow pan with a rack. (If you don’t have a rack, make your own with carrots and celery– the bonus is your juice will be extra flavored!)

In a small bowl, stir up 1 stick of butter, softened (You can use olive oil instead, or part olive oil and part butter if you want a little healthier choice– it won’t brown as well though.)

Add 1 tsp salt, pepper, and minced garlic

Add 1 TBS finely chopped fresh sage, basil, rosemary, parsley, and oregano. If you use dried herbs, crumble the leaves up and use about half as much.

herb butterNow, gently pry the skin away from the breast as far as you can. Get clumps of herb butter and spread under the skin. Then spread over all the skin, evening out the butter under the skin as you smear it around. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on if you want to. I like lots!

turkey with herb butter

Roasted turkey with herb butter

Now put him in to roast. Use the guidelines on the bag according to the weight. There is also a ton of “minutes per pound” info on the Interweb… I think I started checking this one after 3 1/2 or 4 hours. Now here’s the problem with a whole turkey and a deep pan like mine: (see it over by the sink?) The breast was over 180 degrees (remember how I love my meat thermometer) and brown and beautiful, but the bottom parts weren’t cooked all the way. After it cooled enough to handle it, I cut the breast meat off, flipped the whole thing over and put it back in the oven for another half hour or so. I have a convection oven, so I’m not sure if using a shallower pan would have prevented the uneven cooking?? For tomorrow (Thanksgiving day at Granny’s) I’m just cooking a breast. It’s still 8 pounds, all we’ll need, and much easier!

Save your juices, then use them in gravy. And for heaven’s sake, after you cut the meat off the bones, BOIL THEM! Put them in the crock pot overnight. You will get some of the most flavorful broth you’ve ever tasted. Then boil them again and you’ll get some more. I don’t know how many times you could do that; I stop after 2 times.

This was all that was left– it was a hit! leftover turkey


Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Auntie Em’s Cornbread Dressing

This is actually Granny’s/Grandma Ballard’s cornbread dressing, but I have Granny’s seal of approval ; ) I bet you will like it too! We had our annual Thanksgiving feast at our church last night and I made turkey and dressing with gravy (just a bit left), Auntie Em’s famous macaroni and cheese (nothing left), Grandma Ballard’s caramel pie (licked clean), and green beans (a bit left; who wants green beans when you have macaroni and cheese, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes lol!?)

Grandma's recipe for Cornbread dressing

I made a double batch of this dressing, except I neglected to read it ahead of time and and made only ONE double batch of Granny’s cornbread. It was still fine! Since I was cooking so much, I made it a 2-day affair. Granny fusses about making the cornbread the day ahead, but she liked it anyway!


1. Boil a hen in a large, heavy stockpot. Add salt and pepper, plus the skins and tops of your onions, garlic, and celery to flavor the broth. This will take a LONG TIME. After the water came to a boil, I turned down the heat and covered, cooked her for an hour and she was still tough. I probably could have cooked her another hour and the meat would have come off the bones a lot easier.

Be sure you get a HEN, not just a chicken. You get richer broth and your meat is firmer. Good for gumbo too!

I cut the root ends of the onion and celery off and tossed them; they just looked dirty. But I put all the rest of the scraps in the pot!

hen for boiling onion and celery

onion and celery scraps for stockpot Boiling hen in the stockpot

Here she is with everything ready to cook. I would have added garlic if I’d had any; I had to use garlic powder.

I just thought this was a funny picture. Reminded me of Achilles!

boiling hen

Here’s what she looks like after her swim: Let her cool, then pull off and chop the meat. You are going to put the little pieces in the dressing, and lay the breast slices on top. Strain the broth and put in a large container to use to moisten the dressing and make the gravy. Save the skin and bones for boiling, to get more good broth! Put them in a freezer bag and freeze them if you don’t want to do it now.

Boiled hen

Now for the bread– you can use regular, cheap, store-brand biscuits, or bigger, butter-flecked ones. I used the cheap-o ones this time. It should have been TWO double batches of cornbread, but I used just one. Minus a slice. (Somebody, whose initials are MX got to it!)

Granny's cornbread biscuits for dressing

Pull apart in 1-2 inch pieces and put in a jumbo ziplock bag or large covered bowl if you are making the day ahead. (Don’t tell Granny.)

Preparing cornbread dressing

Chop your onion and celery. I had a huge onion and it made almost 4 cups. I was very worried , fearing that it would be too much, but it was GOOD! And my 3 cups of chopped celery was the amount the recipe called for. (dumb luck) This time, instead of sautéing in a stick of butter, I used broth (DIET cornbread dressing!) and it worked out fine. Painless ways to cut calories are the way to go.

sautee celery and onion

Wait to combine everything until just before you are ready to cook it. First put the biscuit and cornbread pieces in a large pan. Add salt, pepper, sage, plus basil, rosemary, sage, and parsley. Start with a tablespoon or so of each, depending on your taste. Toss around to mix, then gently mix in chopped hen meat and chopped boiled eggs. Finally, add broth from the hen you boiled. Pour gently over the whole pan.  Start with 4-5 cups, and stir gently. All this “stir gently” is to make sure you don’t end up with cornbread dressing mush. And be careful to spread it around evenly but don’t smash it down.  Add enough broth to have just a bit standing in the bottom of the pan when you move the bread aside. I used almost 7 cups. Bake at 375 till browned, probably 30-45 minutes. During the last 10-15 minute you can add sliced meat in the top if you like.

toss biscuits and cornbread to mix egg slicer egg slicer

Ready to go! Recipe below. Gravy tomorrow!

Cornbread dressing

Not much was left!

empty pot luck

Auntie Em’s Grandma Ballard’s Hen and Dressing

1– 5 pound hen; boiled and deboned (True confessions: I’ve used canned chicken and broth before. Add some bouillon cubes and butter to make it richer.)

Bake and tear into 1″ pieces

  • 1 double recipe Granny’s cornbread
  • 2 cans biscuits


  • 1 cup butter or broth
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion (Auntie Em uses 1.5 to 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped celery


  • 1 TBS salt and pepper
  • 1 TBS parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme*

2-3 boiled eggs, chopped

Mix all together and gently add 2-4 cups broth .

Bake at 375 for 25-40 minutes, till brown.

*SING while you add it lol!!! (I can never resist a musical pun!)

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Tradition…. Tradition!

(Are you like me and hear Tevya singing?)

Tevye Tradition

Mike Burstyn as Tevye



Do you have timeless traditions centered around the holidays at your house? Certain foods you eat, fixed a certain way? Meeting and gathering on a certain day? Traditions give wonderful continuity and security to families.

But when you marry, or have children who marry, traditions sometimes have to change or at least adapt, and this can cause lots of conflict for everyone! Visit me over at A Biblical Marriage to read some tips to avoid stress over changing holiday traditions!

Holiday Stress

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