Category Archives: Baking

The Agony and Angst of Competition: Cupcake Wars


this is war baby

I’m a huge fan of the television reality show Cupcake Wars, so when our local bakery, Fat Bottom Girls, was asked to participate, I was ecstatic!  Actually, no one in town except the girls at the bakery even knew about it for the longest time, apparently like most wars, details are illusive, very hush-hush.  But when an airing date was finally announced, Aunt-Bea-Me did a little happy dance in the middle of her kitchen and then bounced to the laundry room to mark the calendar.

Well, I can tell you, the weeks drug on and on, my anticipation growing proportionately; and when the viewing date was so close I could almost taste one of Fat Bottom Girls Salted Caramel cupcakes burst in my inner mouth, I visited their cute, little pink bakery on Central for luck.

I’ve always heard that Hollywood was fickle, and now I can attest to that truth, because on that late day, mid-summer, I was shocked and disappointed to find that the Food Network contacted the Girls to let them know their show had been postponed, a future reschedule date to be announced some time later.

Well, I never….

The harshness of the outer world was mind-boggling.  Here in small town Arkansas, a person is only as good as his word, or the goodies she bakes, so a complete change in war strategies and rules came as a hard blow, shaking my faith in the entertainment world quite a bit.  But like any confident woman, Aunt-Bea-Me knows the true value of a Tim Gunn “Make it work” moment, so I made a plan that would facilitate another mandatory adjustment to change.

In true warrior style, I attacked the challenge using hands on combat, (baking therapy), to hasten and ensure a complete recovery, inventing cupcake after cupcake, each sugar free and more than a trifle dry or redundant.  But like any good soldier, I was steadfast in my determination and committed to the task ahead; that’s when the moist, delicious sugar free Banana Cream Cupcake with Cranberry Compote and Light Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting was born.  This cupcake was a hero!

It wasn’t long after the Sugar Free Banana Cream Cupcake with Cranberry Compote and Light Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting culinary success had led me to recovery from Hollywood’s brutal betrayal, that an announcement went out that our own Fat Bottom Girls had, at last, been rescheduled for national debut!

Will they win or will they go down in flames alongside countless other cupcake geniuses?  I can only guess because that whole war secrecy code thingy is still in full force, in spite of set backs and betrayals.  But pretty soon we will all know!

Turn into the Food Network tonight, Saturday, December 7th, at 7 pm central standard time, and find out!  You can bet your best apron Aunt-Bea-Me will be watching alongside her best friend-husband, Rich, in their basic beige love seat recliner!




OPPS! I accidentally erased this blog; so if the second time around is better than the first, I’m happy to re-present “Sponge Wars- an Epic Day of House Cleaning!” for your reading enjoyment.


If they held a draft for the American Domestic Olympics today, my name would be listed in the top ten competitors having nailed Sponge Wars yesterday! In preliminary drug testing, I was clean, (unless decaf and cardiac drugs are factored into control calculations).

cleaning supplies


I channeled Aunt Bea’s near OCD reorganization and kitchen cleaning skills, and sporting my 50 Shades of Beige smocked apron, I was off like a shot, at 8 in the morning!   Competition broke for a quick PBJ around noon, but was back in full swing within a half hour.  The games ended at 5:30 when competitors were required by law to initiate dinner mealtime preparations.  (Spectators were bummed, but in the end, found themselves agreeing with referees on that particular call.)

I must admit, but not to Olympic officials, I had an unfair advantage over other competitors.  From somewhere in the distance, Aunt Bea emerged wearing the most adorable aqua blue printed Jersey dress, cinched at the waist with a thin silver roped belt.  I could tell the belt was silver by its dainty buckle, but the rest disappeared, dividing Aunt Bea into two distinct segments, like one grapefruit precariously balance on another.

happy face

As quickly as I recognized the sweet little old lady, I heard the word “Borax.” ( telepathically, I believe).

Borax has been used for cleaning and laundry for over 100 years.  It is a naturally occurring mineral.  I remember my mom always having a box of 20 Mule Team Borax around, but paid little attention to it.  These days, I find myself trying to find ways to cut back on spending.  The price of staying clean keeps rising, but using Aunt Bea logic, there many, many ways to keep your money while keeping a sparkling clean house.

I pay around $3.60 for a large box of Borax.  It goes into the laundry for stain and odor control as it boosts general clothes cleaning.  Using one combination or another of borax, white vinegar, Dawn dishwashing soap, and baking soda, I’ve cut out spending money on all other cleaning products, except laundry detergent and bleach.  I don’t buy shampoo or conditioner anymore either.  Shopping is simple, check-out less painful, the house is spiffy clean, and our hair is in better shape than it has ever been before.


So yesterday’s game began with borax in a bucket of water, a couple of sponges, about 6 clean rags from the rag bag, and a spray bottle of water and beach, and I was good to go!

Dinner last night was an old favorite from Marlene Koch’s first Eat What You Love book, so I flubbed up, missing my goal of trying a new recipe a day, but the kitchen was so clean and smelled fresh, it was easy to justify falling off the wagon, so to speak.

Corkscrew Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo quickly became Bowtie Chicken and Mixed Vegetable Alfredo as I used ingredients I had on hand.  Delish!

Tonight is Vegetarian night so I’m back in Marlene’s new book and going for Sautéed Cabbage, Onions and Apples.  A few ingredients in this dish include cider vinegar, caraway seeds, (which I may substitute with another kind of seed since Rich isn’t a caraway fan),  chicken broth, and brown sugar.

Nutritionally speaking, it’s 45 calories a serving.  Say what?!  In the Food Exchange it counts as 1 vegetable and ½ carb choice.  The Weight Watcher Plus Point comparison is 1 point.  The numbers on this dish are so good, I’m attempting a second untried recipe, this one straight from the American Diabetes Association.  It’s Low Fat Corn Bread and counts as 2 starches on the exchange.  At 150 calories a serving, tonight’s meal will be low calorie, but we’’ll have to wait and see if it tastes good and leaves us feeling satisfied!  (No wimpy food for Rich!)

So no Olympics today, but it is bread day and daylight’s burning, so it’s the blue gingham apron for Aunt Bea Me today!  Stay for dinner anyone?

retro-kitchen set table



Pots. Pans. Portals.


I’m afraid I’ve accidentally opened some sort of intergalactic territorial gateway separating my little house in Arkansas, from Aunt Bea’s in Mayberry, R.F.D., (Rural Free Delivery), which exists to this day, on a distant plane, in a parallel universe.  Either that, or I’ve been possessed by Aunt Bea’s ghostly spirit who, apparently dissatisfied with the lack of need for domestic expediency in the after world, psychically picked up my vibes of admiration for her mastery levels in both familial and domestic skills.  Perhaps the pull between us was too much for time and logistical realities to ignore.  Or maybe I just quit trying to blend.

What we believe magically becomes our truth, and in my heart of hearts, I believe I am an absolute mirror reflection of Aunt Bea.  Lying in a hospital bed compiling a laundry list of Worst Case Scenarios, I decided to set my inner Aunt Bea free.  It was an idea I’d been toying around with for the last couple of years.  The challenge up until that particular point, was that I believed in order to be Aunt Bea, I needed the presence of my children.  (That darned empty nest nearly killed me.)

Morgan filled the gap from time to time, coming and going as educational realities ricocheted from Texas to Arkansas, to Texas, and back again, but the addition of a significant other, Charlie in this case, put a new spin on things at our house, and this time Rich and I held hands as we were sucked back into the tunnel of an ever-fluctuating nest.

It was a light bulb moment when I quit being afraid of all the changes that lie ahead, and effortlessly, there she was: Aunt Bea Me, giddy to continue my crazy love affair with domestic bliss!




Rich is taking me out to dinner tonight, so the kitchen’s closed until we sneak back in to raid the fridge for left-overs of last night’s yummy dessert!  The Heavenly Pumpkin Spice Cake was as easy to make as it was to eat, nearly orgasmic, making Aunt Bea blush.  Today she’s still smiling!

happy face


So Many Goals, So Little Time


I set a loose goal for myself three days ago.  I say loose because given the manic nature of my personality, it’s not reasonable to expect compliance with any non-essential 24/7.  Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve set several new goals recently, some as far back as last October when I announced I wanted to start baking all of my own bread, including the Artisan variety.  I asked for the supplies I’d need, pans, pizza paddle and stone, for Christmas.  Of course Santa brought them.  But then I couldn’t decide which recipe book I wanted; that decision required multiple trips to the library for research.  (Who want to spend money on the wrong book?)  Anyway, I finally decided on Artisan Bread from the Culinary Institute of America’s At Home series. (Love it!)  I read it front to back a couple of times, trying to decipher then master ‘bread making lingo’.  Then I took notes and started visiting little shops in our area that specialize in organic products, including nuts and seeds, and hard to find baking ingredients.  I pillaged the brains of shop owners until I felt confident enough to begin.  My first loaf of mixed wheat and grain bread emerged from the oven only 3 short weeks ago.  Yeah.  It took that long to go from setting the goal to realizing it.  I bake breads every 3 days now, and it hardly interferes with the rest of my days schedule.  The bread is delicious and not hard to do anymore, and the days of spending $4.79  for a small artisan loaf are hopefully gone forever.

Ever since Rich’s type 2 diabetes rared its ugly head, I’ve been cooking a great many meals taken from Marlene Koch’s Eat What You Love recipe book.  I love that each item is broken down nutritionally and includes not only ADA equivalents but Weight Watcher points as well.  I told my daughter, Billie, all about the book about a year ago, but it wasn’t until, on a recent visit here to Hot Springs, Arkansas, when I prepared a meal for her, (including a Balsamic vinaigrette for the luscious accompanying salad), taken from the book, that she decided she wanted to hear more.  Last week a package arrived in the mail from her.  It was Marlene’s new book, Eat More of what you Love!  Receiving it has inspired me to make set yet another culinary goal.

Every day I want to try a new recipe.  I addressed the new commitment for the first time day before yesterday when I prepared Quinoa and vegetable stuffed red peppers.  Making that vegetarian choice helped me keep another goal I’d set two weeks ago.  That one is to prepare and serve two meatless dinners each week, one being a fish preparation, and the other 100% vegetarian.  I was on a roll for one day.  But day two was bread day and I got over zealous making multiple loaves, par baking several for the freezer.

But the plan is back on today!  Marlene’s Light-as-a-Feather Zucchini Casserole will accompany one of my own creations:  Chicken-fried-baked-in-the-oven-Steaks, a small green salad, and of course, a modest serving of artisan bread.

Aunt Bea’s Pearl for today, pearl, as in pearls of wisdom, is: Stay on task, keep your focus, and never bite off more than you can chew!

signature photo

Welcome to Aunt-Bea-Me, my world of domestic adventure!


Hi!  I’m Itty.  I could describe myself in several different ways, but  since I believe our passions and the choices we make every day illustrate our most basic qualities, I have to say that in my heart of hearts, I am and always have been a consummate home maker.  My personality is generally upbeat.  On the surface I sometimes appear to have a tendency to romanticize life, but the fact is, I’m much too practical to actually qualify as a dreamer.

Let’s just say my childhood was rather Bohemian in practice, a lot of moving around, shallow roots, big family loyalty, but nothing that embraced those outside our small inner circle. There was Mom and Dad, my brother and sister, and me.  I used to actually think we were pirates, and our car, the ship we used to travel to new lands in search of treasure.  The truth is I never wanted to find anything more than I already had.  I never wanted to be rich or famous, but the one thing I secretly desired was the planting of deep roots.

Like many Baby Boomers, I grew up watching tame television programs where every messy dilemma was solved in 30 minutes minus commercial breaks.  That’s when I met Aunt Bea, Andy Griffith’s jovial, organized, slightly a-twitter, (surrogate mother to his son, Opie), resident matriarch of the  house.  For me, Aunt Bea epitomized the concept of consistency, thus feeding my hunger for tradition and the roots that held everything else in place.  It wasn’t long until Aunt Bea trumped my list of heroines, that to that point, consisted of Mrs. Santa Clause and Ethyl Mertz.

Aunt-Bea-Me reflects that side of me; anything else I consider remotely descriptive falls terribly short of the bar I set as a child.  My fascination with Pinterest proved there are lots of women interested in reviving the fine arts and treasured traditions of home making.  There is nothing like the satisfaction you feel when creating something yourself; the only thing better is sharing the results of  your creative efforts with the people you love.    So welcome to Aunt-Bea-Me and lets have some fun as I, metaphorically speaking, channel Aunt Bea with all her dizzying energy across these pages.