Tag Archives: Cooking

Waiting for Leisure to Begin

Waiting for Leisure to Begin

I never saw Aunt Bea in a pair of fuzzy pink slippers but I’ve got to believe she owned one.  Here in domestic Nirvana, I’ve given mine a real workout of late.  These slippers are not the dainty feathery type with pointy, sharp heels, (I’m no Elizabeth Taylor), or the casual flip flop summer variety, but more an over the ankle combat boot lined with molten hot flannel wrapped in thick batting, and finished in a flurry of heavy duty fleece.

As I pad along creaking oak floors in these beauties, I’m also wearing hefty wool socks patterned with stripes, plaids, little yellow ducks,( the print doesn’t matter), because its effectiveness I’m looking for.  What I really want is a compact pair of energy efficient ovens for cold, arthritic feet, but I can’t find any anywhere in retail.

boots meant for walking

I generally love frosty weather, but this year my brain seems to have dropped the ball because my body never got the message.  As a result, I’m moving through the house with the silhouette of a Green Bay Packer, (undershirts, long johns, sweater on sweater), muddling through work that suddenly is more chore, less delight, and the sheer weight of heavy clothing is getting me down.  Now add grey, overcast sky and ice with an attitude and you can see where I am. We’ve had so many ice storms this year, I’m tempted to throw away every piece of crystal in the entire house just to get rid of any reminder of the brutes outside beating up the shrubbery, torturing naked trees, and mauling finicky power lines.

Then there’s the fact that I blew out a tire in a couple of appliances and the budget isn’t having anything at all to do with my sobbing pleas to replace them; as a result, I’ve found myself grounded to a complete halt on the frozen surface of the proverbial creek.  I might have a good case for self-pity:

Blues, despair, agony on me,   Deep, dark depression,    excessive misery.   If it weren’t for bad luck,    I’d have no luck at all.     Blues, despair,    agony on me,  (Lyrics courtesy of Buck Owens and Roy Clark for this verse of their little jingle  from Hee-Haw, circa 1969 – 1992), but I don’t think so.  If Aunt Bea wasn’t already ‘homesteading’ in earnest, she is now.

The problem with actually living life means there isn’t as much time to write about living life, so from time to time in passing, I smile at the computer, wiping a near-tear away with designer cleaning gloves, as my furry combat slippers carry me from one chore to another.

Dietary news is much brighter than what comes out of Maintenance these days, what with dark, heavy skies and flurries of flurries, I am inspired.  Soups, stews and rich warm casseroles have found their way through last season’s maze of light entrees and green salads, kicking ass and taking names.

winter squash

The cabbage looks a little droopy in the market so Rich gets a well-deserved break, but the aisles are literally bursting with colorful, mysterious looking varieties of winter squash and root vegetables!  Aunt Bea Me has tried them all, some more successfully than others, but each a winner in its own humble way.

With Rich’s A1C level hovering safely around 6, it’s good to go at our house, and both of us are eagerly awaiting the lull we plan to transform into a virtual festival of rest and relaxation!   The puzzle boxes are stacked neatly on a corner game table and the remote control is properly situated between the two sections of a double recliner we share.

puzzles boxwd

Yes, Mission Control is a-buzz with anticipation as these two old space cadets giddily wait for leisure to begin.

mission control

Unfortunately, to this point, by the time the day’s work is semi-complete, neither has the energy for lift-off.  And although it’s not exactly the scenario either had imagined, it still beats the pants off anything we had before we teamed up.

hands holding hands

Happy New Year, my friends, and may the Force be with you. 


Victorious and Bragging after Yesterday’s Yard Sale Marathon!


salt and pepper has its consequences


Need I say more?

This is my favorite find from yesterday’s Yard Sale Adventure!  A family argument immortalized in salt and pepper ceramic art!  I think it’s classic, and I’m counting on it to elevate my small salt and pepper shaker collection to near-great status.

On another note, Aunt-Bea-Me received a nomination from the Empathy Queen today for the Versatile Blogger Award! Many thanks to her Empathetic Highness for the gracious nod.  ( I  hear IttyMac is celebrating at her house too since she’s been nominated for the same award!)

Now just a note to the follower who asked for my Mexican Black Bean and Corn Relish Recipe:  Thanks for asking!  I took it as a compliment!    I have to say, Aunt-Bea-Me is very bad about writing down the ingredients she is using when she’s caught up in her own creative juices, but I think she remembers this one!

Ingredients needed:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed * 3-4 small cloves of shallot, finely minced * 1 ear fresh, uncooked corn, cut from the cob * freshly chopped Cilantro, 2 teaspoons, or to taste * juice of one fresh lime to bring it all together.  (You may substitute 2 teaspoons of bottled lime juice if needed) Start with 2 teaspoons but add a 3rd if needed *

Mix all ingredients together, letting them sit in a bowl or serving dish for a minimum of a half an hour ensuring the flavors meld well.  May be served at room temperature or chilled.  (Aunt Bea prefers it chilled.)  This Mexican Black Bean and Corn Relish is great with baked tortilla triangles, baked pita strips or baked flat bread, and sliced avocado.

Well, I’m rolling down my garters and putting my feet up while I enjoy a nice cup of Camomile and Lavender hot tea on the deck!  Here on the mountain, it’s a delightful 70 degrees today!  Aunt-Bea is in paradise, for sure.

happy face

This isn’t your mama’s Southern-Fried Kitchen, my friends…managing the numbers in diabetes…


I learned the theory of managing diabetes as a student.  Throughout my nursing career I put what I’d learned into practice.  In my mid-forties, I created monthly diabetic dietary menus for seniors living in my personal care homes, many of whom suffered from multiple disease processes.

My grandfather was diabetic; my brother is, but it was not until I married a brittle diabetic, brittle meaning a diabetic with unstable blood glucose levels in spite of his best efforts, that I began to truly understand the dietary complexity and daily frustrations associated with the disease.

Getting a diagnosis of Diabetes feels like the end of the world as we know it, according to Rich, because you have to say goodbye to many foods you often associate with comfort and home, satisfaction and tradition, while simultaneously feeling forced to eat foods you don’t like, that far too often, taste like cardboard.

I am not a nutritionist, but I am a registered nurse who is married to a diabetic. Because of my personal history with this seemingly daunting disease, I’ve learned it is possible for you to enjoy healthy meals and manage your numbers while LOVING the food you eat.

Enter Aunt-Bea shaking her stubby finger in our face, reminding us we are responsible grown-ups with creative minds, and while we may not get everything we want in life, we have the power to transform what we have into what we need.

It begins with a commitment, she says, to change the way we think about eating food, exchanging the sugary fast-food mentality that permeates society to a healthier food plan that improves the quality and duration of life. Imagination and tenacity can bridge the gap between the want and need. Aunt Bea reminds us that life is short and every day is a celebration of something or another, and that it is always up to us to decide exactly how tight we wear our garters.

this is my best side

No nonsense, practical minded guru of all things comforting and traditional, Aunt Bea can find her way around any kitchen, her tiny granny shoes shuffling, and the ruffles on her apron keeping beat to the music in her head while she experiments with old recipes, transforming them into modern, health-conscious feasts.

This isn’t your mama’s Southern-Fried Kitchen, my friends; this is Aunt Bea’s House, and the joint is jumping with healthy-yummy!

Whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits, fiber, fish, poultry, and a day or two a week of lean red meat is our rule of thumb!  Aunt-Bea-Me is an herb-nut, often substituting them for salt.  Salt is okay in small doses, but lacks the unique flavors and natural healing elements present in herbs.  A single pinch of salt is enough to make complex herbal flavors and textures POP in any dish.  She is also hooked on Olive Oil and quality Infused Vinegars, counting on them to do more than dress a salad; they add unique depth to simple flavors, elevating the ordinary to star.

Aunt Bea is a thrifty little munchkin who delights in pinching pennies, so nothing goes to waste.  She rules the kitchen with a pot holder in one hand, a spatula in the other, and a grin as wide as the front door on her face, as she sticks to the cardinal rule of keeping things simple.

From my experience and research, I can tell you both Low Fat and Low Carb diets are equally successful in acheiving weight loss, but which of the two is better at keeping the weight off?  That question I can’t answer, it varies from person to person, so it’s an individual choice; but it seems to me, if you’re of a mindset to eat low carb products, more likely than not, the consumption of low fat foods is a normally occurring consequence of that choice.  At our house, we tend to focus more heavily on carb counts because it more effectively manages Rich’s numbers, and it fits well with the diabetic rule of thumb: of all the calories consumed daily, 45-65% should be in the form of carbohydrates.

If the numbers confuse you, the internet is full of sites that provide free calculators for figuring out how many calories you actually consume each day.  There are also sites that calculate the number of calories you should be eating based on your weight, activity level and age.  And there are sites available that breakdown every food showing its Nutritional Value, IE: proteins, fats, calories, fiber, carbs, cholesterol, etc.  I suggest you get in the habit of using these tools as you build your Diabetic education.


Every carb you eat is converted into 4 calories.  Understanding that helps me keep my perspective when shopping for groceries or eating out.  Since we keep it as simple as possible at our house, I round the numbers out, making sure no more than half of the calories we consume daily are healthy carbs. Here’s what was on the menu last night:

Carrot, Red Grape and Cucumber Salad

cucumber grape and carrot salad

Dressed in Olive Oil and White Balsamic Vinegar

Oven-Fried-Chicken-Fried Steak

beef its whats for dinner

and Baked Potato topped with a heart smart butter alternative

and a dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt

Ingredients You Will Need:

ingredients needed

Egg substitute, Panko bread crumbs, Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Pam or similar spray, one Foil, Wax Paper or Parchment Lined Baking Sheet.

Trimmed cube or round steak

Trimmed cube or round steak


Preheat oven to 375.  Spray pam on grill.  Set grill in parchment, foil or wax paper covered pan.  Trim beef to 2 4 ounce portions.  Set left over beef aside for later.  Dip the 2 pieces of beef in Egg Beaters on one side and set on rack inside baking dish. Season each patty with a pinch of garlic, salt, pepper and paprika.  If you want a different flavor, use your imagination! Using a measuring spoon or your fingers, sprinkle Panko breadcrumbs over the surface of each serving.  (I used 2 tablespoons on each.) Then lightly spray the Panko crumbs with drizzle of Pam or a similar spray product; (this will add to the crunch by deepening browning as the meat bakes).

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

While dinner is baking, chop the left over meat and cover with water in a deep saucepan.  Add a stalk of cut celery and about 1/4th of 1 onion.  Season with spices of your choice; I used thyme, a pinch of salt and black pepper.  If you want this to be a vegetable beef broth, add more veggies.  Feel free to play with your spices here.  I keep broths fairly simple, using them as savory bases to build more complex dishes that will have various levels and depths of flavor.

Place the pan on the stove and bring contents to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and cover saucepan with a lid. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, depending on the amount of beef.  When the broth is complete, the flavors of the meat and vegetables will be imparted into the broth liquid.  Set aside to cool, then remove and discard the meat and the vegetables.  Strain remaining liquid and transfer into a freezer bag; mark and freeze. There you have it, Beef Broth, ready for another dish.

The prepared meal above is less than 600 calories, containing around 50 carbs, and calculating out as less than 10% of total meal calories.

Don’t panic!  I’m not starving Rich!  He eats three meals, two snacks and a dessert every day coming in at between 1,800 -2,000 calories daily.  Keeping a meal calorie count light opens possibilities for the remainder of the day.  Often lunch is the heaviest carb meal of the day since often it consists of a sandwich, or a half of a sandwich.  Just be sure that the added carbs are as healthy as they can possibly be, whole grain breads, a mayonnaise substitute, and baked, not fried chips; or you can forego the chips altogether choosing to enjoy a serving of fresh fruit instead.

From Aunt Bea’s Kitchen to the glucometer: This one is for you!

happy face

New Recipe: Do No Harm Chicken Parm


My kitchen has been a science lab for the past few days; sadly, it can be said that one or two of the recipes I’ve concocted, turned it into a crime scene as well.  Truthfully, most the recipes under construction are make-overs.  My daughters love eating my food but complain that I never write down how to prepare the dishes.

 it wasn't THAT bad

Guilty as charged! 

Now that the diabetes plague has settled over our house, it’s important I’m confident that what I mix up isn’t going to explode into glucose and fat, so I’m making a real effort to verify and record the ingredients in the foods I make.  I’m also researching nutritional values.

Rich is a Jersey guy, and Jersey guys love their Italian.  But Rich is also a diabetic, so a great deal of Mama Mia’s Menu is off limits.  To keep a happy home, Aunt-Bea-Me has made Rich’s pallet a priority.  I know the insides of his stomach like I know the floor plan of my own kitchen!

kitchen 1

kitchen 2

kitchen 3


Now let’s get this show on the road, ladies and gentlemen:

Do No Harm Chicken Parm (for two)

1-2 teaspoons Olive Oil

2 3 0z skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Salt to taste

1 egg white beaten in a shallow bowl and set aside

2 Tablespoons Panko, Japanese bread crumbs

Spray Pam (or similar brand)

2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

4 Tablespoons shredded low moisture Mozzarella cheese

1 cup marinara * recipe to follow

2 ounces dry whole grain spaghetti pasta (2 oz. dry pasta = 1 cup cooked pasta)

Marinara Sauce

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tablespoon canned tomato paste

1-2 Tablespoons low sugar ketchup

¼ teaspoon Worchester Sauce

½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons honey

A variety of herbs, dried or fresh:



Fennel seed


1  bay leaf

Dried herbs are stronger than fresh.  If you’re using fresh herbs, you’re going to have to use about 3 times more than you would the dry.  Ex: 1 teaspoon dried basil = 3 teaspoons fresh basil.

I grow most of my own herbs and use them fresh in warm months.  Whatever I don’t use, I dry and have handy for cooler months.  Personal tastes vary, but when using fresh herbs for a small recipe like this one,  I normally use about 1 teaspoon of chopped Oregano, I Tablespoon chopped Basil, ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, ¼ teaspoon finely chopped Rosemary, and sometimes I add about 1 teaspoon of chopped Thai Basil, depending on my mood.

Thai Basil and Fennel seeds add a sweet licorice flavor, creating depth.

There are many premixed, ready for use dried Italian-Blend herbs in the market place.  If doing it that way, again, for a small recipe such as this, I think I would recommend starting with a slight Tablespoon, and adding more according to taste.

Mix all ingredients for marinara in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Stir from time to time as mix comes to a slow simmer.  Cover and simmer on low heat for approximately 15 minutes, stirring periodically. (There’s going to be more sauce than you need for this recipe, so put leftovers in a sealed container, store in the refrigerator, and serve it over turkey meatballs another day.)

Meanwhile as sauce simmers, trim all fat from the chicken breasts.  Place each, one at a time, in a plastic bag. Using a flat meat hammer, pound until chicken breasts are about ½ inch thick.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Add Olive Oil to heavy oven safe frying pan.  (Cast iron is my preference!)  Spread oil evenly.

Dredge each chicken breast in egg white, on one side only, and transfer to frying pan, undredged side down.

Sprinkle each piece of chicken with salt to taste, add ½ teaspoon Lemon Pepper, and 1 Tablespoon Panko. Lightly spray Panko surface with Pam.  (Some bread crumbs may blow off, so be prepared!)  Bake chicken for 15 minutes then remove the pan from the oven and add 1-2 Tablespoons of Marinara Sauce to each piece.  Then add 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese and 2 Tablespoons Mozzarella to each chicken breast.  Return pan to oven, cooking for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and brown.  (Internal temperature should be 160-165°.)    While chicken is baking, prepare spaghetti according to package directions, drain but do not rinse.  Set aside.

parm in a pan

Plate chicken.  Add 1/2 cup cooked spaghetti and cover with 1/4 cup Marinara Sauce. I usually serve our meals on luncheon-sized plates.  It gives an illusion of having more to eat than is actually there.

parm on a plate


Even though the nutritional values in this dish are good, they’d be better if you skipped eating it altogether.  But in the real world, real people, even diabetics, want to enjoy what they eat.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that 45-60 % of your daily caloric intake should be composed of carbohydrates, and 25-35% of the calories should come from fats. Also recommended is that protein should be approximately 12-20% of your daily Caloric intake.

Nutritional Values per serving:

361 calories, 46 carbs, 5 fats, 34 proteins, 341 sodium and 5.5 sugar

An excellent way to decrease carbs in this dish is to pass on the pasta.  Doing so will reduce Carbs from 46 gm to 17.  To balance this meal, I prepared a lettuce, apple and toasted pine nut salad accompanied by sugar free homemade poppy seed dressing.  it was simply  delish!  

 Aunt-Bea-Me Pearl for today:  If dinner isn’t the only thing cooking in the kitchen, pour yourself a nice glass of sweet tea, and relax!

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Trying to Keep Up with Time: balancing life around the reality of a ticking clock


Mercy, mercy Me!  The past few days have raced by like a pack of sled dogs!

dog sled team

But breakfasts, lunches and dinners haven’t lacked my down home sense of style, except for last Tuesday.  You know how much Aunt-Bea-Me respects consistency and order, well, they were both blown to hell’s bells when Morgan and Charlie decided to break up.

And it couldn’t have happened on a worse day.  My friend, Marie, moved to Louisiana that morning…sob.sob.  So the children’s news sent me scampering off to the kitchen, where I sat at the table with a lace hanky in my hand, concentrating as hard as I could, to work up a flood of tears.  Just as success was within grasp, the telephone rang, breaking what had promised to be a very wet season.

The rest of day is a blur.

another kitchen failure

Later that evening, Rich rushed us to nearest Chinese Restaurant, the Wok Express, where he did his dead level best to lift my spirits.  He was doing a pretty good job of it too,  until I opened my fortune cookie….

stale fortune


Wednesday was in deed, a better day.  I spent the entire afternoon in the capable hands of Eric, my hairdresser.  What that man can do with a pair of scissors is the envy of every bolt of cotton broadcloth in the county.

time out


Moving on.. tonight’s meal was a near masterful presentation of my own ground chicken patties, sprinkled with a smattering of salt and lemon pepper, and a thin crust of Panko, then sautéed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil till golden brown.  Last week’s cabbage selection wasn’t nearly a hit with Rich, so I felt compelled to redeem myself, and cabbage, in his eyes.

I began by julienne-slicing the bright green cabbage leaves, and then set them aside.  A couple of pieces, (2), of bacon went directly into a small sauté pan until crispy brown.  Then I blotted them on paper towels, rough cut them into medium-sized pieces and set them aside.

I took 1 fresh apple, peeled and sliced it into thin slices and set that aside also.

In a large, clean sauté pan, I added about 1 ½ teaspoons of the bacon drippings along with 1 tablespoon of margarine.  When the oils had blended and become hot, I added the cabbage and apples, salting, minimally, and using a pinch of black pepper.  Stirring periodically, I mixed the two till the cabbage softened and was perfect to taste.  That’s when I added the chopped bacon, tossing it throughout the mixture.  The whole process couldn’t have taken more than 15 or 20 minutes and was divine with the tiny red potatoes and chicken I served.

(I have to be stingy with potatoes because of Rich’s diabetes), so I boiled 3 that were each about the size of a small lemon; then I cut them in half, placed a stem of fresh Basil from my garden beside them.  I served Rich 3 halves, I had 2, and Fig, dear Fig-Fido, had the last. (It was necessary to hide the dog’s antibiotic inside, creating a sort of potato cocktail.  Camouflaging a pill is the only way to get it down her throat, and believe me when I say; I’m not the least bit hesitant to resort to such tactics if it helps Fig.)   Oh, how I digress.

iPhone4 photos 5 31 13 1255

You will hand over that potato…


Bam!  Dinner done!  Dishwasher loaded!  Rich watching reruns of the mini-series Shoˉgun, and it’s Aunt-Bea’s time for a hot bath.


Pearl for today: Always wear clean, un-tattered underwear.  You never know when you’ll get hit by a bus, and end up in the Emergency Room.

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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!

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