Beams prepare hearty dishes for busy family

Photo by Ann Cipperly

By Ann Cipperly

Sitting around a handsome 10-foot heart pine table, Kathy and Chuck Beams look over their recipes, as both of them enjoy cooking. Chuck built the large table from heart pine lumber found in west Alabama. They wanted a big table for having family and friends over from church and other parties. The table is also the perfect spot for the children to do homework and projects.

Kathy grew up in Birmingham where her father was a Baptist minister. Kathy met Chuck, who is from Tuscaloosa, while attending pharmacy school at Auburn University. They were married at the end of the first year and have been married for 21 years.

After graduating, they lived in Millbrook and Tuscaloosa before moving to Opelika in 2002. They had both enjoyed living in the area while attending Auburn and wanted to move back. In 2006, they built their lovely home in Sanders Creek.

“We just love this area,” says Chuck, “and love the people. It has great schools. I drive five minutes to work. We live in about a five mile bubble.”

The Beams have three children, Walker, 16, a student at Opelika High School; Will, 14, an 8th grader at the Middle School; and Maggie, who is in the 2nd grade at Southview Elementary School.

With the boys active in sports and Maggie taking piano lessons, Kathy and Chuck have busy schedules, and both cook to provide nutritious meals for the family.

Kathy remembers as a young child helping her mom cook lunches after church on Sunday.  She also remembers going to visit her German grandmother in St. Louis Missouri and watching her bake.  “She was the greatest baker,” says Kathy, “and could cook all sorts of breads and cookies.” Her cooking skills really began to grow after she started babysitting for a family in Birmingham.

Chuck’s mother is also a great cook and has taught Kathy much about cooking. Chuck was amazed at how his mother worked all day but managed to cook breakfast, made their lunches and prepared dinner every day.

When Chuck began cooking more, he called his mother for recipes. He now recreates her Red Beans and Rice as well as other dishes.  He has made big pots of the Red Beans and Rice for their supper group and for a New Year’s Eve party.

Chuck enjoys hunting. He started deer hunting with his father and grandfather when he was a child. He remembers when they would drive dogs through the woods on hunts.

He now hunts deer with his sons and a friend from church “My goal every year,” says Chuck, “is to put three deer in the freezer. We don’t buy ground beef, we use venison instead.”

The Beams enjoy entertaining, Two of Chuck’s favorite recipes are Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Deer Poppers, which can also be prepared with beef tenderloin, and Slow Cooker Deer Cube Steaks, which can also be made with beef.

On weekends, Chuck grills on a Big Green Egg, while Kathy bakes, which is her favorite thing to do. The Chocolate Sheet Cake is everyone’s favorite for birthdays and other celebrations. Maggie helps mix the batter for Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins for breakfast.

The boys are also learning to cook and helping their father grill.

Since both boys play football, Kathy plans hearty meals that will fill them up, including Barbecue Meatballs, Lasagna and Twice Baked Potatoes. She uses a slow cooker for hectic days. The Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches can be ready to serve after work.

When she has more times on weekends, Kathy will prepare the Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce, which only needs an accompanying salad to complete the meal. She has served this scrumptious dish to a ladies group. “It has a wonderful aroma while cooking,” says Kathy. “The ladies said they could smell it cooking from outside.

“We love living here,” says Kathy. “We have gotten involved with our church, Trinity Presbyterian, and just love all aspects of living here.  In the fall, our favorite thing to do is tailgate with friends and attend Opelika High School football games.”

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at


Chuck’s Mom’s Red Beans and Rice
2 lbs. Conecuh smoked sausage, sliced into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sage
2 bay leaves
4 cans dark red beans
Rice, hot sauce
Cook sausage in large saucepan or Dutch oven; set aside. Sauté onion, pepper and garlic in sausage grease.
Remove sausage to pan; add seasonings and beans. Simmer for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice with your favorite hot sauce.

Chuck’s Slow Cooker Deer (or Beef) Cube Steaks
Deer or beef cube steaks
Sliced mushrooms
Chopped onions
Large family size cream of mushroom soup
Garlic powder, salt, pepper
Cooked rice
Brown cube steak on both sides in a frying pan coated with nonstick spray. Remember, you are not cooking cube steak, just browning both sides.
In a slow cooker, put a layer of mushrooms and onions on bottom.  Add a layer of. cube steak.  Add a layer of sliced mushrooms and cut up onions.  Add a layer of cube steak, then another layer of mushrooms and onions.  Repeat this process until you have used all the cube steak, mushrooms and onions.
Pour a large family size can of cream of mushroom soup over the layers.  I add garlic powder along with salt and pepper for good measure.  I am usually heavy on the garlic powder.
Here is my favorite part. Turn slow cooker on PANIC, which means high in my family. I leave the slower cooker all day on high.  The cooking time is approximately 10-11 hours.  The cube steak will be very tender.
Make a large pot of rice.   Put rice on your plate, and cover it with the meat, mushrooms and onions.

Slow Cooker Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
12 oz. bottle buffalo wing sauce
2 Tbsp. ranch mix seasoning
2 Tbsp. butter
6 hamburger buns
6 slices cheddar cheese
Ranch or blue cheese dressing
Place chicken breasts in lightly greased slow cooker.
In medium bowl, combine buffalo wing sauce and ranch seasoning.
Pour hot sauce mixture over chicken in slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Shred chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Stir in butter until melted.
Preheat broiler. Place slices of cheese on bun tops and melt under broiler for 1-2 minutes.
Pile buffalo chicken onto buns. Top with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast or tenders
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (thyme, oregano, basil – combined)
5 medium tomatoes, chopped into cubes
1 cup cooked spinach
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. or to taste crushed red pepper flakes
6 cooked bacon strips, crumbled
1 l/3 cups half and half
1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
10 oz. penne pasta, cooked according to directions on pkg.
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving
In a large skillet, on high heat, heat olive oil until hot. Cook chicken on one side on high heat for 1 minute. Sprinkle uncooked sides of chicken with paprika and Italian seasoning. Flip chicken; cook for 1 minute on high heat. Reduce heat to medium; flip chicken again. Cook, covered, for several minutes until it is no longer pink; set aside.
In the same pan, add tomatoes, spinach, garlic, red pepper, 1/3 of the chicken (sliced into small strips) and half the bacon. Mix together.
Add half and half and bring to boil; add grated Parmesan cheese, then immediately reduce to simmer. Stir until cheese melts and sauce is creamy, about 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with additional red pepper flakes and salt, if desired.
Add cooked pasta that has been rinsed to sauce. Add remaining half of bacon. Slice remaining 2/3 of chicken into thin strips. To serve, top pasta with chicken strips and grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Deer (or Beef) poppers
1 lb. venison (tenderloin or backstrap is preferred) or beef tenderloin
6 jalapeno peppers
1/2 pkg.  bacon (cut slices of bacon in half)
Cream cheese
1 onion, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
Italian dressing
Soak toothpicks in water.  Cut venison into 1-inch chunks.
Remove seed from the jalapenos and cut into small slices or 1/2-inch chunks. Omit if you don’t like spice.  Cut onions into 1/2-inch flakes.
On a cutting board lay out the 1/2 strips of bacon in a line. Assemble jalapeno, venison, onion and a swipe of cream cheese in a tower formation placed in center of bacon strip. Swiping the cream cheese onto the onion slice is what I have found to be the easiest.
Wrap bacon around stack and stick with a toothpick through the middle to hold contents together. Place bites in a bowl or container; marinate with Italian dressing for 2-24 hours.
Grill on medium heat and cook until bacon is done.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Separately whisk egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
8 baking potatoes, washed
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 sticks salted butter, sliced into pats
1 cup bacon bits or fry your own)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar or Jack cheese (or a mix of both), plus more for topping
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. seasoned salt
3 green onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet. Rub canola oil on potatoes; bake for 1 hour or until cooked through.
Place butter in a large mixing bowl; add bacon bits and sour cream. Remove potatoes from the oven. Lower the heat to 350.
With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scrape out insides into mixing bowl, being careful not to tear the shell. Leave a small rim of potato intact for support. Lay hollowed out potato shells on a baking sheet.
Smash potatoes into the butter, bacon and sour cream. Add cheese, milk, seasoned salt, green onions and black pepper to taste; mix together well. (If freezing potatoes, do not add the green onions.)
Fill the potato shells with the filling. Top with more grated cheese. Bake until potatoes are warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Barbecue Meatballs
To make a meatball sub, place meatballs and sauce in sliced hoagie roll, top with grated cheese and heat until cheese melts.
1 1/2 lb. ground beef or venison
3/4 cup oats
1 cup milk
3 Tbsp. very finely minced onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Black pepper
2 cups ketchup
4 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. vinegar
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire
8 or more Tbsp. minced onion
2 dash of Tabasco
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet; place in freezer for five minutes.
Remove from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour.
In a skillet over medium heat, brown meatballs in canola oil until just brown. Place into a baking dish.
Combine all sauce ingredients and then pour evenly over top of meatballs. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bars
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup jarred caramel sauce
1 cup chocolate chips
20 to 25 pretzels
1/2 Tbsp. Kosher or sea salt, divided
Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil and 2 eggs with an electric mixer. Once smooth, pour half of batter into prepared baking dish, spreading to form an even layer.
In another bowl, combine caramel sauce with condensed milk. Stir in chocolate chips and 1/4 Tbsp. of salt. Mix together with a spoon and then spread over first layer. Place pretzel pieces down on top of caramel layer.
Take other half of batter and dot around top of pretzel layer. It won’t spread; just drop big dots of batter.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bars are about set in center. Remove bars from oven and cool about 30 minutes before slicing. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 Tbsp. of salt over cooled bars. Store at room temperature.

Slow Cooker Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta
4-6 chicken breasts
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4 oz. Onion and Chive Cream Cheese
2 cups chicken broth
1 packet dry Italian salad dressing
3 Tbsp. cornstarch, optional
3 Tbsp. cold water, optional
1 lb. angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
Spread chicken breasts across the bottom of slow cooker; pour cream of mushroom soup over top. Add cream cheese, chicken broth and Italian dressing mix. Cook on low 4-5 hours.
While pasta is cooking, shred the chicken in slow cooker with two forks. If a thicker sauce is desired, stir cornstarch and cold water together in a small bowl and then stir into the chicken mixture.
When pasta is cooked, stir into slower cooker.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Mix together in bowl:
1 cup softened butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Roll or scoop into balls, and mash down with a fork dipped in sugar.
Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Sheet Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 sticks butter
4 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping Tbsp. cocoa powder
6 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. box powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, optional
Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir together; set aside.
In another bowl, mix buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and eggs. Mix with a fork; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter; add cocoa. Whisk together to combine. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to a boil. When the butter is melted, pour boiling water in pan. Allow to bubble for a moment, then turn off heat.
Pour chocolate mixture into flour mixture. Stir together for a moment to cool chocolate. Pour in egg mixture. Stir together until smooth. Pour into an ungreased jellyroll pan (or rimmed baking sheet) and bake for 20 minutes.
While cake is baking, make icing: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cocoa powder and stir until smooth. Add milk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add pecans; stir until well combined.
Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, pour warm icing over top, distributing it evenly.

Vermicelli Pie with Pepperoni
1/2 (12-oz.) pkg. vermicelli pasta
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, well beaten
1 lb.  ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
8-oz. can stewed tomatoes, undrained
6-oz. can tomato paste
3/4 tsp. dried whole oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 cup cream-style cottage cheese
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
8 to 12 pepperoni slices
Cook vermicelli according to package directions; drain. Stir butter and Parmesan cheese into hot vermicelli. Add eggs, stirring well. Spoon into a greased 10- inch pie plate. Use a spoon to shape noodles into a pie shell. Bake at 350, uncovered, for 9 minutes or until set.
Combine beef, onion, and green pepper in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until meat is browned, stirring to crumble; drain well. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Spread cottage cheese evenly over pie shell. Top with meat sauce. Cover with foil, and bake at 350° for 15 minutes; sprinkle with mozzarella and top with pepperoni. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


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