What's for Dinner: Crockpot Italian Beef

Currently releasing amazing aromas throughout the house -- Crockpot Italian Beef


  • 1 pkg Italian Dressing mix (such as Good Seasons)
  • 1 pkg Au Jus gravy mix
  • 2t Italian Seasoning
  • 1c water
  • Stew meat (at least 2#)

Mix together the first four ingredients.  Place meat in crockpot.  Pour seasonings over meat.  Cook on LO 6-8 hours.

This recipe forms its own gravy/sauce - would be good served over cooked noodles, or with mashed potatoes.

Digital Recipe Card: Fabulous Fruit Salad

I'm at a scrapbooking/crafting retreat with girlfriends this weekend, and one of my friends made this fruit salad for breakfast today.  It was so tasty - the lemonade gives it just the right zing, and the pudding mix makes the "dressing" kind of glazy.  Everyone really liked it!  So I 'whipped up' this recipe card in Photoshop Elements so we can all have a copy of the recipe.

Click on the image for a full-size high-res image suitable for printing.  ;)


Digital Credits:

Template: Chrissy W Mini Me bragbook #09; www.chrissywdigital.blogspot.com
Papers: May Flowers kit by Scrapbubba Designs
String Stitches by Grunhild Storeide
Journaling tag & strip: April Showers Bring May Flowers kit by TMA Designs
Fonts: CK Fable & Berlin Sans FB

Christmas Dinner Recap: Dry Aged Prime Roast Beef

Herbed Standing Rib Roast (2008) At this year's annual Christmas Dinner, we figured out this was my 13th year for hosting.  I always serve the same menu, partly to maintain my preparation sanity, and partly because my family has come to know, expect, and love certain foods.  If my dinner has become a part of their Christmas traditions and memories, who am I to mess with that?

Click to see my Christmas Dinner menu (with recipes).

This year (or last, technically, since it's now 2010) I spent Christmas Eve day as I have for the past 13 years - prepping for Christmas dinner.  I have it down to a science now, what steps I can do ahead of time, to make the actual Day of the Feast go more smoothly.  So Christmas Eve came and I was exhausted from the full day of cooking, but ready for the coming meal.  Unfortunately the elements conspired against me and waylaid my plans - a Kansas City blizzard convinced us to postpone the dinner until New Year's Day. 

Also unfortunately, the food I had prepared wouldn't keep a week, so my nuclear family of four had what my daughter called a "test dinner" on Sunday.  The test was successful, and we had some lovely leftovers last week (since Christmas menu feeds about 10 people).

So last Sunday I went grocery shopping for Christmas Dinner, round 2, and got another 7LB standing rib roast.  My father-in-law, a Food Network junkie, suggested I "dry age" the roast, as a means of preserving it for a week in the fridge, instead of freezing and defrosting it within a week.  

According to sizzlersranch.com, "when prime beef is dry aged, two things happen. First, moisture evaporates from the muscle meat creating a greater concentration of beefy flavor and taste. Secondly, the prime beef’s natural enzymes break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, tenderizing it."

To dry age a roast at home, you remove the roast from the shrink-wrap and rinse well. Pat it completely dry then wrap it in cheesecloth. Place on a rack in your refrigerator overnight, then remove, unwrap, discard used cheesecloth and wrap with a fresh piece. Then put it back in the fridge for about a week. When you're ready to cook it, you remove the cheesecloth, and trim any dry "yuckies" to give you a nice fresh surface, then cook per the recipe.

I was a bit nervous about leaving a roast basically "open" for a week in my fridge, protected only by a few layers of cheesecloth.  But I read a few articles online and it seems an accepted technique.  I found the article, "Standing Rib Roast - Dry Aged" at the Virtual Weber Bullet, particularly helpful. 

So enlightened, I bravely struck out into new cooking territory and followed this dry aging technique outlined by chef Guy Fieri.

The vote was unanimous - this year's roast was the best yet. My family couldn't stop talking about how tender and flavorful it was.  My husband commented that it was much better than the "test roast" we'd had the previous Sunday, and while the roast didn't look any different after cooking, he could really tell the different in taste and texture.

My father-in-law, who is very picky about his meat cuts and preparation, said, "this is exactly how it's supposed to be done."  Since my family all knows how particular he is, I had to share that comment with everyone and a general cheer arose. I was very pleased with myself.

Since it wasn't difficult or particularly time-consuming, I expect I will continue using this technique for future roasts.

Oh, and I thought I would mention the amazing wine my dad brought to share - he received it as a gift from a vendor.  It was a fabulous berry-ish red wine from Spain - Sierra Cantabria Colección Privada. I think he said retail price is around $50, and boy, could I tell the difference from our usual box-wine fare! Very rich, and just amazing with my melt-in-your-mouth prime rib.

So ends my 'foodie' review.  Have you ever tried a new cooking technique that made you nervous at first, particularly for a "command performance"?  Did you try anything new for your holiday cooking this year?  How did it turn out?

Recipe: Strawberry Almond Awesome Salad thing

Geez, it seems like I post only recipes these days!  But I keep running across all these winners, and just have to share.  I give - I'm a giver.

The recipe I'm sharing today was triggered by my husband.  I tweeted about it:


And when it showed up in my Facebook status, the requests for the recipe came flooding in.  (Okay, not FLOODING - but at least three people asked.  THREE.)

One of my close personal friend's served this at a recent girlfriends-scrapbook retreat, and we all completely swooned over it.  I don't know that I've ever swooned over a salad, but this one is really good. Tangy, and creamy, and crunchy, and just so fresh tasting.  My husband requested it to serve to his friends at a LAN (local area network - computer gaming) party, so you know it's passed the most rigorous taste test around.

My friend got the recipe from another scrapbooking friend, but it wasn't so much of a recipe, as a list of ingredients:

Spinach salad mix
sliced strawberries
feta cheese
Ranch flavor sliced almonds
Homestyle blush wine Viniagrette dressing by Brianna's (has strawberry on label)

Basically you just mix everything together "to taste".

Fortunately, I found a 'real' recipe that looks like it should create the same result.

Strawberry and Feta Salad (aka Strawberry Almond Awesome Salad thing)

In a large bowl, mix the greens, strawberries, feta cheese, and almonds. Toss with the vinaigrette salad dressing to serve.


Recipe: Mushroom-Topped Pork Chops

My family really likes this recipe, but I don't make it that often because of the chopping/prep and cook time (when I get home about 6:45pm, a 40-min bake time is just too long for my hungry savages!) But since I had the day off for Memorial Day, I decided to pull out this recipe.  Smells SO good!

Pork Chop Dinner by VirtualErn at flickr Mushroom-Topped Pork Chops

POINTS® Value: 5
Servings: 4


  • 4 lean boneless pork chops
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/3 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp table salt 
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp low-fat shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Brown chops on both sides. Place in casserole dish.
  3. Saute mushrooms in oil. Cool slightly.
  4. Mix mushrooms, parsley, onion, egg, salt & pepper. Place on top of chops.
  5. Bake at 350 deg. for 30 min.
  6. Remove from oven; springle with cheese.
  7. Return to oven for 10 more minutes, or until done.

Photo credit: VirtualErn

Recipe: Cranberry Chicken

This recipe has made it past the food critics in my family, and has been invited back to our family crockpot.

Cranberry Chicken
From Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook, edited by Dawn Ranck & Phyllis Pellman Good

3-4LB chicken pieces (I use a bag of frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts)
1/2t salt
1/4t pepper
1/2c diced celery
1/2c diced onions
16oz can whole berry cranberry sauce
1c BBQ sauce

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Cover & bake on HI 4h, or LO 6-8h.

My slight adaptations

2.5LB bag of frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/4t salt
1/4t celery salt (instead of the diced celery - my family isn't big on the 'crunchies')
1/4t pepper
1T minced dry onions
16oz can whole berry cranberry sauce
1c BBQ sauce

I nuke the cranberry sauce in the microwave for 2 min to make it easier to combine with all ingredients - Cook on HI 1min, stir, then cook another min.

Made with 2.5# of chicken breasts, the recipe serves 5, at 9 WW Points each.

Recipe: Spiced Tea Mix

This is a great mix to have ready for quick gifts-in-a-jar or sick days at home.

1c orange instant breakfast drink powder (aka Tang)
1c instant tea powder (I use lemon flavored)
1/2c sugar
3oz package pre-sweetened lemonade mix
3/4t pumpkin pie spice
red hot cinnamon candies (~1/2c, or to taste)

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients.  Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  Good for up to 2 months.

To serve:
Stir mixture before measuring.  Place 2T-4T (to taste) of mix in coffee mug.  Add hot water & stir well.  Resulting tea will be slightly cloudy, but tasty.  ;)

Note: I have experimented with making this as sugar-free as possible, with SF Tang, and SF lemonade mix, and Splenda, and it turned out pretty nasty.  Stick with the regular-sugar version.

Recipe: Grandma's Hot Cocoa Mix

Cafemocha I made a big batch of my grandmother's hot cocoa mix yesterday, so I thought I'd share the recipe here.  I really need to make a digital recipe card for it, since it's a family staple.

My husband adds it to his coffee every morning for his version of Cafe Mocha.  If we're out of cocoa mix, he doesn't have any coffee (or he goes to Starbucks - but I think he just goes there to flirt with the coffee girls).

I have fiddled around with different substitutions, like Splenda for part or all of the sugar, and sugar-free Quik instead of regular Quik, and the result is 'adequate', but my husband always goes back to the original recipe.

Grandma's Cocoa Mix

5-3/4c dry powdered milk
1c sugar
1c powdered creamer (I use fat-free)
2c powdered chocolate drink mix (like Quik)
2-3T baking cocoa powder

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, and store in tightly lidded container.  Makes about 10c mix, or about 40 servings.

Use 1/4c mix to 6-8oz hot water (or coffee) to make hot cocoa (Cafe Mocha).

photo credit: ikkoskinen

Recipe: Creamy Chicken-Spinach Soup

A new recipe was recently 'approved for a repeat performance' at my house, and Weight Watcher-friendly, to boot!  The leftovers have been great for lunch this week!

Creamy Chicken Spinach Soup
POINTS® Value: 7
Servings: 6
Level of Difficulty: Easy

From "Weight Watchers 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook", pg 169


  • 9 oz frozen cheese tortellini, without sauce
  • 14 1/2 oz fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 cans reduced fat canned condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
  • 9 oz chicken breast, cooked, skinless, diced
  • 1 cups fat-free skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp Celery salt
  • 1 clove(s) garlic clove(s), minced

Cook tortellini in Dutch oven according to package directions. Drain. Return to Dutch oven.
Add remaining ingredients & stir to combine.
Bring to boil. Cover and let simmer until heated through.

Yields 6 (1-1/3 cup) servings.

Recipe: Baked Apple Oatmeal


Our traditional Christmas morning breakfast. From Blue Country Bed & Breakfast in Muskegon, MI. Baked-apple-oatmeal-angiepedersen

Preparation Time:  10 min
Cooking Time:  30 min


  • 5 packets Instant Oatmeal with Apples & Cinnamon, dry (I use generic store brand)
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4c vegetable oil
  • 1c fat-free skim milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2c Cinnamon Apple Sauce (I use Mott's)


  1. Combine dry oatmeal, baking powder, and oil in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and brown sugar.
  3. Add wet ingredients to oatmeal mixture and combine. Let soak 5 min.
  4. Add applesauce and combine.
  5. Pour into 1QT baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 min or till light brown.

Can be made ahead the night before and chilled before baking.


Digi-scrapping credits: 

background: Sugarplums from the Basic Grey Blitzen kit
card: KPertiet_AdInspiration_Journalers-1
Fonts: AnAkronism and LD Olympia Portable