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All About Merri and Her Musings

I’m not the best at talking about myself, but readers have asked the all important question “who the hell *are* you and why do you have a blog, anyway?!?!?” While this entry will likely keep morphing, here’s some fast facts about me and my musings.

1. I’m 39. I was, and still am, a child of the 80s. Chances are, I can tell you who sang a song in the 80s, sing you most of the words, and tell you what fashion item was in style when that song was in the top 40.

2. I was born and raised in a small town outside of Omaha, Nebraska and have never left this part of the country, although moved to the “big city” of Omaha some time ago. How did we get here? My dad was in the Air Force 21 years and had been stationed here a number of times. They decided to retire here as it was half way between Mom’s roots in New Mexico and Dad’s in Michigan.

3. I’m happily married for 10 years to Vinnie at Vince Aut Morire. We met on America Online, but ours is a story purely of fate. Through our happenstance meeting on AOL, we discovered we lived in the same city, same apartment complex, two doors down from one another. He’s the guy I had also flipped off because he almost creamed my car in the parking lot. …and yes, he remembered!

4. We have two wonderful children…a son who will be 11 in September and a daughter who will was 7 on May Day. Our lives have never been the same, thank God! Our first-born was a preemie, but we were extraordinarily blessed to bring him home after only 11 days in the NICU. Our daughter was quite timely, born exactly on her due date! Both of them are amazing - I can’t get over how smart our son is and how entertaining our daughter is. I predict, however, if there are broken bones to be had, our daughter will be at the finish line first. They are the center of my life!

5. We also have a house full of pets. Three dogs, two African Grey Parrots and a ball python snake. Well, the snake really belongs to “the boys.” They don’t scare me…it’s kind of like the Discovery Channel around here.

6. We like to go boating, tubing, jetskiing, etc. We have a boat and several tubes. I think we enjoy boating…it seems the boat costs us money but we don’t use it much. I recommended selling it, but hubby tells me we’ll use it again. Someday???

7. We also like to take yearly vacations. We’ve recently (in the past few summers) been to Orlando, Vegas (hubby and I for our delayed honeymoon) Lake of the Ozarks (in Missouri), Sarasota and the Black Hills of South Dakota. This year we are meandering around the Midwest - Chicago, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Let’s just hope gas isn’t $5.00 a gallon by July!

8. I lost my mom to lung cancer a few years ago. She had been sick a very long time between cancer and heart disease. I miss Mom terribly. Dad, while he still misses Mom, is doing great and has even found some companionship! A lot of lives changed the day she left us for Heaven!

9. I work for a major internet company as an outsourcing manager. I’ve been there quite a while. I love what I do and love the company! It will be interesting to see what the next 5-10 years bring. The internet is an amazing thing!

10. The internet. Why do I blog? Interesting story! I worked an alternate shift for quite a while so my kids could stay home versus daycare while they were very young. When I got a day shift, I missed my hubby as he was always reading, typing, and laughing in front of his computer. He was blogging and had met some interesting folks out in the ’sphere. In order to see what this was all about, thought I’d give it a try. I didn’t think I had much to say, but really liked Rachael Ray and thought it would be fun to have a website about Rachael Ray and then I could post recipes of my own or hers with my own spin on them as needed. My first site was called Rachael Ray Redux.

11. Why the change to Merri Musings? Well, let’s just say I found out that I had more to say than I thought. While I continue to talk about Rachael Ray, I continue to post recipes on occasion, there are other topics of interest that just didn’t fit with a Rachael Ray themed site. Merri Musings was inspired from that. A little play on my name, Merri, and musings to represent all of the things I wanted to say.

12. What, exactly, am I passionate about? Let’s see….

13. I’m Republican, although I first registered as an Independent (one step away from my Democratic parents. Heh.

14. I’m pro-life, whether you speak about abortion or right-to-life cases that we’ve seen within the last year. I also think the father of a child should have a say in what happens to his child. I don’t think it is only a woman who should choose whether they should get an abortion or not - she wasn’t the only one involved in creating life.

15. Except if you kill someone. Then I’m pro-death. While I believe in due process and a fair trial, I do think it’s a waste of space to house someone who will 1) never come back into society again 2) caused another person or people to die and was found guilty (and/or admitted guilt) and 3) should be an example in an effort to deter such crimes in others.

16. I cannot stand the ACLU. The founding principle was sound, but anyone who supports NAMbLA, hates the Boy Scouts, hates Christians and comes to the defense of sex offenders and other similar heathens has lost all credibility to me.

17. Sex offenders…rapists, child molesters. Those who end up back in society should be no where near our kids. In most cases they end up back in prison because they’ve harmed another person or another child. I agree with the registries, but more needs to be done. Or the penalties for the crimes should be stiffened. These people shouldn’t be walking the streets.

18. Child murderers, especially those who murder their own children, should all be put to death immediately and in a fashion similar to their victims if I had my way. They do not deserve to breathe the air they chose to take from innocent kids. I personally do not care if the words “mental illness” come up. They are still dangerous and should not be given a break. You cannot tell me that a person who chooses to murder another human being is completely sane, anyway.

19. People. I’m passionate about people. I love people and at the same time many drive me crazy. Us human beings can do amazing things (cures for disease, medications to slow down cancer, take care of hurricane victims or victims of other disasters such as 9/11) but at the same time some do stupid stuff (Cindy Sheehan, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore, Paris Hilton, Obamatard) and earn lots of money doing it. This all fascinates me.

20. I’m proud to be American. I stand behind our troops during war and think the war on terror is the one choice we were forced to make in order to keep our country free ultimately. Is it an easy choice? Hell no. But neither was any other war. 9/11 will be burned into my mind forever. When you have a 4-year-old wondering who Osama Bin Laden is and whether he was going to send a bomb to kill us, it makes you solid in your resolve to purge such filth from existence.

21. Yes, I’ve been passionate about Rachael Ray, and cooking in general. I found her when I worked nights. I didn’t have a lot of time to watch TV during the day, and there really wasn’t much on, so I got hooked on the Food Network. I really like Alton Brown and Tyler Florence as well, but there were a lot of concepts I learned from Rachael Ray in order to speed up my cooking. I’ve cooked all of my life and she just “fit in.” Yes, there was a lot of luck and fate involved in her being discovered. But look what she has accomplished! I know some hate her, but I find it hard to understand why other than sheer jealousy. I own her knives (although her original Wusthofs are my favorite), I subscribe to her magazine, I still TIVO her shows, I own almost all of her cookbooks and I use EVOO, and some of her cookware. I get the most hits on my site by men looking for her photo spread in FHM. I think it’s funny that some think *I’M* Rachael Ray. Boy - if only for a day…how fun would *that* be?

22. On a side note, as Rachael Ray’s talk show is in its second year, I’m discovering more and more that she’s a screaming liberal. I’m getting a bit disappointed in that. Vegan meals, partnering with Bill Clinton with charity work, her constant barrage of “living green” is all getting a little old.

Anyway…that’s enough for now. I may add more later. If there’s anything you want to know about me, don’t be afraid to ask. I may just add it here!

New Year’s Eve Finger Foods and Booze

One of my favorite holidays is New Year’s - more specifically New Year’s Eve. With two children in the house, we are fortunate to know other couples with younger kids so we can all gather together to celebrate and not have to get a sitter. We traditionally get together in a hotel, and the kids can swim and play while we play cards, etc. Everyone (okay, not the kids) has their beverage of choice and we don’t have to worry about driving. Oh, and there’s lots of food - typically finger food. This year will be no different - no posts for me New Year’s Eve for sure, and it’s a little fuzzy for New Year’s Day (also known as the day of recovery…hehehehe).

I thought it would be fitting to post a couple of fun appetizers and a drink recipe in the spirit of New Year’s Eve. Enjoy!

The Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup prepared chili sauce
4 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp sugar
few grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
32+ tiger (jumbo sized) shrimp, fully cooked with tails on

Place all ingredients, except the shrimp, into a food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (hint: the day or the morning before, I put the can of diced tomatoes into the fridge - as long as the other ingredients are chilled as well, you will have ready to eat, chilled shrimp cocktail sauce the minute you pour it out of the processor!).

I typically buy my shrimp frozen, ready to eat. Another hint, from Alton, is how to thaw the shrimp. Place them in a strainer inside another bowl and run cool water over them. This thaws them quicker than any other method. Once they are thawed, be sure to drain well.

No matter where I bring this shrimp cocktail - it’s one of the first things to go. YUM!

Mini Pizza Bites

2 Boxes Mini Fillo Shells (something I discovered last year!)
small can of pizza sauce
20 or so pepperoni slices, chopped fine
bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
garlic powder

The ingredient list is a ballpark - depending on how much you use in each bite, you may use more or less. I basically layer the ingredients into the shells as I would layer onto a pizza, then I bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5-8 minutes (until cheese is melted). This would be perfect for a toaster oven as well. My kids love these things hot or cold (just like regular pizza!). You can vary the ingredients to suit your own tastes, too. If you don’t have access to these little fillo shells, you can certainly take regular fillo dough and cut into small squares that will line mini-sized muffin tins. The shells really save on time, which is at a premium this time of year.

Merri’s Amaretto Sours

My favorite drink is an amaretto sour - and I’m particular about how they taste. I fill a cocktail glass about 1/2 to 3/4 full of ice, then pour on a shot of Di Saronno Amaretto (Sure, you can use other brands, but I won’t use anything else!). Then take sour mix and pour a couple of glugs in (you will probably use less of the sour mix than the amaretto). Following this, pour enough diet 7-Up or Diet Sprite to top it off. Put a couple of maraschino cherries into the glass, and splash in just a bit of the juice from the maraschino cherry jar, mixing in with one of the cherries. I LOVE this drink! YUM!

Best wishes to you and yours for a prosperous, safe, and joyous new year. May 2005 bring you the best!

Breakfast Egg Sandwich


I can’t remember when I didn’t make egg sandwiches. They are so simple for breakfast and sooo tasty! When I got married and made them for my hubby, he shared in my love for this simple little sandwich and it has become somewhat of a routine to have egg sandwiches for breakfast on our days off.


1-2 tbsp butter (depends on the size of your skillet - you want a nice layer with no dry spots)
1 large egg
kosher salt, pepper to taste
1 slice of American Cheese (real and processed are both good!)
2 slices of wheat bread (or bread of your choice), toasted
spray butter, or soft butter to spread on toast


Place butter in cool skillet on stove, melting butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted, and pan is hot, start toasting your bread in the toaster. Crack open your egg into the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the egg has cooked to a consistency that allows you to flip it, turn the egg over, lightly sprinkling the other side with salt and pepper. Place the cheese slice on the egg, and turn the burner off. The egg will continue to cook and the cheese will melt. Once the toast is done, place it on a plate and either generously spray with spray butter, or lightly spread soft butter on both slices of bread. Place the egg/cheese on once slice of bread and put the other slice of bread on top. Lastly, enjoy this sandwich as the yolk runs down over your hand!

What I serve this with: In a previous post, I mentioned my love for cast iron skillets. They are GREAT to cook bacon in! Bacon is a great side for this sandwich, and you can even throw the bacon on top of the sandwich. YUM!

Garlic Parsley New Potatoes

Introduction:pan seared steak in my previous post. It goes with most anything. I would recommend cooking with a main dish that also includes garlic, so the theme of garlic carries through more than one of your dishes.

This is a recipe that was passed to me by my mom. I’ve used it for a long time. It is so easy and flavorful and goes with most any main dish, my favorites being a nice steak or pork chops.


1 stick of butter (you can substitute margarine, but why?)
2 cans of whole new potatoes, drained well
garlic powder or garlic salt (my preference is powder, but both will work)
dried parsley


Place a large skillet over medium heat. Put the stick of butter into the skillet, melting slowly. Once melted, pour both cans of new potatoes into the pan, turning to coat in the butter. Sprinkle an even, light coat of garlic powder over the potatoes, and do the same with the parsley. Turn the potatoes over, repeating the garlic powder and parsley coating. Cook over medium heat until a nice, crisp and brown coating develops on the outside of the potatoes. Turn over and cook on the other side until done. This whole process should take approximately 20-30 minutes at a maximum.

What I serve this with: A nice pairing would be with the

Pan Seared Rib Eye

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown


Coming from the Midwest, steak is virtually a staple in our household (we’re in "beef country!"). While this recipe of Alton Brown’s calls for Rib Eye steaks, we have used different cuts such as New York Strip or Filet.


1-2 boneless rib eye steaks, 1-1/2 inch thick (I typically stick with an inch in thickness)
Canola oil to coat
Kosher salt and ground black pepper


Place 10 to 12 inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring steak(s) to room temperature (this is very important!).

When oven reaches temperature, remove pan and place on range over high heat. Coat steak lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of salt. Grind on black pepper to taste.

Immediately place steak in the middle of hot, dry pan. Cook 30-45 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30-45 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 2 minutes (the thicker the steak, the longer this time may need to be). Flip steak and cook for another 2 minutes (This time is for medium rare steak. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns).

Remove steak from pan, cover losely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes (this allows juices to redistribute so they don’t all flow out with the first cut of your steak).

What I serve this with: Of course this would work with a nice baked potato and a salad or other veggie (corn on the cob…yum!). I also like to serve it with garlic parsley new potatoes, whose recipe I will post in my next blog.

My 2 Cents: I love Alton Brown, mostly because of this recipe! He helped me appreciate the finer side of cast iron! I can’t describe the difference between this steak preparation versus others, other than to say it is a step up from most! I will say that we’ve never been able to get a medium rare steak by cooking 2 minutes on each side, as the recipe calls for. We are typically cooking closer to 3-4 minutes per side, and for thicker steaks, closer to 5-6 minutes. This could be due to a variance in our oven temperature, or my impatience while bringing the steak up to room temperature. You will want to experiment to get the right "doneness" for you. It comes highly recommended, though!

Christmas Day Prime Rib Recipe


Here I am, on Christmas Day night sending out a recipe for my Prime Rib (perhaps I’m just wanting to relive the yummy experience!). It has become a tradition for my family to enjoy prime rib on Christmas Day - a little variance from our traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. I know this recipe doesn’t seem "easy," but I’ve got to say it’s easier than a turkey dinner, and easier than many every day meals. Enjoy!


  • One 5.5 to 6-lb standing rib roast (also known as prime rib). Ask your butcher to cut the meat away from the ribs, but use twine to tie the ribs back to the meat. Our butcher does this routinely and it certainly makes it easier to carve when you are done. The ribs play an important part in the cooking process, keeping the meat off the floor of your pan.
  • One bunch of carrots (tops removed) or 3 larger carrots. Cut them into even chunks, not too small
  • One medium sized onion, cut into 6-8 chunks
  • 10 fresh cloves of garlic
  • 1 handful of fresh flat leaf parsley tops (minimal stems)
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed, or 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons dry thyme leaves
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)


Bring roast up to room temperature. This can take upwards of an hour to hour and a half, depending on the size of your rib roast. This helps your roast cook evenly (and it won’t be too rare in the middle because the meat was cold). While this is happening, cut the carrots and the onions, placing the chunks in the bottom of a roasting pan with sides at least 1.5 to 2 inches tall. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place the roast, rib side down, on top of the veggies.

The next order of business is to create a salt crust for the prime rib. This is an amazing trick I learned from a Tyler Florence show on the Food Network (Food 911). My version is slightly different, but it all does the same thing - it seasons the meat all the way through and allows for a moist roast.

Take the 10 cloves of garlic and pop them out of their skins. On your cutting board, crush the garlic a bit with your knife. Generously sprinkle some kosher salt over the garlic and continue to crush, using the edge of your knife. The salt will bring out the natural oils/juices of the garlic. Place the garlic into a food processor (I have a nice small electric grinder that works well, too), and give it a couple of pulses. Chop the Italian parsley finely, and place it into the processor, pulsing two more times. Then strip the thyme leaves from the stems and place the thyme into the processor (or simply measure your dry thyme leaves into the processor, if that is what you are using). Grind a bit of pepper into the processor and pulse until finely chopped and mixed. Start to stream in the EVOO and process until you have formed a nice paste (it almost looks like pesto sauce, but slightly thicker).

Spread the paste with a spatula or spoon over the top of the roast, taking care to spread evenly. Once spread, start sprinkling a generous amount of kosher salt over the mixture. It will seem as though you are putting an over-abundance of salt on the roast. I know when I’ve had enough when it no longer gets absorbed into the garlic/parsley mixture.

Once this is done, place roast into the oven. With a 5.5-6 pound roast, medium rare, you will need to cook approximately 32-38 minutes per pound. I use a meat thermometer, and take the roast out of the oven when the internal temperature reaches approximately 150 degrees. Once you take the meat out of the oven, it should rest at least 10-15 minutes so the juices can redistribute. Once it has rested, scrape off the salt crust prior to slicing.

Au Jus: A lot of prime rib is served with Au Jus, which is a dipping broth or juice that is a result of roasting the meat. I make mine by removing the veggies out of the roasting pan, placing the roasting pan on a burner on medium heat, and adding a can of vegetable or beef broth, taking care to scrape up the little bits of "stuff" from the bottom of the pan. I let this cook down for a while, stirring frequently. Toward the end, I add flavoring. I do this many different ways, but the quickest shortcut (and mighty tasty!), is to use a bottled "au jus" flavoring (the one I use is called "Johnny’s Au Jus Sauce." I pour about a 1/4 cup into the broth/drippings and let it cook down a bit. The last thing I do is run it through a mesh strainer (you can also use a regular strainer lined with some paper towels) in order to strain out any remaining veggie pieces, etc.

What I serve this with: For Christmas dinner, I served this with some potatoes gratin and some green beans with bacon and onion (one of my favorite side dishes, I would add!). You can really serve prime rib with a lot of sides, including a baked potato and a salad. No matter what you serve with it, the prime rib will be the star of your show!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Bradley & Emily with Santa, Christmas 2004 Posted by Hello

I wanted to take the time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Probably no recipes the next couple of days, as I’ve got much cooking to do. As a tradition, we have "finger foods" on Christmas Eve as we open gifts at my family’s home (you know, the little weanies, some sausage, cheese and crackers, deviled eggs…all the stuff that’s good for you!).

Christmas Day brings prime rib, potatoes gratin, and homemade pumpkin pie (YUM!!!). This, of course, does not commence until the kids have opened every single present and lost at least part of one. :-)

Have a joyous holiday, and eat, drink and be merry (I’ll be Merri, thank you very much! hehehe)!

(Not So) Secret Kitchen Tips 1

Before I post any recipes, I thought I would share some basic (not so) secret tips I’ve learned while "growing up" in the kitchen. Some I’ve learned from our friends at the Food Network (Rachael, Alton Brown, Tyler Florence to name a few) and others I’ve learned from Mom or picked them up myself.

  • Kosher Salt - a MUST have! Iodized salt is good for salting your food post-cooking if you want, but Alton Brown taught me that Kosher salt is the best salt for cooking. It coats your food more effectively, works well with boiling water or other hot items and makes a nice crust if you need to encrust anything in salt. Besides, it fits nicely into a sodium cloride vessel (yes, thanks to Alton Brown I own one of these) and is very inexpensive. All of my recipes will use kosher salt unless otherwise specified.
  • Pepper Mill - fresh ground pepper - nothing better. ’nuff said!
  • EVOO - extra virgin olive oil. This is a Rachael-ism! EVOO is a cornerstone of my cooking. It is one of the "better for you" oils and it doesn’t take much when you are cooking. It is best for lower temperature cooking, however. For frying, peanut oil is a great choice!
  • Cast Iron - a definite must have if you are a meat-eater like me! I have a cast iron skillet and a cast iron stove-top grill/griddle. For a great steak, or for cooking bacon, cast iron allows you to bring out the best. Bacon gets nice and crispy, you get great color on a steak (and excellent flavor if you use the kosher salt!).
  • Fresh herbs and garlic - a must! Here in Nebraska, it is not always easy to find good fresh herbs. Some people grow their own (me, I have a black thumb versus a green thumb, which means instant death for any live plant that comes near me!), but I search grocery stores finding the herbs I like. You should always have some flat-leaf parsley on hand, if you can find it (also known as Italian parsley). It freshens up most anything! I had the opportunity to use fresh sage in my turkey dressing this year - what an amazing difference in flavor! Fresh garlic just makes sense - plus I get to "pop" the garlic with my Wustof knife! Violence in the kitchen - sounds like a great book!
  • A great meat place. We go to "Just Good Meat" here locally - a butcher that carries most anything. Regular store-bought stuff is okay, but you should try a butcher just once - you’ll be hooked if they are good like my butcher. I love the smell of their place (my husband wants them to bottle and sell the scent…better than the most expensive purfume he says…hehehe) and there’s nothing better than freshly smoked/cured bacon or ham!

These are just a few (not so) secret tips I’ve picked up along the way. These are very basic, I know, but some were eye-opening to me as I "grew up" in my kitchen.


Welcome to this Little Corner of the Web!

I want to take a moment and welcome you to Rachael Ray Redux. Why, do you ask, would I choose this name for my blog? Well, if you ask anyone that knows me, I seem to have quite a bit of Rachael influence in my life.

  • I bought the knife (yes, I am the proud owner of a Wustof Santoko knife with a double hollow edge and Grand Prix handle). Thanks to Alton Brown (yes, another Food Network celebrity that I love), I had to buy the Wustof steel. The newest addition to the family is yet another Wustof - bread knife.
  • I have a garbage bowl, although not a Texasware like Rachael [insert a sigh here].
  • I cut my veggies like her (she taught me a lot!).
  • I have several of her cookbooks (not counting the multiple Food Network recipe printouts that litter my kitchen).
  • My hubby even saw her microwave on the internet, although it was discontinued [insert yet another sigh here].

Alright, so this ain’t the Rachael Ray House of Worship, but I thought I could share some ideas, recipes and other things. Many from Rachael, but some of my own, or from other Food Network faves.

    December 2004
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