I thought I should share a few cooking lessons I learned this weekend after our birthday extravaganza.

Did you know that you can wrap potatoes in aluminum foil and cook them all day on low in the crock pot? By dinner time, you can reveal 12 fully baked potatoes, and you didn’t have to microwave, bake or grill to make it happen.

Did you know that it’s really easy to make Italian beef? And really tasty? You just put some beef in the crockpot, a package or two of Italian-style salad dressing mix, a can of beef broth and a jar of pepperoncinis. I used five pounds of beef, three packets of the seasoning and one big jar of mild pepperoncinis. We had enough Italian beef to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for several days. I would recommend making a smaller quantity.

Did you know that people like to eat raw veggies?

When I am cooking, I always feel that I should make a few of my most delicious, time-tested, raved-about recipes. And those always seem to include at least one cup of mayonnaise, sour cream or Ranch dressing. Or at least one stick of butter.

My husband’s uncle, Jerry, was visiting us from California this weekend. We are all amazed that a couple of years ago, Jerry went on a medically-supervised fast and lost 90 pounds. I’m pretty sure he ate nothing whatsoever for a month, and then worked up to a liquid diet and finally, a highly-controlled diet.

He now eats lots of veggies. And zero-calorie salad dressing. Along with really lean meat.

Italian beef and baked potatoes aren’t tops on his diet. And mayonnaise and Ranch dressing? That would be the equivalent of just applying fat directly to the skin.

I had no clue how to cook for him, so I let him contribute whatever he could eat to my high-fat offerings.

I was so amazed at how the whole family kept gravitating toward Jerry’s ultra-healthy salads.

It got me thinking. I wonder what would happen if I served meals that were totally healthy. What if the next time we had dinner guests I made grilled chicken and steamed zucchini? I might try it sometime just to see what would happen.

Maybe I should experiment on my family first.

But not yet. We still have to finish this, which is sitting in our freezer.

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