The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

By Ree Drummond

Published by William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Ree Drummond is more commonly known as Pioneer Woman, the online persona for her blog www.thepioneerwoman.com. She first began blogging in 2006, sharing her recipes and photography with the world through her website which has since become one of the most popular food blogs in the world.

A self-described city girl, Ree changed the course of her life when she met and married her very own cowboy. Suddenly she found herself living the life of a ranch wife, complete with four kids and plenty of animals. At the centre of her transition to rural life was food, and Ree quickly embraced the art of cowboy cuisine. What is cowboy cuisine one might ask? It is definitely not low-cal or vegetarian friendly, but boy oh boy is it tasty!

I have been an avid follower of Pioneer Woman’s blog for the past couple of years, and I can now say that I am an avid fan of her cookbook. I love how she showcases each recipe with full-colour, step-by-step detail making it easy to follow along. Her trademark sense of humour that readers of her blog have come to expect and enjoy, are present in every page of her book. I actually laughed out loud when I read the introduction to her recipe for “Iny’s Prune Cake with Buttermilk Icing”, where she included a confession to her husband about the presence of prunes in one of his favourite cakes!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks will be making its way onto my VIP Kitchen shelf, simply because I anticipate reaching for it often. Her style of cooking is all about slowing down, relishing the joys of family, nature, great food and enjoying life. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Burgundy Mushrooms

RATING: 4 out of 5

THE TEST: Ever since Mr. Spock and I had dinner at a local steakhouse in town, we have been craving their mushrooms which are incredibly flavourful and oh so addictive. So when I saw this recipe for Burgundy Mushrooms I got excited, and then I read how these fungi were slow-cooked for 9 (yes NINE!) hours and I knew there was no way I was not going to make this dish!

THE RESULTS: Honestly, my mouth is starting to water as I write this review and my mind is busy calculating if I can dash out to the grocery store and start the cooking process in time to enjoy these mushrooms tonight. Hmmm…probably not enough time. Especially if I want to finish this post and have it up by the end of the day. The things I do for my beloved readers!

These mushrooms were the ideal accompaniment to the baked potato and perfectly grilled steak (thanks Mr. Spock!)  we enjoyed that night. They were absolutely bursting with flavour, their addictive juices oozing all over the plate and spreading their deliciousness everywhere. I was impressed at how the litre of wine didn’t take over the overall flavour of the mushrooms, but instead imparted a nice meaty flavour that was well balanced by the saltiness of the butter and bouillon cubes. Dill seed would not have been my initial pick, but the mild and earthy flavour of the herb ended up being the perfect choice.

My only regret with this dish is that I was unable to find those tiny little button mushrooms, and in the end had to settle for the larger much less exciting tasting white variety. Mr. Spock (not the biggest mushroom fan) had a hard time with the larger sized fungi, but after he closed his eyes and cut them into smaller chunks had to admit they were pretty darn tasty. Our 18 month-old enjoyed this dish, but (no surprise) the four year-old declined consumption after the mandatory first bite. Have I mentioned she seems to only eat cereal these days? Am I alone here in being tortured by the picky eating habits of a preschooler?!

For a copy of the recipe, click here

Cinnamon Rolls

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

THE TEST: I have always wanted to try making cinnamon rolls from scratch, and after reading how this is one of Ree Drummond’s most treasured recipes I thought I’d give it a try. Plus, the photos are completely mesmerizing and I swear we could smell their gooey deliciousness waft from the very pages of her book.

In the instructions for making the dough, Ree calls for a medium saucepan. Not sure of the size of medium pans out on the ranch, but in my kitchen 9 cups of flour plus a quart of milk qualifies for my biggie pot!

Now I have to admit that yeast and I tend not to get along very well. Dough has become my nemesis, and so I was very relieved when the dough for my cinnamon buns rose like it was supposed to do. Whew. Maybe I’d be able to eat some sticky goodness after all!

Rolling up the dough after pouring (or rather drenching) it with melted butter and cinnamon sugar made me giggle. It was just so out of control I had to laugh: Pioneer Woman is crazy!

THE RESULTS: One word describes these cinnamon rolls: heavenly! The dough had the perfect texture and was not too bready, a pet peeve of mine when it comes to store bought rolls. Both Mr. Spock and I loved the coffee/maple flavour in the icing and couldn’t stop licking our fingers. These cinnamon buns tasted amazing when warm out of the oven and just as good later when they had cooled down and even the next day for breakfast and as a quick snack after lunch and then again for…

You get the point. Definite keeper!

For a copy of the recipe, click here

Simple, Perfect Enchilladas

RATING: 4 out of 5

THE TEST: This recipe is definitely not one to be attempted on a weeknight at 5pm (whoops), when your husband’s stuck in traffic (uh oh), on the day the deal on your house falls through (yikes) and the kids haven’t had a nap and are all cranked up (this is going to get ugly). So be warned: while this is not a difficult recipe, it is time consuming with lots of steps.

I had some challenges when making my roux (a cooked mixture of flour and fat used as a thickening agent for sauces). My oil and flour mixture did not look like the photos in the book, nor was it runny enough to whisk let alone bubble as described in the instructions. In the end I burnt my roux and had to start from scratch, but even my second attempt had the same dough-like consistency. So I cooked it briefly in the pan before quickly adding my liquids to prevent it from burning again. There was no obvious effect on the taste of the sauce, which given my fragile state was probably a godsend.

THE RESULTS: These were some pretty tasty enchiladas! The flavour was all there and when paired with an ice cold cerveza and Mr. Spock’s fiery salsa fresca? Divine. I am not a huge fan of corn tortillas, but in this dish the earthiness of the corn paired well with the acid from the tomato based sauce, the heat from the peppers, and the creamy texture of the cheese.

For a copy of the enchilada recipe, click here

For a copy of Mr. Spock’s Fiery Salsa Fresca, click here