I like to cook. I continually test out new recipes from various sources, including Cooking Light (I subscribe, and some of the recipes are very good), Epicurious.com, and various blogs. One of my favorites is The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I couldn’t even tell you how I originally discovered her, but I have fallen in love with her unapologetically simple, rich recipes and her witty writing. She is liberal with her use of butter and foods that taste good, regardless of their nutrional profiles.
I’ve felt more free to experiment in the kitchen lately, now that I am not under any pressure to find nutritional virtue in everything that crosses my lips. The first of her recipes that I tried was Marlboro Man’s Favorite Sandwich. Its not my favorite thing on the planet, since I’m not much of a red meat eater (its just not my favorite thing, no health judgements are involved), but it is one of only a small number of meals my husband routinely requests. We add a whole container of sliced mushrooms to the dish, though, as we’re both fans of them and both think it improves the meat:veggie ratio in the finished product.
Last night, my husband and I went totally cowgirl and, since I worked late, he baked a casserole I had prepared this weekend and stowed in the fridge, her Chicken Spaghetti. I admit, its more of what I’d think of as “kid food” rather than “adult food,” but the drama I’ve been dealing with the last couple days has really gotten me down, and I was totally in the mood for some comfort food last night. Not to mention, yesterday’s lunch, a virtuous Lean Cuisine containing brown rice and stringy snap peas, both problematic for the band, and it refused to stay down. I ate it at about 1:00 p.m. and spent the next two hours gradually spitting the stupid thing up. What a waste of my life!
I prepped the casserole Monday night, using lowfat cheddar cheese, reduced fat cream of mushroom soups, and pickin’s (as my adorably southern husband would say) from the remnants of a roasted chicken we’d had for supper that night. The Chicken Spaghetti was actually much more flavorful than I was anticipating, since I’d been liberal with the cayenne, pepper, and added a little Tabasco. It was a lot like eating macaroni and cheese done up all Mexican-y. We both liked it, although I might make it with penne next time just to give it more body than the slippery, skinny spaghetti can deliver.
But, I was not done yet. I decided to give her Apple Dumplings a whirl, even though I am normally not the kind of girl that would cook with, or even consume under circumstances that didn’t involve a gun to my temple, a Mountain Dew. The real reason that testing this recipe was such a shocker for me was the two sticks of butter. Two, people. Twoooooo.
Honest assessment: ludicrously, sinfully delicious. I do actually think the two sticks of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar is quite excessive, as the liquid left in the bottom of the pan is plentiful and extremely buttery. Maybe even too buttery. I’d probably cut it down to 2/3rds of each item and keep everything else the same. I ate three of them, with lowfat vanilla ice cream. I am willing myself not to go look up how many calories is in 2 sticks of butter X (3 dumplings/16 dumplings). Please, no one tell me.
For a New Year’s Eve party we hosted last year, I made her Olive Cheese Bread, and let me tell you, people raved and raved. I actually made two batches and once the first batch had been polished off, I pulled the second from the oven, placed it on the dining room (acting as a buffet) table and nearly lost my hand when I didn’t pull it back fast enough, as everyone dove in face-first on the seconds. I love and adore olives and admit to snagging a slice or two for myself.
Her Roasted Beef Tenderloin: simple and delicious if you are into that kinda thing. (Hubby, yes; me, less so.) Her Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes were a similar hit at Thanksgiving at my table last year.
I have not yet, but have been dying to try the Penne a la Betsy (basically shrimp and a tomato cream sauce), too.
Five recipes I’ve tried, five that were all successful right out of the gate, and reminded me that delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated. And, reading her blog is a pleasure. She’s funny and writes conversationally, you almost feel like she’s a personal friend after a while. Aren’t those blogs the best? I have a couple like that.