I Look Good and I Do What I Want

a journey of loving my body and myself

good food: the pioneer woman cooks May 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 3:25 pm
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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.

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5 Responses to “good food: the pioneer woman cooks”

  1. Thanks for the heads-up on The Pioneer Woman Cooks! I hadn’t seen that site. Based on the apple dumplings entry, I’m not sure how well I will tolerate the “sinful food” rhetoric, but they look absolutely yummy so perhaps I will persevere. 🙂 The other dishes sound great too.

    I don’t understand why people go on and on and on (and this is about her, not you) about the amount of butter in stuff and OMG HOW HORRIBLE IT IS FOR YOU like they’re in terrible mental anguish about it. Way I see it, you have 3 options: 1) cook it as is and enjoy it; 2) cut down on the butter and sugar, as you have suggested, if it’s really too rich for your tastes or doesn’t suit your personal dietary needs–and I do feel you on this because I love “down-home” cooking, but some of it really is a little too-too and I actually like some recipes better with less fat or sugar (not to say artificial sweetener, yuck!); maybe this is partially our everything-low-fat culture altering my tastes; or 3) don’t eat it. Making it “as-written,” eating some, and then hating every bite of it and throwing the rest away because you feel so guilty seems like a poor option to me. I’m not saying she is necessarily that hung up on EVIL FOOD as all that, but I don’t feel the rhetoric is helpful. This is a pet peeve of mine, though, so don’t mind me. 🙂

    Have you looked through Cook’s Country by the Cook’s Illustrated people? It’s the perfect combination of CI and Taste of Home, in my opinion. A little more highbrow, with high-quality, unprocessed ingredients for the most part, but applied to country food along the lines of what I grew up with. And the recipes are delicious. Taste of Home’s Healthy Cooking (used to be Light and Tasty) is also good for quicker stuff. For some reason the “healthy” focus makes the recipes a little more interesting than in TOH.

    Anyway, now I really want to try the chicken spaghetti. I will probably have friends coming over tonight, and it would probably be nice of me to cook for them since I don’t have a job and they do. Maybe a trip to the store is in order!

  2. Mae Says:

    Well, partially its habit, the cutting down on fat and sugar. One good thing dieting taught me was that sometimes, I like things low-fat or low-sugar.

    For instance, I am a huge, huge yogurt-lover. Huge. I eat it every day, because I love it. My normal breakfast is something approaching 1 cup of yogurt, topped with a couple fresh berries (faves: raspberries, strawberries), and about 1/4 of granola. The yogurt in my concoction used to be the regular, sugary kind. Then, WW made me start eating fat-free, sugared yogurt and stingily measure my granola which made me sad. Then, South Beach made me eat sugar-free artificially-sweetened yogurt with no granola, which made me even sadder. Then, a Mae-designed diet renovated that to lowfat, Splenda-ed yogurt, with berries and a regulation 2 Tbsp of granola. Better, but still not IE/HAES.

    On my honeymoon, just two months ago, one of the hotels we stayed at in New Zealand served farm-fresh yogurt. That stuff was beyond delicious. It was ridiculous ambrosia from heaven. And it was totally unsweetened.

    So, when we got back I decided to give unsweetened yogurt a whirl. I have since tried whole milk, lowfat, and fat-free plain yogurt with my berries and granola and have settled on lowfat as my favorite. It tastes good and its filling. I found the whole milk yogurt too rich for my tastes, and the fat-free yogurt, which tastes okay, seems to evaporate out of my stomach within an hour.

    I am definitely a girl with a sweet tooth. I love dessert, and in a perfect world, I get dessert every night. And you know what? Lately I’ve been having my nightly dessert, THANK YOU IE, MANY SMOOCHES, LOVE MAE.

    I’m not sure if dieting adjusted my tastebuds or if I’m beginning to evaluate the taste of foods without getting all tweaky about the nutritional content, because I honestly do prepare foods and think, “Hmmm, pretty good, but a bit oily/buttery/sugary/whatever,” and then dial it down the next time I prepare it until I do like it.

    Thanks for the suggestions, I will be checking out Cook’s Country and Healthy Cooking!

    Let me know how your cooking adventures come out. Our house declared the Chicken Spaghetti a success and one to add to the regular rotation. Although I really do think it deserves a better name. 🙂

  3. Upon further consideration I decided I wanted a tomato based spaghetti dish that night, which became a baked chicken penne, and it was delicious. Also there were a ton of leftovers, which we froze. I had some last night and will probably have some again tonight. Yum!

    Three cheers for having less fat/sugar because you want it, not because you feel guilty! I agree, plain yogurt with granola (well, I like Grape-Nuts, but just because I’m in the habit–I’m sure granola would be excellent too) and berries is awesome. I also like just uncooked oatmeal with cinnamon and almonds and fruit (usually apricots, nectarine, raspberries, or blueberries), with soy milk on top. Again, I think granola would have been good, but I didn’t have any on hand when I got the craving for this dish, and now I’ve acquired a taste for the oatmeal version. It’s like a summertime version of regular oatmeal for me.

    Not that you mentioned smoothies, but smoothie recipes are one thing that I notice as being usually too sweet for me–they always seem to either have sugar, juice, or artificial sweetener. Ditto with those Stonyfield bottled smoothies. I drank them for a while, but they were just way too sweet. Usually now I make a smoothie with banana, plain kefir or yogurt, plain soymilk, some kind of frozen fruit, and flaxseed oil. The banana makes it just sweet enough.

    I love plain yogurt too, usually that Fage Greek stuff because it’s so creamy. I also saw recently that the Stonyfield “Oikos” Greek brand comes in vanilla. I tried it and it’s great–just a hint of sweetness along with the vanilla flavor. Highly recommend.

    I find myself reducing fat in stuff less often than I do sugar, but there is definitely call for that in some cases too. Mainly I have been gratified to learn that my tastebuds do have an opinion that isn’t just based on what I’m told is “healthy” or whether a food is or isn’t “indulgent” (I hate that) and that I can adjust recipes accordingly to make them tastier for me.

  4. Mae Says:

    Ooh, must try the Greek yogurt, I keep meaning to, ESPECIALLY if there is a Stonyfield version!

  5. I’ve seen it in Whole Foods; it would be more convenient if it were in the regular supermarket like the Fage, but then again the regular supermarket is always out of the Fage even though they nominally carry it, so WF is often a better bet in my area anyway.


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