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Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review

 

Pioneer Woman Cover

Title: The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays
Author: Ree Drummond
387 pages; Hardcover, $29.99US
Publisher: HarperCollins NY NY 2013
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek


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The photos and how they are displayed in The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays are really great! You can learn a lot from pictures. The one hundred forty recipes cover all the popular holidays; Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, The Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

A section in the book is devoted to each one of the holidays, along with the pretty pictures that serve as step-by-step helpers that you can use to make the perfect plates. The recipes are clearly written with all ingredients easily available at a supermarket. Most of the recipes offer a variation using different ingredients, notes of some sort and/or suggestions offered by the author.

In testing the recipes I found nothing too difficult to prepare if you were handy in the kitchen. If your cooking skills aren’t totally developed some of the recipes will seem daunting and your presentations of the finished dishes won’t look like the pictures in the book.

I wasn’t enamored of the family portraits, pictures of dogs wearing sweatshirts or sunglasses, all the pictures of her family and the rest of the pets and the horseback riding ranch shots. To me, they were distracting and a bit superfluously extravagant. But that’s my opinion. Obliviously the public sees this in a different light as the popularity of this author has risen to celebrity status and her other cookbooks are at the top of the charts. In fact she was recently featured in the Sunday publication of Parade Magazine as a cover story.

The book is for home cooks who want some new ideas for the holidays. One might even use some of them at other times of the year, but that’s up to you. In general the recipes seem to be the author’s family’s favorites that have new life because of food styling, nice looking plates and good photography.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays will make a nice holiday gift for just about anyone. The pictures alone make it a standout seasonal cookbook.

Recipes Tested!


Lasagna
Three-Meat Lasagna
Makes 12 Servings

Both my orthopedic surgeon pop and my cattle rancher father-in-law love a great big meaty lasagna (what
carnivorous dude doesn’t?), and this one pretty much takes the cake. It has a mega layer of a luscious ricotta mixture right smack dab in the middle, and the meaty sauce is made even richer and more delicious by adding big chunks of pepperoni. It’s like eating a little slice of lasagna, pizza, and heaven all at the same time. Beneficiaries of this lasagna will not go hungry!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound country/breakfast
sausage
12 ounces pepperoni
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
One 12-ounce can tomato paste
¼ cup pesto, jarred or fresh
1⁄3 cup finely minced parsley
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
30 ounces whole milk
ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
24 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
12 lasagna noodles,
cooked al dente
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Drizzle the olive oil into a large pot over medium-high heat.
2. Then add the onion, garlic, ground beef, and sausage.
3. Stir the meat around, breaking it up as it begins to cook. Cook the meat until brown, stirring
occasionally.
4. Cut the pepperoni into slices and the slices into quarters.
5. Then throw them into the pot with the browned meat.
6. Continue cooking the meat mixture for another 3 minutes. 185
7. Then drain off the excess grease.
8. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir them in completely.
9. Next, add the pesto.
10. Half the parsley.
11. One teaspoon of the salt, the red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon of the black pepper.
12. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
13. Meanwhile, make the cheese mixture: combine the ricotta and eggs in a large bowl.
14. Add the shredded Parmesan.
15. The rest of the parsley.
16. And the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
17. Stir the mixture until totally combined, then set it aside.
18. Finally, cut the mozzarella into thin slices.
19. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
20. To assemble the lasagna, overlap 4 lasagna noodles in the bottom of a large rectangular baking dish.
21. Spoon two-thirds of the sauce over the noodles.
22. And smooth it out into a flat layer.
23. Lay on 4 more lasagna noodles.
24. Then spoon in all of the ricotta mixture.
25. And smooth it into a flat layer.
26. Lay the slices of mozzarella all over the ricotta layer.
27. Then add a final layer of noodles.
28. And the rest of the sauce.
29. Top it with the grated Parmesan.
30. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake it for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake it for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
31. Remove the lasagna from the oven and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then cut it into large squares.
32. Serve it with Caesar Salad (page 187).

Dad’s gonna love it!

NOTES
• Lasagna can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in the fridge, unbaked.
• Lasagna can be frozen unbaked. Just thaw before you’re ready to bake it.

Variation
If you can’t find sticks of pepperoni, just use the widely available pepperoni slices. Either cut them in half or throw them in whole!

Recipes Tested!


Brownies
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Makes 16 Brownies

Dulce de leche literally translates to “candy of milk.” In layman’s terms, it’s a caramel-like concoction made from boiling sweetened condensed milk until it becomes. well, pretty much an eighth deadly sin. What I love most about dulce de leche is that it has the beautiful color and deep flavor of caramel, but not the chewiness. so you don’t have to expend needless energy flexing your jaw muscles. I have a hard time controlling myself around a can of dulce de leche, and I’ve been known to spoon it into coffee, spread it on cookies, plop it onto ice cream, and yes, swirl it through big fudgy brownies like these. These heavenly brownies are the perfect wrap-up to your Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Nonstick baking spray
Five 1-ounce squares unsweetened
chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Half a 14-ounce can dulce de leche

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously spray an 8-inch square baking pan or an 8 x 10-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray.
2. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.
3. And nuke it in about 45-second intervals, stirring each time, until it’s completely melted. Set it aside to cool for 20 minutes or so.
4. Add the butter and the sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
5. And cream them together until they’re light and fluffy.
6. Add the eggs, one at a time.
7. Beating well after each addition.
8. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the chocolate.
9. Until it’s all combined.
10. Add the flour.
11. And the vanilla.
12. And mix it until it’s all combined, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through.
13. Spread the batter into the greased pan.
14. Next, crack open the can of dulce de leche.
15. And place half of it in a glass bowl. Warm it in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, just to make it a little more stirrable.
16. Drop large dollops of dulce de leche on the surface of the batter.
17. Then use a knife to slowly swirl it through the brownie batter. Don’t drag the knife sideways through the batter; hold it so the thin side of the knife leads the way.
18. Bake the brownies for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center is almost totally set.
19. Let the brownies cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
20. Then carefully turn them out of the pan and let them cool completely.
21. Use a very sharp serrated knife to cut the brownies into squares.
22. And place them on a pretty cake stand.

Come to Mama!


Recipes Tested!


Broccoli and Cheese Soup
TerrifyingTreats
Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Makes 12 servings
Before you send your costume-clad children out into the neighborhood to scoop up as much candy as
their trick-or-treating hands can grab, so you can then confiscate said candy and “put it in a safe place”
under the guise of being a responsible parent, so you can then sneak into your closet with said candy to
see just how many miniature candy bars you can polish off before your kids discover you. whip up a
nice, hearty pot of soup to warm their bones!

Broccoli-cheese soup is a favorite of kiddos (and their mothers. And their fathers. And their aunts,
uncles, grandmothers, friends, teachers, and pen pals), and this one is everything broccoli-cheese soup
should be: creamy, thick, cheesy, and satisfying, which means the kids won’t be quite as tempted to chow
down on candy while they’re out and about. And that’ll mean more candy for you later. This is how my mind works. It’s a little frightening, actually.

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 large onion, diced
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 broccoli heads, cut into florets
½ cup chicken broth
3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
cheese, more for garnish
Small bread loaves for bowls (you
can buy them in nice bakeries)
1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
2. Then add the onion.
3. And stir it around to cook, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the flour on top of the onion.
5. And use a whisk to work in the flour. Once it’s combined, cook the onion-flour mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Then add the milk and half and- half, whisking constantly until combined.
7. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
8. Then add the broccoli florets.
9. And stir them into the soup. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then simmer the soup untilit’s thickened and the broccoli is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
10. Stir in the chicken broth and check the consistency. The soup should be thick, but if it still seems too thick, splash in a little more broth.
11. Then throw in the cheese!
12. Stir it in until it’s melted, taste and adjust the seasonings. and get ready to serve it up.
13. At an angle, cut off the top third of the bread.
14. Remove the “lid”.
15. Then tear out chunks of bread, leaving a ½-inch rim around the crust. (Save the bread in a plastic storage bag for another use.)
16. Ladle in the thick, yummy soup and top it with more shredded cheese.
17. Serve it to trick-or-treaters before they head out to collect your. I mean their candy.

NOTES
• For a smoother soup, use an immersion blender to puree the soup before adding the cheese.
• Substitute pepper Jack cheese for a slightly spicier soup.



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