The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Pioneer Woman Cooks Meatballs

Taste Level: 9
Level of Difficulty: 3
Time it took from start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
Tricky items to procure: None
Basic ingredients: Ground Beef, quick oats and ketchup
Best Deal: Grain fed beef from Wholefoods was on sale. Only $3.79 for a pound and a half!

This is one of the simplest and tastiest meatballs recipes I have ever read. I got a great deal on the meat (see above) and I had everything else on hand (which I believe is a first). Her food reminds me of my mom’s – simple, 50’s style cooking. Definitely great comfort food.

All rolled up.

The recipe is simple:

Mix beef with onions, quick oats, milk and salt and pepper.

Make into balls.

Let set for 30 mins.

Coat in flour and than fry to brown.

Mix ingredients of bbq sauce on top (ketchup, vinegar, sugar etc).

Once balls are brown, bake for 20 mins with sauce.

Eat and enjoy.

Next time, I would definitely double the recipe and make this for a potluck or dinner party.

Cooked to perfection.

I really enjoyed using this cookbook. There are step-by-step pictures that made the whole experience so much easier than a normal cookbook. The food tasted like it had been made many times before by Ree Drummond and that it was made with love.

One happy chap.

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The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

“Simple, Perfect Chili” p.82

This Chili recipe is perfect. For years I have been making chili the way my family has always made it – filled with a variety of beans, corn, and whatever else we feel like throwing in the pot. Ree Drummond’s recipe brings Chili back to its roots. Her basic recipe does not call for a lot of ingredients, so not only is this dish delicious, it’s also economical. I made her basic recipe but there were a few things I had to alter. The biggest change I made was using ground turkey instead of ground beef. I know true chili lovers are rolling their eyes right now but I didn’t have a choice! The butcher was completely sold out of ground beef and offered me ground turkey instead – boy was that a good move! Ground turkey worked so well in this recipe and was incredibly tasty. The few other changes that I made were as follows (though many were suggested by Ree in the book): I added sautéed onions, a half of a can of diced tomatoes, Tabasco and one can of pinto beans.

Cooking the chili!

Everything about this recipe was simple and straight forward. The hardest part was waiting for the chili to simmer for one hour. Murph read a magazine to occupy his time.


After one hour of simmering, I was supposed to add the masa mixture to the pot (to thicken the chili and to add more flavor). I could not find masa (and to be honest, I’m still a little unsure as to what it is) so instead I used a little bit of corn starch mixed with water to thicken the meal. After another 10 minutes of simmering, I topped the bowls with a little cheese and sour cream, and sliced a few pieces of baguette. My husband and I sat down to eat. After our first mouthful we both agreed . . . this is our new go-to recipe for chili!

Dinner is served.

Not only is the chili recipe great, but this book definitely has a bunch of other recipes that I would like to try including Chicken Pot Pie, Scones, and Pancakes.

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Mario Batali's Molto Gusto.

I LOVE to cook, so I was very excited to hear that I could join the Whisk It review team! My first assignment was Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali.

In the opening chapter Batali discusses what a typical ‘real’ Italian meal is like, and it is quite unlike the all-you-can-eat pasta extravaganzas you get at North American restaurants. A typical meal opens with a few antipasti selections, followed by a salad, then a small portion of pasta or pizza, and ends with a cheese course or bit of dessert. I tend to think of seafood, olives & cured meats when I hear the word antipasti, none of which I find appealing, so I was thrilled to see that Molto Gusto has a whole chapter on vegetable antipasti, and another on salads- perfect for the Friday night meatless meal that I had in mind! So with a week to plot & plan the menu, and four family members agreeing to be my guinea pigs/taste testers, I decided to make the following dishes:

Antipasti: Chickpeas with Leeks (pg 27), Green Beans with Charred Onions, Tomato Bruschetta (recipe not from cookbook), & dolmas (cheated- these were from a can)
Insalata: Arugula with Tomato Raisins (pg. 125)
Pasta: Pennette with Cauliflower Ragu, Pennette with Swiss Chard Ragu*I used spelt penne (couldn’t find pennette) & breadcrumbs as I needed a wheat-free pizza alternative for my mom, who has a wheat sensitivity.
Pizza: Pizza Margherita
Dessert: Fresh Blueberries and ‘Caramelized’ Peaches with Cold Whipped Zabaglione (pg. 243)

I know that this is a lot of dishes to make and wouldn’t plan such an elaborate meal any old day, but I was on vacation last week and felt ambitious. I had planned on making most of the antipasti and sauces Thursday night so that preparations on Friday would be a breeze, but I ended up spending most of Thursday painting (and repainting) my bathroom. But catching up only took me a few hours Friday morning, so it wasn’t too time consuming. I still had lots of time to clean the house and set the table outside (we were dining al fresco).

Delicious Ingredients.

Our beautiful backyard setting.

I started off in the morning by making the Leek Ragu recipe (pg. 93), which I needed for the Chickpeas with Leeks dish. It was dead easy (basically all you need to do is chop the ingredients & stir fry) and smelled divine. The finished ragu is then stirred into a bowl of chickpeas along with some olive oil. The recipe called for far more olive oil that I would normally use, and I almost halved the amount. I’m glad I didn’t- see my note below about how I found creative ways to use my leftovers. Here is a shot of the finished dish before I popped it in the fridge to let the flavours blend.

Chickpea and Leek Salad.

Next I made the Lemon Vinaigrette (pg 24), the dressing for the Arugula With Tomato Raisins salad. It is a simple lemon & olive oil dressing- again, very easy (took about 5 minutes).

Then I started the two Ragu sauces for the pasta dishes. Why two? They both sounded so darn good I couldn’t make up my mind!

Cauliflower Ragu.

Chard Ragu.

Both ragus were very easy to do- I just chopped the ingredients, fried them briefly, then added water and continued to cook until everything is soft. During this last stage I dug out my blender, threw in a few slices of spelt bread, and ground them up to make fresh breadcrumbs for the Pennette dishes. The recipes call for the crumbs to be toasted in a bit of olive oil, which took only a minute or two and added a nice crunchy texture to the dishes.

Toasting breadcrumbs.

Each ragu serves 6, and as I only had five coming for dinner I divided each in half and put what I wasn’t using away for later. I then whipped up a batch of tomato bruschetta , stowed everything in the fridge, and called it quits until later in the day.

A few hours before dinner, I started the Tomato Raisins- grape tomatoes mixed with oil & spices and oven roasted for several hours at a low temperature so they shrink and become very sweet. Right before serving, these are taken out of the oven and added to a bowl of arugula that has been seasoned with a bit of the lemon dressing.

Tomatoes before being turned into raisins.

Tomatoes after being turned into raisins.

With the tomatoes roasting, I started the Pizza Dough. I have a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, so I didn’t have to mix the dough by hand- yay! I just followed the step by step instructions (and photos) from the cookbook and the dough was ready in minutes. Have I mentioned that I LOVE my mixer? The one hiccup was that the recipe called for you to use something called ‘00 flour’, which thanks to Google, I now know is a particular grind of flour. I used regular all-purpose flour and everything worked just fine. This is another ‘make-ahead’ recipe: once the dough is mixed, you divide it into 8 pieces, shape them into circles and par cook the dough. I tried to shape the first piece of dough by hand, which wasn’t a huge success, then switched to my rolling pin and had much better results.

Pizza dough.

Pizza dough with rolling pin.

Par cooking was simple. The recipe calls for using an ungreased enameled cast-iron pizza griddle, but my large nonstick frypan worked just fine. You cook each piece of dough for a few minutes on each side until browned in a few spots and then let the finished crusts cool on a rack. I only rolled and cooked what I needed for the meal- the rest of the dough went into the fridge, so I could finish cooking them the following day.

The next recipe was the Green Beans with Charred Onions antipasti dish. I blanched the beans for a few minutes, and then while they were cooling, I charred sliced sweet onions in a dry pan until browned. I just mixed in the dressing and presto- another dish completed!

Charring onins.

Most of the recipes for dessert in the cookbook are for gelato, sorbetto and other delicious sounding treats, but I wasn’t confident any of them would work if I used sugar substitute (my dad is diabetic). I decided to make the Zabaglione recipe (using Splenda instead of sugar) as a topping for fresh blueberries and peaches that had been ‘caramelized’ in some Brown Sugar Splenda (following the instructions for Caramelized Bananas on pg. 224).

The zabaglione was very easy to do- basically whipped cream mixed with a thickened mixture of egg yolks, Splenda, a sweet Italian dessert wine called Moscato d’Asti (yum!) and a bit of orange juice. I had a bit of trouble with the caramelized peaches- the sauce was coming along beautifully until I added the fruit. Then it separated into a lump of hardened caramel combined with a thin sauce. I don’t know if this was a result of the use of sugar substitute or if I let the sauce boil too long. It all worked out ok in the end- I just chucked the lump of hard stuff and used the peaches in the thin sauce. The fruit was sweet enough as it was!

Caramelized Peaches.

Lumpy caramel.

With the table set, all I needed to do was start the assembly process. I toasted bread slices for the bruschetta, topped them with the tomato mix and put them out on the serving table with the other antipasti dishes and the Arugula salad.

Anitpasto & salad al fresco.

Next course: pasta. I left a fresh bottle of red wine on the table to keep my family occupied while I went in to boil the pasta. When the pasta was cooked to an al dente texture, I strained it & divided it into two bowls. The half recipe of the Cauliflower Ragu went into one, the Swiss Chard Ragu into the other, both which I had warming while the pasta was cooking. Both dishes are finished the same way- parmesan cheese stirred in and each bowl topped with the toasted bread crumbs. YUM!

Finished pastas.

Next course was the pizza. I had meant to serve this at the same time as the pasta, but was having issues with my timing. I topped the pre cooked pizza crusts with strained tomatoes, added thin mozzarella slices, a bit of olive oil and basil, and broiled them for about 7 minutes. I made two of these ‘Margherita’ pizzas, and then another one topped with parmesan and stir fried mushrooms (I’m a bit of a mushroom-a-holic). These were delicious and not too filling. The crust is super thin, there aren’t a lot of heavy toppings, and the pieces are small.


Dessert came next. All that was left to do was put a spoonful or two of the Zabaglione over fresh blueberries that I had mixed with the caramelized peaches.

Dessert, YUM!

Verdict- All of the recipes that I tried were delicious (family consensus) and very easy to prepare. The cookbook design is perfect for beginners and avid home chefs alike, with mouth-watering photographs of almost every finished dish and very easy-to-follow instructions. I loved that many of the recipes give you the option to make all or part of the recipe ahead of time. I will definitely use this book again.

Endnote- Since I went a little overboard by making so many different courses, I had a ton of leftovers, and have been coming up with creative ways to use them over the past few days. The extra tomato raisins lent some zing to a breakfast frittata the next morning, a few scoops of the Chickpeas with Leeks dish is DELICIOUS stirred into a bowl of lettuce (no extra dressing required!), the Cauliflower Ragu is great served over rice and the Swiss Chard Ragu stirred into scrambled eggs is very yummy. And I still have pizza dough in the freezer ready for a quick meal the next time I get home late.

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

When I first heard about Lulu Powers, she was described to me as “the British version of Martha Stewart”.  I perked up over that sentence for two reasons.  One: I am caught in this crazy love affair with British talk shows and celebrities (BBC Canada is one of my favourite channels) and two: Martha Stewart terrifies and fascinates me with her “good things”, perfect ways and delicious recipes.  So flipping through Lulu’s entertainment book gave me great, simple  ideas on hosting some awesome summer dinners.

I decided to make her Lahmajoons on page 214.  Lahmajoons are Armenian pizzas, and I love trying new ethnic recipes.  And the best part was that I didn’t have to make dough from scratch or hunt for hard to find ingredients – they were all at my neighbourhood grocery store just begging to be bought and cooked.

And so here I go:

I am not a food stylist, but here are just some of the easy to find ingredients I used.

The recipe lists that the onions and green peppers be finely chopped – and mine were not.  Remember watching those infomercials for the Magic Bullet or SlapChop and thinking nothing much of them?  Well, this was the perfect time to have one handy.  So my veggies were a bit on the larger side.  The smell of freshly chopped mint was amazing, as was the parsley (which was fresh from the garden), but I didn’t add the cilantro because I’m not a fan of it, and went a bit heavier on the other two to make up for the lack of third herb.  The recipe also suggested Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but I checked the difference between this and the generic one I had on hand and there wasn’t anything really different.  I think that as long as your seasoned salt has no MSG you should be merrily on your way to making this dish.

*Technically you shouldn’t have MSG in anything you consume, so there’s my public service announcement of the day.

Here are all the ingredients in the bowl. I purposely added more mint and parsley, but the marinara was clearly an accident. I swear there's ground lamb underneath all the sauce.

The next stage was the best part.  My girl Lulu says to get into the meat with your hands and really work all the ingredients in.  What a great way to unwind after a long day at work!  Squishing your hands into this meat concoction is a great stress reliever – and the awkward squirty sounds of the mixture makes for a few chuckles in the kitchen.

The lamb mixture all ready to go. Note the not-very-finely-chopped green peppers and onions...

I tested out the lamb by making a small patty and frying it in a pan to see if it needed more seasoning, and it was just right.  So onto prepping the tortillas – I opted for small, whole wheat ones to add a bit more nutritional value, and they were the right size for individual lahmajoons.  I unfortunately left my silicone mat at my parents’ house, so I sprayed my cookie sheet with a bit of oil so they wouldn’t stick.

Ready for their 15 minutes of fame in the oven....

If you like your tortilla crispy, then having them on the pan like this gives it that crunch – but you also need to watch it!  My first two were a bit…tanned around the edges.  So the next two I put on another cookie sheet with foil and baked for about 12 minutes.  These pizzas weren’t as crisp, and I actually preferred the first ones.  I finally figured out that 13 minutes on the cookie sheet without foil brought the best texture.  So depending on how you like your pizza “crust”, let them hang out in the oven or take them out sooner.

The finished product - dig in!

And the final verdict: delicious!  I was a bit worried about my veggies being too big, but they added a nice contrast to the meat.  The seasoning had a little bit of kick and was very aromatic, kind of like a unfolded, Middle Eastern-inspired taco.  I garnished mine with a few baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes from the garden, a wedge of lemon and a glass of shiraz.  A perfect way to end a balmy summer evening.

Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

I was very excited to be cooking something from Lulu Powers’ cookbook/entertaining book because as those of you who have paged through it will know, it’s full of easy ideas and recipes that just speak to me. Lulu Powers Food to Flowers is exactly my kind of book. No mess, no fuss, just good easy food.

About to flip the chicken over and brush more BBQ sauce on.

So since I knew this weekend would be a busy one since I was moving and my family was visiting from out of town, I wanted to make something quick and easy that did not require lots of ingredients which I would have left over and then have to move with me. So I settled on the Aunt Patti’s  BBQ Chicken.

Delicious BBQ chicken in a snap.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. All you need is, of course, chicken, bbq sauce, finely ground espresso beans and a whole heap of garlic. Once the chicken has cooked and the chicken skin has had a chance to get nice and brown and crispy, I just mixed the sauce with the garlic and espresso beans and brushed it on both sides and let each side melt and get nice and caramelized and then I enjoyed!

Simple as pie! (Or in this case, as Aunt Patti’s BBQ Chicken!)

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Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers

In a way, I think the whole point of this blog (for me anyway) is to keep me motivated in the kitchen. To keep trying new things. But, every once in a while, a recipe will defeat you. Let’s note that this isn’t the fault of the recipe’s in any way shape or form. Rather, it’s the fault of the cook’s — who will be taking great note of the lessons making Lulu Powers’s Sticky Buns, from the gorgeous cookbook, Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers.

So, a number of things went wrong. The first of which being my camera died so I have no photos from the actual day of cooking. Next, I figured a blender could stand in for a food processor when it came to mixing the dough, and let me tell you, um, no. Lastly, whole wheat flour isn’t really a good substitute for Sticky Buns — it’s really too heavy.

Sticky Buns: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

Sticky Buns: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

Annywaaay. Holiday Monday started off so well. I had remembered to buy 99% of the ingredients and the one that I did skip — the pumpkin pie spice (I subbed with Cocoa, and used just a bit more cinnamon), didn’t seem to make that much of a difference to the recipe. The dough was interesting. Lulu calls for cottage cheese and buttermilk, and the first set of directions worked well in the blender. But then by instruction #2, everything started to fall apart. When I was dumping the flour into the blender, my RRHB said, “That’s a really bad idea you know, it’s not wet enough for a blender.” Whizzzz. Whizzz. Whizzzz. Cough. Splutter. Odd-smelling smoke (just kidding). Yes, he’s right, it’s not wet enough for a blender. Cue me scraping every last bit of goopy, half-mixed dough into a bowl and doing the rest by hand. It wasn’t all that bad.

Up next was rolling out the dough. Hence the need for a rolling pin. Which we don’t have at the cottage. Cue an excellent suggestion from my cousin to use a wine bottle. And it worked. The rest of the process went sort of as planned, until I discovered that I didn’t have the right sized muffin tin or waxed paper (to put on the bottom so it doesn’t make a mess of your tin!). Because it would have been a disaster to clean up (keep in mind I’ve now got dishes, a collapsed blender, flour, ingredients and about a half-dozen bowls spread around our very tiny cabin kitchen), I skipped making the sauce — there can only have been so many instances of things going wrong.

Sticky Buns Look Better From The Top

Sticky Buns Look Better From The Top

However, some parts of my process went very well. For example, the smell of the buns cooking was absolutely divine. It was rich, yummy and absolutely made my mouth water. And despite the fact that the whole wheat flour made the entire bun feel more like bread than a sweet treat, they actually tasted pretty darn good. When my RRHB ate one he was surprised, actually, that they tasted so good — he even managed to convince my incredibly picky 4-year-old nephew to try a piece, and even he agreed they were delicious. So, I think that’s a real testament to Lulu’s recipe — even when you muck it up as much as I did, which was A LOT, you still end up with something edible, sweet and absolutely delicious when eaten the next day for your coffee break.

The Last Sticky Bun Standing

The Last Sticky Bun Standing

“Sticky Buns,” pg. 60-62

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Congratulations to Lorraine of Chase, BC who has won a copy of Jamie’s Food Revolution!

To win a copy of Lulu Powers: Food to Flowers leave a comment on one of our posts from this week!

And don’t forget to vote for your favourite Lulu recipe!