I Cooked Like the Pioneer Woman for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.

Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman, has graced our TVs, taken over our bookshelves and provided many of us with amazing recipes to cook for family.

Ree Drummond started out as a home cook on a working ranch in Oklahoma. The Pioneer Woman now has five (five!) cookbooks, a Food Network show and even a gorgeous hotel in Pawhuska. Ree has reached a level of domesticity that I could only aspire to. I’ve started tackling her recipes one by one and my family has loved the result.

Here’s what I learned from the Pioneer Woman—plus a handful of her recipes!

Lesson 1: Comfort Food is Always a Favorite

I do most of my cooking on Sundays. It’s not always easy to get a big meal prepared on a busy weeknight, but on Sunday, I have more time to be a better chef. I also love to make recipes on weekends that will heat up well during the week.

My toddler loves a good mac n’ cheese and Ree doesn’t disappoint with her recipe. (Find the recipe for Quick Shells and Cheese in The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime.) It’s somehow both easy and delicious. I also tried the Pot Roast, which was savory, easy to put in the Crock-Pot and perfect for leftovers night.

Perfect Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 3- to 5-pound chuck roast
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 whole onions, peeled and halved
  • 6 to 8 whole carrots, unpeeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup red wine, optional
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast.
  3. Heat the olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the halved onions to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions to a plate.
  4. Throw the carrots into the same very hot pot and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. Reserve the carrots with the onions.
  5. If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pot. Place the meat in the pot and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.
  6. With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom with a whisk. Place the roast back into the pot and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway.
  7. Add in the onions and the carrots, along with the fresh herbs.
  8. Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for a 3-pound roast. For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. The roast is ready when it’s fall-apart tender.

Lesson 2: Breakfast Should Be So Good

Taste of Home

I discovered when I cooked like Joanna Gaines that my house loves to have a good breakfast casserole. It’s something can easily be prepped the night before and cooked in the morning. Plus, one breakfast casserole can last my family for two meals. Ree Drummond has created a scrumptious dish that’s perfect for your family or a big get-together. This Loaded Tater Tot Bake is a close copycat for Ree’s own breakfast dish.

Lesson 3: New Desserts Are Divine

We’ve been in a chocolate chip cookie rut at my house. I have a sweet tooth and have always loved baking from the original Pioneer Woman cookbook I received as a wedding gift. I thought this week would be a GREAT opportunity to try out delicious new desserts. I was right! You need to bake Missy’s Blueberry and Lemon Cupcakes.

Missy’s Blueberry and Lemon Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (let stand at room temp)
  • 3 eggs (let stand at room temp)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • Butter baking spray
  • Blueberries, coated with flour

Frosting:

  • 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (let stand at room temp)
  • 1 stick cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the batter: Mix the butter and eggs. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Mix the granulated sugar, milk and lemon peel together. Then mix the butter and eggs into the milk and sugar mixture. Mix the flour into the wet mixture and blend.
  3. Place paper cups into a pan, spray with butter baking spray and fill each cup three-quarters full with batter. Drop the coated blueberries on top. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
  4. For the frosting: Combine the powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, lemon juice and zest together until light and fluffy. Pipe onto the cupcakes and decorate with lemon peel, blueberries and a mint leaf.

Lesson 4: This Is the Best Recipe of ALL!

Stop what you’re doing and check out the Cowboy Chopped Salad. So. Good. This is perfect for any meal at home, but is also the BEST side dish to take to a party or a friend’s house. It’s different and oh-so-savory. Seriously, the Pioneer Woman knew what she was doing with this one.

Cowboy Chopped Salad

Ingredients

Bacon and Tortilla Strips:

  • 12 slices bacon, chopped
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips

BBQ Ranch Dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Buttermilk, as needed to adjust the consistency
  • Hot sauce, as needed
  • Kosher salt

Salad:

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cut into chunks and sliced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1 pound Cheddar, grated
  • Pico de gallo, store-bought or homemade

Instructions

  1. For the bacon and tortilla strips: Fry the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add some vegetable oil to the bacon skillet and fry the tortilla strips until crisp, approximately 1 minute. Drain on paper towels.
  2. For the BBQ ranch dressing: In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, barbecue sauce, parsley, chives and garlic. Adjust the consistency with buttermilk to make it a little thinner. Taste and add hot sauce and salt as needed.
  3. For the salad: Put the lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, bacon and most of the cheese into a bowl. Drizzle over the dressing and stir. Scatter over some pico de gallo, the tortilla strips and the reserved cheese, then serve.

Ree’s recipes are delicious and simple. The only downside is that the recipes are pretty calorie-heavy, so anyone on a healthy eating plan may want to save the Pioneer Woman recipes for special occasions and potlucks.

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Julia K. Porter
Dr. Julia Porter began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY and has taught college courses since 2008. Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures. She lives in Indiana with her husband, daughter and a rambunctious Australian Shepherd.