Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AMY & REE: Mission Accomplished!

And here we have it, my 2010 New Years Resolution, to cook the entire cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, completed. Done. Over. And I know I'm 11 days late. But, you know what? I'm cool like that. I've decided to give myself some slack, in life in general, but specifically in this goal. Because I loved this challenge.

I loved pushing myself way outside of my culinary comfort zone and learning how easy and rewarding it is to make things like your own whipped cream and pie crust and fried chicken. The Pioneer Woman makes cooking fun and easy, but at the same time teaches you down-home skills that should be part of every person's kitchen tools. And while her recipes were filled with necessary skills, they were also filled with fat. And butter. And sugar. I felt myself packing on the pounds with her solid, country foods and, sometimes, I eliminated some of the salt, butter, and replaced whole wheat flour for white. This challenge made me feel brave that way - able to take a recipe and change it up to my liking. And certainly not all the Pioneer Woman's recipes are like these; she's got an amazing website filled with lighter fare and even vegetarian recipes.

For the last two weeks of December, I cooked like crazy, making recipes out of the book. And I have to say, spending hours in the kitchen over the holidays with the Pioneer Woman was a blast. I really wanted New Years Eve to be my final hurrah, and invited lots of families to join ours in a celebration of 2011 and my big accomplishment. I planned to make the last seven recipes that night for all my friends. I did, in fact, make seven recipes and they were great, by all accounts. (We had so many guests and I had drunk so much sangria by that point that I had but a bite of each one.) The party was great fun, but I was still left with a few recipes to conquer. Here's some pics of the goodness that has been the past month of my life:

The Roasted Beef Tenderloin was a little too rare for my taste, but I'm a wussy red meat eater. The marinade was delicious, primarily because it included bacon grease (yum). Recipe link here (which also includes the recipe for PW's Burgundy Mushrooms which I served on New Years Eve but did not get a photo of because they went fast and I was too drunk. They are good, but cook all day (seriously, like nine hours) and take a whole liter of wine).

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken was kind of a greasy mess, but the breading was crunchy and tasty. I'd give it a shot if I were you, but I make a yummy oven baked version that is just as good.

This, my friends, is really damn good. It's Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich, with grilled cube steak slices and onions on a crusty roll. We added mushrooms and melted swiss on the top and served it with a green salad on the side. We now call this Our Favorite Use for Cube Steak Sandwich.

This was the first time I've ever made homemade buttermilk biscuits, and I couldn't believe how easy they were. And how much I adore using my pastry cutter and my biscuit cutter in the same recipe. Even better with homemade raspberry jam on top.
New Year's Eve menu signage taken the next morning. Yeah, you can't hardly read it now, but it listed the seven (supposed to be) final recipes: BBQ Jalapeno Poppers, Simple Perfect Chili, Potato Skins, Sangria, Guacamole, Burgundy Mushrooms and Creme Brulee.

Creme Brulee dishes, completely scraped clean, the morning after. It was THAT good.

Sangria pitcher with fruit remnants. I believe all the orange vodka, orange rum, red and white wine concoction ended up gone within the first hour or two of the party. In my glass alone. (There was more than one pitcher, okay?)

This photo of the fried Onion Strings wasn't blurry because I had drunk too much beer, but because my other hand was busy shoving handfuls of these into my mouth. One of my favorite recipes in the book, these are better than I've ever purchased at any state fair. And that's sayin' a lot.
I just thought the Cowboy Calzones were good, but my inlaws and Eric loved them. Since I was running out of time in 2010 and, quite frankly, was busting my buns in the kitchen around the holidays already, I cheated and used store bought pizza dough instead of making it from scratch.

Iny's Prune Cake was so hyped up in the book that I expected more. It was good and moist, but a little too moist, to the point of soggy. Could be my mixing of the caramel topping, but it didn't last more than one night.

I made the Breakfast Bowls for Christmas morning with my inlaws. They were easy and really dang good. Sorry, but I can't find a link to them.

Along with the Breakfast Bowls, I made the Marmalade Muffins for Christmas morning. Topped with a marmalade and brown sugar melted topping, these are too die for. They made way more than 24 mini muffins, which was good, because my father in law and I each downed about 7 fresh out of the oven.

So, now that I've made everything in the book, here's our votes for best of the best:
Eric's top five favorites are:

1) Creme Brulee
2) Rib-Eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce
3) Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich
4) Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes
5) Marmalade Muffins

And mine:

1) Creme Brulee
2) BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
3) PW Breakfast Burritos
4) Cinnamon Rolls
5) Olive Cheese Bread

While the cookbook sits next to me on the couch as I type, I lovingly look at how tattered it's become. And also how loved; the book has wandered around the house with all of us over the past year. Eric's taken it to bed, choosing a recipe for me to make for the next night's dinner. Lucy and Alice have laughed at the pictures of PW's puppies and cows. I've pretty much lugged the book from room to room, studying baking times and ingredients. The pages are tagged and grease splattered and covered with penned notes. Just how a cookbook should be.