Pioneer Woman Cooks...and Stirs Up Memories

A while back I saw a cookbook sitting on a stand at the home of a friend. I took notice, but didn’t feel compelled to take action to even thumb through it or ask about it. I have a stand in my kitchen with a cookbook on it at all times…sometimes the same one for months and sometimes a different one each day, depending on how or what I’m making in the kitchen at the time. (Lately it’s been months!) That was weeks ago.

A couple of days ago, another friend mentioned the same cookbook for a reason I can’t even remember and then the very next day she showed it to me. I sat down, cup of coffee in hand at her table and opened the book. I read the jacket and looked at the delicious pictures of the preparation process and then the final product for each recipe, trying my hardest not to drool on it. The entire first section of the book seemed like my “staple” menu…the dishes I make when I have no inspiration to do something else.

One could think that this would have caused me to put the book down in disappointment, but the contrary happened. My motivation to get back in the kitchen to create something was restored. Two days ago, I was thinking that I should put the book on my wishlist (like for Christmas), and by the time I left my friend’s house, it had moved up to the top of my to-get-today list.

I love to cook. It is relaxing and soothing and fulfilling. (It makes my mom nervous and anxious and nauseous to watch me cook—I did not get my love of cooking from her I guess!  I got my ability to cook from her because she is a great cook...we just don't enjoy it in the same way.) I really can’t think of anything I don’t like to make, but I think that comfort food tops my list, followed by desserts, which according to my standards are comfort foods anyway!

I don’t feel like I’ve really cooked anything for such a long time. (I have, I just don’t really remember savoring the process like I often do.) I haven’t really even made a productive trip to the grocery store lately. We’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches, Mexican rice casseroles and hot dogs…oh, and fast food. (Apparently I’m feeling the need to confess this right now…maybe it will cause me to repent and avoid the fast-food garbage trap!) Our fast-food-frenzy is usually a result of my lack of organization. True again!

I couldn’t hold out one more day for this cookbook, so I stopped this morning and bought it at Barnes and Noble. By the time we got home, Jakob had our next three meals picked out. (My kids like to eat my comfort food as much as I like to make it.) I wasted no time sitting down to browse through my new book. (I love new books too—the way the glossy cover shines, the way the pages sound and feel when you open them for the first time and that new-book smell!  AND...I picked up a couple of extra bargain-priced books--$1.80@ for the kids and for preschool for Joe too!)  :)

When was the last time I read a cookbook? Not just flipped through recipes, but actually READ the cookbook? I sat for an hour and slipped into the pages of this book as if I was actually there. The author is a rancher’s wife, originally from the city. They have four children. She presents these mouth-watering recipes with step-by-step photo enhanced instructions. But wait, there’s more: she writes little antics about the story behind the recipes. She talks about her love of this life she fell into and about the love of her life—Marlboro Man (her husband). I found myself so engrossed in the book that I couldn’t put it down…I read it while I made lunch and while we ate lunch and while I cleaned up lunch. OK—I didn’t really clean up lunch yet, it’s still sitting there, but I read it INSTEAD of cleaning up lunch until I was done reading, and when I was done reading I was crying.  Me crying?  Imagine!!

I think I was sucked in so hard because of my farm-ranch childhood. As I read and looked at pictures, I was instantly connected; I could smell the leather and the mud and the dust and the, well, even the manure! 

Ready for the trip down memory lane?

Growing up, I was happy right along side my dad checking cattle, branding and just riding horses. I'd love to offer the same experiences to my own kids, but that's not our lifestyle. We take advantage of any opportunity we have to give them a taste of it though.

I always thought I would marry a cowboy…a real cowboy…one that wore the hat and the boots and the western-cut, snap shirt and the chaps too. God apparently thought differently, and if I’ve learned one thing it is that He is always right. He had the perfect man picked out for me. I concur!

The above and the following pictures are from our vacation to a friend's cattle ranch in Montana.  Tim has this fantasy of owning a working ranch with my dad.  (Secretly, I wouldn't object too much.)

Now my dad has a small herd of cattle.  The boys got to help with a little branding.

NOW, back to the book...

What a good book…to read and I anticipate to cook from! I recall my friend, whose kitchen countertop displayed this book, attributed her desire to start a blog to the fantastic author of this cookbook. “Pioneer Woman Cooks” will be located on my cookbook stand for a while…and I’m sure the pages will be fairly sticky pretty soon too! I bet my family will like her (the author) as much as I do when I start cooking again!!

Chicken Fried Steak was Jakob's choice for dinner tonight.

So happy to be using my kitchen for more than unpacking McDonald's!  Yes, it is a mess and I love it, and No, I haven't been drinking beer every day since the school mailing came. 

Even Millie is happy to be back in the kitchen again!

Not quite the layout in the cookbook, but it all tasted just great.