Category Archives: Cookbooks

Review: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A Love Story by Ree Drummond

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 14, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 006199717X
  • Source: Publisher

Many of us know The Pioneer Woman from her popular blog and cookbooks full of delectable recipes. How many of us, however, know the woman behind this success story? In The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A Love Story the reader gets a unique glimpse inside the life of Ree Drummond before she becomes the woman we have all grown to love.

After attending four years of college in Los Angeles, Ree returns home to Oklahoma for a visit before moving to Chicago. She’s currently in a relationship with J, yet really isn’t feeling the commitment and affection she longs for.  She agrees to meet some friends at a local bar for drinks. While there, she runs into a deliciously handsome cowboy and they end up talking for hours. After this chance encounter, they don’t speak again for four months. When they do, a spark unites and they begin dating. She refers to him only as The Marlboro man, a cowboy who ranches on the land his family owns. She must chose between the life she had planned in Chicago and this sweet, masculine man who has won over her heart.  A seemingly difficult task, Ree comes to the conclusion pretty easily; the relationship she has with The Marlboro Man is unlike any she had ever experienced.

And I knew, even then: Marlboro Man, not only that night but for months to come, would prove to be my savior, my distraction, my escape in the midst of troubles, my strength in the face of upheaval, my beauty in times of terrible, heartbreaking ugliness. He held my heart entirely in his hands, this cowboy, and for the first time in my life, despite everything I’d ever believed about independence and feminism and emotional autonomy, I knew I’d be utterly incomplete without him.

Ree, a girl used to wearing high heels and dressing to the nines, had a bit of adjustment when it came to her relationship with The Marlboro man. He worked the land, got dirty, woke up at obscene hours of the morning to start his day. In the book, Ree mentions several humorous situations, particularly one involving taking the temperature of cattle as they are being branded. Yet through thick and thin, their relationship perseveres. All sorts of outside distractions, including the divorce of her parents, cause Ree to frequently question her happiness.  She was utterly and completely in love, in the midst of her parents’ 30-year marriage crumbling around her:

I wanted to leave; I wanted out of there so badly…but I was stuck–stuck in a delicious, glorious, beautiful inescapable La Brea tar pit of romance with a rough, rugged, impossibly tender cowboy

And so their life begins, sticking together through thick and thin. Ree must learn to give up a bit of her independence, to lose some of her vanity and pride all in the name of love.

No spoiler here, Marlboro man proposes. Thoughts flash through Ree’s mine, similar I think to other woman about to take the leap into marriage. Her hilarious presumptions of how her life will change hand me in tears:

Marry you?  But then I’d have to cut my hair short. Married women have short hair, and they get it fixed at the beauty shop.

Marry you? But then I’d have to make casseroles?

Marry you? But then I’ll have to wear yellow rubber gloves to do the dishes.

She goes on and on, but is unable to deny the man that she loves so passionately. They marry and move in to a small, centuries-old home on The Marlboro Man’s family land.

Readers that know my personal taste in books might wonder why on Earth I opted to review this book. Blame it on Leap Day; I’m opting to take a leap and step outside the bounds of my comfort zone. I’m not known for my fondness of romances, but how can one resist reading about a good old-fashioned love story? The love Ree and The Marlboro Man share is a unique one, one that I think readers of all varieties will appreciate and enjoy.  That’s not to say they didn’t have their issues and faults but this love they shared outweighed any challenges they faced.  It also doesn’t hurt that I’m obsessed with Ree’s blog and the gorgeous pictures Ree is known to post. Oh, and the recipes!! I’d be remiss not to mention the recipes contained at the back of the book, just a sampling of the mouth-watering food Ree is known to produce.Highly, highly recommended.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour! Foodies would be remiss not to check out Ree’s cookbooks, the newest due out next month (I cannot wait!!)



Review: More of America’s Most Wanted Recipes by Ron Douglas

Last year, I reviewed America’s Most Wanted Recipes by Ron Douglas. When I heard an updated version of the cookbook was scheduled for release, I jumped on the opportunity to review it. In More of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, Ron Douglas gives readers more than 200 simple secret restaurant recipes, this time all for $1o or less!  The cookbook contains secret recipes from restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, Benihana, Red Lobster & T.G.I Friday’s.

The recipe I chose to make was P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef. The main reason was because P.F. Chang’s is one of my favorite Chinese pastries; the other reason was because I had many of the ingredients already in my kitchen.

The recipe was extremely easy to follow.  In no time, my kitchen smelled like heaven. Pictured below is the beef, simmering in the delicious sauce.

And the final product:

Looks heavenly, no?

Now down to the taste test: does it taste like the “real” Mongolian beef from P.F.Chang’s?  While it’s not spot on (I prefer a bit more garlic) it was pretty darned close!  Most importantly, my family enjoyed the meal!  I took the leftovers for lunch today and it stands up to the “reheat” test as well.

I can’t wait to try out one of the other recipes in this cookbook.  Which will it be? Maybe the Starbucks Chai Tea Latte? Or maybe the Golden Corral dinner rolls? The possibilities are endless!  So, what are you waiting for!? Go out and buy your copy of the cookbook now!

Guest Post & Giveaway: Aviva Goldfarb, Author of SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families

I’m very excited today to host a guest post by Aviva Goldfarb, author of SOS!: The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue.  My family has really benefited from her recipes, advice, and tips.  Today Aviva writes about how to avoid waste in the kitchen, a topic so many of us can relate to!

Don’t Toss Your Cash along with Your Trash!

If I asked you to reach into your wallet and crumple up a couple of twenty dollar bills and throw them away, you’d probably think I was crazy and ignore me, right? But that’s essentially what most Americans are doing each and every week!

According to an article I read recently in On Earth  magazine, “Americans waste 30 – 40% of their food, or the equivalent of about 2 full meals a day.” Other studies put the amount of food we waste at closer to 15 or 20%, but however high the number, it’s certainly too high. Yet there is a lot we can do to reduce our waste and its environmental impact.

There are big economic and environmental costs of all this wasted food. Few of us can afford to throw away money each week on uneaten food. And all this extra food has to be produced and transported before it’s eaten and even after it’s discarded, resulting in higher energy costs and emissions.

My best defenses against wasted food are planning ahead before grocery shopping, keeping a grocery list on the refrigerator for all family members to update, and using up as much leftover food as possible in a final meal or two before doing the weekly shopping. (I call this the Sixth Night Scavenge.)

Even if you do plan your meals and cook at home, you’re bound to have some waste. Last year my family started composting as a way to reuse some of our waste and reduce the amount of trash that has to be hauled from our curb. While the thought of composting was a little intimidating, it turns out to be the easiest thing in the world! (To see how easy it is, you might want to look at the short instructional video my son and I made, Easy Composting 1-2-3 at

Each day I collect our fruit and vegetable rinds, peels and ends, along with any egg shells and coffee grounds, in a bowl on the kitchen counter. At the end of the day I dump the bowl’s contents into a large plastic kitty litter bin I keep under our kitchen sink. When the bin is full (every 2 or 3 weeks), we dump the contents in a pile in our back yard, rinse the bin with the hose, and start over. This summer we’ll use some of the compost to enrich our garden, but until then, we can feel good knowing that we reduced the amount of waste that is transported and takes up space in local landfills.

There is so much we can easily do to reduce our food waste in our homes. By planning ahead for our meals, making and sticking to our grocery lists, using up food before we buy more, and composting some of our waste, we can save so much money on our groceries, and reduce the environmental toll of all this wasted food. Please share your ideas for reducing waste with me at

Aviva Goldfarb is a mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®,, an online weekly menu planner and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), and is author of the new cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010).

Thanks, Aviva! Now, on to the giveaway, and what a wonderful giveaway it is! The winner will not only receive a copy of  “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families”, they’ll also receive a  a 3 month subscription to the Scramble service (

To enter, please fill out the form below.  Comments will not be counted as entries. Open to US and Canadian residents only, please. No P.O. Boxes.  The winner will be announced on Friday, June 25th.

Review: SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1 edition (April 13, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0312578113
  • Source: Publisher
  • Every parent has faced this dilemma:How do I feed my children a quick, healthy meal on a budget?  I know we face this problem at least 2-3 times a week!  When I was offered SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families for review, it was a godsend!  A lifesaver! In the few months we’ve had it, it’s been well used.  It’s already full of post-it-notes marking my favorite recipes as well as those I’d like to try in the future.

    Here are some of the perks of this cookbook:

    • Seasonal (Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) sections focus what’s in season!  I loved this feature, particularly because I knew what produce I would be able to find at the farmer’s market or the local grocery.
    • Over 300 recipes that take 30 minutes or less to prepare!
    • Nutritional information for each recipe
    • Ideas about what to pack for your child’s lunch, after-school snacks, and how to deal with picky eaters (I have two of those!)

    And these are just the perks that you’ll find when reading the back cover.  I had the luxury of having my mom ( a consumer science teacher!) in town when I was reviewing this.  She was able to give me a unique perspective about what should/shouldn’t be in a cookbook.  It’s not only the recipes you should be looking at, but the supplemental informaton as well. Here are some of the things we discovered while flipping through the book:

    • Seven steps to keeping the six o’clock scramble on schedule. For example, schedule your meals for the week based on which foods are most perishable (meat, poultry, etc) and which nights will be the most hectic. Also, starting off with a clean kitchen (including an empty dishwasher!) will help tremendously.  Clean up as you go so the final clean-up will quick and effortless.
    • Eight essential pots & pans for scrambling families
    • Ten best dishes for school potlucks or other gatherings
    • Tips on how to connect with your local CSA (community supported agriculture)
    • Quick & healthy breakfast ideas

    I could literally go on and on. SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue is without a doubt a cookbook that should be part of your kitchen library collection!

    I’d be remiss not to mention the recipe we tried as part of this .  We decided to make the “Light and garlicky penne with plum tomatoes.”  My boys are pretty picky about the type of noodle they’ll eat, so I substituted angel hair for the penne.  Oh, and I didn’t have plum tomatoes so we used cherry tomatoes instead.  I’m all about substituting, as you can tell!

    Following is a picture of the final product.  We served it with grilled chicken and some sort of vegetable.  Honestly, it was so long ago I don’t remember what it was, but it was probably fresh green beans from the farmer’s market.

    Be sure to check back later this week for a guest post from Aviva Goldfarb and yes….a giveaway!