What’s For Dinner?

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Green bean casserole
Ree Drummond with Patsy Homsey


Ree Drummond Has the Perfect Menus


What’s for dinner?
That’s a late afternoon, early evening lament that stretches across the country, day after day. Families peer into their fridge or freezer, pondering this ever timely question.

Cook in? Eat Out? Order take out? Skip supper? For some, the question is so daunting they head for the nearest fast food vendor.

Ree Drummond insists dinnertime doesn’t have to be that way.

She should know. As the wife of Ladd Drummond, one of Oklahoma’s best-known cattle ranchers on a large, historic spread in the Osage Hills near Pawhuska, Ree has taken this dinnertime bully by the horns and written a new cookbook, which is her fourth. Also, as the mother of four, always hungry children, she believes the new book solves the dinner problem forevermore.

“The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime” is a 398-page handsome, colorful volume complete with abundant recipes and photographs of the energetic and enterprising Drummond family at work and play.

Ree has divided the book into 11 enticing chapters, three focusing on breakfast, salad or soup for dinner. Other topics include freezer food, 16-minute meals, pasta pronto, comfort classics, veggie and starchy sides, new favorites and quick desserts.

She notes, on the inside front cover flap: “Don’t get me wrong. I adore breakfast. I love lunch! But dinnertime definitely tops them all. It’s the time of day when we reunite with our sweeties, our kids, our friends, our parents … and catch up on the events of the day over something mouthwatering and delicious. Dinnertime anchors us, nourishes us, and reassures us. It’s the greatest meal of the day.”

This cookbook is definitely all about easy to prepare comfort food. The recipe titles are mouth-watering: Cashew Chicken, French Dip Sandwiches, Chicken Marsala, Pan-Fried Pork Chops, Beef Stroganoff, Coconut Curry Shrimp, one of the Drummonds’ household cat’s favorites.

Who could resist such tempting desserts as mini blueberry galettes, quick and easy apple tarts, raspberry fool, a traditional English dessert or your favorite ice cream topped with a homemade quick caramel or hot fudge sauce.

Like Ree’s three other cookbooks – “Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl,” “Food from My Frontier” or “A Year of Holidays” – every recipe is accompanied with step-by-step photos of how to prepare the dish. You can’t miss with a photographic tutor like Ree, who takes most of her own photos. She did let Ladd, whom she lovingly calls “the Marlboro Man,” photograph dinner specialties featured on 11 different pages.

Just so readers will have a glimpse of Ree’s action-packed life, she includes two pages of a typical week in the family’s life, which she describes in one word – “chaotic.”

For a Wednesday night, she writes: “Hallelujah! We’re all home together again. It’s a make-it and serve-it kind of evening, so at 6:30 I whip out one of my family’s favorite dishes, Cajun Chicken Pasta, (page 188), along with a simple green salad and a batch of The Bread (page 336), which couldn’t be easier to make. We all go to bed very, very happy. And very full!”

Ree offers prep tips, noting, “Anything I can think of to do ahead of time to save my sanity, you can bet I’m going to do it.” She also introduces readers to a French cooking concept – mise en place.

“It’s a fancy term,” she knows, “but it’s one of the best get-ahead tricks many home cooks can have. In my cooking life, mise en place can manifest itself in two different ways. The first is simply taking a few minutes to measure and assemble ingredients before I start cooking a meal – it makes the cooking process more efficient.

“The second is what I like to call make ahead mise en place. I prepare the entire array of ingredients for a recipe one, two, even three nights ahead, (if the ingredients hold well) then store them on a rimmed baking sheet in the fridge.”

Ree uses a variety of kitchen aids to hold these ingredients – Pyrex or ceramic bowls or ramekins, covered if necessary, plastic zipper bags, Mason jars or foil packets. If necessary, she uses another tray for the countertop for dry or canned items as rice, beans, flour, cornmeal or tomatoes.

“These make-ahead meal ‘kits’ are exciting because they give me the promise of a super-quick homemade meal in the coming days. Have your kids help you put these together at the start of the week. It really does make dinnertime fun,” she promises.

Even though Ree admits, in print, “I really don’t like going to the grocery store,” she does offer stocking up tips. Her list may differ from yours but she suggests keeping items on hand that are staples in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

Her latest book, like all her others, is a keeper. If you are a newcomer to her fan club or blog, start with her first book, “The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels ~ A Love Story.” Ree calls it her story of “an unlikely romance” with a chaps-wearing ruggedly handsome cowboy.

Oklahoma City fans were treated to several visits a few years ago, including a book signing at Full Circle Books, when Ree was accompanied by Ladd and their four children. Penn Square’s lower level was packed, with standing room only. She also was the guest speaker for a Pi Beta Phi sorority luncheon at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.

On Nov. 28, she returned for another engagement at Full Circle.

Since starting her website blog in 2006, The Pioneer Woman, Ree has become the number one best-selling author with her three other cookbooks.

Her cooking show, The Pioneer Woman, premiered on the Food Network in 2011. Her latest venture, in addition to the new book, is a collection of dinnerware and colorful cookware with butterfly knobs sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores and Walmart.com. Linens will eventually be added to the cookware line.

As Ree tours across the country promoting her new book and cookware, she is telling fans the Dinnertime book is her favorite.

“I packed as much deliciousness into each chapter as possible. My hope is that you will turn to this book regularly to solve your dinnertime dilemmas and that you will use these recipes to feed your family time and time again. The more stains, smudges and smears on the pages, the better!”

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