Pioneer Woman Holidays CookBook Review

Random Cravings: The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays

Ok…I admit it…I am a little biased going into this review.  I am a long-time, die-hard fan of Ree Drummond, known to her fans as The Pioneer Woman.  Ree’s simple, accessible, laid-back style is the reason I adore her first two cookbooks, and the reason I was just a little bit giddy when I heard she was writing a holiday cookbook.  Ree’s easygoing manner is a perfect model for the way I like to approach the holidays.  Life, of course, may sometimes work against me, but my intention is always to host a warm, comfortable holiday celebration that keeps everyone content and happy.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays is, to me, the ultimate Pioneer Woman cookbook.  Holidays are my culinary “cornerstones” – days that center around food, family and friends – and this book is like a guidebook through each of those days.  Ree provides mouthwateringly yummy ideas for 12 holidays, as well as “do-ahead game plans” for the biggies like Thanksgiving and Easter, and plenty of tips and tricks throughout the book.

This being autumn in New Jersey, the chilly evenings gave me a craving for Ree’s Broccoli-Cheese Soup, found in the Halloween chapter.  This is NOT the broccoli-cheese soup found in delis and cafeterias everywhere!  This is fresh, made-from-scratch-and-real-cheese, rich, hearty soup that you can make with a minimum of time and effort.  It is all made in one pot, and only takes about an hour to put together from start to finish.  Even non-broccoli lovers (like me!) will love this creamy, cheesy soup.

Pioneer Woman A year of holidays

I also made the Dulce de Leche Brownies from Ree’s Cinco de Mayo chapter.  These fudgy bits of heaven swirled with rich, dreamy dulce de leche mean serious chocolaty business!  One tip – if you’re choosing between Ree’s options of an 8-inch square pan or an 8×10-inch pan, opt for the 8×10 – I chose the 8-inch square, and there was just a bit too much batter for the pan.  Regardless of what pan you use, you absolutely have to make these brownies – they have the consistency of rich, moist chocolate cake, and any dulce de leche that ends up around the sides creates a crispy, crackly little treat!

I’m off to read Ree’s Thanksgiving chapter to decide which of her yummy creations will be on my menu this year – in the meantime, Ree has graciously allowed me to reprint her recipe for the Broccoli-Cheese Soup, so you can put together a pot of this yumminess tonight!

RECIPE FROM: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays, 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations

By Ree Drummond; William Morrow Cookbooks

 BROCCOLI-CHEESE SOUP (MAKES 12 SERVINGS)

 

  •  ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 broccoli heads, cut into florets
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, more for garnish
  • Small bread loaves for bowls (you can buy them in nice bakeries)

1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter . . .

2. Then add the onion . . .

3. And stir it around to cook, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the flour on top of the onion . . .

5. And use a whisk to work in the flour. Once it’s combined, cook the onion-flour mixture for 2 to 3 minutes . . .

6. Then add the milk and half and- half, whisking constantly until combined.

7. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg . . .

8. Then add the broccoli florets . . .

9. And stir them into the soup. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then simmer the soup until it’s thickened and the broccoli is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

10. Stir in the chicken broth and check the consistency. The soup should be thick, but if it still seems too thick, splash in a little more broth.

11. Then throw in the cheese!

12. Stir it in until it’s melted, taste and adjust the seasonings . . . and get ready to serve it up.

13. At an angle, cut off the top third of the bread.

14. Remove the “lid” . . .

15. Then tear out chunks of bread, leaving a ½-inch rim around the crust. (Save the bread in a plastic storage bag for another use.)

16. Ladle in the thick, yummy soup and top it with more shredded cheese.

17. Serve it to trick-or-treaters before they head out to collect your . . . I mean their candy.

NOTES

• For a smoother soup, use an immersion blender to puree the soup before adding the cheese.

• Substitute pepper Jack cheese for a slightly spicier soup.