Friday Night Cooking Plans

To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I cooked for my family on a Friday night and blogged about it. During the colder months, I was doing it pretty consistently. There was good reason: I was (slowly) making my way through Ina Garten’s recipes. As life started to return to “normal” when the warm weather came, I started doing more and was spending less time at home, thus I was cooking less.

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Kitchen Experiments: Making Vanilla Extract

A couple of weekends ago, my partner and I finally put an idea of ours into action. We would try our hand at making our own vanilla extract. This is something both of us wanted to do for a while, but life always caused delays to it actually happening.

We were first inspired to do this separately, getting the idea from different chefs. He is a fan of Claire Saffitz’s YouTube channel and I became obsessed with a TV chef on Discovery+ who also uses her own vanilla extract. Additionally, I first stumbled on this idea from one of Ina Garten cookbooks where she details the steps to making one’s own bottle of vanilla.

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A Plan for the Future

This month has been a weird one for me, blogging-wise. Shortly after beginning my foray into cooking all Ree Drummond’s recipes, I started to lose interest for some reason. I can’t really put my finger on why it happened. But, I just accepted it and kind of went with the feeling, hoping for the interest to return one day.

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Magnolia Bakery 13 – Cracked Sugar Cookies

Last weekend was full of baking! It began with the Harvest Apple Cupcakes which were a big hit! However, the baking bug was not satiated, so I had the urge to make cookies. Plus, what else is there to do on a gloomy fall Sunday afternoon?

I knew cookies would be far less time consuming than something like cupcakes. Plus, leftovers are much easier to transport since they can be easily packaged and I wouldn’t have to worry about frosting getting messed up. So, thumbing through the MBC, I decided on the Cracked Sugar Cookies.

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PW Recipe 5 – Macaroni and Cheese

Sometimes you just have a strong desire to just eat “bad” food. “Bad” as in not-that-great-for-you food. Well, that hankering happened for me over the weekend. I was in the mood for macaroni and cheese. It had been months since the last time I had a good, baked mac & cheese. Luckily for me this desire also came with the ability to make another Pioneer Woman recipe. This recipe also came from my favorite cookbook of hers: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl, her first one.

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Ryan Cooks PW Recipe 4

  • Name of Recipe: Zucchini Bread
  • Cookbook: Come and Get It
  • TV Episode: N/A
  • Rating: 5.0 out of 5

Every year my family plants a garden in the spring and in the late summer and into the early fall we reap the harvest. Tomatoes of various sizes, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, string beans, cucumbers, the list could go on. While many of our plants are very prolific (this year, especially, the cherry tomatoes), our zucchini plants this year did not do as well as usual. While we still were able to eat some home-grown summer squash, the numbers were far fewer than in years past.

One day, our fridge was overloaded with some large zucchinis, so I figured it’d be a good idea to whip up some zucchini bread. You know, kind of like April 2020 when everyone had those bananas that were beginning to turn brown and the whole world started baking banana bread.

I was a little hesitant to try Ree’s zucchini recipe. After all, I love the one that we use in our family from my grandmother. So, PW had big shoes to fill! And guess what? It did!

This recipe came together quickly and the bread baked beautifully. I also like that it makes two loaves. It was smart on Ree’s part. The first loaf didn’t last very long so it was good that we had a second one to eat through. The bread was super moist and flavorful — the addition of cinnamon really makes the flavors pop.

This is definitely a recipe I will be making again!

I have some progress pics below…

Ryan Cooks PW Recipe 3

  • Name of Recipe: Buttered Parsley Noodles
  • Cookbook: Dinnertime
  • TV Episode: N/A
  • Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Late last week I shared with you my second recipe from Pioneer Woman: Beef Stroganoff.

Traditionally, stroganoff is served over a bed of egg noodles or other pasta which helps to make it a “complete meal.” (I say “complete meal” because I doubt the amount of vegetables in a single serving of stroganoff counts as a full serving, but I digress…) So I was a little surprised to find that PW’s recipe for stroganoff didn’t include any pasta. In fact, she recommends serving it with her Buttered Parsley Noodles.

At first, I was a little hesitant. Regular pasta is thicker than egg noodles and with beef as the main ingredient, I didn’t want the bite to be too hearty. But, I figured I’d give it a go anyway. Plus, when you are cooking-through someone’s recipe backlog, anytime you can sneak in an extra recipe or two is extremely beneficial.

This is a simple side dish that is very low fuss. It’s basically buttered noddles, but with a heightened flavor profile. This recipe calls for pappardelle noodles, which is a pasta shape I have not used before in my cooking. Much thicker than linguine, pappardelle is great when you want to substitute out something like egg noddles. Unlike egg noodles, though, pappardelle is a long pasta, similar to spaghetti or fettuccine so just be prepared for that.

Combining garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and of course, butter and parsley, these noodles a quick side dish that comes together before you know it. I only gave it a 3 out of 5 because it didn’t really add to the beef stroganoff recipe I made. I think I would have preferred traditional egg noddles in that instances. But, on it’s own, this side dish is great!

See the picture above for how it turned out!

Magnolia Bakery #9 – Billionaire Brownies

It’s been a minute since I baked something out of the Magnolia Bakery Handbook, no?

The last recipe I made was the fabulous Blueberry Jamboree which I still have dreams about!

This time, I was in the mood for brownies but I wanted something a little bit fancier than your usual brownies. So, I decided to make the brownies fit for the rich: Billionaire Brownies. A shortbread crust drizzled with some caramel then topped with a lush fudge brownie sounds like heaven, right?

Well, it didn’t turn out exactly the way I thought it would. Here’s what happened.

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Ryan Cooks PW Recipe 2

For my second Pioneer Woman recipe, I decided to make one of my favorite dishes: Beef Stroganoff.

  • Name of Recipe: Beef Stroganoff
  • Cookbook: Dinnertime
  • TV Episode: Kitchen Confessional: Dinner Through the Decades (Season 10, Episode 4)
  • Rating: 1.75 out of 5

As someone who did not grow up eating a lot of red meat, beef stroganoff was not something I can really remember having as a child or even a teenager. I fell in love with beef stroganoff a number of years ago when my best friend made it for dinner for us. He claims that the recipe is from his grandmother, but he leaves out certain ingredients such as mushrooms since he doesn’t like them. Needless to say, this has been the version I’ve been making for a few years.

Until I stumbled upon Ree’s recipe. Featured in her cookbook, Dinnertime! this recipe looks amazing and it is super simple.

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Ryan Cooks PW Recipe 1

  • Name of Recipe: Teriyaki Salmon and Kale Sheet Pan Supper
  • Cookbook: Come and Get It
  • TV Episode: N/A
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The first recipe on this journey was an easy one. I also loved that it was a sheet pan recipe, so clean up was extremely minimal.

This recipe was so easy and almost hands-off, so there were no pitfalls except for the fact that I think I need to add more kale to the sheet pan. That stuff really cooks down, like spinach, and I forgot about that.

There were basically three main steps to this dish: kale on the pan and season, add salmon and cover with teriyaki, bake! Super, super simple. It’s a wonderful week-night meal since it can be ready in under 25 minutes. It is also an easily scalable recipe. As a first recipe, this one was the perfect choice. It was not very involved and it tasted amazing so it gave me the renewed confidence that I needed for this project.

Here are some pictures below, since I’m trying to take more of them during the cooking process.

The seasoned kale on the sheet pan
The sheet pan with the teriyaki-covered salmon, ready for the oven!

See? An easy recipe with only a few ingredients and only one dirty dish. This is a true winner!

The finished meal with a side of white rice.

We served this meal with a side of white rice, but it would be even better with brown rice or quinoa!

I can see why people flock to Ree’s website and TV show. Her recipes are simple and are designed for modern parents — quick recipes, easy clean up makes for a real winner in my book. I have a feeling I’ll be coasting through these Sheet Pan suppers in no time! Who wouldn’t want a beautiful and tasty meal with little cleanup?