“The New Frontier: 112 Fantastic Favorites for Everyday Eating” by Ree Drummond

Do you have any authors that seem like old friends? You read their works over and over, or eagerly await their next release. My oldest author friend is Jane Austen; I’ve been reading her since I was 12, and have yet to tire of her.

But my newest old author friend is blogger, Food Network personality, photographer and cookbook author Ree Drummond, also known as The Pioneer Woman. I always look forward to her next cookbook, and it’s a pure pleasure poring over the colorful photographs, chatty introductions, and mouth-watering recipes. Her latest cookbook is entitled THE NEW FRONTIER: 112 FANTASTIC FAVORITES FOR EVERYDAY EATING.

Ree Drummond’s books are accessible to cooks of all levels. Before you even get to the recipes, she includes a list of equipment she uses in her food preparation. I know my way around a kitchen, so it seems pretty basic to me, but not everyone has experience with Dutch ovens or food processors. She also includes a section entitled Instant Pot 101, as well as labels she applies to her recipes, from “lower-carb,” to “freezes well,” to “indulgent.” And as she does in all her cookbooks, she includes step-by-step photographs that I find helpful.

THE NEW FRONTIER is also user-friendly in its organization, with chapters starting with “Breakfast” and ending with “Desserts.” In between you can find recipes for “Snacks and Starters,” “Drinks,” “Small Sweet Bites,” even “Meatless.”

I’m not big on breakfast food, but the prospect of her “Carrot Cake Baked French Toast,” made with multigrain bread, pecans and carrots and slathered with a cream cheese glaze, had me salivating. I’ll definitely be trying that one! And I liked her spin on a diner classic: “Bacon, Kale and Tomato Sandwich.” That would pair nicely with a steaming bowl of homemade tomato soup (which Drummond has a fantastic recipe for on her blog and, I believe, in one of her previous cookbooks), although I would substitute tempeh bacon to suit my vegetarian ways.

I’m always looking for something to make when I host parties or attend a potluck, and I think I found a new snack to offer guests: “Goat Cheese Truffles.” They seem super easy to make and add a touch of casual elegance to a gathering.

Like adult beverages? Drummond offers up a selection. I love a good Bloody Mary, and her “Caprese Bloody Mary,” set off with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and basil, then finished with a balsamic glaze, is right up my alley, combining one of my favorite drinks with my favorite salad. By the way, if you abstain from alcohol, the author frequently provides non-alcoholic variations of her drinks.

As someone who adheres to a meat-free diet, I’ll shy away from covering the chapters about chicken, beef and pork, and seafood. Suffice it to say, the recipes are varied and seem simple to make. If you eat meat, there should be something for you in THE NEW FRONTIER.

Bear with me while I review her section on meatless meals. The “Street Corn Soup” sounds deliciously flavorful, although it will probably have to wait until corn season rolls around next summer. Drummond is branching out with some of her ingredients, such as with the “Grilled Halloumi and Vegetables.” Halloumi is a briny, firm cheese that holds up well to heat, and I just happen to have some in my refrigerator, thanks to a trip to Trader Joe’s a while back. I see this recipe in my immediate future. Finally, there’s the “Kung Pao Cauliflower,” which gives me an excuse to use one of my favorite Asian ingredients, chili paste. And I will probably add some tofu to this dish for some protein.

Looking for something sweet to balance out the savory? THE NEW FRONTIER has that covered, with “Butterscotch Lava Cakes” and “Caramel Pecan Cheesecakes.” Me, I’m going to try the “Peanut Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Chunk Cookies” and the “Caramel Apple Quesadillas.” Yum!

If you’re seeking ideas to please the pickiest of eaters, you might check out the selection of Ree Drummond’s fun, friendly cookbooks that the Joplin Public Library has in its collection, including her latest. The title has a few holds on it, so you might want to jump on the list if you can’t wait for it to appear on the shelf.

And with that, I wish you happy times in the kitchen!

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