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Howdy y’all!  I can’t believe it’s June already. I returned home last night from a weekend Oklahoma ranch stay.  I’m typing away now; pointed boots propped up, in my new leather chaps and curled brim cowboy hat. Yeah, that might be a stretch, now visualize shapeless, cotton sweats and a T-shirt.  Anyway, enough about my PJs, the trip was beautiful, amazing, fun and a whole lot of other great adjectives.  To sum it up, my mom and I had a blast!

The Pioneer Woman was every bit as charming, hospitable, and genuine as you would imagine her to be.  Ree has an infectious, witty and fun personality.  Her presence and smile fill a room with joy, peace and grace.  We all cooked, laughed, laughed some more, and of course ate a TON!  I can honestly say I’ve never eaten so many beans and meat in my life (my husband would have been drooling and in a meat induced coma the whole trip). 

Friday afternoon we drove from the Tulsa airport to the Drummond Ranch. The rolling, tree studded hills reminded me of Iowa, especially the cattle freely grazing the land.  Just as I was telling myself “oh, this isn’t anything new”, instantly the landscape evolved.  Trees peeled back from the highway and disappeared as our SUV escaped into a vast and spacious, wild mustang dashing, cattle roaming country.  The miles and miles of wide open space altered my view, “we were not in Iowa anymore.”

Our ceeee-ment trail turned gravel, as we journeyed closer to the ranch. Excitement was building and views were breathtaking.   All gastronomic guests clearly saw that a “quick” run to the grocery store was not an option “around these parts”.

Friday through Sunday seemed like a blissful blur, a midst meeting wonderful new people, riding horses, grilling, indulging food (not eating, definitely indulging fits here) and filming the unique experience.  Saturday was packed with cooking our recipes with Ree and eating a beautiful dinner on the Drummond back porch.  The Pioneer Woman’s husband Lad (aka Marlboro Man) joined us as we talked, ate and laughed under a luminous, Oklahoma full moon.  I just soaked it all in, still sensing unbelief and amazement, as I could have listened to Ree talk all night about life, photography, family, her Bobby Flay Thanksgiving Throw Down and cooking with Paula Deen. 

Pretty sure I’m still stuck somewhere between mystification, excitement, thankfulness and awe that I had the opportunity to attend the memorable event.  Definitely the highlight of my culinary adventures so far.  Thank you Ree, Bush’s Grillin’ Beans, and everyone else who participated, and helped make it such a rich experience!

I hope you all enjoy the pictures and feel like you were there with me and my mom. 

Time to saddle up and unpack, and pack again (more on that later)….. Or maybe I’ll just have another cup of coffee first.  Yep, think I’m going with the coffee.

The four finalists: Naylet, Brian, Renata and me

me and my mom, Brenda (Iowa cowgirls at heart, feeling at home on the ranch).

You can see the wide open, spacious, end of the earth, vastness I was talking about.

All finalists with guest of choice, and more wind sweeping plains.

The lodge.

The BIG grill!

Charlie, the oh so friendly and sleepy ranch dog.

Marlboro Man rounding up the horses.

My mom getting ready to ride. Doesn’t she look like an experienced equestrian up there?

Beautiful flowers surrounded the ranch.

Some of the Pioneer Woman’s skilled photography displayed on canvas in the lodge.

Cooking with the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond in her kitchen (still hard to believe).

Getting ready to film my cooking session with Ree.

The final 4 plates, beautifully set by the professional food stylist, Tiffany.

Beef winner (Renata): Summer Solstice T-Bone Steaks with Peppercorn Butter and Stawberries

Pork Winner (Naylet): On the Ranch Coffee-Rubbed Blueberry Thyme Pork Chops

Chicken Winner (Brian): Southwestern Grilled Chicken with Chipotle Cream Sauce

Wild Card Winner (me): Orange-Chipotle Salmon with Grilled Onions and Cilantro

The gorgeous dinner table set for our feast!

Morning sun rise over the plains…. sweet repose.

Then we all hung up our hats and parted our separate ways.

I will let you all know when the videos are up on The Pioneer Woman Cook’s blog.  All final four recipes, and paired Bush’s Grillin’ Beans above, can be found at: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2012/05/grillin-recipe-contest-winners/

Happy June Grilling!

My trip to the Pioneer Woman’s ranch was a sponsored event by Bush’s Grillin’ Beans.  For winning the contest I received complimentary travel, accommodations to the Ranch, and a welcome gift from Bush’s Grillin’ Beans.  All writing, pictures and opinions in the above post are my own.