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The Pioneer Woman Blog, written by Ree Drummond, is my all time favorite blog.  She is possibly the sole person who inspired me to write my blog.  The Pioneer Woman blog is delightful and beautiful and humorous and delicious (but not low fat ).  Further, Ree Drummond is an author of several different books including a 2 cookbooks The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, a memoir The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels--A Love Story, and a children's book Charlie the Ranch Dog.  Further, she is an outstanding photographer and is so gracious to share her own tips. Plus, she homeschools her brood of kids, that makes her Saint Ree Drummond.   If that is not enough she is also married to Marlboro man. I find her totally amazing.

The Pioneer Woman Blog is actually many blogs in one.  My favorite sections are her Pioneer Woman Photography blog and her The Pioneer Woman Cooks blog.   I have made many dishes from her cooking blog and they have all been completely and totally over the top delicious.  That is probably why she recently started her own cooking show.  See what I mean, she is remarkable.

However, Ree has a penchant for using cream, mayonnaise, lots of cheese and butter.  I mean, really, is all of that necessary???  Oh, did I mention that Ree is skinny?   How on earth I will never know.  Secretly, the nurse in me is curious what her cholesterol level is.  Well, I just can't eat like that.  But I do love her, she is just as cute as a button too.  Her recipes are out of this world delicious and I love them too.

Since I love her cooking, but I can't eat every night...or ever....I have found ways to lighten some of them up while maintaining their fantastic Pioneer Woman flavor.

When I saw Ree's recipe for Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda Tomatoes and Basil on The Pioneer Woman Blog my mouth watered.  I think I might have literally drooled.  These are all of my favorite flavors together.  Smoked Gouda? Heaven.  Tomato and Basil, I love tomato and basil.  Well I just had to try it.  So I made it for a block party.  My neighbors loved it and so did I.  But since I can't eat like Ree I altered the recipe and substituted the mayo and whole milk for some lighter choices.  I also used whole grain pasta and grated the cheese instead of cutting it into cubes.  Grating the cheese allowed me to meld the flavor throughout the salad more thoroughly and use about half the cheese to do so.  Her original recipe can be found HERE.  Below is my version which is quite low in fat yet still maintains its rich smoky flavor.

Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda, Tomatoes and Basil

Originally by Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman

Lightened up by Jana Hartley, RN health enthusiast.



12 Ounces of Whole Grain Bow Pasta (or any type that you like so long as it is whole grain)

1/2 Cup Fage Non-Fat Greek Yogurt (Ree uses Mayonnaise)

1/4 Cup Non-Fat milk

4 Tablespoons White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Abodo Sauce (I upped this from 1.5 tsp because I love chipotle and the added flavor compensates for some of the goodies that I removed.)

1/2 tsp Sea-salt (because everything is better with seasalt)

Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

10 ounces grape Tomatoes halved lengthwise

1/4 pound of Smoked Gouda Cheese (Ree uses 1/2 pound of cheese cubed)

24 whole Basil Leaves (chiffonade)


Cook pasta until done. Drain and rinse in cold water until no longer hot.  Set aside.  Mix yogurt, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and abodo sauce in a small bowl.

Stir together pasta, dressing, halved tomatoes and shredded Gouda.  Taste for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  You may also add an additional teaspoon or two of vinegar if necessary.  Stir in the Basil at the end. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. LOVE IT!  Thanks Ree for the inspiration.

Please check out Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman blog, it is wonderful.   She even gives away cameras, iPads, Kitchenaid mixers...stuff like that. I want to be just like her when I grow up. She's cool. Ree does have a couple recipes (and I mean a very few) that are perfectly healthy and nutritious and they grace my recipe file.  My fave is her Tortilla Soup which I did not need to alter in the slightest to meet my dietary needs. Hers is my favorite Tortilla Soup EVER and you simply must try it.

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