Now empty nesters, the last several years we’ve spent Valentine’s Day at home and enjoyed cooking a nice meal together. The menu has stayed pretty much the same: a wedge salad, some kind of potato and a juicy Nebraska beef ribeye steak for Steve and a piece of fresh sea bass on the grill for me. And we love splurging on a red velvet lava cake with fresh raspberries for dessert. Here’s what we cooked last year on Valentine’s Day. 

wedge salad

ribeye steak

red velvet lava cake

A change in plans

We enjoy the time together in the kitchen and after traveling much of year, it’s always comforting to be at home. We’d planned to do the same for Valentine’s Day this year at our Nebraska house until I got a text Monday afternoon from none other than The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond herself. I’d had an infusion for a chronic illness I have earlier in the day and was feeling just exhausted, so I laid down for nap.

infusion

About 5 p.m., I was awakened by a little ding on my Apple Watch. I squinted my eyes to see what it was and a text that said, “Hi Ann! This is Ree Drummond.” Still half asleep, I closed my eyes and laid my head back on the pillow. Wait a second. Ree is texting me? I was awake now. Despite all of the time we’ve spent in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, home of Ree and her family, we’ve never actually met The Pioneer Woman, so I was wondering how and why she was texting me.

I opened my eyes, sat up, got Steve, and started reading the text out loud.

On Valentine’s Day, Kurtess and chefs are putting on a “Whole Hog” private dinner, using a hog that was fed a diet of walnuts and olive oil.

At this point, Steve interrupted me and said, “We’re in.”

Ree went on to say that she was handpicking fun folks to attend and thought of me of Steve. We were so honored to be included in such a unique dinner. Because of another commitment, Ree wasn’t sure she’d be able to be there, but nonetheless, we knew this was going to be an incredible event.

Back to Pawhuska

We scrapped postponed our plans for dinner at home in Nebraska and Tuesday morning we packed a suitcase, made a PB&J sandwich for the car, and headed back to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. It actually worked out really well. The inside of our house in Pawhuska was being painted this week and some cracks in the walls repaired. I was anxious to see the progress and make sure it looked the way I’d hoped.

We promised our painter, Gio, we’d stay our of his way, so our friend Addie let us use her Little Rain Song Loft as an office to get some work done. (It’s right down the street from the Merc and super cute. Book Little Rain Song Loft on Airbnb.) This also gave us a chance to see and catch up with friends. It was so nice to be back in town for a few days.

Meal prep

Thursday morning we stopped by The Mercantile and Chef Kurtess Mortensen gave us a sneak peek at the dinner he was preparing for that night. It got us even more exited! He took us into the walk-in fridge to see the prep work he’d done for the pig trotter rillettes, the crispy pork belly, and even explained the sous-vide method he was using to make the roasted crown rack.

Kurtess Mortensen

crispy pork belly

Everything looked just delicious and we couldn’t wait for dinner! That night, we joined the rest of the group of 24 for one of the best dinners we’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible, we had such a fun time with our friends, John and Cyndi Kane and a few other Oklahoma social media influencers, including Molly and David from This Simply Beautiful Life, Carissa and Mike from CC+Mike Creative, and Rob and Sandi from The Spoiled Home.

Stay tuned to read all about our 7-course whole hog Valentine’s Day dinner at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile … coming soon.

PIN FOR LATER

  • One of our favorite things to do on a cruise is to wake up and ask each other, "What does the world look like today?" before opening our curtains. We love that our view changes every day, that we never know what we'll see. ⁣
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This is the view we found on a summer morning when our @celebritycruises ship docked in Ajaccio, Corsica. On seeing this view, we knew immediately this would be a breakfast on the veranda kind of day. ⁣
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When we think of why we love cruising so much, images like this come to mind. And really how can you not love a view like this one?
  • At El Pollo Rey, they serve up specially marinated, fire-grilled chicken with rice, beans, fresh tortillas and pickled red onion. They suggest eating the chicken with the onion. Take their suggestion. It is. So. Very. Good.⁣
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We had the chance to eat at El Pollo Rey on a hosted foodie trip to @visitkansascityks. Put this restaurant on your list of places to go on your next visit to KC. But go early as the line could be long.
  • Just a little to the right...⁣
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This landmark needs no introduction. We stopped here during a cruise and grabbed this photo. And while the tower and it's history are interesting, we really enjoyed the tour of the area. ⁣
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Pisa is touristy, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy a day spent there, strolling the streets, sipping wine in a cafe, or doing some shopping in the little stores there.⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #pisa #celebritycruises #leaningtowerofpisa #leaning #pinochio #pisatower #pisano #
  • Fresh cranberries appearing in the grocery store mean that the holidays are fast approaching. For us, no holiday feast is complete without cranberry jelly. ⁣
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We love cooking our own cranberries, and hearing the sound as they pop open while cooking. It's a sound that takes us back to childhood, back to good memories of holidays spent with family. ⁣
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Do you make your own cranberry jelly for your family get-together?
  • We visited the @themockingbirdkc on our hosted food tour in @visitkansascityks. There, we sat on the back patio and sipped nicely crafted cocktails while enjoying some appetizers including a queso dip with chorizo (front), shrimp ceviche (back left) and guacamole with a great level of spice (back right).
  • One of the hottest of all hot-spots in @visitkansascityks is El Pollo Rey. The restaurant's name in English, means "Chicken King," and we can't think of anything more appropriate.⁣
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Offering just three menu items, a whole chicken, a half chicken, and chicken wings, this restaurant's chicken is the stuff dreams are made of. Don't take our word for it...ask the folks lined up out the door who are willing to wait an hour for this tasty treat.⁣
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Served with tortillas (fresh made across the street), rice, beans, and pickled onion, one bite of this meal will have you going back for more. We loved our complimentary visit.
  • Looking for a new and unique #midwest food or drink experience? We found about 20 of them on our sponsored foodie tour of @VisitKansasCityKS. ⁣
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We wrote a new blog post all about the best places to eat and drink in KCK with mouth watering photos of all of them. ⁣
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Just click on the link in our bio to read it and let us know which places you'd like to try most.
  • We stopped at @tonicfreshjuice in @minnesotas_rochester and had lunch before heading out on the road. We enjoyed a fresh "Immune Boost" juice (right) which was made from ginger,  turmeric root, cayanne, pineapple, cold pressed lime and orange. The restaurant also serves freshly filtered Kangan water.

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