The Food Network star and Pioneer Woman opens up about love and life on the ranch.

She used to be a ballerina: 

She’s famous for her cooking, but growing up in Oklahoma, Ree Drummond had her sights set on dancing. By sixth grade, “I had been admitted to our city’s ballet company and was performing in The Nutcracker,” says the star, 51. Though she hung up her tutu in 1987 to attend the University of Southern California, Ree still practices her grand jeté, “my new evening hobby!”

She used to be a vegetarian: 

While living in L.A., this future wife of a cattle rancher quit eating meat “and I’m still, to this day, not sure why,” Ree says with a laugh. She kept up the diet for years until a Jack in the Box sourdough bacon cheeseburger called her name. “It was the best thing I’d ever put in my mouth!”

She met her husband in a bar: 

While out with friends at a local dive bar back in Oklahoma, Ree spotted Ladd, a fourth-generation cattle rancher whom she recalls as “tall, strong and mysterious.” It would be four months before he’d ask her out, but it was worth the wait: The couple will celebrate 24 years of marriage in September. 

She homeschooled her kids: 

Living far from town has its pluses, but having her kids spend “upwards of three hours on a school bus each day didn’t seem quite right to me,” says Ree of her decision to homeschool Alex, 22, Paige,20, Bryce, 17, android, 16. And while the busy mom admits there were times she wanted to “send them all on a monthlong picnic,” she wouldn’t change a thing. “We’re a team.”

She’s addicted to coffee: 

“I wouldn’t want to live in a world without coffee,” says Ree, who starts each morning with an iced cup of joe. She also loves coffee-flavored desserts: “Tiramisu, coffee ice cream — I’ll take it all!”

For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!