Cookbook Challenge! Down Home Cooking!

Cookbook Challenge!  Down Home Cooking!

Along with barbecuing on his grill, dutch oven cooking is how my hubby loves to do a little down home cooking when we entertain family and friends during the summer months…I’m just happy to have him doing the cooking!

The Cookbook Challenge!

“Meals and memories go hand in hand at our house!”  Tribute Journal  

Today’s cookbook challenge is from the cookbook, Bear Bottom Bliss, by the Shoults family, owners of Bear Creek Smokehouse, located in the heart of East Texas Piney Woods farmland; they are commonly referred to by locals as the first family of smoked meats.  This cookbook is a collection of over 70 years of family recipes handed down from generation to generation.  I gave this cookbook to my husband for Father’s Day–I especially love the stories of family and faith that go along with the delicious recipes that are shared!  While most of the dishes call for traditional cookware when you bake them, it’s been fun to see my hubby adapt some of them for Dutch Oven cooking.

Bear Bottom Bliss Cookbook.

“This cookbook features down-home, soothe your soul, easy to prepare recipes.”  Bear Bottom Bliss 

Nellie Shoults, the outspoken matriarch of this distinguished family business, offers a fair warning to those purchasing this charming cookbook, “Bear Bottom Bliss is NOT a cookbook with smoked meat recipes…we can’t give away all our secrets, now can we!”     

Bear Creek Smokehouse.

(via Bear Bottom Bliss Cookbook)

“Bear Creek Smokehouse is always about family and quality…it always will be!”  Nellie Shoults 

While every recipe pictured in this beautifully formatted cookbook from “East Texas Casserole” to “Stir-Fried Cabbage” is culinary eye-candy, we decided to make the “Au Gratin Potatoes and Ham Bake” recipe since we were having a patio party with typical barbecue fare.

Au Gratin Potatoes and Ham Bake  (Makes 6-8 servings)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup diced ham

(It recommends Bear Creek Smokehouse ham–we used our local store brand)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

4-5 large sliced Russet potatoes

Sliced potatoes.

(We like to slice the potatoes pretty thin to make sure they will be fully cooked.)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk and flour, then stir in cream, salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Place 1/3 of the potato slices in a baking dish or Dutch Oven.  Add 1/2 diced ham.  Pour 1/3 cream mixture over potatoes.  Repeat layers ending in cream mixture.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.  Add shredded cheese and bake until it is completely melted.

Sliced potatoes.

Cooking this recipe in a Dutch Oven makes it extra savory, since the ham flavor diffuses into the sauce.  You’ll add about 10-12 hot briquettes to the top and bottom of the Dutch Oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours. 

(You can also get my hubby’s Dutch Oven BBQ Ribs recipe here.) 

And for dessert…

Bear Bottom Bliss Zucchini Bread  (Makes two loafs, 16-18 slices)

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups sugar

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3 eggs

2 cups grated zucchini

Grated zucchini.

(I personally like to peel my zucchini before I grate it, but it isn’t necessary.)

1-8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained 

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

In large bowl sift the first eight ingredients.  Set aside.  In another large bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Stir in zucchini, pineapple, oil and vanilla.  Add flour mixture one cup at a time to egg mixture.  Stir with a spatula until blended.  Fold in chopped nuts.  Evenly divide batter into two loaf pans.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until bread is golden brown.  Remove from oven on wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes before removing bread from pans.  Continue cooling loaves until they are room temperature before slicing.

Bear Bottom Bliss Zucchini Bread.

The surprise ingredient of crushed pineapple makes the Zucchini Bread so moist! 

Bear Creek Smokehouse was named “Family Business of the Year” by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2013.  They were then invited to serve some of their smokehouse selections to many state directors and congressmen in Washington D.C.   After that experience, their business and the recipes they shared became more nationally renowned.  As you can read in their cookbook, the Shoults family face many of the challenges associated with running a small business, but they’re quick to say that first and foremost, it’s about being devoted to one another as family members and loved ones!

Shoults family of Bear Creek Smokehouse.

(via Bear Bottom Bliss Cookbook)

“We feel this labor of love reflects all the joy that is so much a part of the five generations of the Shoults family and our cooking traditions here in Bear Bottom, Texas.” Introduction to the Bear Bottom Bliss Cookbook

While many of us may not run a business with our families, we can certainly find ways to pay tribute to the traditions and work ethic of those who came before us.  Since he came from a large, rambuncious family of nine children, my husband fondly recalls sitting down to hearty, homemade dinners prepared by his parents; he feels he honors them best when he gathers his own family around the table to enjoy a good meal, fun conversation and lively laughter!

Best Food quote.

If your family published a cookbook, what kind of recipes would be featured?

–Bon Appetit, Mary 

The Cookbook Challenge! Healthyish!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Healthyish!

How can you not stop and browse a cookbook with this title…I mean seriously!!!  Aside from the clever, eye-catching title, this cookbook is full of fun, easy recipes that will restore your faith in the fact that healthy-ish can be really tasty too!

The Cookbook Challenge!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients!”  Julia Child 

As the weather eases into summer, we naturally seem to be more active and are inclined to eat healthier as fresh produce is more available, but as the saying goes…people who love good food…are always the best people…and I believe that food should always be healthyish!

"Healthyish" cookbook.

“My main goal is to give you good, doable recipes that fit into your real lives.”  Lindsay Maitland Hunt

Lindsay Maitland Hunt is a recipe developer who has devoted her career to creating recipes for everyone from college students to busy families to seasoned home cooks.  In the introduction of her cookbook, it states that Healthyish, is for anyone on the move, working long hours and trying to live a bit more healthfully.  There are 131 satisfying recipes included, with straightforward instructions, using as few pots and pans as possible, and ingredients that won’t break the bank.  Not to mention, you can find the ingredients at your everyday grocery store.  That my friends…is my kind of cookbook!

Healthyish Recipes I Love!

This cookbook is quickly becoming one of my favorites for finding easy recipes for packing my lunch to eat on the run at work, as well as great meals for when you need to fix dinner quick; it’s one of those cookbooks that when you look at the recipes, you think to yourself, “Oh man, why didn’t I think of this?”  Such serious goodness!

Apple Slice “Cookies”

There are three different recipes for these yummy Apple Slice Cookies, but really, the sky’s the limit–so try creating your own concoction of this versatile snack!

Sliced Apple Cookies!

My favorite is: Yogurt Peanut Butter Granola Apple “Cookies”

1 small sweet apple (such as Fuji or Gala)

Yogurt (I like “Oui” yogurt by Yoplait)

Oui yogurt for apple "cookies"!

1/2 cup Peanut Butter Granola (There’s a recipe for this granola in the cookbook, but you could just use one you like the best, which is what I do.)

Cut apples horizontally into 6-8 thinish slices.

Poke the seeds out of the center of each apple.

Spread slices with yogurt, then top with granola.

I’ll often sprinkle on some chocolate chips too.

Old-School Pizzeria Salad

This is one of my most favorite recipes from this fun cookbook.  Like the author, it reminds me of the salads my family got with our pizzas when I was growing up.

Old-school Pizzeria Salad.

3/4 cup canned chickpeas (garbonzo beans) rinsed well

2/3 cup chopped giardiniera pickles or banana peppers

1/2 cup cubed Provolone cheese (I prefer it grated.)

1/2 cup sliced salami pieces (You could use pepperoni.)

2 Tbsp. Dried Oregano Italian Vinaigrette (Recipe below.)

Ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups baby arugula or any mixed greens

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a salad bowl.

You could also add sun-dried or fresh cherry tomatoes.

Fold in the arugula or mixed greens just prior to serving.

Homemade Dried Oregano Italian Vinaigrette

This salad dressing recipe adds a welcome tang to any simple salad!

1-1/3 cups olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Whisk together in bowl until ingredients are completely combined.

Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 1 month. 

Shake well before each use.

Mason Jar salads.

The author suggest that a great way to enjoy this salad at work or on a picnic lunch, is to layer the ingredients in a bottle, putting the arugula in very last. 

Healthyish! Recipes for real life!

One of the things I love about this cookbook is how the author suggests changing how you serve food to give it a fresh reboot that makes for the best festive eating!   (These veggie, cheese and meat skewers have become a favorite snack!) 

As stated in the introduction of this cookbook: “Healthyish works if you’re just getting started in the kitchen or if you’ve been at the stove for years, because the author has developed each recipe with the home cook in mind.”  All I know is that I can’t wait to try more recipes in the section titled: “Treats” –they all look amazing and pretty healthy to boot!

Eating healthy quote.

“A healthy outside starts from the inside!”  Robert Urich   

Here’s to happy, healthyish eating and a wonderful summer!

Any easy, “healthyish” recipes you love that you’d share with us?


The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Comfort Food!

The winter months always seem to have us yearning for all the yummy comfort foods that help make us feel warm and cozy as we come in from the cold, snowy weather…unfortunately, those same recipes don’t often abide with healthy eating goals we set for the new year!

The Cookbook Challenge!

This newest cookbook challenge comes from a beautifully illustrated cookbook published by Williams-Sonoma, titled Comfort Food, written in collaboration with the award-winning cookbook author, Rick Rodgers.  (We discovered it one night while browsing our local Williams-Sonoma store in search of some gifts for my husband’s secretaries.)  While some of the mouth-watering recipes featured in this cookbook are indeed made with calorie-rich ingredients, for that occasional splurge or fancy dinner party, there are plenty of fresh and light options that are sure to cure your homemade, comfort food cravings!

"Comfort Food" cookbook.

Mr. Rodgers tells some entertaining personal stories throughout the cookbook and offers helpful tips for making seasonal variations to many of the recipes shared; and just like the introduction page promises, we’ve found this cookbook to be a favorite “go-to” for making tasty, comfort food any time of the year!

Ramen noodle food trucks and restaurants have become a big trend lately.  My husband and I find that it’s a great way to get a quick bite to eat that’s fairly healthy, as well as flavorful and satisfying, on a chilly evening after work.  Recently, we made a version of this popular dish from a recipe in the Comfort Food cookbook.

Beef and Broccoli Ramen Chow (Serves 4)

Slice a 12 oz. flank steak into 1/4 inch thick pieces and about 2 inches long.

In a large bowl, whisk together: 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine, 2 tsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. dark sesame oil and 2 tsp. brown sugar.

Add flank steak to mixture and toss well.  Let stand for about 15 minutes.

Soak an 8 oz. pkg. of dried brown rice noodles in hot tap water for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are almost tender.  Then drain and rinse them with cold water and toss them gently with 1 tsp. dark sesame oil.

Rice noodles.

(I used this brand of noodles that I found at Target.)

For the sauce: in a small bowl mix: 2 tbsp. oyster sauce, 1 tbsp. black bean sauce, 1 tbsp. water, and 1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine.

Beef and broccoli ramen.

Heat wok over medium heat, then add 1 tbsp. peanut oil, swirl to coat bottom and sides of wok.  Add marinated steak mixture and cook until meat is slightly browned–about one minute.  Add 2 cloves minced garlic (or to your taste preference) and 2 tsp. fresh minced ginger.  Stir with steak and cook for another minute until steak isn’t pink.  You don’t want to over-cook meat. 

Transfer the meat mixture to a platter.  Add another 1 tbsp. peanut oil to your wok to brown 1 small chopped yellow onion.  Add 1 cup small broccoli  florets (I added more) and stir fry until it’s tender but crisp-about a minute.  Add rice noodles and steak mixture and keep stirring until noodles are hot.  Continue stirring as you add sauce mixture and coat all ingredients well.

The Cookbook Challenge! Comfort Food!

 Serve hot in a deep bowl for a fun, easy meal!

My beef and broccoli ramen chow doesn’t look as posh and fancy as the one pictured in the Comfort Food cookbook, but it’s sure yummy!  One of the things I really like about this cookbook is that the ingredients are listed in a separate column which makes it easy for writing your grocery list!  There’s also instructions for recipe variations, such as adding shrimp instead of beef, or making a vegetarian adaptation.

What are some comfort foods you’re enjoying during the cold months of winter?

–Happy eating!  Mary