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Mormon bloggers feeding America dinner ideas

Published April 5, 2013 11:09 am

Mormon cookbooks • Out-of-state cooks drawn to the simple recipes.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dinner time meant family time in the Adamson household. It was often the only time the six sisters and their parents were all together.

When the female siblings started their own families, they missed that mealtime connection. To keep in touch, they started the "Six Sisters' Stuff" blog.

The had no idea that their family tradition would have such wide-spread appeal or turn into what they say is a six-figure business.

The Six Sisters' Stuff book, published last month, is the latest so-called Mormon cookbook, which is reaching an audience beyond Utah's borders.

"We really feel like that's what has kept our family close, is that every day we could sit down together and we would talk and would just be able to communicate," said Camille Beckstrand, who at 28 is the oldest of the sisters.

The economy and some cultural curiosity— six sisters is rather unusual outside of Utah— is why audiences in New York, Texas and California are eating up the Mormon offerings even more than Utah cooks.

Besides Six Sisters' Stuff, other books with a Mormon bent include Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen, Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and Favorite Family Recipes. All are published by Deseret Book or one of its subsidiaries, and they emphasize cooking and dinner as a fun, family affair.

While Mormon cookbook staples like Lion House Classics remain top Deseret Book sellers, younger audiences want updated recipes.

"The Lion House cookbooks were appealing to a more established, mature audience who has grown up knowing about the Lion House and the Hotel Utah," said Jana Erickson, with Deseret Book.

These books cater to busy moms needing to quickly feed a hungry brood. And they're written by women whose cooking credentials include keeping their families well-fed.

Best bites • Kate Jones, a Utah native and Louisiana resident, along with her business partner Sara Wells are making a living publishing the "Our Best Bites" blog and books. As a newlywed, Jones said she made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and Rice-a-Roni for dinner most days. She'd spend her time and money on one to two nice meals each week she could afford.

She said home cooks turn to someone like her because they want "solid results without having to have all this formal training."

Recipes from celebrity chefs or restaurants aren't practical or are scaled back in size and never taste as intended, she said. "Where in the world am I going to find calf cheeks? What is my family going to do when I cook them? No one's going to eat it."

The Great Recession helped jump start their careers. The Best Bites blog launched in 2008 when readers were searching for ways to eat economically. Now, the "Best Bites" blogs gets 2 million unique visits a month. And their first book, published in 2011, is Deseret Book's top-selling cookbook.

Jones said it was the publisher who pushed the "Mormon moms" subtitle because a cookbook called "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" was popular at the time. But she's not entirely sure what Mormon cooking is. If it's casseroles and funeral potatoes and Jell-O, she and Wells are trying to redefine it.

"We have one recipe [out of 700] on the whole blog that's cream of anything," Jones said. "We pride ourselves on that. There are options beyond cream of chicken and cream of mushroom without going to the other extreme of cooking super gourmet meals every single night."

Instead, many of the recipes in the book are quick to make and largely made from scratch, such as spinach-chicken stromboli or steak and mango salad.

"We do like to be quick and easy. We also like to show people they can cook good, healthy food with real ingredients," Jones said.

Like mom made • On the Favorite Family Recipes blog, cooks will occasionally find recipes — such as beef stroganoff or easy Crock-Pot pork chops — that use creamed soup from a can. But some of the site's most popular recipes are those that copy meals from national restaurant chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Cafe Rio, Olive Garden, Panda Express and Nothing Bundt Cake.

Author Erica Walker said she asks waiters for recipes and just experiments. The 28-year-old is now writing an ebook on how to copycat.

"With the economy right now, a lot of people can't afford to go out," she said.

Like "Six Sisters," the "Favorite Family Recipes" blog started out as a way for sisters —in this case four of them — to connect. Three of the sisters recently moved to Idaho, the other lives in Pleasant Grove. Most of the recipes belonged to their mother or grandmothers.

Walker said the blog has doubled its viewership in the past year and the sisters are making part-time wages through advertising and book sales.

She said their readers want fast meals that are affordable.

"It's definitely the easier type of recipes for the busy moms. I wouldn't say it's for foodies, as far as people who want to be chefs, who want to spend all day in the kitchen making some fancy-schmancy meal," she said. "When we're cooking for our families, it's like let's just get it on the table."

"Six Sisters Stuff" also is retro — filled with recipes your mother would have made if her pantry was stocked with cream cheese (for Red Potatoes and Ham Casserole), cream of chicken soup (for Cheese Potatoes), and a bottle of soda (for the Grilled 7-Up Chicken). There are even a couple Jell-O recipes and fruit salads with marshmallows.

But don't wrinkle your nose in disgust. The point, says Beckstrand, is to have time and energy to sit with her children and husband and talk and laugh, just like the six sisters did growing up.

"That's the thing: I'm a lazy cook. I don't want to be in the kitchen all day," she said with a laugh.

The book also includes crafts for kids, a spring-cleaning to-do list and tips on building up home food storage.

The blog, which started out as a hobby during children's nap times, has turned into a book and a new website called My Recipe Magic, which allows bloggers and cooks to share their recipes and create cookbooks.

All combined, the business now earns enough money to provide the siblings, their parents, and an uncle full-time wages.

"Most people don't have any training whatsoever and they're just trying to figure it out for themselves," said Ellis. "We can relate to them and say, 'Look, we can make all this food and you can do it too, and it's easier than you think.'"

hmay@sltrib.com

food@sltrib.com

Angel food cake and pineapple whip

1 box angel food cake, prepared in Bundt pan

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 (15-ounce) can crushed pineapple

1 small box vanilla pudding mix

Raspberries (or any other fruit you like)

Prepare angel food cake in Bundt pan according to package directions. While cake is baking, whip heavy cream with electric mixer until peaks form. Add vanilla and sugar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine crushed pineapple with pudding mix. Stir well. Using a large spoon or spatula, combine pineapple mixture with whipped cream until well mixed. You can either frost the entire cake with the pineapple whip or serve the cake on individual plates topped with the whip-either way is great. Top with sliced strawberries or any other fresh fruit.

Servings • 8-10

Source: "Favorite Family Recipes" —

Melt-in-your-mouth slow cooker pot roast

1 (3- to 4-pound) beef chuck roast

1 (12-ounce) can Cola (not diet)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

3/4 cup ketchup

3/4 packet dry onion soup mix

4 to 5 new red potatoes, cut up

1 1/2 to 2 cups baby carrots

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours.

Serves • 6-8

Source: "Six Sisters' Stuff" —

Thai peanut -noodles

8 ounces Udon or linguine noodles

1/2 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1–2 teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce (1 is mild with a bite, 1½ is medium-hot, and 2 is hot)

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1.2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2–3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

Chopped green onions

Chopped cilantro

Chopped -peanuts

2 limes, cut into quarters, for garnish

Cook noodles in salted water according to package directions. While the noodles are cooking, combine the chicken broth, peanut butter, chili sauce, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat.

Toss cooked noodles with sauce and divide among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, and chopped peanuts, and garnish each serving with 2 lime quarters. Before eating, squeeze lime juice over noodles and stir to combine.

Servings • 4 to 6

Source: "Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen" —

Mini Oreo cheesecakes

24 whole Oreo cookies

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

12 Oreo cookies, crushed

Whipped cream

Hot fudge or chocolate syrup

Additional Oreo cookie crumbs for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Set a whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each liner.

In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until very smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until just blended. Gently fold in the crushed Oreio cookies. Spoon cheesecake mixture over each cookie in the linters. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the center of each cheesecake is almost set. Cool completely, then refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight). Top with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzle with chocolate sauce, and sprinkle crushed Oreo cookies on top

Servings • 4 to 6

Source: "Six Sisters' Stuff"