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'Best Bites': Moms team up to create cookbook

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 9:10 p.m. MDT

Lime-Chili Rubbed Steak, a recipe included in Lime-Chili Rubbed Steak, a recipe included in "Our Best Bites." (Sara Wells)

When Sara Wells and Kate Jones started a food blog in Spring 2008, they could finally share recipes with family and friends online.

Since then, their blog started attracting over one million page views every month and, soon enough, readers started asking for a cookbook. The end result is "Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen," written by Wells and Jones.

"It is so exciting, it's crazy," said Jones. "It's kind of unbelievable and we're so happy with how it turned out."

"Our Best Bites" includes 150 recipes, all created by the two authors. Many recipes in the cookbook can be found on their blog, but about 50 recipes are reserved solely for the book.

Mini Cheesecake Tarts, one of more than 150 recipes in Mini Cheesecake Tarts, one of more than 150 recipes in "Our Best Bites." (Sara Wells)

The cookbook includes a picture of every recipe, along with tutitorials that feature pictures as well.

Something unique about the cookbook is it contains a "rollover index," which is used for recipes that might end with surplus of ingredients.

One recipe might call for one tablespoon of cilantro, for example. There is no way to just buy one tablespoon instead of a whole bushel, so what do you do with all that extra cilantro?

There is always the option to just throw it away, but the rollover index directs readers to recipes that also use cilantro to help use the leftover ingredient.

"We try to do that with a lot of ingredients that are either perishable . . . or else you don't have any other recipes that call for it," Jones said.

Sara Wells and Kate Jones, authors of Sara Wells and Kate Jones, authors of "Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen." (Jenny Flake)

Wells and Jones still update their blog at www.ourbestbites.com and take turns posting new recipes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The two have posted more than 400 recipes online, and the recipes contain a mix of original recipes from the two cooks, family recipes or other recipes they have adopted from other sources.

Surprisingly, the recipes are still coming.

"I've had people say, 'Are you afraid you're going to run out of recipes one day?' And you know they just keep coming, so it hasn't happened yet," Wells said.

For Wells, cooking has gotten easier over time. With her experience has come a working knowledge of what types of foods and flavors work well together, which has been beneficial in creating her own recipes.

Some recipes, however, just seem to develop out of nowhere.

Sara Wells and Kate Jones created a cookbook that started out as a food blog. (Sara Wells) Sara Wells and Kate Jones created a cookbook that started out as a food blog. (Sara Wells)

"There have been several recipes, no joke, that I've literally dreamed about in my sleep and I've woken up and been like, oh my gosh, I should try that!" she said. "And it's so fun when it's actually as good in real life as it is in my sleep."

Wells attributes her sleep-formulated recipes to eating and thinking about food a lot, along with reading other cooking magazines, food blogs and trying new things.

Wells served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil for a year-and-a-half, and said her time there has influenced her cooking style. In Brazil, there were not bottled spices or convenience foods, so people largely used the flavors of the food for taste, which Wells said she also tries to do now.

Wells listed limejuice, garlic, bacon, peanut butter and chocolate as ingredients she could not live without, but not necessarily combined together.

Both cooks said they get some ideas for recipes from restaurants.

"I really like to eat out, but there aren't a lot of places and it's not super affordable to eat out all the time and so I like to cook the types of things I would order in a restaurant," Jones said. "I kind of replicate those flavors and those ideas."

Jones said she loves to eat at restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen, which is why she loves the grilled pizza recipes in "Our Best Bites."

Jones is also partial to cooking with garlic, and uses a head of garlic a week, sometimes two. Some of her recipes are impromptu as well.

"Some recipes just come out of desperation, like I haven't been to the grocery store and I'm trying to put something together with stuff in my fridge and my pantry, and then it ends up being really good," she said.

With Wells living in Idaho and Jones living in Louisiana, many wonder how the two met in the first place.

Wells grew up in Washington and was good friends with the brother of Jones' future husband. Jones ended up marrying her husband while Wells was in Brazil.

Later, the two women began posting on the same Mormon mommy blog and realized one day that they knew each other. Eventually they found they shared an interest in cooking, and decided to start the food blog to have a project to work on and share recipes. It took off from there.

Their cookbook contains recipes ranging from baked goodies to soups. "Our Best Bites" is available at Deseret Book, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Lime-Chili Steak Rub

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/8- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (If you have chipotle chili powder, you can substitute it for the cayenne or just add a little in addition)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 lime (about 2 tablespoons lime juice)

1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1-2 pounds flank steak, or other good grilling cut (tenderloin, N.Y. strip, and tri-tip all work well)

Juice the lime into a small bowl. Add spices and oil and stir to combine. Some limes have more juice than others, so sometimes the mixture will be more liquid-y and sometimes it will be more pasty.

Place the steak in a shallow dish and pour the spice mixture on top. Use your hands to massage it in there.

Let it sit for 15 minutes. During that time preheat your grill.

Place meat on hot grill (barbecue is best, but an indoor grill pan or broiler will work just fine too). If you're using flank steak it should take about 5-7 minutes on each side.

When steak is finished, remove from grill and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into it. Slice in strips against the grain.

— "Our Best Bites"

Mini Cheesecake Tarts

12 Nilla Wafer Cookies

2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Foil cupcake liners

Optional Toppings: canned pie filling fresh berries whipped cream chocolate sauce caramel sauce lemon curd

Preheat oven to 375.

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar. Add in flour and baking powder and beat to combine. Then add in eggs, one at a time, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat to combine.

Fill a muffin pan with cupcake liners and place one vanilla wafer at the bottom of each one. Divide batter between 12 muffin papers, filling each cup up to about 1/4 inch from the top. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. They'll puff way up during baking, but they'll settle after being chilled.

When you take them out of the oven, place them on a cooling rack and let them cool completely. While they cool, they will sink down in the center. It's totally normal and it makes the perfect little well to fill up with the fruit filling. Before you top them, chill in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours or preferably over night. Then top and serve. You can be creative and top with whatever you like - chocolate, caramel, lemon curd, etc. Makes 12 cheesecakes.

— "Our Best Bites"

E-mail: kmorrill@desnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company