Why I Cook: Dude That Cookz’s Eric Jones
For blogger and cookbook author Eric Jones, creating healthful southern food is a family affair. We chatted with him about his cooking (and eating!) philosophy.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Courtesy Shanna Jones, Courtesy Amy Scott Photography
Eric Jones might be the “dude” behind Dude That Cookz, but he makes it known that, really, it’s an all-hands-on-deck production. His wife, Shanna, is the photographer and website developer. His kids moonlight as his favorite (and harshest!) testers. And his grandmas? They’re the inspiration. On his blog, you’ll find wholesome comfort food from—and for—the whole family.
Taste of Home: What’s your greatest takeaway from your years in the kitchen with Momma Pearl and Gramms?
Eric Jones: My mother’s mom, Momma Pearl, had more of a French style of cooking. She was a master when it came to desserts, especially bread pudding. I would describe the cooking style of my father’s mom, Gramms, as Cajun southern comfort food. She was a specialist with the cast-iron skillet. But what I remember most: No one ever left their homes hungry. To me, that is the utmost expression of service, and it’s how I mindfully show my appreciation and gratitude.
TOH: How has the Louisiana-style cooking you grew up with influenced your cooking today?
EJ: One thing Louisiana cuisine is known for is flavor. You cannot be afraid to be creative—the right combination of seasonings will turn any average dish into something phenomenal. When making signature Creole and Cajun dishes, I focus on fresh ingredients whenever possible. And we cook with love, which is the most important ingredient in any meal prepared.
TOH: You’re an advocate for homemade cooking. What do you always prepare from scratch?
EJ: I never take shortcuts on my sauces. To develop sauces that taste amazing with the perfect consistency is a process that requires intentional layering of ingredients and flavors.
(Psst! Master these “mother sauces.”)
TOH: It’s time for another round of New Year’s resolutions! What are some better-for-you substitutions you like?
EJ: I balance awareness of what I’m eating while still enjoying the food I love. I love creamy sauces, so I’ll swap in coconut milk for heavy cream. I also try not to use a lot of salt. Adding Himalayan pink or sea salt in small amounts helps keep sodium levels down.
TOH: When you do decide to indulge, what’s your go-to?
EJ: I love a hearty deep-dish pizza loaded with cheeses in a soft golden crust. I always say, “If I could be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, I would!”
TOH: Congratulations on your first cookbook, ‘Healthier Southern Cooking‘! What was the most rewarding part of that creation process?
EJ: Thanks a lot! The process was humbling. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the amount of work required to publish a cookbook. We had no expectations of getting a book deal within our first three years of blogging. The moment I saw the book and had it in my hands was the moment it hit me what we had accomplished. Aside from that feeling of “we actually did it,” seeing people enjoying the fruits of our labor is what gives me the most joy.
TOH: Which recipe of yours makes you the proudest?
EJ: Any recipe that I am able to take from my grandmothers and mother and make my own always makes me feel connected to them and back home. If I had to pick one from my cookbook, it would my oxtails with baked croquettes. It was truly created from an inspired thought I had and came out just as I’d hoped.
TOH: What is your favorite thing about cooking—the “why” of why you cook?
EJ: You really cannot beat the energy in a room when everyone is in great spirits, enjoying a fantastic meal. It’s priceless.
Make Eric’s Low-Carb Cheese Taco Bowls
Courtesy Shanna Jones
Try Eric’s easily customizable, keto-friendly recipe, a healthful option for a light lunch or a filling first course. Drizzle the homemade avocado crema over top to enjoy one of Eric’s carefully crafted sauces. The recipe makes 8 servings.
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro flakes, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 cup pico de gallo
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
- 1 avocado
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Optional toppings: Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce and jalapenos
Step 1: Make and shape cheese shells
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mound cheddar cheese 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Invert a muffin tin; spray with cooking spray. Remove cheese from oven; let stand 30 seconds. Peel off parchment; quickly place cheese over 8 prepared muffin tins and press to form bowl shapes. Let cool 10 minutes.
Step 2: Cook filling
In a large skillet, cook ground beef, garlic powder, smoked paprika, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro flakes, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and onion powder over medium heat until beef is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes, breaking meat into crumbles; drain. Stir in pico de gallo and Sriracha; heat through. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Combine crema ingredients & build cups
Mash avocado, sour cream, remaining cilantro flakes, salt and remaining pepper until smooth. Spoon ground beef mixture into cheese cups. Top with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, jalapenos and avocado crema.
Get to know Eric even better! Follow him on Instagram @dudethatcookz.