The Julie’s Eats and Treats Cookbook from mom next door, Julie Evink, hits shelves today

When the time comes to decide what to make for dinner, how do you find the right recipe? Do you search Google, or scroll through Instagram, or even TikTok? Or, do you search your shelves at home and crack open your most trusted cookbook? Whether the former or the latter, local food blogger Julie Evink hopes her new cookbook, Julie’s Eats and Treats Cookbook, will become your new go-to resource. 

The cookbook, which Evink refers to as an “elevated church cookbook,” contains easy and family-friendly recipes, while including photographs and in-depth instructions aimed at making cooking and baking a less stressful endeavor. “You get a church cookbook, and it’s the best thing ever and you want to give it to everyone,” she says, “that’s my goal. To be just like that staple.” 

Evink began her recipe-writing career in 2010 when she began the blog “Julie’s Eats and Treats.” At that time, blogging was not what it is today, and never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d release a cookbook. “It was just to share recipes at first,” she said, but it evolved into much more over the years.

Other bloggers began monetizing their blogs, and Evink thought it would be nice if she could do the same thing. From there, it kept growing. Now, she reaches over one million followers on Facebook and over 70,000 on Instagram.

A cornerstone of the blog is keeping recipes simple and approachable. Several years after “Julie’s Eats and Treats” was established, Evink and her husband, Jason, began a separate blog focused on grilling, smoking, and Blackstone recipes called “Gimme Some Grilling,” while backyard cooking was becoming more popular. Many of the recipes available at that time were geared toward seasoned grill masters, and she saw a need for accessible recipes for those with little experience. 

Many people don’t know this, Evink says, but all of her recipes are self-developed, and tested as she makes dinner for her family. “And we get their honest opinions!” she says of her kids. Oftentimes, she adds, her youngest will say, “Is this a test recipe, mom?” and the answer is usually yes, because about 90% of their meals are test recipes. Some recipes require testing, tasting, and retesting before they go on the blog.

Evink uses a professional photographer and videographer for her blog. She sends the recipes to them to make and photograph, which not only provides beautiful and professional imagery but adds an extra round of recipe testing to each dish. Outsourcing these tasks has helped make it possible for Evink’s business to grow.

About five years into blogging, Evink noticed other bloggers writing and publishing cookbooks, but much like blogging, that business looks much different today. At that time, a publisher would contact a blogger with a set idea in mind, and give you the goals for the book and a timeline, but there wasn’t a lot of money in it. Evink said it never felt like a good fit, and that continuing to publish recipes on her blog was what worked best for her, and was most worthwhile. 

In January of 2023, Evink and her husband, Jason, went through their goals together. One of her goals was to write a cookbook, but it seemed overwhelming and she didn’t know exactly how to do it, or if it would even make any money, but it was one of her bucket list items. After some discussion, Jason told her to go for it.

Over the last few years, self-publishing has become more prominent, which made the process much more appealing to Evink. Self-publishing allows the writer to hire their own team, and make their own decisions. She was able to hire her choice of self-publisher who walked her through the entire process and took the guesswork out of it. She already had photographers, and wrote and developed recipes herself, but her self-publisher was able to help provide proofreaders, editors, designers, and printers. “It became a lot less stressful because I didn’t have the knowledge or know-how to piece it all together,” she said.

Evink was able to use her own ideas to craft the cookbook, instead of being beholden to a publisher’s wishes. “Everyday simple meals for families who are trying to feed their kids meals they will actually eat, with ingredients you can find at the grocery store,” is what she says she aimed to center her book around. 

Along with simple and easy-to-follow recipes, Evink tries to center her meals around ingredients found in one place, rather than traveling to several stores to find all of the ingredients for one meal. 

The cookbook contains a variety of recipes, from health-based to indulgent, soups, casseroles, and beef, pork, chicken and shrimp. 20 recipes that won’t be published on the blog will be included in the cookbook. 

When she has so many recipes to choose from, it’s hard to imagine how Evink was able to narrow down which ones to include in the cookbook. “I didn’t need 20 casserole recipes,” she said, “but, maybe five.” She also tried to whittle the choices down by making sure the recipes included in the book were truly easy to follow. She didn’t want people to purchase the book wanting simple recipes and then set them up to fail with a touchy one. 

A challenging element of writing a cookbook was writing the introductory section. She already knew how to write recipes, but the introductory portion was new territory. Trying to decide things like her top 10 kitchen items was a new way of thinking, but she wanted people to be able to pick up the book and know it can also serve as a resource to get them started. “I took all the things I’ve learned and tried to just kind of simplify it and make it so it’s super approachable for everyone.”

Writing and publishing a cookbook came with many surprises, as well. There are several elements Evink says she’s never thought about before, such as page layout, paper type, and even the type of fabric used for the binding. She also had to land on a design for the spine that would make the book easily identifiable while sitting on a shelf. She included her tagline “Easy Family-Friendly Recipes from a Midwestern Mom,” on the spine to help it stand out. 

Visiting bookstores to look at the different cookbooks, feeling the different styles, and figuring out which ones resonated best with her was a big part of the research process.

Landing on the cover design was also a tough decision to make. Some cookbooks have photographs of only food on the cover, but some include a picture of the author. On one hand, she wanted to entice people with the food, but on the other, she is the face of the brand. Eventually, Evink began asking others for their thoughts and said her dad was the deciding factor. He told her that the brand is “Julie’s Eats and Treats,” and since she is the brand, and the person people connect with along with the food, she should be on the cover. Her tagline from the spine is also featured on the front cover, and Evink says that is an important identifier of the book.

The back cover features several photographs of food. “If you were purchasing a cookbook and you picked up mine and saw that, you know what you’re getting,” she says. She wants the book to speak to the buyer and bring them in before they really have to dig for it.

“I always call myself the mom next door, because I truly believe I am,” she says, “Just like everyone else, I’m trying to make it in life and trying to keep all my ducks in a row, which sometimes fails epically.”

Such a large project can also come with a fair share of fears. Not selling many copies is one of the fears Evink has, but also misprints in the book. She also hopes that the book resonates with people in the way she intended.

Evink says she put her heart and soul into creating this book with the goal of helping people, and hopefully, it will do exactly that. “And what if it doesn’t,” she adds, “you pick up and do another one!”

Helping people manage is what the cookbook aims to do. “Putting dinner on the table for your family can sometimes be super stressful,” she says, “and it’s kind of overwhelming at the end of the day.” That’s one reason she included her meal planning tips at the beginning of the book, to help reduce that stress a little bit. “What I really want this cookbook to do is take that stress out of people’s lives,” she says.

Evink wants to extend her thanks to the community, who has supported her the whole way. When she has tried new and different things, like the Take & Bake Meals at The Homestead, or the Gimme Some Grilling spices. “I just hope that this brings them one more asset in their kitchen and it helps them,” she adds, “I would just like to say thank you to everyone. It’s awesome.”

Evink’s cookbook is out for sale TODAY and is available locally for purchase at Inherit Clothing Co., Willie’s Supervalu, and The Homestead. It’s also available online for purchase at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and several other online retailers. She is also hosting several events locally, including a live cooking show at Inherit Clothing Co. tonight at 7:00 p.m., a book signing on May 23 at The Homestead from 4:00-6:00 p.m. and will be featured at the Morris Public Library’s Cookbook Book Club on June 18th at 5:30 p.m.