This week, I am posting a favorite family recipe and the background of a schoolmate, friend, and GREAT COOK, who not only inspired me to share my cooking experiences with others but also encouraged me to create my own Facebook Page “Donnie Ray’s Roadhouse Cookin.”

Debbie Jo Smith East, named for her father Joe, also named her daughter, Jody, after her beloved, late father. Joe was a hunter and fisherman who loved family above all. Debbie credits him with everything she knows today about "boy stuff" from cars to fishing, shooting, hunting, and much more, he was and will always be her inspiration and role model. Being a WWII prisoner of war in Germany, Joe took all his awful experiences and turned them into life lessons for his family, for which they were blessed and grateful for.

Debbie’s adolescent years involved going to church, the lake, hunting, shooting, fishing, and visiting her grandparents and relatives. Both sets of her grandparents were Smiths, and each lived in the Ketchum area. Her grandpa Lewyn (dad's dad) is known for being able to skin a squirrel in 9 seconds; Grandma Inez (her dad's mom) would go fishing, clean, and cook her catch. Debbie says she can still taste those salty, crispy, cornmeal covered perch filets her grandmother used to fix on their weekend visits.

She would also visit her other Smith grandparent's home (her mom's parents) and her grandpa Bob would saddle the horses and trusted Debbie enough to ride to the pond to shoot frogs for their Sunday lunches. Her grandma Leora would serve the frog legs with homegrown garden vegetables, and fresh apple or peach pie, made with the fruit from their own orchard, then topped it with a homemade hand cranked ice cream. Debbie says real homemade ice cream MUST have a slightly salty taste coming from the rock salt and melted ice that always seems to seep into the cream a little as it is freezing.

Her childhood was full of amazing food, with her dad providing the majority of the meat. From elk to bear, deer, rabbit, squirrel, crappie, flathead, quail – you name it, he would hunt or fish for it, with her mom being able to make all of it taste delicious, except, according to Debbie, the bear... LOL. All of these Smiths were the inspiration for Debbie’s love of cooking.

While in school, Debbie, a MHS grad, participated in many activities from band, student council, science club, home economics, girls state and much more, all the while working part time at Osborn's Rexall Drug Store in Miami, an experience she still cherishes.

Now retired from being a business teacher, and living in Grove, she utilizes all her early lessons in life, by caring for family members, her mother, in particular. Her kids, Stacy East Clark and Jody East, and grandkids Jacob and Hannah Clark are the loves of her life along with husband David, being her cornerstone. She and David now travel, go to OKC Thunder games, as Debbie is also the 'Thunder Blue Alliance-Miami Chapter' captain, and they spend time on the lake with their kids, grandkids, and friends, along with following her passion for cooking.

The recipe Debbie is sharing with us today is her grandma Leora's Chili. Delicious and meaty, it continues to be a family favorite. Debbie is proud to have and always cherish, her grandmother’s handwritten recipe. Enjoy.

Grandma Leora’s Chili

Ingredients

2 ½ lbs. Ground Beef 1 large Onion diced 1 clove Garlic minced Salt to taste 1 46 ounce can Tomato Juice 2 Tablespoons Chili Powder 2 Tablespoons Cumin 2 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika Pinto Beans – amount desired

Directions

Brown Ground Beef in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add Onion and garlic and sauté’, salt to taste. Add tomato juice, Chili Powder, Cumin, Paprika, and beans. Cook low and slow for 2 to 3 hrs.