Barbara Nicklaus and daughter Nan cook up Well Done!, a cookbook celebrating life, love and food

Well Done Cover 2016LFirst Lady of Golf Barbara Nicklaus has teamed up with daughter Nan O’Leary, along with some contributions from husband Jack, to publish Well Done!, a 240-page cookbook that celebrates memories made around the Nicklaus’ kitchen table. The parents of five and grandparents of 22 have always prioritized family over golf, and Well Done! offers a unique look into the inner workings of the iconic American family and the memories they share.

Sprinkled around and between 300 Nicklaus family recipes are family stories and rare historic and personal photos. And if the cookbook wasn’t already a feel-good read, all proceeds from sales of Well Done! go to the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. The cookbook is available for $39.99, plus shipping, and can be purchased at the Foundation’s web site, nchcf.org, at various golf/pro shops, and for South Florida residents, The Back Porch in North Palm Beach.

Jack and Barbara were married on July 23, 1960, after meeting during their first week at The Ohio State University in Columbus. The pro golfer turned patriarch launched his professional career in 1962, when the Nicklaus’ first son, Jack II, was just a few months old. Not long after came children Steve, Nan, Michael, and Gary—and a promise from Jack to never be on the road and away from home for more than a week at a time.

While Jack’s record-setting career took him to all corners of the globe, Barbara, the 2015 recipient of the Bob Jones Award—the highest honor awarded by the USGA—kept things going in their North Palm Beach, Fla., home. Barbara helped the kids balance playing their own sports with attending Dad’s tournaments—and she kept the family of seven fed long before buying groceries in bulk was a thing.

The Nicklaus family clung tight to their Midwestern roots. The kitchen was a place to learn family recipes heavily influenced by the culture in their native Ohio. Some recipes included in Well Done! have been passed down by members of both Jack and Barbara’s families.

“We don’t eat very fancy,” said Jack, who wastes no opportunity to offer high praise for his wife’s cooking. “We eat fish, steak, chicken. Just simple. She’s good at just about everything.”

Jack and Barbara’s daughter, Nan, sous-chef in the Nicklaus kitchen, first kicked off the cookbook project in the late 1990s with a small, family recipe collection she titled “Mimi’s Bearly Believable Bites.” (Barbara is “Mimi” to the Nicklaus grandkids.)

“The book was just for Mom and us,” said Nan, who started on the recipe collection during a time when her parents were out of town for two weeks. “We put it all on a floppy disk, and when they got back, I said, ‘Mom, you go through it and edit.’”

The book was printed out and clipped into a binder (a good thing because that floppy somehow was lost). Nan included a handwritten note to the woman who taught her to cook.

“Mom, I’ve done my best (with lots of help) to put this cookbook together for you to enjoy. It has recipes that you’ve collected forever from your mom, her friends and your friends from all over. I hope that you have as much fun using it as I did putting it together! Happy cooking. 5/5/1999.”

Learning to cook wasn’t the only thing Nan picked up from her Mom. She also credits Barbara for her love for philanthropy, focusing a significant amount of her time on the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation founded by her parents.

Making the family’s recipes available on a larger scale made sense, and so did tying proceeds to the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which focuses on providing children and families access to world-class healthcare.

Tucked in between 300 Nicklaus family recipes are family stories and historic photos. And then there’s the food. There’s the creamed chicken and rice croquette dish Barbara’s mom would make her for every birthday dinner, the Buckeye Candy inspired by her and Jack’s shared Ohio State University pride, and the Italian Cream Cake that’s Jack’s “absolute favorite.”

In a book compiled with love and intended to benefit a loving cause, Barbara included this message to those home cooks who set out to make her recipes:

“Please, always remember to cook with love!”

Make Jack’s favorite Italian Cream Cake

Cake
1/2 c. butter
5 eggs, separated
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. coconut
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
1 T. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans

Icing
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream cheese
1 one lb. box 10X powdered sugar

Cream sugar, butter and shortening together. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir soda into buttermilk and let sit for 10 minutes. Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside. Sift together flour and salt. Add alternately with buttermilk to sugar and butter mixture. Add vanilla, coconut and pecans. Fold in egg whites. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9″ cake pans. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes. After the cakes have cooled combine all icing ingredients. Spread between layers and on outside of cake.

Personal Notes: I decorate the top of the cake with pecans and a little flaked coconut.