St. Jude, How Does Your Garden Grow?

eat.drink.MISSEDM August 2014ISSIPPI
August / September 2014

If hindsight is 20/20, it would appear all roads led Chef Miles McMath to St. Jude. McMath grew up in the Goodsprings community of Alabama, in what he describes as a “little, tiny, small town outside of Jasper.” He enjoyed a childhood that today would seem foreign to many younger generations. Before supermarkets could be found on just about every street corner, friends and families gathered together in kitchens or on front porches to shell peas or hull corn. Home gardens and canning fruits and vegetables were the norm rather than a novelty.

“I have memories of eating poke sallet in the spring and canning everything. Everyone had storm shelters that were filled with canned goods that we grew and canned ourselves,” McMath recalls. “We hunted rabbit, deer, squirrel, and turtle. But when fast food came in the 80’s, everything changed. People stopped doing those things. Maybe I was destined to become a chef. As you get older, you start to look for ways to get those memories back.”

McMath attended Sullivan College in Louisville, KY, before launching his culinary career under Chef John Castro at Hasenour’s Restaurant in Louisville. He left Louisville to accept the position of chef de cuisine at the Grand Casino in Gulfport, working his way to corporate research and development for all seven establishments owned by Grand Casino, Inc.

Eventually, McMath found his way to Hernando where he opened Timbeaux’s, his first of three restaurants in the area. He currently lives in a small community in Hernando where he says many of his neighbors share his love of home grown food. McMath and his family maintain a full garden and at one point raised their own pigs on the property.

Anyone who works in the restaurant indsutry can attest that the hours are long and they don’t fit into the traditional 8-5 workday. By 2008, McMath was married with children and wasn’t keen on spending nights away from his family. He was just about to sign a contract for another job when a friend told him about a huge $16 million cafeteria renovation at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. The Kay Kafe, which was funded by Sterling Jewelers Inc., parent company of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry, was designed to accommodate up to 1,000 diners. It features numerous food stations, each featuring a different food variety. In addition to McMath, the hospital employs four certified executive chefs, each with different backgrounds who are able to bring different cooking techniques and experiences to the kitchen.

Upon accepting the job as Director of Culinary operations for St. Jude, McMath knew, “a beautiful place like that had to have good food.” That’s when the idea was “planted” in McMath’s head to draw from his childhood experiences in rural Alabama and establish a garden on the St. Jude campus.

Through the help of employees and volunteers, the garden slowly began to grow. An unused adjacent lot owned by the hospital was reallocated for the space. What started as a small herb garden has now grown into almost sixty raised beds that contain everything from vegetables to herbs, in addition to a greenhouse and hoop houses for growing lettuce and tomatoes year round. The garden is tended by volunteers, many of whom are hospital employees.

Everything harvested from the garden is used in the 2,500 meals the Kay Kafe puts out each day.  Not only does the garden save donor dollars, but the nutritional value is unsurpassed. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients shortly after they are picked. Everything harvested from the St. Jude garden is typically used within 12 hours. Those added nutrients can go a long way when it comes to the health of a sick child.

McMath has even taken his unique approach to the “farm-to-table” movement one step further. What they are not able to produce on the grounds, they source from farmers within 150 miles of the hospital. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but farm-raised meat.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had, but it’s not really even a job to me,” McMath admits. “St. Jude has allowed me to bring everything together – all these experiences I’ve had. It’s my way of giving back.”

McMath’s contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. Earlier this year he was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. An invitation to cook at the James Beard House is highly coveted and has been extended to other noteworthy chefs such Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Nobu Matsuhisa, Jacques Pépin, and Charlie Trotter. Currently, McMath is the only documented chef from an institution to have been extended this honor.

Says McMath, “It’s hard not to get excited about this program. We’re just people taking care of these children. They deserve the best.”


Faith through Food: French Camp Academy Shares its Mission through Tasty Treats

EDM August 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
August / September 2014
Article and photos

A leisurely drive along the Natchez Trace never fails to provide some of the most scenic views of Mississippi. It’s best to travel along this historic route when you’re not in a hurry and have no real place to go so you can stop and take in a few of the historic markers along the way. Just 20 miles up the trace from Kosciusko lies French Camp, a tiny little town in Choctaw County with a whole lot of history.

French Camp was founded in 1810 as a trading post by Frenchman Louis LeFleur, who is also credited with founding the settlement that would later become Jackson. Today, French Camp is more widely known among Mississippians as the home of French Camp Academy, a Christian boarding school established in 1885. Situated on the school’s 900 acres is the French Camp Historic Village, which not only provides a glimpse into early American life, but hungry local foodies will find several unique treats at the town’s bakery, gift shop, and Council House Café.

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If your travels along the Trace should find you in the vicinity of French Camp in the fall, make sure you pay them a visit during Sorghum Saturdays. Every Saturday in October, sorghum syrup is made the old fashioned way, by pressing the sugar via a horse drawn mill right in front of the gift shop and then boiling the sugar over an open fire pit to make sorghum syrup.

The homemade sorghum syrup has become a staple ingredient for many of the loaves produced in the FCA bakery. Bread baking has been a French Camp tradition for more than 50 years. Loaves of homemade bread, originally baked with the help of students, were used as “thank you” gifts to supporters. Today, the operation is housed in its own commercial kitchen and “turns out” over 17,000 loaves of bread a year.

Like many of FCA’s employees, head baker Kevin O’Brien has a special connection to the ministry and the school. Not only did his family actively support the school while O’Brien was growing up, but he also worked as an intern for six months before being deployed with the U.S. Navy. During that time, O’Brien hoped he would be able to return to French Camp one day to work. After operating a submarine for the Navy for 24 years, O’Brien and his wife returned to French Camp to be dorm parents. Three years ago, he was approached about taking over the bread baking operation after long-time baker, Ms. Annie, retired after 17 years at the helm.

O’Brien admits he accepted the position without knowing a thing about baking

“I grew up in the kitchen helping my mom,” O’Brien says. “Cooking wasn’t foreign to me, but I had never baked and certainly never commercially.”

Under Ms. Annie’s guidance, O’Brien learned the ropes of bread baking. At the time, French Camp was only producing white bread. As O’Brien became a more confident baker, he began experimenting with other recipes. His first attempt at branching out began with the Sorghum Wheat, which uses sorghum as the sweetening agent instead of sugar. O’Brien admits the first few loaves were more like “bricks,” but after much research and a little more trial and error, he finally developed the recipe produced today.  Since then, the product line has grown to include a variety of sourdough breads, sauces, and giant homemade cookies. His sorghum cookies, named after his grandmother Sadie, are baked using her very own recipe. Often students will volunteer to help out in the kitchen and he admits that many of the younger students refer to him as “The Cookie Man.”

Much of the bread produced by the bakery is still shipped out all over the country as gifts, with the profits fund FCA and its ministries.

“I pray over every single loaf before it ships out,” O’Brien adds. “The people who buy these loaves are supporting this ministry and it’s still our way of saying ‘thanks.’”

Located just a short walk from the bakery is The Council House Café, which serves all of its sandwiches on O’Brien’s homemade bread. The café is housed a nearly 200-year old log cabin that originally served as the meeting house for Greenwood LeFlore, son of Louis and the last chief of the Choctaw Indian Nation east of the Mississippi.

The Council House Café provides the perfect respite for hungry travelers. However, it also provides training opportunities for the students in addition to providing scholarships for the academy. The menu consists of a variety of sandwiches, served on homemade white or sorghum wheat bread, homemade soups, fresh salads, seasonal specials. No meal would be complete without a helping of Mississippi Mud Cake or bread pudding for dessert. On the second Friday of every month, the Council House Café also hosts Steak Night. Guests can enjoy a 12 oz. choice ribeye, salad, and a baked potato.

Café manager Sunny McMillan took over the café three years ago after retiring from a long career with Piccadilly Cafeterias. McMillan knew retirement wouldn’t mean he would quit working for good. When an opportunity became available to manage the café, he jumped at the chance.

“This job doesn’t have the same kind of pressure that I was used to,” McMillan explains. “I love being around the people, both the employees and the guests,”

For newcomers, McMillan recommends the “Big Willie” BLT. It’s a BLT like no other, made with a whopping ten pieces of crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and topped with Council House spicy garlic mayonnaise.

“It’s not just about serving food, but also being a part of the Christian-centered ministry we have here.” McMillan adds. “We’re shining a light on the culture.”

For more information on the French Camp and the Historic Village, visit their website at

The Delicious Legacy of Heirloom Tomatoes

eaEDM June 2014t.drink.MISSISSIPPI
June /July 2014
Recipes, photos, and cover

An heirloom tomato is any tomato variety that has been passed down from generation to generation. The flavor of an heirloom tomato is thought to be far superior than that of its hybrid cousins. Slice into one and you’ll soon see why. Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of colors, patterns, shades and flavors. If you are looking to take full advantage of the summer tomato season, heirloom varieties are the way to go.

Heirloom Tomato Pie

  • ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 recipe buttermilk biscuit dough (see below)
  • 2-3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 2 ounces (2/3 cup) shredded Swiss cheese
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped herbs such as basil, parsley, and oregano

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Position rack in the middle of the oven. If using a pizza stone, place stone in the oven to begin preheating.

Sprinkle cornmeal over a clean work surface that can be used later to transfer the crust to the oven, such a pizza peel or parchment paper. Pat the dough into a 5-inch round. Then roll dough out into a 13-inch round using a floured rolling pin.

Arrange the tomato slices over the crust, leaving a 1-1/2 inch border.

Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, herbs, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Place dollops of the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.

Fold the border over the tomatoes to form a crust. Transfer the pie to your preheated pizza stone or a baking sheet. Bake pie for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Remove pie from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

Serves: 4

Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chilled unsalted butter or shortening
  • ¾ to 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into mixture until it resembles course crumbs. Add three-quarters cup of buttermilk, and stir until dough comes together and begins to leave the side of the bowl, adding additional milk if necessary.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Lightly knead 10 times.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Fennel and Heirloom Tomatoes

  • 8 skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (1 ½ teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches if needed, add the chicken skin side down to the pan. Sauté until the skin is browned, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add the fennel to the pan and sauté until browned on all sides, about five minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds to one minute.

Add the chicken broth and the tomato paste to the pan. Stir tomato paste is completely dissolved. Add the tomatoes and and herbs cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Spread tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Nestle the chicken thighs in the sauce. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. Allow chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve with tomato sauce drizzled over the top.

Serves 6-8

Heirloom Tomato Salsa

  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Serrano chili, seeded and minced

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large airtight container. If not serving immediately, store leftover in the refriderator.

Makes about 2 cups salsa

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From Chief to Chef: Home cook Dave Bowman never fails to impress family and friends

EDM June 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
June / July 2014

When Alana Bowman nominated her father to be eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI’s first home cook feature, she said, “He should have his own restaurant. Seriously, this man can cook!”

However, Dave Bowman of Pelahatchie says that growing up, the occasional pan of cornbread was the extent of his cooking experience. The father of two daughters, he started cooking after he got married out of necessity. Bowman, who enjoyed a 30 year career with the Air National Guard, and his wife at the time both worked long hours. Often he arrived home first and found himself with two hungry girls on his hands.

“I started out just throwing something together for the kids to eat for dinner,” he says. “But soon I discovered that it was relaxing. Cooking gave me an outlet to relax and forget about the stress at work.”

He knew he had arrived as a cook when his wife wasn’t feeling well and asked him to make a pecan pie for her to take to work.

“I had never made a pie. My wife tells me, ‘You just follow the recipe.’ So I did and it turned out great! That’s when I realized I can make something other than French fries and cornbread. I can do this.”

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Today, Bowman has quite a collection of recipes he keeps tucked away in a large three ring binder titled, “The Chief’s Recipes.” The title refers to Bowman’s title of Chief Master Sergeant, the rank he held before retiring from the guard 11 years ago. Now with five grandchildren ranging in age from twenty to nine years old, he cooks out of enjoyment for his family and friends instead of out of necessity. Bowman spends much of his time honing his cooking skills and trying new techniques, like making his own jams and jellies. He is also an avid gardener, growing numerous herbs and vegetables on his land in Pelahatchie, located just a few miles from where he grew up.  What he doesn’t eat right away, he cans so he can continue to enjoy his harvest when fresh fruits and vegetables are no longer in season.

Bowman enjoys preparing Cajun and Creole dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo in addition to traditional home cooking like meatloaf and fresh baked bread. He also cooks a lot of Italian food and says, “If my kitchen doesn’t smell like garlic and oregano, I’ve failed.” Lately, he has been experimenting with Mexican flavors, using fresh onions, tomatoes, and cilantro from his garden to prepare salsas and enchiladas.

Other family favorites include shrimp and pasta, sausage stuffed pork loin, cheesecake, and the recipe that started it all – coconut pecan pie. Bowman even makes his own seasoning blend, a mixture of herbs and spices he calls Dave’s Stuff.

On the other hand, Bowman says if you ask his grandchildren – who all love their Papaw’s cooking – what his best dish is, they’ll tell you he makes the best pancakes.


Photo captions

Grilled okra: Bowman grows much of his own produce, including okra that he likes to skewer, season with olive oil and his own herb blend, and throw on the grill.

Pork loin and okra: One of Bowman’s signature dishes is his grilled pork loin stuffed with sausage.

Roasted potatoes and cole slaw: These yummy roasted potatoes and homemade cole slaw are seasoned with herbs from Bowman’s own garden.

Apple pie: Bowman didn’t think he was a true cook until he learned to make his own pie crust. From the looks of this beautiful apple pie, we would say he nailed it.


Dave’s Stuff

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.   Use liberally on pork or other meats before bar-b-que or roasting.

Canned String Beans

“My children’s great-grandmother, Florence Allen, taught this canning process to me.  She raised a family during the great depression and never wasted any food.  I’ll always think of “Mimmie” every time I can string beans!”

  • 1 Gallon String Beans
  • 3 TBsp Salt (Plain)
  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar

Prepare beans using a large dishpan or similar pan.

Add sugar, vinegar, and salt.  Cover with water.  Bring to boil and cook until all beans change color.

Tap down jar lids and place in boiling water.  Keep lids hot.

Wash jars and scald with boiling water.  Place upside down on a clean white towel until ready to use.

Pack beans (while boiling) in jars and fill with liquid.  Screw on lids tight as possible and set aside.  They will pop when sealed.  Store in the pantry until ready to use.  They will keep for 2 to 3 years.

The Anatomy of a Southern-style Crawfish Boil

EDM June 2014

June / July 2014

For many Southerners, the arrival of spring is not signified by warmer temperatures or buds on the trees. It’s a heaping, steaming pile of crawfish spread out across a newspaper, the shells that tell-tale fire engine red hue and still dripping with crab boil.

After the long, dreary months of winter finally come to an end, what better way to celebrate spring than with a crawfish boil surrounded by 100 or so of your closest friends? It’s a time honored tradition that Mississippians have enjoyed for generations. The table manners your mother spent so much time coaching you on as a child don’t apply here. Seating is optional, but several rolls of paper towels nearby are required. Most people belly up to the table and begin pinching tails. If you’re a tried and true boiled crawfish aficionado, you’ll likely suck the head before casting the empty carcass aside and reaching for another.

For almost 15 years, the home of Edward and Cleta Ellington of Jackson has been the setting of such an event. It began in 1998 as a way for the Ellington children, who all attended college out-of-state, to get together with friends during Easter break.  Fifteen years later, it would grow into a neighborhood block party attended by nearly 200 people. Two traditions have always remained the same: crawfish are always served and it’s always held on the Saturday before Easter.

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“Holy Saturday,” Cleta Ellington calls it.

“All of us who raised children in our neighborhood were very close,” she goes on to explain. “The kids always considered everybody’s house their own. It became a wonderful opportunity for all the kids to come with their parents and visit.”

Ellington describes the boil as multi-generational. Her children, who are now in their 30’s, have children of their own. A crowd that was once predominantly college kids and young professionals has morphed to encomapss young families. Two years ago the Ellingtons passed the torch on to the next generation, handing the responsibility over to Barry and Mary Margaret White.

As with most crawfish boils, there is no set agenda. Word of mouth dictates that the food is usually ready by three o’clock and if you want crawfish, you’d better get there early. Turn onto the White’s street located in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood, and it’s apparent there is a shindig going on. Cars begin to line the street on either side and people are seen carrying everything from coolers full of beer to babies and strollers.

Friendly conversation mixes with the sound of a propane flame as a huge stainless steel pot full of water and spices comes to a boil for the next batch. The ratio of water and spices is important. You want them spicy and if they’re not, someone will let you know. There the clinking of a lid as the designated “cook” checks the pot and stirs its contents with a large paddle to see if the crawfish are “done.” Periodically, two men will hoist a cooler towards the large folding table set up in the middle of the White’s driveway and dump a load of cooked crawfish, corn on the cob, and red potatoes in the middle of the table. Hungry party-goers step up to eat and if you want a spot at the table, be prepared to push a few folks out of the way.

If for some reason crawfish just aren’t your thing, there are chicken wings, grilled boudin sausage, and an entire spread of chips, dips, appetizers, and snacks. One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry at a crawfish boil.

As the crawfish begins to wind down, there’s talk of oysters being driven in from New Orleans. Red potatoes and corn give way to saltines and hot sauce as a few lucky volunteers are tasked with donning gloves, wielding knives, and shucking the oysters, which are snapped up just as quickly as they can lay one down.

If it rains on crawfish boil day, most people will find a way for the party to go on. “Last year on Easter, the weather was terrible,” says Mary Margaret White, as she recalls their first year hosting the Holy Saturday boil. “It rained, but people still came. Everyone just huddled under the carport.”

Even though Ellington and her husband aren’t hosting Holy Saturday anymore, she looks back on those years fondly. “I feel so lucky that we’ve gotten to do it and were able to keep it up. I’ll never forget looking out across my yard one year and seeing mamas sitting on quilts with their babies and bigger kids chasing each other across the yard.”

A Comfortable Kitchen

EDM April 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
April / May 2014

When empty nesters Doug and Sheila Estes of Columbus embarked on building a new house, they knew they wanted to design a kitchen that would truly be the heart of their home. The couple loves to spend time with family and friends and wanted to create a warm and inviting space where the kids could come home to and invite their friends.

Penny Bowen, of Penny Bowen Design, Inc., was asked to create a space that was functional, comfortable, and reminiscent of an upscale European lodge. The homeowners also wanted the kitchen and living areas to be open to one another.

“That means we had to really dress up the kitchen,” Bowen explains. “With an open plan, you can’t have a lot of clutter. Everything has to have a place.”

You also need a focal point, which is achieved through the gleaming, handcrafted copper vent-a-hood positioned over a stainless steel 36-inch gas range and warming drawer directly underneath. Yellow river granite was chosen for the threads of brown and copper that run throughout. Elegant tile in a complimentary color pattern was used for the backsplash.

Beautiful dark espresso cabinets compliment the décor in the rest of the home. Under cabinet lighting add an additional touch of ambience. Because Sheila enjoys cooking, two stainless steel ovens were installed along with coordinating stainless refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave. Finally, cream colored porcelain tiles in a random pattern were chosen for the floor.

Even though The Estes wanted to rooms to be open, Bowen still wanted to create a separation between the kitchen and the living area. Since the Estes’s living room featured 12-foot vaulted ceilings, Bowen created a low bulkhead over the kitchen. The threshold from the kitchen gently curves into the living, allowing the kitchen to flow. Finally, the entire room is rounded out with a bar area accented with six Jan Barbogolio swivel metal barstools with dark leather seats.

“The bar area gets a lot of use,” Bowen adds. “Guests enjoy sitting and talking to Sheila while she cooks. The homeowners really wanted a look that was comfortable where their guests would feel at home. I think we definitely achieve this.”

Sweet and Savory

EDM April 2014

April / May 2014

Spring is near, which means an abundance of fresh produce will soon be available at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect time to make homemade jam. However, jam doesn’t always have to be used a spread for your morning toast. Here are a few savory sauces that will make a welcome addition to your dinner table.

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Dark Cherry and Bacon Chutney
Try this smoky sweet chutney on hamburgers or as a glaze for meatloaf.
Makes 2 cups

  • 3 slices of uncooked bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 (12 oz) bag of frozen cherries, thawed (or 1 ½ cups fresh cherries, pitted)
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until mostly crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined saucer. Reserve the remaining bacon grease.

Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Return the bacon to the pan along with the remaining ingredients.

Bring mixture to a slow boil over medium heat. Cover the pot, then cook for 10 minutes or until the cherries have softened.

Remove the lid and let the sauce simmer until much of the liquid has cooked off, approximately 10-15 minutes more.

Add an additional sugar, salt, or pepper as needed to taste. Remove pan from burner and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Transfer chutney to a blender or food processor. Pulse mixture a few times until it is chunky.

Store any remaining chutney in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar
Cracked black pepper lends a little kick to this sweet sauce. Pairs well with a soft, mild cheese or poultry.
Makes 2 cups

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (about 1 pint), trimmed and quartered (if using frozen, make sure they are thawed)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons pectin, optional, for thickness

Combine all ingredients except the pectin in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring frequently, skimming an foam that develops on the surface, for 15 minutes, or until mixture has thickened and is translucent.

For a more jam-like consistency, add pectin one tablespoon at a time, stirring thoroughly before adding additional pectin. Mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

Remove pan from heat and cool preserves completely. Store any remaining preserves in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Note: Ground black pepper can be substituted for cracked black pepper, but you may want to reduce the amount to ¼ – ½ teaspoon. The pepper could be too overpowering otherwise.

Peach Jalapeño Jam

Sweet and tangy with a warm kick at the end, this jam works well as a glaze over pork chops or pork tenderloin.

  •  4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 3-6 jalapeño peppers, seeded
  • ¼ cup bottled lemon juice
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons powdered low or no-sugar needed pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar

Place peach slices and peppers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until peaches reach your desired consistency (depends on if you like big chunks or little chunks of peaches in your jam).

Combine mixture with lemon juice, water, and pectin in a large saucepan. Bring mixture to a hard rolling boil.

Stir in sugar. Return to a boil and continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until jam reaches desired consistency. Jam will continue to thicken as it cools.

Remove pan from heat. Skim off any foam that has formed on the surface.

Allow jam to cool completely. Store any remaining preserves in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Makes 8 cups

The Way the Cookie Crumbles: Flowood’s newest bakery is whipping up sweet memories with sweet treats

EDM April 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
April / May 2014

Imagine coming home from work every night smelling like success. Sweet success, that is. The moment you step through the glass door of Chucklet & Honey Southern Bakery, your nostrils are filled with the smell of vanilla and fresh baked cookies. It’s a smell that owner Karen Hargett says follows her home at night.

There are worse things in life than smelling like fresh baked cookies.

Hargett and her two siblings have fond childhood memories of spending time in the kitchen with their mother while growing up in Vicksburg. As a child, Hargett’s brother Chuck went by several nicknames, but Chucklet was his favorite. Honey was a nickname affectionately bestowed on their mother, Janice. Those memories would later inspire Chuck to open Chucklet & Honey, an online, mail order cookie delivery company, in Nashville in 2010. The recipes were developed from recipes handed down by Hargett’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Today, the mail order business ships cookies all over the continental United States.

In 2013, Chuck decided he wanted to pursue other ventures. Hargett and her sister purchased the business and moved the entire operation to Flowood. Initially, the sisters fully intended to keep the business as a mail order enterprise only and purchased a space to house their bakery.

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“While we were working on getting the bakery ready, people would come in and ask if we were planning on opening a store,” says Hargett. “We had no intention of opening a store, but the more people asked, the more we thought maybe we should.”

Chucklet & Honey’s flagship store opened in August 2013. The storefront offers approximately 20 different varieties of cookies including some season items. Some of their best sellers include the tried and true Chucklet & Honey Signature Chocolate Chip, the Mistical Peanut Butter, and the Sweet Tea Buttercream, a recipe developed by Chuck himself. Hargett says her younger customers really enjoy the Cookie Monster, made by sandwiching homemade buttercream frosting between either two chocolate chip or two M&M cookies.

In the six months since the storefront has opened, Hargett says the response has been positive.

“We are still just a cookie company and the majority of our business still comes from mail orders, “ she says, “But we are spreading our wings and looking for new ideas to explore.”

Recognizing a need for healthier options, Chucklet & Honey recently launched Chucklet & Healthy, an extension of their current cookie line that offers lower sugar, gluten-free, and vegan options.

“We have tested all the recipes in this line to make sure they are not only healthier, but they taste good,” Hargett explains. “The taste is really important.” Chucklet & Healthy cookies are available online at and will be availble in the storefront in the coming months.

In addition to individual cookies, the Flowood store also provides customized cookie cakes and other options for special events such as baby showers, gender reveal parties, or weddings.

“We really want to become a part of people’s lives,” Hargett adds. “We pride ourselves on the fact that our cookies have just the right mix of crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. We think once a customer tries one of our cookies for the first time, they will be a customer for life.”

320 Belle Meade Pointe
Flowood, MS 39232

Gourmet Easter Treats

T & G April 2014Town & Gown Magazine
April 2014
Recipes and photos

Sample recipe below. Click here for e-edition.





Rich Orange Sorbet

  • 3 cups blood orange juice, divided
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons white wine, optional
  • Zest of 1 blood orange

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup orange juice and sugar over medium heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove pan from heat. Add the remaining orange juice, white wine, and orange zest. Pour mixture into an airtight container and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.

One the mixture is chilled, process according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Once churned, place sorbet into the freezer and allow it to freeze overnight.

Serves 6

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Shape Up and Have Fun!

MS Mag March April 2014

Mississippi Magazine
March / April 2014 Beauty Supplement

Mississippi native Kajal Desai combines aerobics with Bollywood to create one of the fastest growing workouts in America

Move over Zumba, there are a couple of new girls in town.

Eight years ago, fate would change the life of Kajal Desai forever. A small town Mississippi girl raised in Ellisville, Desai was living and working in Washington D.C. as a consultant for the U.S. government.  However, her real passion lay in the Indian folk dances her mother taught her as a child.

While Desai was born and raised in the United States, her parents hail from Gujarat, India. As a way to help her stay close to her family’s heritage, Desai’s mother taught her the traditional folk dances from her village. Desai perfected her moves by watching Bollywood movies, which is the largest film producer in India and one of the largest film producers in the world.

By the time Desai was an adult, she already had a deep-seated love for dance and a desire to do something more with that passion. It was then that mutual friends suggest she meet Priya Pandya. Over a cup of tea in 2005, the two women realized they had the same vision and decided to launch a business venture that would combine their love of dance with fitness.

The pair started offering a dance class once a week to residents of the DC area and doing local performances on the side. By 2007, their following had nearly doubled in size and Desai and Pandya decided it was time to take the plunge. They quit their day jobs and devoted themselves full time to the new company they named Doonya, after the Hindi word for “world.” After that, the craze seemed to take on a life of its own spreading from DC into New York City.

Exactly what is it about Doonya that makes it so popular? For starters, it involves a lot of high energy aerobic movement that gets the heart pumping and the muscles moving. Then there is the music. The beats are infectious, invigorating, and after a few minutes, your body wants to move. It’s that perfect combination that keeps a person motivated, even during the most intense parts of the workout, and coming back for more.

“The music and the movements might seem foreign at first, but it’s about letting go of your inhibitions and having fun,” Desai says.

Over the last eight years, Doonya has managed to garner a huge amount of publicity. The workout has been features in such notable publications such as Cosmopolitan, Shape, Elle, and The Huffington Post. The women have also appeared on Dr. Oz, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

After all that success, where do you go next? Desai and Pandya wanted to make Doonya accessible to more people and knew a DVD would be on the horizon. However, they wanted it to be more than just a dance video, they wanted it to have some credentials behind it. Desai earned certification as a group fitness instructor with the American Council on Exercise, while Pandya became a certified yoga instructor. As plans for the DVD began to take shape, both women devoted a lot of time researching the fitness aspects of the workout and developed dance moves to incorporate it. The attention to detail paid off. Within the first week of launching in February 2013, the DVD made it into the top 10 fitness videos list on

Desai and Pandya continue to bring their workout to more people. Currently, they are setting up new classes at fitness centers across the U.S. and are even working with Weight Watchers to make the workout accessible to online members. However, despite all the success, Desai hasn’t forgotten that she’s a Mississippi girl at heart. Frequently during her visits home, she will offer a few classes at fitness centers across the state.

“We are really bringing to life the spirit of Bollywood,” Desai adds. “In one hour, you might start out feeling a little silly, but you’ll also start to feel a little sexy and you will smile a lot. That’s what health and happiness is really all about.”