It’s been just over 10 years since Oxford’s Karen Kaur stood behind her slow-cooker collection at a farmers’ market in northern Mississippi and sampled delicious meals from her native Louisiana Bayus: spicy gumbo, lobster, red beans and rice.
At that time, Hurricane Katrina devastated the coast, and many survivors reached the north.
One customer told her, “It smells like my mom’s kitchen.”
When she tasted cooking at Cor’s house, her eyes filled with tears.
“I haven’t tasted bamboo like this since I left New Orleans,” said the customer.
Sold by the end of the day, Core realized she had a new business opportunity on her hands, and named it No Time 2 Cook.
A helping hand or a helping hand
Like many home-grown entrepreneurs, the University of Mississippi Women’s graduate student Kaur had a lot to learn about running businesses, especially one that is highly regulated like the food industry. She turned to Mississippi State University’s Extension Service and began learning all she could about turning No Time 2 Cook into a profitable operation.
From the “Food as a Business” workshop to in-person consultations with food science and business experts, Kurr had a network of professionals she could count on to help her get her start on the ground.
“When I had to get FDA approved labels, I turned to Dr. Anna Hood with Extension Service,” she said. “I have a degree in home economics but little formal training in foods. I was at the mercy of the experienced but fortunate to have been setting up a food business in a country with one of the strongest nutritional support systems in the country.”
Extension offers a variety of services to those in the food industry, from holding classes on best practices and advocating for food and safety, to working with Michigan State University scientists on product analytics and consumer preferences.
“I went to licensing classes and got help from Michigan State University agricultural economists with pricing and cost analysis. Without their help my dream would have been impossible,” Kaur said.
Real home work
Kaur’s business, like her love of cooking, began at home. But if she had lived in the city, zoning laws would have prevented her from expanding.
“When we got older, we turned a room attached to our house into a commercial kitchen,” she said. “Then we took over my daughter’s bedroom, the sunroom, my husband’s office, and the entire garage. I hired several friends to help cook, and my driveway started to look like a parking lot.”
Core has cooked, frozen, and sold its signature Cajun dishes at flea markets and farmers’ markets. Over time, the menu has expanded to include casseroles, side dishes, desserts, and entrees, including house favorites, such as shrimp and grits, old-fashioned meatloaf and home-style chicken pie.
Commitment to family and quality
Kaur’s passion for good food and family mealtimes changed both her cooking habits and her career. After giving birth to her second child, Kaur spent her weekends cooking so she had dinner on hand.
“When I got home from work, I’d pull dinner out of the fridge, add steamed vegetables, salad, and bread, and we’d sit together as a family and eat,” she said. “The idea behind No Time 2 Cook’s frozen foods actually came from the way I feed my family as I try to keep up with our busy lifestyle.”
Her own childhood experiences have also inspired her work. Growing up, the Kaur family spent weekends on the family farm.
“My father’s hobbies included raising Black Angus cattle, tending his vineyard, and making homemade wine,” she said. “My mother was an organic gardener before anyone knew about organic gardening, and we grew up eating her fresh vegetables in the summer and canned and frozen vegetables at home during the winter.”
Because of Kurr’s dedication to the freshest, highest quality ingredients, all of our original No Time 2 Cook recipes are cooked from scratch.
“We try to keep our ingredient list as short and simple as possible, and stay away from added preservatives and additives,” she said. “We use real dairy products, such as butter, milk, cheese and cream. We also avoid MSG and hydrogenated oils.”
No Time 2 Cook is proof that families don’t have to sacrifice flavor or quality for a quick, family-style meal at home.
blessing in disguise
One day Kerr received a phone call that changed her life and almost stopped her work. She was renting space in antique malls around northern Mississippi and keeping freezers in those spaces stocked with her produce for sale. Unfortunately, selling meat products this way violates USDA rules.
Kaur faced a big decision: to expand her business, she had to be able to sell all of her products in bulk. But without a USDA-regulated facility, you’ll be limited to non-meat products.
“I had to build a bigger house and move in, build a food factory, get the company out of the house, or shut down completely and find another use of my time,” she says.
Core decided to build what is now a small USDA certified ceramic factory in Mississippi.
Once again, I turned to the MSU Extension Service for help.
“Anna and Ken Hood helped me with all kinds of problems, and I toured the food production facilities at Michigan State University,” she says.
Taste of success
Today, purchasing this Mississippi-made product has never been easier. No Time 2 Cook products with family-sized meals can be found in freezers at 300 Kroger grocery stores across the Southeast including locations in Columbus and Starkville and at East Mississippi Wholesale in Starkville. Plans were made to continue expanding. No Time 2 Cook offers mail order delivery nationwide.
“When I started this business 11 years ago, taking coolers to local farmers markets, I had no idea we would end up in one of the largest grocery chains in the world,” she said. “At the time, I was thrilled to see my clients come back every week to buy more of my family’s favorite products. Given the company’s growth, it seemed like it would have been an impossible task—and were it not for the support and knowledge I gained from the Mississippi Extension Service.”
“Every call and visit I made to the campus was met with valuable information, new resources and encouragement. I think one of the most important things Dr. Anna and Ken Hood gave me their belief that I could be successful, but also gave me the tools to do so. I will forever be grateful to them and their mentorship service for being there. There for me.”
In addition to her commercial success, honest Kaur hopes her work will help her clients.
“Studies have concluded that the most important thing families can do to reduce drug and alcohol use and sexual promiscuity among teens is to sit at the family table, share meals, and really talk to each other,” she said. “By providing affordable, home-cooked meals, I hope that No Time 2 Cook can empower American families by helping bring them back to the dinner table.”
To learn more about No Time 2 Cook, including product descriptions, recipes and store locator, go to http://www.notime2cook.com.
Tend to Karen’s most homemade layers
Preparation time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 15 minutes.
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves 12 to 15 servings of appetizers
1 No Time 2 Cook tamale pie – Available at Kroger in the frozen family meals department
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. guacamole
8 oz. Chunky sauce or fresh pico de gallo, drained if too watery
Lettuce, shredded tomatoes, cheddar cheese, shredded and chopped green onions
4 oz. Black olives, drained tortillas or cornflakes
■ Heat a tamale in the microwave for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes. [May bake according to package directions, which takes about 60 to 70 minutes.] Flip the tamale filling and stuff it occasionally while it’s cooking.
■ Spread the tamales mixture in the bottom of a serving dish.
Spread the sour cream, then the guacamole, then the salsa over the tamale mixture. Layer lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions and olives on top of the sauce.
■ Serve with potato chips. Enjoy!