TUPELO • If you’re planning to participate in Friday’s Chilifest contest in downtown Tupelo, look out. The woman whose chili has placed first or second the last four years will be back in action.

“I make a mean chili,” said Charlotte Crump, office manager for StorageMax. “It takes eight hours to cook it, so there’s a lot of time and a lot of love that goes in it. If I say anything more about the recipe, I’ll have to kill you.”

Crump was born and raised in Hamilton, Mississippi, the youngest of six children born to the late Alderine and Pete Wardlaw.

“My mom was a good cook, so she really didn’t make us get in the kitchen much,” Crump said. “I started cooking when I was about 14 and helping her at Mitch’s Place, a restaurant in Hamilton. I learned a lot about customer service there.”

As the years went by, Crump went on to manage restaurants in Gulfport and Tupelo. She was part owner of KC’s Corner Kitchen at the corner of Green and Daybrite for a while. And for 10 years, she worked in Charlie Watson’s kitchen at the Silver Moon Club before joining StorageMax 13 years ago.

Crump has also done some catering along the way, which is why she’s taking online classes to earn a certificate at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, based in Colorado.

“Early on in my career, I did mostly Southern fare,” she said. “Everything was garden to table, because I grew up in the country and that’s how you do things. At cooking school, I’ve learned to make crepes and French bread and all types of cookies. I’m also learning techniques – how to properly sear and saute, how to use different knives to cut things. I even learned to make homemade pasta noodles.”

But she hasn’t forgotten her Southern roots. A typical meal at her home or for a catering job might be meatloaf, green beans and creamed potatoes, or hand-breaded chicken tenders, boiled potatoes with butter, purple-hull peas and cornbread.

“Catering-wise, I cook as people need it,” she said. “I do a lot of chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day and weddings. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, they want my chicken and dressing. I love cooking and I love to make people happy with food. Cooking is not a chore for me – it’s a pleasure.”

COCONUT-PINEAPPLE DREAM CAKE

CAKE

1 box Duncan Hines white cake mix

3 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup water

1/2 can crushed pineapple

1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

FILLING

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can cream of coconut

1/2 can crushed pineapple

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

ICING

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 pints heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 to 2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

For the cake, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a greased 9x13-inch pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown or when a toothpick inserted in the center of it comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the sweetened condensed milk, cream of coconut, crushed pineapple and coconut. When the cake is removed from the oven and while it’s still hot, poke holes in the cake with the handle of a wooden spoon. Pour filling mixture over all the holes and let the cake cool completely.

For the icing, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Add whipping cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of cake and sprinkle with coconut.

BACON-CHICKEN RANCH CHEESE BALL

2 cans white chunk chicken breasts, drained

2 packages Hidden Valley buttermilk ranch dressing mix

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup real bacon bits

Combine chicken, dressing mixes, cream cheese and Cheddar cheese, form into a ball and chill. Before serving, roll the ball in bacon bits. Serve with your favorite crackers.

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM CREPES

CREPES

8 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1 pint milk

1 1/2 ounces clarified butter, for frying

FILLING

4 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for dusting

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 cups fresh sliced strawberries

For the crepes, combine flour, salt, beaten eggs and milk. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

For the filling, in a small bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth. In a larger mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese mixture and the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form.

To assemble, heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and brush with clarified butter. Spoon about 4 to 5 tablespoons of the crepe mix into the pan, just covering the surface by tilting and swirling the mix around the pan. When the crepe begins to curl on the edges, flip it and cook just until lightly browned. Remove and repeat the process with the rest of the crepe mix. Spread some of the whipped topping mixture on each crepe, top with some sliced berries and roll up. Top each with some of the filling and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar.

COCONUT MACAROONS WITH CHOCOLATE

4 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

Melted milk chocolate

Whip the egg whites, sugar and salt until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the coconut. Shape into balls or use a scoop and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops are light golden brown and cookie is cooked through, about 25 to 35 minutes. Drizzle with melted chocolate.

BEST-EVER MEATLOAVES

2 pounds ground beef

2 cups panko Japanese bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons butter or oil

2 eggs

2 packages Lipton onion soup mix

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups ketchup

Place ground beef in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and milk (you want them just moist) and set aside.

In a skillet, saute the onion and pepper in butter until starting to brown lightly around the edges.

To the ground beef, add the moistened bread crumbs, eggs, soup mix, and sauteed onions and peppers. Combine well but don’t overmix. Form into 12 patties. Place patties on a rimmed pan and bake at 375 degrees until browned and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Drain the grease from the pan; top each patty with about 2 tablespoons ketchup and spread to cover. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes.

DO YOU KNOW A GOOD COOK? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can call Ginna at (662) 678-1581, fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

ginna.parsons@journalinc.com

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