Grocery Guide

Authentic Southern Food Hits a Freezer Near You

Not so long ago, a mom in the Deep South found that her neighbors were clamoring for her delicious Cajun food, casseroles and Southern dishes, so she kept making more and more until it became apparent that she had an actual business on her hands. No Time 2 Cook was born out of Karen Kurr's Mississippi kitchen, and she still cooks the same meals with the same recipes that she always has, although her facility now produces 1,000 meals every day.

The company makes frozen fare aimed at families, and, because of a new partnership between No Time 2 Cook and Kroger groceries, you can find some of these meals at Krogers around Houston and Dallas.

"Our recipes come right out of my recipe box, and, when we had an opportunity to take it to a farmers' market, it was an immediate hit. We have stayed true to our recipes; they're as close to homemade as you can get," Kurr said.

"When my children were young, this is how I would cook for them. I would make big batches on the weekends and pull food out on busy weeknights, and we could still sit around the dinner table and have a good meal without the amount of work that it takes to fix a full meal."

Kurr prides herself on the ingredients in her products; they don't contain processed meat or hydrogenated oils, and the dairy products are all authentic as well, without non-dairy additives.

"Another thing that separates us is the amount of meat we put in our products; you will find 14 percent meat in our chicken pies. You won't find another frozen pie with that amount of meat," Kurr said.

In addition to that chicken pie, you can also find a crab and mushroom penne, homestyle chicken and dumplings, chicken and cornbread dressing, and what's sure to become a Houston favorite — tamale pie.

"Most of our products are more Southern; tamale pie was something that we began after we moved into the plant. We use masa harina in it, and we use ancho chiles that we order from California," Kurr said.

"We're really going for an authentic tamale taste, and, with anything that we do outside of our Southern dishes, we go for authenticity."

The company has a few pescetarian options (meaning seafood but no other meat), and there are vegetarian meals that it offers in its local market. Kurr isn't opposed to expanding into the gluten-free market in the future, but admits that it would be difficult for a smaller company like hers to expand into that arena right away because truly gluten-free offerings require a separate manufacturing facility.

These kinds of gourmet frozen foods are becoming more popular as consumers try to escape processed, high-efficiency foods and search for meals that are appealing to the senses but also less time-consuming than a traditional home-cooked meal. Grocery stores like Kroger see this trend, and, for Kurr, her timing was exactly right.

"My husband and I own 85 percent of the company, and the only partner I brought in was someone with the expertise to take us from a small kitchen to a USDA plant. The Mississippi Development Authority has a minority- and women-owned business division, and we were able to get a lot of our funding through them. Fortunately, we've been able to fund this ourselves and retain majority-holder ownership of the company," Kurr said.

No Time 2 Cook is hoping to expand to more markets and include additional meal options, but because the company is still in its early stages, Kurr is making sure that the demand does not exceed the production capabilities.

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Alexandra Doyle