Cook of the Week Kay Durant sits at the island in her new kitchen. The room was previously a deck she and her husband enclosed and then decided to renovate into a kitchen.
Cook of the Week Kay Durant sits at the island in her new kitchen. The room was previously a deck she and her husband enclosed and then decided to renovate into a kitchen.
Some of Cook of the week Kay Durant’s favorite pastimes are outside, from hiking to bicycling, and her new kitchen gives her a great view of outdoors.

Durant’s home was built in 1926, and she and her husband, David, are remodeling the house. They kept with the same style of the period, using beaded boards for the ceiling and walls of the deck they enclosed and turned into a new kitchen. White subway tile lines the walls as a backdrop above the oven, cabinets frame the refrigerator, and a large island of dark wood allows plenty of room for preparing food.

Along the back wall sit large windows which overlook the backside of the Durants’ property, displaying a rolling field surrounded by old trees.

Durant grew up in Neshoba County. After marrying the love of her life, David Durant, she moved to Alabama and then Colorado before returning home to Neshoba County in 2002. Their eldest child, Katelyn, is a Junior at the University of Southern Mississippi, and their son, Sam, is a Sophomore at Neshoba Central High School.

Durant has worked as a physical therapist for 30 years, and said she enjoys working for Sta-Home, helping home health patients.

Durant said she doesn’t remember a time where she didn’t know how to cook – she had watched her mom and friends’ moms while growing up – but she gave all the credit to her routine and her style to two women; her mother, Edith Michalovic, and her mother-in-law, the late Barbara Durant.

Durant learned how to prepare the table from her mother, as well as create treats like her mother’s Kolocky Slovak Cookies, and her mother-in-law taught her things like how to streamline the cleaning process by cleaning some as she cooks. Durant said she didn’t begin cooking, herself, until college.

Durant enjoys cooking in the kitchen, as well as grilling. She said she cooks on the grill at least twice a week. One long-standing tradition in the Durant family is eating hamburgers and hotdogs together every Friday night.

“My husband and I started that a long time ago, even before we had kids,” Durant said. “When we have a more festive occasion or a holiday meal is when I pull out these recipes from my mother and mother-in-law. Most of them come from them.”

Some of her favorite recipes to bring out are Michalvic’s Kolocky Slovac Cookies, or Barbara Durant’s shrimp jambalaya. More of her classics include sweet potato casserole, banana bread, pecan pie, banana pudding, macaroni and cheese, and ground beef jambalaya.

“The Banana Pudding recipe is kind of interesting because I had to make that one up,” Durant said. “I wanted a real banana pudding where you cook the custard and everything, and I asked my mother-in-law how she does it and she said you just use a Coconut Pie recipe. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I figured it out.”

Gleaming insight from other recipes, Durant created her own recipe to make banana pudding from scratch.

Durant also makes pecan pies, even though she doesn’t eat it, herself.

Though her family enjoys her classic meals like jambalaya and macaroni and cheese enough to eat them often, Durant picks up a new recipe every so often to try out.

“When I want to try something new, I read several different recipes and then I combine them into one, and I really have a habit of not following a recipe exactly,” Durant said. “I add things to it or take things out depending on what we like to eat and how we like to eat. A lot of times I’ll make my own based on several recipes, kind of putting them together, and so I have little notes in the cookbooks and I mark them.”

Durant said when she wants to keep a recipe, she puts it in print. Durant has been published in two cookbooks, and her mother has been published in one, as well.

The “One Loaf” cookbooks, volumes One, Two, and Three, each feature a dish from either Durant or her mother. The cookbooks are sold by the Gulf States Mennonite Fellowship as a fundraiser.

“When I want to save a recipe, I submit it to one of those cookbooks because then it becomes in print, and if I lose it, someone else has it somewhere and I can get my hands on it again,” Durant said. “That’s how I kind of keep track of recipes.”

Durant grew up attending Pearl River Mennonite Church, but after years of bringing her children to the daycare at First Baptist, she said she and her husband felt drawn to try the church out. Now, the Durants are active members of First Baptist Church and Kay Durant loves working with the youth program.

Durant often prepares her sweet potato casserole to bring to dinners at church.

The Durants love to travel, and it has become tradition for Durant to bake some fresh banana bread before a trip. Durant said whether they’re in the camper or a hotel, they usually eat her banana bread for breakfast while getting ready in the mornings when out of town.

The Durants are enjoying their new kitchen and the space it has provided. Durant said her favorite part of the new kitchen is the island. The family eats breakfast and packs lunches in the morning, and the large island allows them all room to prepare for the day, providing them with plenty of room to work.

Edith Michalovic’s Kolacky Cookies (Slovak Cookies)

3 cups flour

2 sticks oleo

1/4 cup sugar

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup sour cream

Powdered sugar

Pie filling or thick preserves

Blend oleo with flour, sugar and salt using a pastry blender until mixture looks like fine meal. Mix in sour cream, egg, and yeast which has been dissolved in ¼ cup of warm water. If dough Is too sticky, add more flour. If too dry, add small amount of milk. Wrap in buttered or greased wax paper and refrigerate a few hours or over-night. Roll out onto floured board until thin. Fold in thirds and reroll two times. The last time, roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters into round shapes, or stars. Imprint with thumb and fill with teaspoon of preserves or pie filling. Allow to rise one hour. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

Banana Pudding

1 quart milk (scalded)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

3-4 sliced bananas

Vanilla wafers

Line a baking dishe with vanilla wafers and sliced bananas, set aside. Scald milk. Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt. Add to scalded milk. Beat egg yolks lightly and add to milk mixture gradually. Bring to boil over low heat and cook till thickened. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over bananas and vanilla wafers. Heat oven to 450 degrees while preparing the meringue


4 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Gradually add sugar and beat to stiff peaks on high speed. Spread mixture on top of pudding. Put pudding in oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees immediately. Bake 5-10 minutes or until meringue has browned.

Ground Beef Jambalaya

1 pound ground beef or chuck

1 tablespoon A1 steak sauce

1 egg

1/8 cup barbecue sauce

1 large can of tomato sauce

1 cup Minute rice

1 cup water

1 teaspoon garlic salt or powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

Dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Mix together ground beef, steak sauce and egg. Brown meat mixture in frying pan and as it is browning, add remaining ingredients except rice. Bring to a boil, add rice, and bring to a boil again. Simmer with lid on until rice is cooked, then uncover and simmer until water is gone. May be served with shredded cheese on top. Excellent with a slice of bread and butter.

Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 to 1 lb elbow macaroni or pasta shells

1 1/2 lb Velveeta cheese, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cup of milk

Dash of black pepper

3 eggs

Boil Macaroni as usual & drain. Beat eggs & mix with cooked macaroni; place in a casserole dish. Heat milk while stirring in cheese until melted over medium heat. Add pepper and pour cheese sauce over macaroni. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until brown on top.

Sweet Potato Casserole

5-6 skinned and boiled sweet potatoes

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (to taste)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Ingredients for Topping:

3tsp Flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter or margarine

1/4 cup pecans

Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl. Add salt, butter, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Mix with and mixer until well blended. Place in casserole dish. Mix topping ingredients and put on top of casserole. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Shrimp Jambalaya

1 tbsp to 1/4 cup bacon drippings

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 pound peeled shrimp

1 cup minute rice

1 cup water

1 large can tomato sauce

Salt to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

Put shrimp in skillet with bacon drippings. Stir until they turn pink. Put in onions and sauté until onions are transparent. Add water and minute rice and cook. When rice is about half done, add tomato sauce.

Add salt and cayenne. Let simmer 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. Serve hot.