Leah Tolbert
Leah Tolbert
Leah Tolbert is a woman on the right track. In the process of earning a master's in journalism at the University of Mississippi, she just landed a great new job on campus and is now a first time homeowner. She's a serious student with serious goals.

However, Leah always seems to manage fitting a little Fair time into her busy schedule, because after all, who would want to pass up spending a little down time floating in Dookie Creek with family and friends at "Helen's Place?"

"I've never missed a year so this year will be my 25th or 26th year," Leah said. "We have a cabin that was my grandmother's and its name is Helen's Place, after my grandmother but we called her Minnie."

Helen's Place is a prime piece of real estate. Located along the race track on Canal Street, the quaint cabin has a perfect view of Dookie Creek which holds many precious memories for Tolbert.

However, her favorite memory occurred in 2009 just after a heavy rainstorm hit the Fairgrounds. With 20 people huddled together in the tiny cabin, all waiting on the storm to pass while dining on Minnie's family favorite, crab crisps, "Helen's Place" suddenly lost power.

"There were nearly 20 people huddled together on the first floor of the cabin in complete darkness while rain poured outside," Leah said. "Several of those people were waiting on food so my grandmother left me in charge of the crab crisps while she tried to find other snacks to feed family and friends."

"By the time the crisps were ready, the rain had come to a slight drizzle, and the large ditch in front of my cabin was overflowing with rainwater."

"So, with little entertainment at anyone's disposal, someone staying at another cabin decided to take a blowup air mattress, place it in the overflowing ditch and ride on top of it all the way down the creek," Tolbert said.

It wasn't long before several other people joined in on the action, some even used real twin sized mattresses and suddenly a new tradition had been born. For those adventurers who just so happen to practice Extreme River floating on the side, Dookie Creek, is definitely the hottest place on the track to do just that. But don't just take our word for it, stop by "Helen's Place" and experience it for yourself.

Reese's Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Reese's peanut butter brand

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (or more) granulated sugar, for rolling dough

36 mini Reese's peanut butter cups, chilled and unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream peanut butter and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add brown sugar; beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture in two batches.

Scoop off dough by the tablespoon; roll into balls. Place granulated sugar on a plate; roll balls in sugar, coating completely. Place 2 inches apart on a nonstick insulated baking sheet.

Bake until cookies begin to puff up slightly, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven. Press one peanut butter cup in center of each cookie. Return to oven; continue baking until cookies are golden brown and chocolate has begun to melt, about 6 minutes more. Let cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring cookies to rack to cool completely.

Chicken in Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

12 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, cubed

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/3 cup of mayonnaise (Tabasco brand spicy mayonnaise for an extra kick)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 box of 16-ounce Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, thawed

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together chicken, cheese, bell pepper, green onions, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured work surface.  Place half of chicken mixture in the center of pastry.  Fold 2 sides of pastry over the chicken filling, overlapping the sides.  Moisten and seal seams.  With a sharp knife, score top of pastry.  Transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Brush with egg.  Repeat with remaining filling and pastry sheet.  Cook until golden brown, 20-30 minutes.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.


BBQ Meat Loaf

1 1/2 pounds lean (at least 80 percent) ground beef

3 medium slices white bread (torn into pieces)

1 cup milk

1 egg beaten

1/4 cup minced onion, fresh or frozen

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 18 ounce bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly, using 1/2 cup of barbeque sauce. Spread mixture in ungreased 8x4-inch or 9x5-inch loaf pan.  Prior to baking, empty the rest of the bottle of barbeque sauce over the meat loaf mixture.  Spread evenly across the top.  Place in oven.  Bake uncovered 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Ham & Dijon Pastry Cups

1 box of 16-ounce Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, thawed

8 ounces Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

1 cup Kraft 2 percent milk shredded Colby & Monterey jack cheeses

6 slices Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Smoked Ham, chopped

1/3 cup chopped red peppers

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoon Grey Poupon dijon mustard

1 muffin pan

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out each pastry sheet to 12x9-inch rectangles on lightly floured surface; cut each rectangle into 12 (3-inch) squares.

Line each pastry cup in the muffin pan with 1 pastry square.  Combine remaining ingredients; spoon into pastry cups, adding about 1 tablespoon to each.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until filling is heated through and pastry is golden brown.


Jalapeño and Cream Cheese Stuffed Burgers with Guacamole

For burgers:

1 pound ground beef or ground chuck

1 pound­ seasoned ground sausage

Chopped Jalapeños

8 ounce Philadelphia Cream Cheese


1 chopped red pepper

Cavender's All Purpose Greek Seasoning

Slap Ya Mama White Pepper Blend Cajun Seasoning, or black pepper

Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

A1 Steak Sauce

In a mixing bowl, combine beef, pork, garlic, red pepper, Cavender's, Slap Ya Mama, Worcestershire sauce, A.1. Steak Sauce.  

Use liquid seasonings sparingly.  In a separate bowl combine chopped jalapeños and cream cheese.  Meanwhile, preheat a grill to medium high.

 Form the beef and pork mixture into four patties.  Press the center of each patty with your thumb to make an indentation.  Set aside a small amount of the mixture.  Then, on each patty place a small amount of the cream cheese and jalapeño mixture in the center indentation. 

Combine the four patties to make 2 patties.  Seal the sides of the patties tightly with the meat set aside.  Grill until medium well. 

Note, the patties shrink once cooked, and may fall apart if not carefully watched. 

When cooked, remove from grill, place between two buns, and top with guacamole, cheese, lettuce, tomato and any other preferential condiments. 

Cheesy Cajun Sausage and Peppers Skillet

1 14-ounce package KRAFT Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese Dinner Four Cheese Sauce

1 pound Country Pleasin' Brand Cajun Andouille pork sausage

1 small onion, fresh or frozen

1 small red pepper

1 small green pepper

1 cup milk

2 cups water

1 16 ounce container Pancho's brand cheese dip

Cook sausage in a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat while simultaneously cooking vegetables in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat, stirring both occasionally. 

If one is done before the other, set the skillet aside until both are cooked.  Then, combine vegetables and sausage in a large nonstick pot. 

Add milk, water and macaroni; stir.  Bring to a boil; cover.  Simmer on medium-low heat 8 to 10 minutes or until macaroni is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cheese sauce and cheese dip; cook until heated through.

 Helen's Crab Crisps

1 package of 6 English Muffins

1 jar Kraft Old English Cheese Spread

8 ounce can crab meat [real or imitation] free of shells

1 stick salted or unsalted sweet butter, softened

Cut each muffin into quarters.  Spread melted butter and cheese on each.  Then top with crab meat.  Broil in the oven until golden brown. 


2 Hass avocados

1 tablespoon chopped green onions

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Split avocadoes, remove and discard pit, chop meat then scoop into a medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients.  Using a fork or a potato masher, mash until ingredients are well incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.