Local woman’s recipe chosen for inclusion in cookbook
Volunteer work in the Deep South inspired Tonganoxie resident Shari Paynter's jambalaya recipe.
Paynter, formerly Shari Seely and a 1984 Tonganoxie High School graduate, works in the receiving department at the Shawnee Wal-Mart. Her husband, Ken, also works at the store.
Last January, Ken was asked to join a crew that would reopen Wal-Mart stores damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area.
Ken made a 16-hour bus journey to Louisiana to help reopen stores. While there, he had his share of a staple New Orleans cuisine -- jambalaya.
During phone calls, Ken told Shari how much he enjoyed the spicy dish. And she decided to try to re-create it once he returned to Kansas.
Shari submitted the jambalaya recipe, among others, to the 2007 Wal-Mart Associate Family Cookbook contest.
And last month, it was announced that her Cajun recipe was one of 100 selected for the regional cookbook.
Ken's trip to New Orleans inspired her recipe submission, as has her background. Growing
up on a sheep farm in rural Tonganoxie, Shari was very involved in 4-H. Although 4-H is geared toward livestock, it also focuses on other areas, particularly foods.
"In my house, in my family, I've always been known for cooking things," Shari said.
Last Christmas, Shari drew her brother-in-law's name for the family's gift exchange. Her brother-in-law is Jeff Theno of Basehor, who Shari was told was a tough person for whom to find a present.
Shari knew her brother-in-law liked fruit, and no one can resist dessert, so Shari incorporated both into a gift. She made a certificate for Theno that entitled him to a pie or cake every month for a year. Shari has made desserts such as key lime pie and a raisin spice cake for her brother-in-law. Sometimes, family or workers at his business also get to enjoy the monthly "gifts," but she said they seemed to be a hit.
Jeff's daughter, Brooke, who attends Hutchinson Community College, has been known to request soup from her aunt when she returns home on weekends.
"I thought she used to come visit me because she missed me," Paynter said with a laugh.
During the last few years, Wal-Mart has encouraged its employees to submit recipes for a chance to be selected for regional cookbooks each year. Associates whose recipes are selected receive a copy of the cookbook, which also is for sale at Wal-Mart stores.
Paynter said she has submitted roughly 20 recipes during the last three years. One was selected the last two years.
One year her peanut butter bon-bon recipe made the cookbook, while a Coca-Cola cake caught the eyes of recipe organizers the other year. Ken said he was a big fan of the Coca-Cola cake.
As for the jambalaya recipe, Paynter likes to prepare the dish because prep time is minimal, as is the cleanup.
"Put it in the slow cooker and it just cooks on its own," Paynter said.