It’s Carnival, Y’all!!!

Let’s get shakin’!

January 5th was Twelfth night and the beginning of a magical time here in Louisiana.

Twelfth Night is a Christian festival on the last night of the Twelve Days of Christmas, marking the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Three Wise Men visited the Christ child. In Louisiana it also means the launch of Carnival season.

Mardi Gras Grand Bal’s (yes, it’s only got one L) as well as parades and street festivals will flow in towns and cities alike from now until midnight on Fat Tuesday which this year is February 21st. It will be followed by Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. 

Time to put away the Christmas decor, and time to start decorating for Mardi Gras. This is my most favorite time of year and brings back fond memories (and some blurred ones) of my years living and working in south Louisiana but also my years as a Mardi Gras Captain right here in north Louisiana, in fact right here in DeSoto Parish. If you celebrate Mardi Gras and are involved with a Krewe that’s awesome but if you aren’t let me tell you it’s ALOT of work but also rewarding, something you can do with the whole family. It’s a great way to make friends, spend time with friends and family and be involved and give back to your community. YES, they aren’t just fun, these krewe’s do a lot of different community projects as well as provide entertainment in the community. There’s quite a few different Krewes in north Louisiana, the one right here at home is the Krewe of Demeter. They are a great group and if you would like to get involved, I know they would love to have you. They are planning their annual Grand Bal on January 14th as well as a parade on the 28th. Check them out on Facebook if you are interested. Starting next week, I will be sharing weekly my favorite Mardi Gras recipes and will do so all the way up to Fat Tuesday. 

Until then I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing all of you a Happy Carnival Season, 

laissez le bon temps rouler!

Remember, “Treat your kitchen, treat yourself” 

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best!


Let’s get shakin’

Prosperity, luck, money!!!!

Ever since I was a child, I’ve never missed a New Year’s Day meal!

Here in the south most people make some version of this traditional meal. Growing up for me it was black eye peas, smothered cabbage, cornbread and ham. Now days I often replace the ham with fried pork chops and the black eye peas with purple hull. Some make greens, some hot water cornbread and some even do pork roast instead of ham or pork chops. The meaning is the same just depends on what you prefer. This meal is supposed to bring you good luck, money and prosperity for the new year.

When I was a kid mom would remove a few of the uncooked black eye peas and set them aside. They were to go in a coin purse or a man’s wallet. I always laughed but being from another generation she took that very seriously. I say if you are superstitious cook and eat the meal and if you aren’t it’s still a great southern comfort meal or Sunday dinner and this year New Year’s Day happens to fall on a Sunday. 

Until next week this is Chef Hunter Lee hoping your new year is full of luck, prosperity, and good health. 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!!

Rockwell or National Lampoons

In the south Christmas Eve comes in many forms. Some are as unique as the cultures and mixing pot of people themselves.

Some might be having Christmas Eve that looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and for others it might look something more like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation either way you can bet the sheer mix of families here in Louisiana keep it interesting.

Honestly my favorite is the one that is planned to be prim and proper and ends up more like the cult classic comedy. Just like in the kitchen things in life don’t always go exactly according to plan. People are late, packages don’t show up, something didn’t cook right, the one ingredient you thought you had YOU DON’T, and the store is closed, kids won’t go to bed, you receive the all too classic unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) guest, and yes you probably should have bought ice, ‘cause the ice maker didn’t have time to prepare like you did. To ease those burdens and smooth those mishaps one thing we can do here in the south is consume!!!!! 

This recipe is probably as old as the stories still told to kids on the bayou about Papa Noel, but it sure can come in handy for those Christmas Eve gatherings, the planned and the unplanned ones as well. 

Southern Christmas Eve Punch

1 fifth of Southern Comfort (I know I don’t like it either but bear with me) 
3 quarts of cold 7up (not sprite)
6 oz of fresh lemon juice (not the squeeze kind, come on it’s Christmas) 
6oz can frozen orange juice 
6oz can frozen lemonade 
7-8 drops red food coloring (This is important, even if you don’t like the guest don’t serve them punch that looks like the Sabine River) 

Mix in a large punch bowl and add the 7up last. Once combined add the food coloring and give it a gentle stir. 

Serve over ice or put a block of ice in punch. 

Remember to keep the kids out of it and the neighbor’s glasses topped off. 

Until next week this is Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a very Merry Christmas 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!!

National Ugly Sweater Day

Let’s Get Shakin!

First let me start with Happy Holidays! We are getting close to most people’s favorite day of the year, Christmas!

Today, happens to be National Ugly Sweater Day. Over the years I have been to my fair share of ugly sweater parties. Some people go to the store and buy Christmas sweaters and others go all out with arts and crafts and make something truly horrendous.

Truth be told “ugly Christmas sweaters” weren’t meant to be ugly! Now, I don’t know how true this really is…but the tradition was said to begin a long time ago when Grandma’s everywhere were knitting or buying their grandchildren sweaters for Christmas. Kids being kids and not wanting to wear Grandma’s sweater gift and parents forcing them to…began the Ugly Sweater party tradition. Every kid on the block meeting up after the holidays to show off their new “ugly” sweaters.

This story may not have one ounce of truth in it, but it brings me back to the Christmas’ I’ve shared with my Grandparents and the thoughtful gifts they would give, even if as a child you didn’t appreciate them.

Hug your grandparents. Hug your parents. Hug your loved ones. They go out of their way to make sure you have traditions and Christmas spirit.

Until next week this is Chef Hunter Lee wishing you a happy holiday season.

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!!

Livin’ Large in Louisiana

Let’s get shakin!!

I’m sure many of you who read these Tips & Tales have seen my second cookbook has been released, ‘Livin’ Large in Louisiana.’ My first cookbook will always be my baby, a tale of my life through recipes. But my second cookbook is more about my personality through recipes!

Livin’ Large in Louisiana is a party down every main street in Louisiana. Recipes for every party and occasion with a few stories that inspired these recipes and helped make them special.

Hospitality plays a big role in the South and with entertaining, which happens to be one of my favorite pass times. I am over-joyed with how the second cookbook turned out and I hope all of you will consider buying a copy for yourself and loved ones. It is the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for anyone who loves to cook or entertain family or guests.

I truly hope you love this cookbook and have as much fun making the recipes as I have through-out my career.

Every copy of Livin’ Large in Louisiana that is bought on in the month of December will be autographed.

As 2022 is wrapping up, I want to be sure to thank every person who has supported me in my journey. A journey that has brought me to having five seasoning, eight sauces and now two cookbooks. If you’ve ever met me, I don’t like to do anything small. I ventured out to share my daddy’s seasoning with the world and all of you have helped me make that dream a reality.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza.

Whatever it is you celebrate, I hope it is filled with joy and loved ones and especially GOOD FOOD.

Until next time, I’m Chef Hunter Lee.

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!!

Traditions…Are They Dying?

Let’s get shakin!!!

This week I’ve seen a meme (little Facebook quote) going around and saw so many people sharing it, about how so many holiday traditions have slowly faded out and died as we have slowly buried the older family members that kept them alive. 

I love the holidays (or used to) I still enjoy the lights, the winter nights by a fire, friends, and all the things I used to, the season of love, reflection, family, and the spirit of the season. But for me, like so many of you it’s just not the same, it’s often a reminder of those that are no longer here, and the traditions and meaning they took with them. All of us have different traditions and things we do during the holidays but if you are above and beyond your 20’s one thing we all have in common is things are probably different.

This is something that’s been hard for me at times. At the end of the day, you must remember what you long for, what you feel is missing from the holidays, be it a grandparent, a parent, a sibling, even a child, they are with you in spirit. Those traditions, family and friends on Christmas Eve, midnight mass, mawmaw’s dressing, or grandmothers frozen cranberry desserts. You can do this!!!! Make those family recipes, invite everyone over for Christmas Eve, let the kids open one present on Christmas Eve.

Whatever you feel like you are missing you can keep it alive just like they did, you know they probably got that tradition from the generation before them just like you. You got this!!!! For some that maybe didn’t care for the traditions now’s your chance to start your own with your family. Reflect on days past but live for now and be it traditions of the past or new traditions you create for your family, do it your way, and enjoy your holiday. 

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee and from my home to yours I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself” 

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!

Cheese Straws Y’all

Let’s get shakin’

This must be one of my favorite snacks and when it starts getting cold you know it’s time to make a batch! 

No one (not even me) makes these little twigs of delight like my friend Stacy but unless you buy hers or are lucky enough to share with someone who has we just have to wing it. These are great to make in big batches and store. They are great for snacks, to set out at holiday parties, or to add to edible holiday gifts or baskets. This is one of my go-to recipes for holiday entertaining. Good rule of thumb with this one, always double the recipe and you can thank me after. 

Southern Cheese Straws  

12 oz of sharp cheddar graded and room temperature. 
1/2 cup of butter room temperature 
1 dash of ground cayenne pepper 
1 pinch of salt 
8 drops of Tabasco sauce (yes Tabasco, other hot sauces just don’t work in this recipe not even Benwood’s)

Preheat oven to 350°, mix all ingredients together using your hands or a mixer until well blended. When mixed place in cookie a press with the star pattern end. Make long strips on lightly sprayed cookie sheets. Bake at 350° 12-15 min then cook on wire racks. Once cool break into desired lengths 

Until next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!

The Southern Conundrum

Let’s get shakin!!!!

So, is it dressing or stuffing? The argument I’ve had (and seen others have) for most of my years in the kitchen. I might ruffle some feathers in this one but I’m going to give you the rundown. If you don’t agree that’s okay, you call what you make whatever you want. I’m here to teach and entertain, but mostly entertain not to change ya way of thinking. 

In my family we made dressing, it was my mawmaw’s recipe and though she’s gone on I still make it the same way other than a little added seasoning. She made a huge pan and in the pan was a homemade tinfoil divider. Why? Well mom like giblets, literally no one else did. So mawmaw always made sure to do about 1/4 of the pan with and the rest without.

She never put chicken or Turkey in the dressing. In her words, “that’s for when you make dressing as a meal and that’s for other times of the year NOT Thanksgiving. So back to the difference in stuffing and dressing. For starters just as it’s called, stuffing is something stuffed on the inside of something or cooked under or around something, i.e., turkey, duck, foul. Dressing is something made in a pan all to itself or outside the main dish. 

Some people in the south think that it’s stuffing if it’s made with crackers or bread and dressing if it’s made with cornbread. This is false both can be made with either or a mixture of the two. In the Deep South you even get into rice dressing, oyster dressing, seafood dressing. Are those dressings? Well yes and no. Back to the beginning, the dressing, no matter if it’s cornbread, crackers, bread, oysters, seafood, rice, it’s not dressing if it’s cooked inside or under the meat. Then it would be stuffing. Similarly, if it’s cooked in a pan of its own its dressing not stuffing. It’s simple, what complicates it is tradition and what one family has always called it compared to another. You call it what you always have if it’s good no one’s going to care. 

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!

Building a Better Bird

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but don’t worry you will wow your family this year with the juicy and crispy skin of your turkey. In the south most families deep-fry their thanksgiving bird, but if you are one of the few that don’t here are some tips to get the skin crispy!

It might seem strange, but if you leave your turkey uncovered in the fridge overnight the cold air will absorb the moisture and help the skin dry out to make a crispy outer layer.


You can also lather it in mayo! I know, I know, you’re all thinking, uh no Hunter, you rub it with butter and seasoning! I am here to tell you in the south your bird is either deep fried or covered in mayonnaise. You can spice up your mayo and mix in all your favorite seasonings and herbs too!

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee.

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best!!!

Tupperware of the South

Let’s get shakin!!!

If you are from the south, you already know, if not, I’m ‘bout to tell you all about it.

Growing up you could open the fridge and there would be 4-5 plastic butter tubs. Did we like butter? Well yeah, who doesn’t BUT, you better open them all ‘cause you never know what you might find inside. That’s right with no shame at all, they were washed and repurposed.

It’s free Tupperware y’all. Now as a spoiled rotten kid this embarrassed me to no end. I thought it meant we were poor. Well, we weren’t but we were hardly affluent. Mom always say red (or tomato based) sauce like spaghetti, chili, sauce picante, etc. would stain her good Tupperware so leftovers went in the “southern” Tupperware. As an adult I’ve realized…she was right and NO she wasn’t just trying to embarrass me.

Those empty butter containers make perfect storage for leftovers and they are basically free! Most of them even hold up in the microwave to reheat whatever great leftover you put in them, and they come with their own lid.

As an adult, and retired chef I finally get it. I honestly own very few “store bought” storage containers. I love reusing the butter containers and even sometimes use the ones that pre chopped veggies come in, although they don’t hold up as well. Oh, and turns out red sauce does stain!

So how long are the prized leftovers good for? There is no exact science but here’s a few pointers. 

First off never put anything in the fridge still hot to the touch especially not anything that contains milk, cream, or seafood.

Rule of thumb for me is: 

3 days – chili, soups, gumbo (no seafood), stew, spaghetti, beans, peas, potato salad, chicken salad, and the like
2 days – beef, chicken, BBQ, pork, and the like
1 day – seafood, seafood gumbo, anything with cream or milk, 

You should also never reheat more than once. One and done!!!

Again, the above is what I do, is it safe to stretch it longer? On some things I’m sure it is, personally I wouldn’t eat it but that’s up to you, be the king (or queen) of your own kitchen. 

Till next week I’m Chef Hunter Lee 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself” 

Benwood’s, uniquely Southern, surely the Best”

Who is  Benwoods?

Benwood’s spice was the original creation of Hunter Lee’s father Benny during the oil and gas boom in the 1980’s. Inspired by his love for cooking, catering and the unique flavors of Louisiana, the spice was a big hit with chefs and home cooks alike.

Meet  Chef Hunter Lee

For over 15 years, Chef Hunter Lee has sought to bring Louisiana cookin’ to the world as a chef/kitchen personality, food expert, restaurant consultant, and private chef!

Our  Locations

Find Benwood’s line of products at a retailer near you. We’re constantly adding additional stores to our local retailers list.