I’m thrilled to introduce you to one firecracker of a mom, Helen Burns. Honestly, Helen is probably one of the most animated women I know. If you’ve ever talked to her, you’ll agree and you love her for it. Helen is smart, funny, sincere, kind, and a lot of fun. I had the pleasure of meeting Helen six years ago in a baby playgroup. Since then a lot has changed, and I’ve been lucky enough to see Helen often and watch her children and business grow.
Helen is a “Mompreneur,” owner of Helen’s Kitchen, and known for her delectable cookies. They are too good to ever turn down, so if you see them, do taste. In addition, Helen is a devoted wife & mother of two fabulous kids, an active church officer, and a regular school volunteer. Helen seems to do it all, and she shares her tips, tricks, and some amazing recipes with CSP today. Have fun getting to know Helen Burns!
Smarty Mom Helen Burns
Smarty Mom Stats
Married to: Chris Burns (almost 13 years)
Children: Livi (8) & Christopher (6)
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Alma Mater: Vanderbilt University
Years lived in Charlotte: 9
Neighborhood: Myers Park
Favorite things about Charlotte: Melting pot of people from all over the country and world; close to the beach and the mountains; budding food scene; feel like Charlotte as a city is focused on sustainable growth, the environment, the arts and family life.
We love hearing about our local entrepreneurs. Tells us about you your business.
Helen’s Kitchen is a food company that focuses on using simple, high quality ingredients to create complex, delicious foods. Although cookies are what have made Helen’s Kitchen a household name, I am always in the process of creating new and delicious foods.
I also recently started another company called Carolina Box Company. We source only the highest quality goods to provide our customers with gorgeous packages for corporate, friends, holidays, housewarming, new parents, and much more. From our freshly baked goods to our artisanal Italian edibles, every product is created in small batch to ensure the most delicious and superior product. Wrapped up in a beautiful white box with red ribbon, our boxes make fabulous gifts.
How did you start Helen’s Kitchen? Tell us about the progression.
I started Helen’s Kitchen almost 7 years ago. At first I was just testing a chocolate chip cookie recipe for a friend’s business out of my galley kitchen. After baking and eating many cookies, I finally honed in on the perfect chocolate chip cookies. As time went by I started selling my cookies, donating then to charity auctions and giving them as gifts. As word around Charlotte spread, it became apparent that the demand for cookies was more than my little kitchen could handle. Helen’s Kitchen is now a professional culinary business that maintains the small kitchen quality with the capacity to provide large numbers of cookies for retailers, events and individuals.
Have you always had a love for baking?
I absolutely love food. Cooking and baking has been a way for me to enjoy my passion. Trying new recipes my mother always allowed me to piddle in the kitchen and experiment. I think that is a very important way for children to gain a healthy knowledge of food.
I have also had the good fortune to travel and taste many types of food and they have given me the inspiration to try new recipes and experiment on my own. Preparing a nice dinner for my family and friends to enjoy is about all I need in life.
Tell is about all the products you sell and how we can get them. (Your cookies are ridiculously good!)
Chocolate Chip: A sprinkling of sea salt on every cookie enhances the generous amount of rich chocolate chips delicately blended throughout. Every bite is an explosion of flavors that will awaken your senses.
Chocolate Chip & Peanut Butter: The traditional pairing of dark chocolate and peanut butter is heightened by a sprinkling of sea salt in this Helen’s Kitchen creation. Perfect for a salty sweet craving.
Chocolate Chip & Toffee: Bursting with dark chocolate chips and buttery toffee, this cookie is a delicious alternative to our original chocolate chip cookie. A bit of sea salt on top serves to tickle the taste buds.
All of the cookies come individually wrapped either individually, in two sizes of beautiful gourmet gift boxes or in convenient six packs.
I heard Helen’s Kitchen cookies were featured on the Today Show? Wow! Tell us about that!!
Yes! Willie Geist was in town for the DNC a few years ago and tried them. He has been a fan ever since. It has been great for my business!
How do you balance your busy business with your family life?
Both of my children are in elementary school now, so it is a lot easier than when they were little. Owning your own business is very demanding and balance is difficult. I try to do what I can when they are in school and focus my time on them when they are out of school. I will say that I have learned over the years that when pulled in different directions, I feel as though I don’t do either obligation justice. I try and focus on what I am doing at the moment and not multi-task too much.
I also know you are very involved in your church, your children’s school, and several charities. What drives you to jump in to all these activities?
That is correct. One of the main ways that I market Helen’s Kitchen is through charitable donations. It is such a win win. I get to be a part of amazing organizations such as Pat’s Place, Art with Heart and The Autism Foundation of the Carolinas, and as an added bonus, introduce Helen’s Kitchen to people who may have never heard of it.
Any tips for us on staying organized and stress free while trying to juggle it all?
Frankly, I am still working on this. I am not the best multi-tasker, so I really try and separate work from my family life. Otherwise I am only half involved in either. That being said, my children have definitely spent more time at the bakery and FedEx than they would like!
What is your go to family meal you like to cook since we know you love to cook? Maybe you could share a recipe with us?
My children have a pretty diverse palate. For the most part they will eat whatever Chris and I eat – Italian, Mexican, chicken, steak, salads. Livi doesn’t like spicy, so I do have to turn down the heat when I am cooking for her. Christopher’s favorite is my Chicken Noodle Soup, and Livi loves my Tomato Caprese Salad and Spaghetti with Pesto. Another dish that my family loves is Sausage with Beans.
Italian Sausage and Beans Recipe:
I discovered this dish when I went on a food and wine adventure to Tuscany. The food in the Tuscan area of Italy is very rustic and hearty. I fell in love with this dish and so have my family. Perfect for a cold winter evening.
2 pkgs sweet or hot Italian sausages (if I use both, I cut the sweet ones in half before cooking so I know which one is which)
2 medium onions roughly chopped or julienned
2 bell peppers (red or green) roughly chopped or julienned
3 whole cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
2 cans of cannellini beans
Salt and Pepper to taste
Saute sausages, onions, pepper,rosemary and garlic in olive oil until vegetables are soft and sausage is cooked through. Add crushed tomatoes and whole tomatoes (crush with hands). Cook at least 30 minutes – the longer you cook the better. Crush softened garlic with a garlic press. Add beans and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove rosemary sprigs. Serve with crusty bread, green salad and a big glass of Chianti Classico.
Favorite recipe to take to a friend’s?
I love Ina Garten’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables Salad. I am not a huge fan of eggplant, so I just use zucchini instead. Pack this up with a grilled pork tenderloin, a bottle of wine and a 6-pack of my Chocolate Chip Cookies and you have a great meal to take to a friend.
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta
For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis ( pine nuts), toasted
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.
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What is your favorite activity to do with your kids? at home and out & about?
We love going on bike rides as a family. We live very close to the greenway and it is such a fun family outing with very few technological distractions.
One of our favorite games at home is Chess. We discovered this game called No Stress Chess at the toy store and it taught us how to play chess. Now we have a major competition in our house and, honestly, it is not so friendly!
What about favorite date night activity?
Chris and I rarely go out on dates. Sad huh? But, I do love to fix a nice dinner for the two of us that pairs with a yummy bottle of wine. I would like to say that we have a romantic dinner outside under the stars, but, sadly, we usually order a movie on Netflix.
What’s your favorite family friendly restaurant in Charlotte?
We love Reid’s Find Foods. We can walk up with the children, buy a bottle of good wine off the shelf, and everyone can find something they love. Their burger is the best in town. It is casual and TCBY is right next door!
Top 3 favorite hobbies?
Favorite TV Show?
House of Cards
GoodReads – I can keep track of the books I have read or want to read see what my friends are reading. It has all the benefits of book club except the wine.
Best Book you’ve read lately & why?
Currently reading I am Pilgrim. It is a thriller and so interesting about bioterrorism. I can’t put it down. I also just finished All the Light We Cannot See. It was a beautiful story that takes place in Europe during WWII.
Best Advice another mom ever gave you?
If a baby is hungry enough, they will eat. That is kind of my motto. I make sure my children are nice and hungry before I introduce them to a new food and usually they will at least try it.