Jayni Carey's place is in the kitchen.
No, that is not an anti-feminist rant. Carey is every bit the modern woman and manages to balance being a wife with running her own business and creating and publishing her own flavorful cookbooks. It's just that she likes to relax by cooking and experimenting with recipes. Lots and lots of recipes.
She has published three cookbooks and appeared on local and national cooking programs not bad for someone who has never taken a culinary class. Her latest book, "Kitchen Magic: The Secrets of Elevating Ordinary Foods to Extraordinary Heights," is in Lawrence bookstores.
"I've just always had a strong interest in cooking," Carey says. "I like to think in terms of what I'm hungry for, and what interests me," she says.
It's a good thing she and her husband, Frank, like to eat and entertain, because they end up doing both as Carey works her way through various concoctions. Carey got her start by competing and winning national cooking competitions. She used the competitions to springboard into publishing her own cookbooks, each of which follows its own flavorful theme.
Her first book, "The Kansas Cookbook: Recipes from the Heartland," features Midwest dishes made from recipes Carey cooked up, and from some that were sent in from cooking fans around the state.
The book turned into a tome that also brought out the history and ethnic diversity of Kansas, as Carey delved into the family stories behind the recipes.
"We got family histories from all over the state, family stories on how the recipes were passed down. It's really interesting," she says.
That cookbook features everything from "Lou Bell's Best Ever Meatloaf" to "Pepper Nuts," which are a traditional Mennonite holiday cookie.
Carey and her husband treat their cookbooks as a professional endeavor. Her Kansas cookbook was published through the University Press of Kansas. It's been successfully marketed through 30,000 copies and three printings, and is available at many tourist attractions in the state.
"The book has become a Kansas souvenir," Carey says.
The Careys have a New York City publishing agent who hooked up the culinary entrepreneurs with a media giant for their next project, "The Easier You Make It, The Better It Tastes." That cookbook was published as a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it focuses on more contemporary dishes that can be prepared quickly by using quality ingredients.
Her latest book, "Kitchen Magic," finds Carey again taking her dishes in a different direction. The guiding theme behind such dishes as "Fettuccine with Scallops in Creamy Tomato Sauce" or "Saut New Potatoes with Gremolata" is the practical usage of embellishments to jazz up ordinary dishes. Different zesty, spicy and creamy extras can be used to recreate a dish several times.
"It's focus is on the use of embellishments, condiments and sweet mixes to transform simple dishes," she says. "It gets chefs thinking in terms of flavor, and it adds textural changes. It's also a time saver."
Carey and her husband also take advantage of opportunities to appear on camera. Both have appeared on Kansas City and Topeka programs, and Jayni appears several times a year for holiday episodes of "River City Weekly."
The savvy writer and publisher says it usually takes a year and a half to two years for her to finish a cookbook, although the Kansas cookbook was written in only nine months. To save some time of her own, she and her husband bypassed the traditional publishers and put out "Kitchen Magic" themselves.
"Technically, self-publishing has come a long way. Computers and quick print services make a professional-looking book possible," Carey says.
On her latest project she did the writing and editing. The cover art was designed by local artist Cathy Ledeker, and Frank Carey concentrated on the book's interior layout. He also had a side job that would have most husbands salivating.
"He did a lot of tasting," Carey says.
The chef also has her own business, The Blue Parrot Salon, 107 W. Seventh St., which she co-owns with Deanna Lovejoy. Carey is working that business part-time, so she can have time to create new culinary tastes.
"I hope there will be more books," she says. "I'm always looking for recipes."