When I first moved away from home, and the Army let me have my husband back I think I could cook 5 meals. We basically rotated those meals, and mixed up those meals in various combinations of things. I couldn't even boil rice, and I think we ate chicken parmesan so many times I don't think I could ever eat that again in my lifetime!! I was armed with one cookbook my Mom got me, and a handful of recipe cards that I had requested as gifts from my friends at my bridal shower. Armed with a general knowledge of cooking, some really weak kitchen skills and some comfort food recipes I was thrust to Southeast Georgia; home of Paula Deen (ya'll), collard greens, fried chicken, pralines, fried catfish and grits! This little old California girl was so out of her element. But I made it through and my husband did not go hungry. I now am armed with an arsenal of recipes and techniques I learned over time and with lots of practice and mistakes. And let me tell you, this Cali girl can now throw down some collard greens thanks to watching Ms. Deen!!
I say all of the above, as my next Deployment Dinner story takes me back to those memories so easily because I was in this Army wife's shoes once too. Meet the K family. John and Michelle. John is a Medic, Michelle is a student and server at a really tasty burger restaurant "Red Robin" Yyyyuuummm! It just so happens that Michelle is from Georgia!! Here they are at the unit ball before the guys left...so cute! This is their first deployment, by far the most difficult one to conquer.
Michelle is like that cool, younger sister, an "Aunt type" to my girls and the eight year age gap between us doesn't seem to matter much sense we seem to have been friends forever...those are really the nicest friends to meet because nothing is ever really forced or awkward. Jessica (another friend from the first Deployment Dinner post) introduced us. I have plans to take Michelle under my culinary wing and she is going to master some kitchen skills before John returns from deployment. I wish someone would have done that for me all those years ago in Georgia. It helps that my girls adore her, so we like having Michelle around.
*Do you have a recipe that you have wanted to make but are too afraid to tackle on your own?
M: "Girl, I have about a million recipes like this (lol) just flip open any cookbook!"
*Vegetable that frightens you? Why?
M: "Are artichokes vegetables? Just don’t know how to cook them I guess(Michelle, I think you are so cute! I have an amazing artichoke recipe...I will show you one day.)
|Michelle with my Cha Cha bug.|
*Your proudest kitchen moment:
M: "When I made the alfredo from scratch for the first time, I was like whoa! I can actually cook something!"
*Your worst kitchen moment:
M: "Frying chicken… smoke detectors were going off, doors had to be open to ventilate.. it was bad."
(LOL!! I have been in your shoes, and I still burn stuff every once in awhile...although I hate to admit that.)
*What are your proudest Army moments?
M: "Him (John) graduating basic, then AIT, then going thru Airborne school. I’m so proud of everything he does!"
(Michelle you have the true makings of an Army wife; strength, pride, and honor.)
Michelle is not a picky eater so I figured she wouldn't mind eating Sage Rubbed Pork Chops and my signature dish Wild Mushroom Orzo Pasta. Makes my mouth water thinking about it. The first time I made this Orzo my husband said, "Why have we waited so long to find Orzo?" I totally agree, it beats being in the rice rut, or potato dilemma...mashed, fried, or baked? The husband is very military in his meal requests; protein, starch, vegetable so Orzo makes for a nice "starch."
I ate at a restaurant called Rutherford Grill in the Napa Valley in California and I had the most amazing thick cut, sage rubbed pork chop so I was on a mission to find a recipe similar to duplicate it at home. It didn't take me long to find one on one of my favorite recipe sites, All Recipes. They also have a very cool smart phone app (check it out).
At Rutherford Grill they serve them with
For the Orzo (which can be found on the shelf with the other pastas) you will need to find dried fancy mushrooms. I find these in our commissary in the produce section but have seen them in specialty food stores or "fancy food aisles".
This is the brand and type I use. Melissa's Exotic Mushroom Medley.
Dried mushrooms do not look appetizing in their dried form (I will admit), but they are very rich, and add such a nice flavor dimension to this pasta. You will need to reconstitute them by putting some boiling water into a glass measuring cup or bowl and then steep the mushrooms in the hot water, and cover with a lid. About 7-10 minutes or until they are soft. Drain the mushrooms and then chop them and set them aside.