Time to Get a Sous Vide

If you have given even the slightest thought to getting a Sous Vide now is the time. Amazon is running a killer deal for the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator (2nd Gen) WIFI, 900 Watts here. They normally run $199.99 but are $119.00 right now. Pronounced “sue-veed and French for “under seal” it is a cooking technique used by many chefs that is has recently taken hold with home cooks. A Sous Vide is especially useful in taking less expensive cuts of meat and turning them into mouth-watering delights. Wikipedia has an in-depth explanation of Sous Vide if you are new to it. The YouTube channel Sous Vide Everything is an excellent resource.

The Warrior Retreat at Bull Run’s Visiting Chef Program

Warrior Retreat at Bull Run
16013 Waterfall Rd.
Haymarket, VA 20169
866-227-5853
www.willingwarriors.org

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The stress of endless medical appointments, medications, and therapy wears on our Wounded Warriors draining almost every ounce of energy from them. Many plan and wait a month or more to come to the retreat for its promise of rest and relaxation. The drive from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the retreat seems to take forever. In the final miles and as they turn into the driveway and see the retreat for the first-time thoughts of hospitals and therapy fade away.

They have seen the web page, read the brochure, and heard great things about the retreat from their Guest Stay Coordinator, but the best is yet to come. Most do not understand how hard retreat staff and volunteers work to give them the gift of memories of good times and normalcy. Memories of their first massage, their first helicopter ride, their first symphony concert, a professional photo shoot to capture the joy of a stress-free stay at the retreat as a family. One of the most memorable events of their stay is Visiting Chef Night on Sunday. Diner is prepared by world class chefs from around the region who volunteer to come to the retreat and prepare extraordinary meals for the families. Most families describe it as the best food they have eaten.

DSC_0010(L to R) PO2 Sierra Tyler, USN and FS1 Jason T. Rohrs, Coast Guard – Enlisted Aides/Chefs to General Joseph Dunford, the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with retreat Executive Event Chef Ken Gardner, Sous Chef Jim Cole, and a Warrior’s son.

In our mission to make the family’s stay special we created the Visiting Chef Program to introduce families to the restorative properties of fine food. We also believe it offers chefs a way to give back doing the thing they love and that they will quickly learn what many SOWW volunteers know, working with Wounded Warriors and their families is an extraordinarily rewarding experience.

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Today we have 49 volunteer chefs from some of the finest restaurants. Besides restaurant and catering chefs, top military chefs have joined the program. They include FS1 Jason T. Rohrs, USCG Chef to General Joseph Dunford, the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CS1 Patrick Parigi, USN Chef to the Commander, Naval Reactors/Propulsion, CSC (SW) Matthew P. Susienka, USN Executive Chef to the Commander Naval Service Training Command, MSgt. Jennifer L Medeiros, USAF Chef to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and MSgt. Sarah L Morgan, USAF Chef to the Air Force Chief of Staff.

The success of the Visiting Chef Program is due to three chefs who contribute selflessly. Volunteer Staff Sous Chef Jim Cole is there assisting the visiting chef almost every Sunday. Volunteer Executive Event Chef Ken Gardner is the Lead Chef on every SOWW event and serves as a back-up Sous Chef. And Chef Benedict Zappone who has prepared meals for Warriors ten times. He comes out on dates where no other chef is available, like Mother’s Day and Christmas Day.

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The Visiting Chef Program is much more than exceptional food. For countless families, it is an introduction to farm-to-table cuisine they are not likely to experience on their own. Many cannot afford dining at the chefs’ restaurants. Most of our Warrior guests suffer from PTS and have not been to a restaurant in years. The noise and commotion of a busy restaurant can overwhelm them. The Visiting Chef Program brings that personalized 5-star dining experience to them at the retreat.

My Daddy My Hero Dessert Plate

Many Warriors and family members of all ages don an apron and love the opportunity to help and learn from the chef. The Visiting Chef Program strives to create fond memories that last a lifetime for the families. One of my favorite dinners was for the late Sergeant Scott Adkins who lost his battle with cancer not long after his family stayed at the retreat. The chef taught his daughters how to write with raspberry dessert sauce. I’ll never forget the smile that came to Sergeant Adkins face when his daughter put down his dessert and the plate read “My Daddy My Hero.” It’s not only the families receiving warm memories.

Birthdays at the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run

I have the distinct honor and privilege of volunteering at the Warrior Retreat at Bull Run. The retreat is a 2.5 million dollar 11,000 sq. ft. home on 37 acres in Haymarket, Virginia. We invite wounded Warriors and their families out from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital to spend 5 days out of the hospital and rehab environment.

I am the lead on the Visiting Chef Program. On Sunday night during each guest stay we invite chefs from the area to come out and prepare extraordinary meals for the wounded warrior and their family. Last night was the Warrior’s birthday dinner with 10 friends and family and I thought I would invite some special chefs.

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Our Chefs from left to right:

Sierra Tyler, USN Assistant Chef to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Warrior’s son, who learned how to be a Sous Chef
Jason Rohrs, USGC Chef to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Ken Gardner, Executive Event Chef Warrior Retreat at Bull Run
Jim Cole, Resident Sous Chef Warrior Retreat at Bull Run

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Each warrior completes an application to come to the retreat that includes about 20 food questions. Gluten free, allergies, spice tolerance, favorite dishes etc. The answers to the questions go to the Visiting Chef to help them design a 4 course meal.

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The Warrior’s son learned what it was like to be a Sous Chef.

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Filet Mignon is ready for searing and the oven.

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Just about done searing and then into the oven.

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There is always prep work.

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Chicken Posole cooking.

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Tortilla sliced up and crisped in vegetable oil.

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Preparing the first course of Chicken Posole Cilantro, Lime, Crema, and Tortilla Crisps

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Plating the salad course.

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Apple and Brussel Salad Pecans, Shallots, Gorgonzola, and a Champagne Vinaigrette

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Here comes the main course.

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Filet Mignon Mushroom Lasagna, Parsnip, Green Beans, and Demi-Glace

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The birthday cake was created by Brenda Wilks with our amazing Bakers on Call Team. Bakers on Call are more than 30 volunteer home bakers who make sure the Warrior’s favorite fresh baked goods are waiting for them when they arrive for their stay. The Bakers on Call have just started supporting the Visiting Chef Program. Most of our chefs are savory with just basic pastry skills. We looked at increasing the involvement of our Baker’s on Call Team and they are now doing much of the custom dessert work for Visiting Chef Night. The Chef is welcome to make dessert if they like, but most of relieved not doing it.

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Everyone had a great time and loved the food.

If you would like to see more pictures from this dinner and other Visiting Chef Night dinners visit our Flickr.com page. If you are a chef and would like to learn more about how you can volunteer and give back please see the Visiting Chef Program web page.

Dizzy Pig Moving Sale

Dizzy Pig BBQ Store
8763 Virginia Meadows Dr.
Manassas, Virginia 20109
703-273-3580
http://dizzypigbbq.com

As Chris and the crew at Dizzy Pig get ready to move to their new headquarters they are having a big sale. On Saturday January 21st, there’s a storewide 10% off sale. Everything except Thermapens and Smoke Thermometers. It’s a great time to stock up on your favorite seasonings, BBQ accessories, and that new Big Green Egg you didn’t get for Christmas. Chris will be cooking from 11am to 2pm so you can eat while you shop. It doesn’t get much better than that. Wait, Dizzy Pig is a Yeti dealer.

GIVE Food

Hunger is Just Around the Corner

Everyone loves the gift of food. Your favorite tea, spice, or jam is always a welcome surprise. This time of year more than any think about giving food to your local food pantry. The problem of food insecurity is nationwide and found in every community. One in seven Americans struggle with hunger affecting children and the elderly the most.

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I live in Northern Virginia, a great place that can be described as an affluent community. Prince William County was ranked as the 20th wealthiest county in the county recently. The average median household income was listed as $92,104 in 2014. Yet within 20 miles of me are 2 food banks and 4 food pantries feeding thousands of clients a month. House of Mercy in Gainesville estimates there are nearly 15,000 food insecure children at risk in our county. Elderly notoriously skimp on food because of high living and medication costs.

This time of the year, far removed from the giving season of Christmas, food banks and pantries really need help. Summer is when donations drop to the lowest point. This is truly an out-of-sight out-of-mind problem. Sadly, in this raucous election year we have heard nothing about the 48 million Americans living below the poverty line or the millions of children who go to bed or school each morning hungry. The small faith based food pantry House of Mercy near me provided food assistance to 7,704 people in 2014. Just over half their clients are Hispanic and 86% were women.

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It’s easy to get involved. The first step is to call your local food pantry and find out what they need and don’t need. Learn their hours and when you can donate. Many parties are only open a few days a week for distribution to their clients. See if they have drop off points with other area organizations like churches or fire stations. Consider volunteering even if it’s just an hour or two a week. Food banks and pantries are non-profits and operated with mostly volunteers. Contemplate putting together a food drive at your church, school, or work. Ask the manager at your local grocery store if they donate excess food to the local food bank.

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Here are tips on donating food.

  • I’m sure you make wonderful cakes, pies, and cookies but food banks can’t take home-baked goods
  • Items past their expiration date you drag out from the back of your pantry will be discarded by the food bank
  • Most food banks will take donations of frozen meats
  • Try to donate low-sodium and low-sugar healthy foods
  • Items with a long shelf life like canned vegetables, rice, and pasta
  • Donate seasonal foods like pumpkin pie ingredients, turkeys, or hams around the holidays
  • Your plastic grocery bags
  • Toilet paper and personal hygiene products
  • Baby food
  • Milk
  • Condiments and cooking spices

What food banks and pantries need most is money. Besides paying staff, rent, and utilities, food pantries often buy items in bulk when they run low. Donating $10 in food may provide enough for 4 meals but  that same $10 pooled with other donations to purchase wholesale can turn into 15 meals.

The best part of donating to a local food bank or pantry is knowing your donation will help someone in your community. Maybe even your neighbor.

Chefs Begin Visiting the Bull Run Warrior Retreat

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A special thanks to Chefs Elena M. Clement, CEPC®, AAC®, owner of The Guiding Knife, CW4 (Ret.) Michael L. Wisler also of The Guiding Knife, and military chefs CSC(SW) Matthew P. Susienka, CEC®, Chef to the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations, and CS1 Ian Brown, Chef to the Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy for being the first chefs to visit the Bull Run Warrior Retreat as part of the Visiting Chef Program.

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The chefs not only created a great menu they also offered instruction to 3 of the wounded warrior’s family members who asked to help make dinner. The chefs prepared an awesome meal from scratch in our new kitchen with the help of the family honorary sous chefs.

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Chef Elena had everything running smoothly.

Chef Matt is being transferred to Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago in December. We are so happy he could come to the retreat and prepare a special meal for a wounded warrior and her family before he left. Matt will always be a member of the Serve Our Willing Warriors family and a visiting chef. We can’t wait to have him back some day soon.