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Cooking With Myra: Giving back can be hard work

May 25, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.

Prosciutto Wrapped Rosemary Chicken with Roasted Vegetable Orza.

Editor's note: Hanna Starkey, Myra Starkey's daughter is giving Myra a break this week. Myra will return next week with "Skinny Friends and Summer Salads."

With my mom so busy trying to marry me off, I figured I could help her out by taking over her column this week. I suppose I am soon to be in the fortunate position of having a constant and willing dinner companion, so I may as well put some forethought into what that might look like (sadly, without Myra).

I will soon meet my groom, all decked out in his tux, ready to commit himself to my cookin' for the rest of his life. The last time I saw Ben in a tux, he was pretending to be a waiter to two couples we had over for a fundraiser-type dinner.

I should explain - our church in Waco did an experiment called the "$5 challenge" where they gave each of the members $5 with the hopes that we would use our specific talents to either grow the money in a creative way and experience the joy of giving it back to the church, or by meaningfully blessing someone outside the church with it.

One young man used the money to buy art supplies and sell his masterpiece to generate a larger offering; another man bought candy to sell at the school he worked at to multiply his $5. Ben and I decided to sell a dinner party that we would serve to the highest bidder on Valentine's Day. We combined our $5, then added a little of our own money to pay for the groceries we had to buy to prepare the dinner - we considered this our contribution since the $5 had just been handed to us anyway.

When Valentine's Day arrived, I made him help me prepare in the kitchen all afternoon, then we set the table, lighted the candles, and I hid in the kitchen in my apron, while Ben greeted our guests at the front door, fully suited in his blackwatch plaid tuxedo.

A garlic tomato bruschetta was waiting for the two couples as an appetizer when they first arrived to our makeshift restaurant. I could hear them laughing and chatting at the table from behind the curtain we had set up to section off the kitchen, so they would not see their busy chef and the giant mess I had made preparing their meal.

We eventually moved to the main course of roasted vegetable orzo and a prosciutto wrapped rosemary chicken. Like a good waiter, or at least one hoping for a healthy tip, Ben diligently refilled their wine glasses and used his best manners, yes ma'aming and no ma'aming them appropriately, like a good southern boy. I was able to hide for the majority of the party safely in my kitchen, which seemed appropriate considering my attire (sweatpants and an old Baylor T-shirt as a stark contrast to Ben's tuxedo) until the couples made us join them for a board game they had brought over to buy some time to make room for dessert.

At the end of the meal, the couples requested a pretend check from their waiter Ben. On top of their contribution to our "$5 challenge," they ended up tipping the waiter quite generously. We not only had an excellent Valentine's Day, but Ben and I were also able to experience the joy of working hard to give back to something we believe in. It is interesting to see how people charged with such a mission, silly as a "$5 challenge" may seem, can suddenly display a way to creatively contribute to something they already profess to be invested in anyway.

We all perhaps just needed a little reminder that we should be using the specific talents we were given to further the goals of the establishments we support. Whether it be church, family or our jobs, each of us has a unique way that we specifically can contribute to its betterment. This cooking challenge was certainly one that called me to participate. Now, I suppose marriage will do the same .

Roasted vegetable orzo is actually Ben's absolute favorite food. This recipe is supposed to serve eight, and he usually eats the whole thing in about three sittings. It is fabulous for dinner parties because the colors and mix of ingredients make it very impressive looking, but it is not very difficult to make. The prosciutto wrapped rosemary chicken is even easier and requires very few ingredients.

Hanna Starkey is the daughter of Myra Starkey.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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