WHO: Jessica Blydenburgh, 25, of Seminole, a kindergarten teacher at Starkey Elementary
WHAT: Parmesan Orzo With Asparagus
ABOUT THE RECIPE: When she's not teaching her kindergarteners, Blydenburgh is busy leading art classes at Michaels, working at a beach shop, or staying involved at her church. Her days get long. "That's why I like to cook meals that are quick but still good," she said.
In college, she resolved to teach herself how to cook more than just grilled cheese sandwiches. Today, she loves experimenting. "If I see (a recipe) I like, even if it looks like it might be complicated, I'll still try it," she said.
For Blydenburgh, home-cooked meals are a healthier, more rewarding way to eat. "You buy the ingredients yourself so you know where they come from," she said.
One of her favorite recipes is Parmesan Orzo With Asparagus, which she modified from a recipe she found on Pinterest. The rice-shaped pasta dish is a hit at every party. "Everyone always tells me that they love it," she said. "It's really creamy and cheesy." To cut down on prep time, she uses the microwaveable vegetable steam bags from the freezer section. If you can't find asparagus, you can also use broccoli.
MODIFICATIONS: Since her stepfather loves to hunt, her family often has a freezer full of venison. Once, Blydenburgh browned ground venison, then added it to the dish. Her family loved it.
WHY COOKING? "I like finding something that everyone is going to really enjoy and then sharing it with them," she said. "Cooking and food build a community of people."
CAN'T COOK WITHOUT: Upbeat dance music. "I kind of embarrass myself sometimes," she said. "I'll be cooking and listening to something, and I end up dancing."
Emily Young, special to the Times
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