Remember when an aroma drew you to the kitchen? Perhaps you watched someone lovingly prepare a family favorite and — if you were lucky — you were able to taste-test. After waiting impatiently for the words “it’s ready,” you finally indulged with loved ones around the table.

Food is an incredible medium that nourishes our bodies and brings people together. Just one bite can inspire familiarity, comfort and happiness.

If you haven’t yet befriended a chef, I highly recommend it.

Photo CreditL Elka A Photography

A Passion for Food

Chef Jan Parker is an Army wife whose love of craft is evident. I met Jan when she prepared breakfast for the morning show with AFN Wiesbaden, and I was a lucky taste-tester.

Jan then invited me to her kitchen as she prepared a seasonal autumn recipe, Pumpkin Hand Pies (recipe below). She also whipped up a delicious breakfast complete with a sunny side up egg, fresh coffee, and homemade pancakes topped with cherries soaked in Amaretto. Is your mouth watering yet?

Serving Inspiration

In addition to delicious food, Jan shared insightful advice:
Can you share a chef secret? The most important step in cooking is to taste your food.
When did you discover food? My dad was in the Navy and we lived in Italy when I was a child. I have a strong connection with Italy and Italian food. Italians speak with passion, move with passion and cook with passion — everything is delicious.
What advice do you have for new cooks? Start with the basics, and incrementally make things more difficult. Try recipes with a limited amount of ingredients and use the internet for recipe reviews. Don’t be heartbroken if your food doesn’t look like the picture.
What’s the best way to develop in the kitchen? I always tell my students to push yourself to try different recipes. Just explore and grow your cooking instincts. Don’t be afraid to try new things because that’s the only way you’ll learn.
Anything else you’d like to add? I’ll share my favorite quote. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

You don’t have to be Jan’s neighbor to benefit from her recipes and inspiration. If you’re too far away to smell what’s cooking in her kitchen, like Jan Parker Cookery on Facebook, and visit her blog, On the Fly.

About Chef Jan Parker

Jan Z. Parker is an Army wife living in Wiesbaden, Germany. Within less than a year of living overseas, she has managed to create a culinary program at the USO Rhein Main for the military community. She graduated with Honors from The Art Institute of Seattle with a Bachelor’s in Culinary Management and an Associates in Baking & Pastry. Her alma mater showcased her work in a national campaign “Create Tomorrow.” Jan’s professional culinary experience includes cooking at The Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle, working on a private estate and catering on yachts. She has made contributions to The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Emmy Award winning show on PBS, Nick Stellino Cooking with Friends. Jan is motivated by the excitement of her students and enjoys teaching all levels of cooking. She is passionate in sharing world cuisine flavors and ingredients from different cultures with the military community. Jan takes pride in her ‘from scratch approach’ and incorporates this style in all of her creations. Like Jan Parker Cookery on Facebook and visit her blog, On the Fly.

Pumpkin Hand Pies

Makes 8 hand pies


Pie Dough:
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 t kosher salt
1 c butter, diced and chilled
1/2 c ice cold water

1# pumpkin, seeded and cut into quarters
4 T softened butter
4 T maple syrup
1/2 t salt
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground ginger

Egg wash
Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado

Rolling Pin
4” Round Cutter
1 Baking Sheet

Jan making pies


Preheat oven to 450F

Rub the inside of the pumpkin with the softened butter, drizzle evenly with the maple syrup, and
season with salt. Place in 450F for 35 minutes or until fork tender. Once cooled, puree in food mill or food processor. Mix in brown sugar and spices.

Pie Dough:
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the dry
ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cold water a little bit at a time
until dough comes together. Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.

Cover dough completely and let rest in freezer for 30 minutes.

Assembling Pies:
Preheat oven to 400F

Flour the surface and roll out dough to 1/8” thick. Use round cookie cutter and cut out 20
circles. Fill 10 circles of dough with 2 T of the pumpkin filling and seal with water, press dough
in between thumb and index & middle finger at the same time. Use the same technique all the
way around until completely sealed.

Use paring knife to cut two slits in the middle of pie. Brush with egg wash and liberally sprinkle with sugar in the raw.

Cook in 400F oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: Make the pie dough ahead of time and store in refrigerator for two days.


Jackie Toops Head ShotA self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops is a mother of two and enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. She is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and has discussed her articles on-air with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen adventuring with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.



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