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A Recipe for Love: Two Fayetteville Couples Connect in the Kitchen


By Courtney Phillips

Indy and Mandy

6:00 p.m. finds Indy and Mandy Wilkinson weary. Indy, a staff anesthesiologist at Womack Army Medical Center and Mandy, a stay-at-home mother of 2-year old Grace Savannah and newborn baby Faith Charlotte, have been awake since, respectively, 5:00 a.m. and, well, it depends if baby Faith allowed Mandy to sleep at all.

Despite chaos and sleep deprivation, they speak as passionately about a home-cooked meal as “foodies” who have much more time for contemplation and preparation.

When asked individually their motivation to cook 5-6 nights per week, their answers differ, but the result is the same: A closer bond with each other.

Indy is a food lover and has been cooking since college, when his mom, afraid he’d starve if left to his own devices, enrolled him in cooking classes.  Now, cooking has become more of a hobby than ensuring sustenance, and it serves as an excellent stress reliever after a long day in a high-stakes job.

For Mandy, cooking is about bringing happiness and comfort to others, so it’s no surprise that even with a newborn and a two-year-old, they entertain dinner guests at least once per week.

Dishes featured in the Wilkinson home vary by season. With an impressive outdoor kitchen, the grill is generally in use if weather permits for steaks, burgers or sausage. In colder months, they look to hearty dishes, from bouillabaisse to chicken and dumplings, the latter of which a favorite of Indy, a native Tennessean.

They speak lovingly of their time spent together in the kitchen, which is a relatively new experience for Mandy, who only began cooking after they got married. She feels as though every meal she prepares for Indy is an opportunity to get to know him better. Indy responds that Mandy’s progression from a timid cook, choosing to prepare simple, popular dishes to a “phenomenal, adventurous cook” very much parallels the journey he has seen her take in life – from cautiousness, to approaching challenges and risk with a can-do attitude.

Last year, when Indy asked Mandy what gifts she would like for Valentine’s Day, she replied simply, “Beef Wellington.” They will continue the tradition this year and would choose to do so even if, caring for two small children, they had the opportunity to dine out.

Christopher and Mia

After long days and nightly trips to their respective gyms, Christopher and Mia Delph arrive home later than 7:00 p.m. to answer the age-old question: “What’s for dinner?”

Married for little more than a year, they respond as old pros: Christopher prepares dinner during the week, while Mia enjoys complex recipes reserved for weekends or special occasions.

Living in Haymount, a quick dinner out is always an option, but they cook four nights per week. Cooking saves money and it’s healthy, allowing them to splurge occasionally on a treat they both enjoy - decadent restaurant meals. As Christopher said, “Even if you order healthy food, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. Green beans cooked at home will probably be healthier than green beans from a restaurant.” But, Mia and Christopher jokingly acknowledge, “When we do go out, we don’t order green beans!”

Like most married couples, their time together in the kitchen isn’t without the occasional disagreement: While Christopher, a classic micro-manager, and Mia, a perfectionist, admit they have squabbled about everything from recipe steps to the heat of Teflon pans, both agree cooking together encourages them appreciate each other’s talents and individuality.

Christopher, a native of Fayetteville, is quick to proudly compliment Mia, a reformed picky eater from Englewood, Florida, on everything from her newly-discovered appreciation for the Southern wiles of gravy – “on rice, on fried chicken, on anything!” to her prowess in baking cakes and pastries.

Since cake isn’t on the menu every night for the health-conscious twosome, Mia lauds Christopher’s expertise on the grill, which is particularly helpful in preparing quick, healthy dishes like grilled chicken, roasted vegetables and kabobs each week night.

On Valentine’s Day, the Delphs will enjoy a quiet evening in, featuring New York strip and roasted asparagus on the grill, with Mia’s Caprese salad.

The Expert Weighs In

While our couples may be simply enjoying each other’s company - as Christopher  joked, “a little camaraderie, a little cocktail” - and fulfilling a basic need, the benefit of spending this time together may pay long term dividends – and not just to their bank account or waistlines.

Dr. Faye Knauss, a Fayetteville clinical health psychologist who counsels couples, individuals and families is adamant that one of the most significant challenges faced by modern couples is spending quality time together while living fast-paced, overstimulated lives. “Couples share space and many hours together, but with so many distractions, namely electronics, personal dialogue and mindful activity with each other can be difficult.”

Of newlywed couples in particular, Knauss notes that “it is never too early begin investing in the relationship and engaging in one another’s lives” and that “cooking together is an excellent way for partners to find that often rare ‘unplugged’ time to reconnect.”


If you and your Valentine are in a quandary as to how to celebrate love this year, turn off your phones and get busy in the kitchen.



Serves 8

2 ½ lbs. beef tenderloin

4 tbsp. butter, softened

2 tbsp. butter

1 onion chopped

½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 oz. liver pate

salt and pepper to taste

1 (17.5 oz.) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 (10.5 oz.) can beef broth

2 tbsp. red wine


1. Preheat oven to 425. Place beef in a small baking dish, and spread with 2 tbsp. softened butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned. Remove from pan, and allow to cool completely. Reserve pan juices.

2. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.

3. Mix together pate and 2 tbsp. softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Spread pate over beef. Top with onion and mushroom mixture.

4. Roll out the puff pastry dough, and place beef in the center. Fold up, and seal all the edges, making sure the seams are not too thick. Place beef in a 9x13 inch baking dish, cut a few slits in the top of the dough, and brush with egg yolk.

5. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until pastry is a rich, golden brown. Set aside, and keep warm.

6. Place all reserved juices in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir in beef stock and red wine; boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Strain, and serve with beef.


Salad Ingredients:

4-5 Roma tomatoes

1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese

5-6 leaves of fresh basil

Dressing Ingredients:

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp. water

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Good Seasons brand Italian dressing packet


1. Slice tomatoes, removing seeds if less juice is preferable, fresh mozzarella and basil into bite-sized pieces and combine.

2. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, water, olive oil and Good Seasons packet.

3. Dress salad generously.