'Tis the Season

This time of year is when friends and groups gather to show off their fine cooking and come together to enjoy each other's company. Both of us belong to book clubs, each one with different personalities (just like the two of us!). Added to his book club festivities this year was a book exchange with orders by the hostess for each person to bring one "good" book. Someone wasn't very pleased to take home a Paula Deen cookbook last year since this person is not what you'd call a butter-baby but a serious reader!


We did our part with Richard Russo and Richard Ford books which my book club had read. I brought home "Freedom" which I've already read but, oh well, I can pass it on. He now has "Me Talk Pretty One Day." We'll see where that leads. Now, to the important part: food.




By far the prettiest dish (and quite good) was Metty's Paella.




Lynda slaved over a hot oven (she told us) to make these delicious Roasted Vegetables




Diane won the chopping award for her Salad.




I contributed the Pork Tenderloins.



Part of the spread which also included a Squash Casserole and Baked Ziti. Desserts were hiding elsewhere.

Taste of Atlanta

What a glorious weekend for this stuff-your-face, cooking-demo, entertainment event. We live right next door to the the festival which causes some inconvenience on our part...especially the Friday night loud music, but enough about me.


Our passes entitled us to 10 food tickets each (you can buy more to extend your gluttony). The food samples are "charged" at 1, 2 and 3 tickets, so in order to stay within budget, you have to select carefully. The strategy is to get good "free" samples first. Luckily, a bite of smoked chicken was near the entrance, a first taste for me.




Set-up and before the masses arrived -- taken from our balcony.




Throngs of very hungry people arrived on Saturday. There was so much smoke from grills that you would have thought the place was on fire.




My first "paid" sample. It was a generous portion of grits with bacon, cheese and a poached egg from Rosebud restaurant.




Rosebud Restaurant, a chef-owned place.




Our next taste from Bocado.




Chef and owner, Todd Ginsberg of Bocado. The chef used leg of lamb, cooked and then ground for the chili. No wonder it was good.




How about a Puffy Taco? I chose chicken and ate it before I took a picture. Ooooppps.




Way, way too salty. Unfortunately, chefs often oversalt.




Aetna sponsored a healthy cooking contest. I didn't taste any of the food but I hope they didn't overdo the salt.


PS: Whole Foods offers less sodium, no sugar added prepared soups and other items in their stores. If you don't see them, I was told to ask. We tasted two flavors; both were good.


Family Fun in the NC Mountains

It had been a year plus since our trip to the Highlands, NC area. This time it was with our Dallas,Texas, family. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know what the weather has been in Dallas and other parts of Texas and Oklahoma this summer. Needless to say, CC's brother and wife were happy to be in 70 degree weather, as were we. They took full advantage of hiking in the mountains. I took full advantage of the huge deck, the rocking chairs, lush trees and birds enjoying the mountains with us.


The cabin and surroundings were so pleasant that we ate "in" every night. CC was the grill maestro and showed his Boy Scout skills at building a charcoal fire. (In the city we use a gas grill). Menu planning was somewhat limited. We grilled salmon the first night and enjoyed it with risotto that I had schlepped from home.



The grill master




Another night we had burgers.




Ready to be dressed.




These were the best tomatoes I've eaten since my father used to send them to me via UPS from his garden in Virginia. These came from Ingles supermarket in Clayton, GA. They were heirloom babies and were they good!




Our only meal out was at Wild Thymes Gourmet in Highlands. I had a Black Bean Burger with more tomatoes. I do love them. The salad was butter beans, onions and more tomatoes.


Eating, hiking, mountain air, chirping birds and family-togetherness made for a wonderful week.

The Great American Bake Sale - Help Feed Hungry Children

The organization, Share Our Strength wants to eliminate hungry children in America. Hungry children are one of the primary targets of the organization. One in 4 children wakes up everyday not knowing if they will have enough to eat. Most of us can't imagine such a thing. The Great American Bake Sale is one way to help put food on those children's plates. All over America, individuals and organizations contributed baked items to sell to support this worthy cause. All proceeds benefit Share Our Strength and their work to help the nearly 1 in 4 children in American that struggle with hunger. 



Amy Crowell, Director, Great American Bake Sale and a Les Dames member, along with her mom and sons


The Atlanta chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier along with friends offered their services and baked goods to help raise money. I didn't bake, but worked during the sale. (And, it wasn't easy keeping my hands out of the "cookie jar.") We raised a respectable amount for our first time hosting the sale.



A collection of pound cakes that were donated





A professionally prepared tart by one of the pastry chef Dames


Singing "Happy Birthday" to Kay Goodwin on Her 93rd Birthday (and testing a couple of recipes)

Air travel and all of its hassles doesn't get in the way of Kay Goodwin having a good time. Kay's from Austin, Texas, and traveled from her home to visit Atlanta and her daughter, Bobbi. We're often lucky to see Kay when she visits, althought Kay and her daughter have many things to do while she's here. Kay's no sit-around-and-wait-on me-kind-of-girl. She's action-oriented!


Since she was in Atlanta close to her birthday, what better thing to do than have a party! I can't say my birthday cake was any prize-winner, but it's the thought that counts I always say. (Disclosure: I was on the phone when the bell rang to pull the cake out of the oven. Too bad I didn't hear that bell! We'll just say that the ice cream softened it a bit and the guests were too polite to say otherwise! My lips are sealed).


The menu was assorted Appetizers, Chili-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin (I made the rub), Mediterranean Herb-Seasoned Potato Salad, Edamame, Red Pepper and Ginger Salad, Fresh Buttered Zucchini, Rolls, Chocolate Cake (with pink candles and sprinkles) and Ice Cream. Most of the work was ahead of time but when the guests arrived, all I had to do was roast the tenderloin and microwave the squash. That's the way I like to entertain.




The Birthday Girl, Kay Goodwin, who graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Home Economics.




Bobbi Goodwin, Kay's daughter and our good friend.




The hostess (and cook) and Kay ready for dinner.




Mediterranean Herb Potato Salad




Edamame, Red Pepper and Ginger Salad (The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods by Victoria Retelny, RD).




The Grand Finale (note the smoke)! Just a couple of candles remained lit. 


Testing: Nutty Meatloaf from "Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods"

After a hiatus from my blog (pure laziness + vacation) I decided I'd better get busy and let you know I'm still here, testing recipes. (Since we "spoke" I've completed 16 years of writing the "7-Day Menu Planner" which is about 5840 dinners. Sometimes, I'd rather eat out!)


Last night I tried Nutty Meatloaf from a new book, " The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods" by Victoria Retelny, RD, LDN with JoAnn Milivojevic. The recipes are simple and the two I've tried have been worth the effort. The book is packed with sound nutrition information and a generous number of recipes. We both enjoyed this meatloaf last night (you could use very lean beef). I upped the fresh basil and the walnuts, knowing we like both falvors and I had fresh basil on hand. (When fresh herbs are not so available as they are now (August), I'd use dried to save money.) For me, it's hard to resist any meatloaf and meatloaf demands mashed potatoes, my favorite potatoes (next to French fries). It was one side dish. Fresh zucchini is always easy, as is a mixed green salad so, I added both along side. It was a good meal and easy, too.


The recipe will appear in my column, the week of October 16, 2011.




Nutty Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Zucchini 

Random Acts of Testing or What's For Dinner Tonight?

Practically every evening (Sun-Thurs) I'm testing a recipe. (The kitchen is usually closed Friday and Saturday nights for dinner out.) I do the testing in the evening because it's what we eat for dinner in real time. Most of my testing is 2 months ahead of when the "7-Day Menu Planner" is published.


Generally, the recipes work pretty well and have a good flavor. Not that I'm that smart, I'm just experienced at looking at a recipe and knowing if we'll like and you will, too. That's the number one criteria: flavor. Number two, do I want to cook and eat it and number three, was I right with number 1 and 2?


Here are a few testings over the last couple of weeks that I'd cook again (which I won't because I always have to move on to the next recipe).


The first one




Basil Spaghetti with Cheesy Broiled Tomatoes (Real Simple magazine) passed all tests with flying colors. Look for it in the 7-Day Menu Planner, week of September 4.


Number two




Turkey Enchiladas used leftover cooked turkey and made the grade. It shows up week of September 11. There were plenty of leftovers for another meal. Pure happiness.


And, number three




Lemony Shrimp with Couscous (Real Simple) was a really pretty entree (and, good flavor). I added the broccoli to round out the plate. The recipe uses cooked shrimp and you'll see it the week of September 18.



Anniversary Food: Part 2 (or the chicken did get done)

Being the kind of person who can't take "no" for an answer, I had to come to terms with the undone anniversary chicken. Or did I? The light bulb come on and I decided I could rescue those bird thighs by repurposing them into Dijon Baked Chicken. Here's how I did it.


First, I scraped off the now-soggy coating (since it was refrigerated), squirted and spread some Dijonnaise over it followed by some panko crumbs. I baked it on nonstick foil for 25 minutes in a 350 oven. No, I didn't expect perfection but a done piece of chicken with a nice topping.


Along side of the chicken, the Macaroni Salad that I tested was a perfect partner to the chicken. That and a big-fat green salad made for a fine meal.


The chicken has now been put to sleep and so shall I.



The case of the undone chicken is now closed.



Testing: Anniversary Food (or why won't the chicken get done?)

Our anniversay came on a Monday this year which for us is not a night-on-the-town kind of night. Oh yes, we did celebrate with several nights of dining out. But....then the real day arrived and I wanted to do something besides the same ole, same ole. What to do? I had a chicken dish to test which I thought would be good and easy and along with a few leftovers to pile on the plate to make a pretty presentation. Also, we have those lovely new dishes I wrote about a few weeks ago. It all seemed so simple, until......


.....the chicken wouldn't get done. Not only wasn't it done, the hoped-for crisp crumbs kept falling off. I had several mishaps during preparation which should have been a clue as to how things were going to work out. Finally, after extending the cooking time for the second time, I declared the chicken was done and crawled to the table with perspiration dripping from my brow. I didn't even have time to put on lipstick, much less pretty myself up for the occasion.


Cutting into the center of the chicken I saw what I didn't want to see--it wasn't done. Back to the kitchen. What to do? I decided to cut off the edges of the 6 pieces I had prepared becasue they were done. The problem was the center of the thighs. These were bone-in thighs and they must have come from some sort of raptor to be so large. There were other mishaps, but who wants to hear more of this disaster meal?? Not me. We did make it through the evening and another day of marriage.


Happy Anniversay, CC aka the Virgo!




Oven-Fried Chicken with Broccoli Slaw along with leftover Corn and Peppers


Testing: Arctic Char

With food prices ever-increasing with no sign of that changing anytime soon, I'm always looking for something new, different and reasonably priced to add to menus in my column, the "7-Day Menu Planner." As much as I love salmon, tilapia, tuna, halibut, scallops and shrimp and other such water-beings for various reasons, I don't like the price of some of them. Consequently, I've used salmon, shrimp and tilapia often on my menus because of price and flavor. Having had arctic char in a restaurant recently, I thought I'd give it a try and see if it met my criteria of price, ease of preparation and flavor. Yes, it did! You''ll see the recipe in my column the week of August 28.


For our piece of mind, experts say that arctic char is sustainably caught. Arctic Char are routinely available and have a flavor somewhere between salmon and trout with a pinkish color. You might have to ask for them, depending on your fish department or you may find them frozen as I did at Trader Joes. Either way, try them.




Thawed and ready to cook.




In the skillet




The potatoes, olives and parsely for the side dish



Ready to eat!



Susan Nicholson's New Book!

Articles & Interviews


About This Site

Powered by TypePad

© 2010 Universal Uclick

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian.

For information getting 7-Day Menu Planner for your publication, contact [email protected]