Corrections or additions?

This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 17,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

What’s Cooking for Brides?

It’s well known that in the spring a young man’s fancy

lightly turns to love. Less familiar is the fact that in the cold,

gray days of winter, a couple’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of

weddings — and marital bliss on every level, including the

culinary.

After all, this is also the time of year when "comfort food,"

piled on top of holiday food, wreaks its caloric damage. Whether slim

or pleasingly plump, but ready to plan in any case, prospective brides

and grooms often choose January to get serious about matrimony plans.

And since newlyweds can’t live for long on love alone, Robin

Vitetta-Miller

— not far removed from newlywed status herself — has just

published "The Newlywed Cookbook," to help assure that their

starry domesticity is crowned by delicious meals. Then, memories of

their just-married days might also include kitchen successes and

sumptuous

meals.

For married couples in-the-making, Barnes & Noble at MarketFair has

programmed "Planning the Perfect Wedding." On Thursday,

January

18, the store will pair Vitetta-Miller with Leah Ingram, author of

several wedding books, including her latest, "Your Wedding Your

Way." The evening will include samples of recipes from

Vitetta-Miller’s

"Newlywed Cookbook."

"We’ve got a lot of customers holding hands and looking for our

wedding section lately," says Nancy Nicholson, the store’s

community

relations manager. For many people, their wedding is the event of

a lifetime, she adds, and January is a popular month for planning

it — sometimes 18 months ahead. With a wedding theme in mind,

Nicholson lined up her speakers, believing that "those who attend

can come to know two wonderful local authors."

A Princeton resident, Vitetta-Miller is a nutritionist, a veteran

food writer, and an old hand at radio and TV appearances. Her media

include the Internet, where she regularly answers questions about

nutrition on the website, www.HealthAtoZ.com. Soon after our talk

about her fourth and newest book, I caught her as she

"guested"

on the Food Channel’s "Cooking Live with Sara Moulton," so

I can report that she’s as upbeat and expert visually as she is by

phone. Far from my image of a white-coated nutritionist, the

fit-looking

brunette with a winning smile is a great envoy for a healthy eating

style — and she makes it sound easy.

This is actually her second "Newlywed Cookbook." The first,

published about 10 years ago, went out of print as the new book was

printed. Though targeted at the same audience — those who are

newly-loaded with wedding gift toys for the kitchen, and expected

to cook, but having no clue how to — this book reflects a

different

world. The now-fashionable cilantro, for example, didn’t even make

an appearance in her first book, and international ingredients were

scarce. Now, with the growing interest in healthy eating,

Vitetta-Miller

deals in both traditional (butter, cream, and so on) recipes and

healthy-ingredient

alternatives.

Wherever appropriate, she tested the 200-plus recipes with low-fat

or fat-free ingredients, which do make a difference, she knows. Such

things as pound cake depend for their integrity on butter, so butter

stays; but Vitetta-Miller allows either "regular" or non-fat

cream cheese and sour cream in her cheesecakes. In demonstrating her

chocolate swirl cheesecake on TV, she suggested regular or low-fat

cream cheese, instead of the non-fat option in her book. Either she

said that in error, or since publication she has given a serious try

to non-fat cream cheese on a bagel — or on anything: Unacceptable.

Both unusual and workable, the eight-inch square "Newlywed

Cookbook"

contains an appealing array of recipes for two — and for a crowd.

Dedicated to dealing with the dilemma, "Now that your kitchen

is stocked, what are you supposed to do with it?," Vitetta-Miller

stresses that it’s possible to prepare complex-flavored and

vibrant-looking

meals with just a few ingredients — possibly the best news of

all, especially to anyone (like me) who has ever tackled one of the

New York Times’ Molly O’Neill’s ingredient and labor-intensive

concoctions.

Besides the predictable chapters on side dishes, pizza and bread,

or meats or seafood, Vitetta-Miller includes menus and recipes for

"Special Occasions," that range from New Year’s Eve and

Superbowl

Sunday, to Thanksgiving and "when in-laws come for dinner."

Each recipe shows preparation and cooking time; a "needed

items"

list include both ingredients and the equipment needed to use them.

Vitetta-Miller says her recipes encompass varying degrees of

difficulty,

and she advises neophytes to start simple, gain confidence, then try

more challenging things.

"Tortes can be scary," she supposes, and yeast bread would

be challenging for those who haven’t tried it, although she recommends

doing it once to experience the satisfaction she describes. Then,

she may also suggest the option of using frozen bread dough.

The book’s print is small (almost too small for me), and more bold

face type could help one spot the key elements of each recipe, but

those things don’t detract from the verve of the concept, or the

appeal

of such offerings as wild mushroom risotto; chicken pot pie; beef

and bean burritos; creamy polenta with smoked gouda; and super-rocky,

rocky road brownies.

Born in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, Vitetta-Miller,

now 36, soon moved with her family to Montgomery County, where she

grew up, and also where the restaurateur and TV-celebrity cook Chef

Tell lived for some years in a carriage house on the property. But

no, there was no sense of foreshadowing or passing the torch,

Vitetta-Miller

says, despite Chef Tell’s proximity and his occasionally cooking for

them — but years later, his blurb appeared on her first cookbook

for newlyweds.

Her mother is a stained-glass artist and avid gardener. Her father

founded the Vitetta Group, a Philadelphia architectural firm

specializing

in historic preservation, with offices in seven cities across the

country, that was responsible for the recent, multi-million-dollar

renovation of the Trenton War Memorial. She has one brother, a lawyer

in South Carolina.

A life-affecting change came when the family’s second daughter died

from anorexia shortly before Vitetta-Miller entered college. At the

University of Delaware she went on to major in psychology, with a

minor in nutrition, thinking she might choose to work in the area

of eating disorders. She soon found the food aspects of her studies

so captivating that she re-focused in that direction. Her first

marriage,

in the late ’80s, triggered her need to learn to cook. Because she

could find nothing on the market for would-be cooks, she left a

marketing

job to spend about a year reading and cooking before producing the

cookbook.

From there, she moved on to Family Circle Magazine to test and write

recipes — something she still does today, along with nutritional

analyses. In 1998, the same year as her second marriage, to Darrin

Miller, Vitetta-Miller earned a master’s degree from NYU in food and

nutrition.

She reports that a recent dinner at home featured some of the salads

she recently developed for a magazine story about five-ingredient

salads that meet varying diet needs. She and her husband, a sales

manager with Honeywell, enjoyed Japanese noodles, Asian slaw, Moroccan

couscous, and creamy fruit salad. By now, she says, her challenge

is "to think way outside the box!"

Although many modern couples may be planning to share kitchen, cooking

duties, and the cookbook, Vitetta-Miller says her husband doesn’t

cook at all. She describes him as a great taster of whatever she

makes,

favoring her Mexican dishes. "He has said he would cook, I just

haven’t let him in there!" To hear her tell it, she simply does

not tire of cooking or the thought of food, even though sometimes,

"I’ll cook gourmet food all day and eat popcorn for dinner."

But let the record show: Vitetta-Miller’s commitment to healthy eating

is strong: she gave an emphatic "no" when asked if she would

ever settle on a peanut butter sandwich with potato chips some night

after a long, foody day. However, she’s got her own (healthy, no

doubt)

Achilles’ heel: she has a once-a-day weakness for Tootsie Rolls —

and not the penny-size either. Then again, she pays for that

indulgence

with daily workouts at a fitness center, sessions she enjoys so much

that she’ll take off only on Sundays.

Following fast on the heels of the "Newlywed Cookbook,"

Vitetta-Miller

anticipates the publication of her fifth book, "Verdure,"

vegetables prepared in the styles of northern Italy. Look for it in

the spring, when a young cook’s fancy . . .

— Pat Summers

Planning the Perfect Wedding, Barnes & Noble,

MarketFair,

609-897-9250. Free. Thursday, January 18, 7 p.m.


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