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
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
— 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
For married couples in-the-making, Barnes & Noble at MarketFair has
programmed "Planning the Perfect Wedding." On Thursday,
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
"We’ve got a lot of customers holding hands and looking for our
wedding section lately," says Nancy Nicholson, the store’s
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
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
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
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,
deals in both traditional (butter, cream, and so on) recipes and
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
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
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
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
Sunday, to Thanksgiving and "when in-laws come for dinner."
Each recipe shows preparation and cooking time; a "needed
list include both ingredients and the equipment needed to use them.
Vitetta-Miller says her recipes encompass varying degrees of
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
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,
says, despite Chef Tell’s proximity and his occasionally cooking for
them — but years later, his blurb appeared on her first cookbook
Her mother is a stained-glass artist and avid gardener. Her father
founded the Vitetta Group, a Philadelphia architectural firm
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
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
job to spend about a year reading and cooking before producing the
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
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
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
Achilles’ heel: she has a once-a-day weakness for Tootsie Rolls —
and not the penny-size either. Then again, she pays for that
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,"
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
609-897-9250. Free. Thursday, January 18, 7 p.m.
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