Thursday, October 17, 2013

Taste of Atlanta offers peek inside chefs' world


Since its inception in 2002, Taste of Atlanta has served up some of the city’s most anticipated experiences in food and fun. Next weekend, October 26-27, Inside the Food Studio and The Kitchen Workshop return to the festival to give all guests more than just a taste – they will offer an exclusive and interactive look into the culinary craft of the city’s best and brightest chefs

Atlanta’s own Tom Sullivan returns for his fourth year as host of the Inside the Food Studio session. This insider experience reveals juicy kitchen secrets and insight into the Atlanta restaurant scene. Session highlights include:

· Hungry at Hartsfield-Jackson: Duane Nutter and Tiffanie Barriere from One Flew South will fly the friendly skies without leaving the tarmac as they tuck into the tastes inside Atlanta's newly renovated Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

· Kitchen Ink: Gain insight – and a taste of chef culinary body art – from impeccably inked locals, including Arianne Fielder from Article 14, Joe Schafer from King + Duke and Zeb Stevenson, who have made their mark on Atlanta’s eccentric dining scene. 

· Dueling Deviled Eggs: Atlanta Chefs Doug Turbush from SEED, Thaddeus Keefe from 1 Kept and E.J. Hodgkinson from JCT Kitchen shell out their best recipes to duel for deviled egg bragging rights.

· Kale and Ale: Drew Van Leuvan from Seven Lamps and Terry Koval from Wrecking Bar Brewpub plan to prove that that kale and beer are a classic pairing.

CNN journalist Holly Firfer will emcee The Kitchen Workshop, which is open to all festival attendees this year. Guests can learn professional cooking techniques and try their hand – or whisk – at whipping up delicious dishes.

2013 Kitchen Workshop session highlights include:

· Soul of the South with Duke’s Mayo: Rosebud’s Ron Eyester pursues what truly defines the food south of the Mason-Dixon.

· Craft Mac & Cheese: America’s favorite comfort food will melt your heart and tempt your taste buds as it gets a grown-up upgrade from Paschals’ Arthur Brown. 

· Bowls of Q – Chilis & Stews: As the mercury dips, warm up with one-pot suppers from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.

· Make the Cut: Knife technique is fundamental in the kitchen, and this tutorial with The Cook’s Warehouse will certainly sharpen any skills. 

Inside the Food Studio at Taste of Atlanta is open to all ticket holders on a first come basis. Registration for The Kitchen Workshop classes, also open to all attendees, will begin at 11 a.m. both days. General admission and VIP tickets are on sale now for $30 and $75, respectively. Tickets are sold at locations throughout Atlanta, including Cook’s Warehouse, Ticket Alternative and Georgia Tech’s ticket booth outlets. Advance tickets must be purchased by midnight on October 24. For more information, visit

For more about Taste of Atlanta, check out its website,

Hope to see you there!


Friday, October 11, 2013

My Guilty Pleasure, #LetsLunch

Cheesy Apple Casserole. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
On this crisp October morning, with my hazelnut coffee within reach, I could be writing about the glorious bounty of autumn's produce. The flurry and hurry to grab the last of summer's beefsteak tomatoes and crookneck squash, the be-still-my-heart moments when I spy muscadines and figs at the farmer's markets. Instead, I'm going to share a guilty pleasure, one of my family's most-requested dishes, a five-ingredient dish that is proudly processed, with all the shades of meaning that processed means these days.

We call it "cheesy apple," although in old-fashioned community cookbooks and web versions, the word "casserole" is usually attached to it. Strangely, its main ingredient is Velveeta cheese, but I couldn't locate the recipe on the Kraft website, however many versions of this recipe are to be found. Cheesy apple is reminiscent of apple pie with Cheddar crust, a lovely pie that I make when I get bags of North Georgia apples each fall. This recipe uses canned fried apples, in this case Glory Foods brand.

The spiced apple slices are topped with a sugar-butter-Velveeta dough and then baked to bubbly goodness. My guiltiest pleasure of this guilty pleasure is the raw dough, with the texture of Play-doh and the taste of sweet buttery cheese product. (An aside: I love what cookbook author Ann Hodgman has to say about Velveeta in her recipe for Mac and Cheese in "One Bite Won't Kill You" ~ it's a plastic, not a food and incredibly easy to work with.)

Although because of the pantry ingredients (if you count the freezer and fridge as a pantry for storing butter), this dish can be made year-round, it seems especially suited to fall. If you're running kids here and there, trying to get to soccer practice and piano lessons and need a little home-cooked goodness to fill little bellies on a cool night, give this recipe a try.

Cheesy Apple

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
8 ounces Velveeta cheese (I used low-fat), cubed

2-3 cans Fried Apples (I used Glory Foods brand)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Use the butter wrapper to grease a casserole dish. In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar, then stir in the flour until it forms a dough. Work in the Velveeta cubes.

2. When you have squished and formed the dough, and sampled it for seasoning (*wink*), pour canned apples into the greased casserole dish. Top the apples with lumps of the cheesy dough. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Casserole is done when the apples are bubbly and the cheesy dough is brown. Serve warm. Guilt is always best served warm, don't you think?

This post is part of #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter party on a given subject. This month's theme is Guilty Pleasures.

Annabelle‘s Figs and Ricotta With Honey at Glass of Fancy
Anne Marie‘s Breakfast Club Sammy at Sandwich Surprise
Betty Ann‘s Purple Yam Jam at Asian In America
Emma‘s Homemade Biscuits & Sausage Gravy at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Grace‘s School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars at HapaMama
Linda‘s Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Raspberries & Lemon-Scented Cream at Spicebox Travels
Linda‘s Cheesy Puffs at Free Range Cookies
Lisa G‘s Mars Bar Slice at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lisa K‘s Nutella Cookies at The Little Good Ride
Lucy‘s Velveeta Apple Casserole at A Cook and Her Books
Margaret‘s Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes at Tea and Scones
Tammi‘s Healthy SPAM at Insatiable Munchies

Text and images copyright 2013, Lucy Mercer.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Recycle candy into blondies

Compost blondies. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Reduce, reuse, recycle is a mantra familiar to many parents of elementary age children. Along with "stop, drop and roll," it becomes part of the educational fabric, along with "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" and the alphabet song.

Reduce, reuse, recycle can apply to more than disposable package goods; at certain times of the year, it's the perfect solution to a surplus of candy. After Halloween, and post-Valentine's and Easter, I become the Stealth Mom, secreting sweets out of the filling-filled mouths of my babes. You see, we have those kind of teeth, the kind that send dentists on exotic vacations and their kids to good schools. I'm not a fanatic about depriving my children of candy, but enough "I'm sorry, Mrs. Mercer, but we found a few cavities," discussions impel me to be judicious about handing out the sweets and driven about brushing, rinsing and flossing.

And this is why I like Spicebox Travels' idea for compost blondies, recycling Halloween candy into buttery, dense sweet and salty cookies. Basically a riff on chocolate chip cookies, these treats use up leftover sweet and salty snacks. Now you may think, "how is recycling candy going to save this crazy blogger's kids' teeth?" And that's where the fourth "R" comes in ~ "redistribute." This recipe makes plenty of blondies to share. With all your friends, including the dentist's kids.

Linda Shiue of Spicebox Travels based her recipe on a variation of Momofoku Milk Bar's famous compost cookies, and they are delicious.

Spicebox Travels' Compost Blondies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped Halloween chocolate candy  (M and M's and Hershey's Miniatures work well here)
2 tablespoons coffee grounds, (as Linda says, for the true spirit of compost)
3/4 cup salty snacks, coarsely crushed (potato chips, pretzels, corn chips)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F and grease a 15×10 baking pan.
2.  Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
3.  In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
4.  Add in eggs one at a time.   Beat until very well combined and light.
5.  Add vanilla.
6.  Slowly mix dry ingredients with the wet until completely combined.
5.  With a wooden spoon, slowly mix in your crushed Halloween candy.
6.  Swirl in coffee grounds.
7.  Very gently add the crushed chips and pretzels.  Don’t overstir or they’ll break into crumbs.
8.  Spread batter evenly into the greased baking pan.
7.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are golden.
8.  Cool completely before cutting.

Text and images copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer.