Small Talk: Area cooks share their secrets for holiday cooking
by Donna Barton
Small Talk
Dec 01, 2013 | 2056 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The autumn air surrounding First Presbyterian Church of Anniston was filled with mouth-watering aromas when the Calhoun County Extension Office and the Calhoun County Homemakers and Community Leaders sponsored their annual Holiday Cooking School Nov 7.

Frances Surrett and Pat Killian greeted guests at the door and distributed packets of materials that included recipes for the delectable dishes being presented that day.

When the program began, Marchale Burton, urban regional extension agent, welcomed everyone before introducing well-known culinary artist and Star columnist Prudence Hilburn. Hilburn demonstrated a multi-purpose chocolate cookie dough that can be used in a variety of treats such as Crackles, Raspberry Thumbprints and Polka-Dot Drops.

Next up, Chef Alan Martin from The Victoria Inn used his expertly sharpened knives to demonstrate the proper way to chop scallions and vegetables, as well as how to debone a Cornish hen. He advised roasting leftover bones and skin before using them to make broth and shared tips on how to make good use of the “fond” — those little bits left in the roasting pan — to enhance gravy and sauces. Martin also provided valuable information on cooking root vegetables, as well as which meats are best to freeze and which types of oils should, or should not, be used when cooking.

Ruth Sarro, a retired regional extension agent, shared her recipe for make-ahead dinner rolls and a simple yet delicious fruit salad using peach pie filling as the base. To the crowd’s delight, she brought plenty of both for everyone to taste.

Burton concluded the program with a variety of kitchen tips and advice, explaining the differences between kosher and iodized salt and the best way to use spices and herbs as a salt substitute. When Burton began discussing the various dishes being presented, the audience licked their lips in anticipation of the tasting fair that would soon begin. After she shared recipes for Fettuccine with Green Vegetables, Holiday Punch, Blueberry Cherry Pie Cups and Guacamole Dip, the lines began to form. Despite a large crowd, each guest received a sampling of all of the dishes prepared by Hilburn, Martin and the other instructors.

Audience favorites were the Orange Creamsicle Cake by Killian, Lemon Chicken by Burton, Cornish Hen with Cranberry Glaze on a bed of Root Vegetables by Martin, and Baked Ziti by Michelle Elston. Other dishes enjoyed by the audience included Hawaiian Wedding Cake by Surrett, Sweet Potato Biscuits and Potato Soup by Carol Headrick, Holiday Pepper Cheese Dip by Lisa Sosebee, Apple-Cranberry Casserole by Gail Tidwell, Peanut Brittle by Sue Herron, barbecue by Travis Burton, and Carrot and Raisin Salad by Dorothy Evans.

Hungry yet? If so, you’re in luck. The recipes for most of the dishes are available free of charge from the Calhoun County Extension Office, located in Suite 108 of the Administration Building at 1702 Noble Street in downtown Anniston. The office is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. While there, consider purchasing their “Holiday Cooking School” cookbook, containing even more delicious recipes. At only $2 each, these cookbooks make great stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, presents for teachers, not to mention a great addition to any cookbook collection. Call 256-237-1621 for more information.


The annual “Homes for the Holidays” tour, sponsored by the Museum League, will be Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact DeMorra Walls at 256-237-6766, ext. 120, to make reservations to see local homes beautifully decorated for Christmas. The cost is $15 for museum members, $20 to the general public.

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