Thursday, December 29, 2011

October/November Cook Club Part 2: The Maple Syrup Cookbook


The Maple Syrup Cookbook
by Ken Haedrich
Cookbook Score: 3.83
Top Scoring Dishes: Sweet and Sour Chicken Cashew Salad, Sweet Potato and Bacon Bisque, Maple Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Lowest Scoring Dishes: Roasted Pepper and Chickpea Salad, Maple Apple Pie

maple syrup cookbookAs explained under our Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook cook club entry, for October/November Cook Club, we decided to do something a little bit different...  At the DC Cook Club party back in September, we talked about how much we loved PUMPKIN and how awesome it would be to cook many things PUMPKIN.  Well, as luck would have it, our cook club member, Rachel, had a cookbook devoted to all things pumpkin -- the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook.  To further amp up the autumnal nature of this round, Rachel also offered her copy of the Maple Syrup Cookbook for us to use for this round.  So we bring to you a flurry of fall flavors broken into two blog entries.  This first one is devoted to all our pumpkin creations (click here!) and the second one, here is devoted to MAPLE SYRUP.  In addition to the recipes from the Maple Syrup Cookbook, cook club members had the chance to make maple syrup recipes from our past cook club cookbooks.  These reviews are at the end of this entry -- the scores were not averaged into the scores for the Maple Syrup Cookbook. 

The Maple Syrup Cookbook introduced us to the very many things you can make with maple syrup.  Not just for waffles and pancakes any more, this cookbook offered everything from Orange Maple Chicken Wings to Hot and Spicy Shrimp Kabobs, Tawny Maple Cheesecake to the classic Sugar on Snow.  YUM.  Cookbook author Ken Haedrich also teaches us all about the process of creating maple syrup and profiled numerous maple syrup and sugarmakers.  I actually didn’t realize how much I loved maple syrup until I made some of the recipes from this book!

For your cooking pleasure, the recipe for one of the top scoring dishes:


4 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoes
4 cups water
6 bacon slices
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 cups light cream or milk
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sour cream, optional

1.  Bring the sweet potatoes and water to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are very tender.  Remove from the heat.

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, saute the bacon in a skillet, until crisp.  Remove from the pan; blot with paper towels.  Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of fat, then add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

3.  Working in batches, puree the potatoes and cooking water in a food processor or blender.  (Always be careful when pureeing hot liquids in a blender.  Never fill the container more than one-third full to avoid the risk of the lid blowing off.)  Return the puree to the soup pot, then stir in the onion, light cream, salt, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Crumble the bacon and add that also.  Heat, but do not boil, and serve piping hot.  Put a small dollop of sour cream in each bowl, if desired.

And on with the reviews!

Amanda’s Maple-Glazed Chicken Wings
Score: 4.0

I really enjoyed making this recipe--it was very easy to put together, and the chicken was very tender. They seemed to be a hit at the party I took them to--there were many compliments, and the chicken was still very tender the next day. My only complaint was that the wings were not flavorful enough for me, which could have easily been remedied by marinating them a bit longer. The recipe recommended a minimum of 4 hours, and, due to time constraints, I only marinated them for 2. I would love to try this again, just with a longer marinating time.


chickpea saladRachel’s Roasted Pepper and Chickpea Salad
Score: 2.0

I love the idea of this dish, but in reality it's just too much. Too many flavors that don't really work together, too many textures, and too much dressing. The cheese is especially jarring - so if you include it, cut it up really small. The leftovers were totally meh - the flavors didn't blend, even overnight. It was fun roasting my own peppers on my gas stove though, so not a total loss.

Comments from the DC Cook Club: “I liked the varying textures of the chickpeas, smoked cheese, and peppers.”  “Good side salad.”  “I didn’t expect it to be cold, but I really liked the flavor of the ham with it.”  “Delicious, bold flavors.”
IMG_0034Jackie’s Sweet and Sour Chicken Cashew Salad
Score: 5.0

I LOVED THIS RECIPE.  Not only did I add a new dressing to my repertoire (the recipe included a separate recipe for the sweet and sour dressing consisting mainly of maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic…) but I just found this salad to be endlessly delicious.  The flavors were just spot on – chicken, scallions, cashews, celery, mixed with the dressing, tahini (I replaced this with equal measurements of peanut butter), and orange zest.  I wouldn’t have thought to add the orange zest, but it gave it a wonderful fresh tasting quality.  As a sidenote, the recipe called for 2 cups of cooked chicken… I took a short cut and bought a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket (which I ordinarily love anyways) and chopped up the chicken breasts.  Definitely will be making this again.

And some DC cook club comments:  “A little too sweet for my taste – I expected a more savory dish.”  “Love this –so flavorful – the orange notes are interesting and unexpected.  5.0.”


Julie’s Curried Pumpkin-Apple Soup
Score: 4.0

Yummy! This was a bit of a gamble but sounded too interesting not to try.  The combination of pumpkin and mildly spicy curry with the tartness of apple (and cider!) and sweetness of maple is unusual but very yummy, and even better on the second day.  The recipe called for pumpkin puree which is not commonly sold here in UK so I got to try making my own as well as the added bonus of spicing and toasting the pumpkin seeds for snacks - my boyfriend and I enjoyed these so much that I made some more the following weekend:)

I had some pumpkin puree left over which after a google search inspired me to try a number of other great recipes. Long live pumpkins and seasonal cooking!

BisqueAmanda’s Sweet Potato and Bacon Bisque
Score: 4.5

I really loved the flavors of the bisque--the bacon and onion made it very interesting. It was very rich, and a little sweet, so it definitely needed to be consumed in moderation. The recipe, while easy, was very involved, and required lots of attention. That being said, I had lots of other cooking going on at the time. I would love to try this again with a lighter side--like a salad. We had tons of heavy pumpkin and maple dishes at our dinner party.


Julie’s Lemon-Maple Zucchini Bread
Score: 3.5

I'd always wanted to try a zucchini cake/ bread recipe since I once had a delicious chocolate cake with surprise ingredient zucchini as a teenager. It was a bit painful to invest a whole cup of the home made maple syrup my friend gave me in Canada earlier this year but I liked the outcome - moist and fragrant with very understated sweetness. The recipe was easy to put together and I was impressed that with wholemeal flour but the bread still felt and tasted light. It was best fresh on the first two days while still moist and aromatic, a bit boring after that so would probably toast and butter any leftovers.

Maple-Walnut Oat MuffinsJulie’s Maple-Walnut Oat Muffins
Score: 4.0

I was excited about making these as I'm a big fan of oats (porridge or pancakes or cookies) but haven't really had much experience of making muffins. I was initially surprised because I was expecting sweet muffins and these were not, but after I got used to that, the muffins and I got on very well indeed.  I loved the wholesome nutty flavour of oats and walnuts and the coarse texture they lent. These make perfect breakfast fare with a cappuccino, or as an afternoon snack with butter and honey (kind of like scones).


Anjali’s Gingered Pork Medallions
Score: 3.5

This Asian-inspired recipe would have been much better had it not been part of a heavy pumpkin/maple menu. That being said, the sauce was tasty and made for an excellent addition to vegetables and rice later in the week.


Anjali’s Candied Popcorn and Nuts
Score: 4.0

This recipe was very easy and the result was a very addictive snack! I liked the saltiness of the sunflower seeds and popcorn along with the sweetness of the maple syrup and the hint of spice with the cayenne.


Pineapple Upside Down CakeJackie’s Pineapple Upside Down Spice Cake
Score: 3.8

In my own nerdy baking way, this cake was pretty fun to make J  Breaking out my new-ish turquoise cast iron pan, I got to try a new baking technique -- this recipe called for boiling together butter, maple syrup, and sugar, gently placed the pineapples in the buttery goodness, and then poured the cake batter on top.  Popped the pan into the oven for about 30 minutes and then after two minutes of cooling, flipped over the cake to see the pretty golden rings of pineapple inserted into the spice cake.  The cake itself tasted pretty wholesome – made with some whole wheat flour and buttermilk, it wasn’t overly sweet.  The pineapple/sugar/butter/maple syrup mixture on top gave the cake a boost of sweetness with a touch of caramel.  The only thing I wished was that I had eaten a slice right out of the oven – I saved it to bring to our cook club party, so it cooled down by then.  But nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a quick zap in the microwave.

And comments from our DC contingent: “Moist and yummy!  I liked the crunchy bottom (top?) and the spongy texture.”    “Very moist.  4.0.”  “Moist and great fall flavors.  4.0.”  “This is a very good PUDC.  It’s just not my favorite kind of cake.  3.0.”

Rachel’s Dreamy Almond Bars
Score: 3.5

These are delicious, and a nice combination of two of my favorite flavors - maple and almond. I didn't calculate the calories for these, but the ingredient list kind of tells you everything you need to know. While these would probably be popular at a party, for that calorie load I'd rather have ice cream, or spice cake with maple frosting. A preparation note: Use a BIG pan for these. I used the bigger of the two pan sizes suggested in the recipe, and the filling still spilled over the edges onto the bottom of my oven and filled my apartment with sugar smoke.

Comments from the DC Cook Club: “Sweet and salty – I loved the combination and the crust was a nice shortbread texture.”  “The shortbread crust had a great buttery flavor that balanced the crunch and sweetness of the almond topping.  4.5!”  “In love.  Definitely decadent and can’t eat many more than… two in one sitting.  Loved the balance between sweet and slight saltiness.”  “Liked the combination of salty and sweet.  Very buttery.”

Maple Apple PieAmanda’s Maple Apple Pie
Score: 3.0

The name of this recipe is a little misleading. To me, this seemed to be more of an apple crisp than a pie. It had an oat crumb topping, which was very tasty, but the bottom had a pie crust. The crust got a little too soggy, and I would have just eliminated it altogether. Next time, I will modify this recipe either without a bottom crust, or with a crust on top, instead of the oat crumb topping.


Amanda’s Maple Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Score: 5.0

Condiments are pretty much my favorite food item in the world, and given that I am a Tennessean, barbecue sauce always catches my eye. So, this recipe seemed to be the obvious choice! This sauce was very simple to put together, and had many great components--mustard, garlic, of course, maple syrup. I made this sauce on 2 separate occasions, and it was a big hit both times. I think it compliments both pork and chicken very well. This one is a keeper!

And a dish from a past Cook Club cookbook...

IMG_0042Sonia’s Brussels Sprouts & Tofu
Score: 4.5

The marinade was sweet and spicy and very flavorful.  I enjoyed the cooking method of the sprouts (cut into thirds and pan fry) as it made them crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  The sautéed tofu retained a lot of flavor from the marinade and went well with the vegetables. 

DC Cook Club comments:  “Loved this dish.  Combination of tofu and Brussels sprouts was perfect, especially with Asian flavors.  5.0.”  “OMG SO GOOD.  I want to eat this everyday.  Any kid would eat these Brussels sprouts.  5.0.”  “Loved this!  Fantastic flavors and enjoyed the mix of the crunchy Brussels sprouts versus the softer texture (yet firm) of the tofu.  5.0.”  “Best tofu ever – really nice with the sprouts.”

October/November Cook Club Part 1: Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook


by Betty Gabbert
Top Scoring Dishes: Curried Mexican  Pumpkin Seeds, Pumpkin Spaghetti, and Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
Lowest Scoring Dishes: Praline Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin lovers cookbook
For October/November Cook Club, we decided to do something a little bit different...  At the DC Cook Club party back in September, we talked about how much we loved PUMPKIN and how awesome it would be to cook many things PUMPKIN.  Well, as luck would have it, our cook club member, Rachel, had a cookbook devoted to all things pumpkin -- the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook.  To further amp up the autumnal nature of this round, Rachel also offered her copy of the Maple Syrup Cookbook for us to use for this round.  So we bring to you a flurry of fall flavors broken into two blog entries.  This first one is devoted to all our pumpkin creations (and at times, butternut squash creations) (to check out our maple syrup reviews, click here).  In addition to the recipes from the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook, cook club members had the chance to make pumpkin recipes from our past cook club cookbooks.  These reviews are at the end of this entry -- the scores were not averaged into the scores for the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook. 

The title of the Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook really speaks for itself.  Chock full of straightforward and simple recipes that star the pumpkin with random bits of trivia ("Pumpkins grow faster when fed with milk or sugar water through a slit in their stalks.  Some double their size in only a few days," "Morton, Illinois is the pumpkin capital of the world," and "One of the best varieties of pumpkin for pies is the Small Sugar.") and a listing of pumpkin events around the country and places to enjoy "fall activities."  Who knew you could make so many things out of pumpkin?

Recipes from two of our top dishes for your cooking pleasure...


1/4 cup curry powder
1 1/4 cups water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. salt
juice 1/2 lemon
2 cups salted pepitas (Mexican pumpkin seeds)

Mix together in saucepan the curry, 1/4 cup warm water, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and lemon juice.  When well blended, add 1 cup water; then heat, stirring constantly until mixture simmers.  Add the pepitas and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain (save curry mixture for currying more pepitas), spread pepitas out on a baking sheet, dot with butter, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and toast in very low oven, 275 degrees, for about 1 hour, until they are crisp.  Yield: 2 cups.  (To curry more pepitas, mix 2 teaspoons curry into the remaining mixture, add water to make 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and repeat as before.)


1 cup solid pack pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup softened butter
12 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
freshly ground black pepper

Mix pumpkin, cream, 1/2 cup cheese, and nutmeg in small pan.  Bring just to simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice.  Remove from heat.  Add butter to spaghetti in large bowl.  Toss till butter is melted.  Pour pumpkin mixture over pasta.  Toss.  Transfer to serving dish.  Season to taste.


Creamy Pumpkin SoupNeena’s Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Score: 3.5

I chose this recipe because I have been looking for a quick and easy soup. And, this recipe ended up being perfect. The instructions called for the "cooking" to all take place in the microwave, so it was definitely a quick make. Rather than using orange juice from concentrate, I just used regular orange juice, and I also eliminated the chicken boullion granules from the recipe. The consistency of the final product was not perfect, so I used a little bit more milk. I also added a dash of nutmeg for a bit of a kick.

PepitasNeena’s Curried Mexican Pumpkin Seeds
Score: 5.0

I chose this recipe because I have been looking for a healthier snack while I study rather than the usual potato chips, granola bars, etc. And these pumpkin seeds definitely fit the bill. I absolutely loved this recipe-very easy and absolutely delicious. I altered the recipe a bit by using 4 cloves of garlic and about a tablespoon of paprika, and it turned out great! My guests were taking handfuls at a time!


IMG_0035Rachel’s Pumpkin “Spaghetti”
Score: 5.0

This dish is awesome. I will make it again and again for parties and potlucks. It's so simple - it takes less than 20 minutes to make, and it reheats well. It's not a healthy choice, so I'm going to try to lighten it up for everyday use by subbing in wheat pasta and lighter dairy ingredients, and maybe adding spinach. But the original recipe is perfect for special occasions.

And some thoughts from the DC contingent: “Delicious! Very creamy and good flavor. 4.5.” “LOVED! Perfect for a wintry day.” “Creamy.” “My new favorite version of mac & cheese. I want more! 5.0.”


whole wheat pumpkin breadMonica’s Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread
Score: 4.0

The whole wheat pumpkin bread uses a lot of honey (2.5 cups!), so don't think you can just whip this up when you're bored one day unless you're also a part-time beekeeper. The bread was moist and delicious, and it made three loaves, which is great if you're feeding an army. I am not, so next time I'll just halve the recipe. I think because of its moisture content it wouldn't keep very well for more than a few days, but that's okay because it was gobbled up in half a day by my small office and will probably have a similar result in your kitchen. You might try adding a little less moisture (honey? water?) if you want to avoid this. I think cranberries would be a nice addition to the recipe if you were feeling feisty.

And some thoughts from the DC contingent: “Just the right amount of sweetness and moist. 4.0.” “Nice pumpkin flavor, but would have liked more spice.” “Super moist and reminiscent of banana bread (good thing!) 4.0.” “Yum! Nice and moist. 4.0.”

Cranberry Pumpkin BreadJackie’s Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
Score: 4.5

This bread was a WINNER. Definitely fits under the banana bread family – a bit sweet, perfect for eating in chunks, and happily married with chocolate chips. The recipe made two loaves, which I divvied up, half a loaf to work with J, half a loaf to work with me, and one loaf to serve to my out of town guests. I admit that I added in chocolate chips… I can’t help myself with these types of breads to do that. In truth though, not sure how well the dried cranberries and chocolate chips worked with one another, but I could have devoured both loaves myself, so… The recipe itself was super straightforward – no mixer required, just a little elbow grease, and a handful of ingredients. Would definitely make again.


pumpkin cheesecakeSonia’s Pumpkin Cheesecake
Score: 4.0

The Pumpkin Cheesecake was a big hit at the birthday party I attended. The cake had a subtle pumpkin flavor that was enhanced by the spices in the recipe. I made some changes to the recipe, including using gingersnaps for the crust instead of zweiback (I had to Google it) crumbs and nixing the sour cream topping. Instead, I drizzled the cheesecake slices with a whiskey caramel sauce, which complemented the other flavors very nicely. My only complaint was that the cream cheese didn't blend completely smoothly, resulting in a slightly lumpy texture.

IMG_0033Monica’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies
Score: 4.5

These are reminiscent of what I call "kitchen sink cookies" in that they combine a variety of different ingredients that work well together into one dessert buffet of a cookie. Double the chocolate, cook them for 15 minutes, and you've got a winner on your hands. It made a lot of cookies (the recipe ain't jokin' when it says 6 dozen), but I was eating them by the handful so the fact that they might not keep well (same problem as the whole wheat pumpkin bread -- super moist, almost too much so) shouldn't be a deterrent to your making them. I suspect the batter would freeze well if you only wanted to bake a few cookies at a time, but I can't be sure. Easy and a crowd-pleaser.

And comments from the DC contingent: “Moist and chocolatey.” “Could have eaten the whole plate – delicious! 5.0.” “These were AWESOME. Fantastically soft (as chocolate cookies should be…) and a great balance of pumpkin and chocolate.”

Jackie’s Frosted Spicy Pumpkin Bars
Score: 4.0

I love pumpkin baked goods… I was intrigued by this one because of the “spicy” twist. I think the “spice” was supposed to come from the ground ginger. I’m not sure if my ground ginger was a bit old, so less spicy, but nevertheless, these bars tasted delicious. They were quite moist and perfect for snacking on any time of the day. The “frosted” part was really more of a viscous icing – a spoonful of it would spread quickly on top and drip down the sides of the bars. Not that I’m complaining – there wasn’t a lot of sugar in the bars themselves, so anyone looking to satisfy their sweet tooth would enjoy the extra oomph of the icing. All in all, I would make these again!

Jackie’s Praline Pumpkin Pie
Score: 2.5

This was actually the first recipe of the bunch that I picked – I wanted to bake some sort of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and this cookbook offered a ton of options. I picked this one because it was (1) a little different and (2) J loves praline. The one hiccup was I couldn’t find the no-bake custard mix that it called for, so substituted it with a vanilla pudding mix. That apparently was not a good call. Although the pie itself tasted good, it didn’t set… and was really a pie of candied pecans on the bottom and pumpkin pudding on top. I think it would be better with the no-bake custard mix (which would have resulted in a firmer consistency), but I probably wouldn’t make this again.

Leanne’s Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
Score: 4.8

Really easy cheesecake to make, and received rave reviews from everyone who ate it!

From Nigella's Christmas

Two of our lovely cook club members cooked up Nigella's Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Lasagna.  Here were their takes:

Monica’s Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Lasagna
Score: 3.0

Very labor intensive, and Nigella way overestimates the cooking time of EVERYTHING! The pumpkin needs less than half an hour to become soft enough to put into the lasagna, and the lasagna itself dries out if you leave it in the oven for an hour -- I should know, I did it. I had none of the "shallow tomatoey cheesey pool" at the bottom of my pan. It was not "gorgeous." Solution? Extra pasta sauce served with each slice of lasagna. I omitted the sage and used pre-made pasta sauce, but everything else was according to the recipe, and it was yummy (though dry until I realized all it needed was more sauce). My advice would be to cut the cooking time in half on both the pumpkin cooking part and the baking part, and to cover the lasagna in the oven for the first 20 minutes it cooks so you don't lose any of that moisture. Also, this makes a HUGE batch of lasagna so I'll probably cut it in half if I make it again.

Pumpkin LasagnaLeanne’s Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Lasagna
Score: 4.5

Also received rave reviews. Only thing was it didn't taste as good the next day--this one really needs to be eaten the same day it is made. Also easy to make. I used regular lasagna noodles instead of fresh ones, and it turned out fine.

From Giada's Kitchen

Anjali and Neena’s Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
Score: 2.0

So it turns out Neena (my sister, newest member!) and I both picked this recipe, so we decided to make it as part of Thanksgiving dinner. I was super excited to finally be trying my hand and risotto, a dish that has previously scared me off due to its high maintenance. While the texture of the final dish was exactly has it should be, the resounding response from everyone was "Oh my, it takes like vanilla!" Seriously, the vanilla was borderline offensive. The final dish definitely needed something to balance the vanilla, perhaps more parmesean cheese or other savory ingredient. I probably will not make this exact recipe again, but I am glad I finally tried making risotto. (Neena approves this review)

From Molto Gusto (Mario Batali)

IMG_0040Sonia’s Butternut Squash and Mushroom Salad
Score: 4.0

The combination of cooked and raw mushrooms was a nice textural contrast and complemented the squash well. The dressing was simple, but really brought the dish together (the truffle oil didn’t hurt!).  DC Cook Club comments: “I wish the mushrooms had been cooked, but otherwise quite yummy.” “Nice mix of the soft butternut squash against the mushrooms.” “Flavors were a little plain, even though I loved the veggies.” “Good flavors, maybe marinate the mushrooms more?”

Pumpkin with ApplesJulie’s Broiled Pumpkin with Apples
Score: 3.5

Very simple (to make and also in terms of ingredients and flavours) and very tasty - I love butternut squash-sage combos and almost anything with apples so it was hard to go wrong here. The first time round, for my taste the squash was overcooked and the amount of dressing too much (a bit too overpowering/ acidic) but I had faith in the high potential of this dish and the second time round it was a lot better.

Friday, October 7, 2011

August/September Cook Club: PLENTY by Ottolenghi



TOP SCORING DISHES: Garlic Soup with Harissa, Crusted Pumpkin Wedges with Sour Cream, Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango, Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad, Castelluccio Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola, Mushroom and Herb Polenta, and Figs with Basil, Goat CHeese, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

LOWEST SCORING DISHES: Mushroom Lasagna, Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime, and Green Chile, and Avocado, Quinoa, and Fava Bean Salad

ottolenghiThe turn of the seasons between August and September seemed like the perfect time to have the absolutely gorgeous cookbook, Plenty, as our cookbook.  As it turned out though, the period of August and September is a weird time to whip up produce focused dishes – it is kind of like going shopping for clothes between seasons. The produce (like clothes) were kind of neither summery nor autumnal.  But we managed to cook up some delicious dishes anyways ;)

I originally came across Plenty during one of my (many) browses (it is a good way to take breaks from work!). Plenty caught my eye because of its cover photo of eggplants with buttermilk sauce (the description of the dish doesn’t do it justice!) – beautiful purple eggplants, covered in a white sauce punctuated with the ruby red pomegranate seeds. When I finally broke down and ordered Plenty, I was not disappointed. Unlike our last cookbook, “Ten,” the cookbook was filled with beautiful photos of dishes whose titles ordinarily wouldn’t tantalize me. (plus, bonus, the book has a padded cover!! Love all those little details).

There were two main final reasons why I wanted to introduce Plenty as our August/September cook club book. (1) the cookbook is entirely vegetarian – it is authored by British chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, who is not a vegetarian but was tapped by London’s The Guardian newspaper to write a weekly column of vegetarian recipes; I had always wanted to work in more veg dishes into my repertoire and, admittedly, often feel like a meal isn’t a meal without some meat. But I was ready to have my opinion changed and Plenty has definitely added some great veg dishes to my life. (2) my friend, and fellow cook club member, Julie, highly recommended the cookbook to me – she had tried numerous recipes out of Plenty and was enthusiastic about the results.

So, here we are… how was Plenty? Check out our reviews below (and while you are at it, check out our friends at A Cookbook A Month’s review of Plenty).  The reviews are categorized under the same headings as listed in the cookbook.

For your cooking pleasure, two recipes from two of the top scoring recipes:

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

Serves 6

½ cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil
2 eggplants, cut into ¾-inch dice or into ¼ inch thick strips
1 and 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less)
2½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped
½ red onion, very thinly sliced

In a small saucepan, gently warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile, and sesame oil.  Allow to cool then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches.  Once golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occassionally.  They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente.  Drain and rinse well under running water.  Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs, and the onion.  You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours.  When ready to serve, add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Figs with Basil, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Serves 4

1 shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
1½ cups arugula
¾ cup mixed purple and green basil leaves
8 ripe figs, at room temperature
2½ oz young and creamy goat cheese

Place the shallot, mustard, and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl.  Add some salt and pepper and whisk vigorously as you slowly pour in the olive oil.  You are aiming for a homogenous dressing.

Add most of the arugula and basil leaves to the dressing, reserving some to finish the salad, and toss gently.  Lift the dressed leaves onto a large serving plate, spreading them out to line it.

Cut the figs vertically into quarters and arrange over the leaves.  Next, dot the figs and leaves with teaspoonfuls of cheese.  Scatter the reserved leaves on top, drizzle with extra oil and season with some salt and pepper.



Surprise Tatin
Julie’s Surprise Tatin
Score: 3.5

This was indeed a tasty surprise, really nice combination of sweet caramel/sundried tomatoes and savoury goat's cheese with juicy potatoes. It also looks pretty and goes well with a green salad as suggested. It's a perfectly nice dish, but doesn't get full marks just because there are so many more outstanding Ottolenghi recipes :) Like most of his recipes, it's not complicated to put together but does take time to assemble.
Elaine’s Roasted Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette
Score: 4.5

This was very moreish (ie what the Brits say to mean it's so nice that you want to keep eating more once you've started!) and would make the perfect roast dinner side. Super easy to make since the oven did most of the hard work (no need to peel/cut/dice garlic, rosemary, and thyme). For the dressing I went a little lighter on the capers and added more maple syrup to suit my taste because I was worried that the capers would be too overwhelming but to be honest once the veggies absorbed the dressing it wasn't such a strong flavor at all. I loved that tomatoes were only added in the last 10 mins of cooking, just long enough for them to warm and pop!

Funny Onions

Amanda’s Stuffed Onions
Score: 3.0

I gave this dish a 3 because I wasn't a huge fan of the flavors, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. There seemed to be too much of a contrast between the feta and tomatoes and the onion. I have to confess that I forgot to include bread crumbs in the stuffing mixture, which maybe affected the flavor somewhat. Overall, the recipe was super easy to make, and is one that is great for when you have tons of other hands-on cooking going on, which is why I was disappointed in the end product.

Garlic Soup from Plenty
Anjali’s Garlic Soup with Harissa
Score: 4.25

I love garlic (and am thus, definitely not a vampire). Thus, I chose this dish. If you buy pre-peeled garlic, this is super simple. Otherwise, it might have been a bit work intensive. I will note that I minced the garlic in the food processor before adding it in, and I think this was a mistake, because the pieces later did not puree well. This made the soup quite watery, which was solved by the recipe's request for a dollop of Greek yogurt. The results were a hit at the party. The harissa added great flavor and I had plenty left over to put on sandwiches/eat with pita.


Rachel’s Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt
Score: 4.0

I did not have high hopes for this recipe, but I loved it. Would be a really nice side, or serve over lettuce for a main. I swapped out the fava beans for lima beans because I was unable to find fava beans in my grocery store. Next time, I will double the marinade -- it's delicious.

DC Cook Club Comments: “The flavors combined really well in a surprising way. The walnuts were so crunchy and yum, and I liked the lima beans and mushrooms.” “Loved the mix of textures with the bite of the mushroom and the crunch of the walnuts. The tahini yogurt added a great flavor.” “Good, but needed some more flavor.”

Lisa W.’s Mushroom Lasagna
Score: 2.0

I am always looking for a good lasagna recipe. I was very excited about this one since it is vegetarian. When I chose it I did not know that the sauce was béchamel. How brilliant, right? Not so much. The béchamel tasted amazing by itself. However, an hour later when it was baked in the lasagna with the porcini and fresh mushrooms, it lost its flavor. The entire lasagna was over-powered by the porcini mushrooms. Perhaps the lasagna would have tasted better if I had used spinach lasagna noodles as recommended. However, I could not find these noodles in my local grocery store. Overall, my husband and I decided that lasagna needs marinara sauce. Period.

Zucchini and Other Squashes

Elaine’s Zucchini and Hazelnut Salad
Score: 3.5

This was super simple and fast to make, no more than a 20 min job! I wanted this to be more salty though so if I were to make it again I would increase the amount of balsamic vinegar used and/or parmesan cheese added at the end. Perfect summer salad to go with grilled meats.

Monica’s Stuffed Zucchini
Score: 3.5

Surprising flavor (sweet!) and I loved the texture of the rice contrasted with the zucchini. DC Cook Club Comments: “Zucchini was a bit soggy and stuffing was lacking flavor.” “Very good, surprisingly sweet. The texture was nice, thought it might be too mushy.” “I liked the stuffing, but I’m not the biggest fan of zucchini.” “Pretty, but oddly bland. Maybe bump up the spice?”

Butternut Squash
Leanne’s Crusted Pumpkin Wedges with Sour Cream
Score: 4.8

I picked this dish at last minute when I realized one of my other choices used produce that was no longer in season. And I am so glad I did! It was relatively easy to make--I was concerned at first, because the topping that was supposed to crust the pumpkin wedges wasn't sticking to the pumpkin, but in the end it didn't really matter. The dill and sour cream sauce that went with the pumpkin was a perfect match. Also, this was the favorite from the people who tried the dishes I made.

butternut squash amanda
Amanda’s Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime, and Green Chile
Score: 2.0

The flavors of this dish were somewhat lacking and it seemed to be a little too labor intensive for the end product. I would have preferred to use lime juice instead of lime slices to enhance the flavors. I did love the combination of yogurt and tahini--the sauce was very tasty and unique. One positive that came from trying this recipe was that I cooked with a new spice (again!)--cardamom. It is a very interesting spice and hope that it turns up in other recipes again soon!


Anjali’s Saffron Cauliflower
Score: 3.5

My mother recently bought me saffron from a spice souk in Dubai, so I was eager to start using it! The recipe was pretty straightforward. It was not my favorite but is a simple side that I could use again in the future.

Jackie’s Broccoli and Gorgonzola Pie
Score: 3.0

I originally chose this recipe for a few reasons: (1) J LOVES broccoli, so what is better than a buttery cheesy broccoli pie? (2) I was making it for our DC cook club party and it didn’t have to be served piping hot and (3) I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making more pies. Well… at least one of the three reasons worked out (#2). I had some missteps along the way… This pie is made with puff pastry, also a bonus because I could just purchase the frozen puff pastry instead of having to make my own crust. I’ve never used the frozen puff pastry before though and defrosted the pastry without unfolding it first – so I had to roll out the pastry but it never quite reached the size of my springform pan. Solution: create a broccoli and gorgonzola POT PIE (no real crust on the bottom and sides, baked up in pot instead of a pie pan). Not quite a “pie,” and I do agree with one of the comments below that this would probs have been better as a traditional pie. J also couldn’t attend our DC cook club party as it turned out, so didn’t meet objective #1. I was a bit disappointed with the results. Everything smelled delicious as I was cooking it together, especially the leeks (this was also my first time cooking with leeks, and I think that I successfully managed to clean them of all their sand and dirt, and cook them). But, the actual results were pretty bland and the flavors didn’t come all together. I think next time, I would mix all the ingredients together before baking so you really get a taste of everything in one bite (the recipe called for first the leek mixture, then the broccoli, and then “dotted” with gorgonzola).

DC Cook Club: “There was a surprising flavor in there that I couldn’t figure out, but I love broccoli plus cheese, so good job.” “Great taste, would have preferred a more typical presentation.” “Yummy. Loved the pastry shell and cheese, made the broccoli very edible.” “Yum! Great way to use broccoli.”

The Mighty Eggplant

Soba with Eggplant and Mango
Amanda’s Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Score: 5.0

Based on reviews from the last round of cook club, I like the soba noodles. They're super easy to prepare, and delicious! This recipe did not let me down. I loved the combination of flavors and was glad to snack on the leftovers for the next few days. The recipe said to fry the eggplant and I decided to saute it instead--turned out great and I loved the flavor. I also eliminated the red onion at the end, and did not miss it at all! Uncooked onion is not my favorite, and I feel that it would have overpowered the dish too much. Soba is going to become a staple in my kitchen.


Quinoa Sourdough Salad
Leanne’s Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad
Score: 4.7

I recently started trying quinoa recipes which is why I chose this dish. When I was reading the actual ingredients I was a little worried since it sounded kind of bland. Luckily, I was wrong--while there really isn't any dressing on this salad, because there are so many herbs, it was incredibly flavorful, and really healthy too!! I would definitely make this again.

Leaves, Cooked and Raw

Spinach, Egg and Pecorino Pizza
Julie’s Spinach, Egg and Pecorino Pizza
Score: 4.5

Delicious! Even though it's totally unorthodox an probably banned in Italy, I'm a big fan of Pizza Fiorentina (spinach and egg) found elsewhere. As this was a Middle Eastern version of the same - without the tomato sauce and with zatar and sumac instead - it could hardly fail to please, and actually I think I liked it more. Don't be put off by the picture; I managed to overcook the dough a little courtesy of my temperamental oven but it was moist nonetheless.

Green Beans

edamame noodles 2
Sonia’s Warm Glass Noodles and Edamame
Score: 3.5

This was a good dish with a nice mix of sour, salty, and spicy. I was surprised that the recipe called for the juice of 4 limes, but the other ingredients (sugar, tamarind) mellowed it out into a nice tangy flavor. I thought that this was a unique recipe--I hadn't used glass noodles in the past and normally only eat edamame as an appetizer—but it didn't have a "wow" factor for me.

DC Cook Club Comments: “I loved the surprise spice balanced by the acidity of the lime juice. I could eat a whole bowl of these for a light summer meal.” “A little spicy for me, but overall very good. Glass noodles are awesome!” “Awesome!” “Noodles were an unexpected texture, looked like rice noodles, but much more dense. Just something to be aware of with mung noodles.” “Good flavor, but somehow insubstantial.” “Loved the spice!”


Jackie’s Castelluccio Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola
Score: 4.8

Let me tell you, finding castelluccio lentils was quite the expedition. Or, well, finding the puy lentils that I replaced them with (as ok’d by the cookbook). The idea is using lentils that didn’t get too soggy too quickly. I eventually found myself at the bulk aisle of Whole Foods (thanks Sonia for the tip!) and bought an excessive amount of lentils (had problems equating pounds of lentils to how much was called for in the recipe). But this actually is a-OK with me, because I LOVED THIS DISH (and have actually bought more tomatoes to cook this again). The recipe was more time consuming than I expected (the roasting of tomatoes took about 1.5 hours), but it was worth it. Mixed together with the lentils and roasted tomatoes were sliced red onions marinated in a delicious vinegar mixture. I had served this with gorgonzola on the side (in case guests weren’t blue cheese fans), and I must say, I love it with and without. The brightness of the acidity in the vinegar and the tomatoes balanced out the earthy lentils wonderfully, and the blue cheese gave it that extra oomph. And it is even better the next day, after all the flavors have more time to marinate together. So, I was really happy with this (plus, my first foray into cooking lentils… lots of firsts with this cook club). Definitely making this again!

DC Cook Club Comments: “I enjoyed the tomato and red onion mixed with the earthy lentils.” “Yummy! Blue cheese was a definite must, but I’m not such a fan of raw onions, so I could do without them in the future.” “Excellent. Tomatoes were perfect.” “These were great. Ate them all up!” “Really nice! Tasted fresh and flavors really work together.” “Definitely enjoyed the blue cheese and lentils.”

Amanda’s Spiced Red Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt
Score: 4.0

I chose this recipe based on the small hit of fall weather Texas has been having. Soups and stews are my favorite when the weather gets cooler, so this dish seemed like an obvious choice! The recipe was pretty easy to put together, and it introduced me to some new spices I had heard of, but never cooked with. I was unable to find curry leaves, but Anjali assured me that it wouldn't have a negative impact on the recipe. She was correct! The lentils were flavorful and hearty. The recipe suggests to generously salt the dish before serving, and they were not kidding. The salt helped the flavor tons, as well as the addition of butter just before serving. :) I will be making this one again.


Monica’s Avocado, Quinoa, and Fava Bean Salad
Score: 2.5

Good flavor, but it was more like guacamole at the end. It's okay, I made it! I'll take the blame.  DC Cook Club Comments: “Great taste, texture too creamy.” “Good textures, but something missing with the flavors.” “It was hard to discern the different ingredients and flavors, but I would use this as a dip or spread for crackers in the future!” “I feel like quinoa and avocado combine to make an unpleasant paste.” “Yummy! Loved the quinoa, made it more filling (and the beans) – made a dip seem like a meal.”

Pasta, Polenta, and Couscous

Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli
Leanne’s Lemon and Goat Cheese Ravioli
Score: 3.0

I was really excited to make this dish--it sounded amazing. This recipe actually involved making your own pasta dough, and it was about as labor-intensive as you would expect, especially since I don't own a pasta machine. Rolling out the dough by hand was time consuming, and I also don't think I rolled it thin enough which make the ravioli too chewy. Anyway, I was not impressed with the end result: the ravioli wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great either. Just kind of average, and for the amount of time it took, not worth it. I wouldn't make this again.

Elaine’s Sweet Corn Polenta
Score: 4.0
On the whole this was a nice dish and not too difficult to make, great use of fresh sweet corn and as the recipe said not too heavy. However I'm not convinced that the eggplant/tomato part is good enough on its own. Perhaps I should have used sweeter tomatoes but it certainly lacked something... the feta was a nice inclusion and added great smooth texture. I had this as a standalone meal so added some peppery rocket to compliment which was a perfect addition. A great meal to have on a cold night.

Polenta with Mushrooms
Jackie’s Mushroom and Herb Polenta
Score: 5.0

I had heard rave reviews about this dish from Elaine and Julie, so in the last week of this round of cook club, I decided to make this on a whim for J and me for a weeknight dinner. And I am definitely happy I did! It was fairly simple and straightforward. The recipe consisted primarily of chopping some herbs, cooking up the polenta, mixing in deliciously rich cheese and butter, cooking up mushrooms, and then popping it in the oven under the broiler. This is an incredibly rich dish, with loads of unami flavors (I was also very excited to use the truffle oil Anjali recently gifted me). My favorite part was the polenta itself – I tasted it prior to piling the mushrooms on top and the flavors were right on point. The recipe also included slicing taleggio cheese to insert between the polenta and mushrooms before going under the broiler – I didn’t think this was necessary because the dish had sufficient cheesy-goodness, so would probably omit that next time around.

Fruit with Cheese
anjali's salad
Anjali’s Figs with Basil, Goat Cheese, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Score: 5.0

I love all of the above ingredients, so this was an obvious choice for me. It was simple and straightforward, and I finally got to use pomegranate molasses! Everyone enjoyed the salad. I must admit, I added some fig balsamic vinegar (a recent purchase from Chelsea Market!) to the salad dressing.

And, lastly, Sonia and I made two bonus dishes for the DC Cook Club party.  I baked up an adaptation of Giada's sweet corn and mascarpone lasagna (check it out here!), which was a pretty amazing mixture of sweet, indulgent, and lemony.  ... And we are always spoiled by Sonia's dessert treats that she brings to our parties.  She baked for us a RED WINE CHOCOLATE CAKE (from Smitten Kitchen) and served it with homemade cardamom ice cream. Yum.  Doesn't it look delish?

Sweet Corn and Mascarpone Lasagna

While I had a month off between switching jobs, I watched a lot of TV. Particularly, cooking shows and one of my faves is the lovely Giada DeLaurentiis. Not only do I find her recipes are often successful and delicious, but I just enjoy her show. It feels like I’m in the kitchen with her when she’s cooking and I also love the episodes where she is cooking for a party she is throwing with her friends or an outing with Jade. So, for this past round of cook club (check out everything that was made out of Plenty by Ottolenghi here!), I snuck in one of Giada’s dishes for our DC cook club party – her SWEET CORN LASAGNA that she made with her Aunt Raffy. It was the perfect dish to add in because all the other dishes were vegetarian.

The dish was a huge hit! As my friend Rachel said, it is the perfect dish to convince non-vegetarians that vegetarian food can be delicious and filling. It is a bit sweeter than your typical lasagna with the base of the dish consisting of sweet corn and mascarpone. I didn’t mind that at all. In fact, I taste-tested the corn mixture a few times to make sure it had enough seasoning and by the end, I could have just eaten the corn mixture by itself.

On another note, I had been concerned that it would be overly citrusy / lemony based on the reviews listed under the recipe, so I ended up zesting just half the lemon. The lemon notes definitely shine in this dish, but I thought it was a nice complement to the richness of the cheeses. I also forgot to completely thaw the corn before throwing it in the food processor, which turned out ok, just took a bit longer to whizz around.

Lastly, Giada made these lasagnas as “mini-lasagnas” in small ramekins – so, single serving lasagnas. Because I was making this for a crowd, I cooked this up in the traditional lasagna way in a lasagna pan. I used three layers of noodles (so four layers of sauce) and cooked initially for about 40 minutes, checked it, and cooked for probably another 10 minutes. I will definitely be making this again!

Sweet Corn and Mascarpone Lasagna (courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis with slight adaptations)

Butter, for ramekins
12 lasagna sheets
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus 1/2 cup (2 ounces)
1/2 large lemon, zested
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp Provolone
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter lasagna pan. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain.

In a food processor, blend the corn, cream and garlic until chunky. Add the mascarpone, 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano cheese, the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Add the basil and pulse until just combined.

Spoon some of the filling into the lasagna pan and spread enough to cover. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the provolone. Layer four lasagna noodles on top of the sauce and provolone.

Put another layer of filing on top of lasagna, making sure to cover all the noodles so they don’t get too dry in cooking. Add more provolone on top. Layer with four more lasagna noodles. Repeat once more.

On the top layer, spoon any remaining filling on top of the pasta. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Continue baking longer if necessary. Cool for 10 minutes.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cookie Carnival: Sweet Banana Peanut Butter Cookies


OH MY.  Wow.  Hello soft cookie goodness.  What a wonderful recipe to bake up for my first foray back to Cookie Carnival.  I was shocked to discover that my last Cookie Carnival post was back in December 2009 (oh those pecan pie cookies!) -- time has just flown by!  Every month, I received the Cookie Carnival emails and loved reading about the baking adventures of my fellow bakers (check out the most recent roundups posted by Tami, our lovely Cookie Carnival hostess).  And now I'm excited to start baking again!  I just finished one job and am in the midst of a month of catching-up-on-my-life before I begin my next job.  Also, today is my husband's first day back at school and surely, a batch of cookies will help to appease a bunch of high schoolers?


So, August's Cookie Carnival brought us SWEET BANANA PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES from Canada's Food Network chef, Anna Olson.  (Check out our round up of cookies here) Or, perhaps better renamed as, Elvis's dream cookies.  Or as decadent sandwiches of savory and sweet.  I was very pleasantly surprised by these cookies.  From the photo on the Food Network website, I thought that the cookies would be crunchy -- like a typical "sandwich" cookie.  The cookies, however, were delightfully soft -- not only fresh from the oven, but hours later as well.  The filling -- made of cream cheese, peanut butter, and bananas (softened slightly in a butter-sugar-cinnamon melted mixture) -- was not overly sweet and a very nice complement to the peanut butter cookies.


In the first batch, I made the cookies at the suggested tablespoon measurement.  These resulted in cookies larger than I expected.  For the next batches, I shrunk the cookies down a bit, to fit 16 on a tray instead of 12, baked them for about 7 minutes, to yield a larger number of cookies.  The smaller cookies turned out as equally soft and delicious as the larger cookies.  Plus, the combination of two cookies plus the filling is quite rich, so for me, personally, the smaller cookies were perfect.  Also, these cookies are fantastic by themselves -- I definitely plan to make them again both with and without the filling!





  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter


        To Assemble

        1. For cookies, preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add to peanut butter mixture and blend in. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and crisscross mark them with a floured fork. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until cookies just start to colour around the edges.
        2. For filling, in sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugars and increase heat to medium-high. Stir until melted and bubbling. Add rum (watch out for flames). Add cinnamon. Stir in bananas to coat, set aside.
        3. Cream together cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Mash bananas and add to cream cheese mixture until smooth. Chill for 20 minutes.
        4. Fill between 2 peanut butter cookies to make sandwiches. Repeat with remaining cookies.
        5. Yield: 12 sandwich cookies. (P.S. My version yielded 22 sandwich cookies -- a mix of the larger size and the smaller size)