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)

        Tuesday, August 16, 2011

        Cook Club: Ten by Sheila Lukins


        TEN by Sheila Lukins
        Average Score: 4.36

        Perfect Scoring Dishes (there were SO many "top scoring dishes" so here are the list of dishes that scored a perfect score): Julie’s Beet and Apple Soup, Jackie’s Olivada, Jackie’s Sesame Noodles with Apples and Cucumbers, Monica’s Paella Rice with Shrimp and Chorizo, Monica’s Roasted Asparagus,  Amanda’s Sparkling Limoncello, Amanda’s Summer Soba Noodles w/Zesty Dipping Sauce, Sonia’s Sinful Chocolate Tart,  Lisa H.’s Farmers Market Corn Salad, Anjali’s Skirt Steak with a Touch of Latin America

        This round of cook club spanned three months, instead of two -- the summertime proved to be quite busy for our members AND the cookbook we chose, TEN by Sheila Lukins, is chock full of excellent options. The author of the cookbook, Sheila Lukins (of “The Silver Palate” fame) decided to put together a cookbook that consisted of her favorite “types” of dishes.  Finding that she could probably name at least TEN recipes for each dish, she came up with the brilliant plan to include at least 10 recipes for each type of dish.  My mom actually introduced me this cookbook and I am very glad she did! Something different about this cookbook for me is its lack of pictures. I often get drawn to cookbooks because of the beautiful food photography -- so I feel like it says something when a cookbook speaks to you without any glossy beautiful photos to lure you in.  

        And as it turns out, this cookbook was a GREAT success. A number of the cook club members bought the book for themselves after trying out their recipes and we had the highest number of "perfect scores" for this cookbook than any other.  Many of the recipes provided a new technique that turned an ordinary recipe into a great one.  If you try out any recipes from this cookbook too, please leave a comment! Would love to hear about how your dishes turned out.

        Some general comments from cook club members:
        Leanne: I bought this cookbook after cook club and made tons more recipes out of it.  The mac & cheese recipe is amazing!  I also made the caramelized banana cake recipe which was really good, the tomato soup recipe (the one with orange zest in it)--AMAZING, the mint pea soup (not that great, but I am not a pea fan), and the lemony roasted potatoes (SO easy and really delicious).  I LOVE this cookbook!!!

        Amanda:  I LOVED this cookbook . . . so much so that I ordered it from Amazon.  :) The recipes are easy to follow and I liked the variety of fresh ingredients that were used.  

        For your cooking and tasting pleasure, here are two of the top recipes:

        Sesame Noodles with Apples and Cucumbers
        Serves 6

        For the sesame sauce:
        1/3 cup soy sauce
        1/4 cup rice vinegar
        1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
        2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
        1 teaspoon minced garlic
        1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
        1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
        3 tablespoons peanut oil
        1/2 teaspoon chile oil, or more to taste
        Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

        For the noodles:
        1 tablespoon olive oil
        12 ounces spaghettini
        Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

        For finishing:
        1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, julienned, tossed with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice to prevent discoloration
        3/4 hothouse (seedless) cucumber, peeled and julienned
        4 scallions (white bulbs and 3 inches green), thinly sliced
        3 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts
        1/4 cup tiny radish or alfalfa sprouts

        1.  One day ahead, prepare the sesame sauce.  Place the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and peanut butter in a blender and process on high speed until smooth, 1 or 2 minutes.

        2.  Combine the sesame oil, peanut oil, and chile oil in a spouted measuring cup, and with the blender running, drizzle them into the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover, and refrigerate overnight to thicken.

        3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the olive oil and the spaghettini, and cook until the noodles are al dente (just tender), 8 to 9 minutes.  Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Place the noodles in a large bowl and toss with the sesame sauce, using the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper.

        4.  Transfer the noodles to a shallow pasta bowl.  Drain the apple and sprinkle it evenly over the noodles, followed by the cucumber, scallions, peanuts, and sprouts.  Serve immediately.

        Farmers' Market Corn Salad
        Serves 4

        4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
        4 ounces slender fresh green beans, stem ends removed
        1 cup diced, peeled, seeded cucumber (1/4-inch dice)
        2 medium-size ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch dice
        3 scallions (white bulbs and 3 inches green), thinly sliced
        2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
        Coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
        1/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette

        1.  Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil.

        2.  While the water is hearing, use a sharp knife to strip the corn kernels off the cobs, cutting as close to the cobs as possible; you should have 2 cups.

        3.  Cook the corn kernels in the boiling water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain, run under cold water, and drain again.  Pat dry and place in a large bowl.

        4.  Bring another saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add the green beans.  Cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain, run under cold water, and drain again.  Pat dry and add to the corn.  Toss in the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, and parsley.  (If you wish, you can refrigerate the mixture for up to 4 hours before serving.  Remove it about 30 minutes before serving).

        5.  Just before serving, season the salad with salt and pepper and toss it lightly with the vinaigrette.

        And now, the reviews!  Enjoy!

        Amanda’s Sparkling Limoncello
        Score: 5
        Such a delicious and simple summer cocktail! I could have sipped this for hours...and we did at our cook club dinner party. This beverage is perfect for pool days...or when you're missing summertime. :)

        IMG_0366Sonia’s Blushing Sangria
        Score: 4.5
        I served the Blushing Sangria at the DC Cook Club dinner party, and it was a refreshing treat in the summer heat. I added a bit more Cointreau than the recipe indicated, replaced the cantaloupe (not a fan) with watermelon (very well-received substitute!), and added a few blackberries that I found at the farmer's market. I felt that the amount of sparkling water was a little excessive, as the sangria tasted a bit watered down. Next time I make this, I will use flavored sparkling water or perhaps cut down on the amount I use. Note: I doubled the recipe for the party, but kept the fruit amounts the same, and I would recommend this, as we all had plenty.

        DC Cook Club Party comments: “Very refreshing and summery, but a bit too watery.”  “Delicious summer drink.”  “Very summery!”  “Super awesome – loved this.  Perfect for a party.  Definitely support watermelon addition.”  “Very fresh, yummy, doesn’t taste like alcohol (which is nice).”  “Great fruit flavor!”


        Beet and Apple SoupJulie’s Beet and Apple Soup
        Score: 5.0
        I've been really excited about trying out different ways of preparing (and eating!) beetroots since rediscovering them a year or two ago so I had to try this one. The recipe was simple to follow and an adventure for the senses - great smells while preparing it (earthy beetroot boiling, sweet caramelising apples, zingy lemon juice) and the result was not only really tasty but also a beautiful vibrant colour and smooth thick texture. You have to like beetroots though as (a) the flavour is pretty strong, and (b) they are weird alien-looking things to work with and stain your hands or gloves pink!  I'd recommend it cold - perfect for a summer evening - but also tried warming up a little and that would work really well in as comfort food in colder weather.  Definitely serve with the creme fraiche as ecommended in the recipe. I used chicken stock (normal not homemade) this time but would try it with veg stock next time.

        Green Garden Soup from TenLeanne’s Garden Greens Soup
        Score: 4.8  
        This was a delicious and simple broccoli soup.  I was a little worried that it would be bland
        just because there were no spices or anything in the ingredients.  However, the flavors were really delicious, and blandness was not at all an issue.  I would definitely make this again!

        IMG_0357Jackie’s Olivada
        Score: 5.0
        I love olive tapenade, so when trying to pick out an appetizer type recipe for our DC Cook Club party, I went for the “olivada.”  This recipe was super straight forward and easy to make.  The part that took the longest was pitting the green, manzanilla olives (the kalamatas were much easier, they just peeled right off the pits).  But otherwise, it was as simple as pitting/chopping several ingredients and throwing them into the food processor or a quick whiz around.  We ended up making two batches of the olivada – just the one serving seemed too small – and we were very happy to have leftovers for the next week.  Perfect for spreading on bread and crackers, we also used the olivada in lieu of dressing for salads. Some comments from our DC Cook Club guests: “This was a really nice salty olive tapenade that was a tasty topping with the bread.”  “Great app!”  “Olives rule!”  “Oh my gosh – super great!  Wonderful flavors, at first bite!”  “Burst of flavor, but a little salty.”

        Monica’s Spiced Goat Cheese Slather
        Score: 3.5
        Short story:  I substituted sour cream for creme fraiche and ricotta (full fat!) for goat cheese.  I made a double recipe.  It was a hot day.  The ricotta plus creme fraiche mixture made the slather into more of a dip than a slather.  That being said, it was delicious, it was a real crowd pleaser at a Fourth of July cookout, and I was totally okay with it as a dip.  But it made a lot of dip.  So I used some of the extra "slather" as a sauce for angel hair pasta, and it was AMAZING.  So think outside the box when you make this slather. Use it as a slather, a dip, a pasta sauce, a face mask . . . whatever. Okay, maybe not the last one.  But I think the recipe deserves some credit for turning out delicious even with all of my “substitutions.”

        IMG_1738Monica’s Roasted Garlic 
        Score: 4.5
        I know I requested four recipes in the first go-round, but then my boyfriend's tempo-roomie bought a massive bag of garlic at Costco, and I remembered seeing a roasted garlic recipe in this book that would be a perfect way to use it all.  Considering my unhealthy love of garlic, this recipe was a no-brainer.  The final result was a head of garlic that was deliciously creamy and spreadable, and I would've loved to throw it in a small dish of olive oil for dipping bread into during an Italian dinner.  Next time, I'll be sure to have crusty bread on hand just for that purpose!

        Amanda’s Watermelon, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad
        Score: 4.5
        This is a perfect summertime salad! It was very easy to put together, just required lots of chopping. The recipe included feta, which was an awesome addition and paired nicely with the watermelon. The only thing that I would have done differently is use smaller tomatoes (like grape or cherry tomatoes) and not peel them. In my opinion, it took too much time and effort to peel the tomatoes, and it didn't really change the flavor of the salad all that much. The next time I make it, I will definitely skip this step and use smaller, more flavorful tomatoes.

        Carrot Soup from TenAmanda’s Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup
        Score: 4.5
        This recipe sounded so appealing, I just had to try it out, and so glad I did! The dish is one of those that is easy to make when other cooking is going on. As indicated by the title, roasting is involved...for 2 hours. All I had to do was peel and cut the carrots, parsnips, onion, and ginger in large pieces and toss them in the oven. Once the vegetables finish roasting, it took 15 minutes to have the dish completely ready. The soup was really flavorful.  I can't wait to make it again! 

        IMG_0359Rachel’s Ricotta Slather
        DC Cook Club comments: “Even though this was a simple dish, it was very tasty, and went well with the caponata.”  “Wonderful.”  “So simple, surprisingly good.”  “A little bland.”  “Great light flavor.”

        IMG_0360Mai's Farm Stand Caponata
        DC Cook Club comments: “Great Mediterranean flavors.”  “Delicious combinations.”  “Lots of yummy fresh veg, kind of lost all mixed together.” 


        Ginger-Lime Cod in a BowlJulie’s Ginger-Lime Cod in a Bowl 
        Score: 3.5
        This recipe was easy enough to follow and had nice subtle flavours - a mild version of Thai soup.  I also liked the way you end up with a large juicy fillet of cod and have other elements in the soup (broccoli, tomato, pasta) to pick at and provide colour contrast. However I haven't given it a top score because for my taste it was too mild and unexciting for the effort involved. Personally I prefer stronger flavour contrast and a simpler cooking procedure without so many pots, so if I were to repeat I'd add some chilli and more lime juice to give it some kick and just add noodles, broccoli at appropriate time to the sifted broth to keep things simple. Still, you should try this yourself if you like Asian-inspired broths as my rating is quite subjective - this was tasty but just not compared to my favourite Thai broths. P.S. I substituted veggie broth for chicken broth (it's a fish and veg soup after all so the chicken broth seemed out of place) and fine thread Asian wheat wok-style noodles as I couldn't find angel hair pasta.

        Pink Lentil Dal with Fresh GingerJulie’s Pink Lentil Dal with Fresh Ginger
        Score: 4.0
        This was a tasty dish and fun to make as "tempering oil" was a new technique for me and released some delicious aromas. It wasn't a smart recipe to pick for summer but given that we're not having much of a summer and ate this on a rainy weekend it worked perfectly. The only reason it doesn't get a top score is that it's up against stiff competition from various London Indian/ Pakistani/ Nepalese restaurants that produce delicious dals. However for a self-made one this was pretty good and I will be making it again.  Be aware that the name doesn't really match the name which I found a little disappointing but I was quickly reconciled to my bowl of creamy yellow aromatic comfort food, and I liked the addition of cilantro (coriander) and lemon juice for some contrasting freshness. We had this with naan bread one day and with basmati rice another day - both worked really well. P.S. Recipe adaptations: this turned out a little too soupy and salty for my taste, so I'd recommend starting with less water and half the salt and adding as necessary to taste during cooking.

        Leanne’s Tandoori Chicken
        Score: 3.0
        I was really excited to make this dish--it sounded delicious!  However, in reality, it was underwhelming.  The flavors just weren't that good, and it was not at all what I expected.  I made the pineapple raita to go with it, which was decent, but also not incredible.  I would not make this dish again.

        IMG_0351Jackie’s Lemon-Herbed Chicken Drumsticks
        Score: 3.0
        I chose this recipe for its bright, summery flavors, its ease in serving it to a large group of people, and the ability to prep it ahead of time so we could take it over to Rachel’s house for the party (that said, the wait/cook time was on the lengthier side… the drumsticks had to be marinated for several hours and then cooked for another 1.25 hours).  The flavor profile was mainly lemon and thyme, which smelled incredibly delicious and enticing as the drumsticks cooked.  We tried a drumstick right from the oven (before I cooked down the marinade to pour over the drumsticks) and the chicken was very moist, but not as flavorful as I expected.  Unfortunately, by the time we all ate them at the party, I found them to be rather… unattractive… and they were quite sticky to handle with the thickened marinade on top.  All this said, I would probably make this again, but would plan to eat it immediately. DC Cook Club Comments:  “Good.”  “Love the lemon flavor.”  “These were nice, but I admit not a big bone-in chicken fan.”  “Fresh taste.” 

        IMG_0356Jackie’s Sesame Noodles with Apples and Cucumbers
        Score: 5.0
        I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THESE NOODLES.  We originally selected this dish because the recipe reminded us of Jonathan’s favorite noodles – the dan dan noodles – at a Northern dim sum restaurant that we go to.  And it surely lived up to our expectations.  The sauce is a food-processed mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, and Sriracha (the recipe called for “chili oil” but we had sriracha in the house, so went for that!) – the recipe calls for making the sauce a day ahead to allow it to thicken in the refrigerator.  We followed that procedure, but I’m not sure if it made a big difference or not.  Regardless, the sauce was deliciously peanut-y with a slow heat that hits you at the end of each bite and clung on nicely to the noodles (spaghetti!).  The recipe called for julienning some granny smith apples, cucumbers, and green onions to sprinkle on top.  It was a nice addition – a good crunch factor – but in my opinion, unnecessary.  We so loved these noodles that I immediately made another batch of them the next day and ate them a few more times that week.  Will definitely make again!
        DC Cook Club Comments: “Surprisingly cohesive flavors with the apples, cucumbers, and sesame/peanut.  Love the extra heat.”  “Very flavorful, loved the peanut butterness of it.”  “Always love PB noodles.”  “Best dish ever!”  “Love the peanut sauce.”  “Great peanut flavor with a nice bite from the cucumbers and tangy sweetness from the apples.”

        IMG_1653Monica’s Paella Rice with Shrimp and Chorizo
        Score: 5.0
        I love paella.  I discovered my love for it during my summer in New York because this fantastic Cuban place across from my apartment at Columbia had awesome happy hour specials that my roommate and I frequented after work.  I can't believe I didn't learn of it sooner!  I'm so glad it's in my life now.  The only problem with paella is that it's a very intimidating dish.  I've been meaning to try it for a while, but it always seemed too scary to attempt so I usually just ordered it at tapas restaurants instead.  Chicks love tapas. I'm so glad I tried this!  It was easy, though a big time commitment, and it turned out so well that Neal and I barely had leftovers.  I highly recommend it as a main dish or as a potluck side dish.
        Sesame Summer Soba from TenAmanda’s Summer Soba Noodles with Zesty Dipping Sauce
        Score: 5.0
        In a word: yummy. In two words: simple yumminess. Out of all the recipes I chose for this round, this one was my favorite. I LOVED the sauce for these noodles! It was super easy to make and the ingredients were simple. As the title suggests, the dish is very summer-y. Very refreshing and not too heavy for the hot summer days. I think it goes without saying that this recipe will be around my kitchen for awhile.

        Chicken from TenLisa H.’s Zuni Cafe Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad
        Score: 4.4
        It was really good.  It was difficult to make the bread salad.  I would make the chicken again, but I don’t know that I would make the bread salad again, it was good out of the oven, but once it cooled off it wasn’t as good. 

        Steak with Chimichurri from TenAnjali’s Skirt Steak with a Touch of Latin America
        Score: 5.0
        This dish is the next best thing to getting on a plane on going down to South America.  Ok, maybe not, but it certainly was a crowd pleaser.  The dish itself was simple and straightforward.  The flavors in the chimichurri were bright and perfect for summer. I used the leftovers on eggs and toast! I will definitely keep this in my arsenal for the future.

        IMG_0362Mai’s Creamy Goat Cheese Butterflies
        DC Cook Club Comments:  “Liked the creaminess with the salami.”  "Love the salami, great subtle cheese flavor without overpowering the al-dente pasta.”  “Really nice, versatile.”  “Wonderful flavor combination.”  “Yum!”

        IMG_0364Rachel’s Shrimp Tacos
        DC Cook Club Comments: “Perfect summer meal; loved the refreshing sauce.”  “Great.” “Great combo of fresh flavors.” “Sauce was amazing.”  “Love the sauce.”

        SIDE DISHES:

        IMG-20110615-01248Sonia’s Quinoa with Chimichurri Herbs
        Score: 3.5
        I chose this recipe because I love quinoa and was excited to try a new way to prepare it.  This was a pretty simple recipe that could easily be a weeknight side or light lunch, since the only real cooking involved is with the quinoa itself.  I found that the flavors were good (though better after being allowed to marry for a few hours or overnight), but that it wasn't a very attractive dish.  I later added in a chopped plum tomato which added the color and flavor that seemed to me to be lacking.

        Beets from TenAmanda’s Roasted Beets w Tangerine Vinaigrette
        Score: 4.0
        My parents made roasted beets the last time I was home and I loved them! They roasted them in the oven with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper--simple and amazing! Naturally, I had to try this recipe. I liked Sheila Lukins method of roasting the beets in theory (the recipe said to trim the beets, wrap them in foil and roast with the skins on-super easy and less chance of staining everything in the kitchen), but they were a little too soft in my opinion. The tangerine vinaigrette went really nicely with the beets and was very easy to make. This recipe will be making an appearance again--using my parents' roasting method.

        IMG_0363Rachel’s Green Taboulleh
        DC Cook Club Comments: “Very enjoyable.”  “Nice, but pretty standard.”  “Nice mix of flavorful ingredients.”

        IMG_0361Mai’s Confetti Corn Pudding
        DC Cook Club Comments: “Made stomach happy!”  “Loved the fresh crispy corn flavor and texture!”  “Very fresh!”  “Loved the fresh corn flavor, great texture.”

        IMG_1583Monica’s Roasted Asparagus
        Score: 5.0
        Asparagus!  What a vegetable.  I don't even know how or where it grows, why it's sometimes white, or why I have to break off part of it before I cook it.  But I know that I like it, and that I've always wanted to find a perfect recipe for it. I had no idea asparagus could be so easy and so good. My previous method for cooking asparagus wasn't that far off from this one in technique (and identical in ingredients and prep!), but I was missing one essential step:  ten minutes of cooking the asparagus while covered with foil BEFORE cooking it uncovered for another ten minutes.  What a game changer!  The asparagus came out tender and creamy, but the tips were crunchy and slightly charred.  I expected to have leftovers, but I couldn't stop myself from taking seconds . . . and thirds.  I found myself eating them stem-side first so I could enjoy their creamy texture and then crunch down on the tips at the end.  Yum.  Just writing about them now makes me want to make them again!

        Farm Stand Corn Salad from TenLisa H.’s Farmer’s Market Corn Salad
        Score: 5.0
        It was easy to make and had great flavors.  I have already made it again.  It says to mix it together right before serving, but it’s still good the next day.  (As a sidenote, Lisa also notes: I loved this cookbook.  Everything people made was so good.)  (Anjali, the hostess of the Dallas Cook Club dinner party, also comments that Lisa's corn salad was a big hit and Amanda already made it again for a 4th of July BBQ!)

        Fennel from TenAnjali’s Caramelized Fennel
        Score: 4.5
        Two words that sing to my heart. (Although, if you have been following this blog, you will remember that it was the original Cook Club where conquered my fear of fennel!) The dish, again, was incredibly straightfoward, but the results were spectacular.  I was actually so focused on the steak and hosting the dinner, that it was a complete afterthought, but still turned out well!  I do think this dish is better for winter meals, given the addition of butter, but either way, it is an excellent and easy side to make. 


        Cheesecake from TenLeanne’s Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
        Score: 4.2
        This cheesecake was simple to make, but where problems arose was in the baking.  It took almost triple the baking time to set!  If it weren't for that, I would have ranked it higher--people seemed to really like it, but the hassle of waiting by an oven for almost three hours was a huge negative.

        Blueberry and Peach Pie from TenAmanda’s Peach Blueberry Pie
        Score: 4
        I have to confess...I did not make the pie crust from scratch, as the recipe suggested. Making my own pie crust is one of the few things that I find completely intimidating, cooking wise. Plus, there were several other dishes to be made for our dinner party (and I do not own a rolling pin). So, I let Pillsbury do some of the work this round. Once the pie crust issue was taken care of, the rest of the dish came together quickly and easily. I thought the filling combination was great...again, this is a perfect summer dessert. Per usual, I thought it would be enhanced by the addition of vanilla ice cream :), but forgot to buy some for our dinner party. I will make it again...perhaps with my own crust. ;)

        IMG_0370Sonia’s Sinful Chocolate Tart
        Score: 5.0
        After an unsuccessful attempt to slightly modify the chocolate filling recipe (thus wasting $10 worth of quality chocolate -- still mourning), I turned out my very first tart, and it was absolutely delicious. I had some difficulty turning the rolled out crust into the tart pan, and ended up pressing a good amount of the dough into the pan. This didn't affect the taste or texture of the crust, and I was actually very pleased with its flavor. The almonds definitely added a lot to the dish, and I would use this crust recipe again (though would note that you should use a fork to poke holes in the crust before baking, or use pie weights). The filling (the second time around) was silky and smooth, and had just a touch of sweetness with the chocolate. I don't feel that the creme fraiche garnish was a perfect accompaniment to the chocolate, and would instead do an almond extract or hazelnut liquor-infused freshly whipped cream.

        DC Cook Club comments: “Unexpected, RICH flavour.  Would serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.”  "Chocolate!!" "Wonderful rich chocolate flavor paired perfectly with the butteryness of the crust."

        IMG_1600Monica’s Grilled Vanilla Peaches
        Score: 4.0
        I’m so glad I tried a non-chocolate dessert.  IT WAS SO GOOD.   This was a very simple recipe, and I could see it working well for any stone fruit (apricots, plums, etc.).  Don’t expect for grill marks to appear on your peaches, though, or you might cook all of the delicious right out of them. Perfect for this time of year!

        Big Strawberry ShortcakeSonia's Big Strawberry Shortcake
        Score: 3.75
        I chose this cake because I love strawberries, but prefer to eat them fresh, rather than cooked. The berries are highlighted in this recipe, which required few ingredients, and was relatively simple to make and assemble. The cake layers were dense, almost like a pound cake. The addition of the orange juice and zest gave it a nice subtle flavor. The only change I made to the recipe was to add a bit of Cointreau (left over from the sangria) to the whipped cream to play off of the orange notes in the cake. While the flavors were really nice, I think the heaviness of the cake was not in line with the fresh fruit and airy whipped cream, especially for a summer dessert. Also, take heed of the note to eat this dessert immediately; it does not travel well, especially in the heat.