Texas is big and hot, and it does not have my old friends in it. But there is Tex-Mex – a great cuisine that combines some of the best Mexican and American ingredients. During one of my recent trips around the state, I got a recommendation from a new Houston friend to try the Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth. Fort Worth was a nice surprise. Robby and I really liked it and felt that  it’s underrated among Texans. Reata was a highlight of the trip there. So I brought their cookbook back with me to Maryland and joined my old friends for the March Cook Book Club. Joanne was gracious enough to let me use her house to cook, host the dinner, and stay the night. We ate a wonderful breakfast the next day on her patio in the perfect spring weather.Untitled

Maria is always so organized; she showed up with a wonderful shrimp ceviche. It was fresh and very addictive. I even had some for lunch the next day, and it was perfect. This will definitely be added to my normal rotation at home.

I went to Totilleria Sinaloa in Fells Point and reminisced about walking there from my house. I bought chips to snack on and tortillas for my enchilada dish. The ladies also made some homemade tortillas that we fried and used for the ceviche and soup.

Alayne made a Caesar salad that was rich but not heavy and used — surprise, surprise — vegan mayonnaise. She didn’t tell us until after we were enjoying it. Which was a good idea because I probably would have been prejudiced against it. It was a great salad.

I made a drink called the Caramel Cowboy. Butterscotch Schnapps, Amaretto, and bubbly. It was so tasty that it elicted this statement from a CBC member: “I will ride this Cowboy all night long.” Enough said.


Although I made a few of the entrees from the book before CBC, I decided to make a dish I ate at the restaurant but did not test: Ancho Chili Steak with Cheese Enchiladas.

While the enchiladas were cooking, we enjoyed some unexpectedly delicious cream of jalapeno soup made by Joanne. She poured an ungodly amount of cream into it, and we were all a little worried but it turned out delicious and not too creamy.

Julie choose to make the beans as a side dish to go with my steak. She added an entire six-pack of Negro Modelo to the beans and could have used more if we had more time for beans to absorb the beer. They tasted a little bitter, but I liked how it contrasted with the rich food.

The steak was a bit of a disappointment to me. I ate it at the restaurant, and I remembered it as really tasty, dark, intense and flavorful. I marinated my steak all day but it came out a little bland. The recipe does not call for salt in the marinade, so next time I might add some.


Elizabeth chose the fruit tacos for dessert. They were fun and challenging to make. She made some kind of dough then spread it out on a baking sheet to cook. The hard part was rolling the shells while they were hot.

Next, they were filled with ice cream and marinated berries. We placed them on top of melted chocolate and topped them with shaved white chocolate.


One of the most fun parts of the evening was recording the quotes that poured out of everyone’s mouths. It may have been the Caramel Cowboy’s we were drinking, but more likely we ladies were just being goofy and having a great time together.

See if you can guess who said what:

“At least I know I’m crazy.”

“From my butt to the pot.”

“There’s not enough goodness on my plate.”

“You keep me from dancing, you are an idiot.”

“The best Wal-Mart’s are in Florida. No one wears any clothes there.”

“So take this as a learn. P.S. I am not being insulting.”

“That’s not right. It looks like dandruff.”

“I got dandruff on my taco.”


I have been putting off writing this blog post for over a month now. It might be because of procrastination, it might be because I am hungry and trying to lose weight and this food looks so good, or it might be because if I write this post that means that my CBC days are almost over.

I started the Charm City Cookbook Club, as it is now known, almost 4 years ago to make friends, cook, eat, and expand my cookbook collection. The CBC has become much more than I ever thought it would. I have made friends and grown relationships to a level that I didn’t think possible. Of the original members Alayne is the only one left, but added or departed we have some amazing women that have cooked with us. I am moving to Houston in September and I hope to make another meeting or two in the next year when I come back to visit but I will be reading this blog and sometimes cooking along with all the great food. Keep it up ladies! P7101380

July was my last month of hosting. So sad. I love my Baltimore kitchen and will miss the great light, huge sink, and island table that have made cooking there enjoyable. For my last meeting I picked Ad Hoc at Home. It seemed fitting to do a homey book to celebrate. We have cooked out of almost all of Thomas Keller’s books, The French Laundry being the most notable. This book did not disappoint.

During the last 4 years there have been a lot of changes. The cutest being the addition of Miss Colette….she is one lucky baby to get to eat this food. P7101387


Our first dish was made by Alayne who like Maria in the soup to come used wonderful local produce and made Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. The kitchen started to smell amazing when she began cutting the tomatoes.



and here it is. It tasted as amazing as it looks.


Next Maria cheated a little but to our benefit and made her Sun Gold Tomato Gazpacho ahead. This was the best Gazpacho I have ever had. And Colette drank a whole cup of it!


To serve with the salad as an appetizer Julie cooked little Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs. I could have eaten the who tray. They were light but rich and a great match to the salad.



The main course was fun. I made a Leek Bread Pudding that was to die for and Robby’s could not stop eating at 12:00 that night. To go with that I made Marinated Skirt Steak, not just with beef but with beef and buffalo that I got from the farmer’s market. http://www.gunpowderbison.com/

You can see the difference in the color of the meat above. Our favorite turned out to be the buffalo. It was more flavorful and more tender.


To end this great meal Joanne made Peaches & Cream. Another perfect use of local fresh produce. The cream took a bit of work but Joanne is amazing and turned out the perfect desert.

Thank you all, I will miss you so much.

We were interviewed last November and the photographer comes tonight. Look for us in the March issue.

CBC is extraordinary.

It all started a few years ago with a bunch of hungry girls. Once a month we get together, cook, eat, and bond. The time I spend with these friends is so important to my life. I recently had my second little girl and although we have still been cooking I have not been blogging. It is important to share the time we Cookbook Club ladies spend together because you should share what is good. I hope that other people will make time and commit to a group like ours.
The last dinner we had at my house was using the Momofuko cookbook. My Step Mom Barb gave it to me for Christmas last year and I was reluctant to cook you of it without the support of my friends. I was lucky enough to eat at his restaurant for my birthday last year and had the pork buns and bo ssam both which were great and we recreated well. About every 6 months we try to invite the guys to CBC. They get a little jealous and have not been smart enough to start their own club so we take pity on them and cook up a great feast that we all enjoy. Since my Robby was leaving for Bangladesh for 9 weeks this May CBC became a farewell dinner. It was perfect. Great food, tons of dishes, drinks, and a night hanging out in the backyard that no one wanted to end. Thanks ladies for another fantastic evening.

The night started with Elizabeth’s Pork Buns. Looked time-consuming was they were totally worth it! Who would not like homemade buns.

Correct me if I’m wrong but Julie made the mussels, pan-roasted bouchot mussels with os, to be exact and there were lots of them. Beautiful.

Emily Powell, my sister in law was a participant this month. She made homemade ramen. The broth took her a whole day to make and don’t get me wrong it was good. But you better have some time on your hands and some people who will appreciate the effort.

This was my bo ssam. So good and easy everyone should make this for a crowd.

Joanne’s pan-roasted asparagus with poached egg and miso butter. This was my favorite.

Maybe Julie made these….or Joanne made the mussels…it was all good. These are roasted rice cakes. A new product to me that might not make it into my normal routine but were fun to try.

And last but not least cake. Alayne’s cake. She will have to explain…


I can’t wait till next month. Another CBC with the guys this time at Julie’s house where we get to cook and hang out in her wonderful kitchen. See you all then if not before.

Thank you ladies for our new and improved blog site. I have been anticipating this site since the beginning of Cook Book Club over 2 years ago. Now we can all share our pictures and reviews of the books we cook from each month.

This month was at my house and we used two books both by Patrick O’Connell. We used Refined American Cuisine and The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook.I enjoyed all the food but was a little disappointed in the books themselves. we found at least two major errors in the books, I would not have expected this from a guy who is supposed to be very good at attention to detail.

I did not take many pictures of the food so hopefully everyone else can add those as well as the complete menu of what we cooked. What I would like to add is the new picture of us all. I am really luck to have suck great friends and to know such great cooks! I look forward to all the books and evening we will share.