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.”



Coming up with a cookbook for Charm City Cookbook Club can be a challenge. Thankfully Joanne suggested we do Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey, in case you didn’t know, is an acclaimed Indian actress. And her Indian cookbooks have introduced the cuisine to millions.

What I like best about Jaffrey’s recipes is how straightforward they are and how much taste they pack. She isn’t about the fancy techniques for the sake of just doing them. P.S. She didn’t learn to cook until she was an adult. One of my favorite of her books is “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.” It’s a sweet story, and there are recipes, too.

So back to the samosas. Alayne found a good place for the dough to rest:

And while we were waiting, we snacked on some spiced chickpeas.


First up was Alayne, who faced my biggest cooking fear: frying. She made these delicate potato and pea stuffed samosas that were brightened with a little lemon. With Joanne’s expert help — and a little fry-o-lator (also Joanne’s) — Alayne made some really delicious, delicate fried, stuffed, dumplings. And here’s the bonus: Look: No grease fires!


Next up was Elizabeth, who made soup and naan. Her butternut squash soup was spicy, sweet and delicious.


And Elizabeth’s naan, though difficult to execute at first, came out well once she and Joanne got the hang of it.


The main course was next. While Joanne and I got ourselves into the kitchen, Alayne, Elizabeth, and Mia decided it was time for manicures, with glitter nailpolish.



Joanne made ground lamb with peas. It was tender and delicious, with a little heat. It tasted great.


I made a shellfish curry with coconut milk. It had shrimp, scallop, and squid and was delicate and tasty. And really easy to make.


So this was the first Cookbook Club since Renee moved to Houston. We miss her. It felt lonely with just five of us. We needed something sweet. So Julie made a yogurt and mango dessert that was sweet, fresh, and light.


And there was an extra something special, too. Joanne’s birthday was in two days and Elizabeth made her pumpkin tarts in a gingersnap crust. After she blew out the candles, she was nice enough to share.


Happy Birthday Joanne!

And thanks for a spicy, sweet October evening.

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

This post should really be named, a collection of pictures of Colette Vie being held by different cookbook club members! All while we devour The Pioneer Woman Cooks food! We had a great time that night and the food was so good too!

Let’s start off with this one of me and the baby.

then we can go to Julie and the baby.


and then here are my silly cookbook club friends, with decorations! (i’m sorry… I know its no longer Halloween but I couldn’t resist!)


and then we actually made some food! So jump on down and see our food!


Do you like our animals?? Alayne got these to mark our drinks for the evening (which by the way were verrrry tasty and all non alcoholic!) You can’t see my orange monkey in the back- it was very cute and I do think I am pretty monkey like sometimes!

DSC_0084Our meal was very comforting and very flavorful. David is really good at simple delicious recipes and you can see that clearly from our dishes. Now go check out some pictures below!


So lets start out with how the end of the night ended! Wonderfully- with a cup of espresso and some brown sugar. The way everrrry meal should end. Tracy was an amazing host- thinking of every little detail and cooking a delicious entree!


Jamie’s book is really fun to look at- and his stories that are interspersed are charming also. So go now and look at some pictures! Cause I don’t really feel like writing too much right now… (more…)

As Elizabeth and Patrick O’Connell both said, the dinner was elegant and refined. I think it’s important to stress that we used two different books by Patrick O’Connell. Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington and The Inn at Little Washington. Both books have beautiful photos and while the latter focuses on the region, the restaurant and the food, the former is pure food.

Renee did not come through on the chintz decor that should have been  mandatory for this particular dinner party. Having eaten at The Inn, I must say that I prefer the larger portion sizes that we had at Renee’s to the tiny portions that we had at the Inn. Tasty, but tiny…

Elizabeth’s pasta dish was not tiny. It was big and bold and delicious, the tomato paste and mushrooms combined to make it velvety. I’ve never seen Aveline eat so much.

In the photos below you can see Renee’s baby bok choy. The sauce that Elizabeth was referring to was a caramelized rice vinegar sauce that was absolutely wonderful with the crispy rockfish and bok choy. Julie did a fantastic job on the soufflés and I was surprised at how tasty the corn salsa was with the fish. I love the other picture as Renee’s potholder matches the puffed up grit cakes.

As for the Rutabega-Apple Soup that Alayne made, it was tasty, creamy and smooth with a bit of a tang from the rutabega, sweetness from the maple syrup, sweet potato and butternut squash, and had just the right hint of spiciness with the addition of the cayenne. It was so good I made it for dinner again last night.

I must say I was a bit disappointed with the grapefruit tart (not that I didn’t finish my piece). It was very astringent and acidic, though it looked pretty.  I had thought the sugar and cream would tone it down but I think the grapefruit to orange juice ratio was too high, if I made it again I believe I’d either do 3/4 orange to 1/4 grapefruit juice or maybe just use 1/2 of the rind from the grapefruit, that may have been where the astringent taste came from. Sorry Alayne.