Dessert · Every Day Feasts · Recipes · Uncategorized

Peanut Butter Bars

At last month’s noon and evening General Membership meetings, I was standing in the back next to the most delectable looking and smelling plate of desserts. They were so tempting that when it came time for this blog post, I immediately knew what I was going to make – Peanut Butter Bars from Everyday Feasts! My husband is a sucker for anything with peanut butter and chocolate, so I knew they would be a well received treat! These are perfect served with a nice glass of cold milk. (In a Junior League cup of course!)


For the bars: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter, brown sugar and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.


Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until blended. Add the flour and oats and mix well.


Spread evenly in a 10 x 15-inch buttered baking pan.


Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown and set in the center. Spread the peanut butter over the warm crust. Let stand until cool.


For the icing: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa and milk and mix well.


Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Spread over the cooled peanut butter layer.

Chill, covered, for several hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!





1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened                            1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar                                              2 eggs

2 tsps. vanilla extract                                                2 cups flour

1 cup rolled oats                                                           1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

Chocolate Icing:

¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter                                            6 tbsps. cocoa powder (I used dark!)

½ cup milk                                                                    1 lb. confectioners sugar


Pork · Recipes · The Life of the Party

Pulled Party Pork

The Life of the Party cookbook has become my favorite of all the League cookbooks. I especially love the Pulled Party Pork on page 93. It is a super easy recipe. You put the pork butt and water in a crockpot and let it cook while you complete your day. By the time you come home, you shred the meat and add the last few ingredients to complete your dinner. It makes a huge amount. I have taken this to several friends after they have had a baby and always get rave reviews.


1 (3-pound) pork tenderloin or Boston butt roast

1 cup water

1 (18-ounce) bottle prepared barbecue sauce

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Combine the pork and water in a slow cooker. Cook on High for 7 hours. Drain, reserving 1 cup liquid. Shred the roast in the slow cooker with a fork. Add the remains ingredients. Add the reserved cooking liquid if necessary. Cook on Low for 1 hour. Serve on rolls for sandwiches if desired.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings





Plus, it is kid approved!

Junior League of Tampa · Recipes · Savor the Seasons · soup

It’s not fall until you’ve tried Curried Pumpkin Bisque!

Fall is here! If you are looking for an impressive dish for a dinner party or an interesting starter for Thanksgiving dinner, try the Curried Pumpkin Bisque from The Junior League’s Savor the Seasons cookbook (page 50).  Start to finish, it only took 30 minutes, so it would work great during the week, too.  The combination of flavors was great and the rich, creamy taste would be wonderful on a cool fall night (although we enjoyed it on a warm fall night, it is Florida after all).

All of the ingredients are easily found, especially the pumpkin puree during this season.  I purchased lump crab rather than jumbo lump crab, as it saved about $4 per container.  The crab is a little pricy, but well worth it!  The directions were clear and accurate.  I noticed the soup thickened nicely from the cornstarch base.  Once assembled, it would probably hold well if left on low heat with occasional stirring.  I followed the recipe as written, but would probably use half and half or whole milk instead of heavy cream next time, just to make it a bit less rich.  We didn’t have cognac, so I used a bit of sherry instead and finished it with chives on top for a bit of oniony taste.  I imagine the cognac would be wonderful.

I wanted to keep things festive so I served it in a gourd, as was suggested in the cookbook.  It is really easy (I promise!) and looks quite fancy.  If you choose to serve the soup in a gourd, there are a ton of colorful and interesting choices available in stores right now- all types and colors of pumpkins, as well as squash of different colors and shapes, so get creative!  You basically just need something with enough space to hold a couple ladles of soup and the ability to flatten the bottom so it sits evenly.  I went with the standard acorn squash, which is generally available all year.  I thought the green skin was a nice contrast to the orange soup.

After scooping out the seeds, I thought the “bowl” should be a bit larger, so I used a pairing knife to carve out a larger and more symmetrical space.  The uncooked squash provides tons of carving possibilities.  If you are more creative and crafty, you could even carve out a shape (this was not in my skill set)!  And don’t forget some crusty bread for dipping!  We had a side salad with blueberries and almonds for some additional greens.  It was husband approved!

Curried Pumpkin Bisque

1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground ginger or 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger  (I used ground)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 (16 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 c chicken broth
2 c heavy cream
2 c fresh lump back fin crab meat, flaked
salt and pepper to taste
Cognac (optional)
fresh or dried parsley (I used fresh chives)

Cook the onion, garlic, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg and Tabasco sauce in the butter in a stockpot until the onion is tender, stirring frequently.  Stir in the cornstarch and cook until thickened.  Add the pumpkin and broth and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the cream and crab meat.  Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowls.  Pour a splash of cognac over each serving and sprinkle with parsley.  Yields 8-10 servings.

“Out of your gourd”
For a gourmet presentation at your autumn dinner or Thanksgiving feast, serve Curried Pumpkin Crab Bisque in colorful gourds, such as acorn squash.  Slice a bit of the rounded base of the gourd to help it lay flat, and line the inside bottom with foil to ensure the soup doesn’t leak.  Garnish with small pieces of crab, a dash of cognac and fresh parsley.

butter, onions, spices


Dessert · Every Day Feasts · Recipes

Peach Pound Cake

By Kathryn Zahn


The tagline for this recipe, found on page 106 of Everyday Feasts, is “A refreshing fruit-filled twist on a classic recipe” and I couldn’t agree more.  Fruit is grown here year-round and if you just ask around I am certain that most anyone who cooks can direct you to a local farmer’s market.  One of our personal favorites is Parksdale, over in Plant City.  It is well known throughout Central Florida and has even been featured in Food Network Magazine for its Famous Strawberry Shortcake.  The prices are cheap and you never know what you are going to stumble across.  Last summer I bought an entire basket of Georgia peaches (about 25) for $6.99 and towards the end of strawberry season you can pick up a full flat for nearly the same price, maybe higher or maybe even lower.  So what do you do with all of this fruit???…you make pound cake!  You’ll see from the pictures below that this recipe is versatile enough to use any fruit of your liking….Bon Appétit!

Peach Pound Cake (EveryDay Feasts, p. 106)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped peaches

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar, shaking out the excess.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat well.

Add the flour mixture gradually, beating constantly until blended.  Fold the peaches into the batter, spoon into the prepared Bundt pan.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Capture the Coast · Florida · Junior League of Tampa · Lemon · Recipes

Grouper Piccata

By Kathryn Zahn

When I think about the West Coast of Florida, one of the first things that comes to mind is “Fish”.  There is never a shortage of fish here in the Tampa Bay area, and one of the best things is that you can get it fresh…catch it yourself or buy it right off the dock.

A while back ago we came upon one of the best “straight off the dock” fish markets while having lunch in Bradenton at The Cortez Kitchen, the Cortez Fish Market. They are located in the same parking lot and the prices are very very reasonable for the fish being so fresh.  We wandered into the market, and in addition to the fish they have a full array of spices.  My husband loves fish and I am constantly trying to think of new ways to cook it for him.  I spotted the lemons and knew that piccata was it. 

I am a personal fan of the recipe “Grouper Piccata” found on page 82 of Capture of Coast.  The recipe is easy and the fish is delicious.  Since then I have made this dish for my mother, my father-in-law, my next door neighbor and everyone has loved it…Hopefully you will too …. :O) Bon Appétit!

Grouper Piccata (Capture the Coast p. 82)

  • 1 pound fresh grouper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Zest and juice from one lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the fish and pat dry.  Mix the flour with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a shallow dish.  Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Dip the fish in the beaten egg and dredge in the flour mixture to coat.  Place in the skillet.  Sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Place the fish on a baking sheet, reserving the drippings in the skillet.  Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the fish is nearly cooked through.  Add the wine, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic to the reserved drippings in the skillet.  Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, stirring constantly.  Stir in the butter and capers.  Heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly.  Return the fish to the skillet.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the fish on two serving plates and spoon the sauce over the top.

Cookbooks History · Dessert · Gasparilla Cookbook · Junior League of Tampa · Recipes

Pumpkin Pie!

By Jaime Brewer

I have always loved the smell of pumpkin…especially around Thanksgiving time.  The ironic thing is, I haven’t always necessarily liked the taste of pumpkin.  It’s like when people tell me they love the smell of coffee, but don’t like the taste.  Personally, I don’t understand those people since I live on coffee!  But, I get their point.  I used to love to cook and bake and then things happened (husband, dog, children- in that order) and cooking and baking became something I did for my family to survive and not necessarily as therapy like it used to be.  That’s why I tend to steer towards recipes that aren’t overly complicated and include a smaller amount of ingredients.  So, when I was asked to bake something for the Junior League Cookbook blog, I jumped at this recipe of only 9 ingredients.

The first thing I did was gather my ingredients and the necessary utensils.

1 pie shell, unbaked

¾ cups canned pumpkin

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

2 eggs

1 cup milk (small can evaporated milk plus enough plain milk to make 1 cup)

½ cup white corn syrup

Then, I went to work simmering the pumpkin over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Ten minutes later, I removed the saucepan from the stove and stirred in the next 4 ingredients (sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger). Next, I beat the eggs – first by hand before I realized it would take me an hour to get the mixture frothy, like the recipe called for, then with an electric mixer.  Definitely use an electric mixer and beat until frothy!

Once the eggs were frothy, I added the milk and corn syrup and mixed together. Then I added the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat together until they were well combined.

Next, I poured the mixture into the pie shell. Once thing I would have liked to have known beforehand was that the recipe actually made more mixture than would fit in the 9-inch pie shell. Had I known, I would have also purchased some of the smaller tart shells and made a few child sized pies as well!

Then it was off to a 450 degrees oven for 15 minutes and then to a 300 degrees oven for another 40 minutes.

I have to say I’m pretty proud of my very first pumpkin pie.  Not only did my house smell delicious for an entire day, but I was ready for friends who unexpectedly showed up for a play date!  FYI, if you make this for Thanksgiving or any other fall day, have some whip cream on hand!  Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!

Every Day Feasts · Recipes

Macaroni and Cheese with Black Forest Ham

By Kelly Elkins

This recipe is very easy to make! I’m not one to find any joy out of cooking but this was a recipe I will definitely continue to make now that I know how easy it is.

I did make a few changes due to preference and time constraint. Instead of making the garlic oil, to save time I just used regular olive oil. Also, I forgot to buy fresh garlic at the store so instead of running back to the grocery store, I used minced garlic that I had in the fridge.

Next, I decided against the fresh bread crumbs because I had some seasoned bread crumbs in the pantry and thought they would be a quick  alternative. Everything went smoothly without any hiccups. My husband and I enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it as our contribution for Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious even with the few shortcuts, but I decided next time I make it, I will do everything exactly like the recipe calls for. I can’t imagine how good it will taste then!

This is a moderately easy recipe that even an amateur cook can make with ease.

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic oil

2 large shallots, minced

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/8 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

10 roasted garlic cloves, mashed

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

8 ounces (2 cups) cubed Black Forest ham

1 pound bowtie or elbow pasta, cooked al dente

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons garlic oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and saute for 4 minutes or until tender. Whisk in the milk, cream, thyme, lemon zest and garlic. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes or until reduced to 2 3/4 cups, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the Cheddar cheese gradually, stirring until blended. Add the ham and mix well. Add the pasta and toss to combine. Spoon the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 3 tablespoons garlic oil in a bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over the prepared dish. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

Ask for Black Forest Ham at the deli counter to be cut into 1-inch slices. Cut into cubes at home.

Yield: 6 servings

Appetizer · Cookbooks History · Gasparilla Cookbook · Junior League of Tampa · Recipes

Swedish Meatballs

By Lisl Unterholzner

One of the great things about The Gasparilla Cookbook is that it pulls together the best recipes from the various cultures that collide in our area, mainly Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Southern and more. You may be wondering if and how Swedish Meatballs have anything to do with Florida’s West Coast. Well, I don’t know the background of Mrs. D. A. Kafka, who submitted this recipe. I can tell you that part of my own ancestry is Swedish, and that my great-great-grandfather was one of five brothers from Sweden who came to the Tampa Bay area in the late 1880’s.

Today, the easiest way to enjoy Swedish meatballs is to stop by IKEA, and I’m definitely a fan. But the recipe from The Gasparilla Cookbook is a great place to start if you have the time and the inclination to cook from scratch. For one thing, the texture of these meatballs is phenomenal- super light and fluffy. Plus, the Almond Noodles that accompany them are seriously addictive.

There are a few things I would tweak. For one, the recipe calls for you to sauté 2 tablespoons of minced onion in ¼ cup of butter. You can easily knock that down to 1 tablespoon. The texture of your meatballs will also be affected by the bread you use to make bread crumbs. I used some white bread from the Publix bakery, maybe the Italian Sandwich bread, tearing the slices into pieces and giving them a whirl in the food processor to make pretty fine crumbs.

Don’t use canned bread crumbs- the key is to make sure your bread is not too hard or to dry. Finally, I drained my meatballs on paper towels after browning, then wiped out the pan to remove the excess oil. If you have some browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, you could loosen them with a bit of chicken broth, then return the meatballs to the pan and add the cream.

This recipe did not make a ton of sauce, so don’t expect it to be a make-at-home version of IKEA’s. I see it as a wonderful recipe for a birthday meal or a dinner party. Most of the work for the meatballs is done in advance, and the noodles can be put into a casserole or serving dish and covered with aluminum foil to stand for at least 30 minutes. I served this to some very picky pre-schoolers, and they gobbled up the meatballs. They were less fond of the noodles, which was fine because I was happy to heat them up for lunch (along with a few – not many!- leftover meatballs) the next day.

So, enjoy your meal, or as they say in Swedish, Smaklig måltid!


2 cups soft bread crumbs, firmly packed

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/4 cup butter

1 lb ground beef

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons flour

Fat or salad oil

1/2 cup light cream

Combine bread crumbs and milk; let stand 10 minutes. Saute onion in butter over low heat until soft but not brown. Combine beef, nutmeg, salt, paprika and egg. Add to bread crumb and onion mixture. Shape in small balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Chill at least 1 hour. Roll meatballs in flour; cook in a little hot fat or salad oil, turning to brown on all sides. Add cream, cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve at once with Almond Noodles. Makes 6 servings.


1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 8-ounch package egg noodles, cooked

Melt half the butter; add almonds and cook until golden brown. Add remaining butter, paprika and poppy seeds. To hot cooked noodles, add this mixture, tossing with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Makes 6 servings.

Chicken Recipe · Cookbooks History · Gasparilla Cookbook · Junior League of Tampa · Mushroom · Recipes

Chicken Shortcake Natchez

By Lisl Unterholzner

With a 50 year old cookbook, you have to expect that some recipes have stood the test of time better than others. This recipe was the main dish at the cooking demonstration I attended at Datz during The Gasparilla Cookbook’s week-long invasion of that foodie mecca, and I was curious to see how Chef Heather would approach it. What’s the concern? Well, if you can get past the MSG and the yellow food color in the sauce, it’s still a recipe for a style of dish that’s not as popular today as it once was. It’s kind of a chicken a la king over cornbread. Perfect for the ladies who lunched at The Wedgewood Inn in St. Petersburg back in the day, but I discovered it’s also surprisingly good if you’re looking for some easy comfort food and not counting calories.

One thing I have to mention up front, DO NOT follow the directions as written or you will end up with a gluey mess. The directions for the cream sauce call for an unreasonable amount of flour. I don’t know if it’s just a mistake, but I was very happy to watch Chef Heather prepare the roux for the cream sauce before I tried it at home.

The good thing about this recipe is it can be made in stages, and you can make it the long way, or use shortcuts as you see fit. The long way would be making your own chicken stock, cooking your own chicken, making your own cornbread and sautéing fresh mushrooms instead of using the canned ones called for in the recipe. Fine if you’ve got the inclination, but not a big deal if time is of the essence.

I decided to use my own cornbread, made in a skillet using the Corn Sticks recipe on page 26 of The Gasparilla Cookbook. But I’ve got a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix sitting in my cabinet that just might be called into service in the near future.

Here’s how I interpreted Chicken Shortcake Natchez:

First, I made the corn bread. Actually, first I made bacon to get the bacon fat for the cornbread, because I wanted to follow the recipe as much as possible, and no one in my house minds an excuse to make bacon. I really liked the suggestion at the end of the recipe to add crumbled bacon to the cornbread, but I held off this time. Just using the fat gives it a strong bacon-y flavor. Yum! By the way, the recipe for the shortbread calls for the cornbread to be made without sugar, but there is so little in this version that I left it in for balance. This is a pretty grainy style of cornbread, so if you like it softer you may want to try a different recipe.

My cornbread is cooling in the background. Now, I’m ready to start the cream sauce. That bowl of flour is WAY too much, despite what the recipe says. I actually used about 6 or 7 tablespoons. Chef Heather said to add it a little bit at a time, and stir constantly. The mixture remained loose and liquid. The recipe doesn’t really say how long you should cook it. I wanted to cook off the raw flour taste, but not allow the roux to begin to turn brown. I probably cooked it about 6 or 7 minutes before beginning to add the chicken stock. That, too, should be done a little at a time, and a whisk is handy to break up the lumps that form.

I substituted 2% milk for the evaporated milk, and left out the MSG and food coloring, but I did use the canned mushrooms for convenience. They have distinctive flavor, but in the sauce they aren’t too strong and mostly add some depth of flavor. Another suggestion by Chef Heather was to add a bit more depth to the sauce with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, which I did and liked the result. For the cooked chicken, I took the meat off a rotisserie chicken, and that worked well. The whole thing comes together very quickly, and then it’s time to dig in.

Here it is – decidedly retro, but delicious nonetheless. This would be fun for a themed dinner party, but it’s not too hard for a weeknight. Enjoy!


        • 4 cups cooked white meat of chicken (cut in medium-size pieces)
        • 2 cups canned mushrooms
        • 4 cups cream sauce

Blend  chicken, mushroom and cream sauce. Slice squares of southern style cornbread (no sugar) through the center. Ladle chicken mixture on half the cornbread, top with another slice of cornbread and put more chicken mixture over this, shortcake fashion. Sprinkle with paprika. Serves 6.


        •  3 cups rich chicken stock
        • 1 1/2 cups flour
        • 1/4 pound margarine
        • 5 ounces evaporated milk
        • 1/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1/4 teaspoon monosodium glutamate
        • 1 or 2 drops yellow food coloring

Strain stock. Add flour to melted margarine, stirring constantly. When smooth add the stock gradually. Then add milk, salt, monosodium glutamate and food coloring. Stir well, and cook until thickened.

Dessert · Gasparilla Cookbook · Junior League of Tampa · Recipes · Tampa Treasures

Iron Leaguer: October Edition!

By Suzanne Oaks Brownstein

What happens when you take two Junior League cookbook committee co-chairs, mix in a secret ingredient, and add a dash of healthy competition?

The “Iron Leaguer” competition – inspired by the Food Network’s hot show “Iron Chef” – pits two Junior League of Tampa volunteers against each other in a battle of wills. . . or at least a battle of blenders. The contest involves two participants preparing recipes from a JLT cookbook, using one common “secret ingredient.” The finished dishes are sampled by attendees at the monthly JLT general membership meeting, who then vote – in an anonymous taste test – for their favorite dish. No cash prize, but the bragging rights are priceless.

At the recent October general membership meeting, we had in one corner Aspen Kahl, preparing Palma Ceia Margarita Pie (p. 307 in Tampa Treasures), and, in the other, Denise Schultz, preparing Cucumber Aspic (p. 59 in the recently released 50th anniversary edition of The Gasparilla Cookbook). The secret ingredient? Gelatin – always a tricky variable.

As this year’s cookbook committee co-chairs together, these ladies are otherwise great friends, close collaborators, and good “hang” buddies. But the contest revealed an underlying competitive spirit beneath their friendly smiles. I decided to dig into this competition a little further. Below is a Q&A with them both:

How did you choose your recipe?

Aspen: “I wanted to mess with my competitor’s mind. I knew she was going to choose a traditional gelatin recipe, so I wanted to go ‘outside the box’ – or should I say, ‘outside the mold.’ Also, I liked the idea of a modern recipe that called for gelatin.”

Denise: “The Cucumber Gelatin just caught my eye. I love cucumbers and find them to be refreshing; I thought that this would make an interesting dish.”

How did you size up your competition? Were you intimidated?  

Aspen: “I knew my competitor could cook, but I also knew she was a novice gelatin chef. No, I wasn’t intimidated….”

Denise: “Are you kidding? I, the non-cook (who, I would like to add, is a cook now) was up against one of the best dessert chefs and hostesses of the League. However, I knew I could talk trash to rattle her cage.  I figured I would try something unique, not sweet. I had a feeling she would go with a dessert, and I wouldn’t have a chance against her in that arena. I also planned to put some extra thought to the presentation.”

What did you do to mentally prepare for this “Iron Leaguer” cooking contest?

Aspen: “Mentally I would say I was pretty ready for the competition. The one thing I did do was look up what it meant to ‘soften the gelatin.’ Other than that, game on.”

Denise: “Meditations and listening to mellow music. I also tried some psy-ops against my competitor while I was shredding my veggies: I kept asking her ‘Do you hear that? That’s me shredding the cucumbers and now that’s the onion.’ I was trying to get her guard down with this talk. But her reply to all this was just ‘Gross.’”

Did you experience any challenges in preparing your dish? 

Aspen: “There were a few moments that I did not think my pie was going to set, but in the end it turned out perfect.”

Denise: “The recipe I made was not enough for my mold so I had to double the boiling water and gelatin from what the original recipe called for. That was a bold move for me, given that I’m a follow-by-direction chef at this time. But it seems as though I managed to pull it off.”

Were you happy with the final product? 

Aspen: “Yes, I was. But I didn’t try the absolutely final dish because I’m pregnant and the pie had enough alcohol in it to catch a buzz just by smelling it. Rumor has it that just one piece can make you blow a positive on a breathalyzer!”

Denise: “Thrilled.”

…and we have a winner!

Ultimately, Aspen won the first “Iron Leaguer” competition with her  Margarita Pie – by one vote. When asked if she was satisfied with the outcome, Aspen noted that “a close race makes for a good competition,” and Denise echoed her thoughts: “I was happy that it was only by one vote that Aspen won, and that she didn’t clean house.”

The contest continues….

But even after the polls closed, and the dishes were put away, the competitors were still at it: “I’m not sure that the judging was completely fair because my competitor was present at the tasting/voting table – she might have persuaded some voters to throw the results her way,” Aspen claimed. Denise as well continued to argue her case: “I do believe that if the competition were judged strictly on presentation alone, I would have blown her out of the League.”

Look out for the next “Iron Leaguer” contest at the GMM in November!

Two other members of the JLT Cookbook Committee are primed to compete in next month’s Iron Leaguer event. One competitor is already trying to psych out her opponent: “I’m confident that whoever is up to the challenge can’t match my cooking skills. I’m in my element for all things fall-flavored. Bring it on!” Tune in for next month’s results….