Peanut butter is the icing on the cake

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One of my coworkers had a birthday last week, which means I did some baking. This coworker requested chocolate cupcakes, so I knew I’d turn to the Joy of Cooking for the cupcake recipe. But the frosting was where I wanted to have some fun.

My mom always made buttercream frosting for cupcakes, but I’ve always found most frosting to be too sweet for my taste. I remembered this coworker being fond of peanut butter, so I looked around for a recipe online for peanut butter frosting and came across this one.

The original recipe called for creamy peanut butter, but I only ever buy crunchy, so I used that. The frosting held up well and complemented the cupcakes nicely. It’s definitely a nice alternative to the more common options.

Ingredients
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

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Tempting tofu with peanut sauce

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Tofu can be boring, or it can be good. It’s like life: It’s what you make of it. I usually throw some sautéed tofu in a quinoa dish with vegetables and spicy sauce, but a couple weeks ago I was browsing online and found this recipe for Seared Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce. It looked like an easy way to try something new, so I bookmarked it.

This recipe was easier to make than I had anticipated. It only took about 15 minutes from start to finish, and was great by itself for lunch. I only had chunky peanut butter in my cupboard, which made my sauce turn out a little thinner than it would have had I used creamy peanut butter like the recipe called for. I really liked the acidity from the vinegar. It added a nice burst of flavor to the dish.

While I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I do enjoy tofu as a way to mix up the protein in my diet. This recipe was great for that, and something I can make again.

Ingredients
1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu, cut into strips a little less than 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup smooth, unsalted, natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil

Lay out tofu strips in a single layer on a paper towel or clean dish towel. Put another clean paper towel or dish towel on top and pat well all over to remove surface moisture.

Make the peanut sauce by placing peanut butter and vinegar into a bowl and mashing with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Whisk in honey, soy sauce, and chili flakes until smooth. Set aside.

Heat a skillet or sauté pan over high heat. When pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons oil with a high smoke point. Make sure oil is covering pan and add tofu in a single layer, with room between each piece.

Cook tofu on one side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for about another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm with peanut sauce available for dipping or toss with stir-fried vegetables and serve over brown rice with peanut sauce drizzle for a complete meal.

Cookies to satisfy any craving

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When I was a kid, peanut butter cookies were my favorite treat. My mom used to make them by rolling the dough into balls and flattening them by making criss-cross fork imprints on the top. I used to love eating them warm shortly after they came out of the oven.

Around the same time, my grandmother in Wisconsin sent me a couple books from the “World Famous Muriel” series. In each book the heroine, Muriel, would solve mysteries as long as the person seeking her help provided her with peanut butter cookies. My grandmother must have seen that we had that in common.

Even now, I still enjoy peanut butter cookies; but I now use a recipe that incorporates chocolate. When I’m craving something sweet, I often turn to Curtis Stone’s Peanut Butter Cookies With Chocolate Chunks. The best part is how quickly they can be made. I had seen him make these cookies on an episode of “Take Home Chef,” and was delighted when the recipe was included in his most recent cookbook, “Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone.”

The original recipe calls for 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate. The first time I made them, all I had was a 4-ounce semisweet chocolate bar, and that turned out to be plenty. I once used chocolate chips, but I prefer chunks of chocolate for this recipe. When it comes to breaking up the chocolate, I’ve found the best way to do it is to smack the wrapped 4-ounce bar of chocolate on the edge of the counter until it feels broken up enough. The different size chunks add a homemade charm to the cookies. If using a stand mixer, just throw the whole bar into the bowl and let the stand mixer break it up into chunks.

The recipe says to remove the cookies from the oven when they’ve puffed up and begin to brown on top. At first, it might seem like you’re taking them out prematurely, but really, follow the recipe. The cookies continue to cook because of the residual heat. If you follow the recipe, you’ll have large, soft cookies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Ingredients
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated / caster sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.

Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Scoop about 3 tablespoonfuls of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff and begin to brown on top but are still very soft to the touch.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack and eat warm or cool completely.