Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

The chocolate-peanut butter duo is always a hit IMHO (in my humble opinion), so when my future daughter-in-law requested a cookie with that combo, I was ON IT. We found this winner on the McCormick website, and it appealed to me because I didn’t have to run to the grocery store for anything. Now, I don’t usually have peanuts on hand, but I’d just made the previously-posted chicken peanut stew, so I had a jar handy. Other recipes I ran across had chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups or other non-staples in them. 

Ashley and I really liked these! They aren’t achingly sweet, which they would be if you were to use chopped candy bits. They were a good balance—chocolate cookie spiked with peanuts and peanut butter flavor. YUM. So the girl my son is marrying has great taste! Both in food… and in men. 

2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (10-ounces) peanut butter chips
1 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and then vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Stir in peanut butter chips and peanuts by hand.

Drop by rounded tablespoons about two inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or just until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Turkey Peanut Satay Wraps

Thai-flavored fare a favorite with you, like it is for me? Then these savory turkey wraps will hit the spot. I got this recipe from a Bethel University student worker (Natalie G, that’s you!), who raved non-stop about it, and she had found it on It went together pretty easy—about 30 minutes—and most of the ingredients were the kind of thing I had on hand. I’m not concerned about using soy sauce in recipes, but those who have zero tolerance for gluten would want to sub in gluten-free tamari sauce.

Now for the adjustments I made to the recipe—let’s start with the meat. It called for ground chicken, and I can’t recall seeing that in the grocery store. (And my husband refused to look for it when I sent him to the grocery store for the butterhead lettuce…so that kinda settled it!) Since I had ground turkey on hand, that’s what I used. Not a fan of gathering loads of specialty sauces in my cupboards and frig, I subbed in fresh minced garlic and dried chili powder for the recommended chili garlic sauce. Another addition was the scallions, as I thought they’d give it a nice bite.

It also seemed that the amount of sauce made in the recipe wouldn’t have covered the meat, so I doubled the peanut butter and coconut milk. I was glad I did, because it was JUST right. And so was the flavor!!! It was a great mix of spices, and the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut better coated the meat perfectly. Once wraps were assembled, the crunch of the lettuce wrapped around the spiced meat mixture made for a thoroughly satisfying meal. (Could also be a killer appetizer!) If there’d been leftovers, I’d tell you how it tasted second day, but alas, we ate every last morsel. DEE-lish.

Serves 4

2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, chopped, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 scallions (green onions), chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*
salt and pepper
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used a can of regular, not light, and mixed to include fat and coconut milk)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
*(If you don’t have fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger here)
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 heads of butterhead lettuce

Coat skillet with oil, and heat to medium-high. Add ground turkey, and cook until almost no pink remains in meat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Add shallots (or onions), scallions, and minced garlic, and cook until meat is no longer pink and garlic is fragrant. Turn down to low.

Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in large microwave-safe measuring cut or bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, curry, and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined. Add to meat in skillet, and stir to coat. Turn element off.

Remove core from butterhead lettuce, and rinse. Pat dry. Line 4 plates with several leaves of lettuce, and add large dollop of meat mixture to plate. Put cilantro and chopped peanuts on table. Let each person assemble their own wraps, and top with peanuts and cilantro.

Salted Nut Bars

Fans of Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls will love these easy stove-top bars that taste pretty darn close to the candy bar. In fact, people who are kinda “meh” about the candy bars even love these—like my future daughter-in-law, Ashley, who helped me make a decent dent in a pan of these recently.

As my oven is dying a slow death right now (kind of a problem for a food blogger… Go Fund Me, anyone?), I’m looking for stove top and grill options in our meals and desserts. The recipe for these bars was given to me by my husband’s cousin, Trudy, after she brought them to my mother-in-law’s memorial service, and I begged her for it. Before you berate me for asking for a recipe at such a solemn occasion, you need to know this—My mother-in-law was the original foodie, even though that term wasn’t used in her day. Everything Marynona baked and cooked was delicious, and she served up her great food with a heaping helping of warm hospitality. She would have been touched that a couple of her relatives were bonding over food and sharing recipes at a service being held in her honor. Really.

So back to the recipe! This doesn’t fit with my usual desire to cook with fresh, natural ingredients, and avoid extra sugars. In fact, I think that the butter and peanuts are the only real food ingredients in these, unless you count the sugar that the marshmallows are made of! But when you need a hit of salty and sweet, these do the trick in a snap.

Makes 20 bars

4 tablespoons butter
1 (10-ounce) package Reese’s peanut butter chips
1 (10-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (16-ounce) jar dry roasted peanuts

Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle half the jar of peanuts in the bottom of the pan. In large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add peanut butter chips and stir to melt those as well. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir to combine. Add whole bag of marshmallows, and stir until they are coated with peanut butter chip mixture, but do not let marshmallows melt! Gently spoon mixture over peanuts in baking dish, and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the rest of nuts on top and press in with back of large spoon. Refrigerate until firm; cut into squares.

NOTE: Once these are firm from refrigeration, no need to refrigerate again. Trudy had a note on her recipe that says, “these freeze well”, but I’ve never tried that. I’m kind of a “make it and take it” kinda gal—as my family and co-workers will attest. My baked goods don’t usually last long enough to need to be frozen for future consumption.

Chicken Pad Thai

FullSizeRenderPad Thai is one of our favorite take-out dishes, but I figured it was one of those dishes best handled by professionals, and not possible to replicate at home. Then I ran across a recipe on Big Bowl’s website, and thought it looked doable. I needed a trip down the ethnic food aisle to find the fish sauce—I never did find the ground dried shrimp (which I’ve never heard of before), so I didn’t use that. Big Bowl’s recipe was poorly written, making it a little hard to follow, so it took some studying to figure out the process and order of ingredients. They also use a full cup of peanut oil for frying and flavor, which I thought would make for a pretty greasy dish. I subbed in some sesame oil, which is a healthier option, and has a great, nutty flavor.

The Big Bowl recipe also had waaaaaay more chili powder and Sriracha sauce than I thought was necessary, so I cut the heat in half the first time I made it. My son Justin and husband liked it, but it was still too much for me because you couldn’t taste the lime and fresh herbs. So the spices you see below are in amounts that hopefully don’t overpower the dish. (If my nose is running the whole time I’m eating a dish, I figure that’s more heat than needed.)

Since rice noodles are gluten-free, I can finally get a “pasta” fix with this dish! But it doesn’t have much vegetable nutrition, with scallions and bean sprouts being the only veggies in it. I might add in some grated carrots and maybe some green peas next time I make it, just to make it more nutritious. Or maybe not! It’s pretty dang good the way it is.

Serves 4-6

1 (14-ounce) package dried rice noodles (also called sitr-fry rice noodles)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, julienned
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
1-2 teaspoons bottled chili sauce, like Sriracha sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, using both white and green portions
¼ cup Thai or sweet basil, chopped *
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons ground dried shrimp (optional)
½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
2 cups fresh bean sprouts (1 bag)
Lime wedges for garnish

Put rice noodles in large bowl, and pour very hot tap water over noodles to cover. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until softened but not mushy. Drain thoroughly, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

Mix the cornstarch, salt, and another 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil together in medium bowl, and add chicken. Toss to coat meat. Put large frying pan or wok on stove and turn heat on high. Add 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil to pan. Lay chicken strips in hot oil and cook until golden brown on one side, then turn and cook on other side until no pink remains. Remove from pan. Once cooled, cut into bit-sized pieces, and set aside.

In small bowl, mix the lime juice, brown sugar, chipotle powder, paprika, chili sauce, and fish sauce together. Set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil in pan. Add the scallions and stir briefly just to coat with the oil, then add the noodles. Toss the noodles in the pan for 15 seconds or so and then add the chicken. Toss continually until the noodles soften and are coated with the oil, and the chicken and scallion are incorporated. Drizzle the egg into pan and stir to combine.

When the pan is piping hot again, drizzle in the lime juice and brown sugar mixture. After 5 seconds, pull the pan from the heat and toss vigorously to coat. Add most of the basil and cilantro leaves (saving a pinch of each for garnish), the ground dried shrimp (if using), and the peanuts; toss to combine. Add the bean sprouts and toss again. Transfer to a serving plate and serve with a couple wedges of lime on the side. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top before eating.

*NOTE: Thai basil has an anise-like flavor, which is the flavor in black licorice. I only grow sweet basil in my herb pots, so that’s what I used to make this dish. You will probably have to hit a farmer’s market if you want the Thai basil. Sweet basil is the only option in main-stream grocery stores.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.

Thai Peanut Pasta Salad

FullSizeRenderPeanut allergy people and gluten intolerant folks, you might as well skip reading this post right now. My apologies in advance. But if you’re a fan of Thai dishes heavy on peanut, you’ll love this easy pasta recipe that can be eaten warm or cold. The recipe was requested by a Pioneer Press reader when I wrote the “In the Kitchen” column for that paper several years ago. It was served at the Marshall Field’s deli at the time (and might still be offered at Macy’s deli…), and executive chef Tim Tesch was happy to pass it along. After making it several times, I’ve made some adjustments—I’ve increased the peanut butter and sugar amounts, decreased the soy sauce, and added in some fresh garlic for additional flavor. 

The chicken can be grilled or fried in a pan, if making the dish during non-grilling season. (It’s never non-grilling season at our house. My husband grills year-round.) We like eating this while still warm for dinner, and then chilling the leftovers for lunches the next day. It’s great at either temperature. I suppose it’s the chilling of the pasta that gives it the “salad” name tag? Don’t let the title fool you—it really is a whole meal. Since it’s easy to make ahead of time, it’s great potluck fare, if you’re feeling generous enough to share with others. But you may just want to keep it all for yourselves. I’m OK with that.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound chicken breast or tenderloin
Dash each of soy sauce, vegetable oil, and garlic salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)
1/3 cup shredded carrots
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (in 375° oven for 10 minutes)
1/2 pound uncooked spaghetti pasta

For sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar (I use 1/4 cup)
Dash crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

Toss chicken in dash each of soy sauce, vegetable oil, and garlic salt; grill or fry until chicken is no longer pink in center. Once cooled slightly, julienne or chop chicken. If using frozen peas, rinse them in cold water and let drain until thawed. In large mixing bowl, combine cooked chicken, peas, carrots, scallions, and sesame seeds. Set aside.

Bring water to a boil and break pasta into halves or thirds and cook according to package directions; drain. While pasta is cooking, make sauce. Pour oil into large sauce pan. Heat oil on medium, and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic turns golden brown. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook and stir on medium heat until all ingredients are incorporated, and sauce is smooth. May need to add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water at this point to thin sauce to desired consistency. Pour sauce into bowl with chicken and vegetable mixture, and add cooked pasta. Using tongs or large wooden spoon, toss all ingredients around until sauce coats evenly. Serve warm with chopped peanut garnish, or chill to serve later. (Garnish with peanuts at time of serving.)

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

IMG_0618This fresh and healthy Asian salad is perfect for a warm weather lunch, brunch, or served alongside whatever is on your grill for dinner. My sister Susan brought it to a party recently, and it was a hit. She found the recipe on, but changed it considerably. The original calls for five, count ’em FIVE cloves of garlic, which is way too much raw garlic for a salad. She subbed in soy sauce for fish sauce as she didn’t have the fish sauce on hand, and added bell pepper, snow pea pods, and red cabbage to the vegetable mix. She said she’s also included edamame (boil according to package instruction then chill) when she’s made it previously. The drizzle of toasted sesame oil at the end was also her addition. Isn’t she clever? We thought so!

Serves 6-8

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce or 1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
4 leaves Napa cabbage, julienned
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, ends cut off
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup salted dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Combine the minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the lime juice, fish sauce (or soy sauce, and sugar; stir well. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Break the rice noodles in half and add them to the pot; boil them for 2 minutes. Drain well. Rinse the noodles with cold water until they have cooled. Let them drain again.
Combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, Napa cabbage, bell pepper, red cabbage, sugar snap peas, and mint in a large serving bowl. Toss well; drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Toss again and serve the salad garnished with the peanuts.
(NOTE: if using a gluten-free soy sauce, this recipe would be gluten-free.)