Here is a small collection of my holiday favorite recipes that will take you from Thanksgiving into New Years. Like most everything I present to you, these highlight seasonal ingredients, and are typically full of love but not labor. As a person predisposed to the holiday scaries brought about by being a solo planner, cook, and hostess for far too many years, I no longer have time or energy for the complicated.
I grew up in a small family who lived far away from any relatives, so Thanksgivings included the complete standards but on a small scale, always prepared beautifully by my mom. I also raised my own family far away from any relatives, so that pattern repeated. If I were hosting Thanksgiving this year, it would the 38th time in the last 41 years. That's a lot of holiday cooking!
Now, my sweetheart and I have a combined seven grown kids, and ten amazing grandkids. This year we are visiting a daughter in Texas and her beautiful family. I get to relax a bit and be the assistant!
Here are some recipes that work for smaller groups, or perhaps step out of tradition a wee bit if your weary of the classic standards.
I love handing guests a cup of soup as they arrive this time of year. A cup or small mug of soup, like this Winter White Vegetable Soup, or its winter squash version (also within this recipe), is portable as guests mingle and makes a nice handwarmer coming in from the cold. This recipe has enough body and flavor to make it delicious and noteworthy, but it light enough to keep from spoiling anyone's appetite. This pureed soup requires using an immersion blender, so if you don't have one, now is the time. (This is the one I have and love.) An immersion blender is also a truly fantastic Christmas or Chanukah gift for budding cooks, or anyone who doesn't have one. Another big plus-- this soup can be made two or three days ahead and rewarmed at the last minute.
Blue Cheese and Pear Tartine (like a crostata or bruschetta) are frankly amazing. The favors sing. Use this throughout the holiday season, whether its a quiet night at home, or if you are hosting or taking food to a party.
Some of my favorite holiday recipes include Citrus Rush Beet Orange Salad. I love this one for it's pop of gently acidity that seems to be very welcome with all of the other buttery dishes. It is so pretty, and the components can be made ahead.
Autumn Grains, Grapes, and Greens is beautiful, and blurs the line between side dish and salad. With it's grain base, it is also wonderful to serve when vegans and vegetarians are at your table. They will truly know you love them!
As for cranberry sauce, I love hearing about everyone's favorite recipe. There are so many ways to enjoy cranberries, and it seems that once we hit on our favorite there's no room for change. This is the recipe I've used since the early '90s, and my daughter makes it every year now, too. Cranberry Sauce with Raspberry Vinegar was originally from Bon Appetit magazine, and you can find it here. I've used several blueberry and blackberry vinegars in it with equal deliciousness (P.S.-- don't be tempted to scrimp on the raspberry vinegar. That's where the magic is. And if you can get your hands on it, this blueberry or blackberry vinegar is glorious.)
So maybe there's just two or three of you, and a big bird doesn't sound like fun. You still want something seasonal and special, but don't want to be at it all day. Another holiday favorite recipe is my Roasted Chicken + Autumn Bread Salad is really all the glory with a fraction of the time and work. Hey, it's still poultry, right? The bread salad takes the place of stuffing, vegetable sides, and refreshing salad all at once. It truly is Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner worthy.
It might be because of my old pastry chef days of making and rolling a dozen pastry crusts every Monday, but making pies feels pretty tedious amidst all of the other pre-holiday meal components. If you have non-pie eaters or gluten free eaters, these two recipes will save the day.
Flourless Walnut Cake (use GF flour to dust your pan) is so lovely, and so simple. Ground walnuts, some eggs, and sugar are all you need. And better yet, you can opt for the coffee flavored version, or the spice cake version. This flexible recipe gives you these flavor choices, or make it plain and serve it with the ice cream of your choice. So good, so pretty, and so simple.
If you want to keep it really simple, how about a rich and very adult wintry Nutty Chocolate Port Ice Cream Sundae? This takes 10 minutes, and yet is as elegant and rich as any other dessert ever. And with this choice, you won't spend one minute baking. (The candied orange slices that make this so wonderful are available at most Trader Joe's stores.)
However you do your holiday, do it in a way that's authentic to you! Pure traditionalist or thoroughly modern; formal or casual; fancy or simple are all valid. It's easy to get caught up in the perfect Instagramable holiday, but it is only as wonderful as you feel!
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Today I'm teaching my community how to make this wonderful warm autumn grains, grapes, and greens pilaf. Our phenomenal Lane County Farmers Market has hosted a series of cooking demonstrations generously funded by the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District. Some fabulous local chefs have been smashing it up with their demos all summer long. And today, it's me, a professional home cook sharing with the crowd. I'm extremely honored to be among this group of people, making our local foods more accessible to our community, and adding value to those shopping at our market.
With the exception of olive oil, salt, and pepper, every single ingredient in this dish was purchased at the farmers market. My intent in developing today's recipe was to stuff it full of local ingredients, spotlighting ingredients that abound at the market today and the growers and producers who bring them to us. This very moment. This exact week of this exact season. I wanted my dish to taste like Oregon at this very moment. There is a good chance that many of these ingredients will give you that "terroir", or sense of place, if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live down under, file this away for your autumn cooking next April.
This recipe rendition captures autumn, with grapes coming ripe and wintery greens, still tender and young, just now coming to market. Grains are enduring-- we enjoy them throughout the year. Here are some change-ups you might make with this idea, no matter the season:
Roasted Mushroom, Grain + Spinach Salad: Recipe here.
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Is it possible to be glum in the presence of orange things, like this autumn sunset-hued roasted fig-glazed winter squash? As autumn comes knocking, this three-ingredient wonder is a cheery and scrumptious welcome to the cool-weather cooking season.
Like an oven being lit, my imaginative cooking fires are lit by trying new ingredients. This little recipe started when I was recently introduced to blackstrap vinegar. At our farmers market, I met Klee and Cherie Wiles-Pearson of Spoiled Rotten Vinegar who make, among other vinegar, the award-winning blackstrap vinegar used in this dish. They appropriately call it "One American's retort to Italy's aged Balsamic." Blackstrap molasses makes it full-bodied, rich, and sweet, and it works in most applications where one would normally reach for Balsamic. One sip of this living food and I am forever hooked.
Klee ferments and bottles Spoiled Rotten Vinegar's distinctive vinegars. Cherie designs the beautiful, information-filled labels that highlight the work of local artists. The charming Spoiled Rotten Vinegar bottles are not made to be hidden behind cupboard doors.
Besides straight-up out of the oven, here are other some ways to put this fig-glazed winter squash to work from now until spring.
What variety of winter squash wouldn't be lovely in this recipe? I am wildly fond of the Red Kuri variety, not only because of its red-orange luminosity, but also because it cooks to a silky texture without falling apart. Kabocha squash is similar. And don't forget Delicata, which offers a yellow contrast and is a great little squash, too. Except for butternut, none of the varieties listed in the recipe below require peeling. Their skins soften equally to the flesh when roasted.
Scrub winter squash and then microwave it for 2 minutes or so on high power before cutting into it. This allows the knife to slide through the squash more easily. I think it makes scooping the seeds out a little easier, too.
Above all, don't give up on this recipe if you can't find blackstrap vinegar. Dark Balsamic is a worthy substitute.
Where are fig jams, spreads, or butters found? Many grocery stores that have a gourmet-style cheese section carry fig jam, spread, or butter. Ask there. Trader Joe's fig butter is good and is generally the most affordable. I keep a jar or two of it around for cheese boards and cheesy paninis. You may also find it in the jams and jellies section of your grocery. This is the fig spread I'm using at the moment, and it is excellent.
The density of the glaze is dependant on the particular fig jam, spread, or butter you use. If your glaze is so thick that it doesn't drizzle off your mixing spoon, thin it with a tablespoon or so of water. You want it just loose enough to drizzle in a thin ribbon. If you happen to thin it too much, just reduce the fig/vinegar mixture back down in a small saucepan over medium heat for a few minutes.
Save any glaze leftovers and use it in a salad dressing. With a little olive oil added, it is terrific on a leafy salad with apples, chopped dried figs, and some toasted nuts.
Store leftover fig-glazed squash tightly covered in the fridge. Then rewarm it gently in a microwave oven or a toaster oven.
Warm Spinach Salad +Pancetta Dressing; recipe here.
This post contains affiliate links, including but not limited to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. When you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Product affiliation helps me to keep this site ad-free while providing you with the content you enjoy. I only promote items that I use, like, and trust, or would invest in myself.
Zucchini has never inspired me much, until this summer, and it is this great one bowl Lemon Feta Zucchini Salad I have to thank for it. It's such a simple salad, but the flavors come together in a big way. Lemon juice and zest offer a bracing acidity and zip, feta adds a salty creaminess, and pine nuts offer a grounding buttery, component. Big cracks of black pepper add a ton of character. Mix it all together in one serving bowl-- so efficient and tidy! This salad is delightful with a multitude of foods, especially anything grilled, or all on its own.
The autumnal equinox is only 16 days away, but zucchini will be with us for yet a while. Nearly all applications (except, maybe, a chocolate cake with zucchini hidden in it) are better with smaller young zucchini. However, don't be afraid to use the big boys of early autumn in this dish. The bigger squashes will need lengthwise halving or quartering and seed removal, but will tenderize nicely with a little marination from the dressing.
Many people tend to get really busy as September gets underway, and this speedy one-bowl lemon feta zucchini salad takes about 15 minutes to make. Snuggle it next to a sliced roasted pork tenderloin for a complete meal in 30 minutes flat. The leftovers will make a nice lunch the next day.
Here's how I'll sequence it: Preheat the oven to 425°. Wipe the tenderloin dry with a paper towel and generously salt and pepper it. In a small bowl, mix two tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon onion powder, if you have it. Spread half the mixture all over the pork tenderloin, place it in a large cast iron skillet or on small baking sheet, and roast it in the hot oven for 16 to 22 minutes. It should feel firm but with some give when you press it with your finger. The internal temperature should be between 140°-145°. (I remove mine from the oven at 140° to ensure it is juicy, as the temp will raise another 5 degrees while it rests.) Allow the tenderloin to rest under a foil cover for ten minutes. Slice and serve with the remaining half of the mustard sauce.
While the tenderloin is roasting, make the zucchini salad except the garnishes. Set it aside. Once the roast is sliced, give the salad a last toss, top it with the garnishes, and voila! Dinner is served.
The batch you see in these photos uses a mix of yellow and green zucchini, but one or the other delivers the same goodness if that's what you have. Slicing it thinly but not too thinly lets the slices hold up to a stir. A thickness of about 1/8" is your aim. The zucchini will absorb your nice dressing without wilting at this thickness. This is the tool I love to use to get even, quick slices.
A heavy dose of cracked black pepper really makes this dish, so don't hold back. Fresh basil and avocado are optional but delicious additions, but not necessary. If you have them use them; if not, don't worry.
Add the rest of the ingredients directly to the bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup or spoon. This is truly a one-bowl wonder of tidiness!
A note on toasting pine nuts: I wish I had a dollar for every time I've burnt a batch of pine nuts. Kitchen multi-tasking can be a detriment when it comes to nuts. I used to put them on a small baking sheet and pop them into the toaster oven for 6-8 minutes. Sometimes they turned out perfect, other times like mini charcoal briquets. Please take my advice and take the very few minutes it takes to toast them in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan often to let them toast evenly. Stay right there! Notice their change in color and aroma. By all means, do not walk away from the pan. Relax and hang out a minute. Toasting nuts is a definite Be Here Now task.
This post contains affiliate links. When you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Product affiliation helps me to keep this site ad-free while providing you with the content you enjoy. I only promote items that I use, like, and trust, or would invest in myself.
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I'm beginning to think that dishes like Grilled Peach + Ricotta Salad are proof that a key purpose of summer is to oust cooking burnout. All we have to do is stand back and let the extravagant array of juicy, colorful ingredients do what they do with nominal human interference. Since the garden and farm stand bounty pretty much does all the work for us, all we have to do is relax, and maybe chop a thing or two.
The flavors in this salad are wonderfully harmonious. First, grill-kissed peaches, lightly caramelized and warmed through, lean savory rather than peach-pie sweet. Then there are tart cherries, tangy tomatoes, and creamy ricotta. Add in savory herbs, and a sweet and unctuous dressing. All this combines to light up all five flavor receptors in your mouth. Dollops of our Summer Basil Sauce add yet one more way to use this essential sauce. And then, there's the color explosion that delights your eyes and soul as each bite is lifted on your fork. Our grilled peach + ricotta salad as dinner simply matches the exuberance and joy of the season.
Anne Amie Vineyards, in Oregon's Yamhill-Carlton wine area, offers a 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir you shouldn't miss. (This wine is no longer available directly through Anne Amie's website.) It is a dry (not sweet) medium bodied wine with soft fruit and herb flavors, a slight minerality, and balanced acidity that nicely supports the grilled peach salad. And the sweet label will make you smile in the same way the pretty salad does. Be sure to save it and use it as a vase for summer blooms once you've finish the delicious wine!
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I hope you'll try this easy-going summer recipe. When you do, please share with our 101-Mile Kitchen community! Tell us in the comments, or on Facebook or Instagram, @101milekitchen. Have you joined the community? If not, we'd love to have you. You can take care of that right here, and when you do I'll send you a free Taste of Oregon appetizers recipe downloadable as a thank you!
Every now and then I come up with a meal that blows even my own mind. Sweet + Spicy Salmon Rice Bowls is one of those times.
Chinook salmon, referred to as king salmon because of their size, are in season in the Pacific Northwest. They are expensive because they are in population decline. That is why I now am buying sustainably farmed salmon. Farmed salmon in not only less expensive, it allows dwindling fish populations a chance to recover and keep responsible fishermen and women working.
I don't choose just any old industrialized farmed salmon, but only that which is raised in its natural ocean environment, not in a tank that is environmentally unsound and can contain toxins. I'd love for you to read more about this responsible and humane way of raising fish.
Not only that, but more and more chefs are using sustainably farmed fish. They know this is one way to be sure there will be more in the future. And, well, when it's raised right it tastes just as great as wild.
This entire process will take 45 minutes, tops. This recipe is layed out for one person and is easily scaled up if you serve more. The dressing will make enough for 4 bowls, but is a tremendous salad dressing and marinate for chicken shrimp, and other fish, so if you have a couple tablespoons of it left it won't be hard to put it to good use.
First, put a pot of jasmine rice on the stove, in your rice maker, or instant pot. If you cook it on the stove like I do, take it off the heat, leave the lid on, and allow it to steam for ten minutes after its simmer for perfect rice.
Next, you'll whip up a flavorful mixture that will serve you in three ways. It becomes the salmon marinade and glaze, and it dresses the finished salmon rice bowl, tying everything together deliciously. Four ingredients, one small bowl, bam! (Be cautious about the heat of your chili sauce-- not all is created equal so be sure to take a wee taste to gauge how much heat you'd like.) Pour a few tablespoonsful in a shallow dish and put your salmon in it to marinate, and reserve the rest.
Then you'll put your salmon on a small baking sheet and stick it in a hot oven for 5 minutes. After five minutes switch the oven to broil, and broil it for 3-4 minutes, or until the glaze is beginning to bubble, thicken, and brown. (I use my toaster oven to cook the salmon. It's more energy efficient, and when the weather is warm it doesn't heat the house up.)
While the salmon is soaking and the rice is cooking, you'll slice up some cute little Persian cucumbers and an orange or two. You'll wash and dry some baby spinach. You'll pluck some leaves of fresh mint and basil from their stems, and slice one or two leaves into thin slivers for garnish.
As soon as all the components are ready, you'll divvy up the rice among the bowls, and lay the spinach leaves on top. (I like to arrange the spinach to one side of the bowl. It's artsy that way.) You'll then fan out a few orange slices on top of the spinach, then arrange the cucumber slices on the opposite side of the bowl to make room for the salmon to go in the center. Drizzle it all with the marinade/dressing. Tuck the whole mint and basil leaves here and there-- they become part of the green salad. Sprinkle everything with sesame seeds if you have them, black are especially pretty. Fluff the herb slivers over the top. If you have some colorful radishes to thinly slice, they add another visual and flavor component, but aren't essential.
So there you have it, Sweet + Spicy Salmon Rice Bowls! Doesn't that look pretty? Wait until you taste it.
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Every now and then I cook for just myself, something like this warm spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette, warm barley, toasted hazelnuts, an egg, with beautiful golden crowns of Delicata squash. It takes me back to my single days when I first learned to eat alone. For 47 years of my life there was family at my dinner table, and suddenly eating alone was such a hard thing. I had finally learned to enjoy it by the time this one particularly extraordinary guy came along.
What can I tell you about my this man, who became my husband? First, Scott is a never-ending source of puns that always make me laugh. He is really sweet with his mother, daughters, sons, grandchildren, my whole family, friends, grocery checkers, wait staff, dogs and cats, well, everyone. He always takes the generous view of (nearly) all people.
Going places with him is always a fun adventure.
We once hiked what seemed like 400-foot high sand dunes to visit the Oregon coastline. The wind was howling, it was raining, and my hikers were filled with sand. It had not been my favorite afternoon, and we still had to climb back over the dunes to get to our car. I was over it. He pulled out his phone, pretended to dial, and held the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he said with a serous façade. "My wife is ready to have the helicopter pick her up and return her to the chateau. Twenty minutes? Great, thank you." Scott always knows how to make me laugh, and how to gently move my legs-- and my attitude-- in the right direction.
I could go on about how smart and good looking he is, too. But here's what you really need to know. At this moment one of Scott's most dearly beloveds is in long-term hospital care. She lives far away, and when he couldn't be at her side in the first days of her medical situation he was nearly beside himself. He has now spent a few weeks at her bedside helping her heal, with more time away from home to come. He has full-heartedly embraced the task of caregiving in the most beautiful way, with strength, humor, devotion, and hope.
So, this won't be the last time I make spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette for one. I'll be doing more dining alone off and on for a time, while this amazing person I call my husband is away doing God's work of loving so well.
This pretty shoulder-season main-dish salad uses hearty curly spinach, the last of the winter Delicata squash in my vegetable basket, and some warm cooked barley, naturally gluten-free buckwheat groats, or farro. Warm salads are so satisfying during the spring and autumn season changes. This one is every bit as yummy to eat as it is lovely to look at.
Portland's James Beard award winning Joshua McFadden's book, Six Seasons; A New Way with Vegetables provides the inspiration for the pancetta vinaigrette. I divert from his recipe in a few places-- I use the olive oil and rendered pancetta to lightly wilt hearty spinach right in the pan. Sherry vinegar is my choice for this dish instead of red wine vinegar that Chef McFadden uses, and I add it just as the spinach is finished wilting in the pan. And, since I'm cooking for one, I reduce the overall ingredient quantities.
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Feasts, cookie platters, cocktail parties, and office holiday goodies, oh my! As fun as it is, it doesn't take long to feel the overwhelm of holiday system overload, just when the mood of the day calls for merry and bright. As a remedy to seasonal splurges, include a salad of roasted mushrooms, warm grains, and baby spinach into your menu this week.
This quick little main-course salad starts with four easy-to-come by ingredients and a light but flavorful lemon vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made even better by using Meyer lemons, just coming into peak season.
Here I go on about celery again. Celery adds an essential textural crunch to this dish, and a bit of delicious freshness that you will welcome to your winter plate. I view this as this as a subtle necessity.
In the extraordinary Pacific Northwest food playground we have easy access to an array of cultivated and wild mushrooms. One trial of this recipe I used a shiitake-only approach. Another trial used a melange of chestnut, oyster, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms. I loved it both ways. If you can only access white buttons or brown criminis, please use them! Your dish will be as delicious as ever.
You have a lot of running room when it comes to the grain you use in your roasted mushroom salad. I used Purple Valley Barley, an organic product from my local Lonesome Whistle Farm. Lonesome Whistle also carries wheat berries, emmer (a farro) and oat groats that would be perfect. If you are new to this type of thing and eat gluten, I suggest starting with pearled barley, or just jump right in and try one of the above grains. If you eat gluten-free, give buckwheat groats or brown rice a try.
I started off suggesting a mushroom, warm grain, and spinach salad as a detoxifying healthy choice, so maybe through the holidays consider a tonic of pomegranate juice and sparkling water? Or not! I highly suggest the Artisanal Wine Cellars 2015 Dukes Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tom and Patty Feller, and their daughter, Mia, are a family operation dedicated to handcrafted expressive wines. The grapes in this bottle were grown by Pat and Jackie Dukes of Dukes Family Vineyard. We view the Artisanal's Pinot Noirs to be beautiful wines at incredible values.
I've been experimenting with the design Rule of Threes in my cooking. Used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion-- really anywhere design concepts are applied-- the principle is that things arranged in groups of three are more appealing, evocative, and satisfying.
Long ago, it is said, Nordstrom sales associates were required to dress this way-- skirt, blouse, sweater; slacks, shirt, vest; dress, boots, scarf, etc. Accessories were the grace notes added to the rule of threes formula. I've begun to think this is true for the food on a plate as well.
Not only does this method of cooking work from a taste and visual point of view, but it is actually pretty easy to pull together a dynamic dish using this concept.
In this 30-minute dish the triad of warm earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and cool creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Each of the parts requires very little or no preparation. The simple vinaigrette acts like the jewelry that ties the whole ensemble together.
The rule of threes concept worked perfectly in this recent red pepper, white bean, and feta recipe, too. The smoky bright red peppers, the earthy light white beans, and sharp tangy feta create a synergy that is tied together with a crown of herb sauce. Magnificent, yet simple.
It only looks challenging! Make Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad soon for an ever so delicious, beautiful, fancy-fast-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it is still delicious. Serve it alongside meat, or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.
How can you use this Rule of Threes concept in your cooking and meal planning? I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiments!
It is an odd little kid who prefers observing adults above hanging out with other kids, but that is how I was issued. With the focus of Jane Goodall and the sofa as my cover, I studied grown-ups and all forms of their behavior; language, cultural and social norms, and how curiously their developed biology drove their actions. Kids I found to be mostly mean, addled, and ridiculous.
It will not surprise you, then, to know I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The basic components were good, I thought. But jelly seeping through the bread, the gluey palate-sticking nature of the thing, and the whole sandwich mangled by the smacking of a thermos inside the lunchbox of a girl with a purposeful stride? Thank you, but no.
If Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Peanut Sauce had been popular among suburban moms so long ago, it would have been my absolute lunchbox preference. A tangle of chewy buckwheat noodles and colorful crunchy vegetables draped in a velvet cloak of spicy, gingery peanut sauce is arguably the best use of peanut butter. It would have had me daydreaming about girls in Indonesian -- where peanut sauce originates-- wondering if they liked math any better than me, if their parents fought, and whether they moved a lot or got to live in one house their whole life. I would have wished the Weekly Reader to do a story on them so I could know.
This recipe is for my grandchildren should they want something other than jelly and bread with the peanut butter in their lunchboxes.