Peanut Butter

You’ll fall for these peanut butter cookies that can be enjoyed year-round and dressed up for special occasions. Get cookie recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Call it tradition, call it an excuse to eat sweets, but December calls most of us to bake cookies. My family’s cookie routine starts just after Thanksgiving, when we prepare Vanilla Bean Cookies and Chocolate Rum Balls so that they can “ripen” in time for Christmas. Many other cookies follow, with old favorites and new flavors filling the holiday platter when the family finally gathers.

Many holiday cookies only appear once a year, but I always add some all-occasion cookies to the plate. I tackled peanut butter cookies this year. These cookies have been around for close to a century, with most sources attributing the classic crosshatched pattern to a 1930s Pillsbury cookbook. But many recipes specifically avoid natural peanut butters and instead pile extra sweeteners onto commercial peanut butters already heavy on the sugar and hydrogenated oils. Recipes I’ve tried that call for freshly ground peanut butter turn out more peanut slab than cookie. By testing and tweaking basic cookie ratios, I came up with a version that can be enjoyed year-round and dressed up for special occasions.
Learn to make Freshly Ground Peanut Butter Cookies and Peanut–Ganache Thumbprint Cookies

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Eggs

Custards and puddings let fresh ingredients shine even as they use leftovers. Get simple pantry dessert recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
For this month’s recipes on cooking from the pantry, I use the word “pantry” loosely: it encompasses foods you keep on hand in your cupboards, your freezer, your refrigerator, and perhaps even boxes under your bed. With these basic ingredients, you can pull together dishes with little notice or effort, whether for breakfast, dinner—or now dessert.

Baked custard is a childhood favorite. My grandmother made it as an afterschool snack for me and my sister—and apparently for my mom, because I have it on an old recipe card in her first cursive writing. Custard needs such simple ingredients that even though you can make it from the cheapest milk and eggs on the shelf, local farm-fresh ingredients will take it to another level—one you can taste and see, thanks to a golden yolk. Rice pudding, a more filling variation on the custard theme, has the added benefit of using up leftovers.
Learn to make Golden Baked Custard and Baked Rice Pudding

Pantry Dinners

I love to play in the kitchen, but I also love easy meals. Get pantry-based recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
As much as I love to play in the kitchen, even I have days when I want an easy meal. But most people who eat my easy meals can’t believe food this good can be so easy. The secret is in what I’m emphasizing all month: a well-stocked basic pantry.

Some of my favorite easy meals developed from flavors I fell in love with while exploring other countries and cultures. My freezer always holds a bag of frozen shrimp, often destined for the grill. But on rainy, freezing, or just plain lazy nights, a cast-iron skillet and oven broiler fill in beautifully. Add some oil, a couple of spices, and a lot of garlic, and the meal brings back memories of Spanish tapas bars and gambas al ajillo. If I cooked up a pot of beans earlier in the week, or have a can stashed on the shelf, I can sip wine, think fondly of Italy, and have a surprisingly filling vegetarian or vegan pasta on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Learn to make Spanish Shrimp in Garlic Oil and Smashed Bean Pasta

Beyond Pancakes

My family adores pancakes of all types, whether fried or baked. Get pancake recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Say “pancake,” and Americans usually visualize tall stacks of round, freshly fried batter, dripping with butter and maple syrup and often made from a prepackaged mix. But every culture seems to have its equivalent, and many require so few, and such common, ingredients that they can be made straight from the pantry.

My family adores pancakes. My mom put together a cookbook of family recipes in 1990, printed on her dot-matrix machine and bound with plastic combs. It includes Linda’s Pancake Mix, a recipe from a family friend that features oats, corn, wheat, and powdered milk and was my mom’s go-to blend throughout my childhood. But it also includes Æbleskivers, Danish pancakes that remind me of holeless yeast donuts but are cooked in a special pan. They were my grandfather’s specialty; my sister inherited his pan, and my niece and nephew dip them in copious amounts of Nutella. My mom’s cookbook also holds recipes for Southern Spoonbread, a cornmeal-based baked “pancake” that’s closer to a soufflé and that we considered a dinner dish, and Dutch Babies, its flour-based breakfast counterpart that puffs beautifully, causing us all to claim a corner as it emerges from the oven. If I were to put out a new edition of Mom’s cookbook today, I would add crepes and their Russian variation, blini.
Learn to make Dutch Babies and Mushroom-Stuffed Blini