Salted Peanut Butter Cookies


When I was a kid, we had a lot of American shows on TV: from “Happy Days” to “Charlie’s Angels” to “The Love Boat” and “Dynasty.”  They were all subtitled in Greek, which was actually a big help in learning English. There were a lot of things that the characters on these TV shows talked about that we didn’t really know about or were ever able to experience. One of those was the mythical “peanut butter.” It seemed to be everywhere. On sandwiches and in desserts, it sounded like the most delicious thing my sister and I could imagine. In fact, we did imagine that it probably tasted like an even better version of Nutella, which we did have available to us and which we adored. So, we always begged our dad to look for peanut butter at the store but he always came back empty handed. It simply did not exist in Cyprus.

Then one day, when we were teenagers, he came home with a jar of peanut butter. My dad worked at the American Embassy and somehow, he got a hold of some of this spread that seemed to be the American equivalent to the Cypriot tahini, ubiquitous and universally loved. My sister and I couldn’t hold our excitement. My mom joined us, and the four of us each held a spoon. My dad opened the jar and peeled away the plastic cover. We all took a spoonful, marveling at the thick, luscious consistency and placed the spoons in our mouths. As if in a slapstick comedy bit, we all started gagging. How could this be what Americans loved? It tasted like peanuts (go figure!) and stuck your tongue to the roof of your mouth with a faint grit and a tiny hint of sweetness that just wasn’t enough for us. We all hated it. We threw out the jar and never thought about it again.

Several years later, I moved to the U.S. and my love affair with peanut butter began. I don’t know what changed. Maybe I had better peanut butter, maybe the one we had in Cyprus was old and stale. More likely, peanut butter is one of those things that you kind of have to learn to love, like Vegemite and stinky cheese. I know that even today, with peanut butter available world wide, many non-Americans despise it.

There are many ways to enjoy peanut butter, but this recipe for peanut butter cookies is one of my favorites. Four simple ingredients (five, if you count the salt), one bowl, and 15 minutes in the oven, will reward you with the most exquisite, crispy on the outside, meltingly soft in the middle, cookies. They’re good enough to perhaps entice even the most ardent peanut butter haters.

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies – Very slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1 3/4 cups (335 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (450 grams) smooth/creamy peanut butter (I use the Jif Natural kind and it’s perfect)
Coarse-grained sea salt, like Madon, to finish


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the peanut butter until smooth and completely incorporated; you shouldn’t be able to see any ribbons of peanut butter.

Preferably, chill the dough by freezing it in its bowl for 15 minutes, stirring it once (so the edges don’t freeze first), before scooping it. Scoop or spoon the dough into balls, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter. If you want them bake into a more rounded, tall shape, place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Or you can bake them immediately for flatter cookies, like the ones in the photo above.

Sprinkle the dough balls lightly with coarse-grained sea salt just before baking. Bake cookies for 18 to 20 minutes. When finished, cookies should be golden at edges. They’ll need to set on the sheet for a minute or two before they can be lifted intact to a cooling sheet.

Let them cool completely before serving. Otherwise, you won’t get the nice crispy outside.


Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola

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It’s customary to reflect on the past twelve months this time of year. Best-of-the-year lists are compiled, retrospectives are assembled, Barbara Walters unveils the people that fascinated her, and Oprah tempts us with her favorite things. We look back with sadness at the bad things that happened and with joy at the milestones we accomplished. And as the midnight hour of December 31st approaches, we hope that this arbitrary moment in time, chosen by men centuries ago, will somehow be unique, a marker of change. People make resolutions, to do less of some things and more of others, to be someone other than who they’ve always been, to want less and give more. Some drink and kiss, penned like abused animals in Times Square, others watch fireworks on their TV sets, and some are asleep long before the ball drops. In the end, the new year is always the same, like a bowl of granola: mostly familiar days, one after the other, studded with the occasional sweet surprise or bitter moment.

Happy New Year.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola – Adapted from David Lebovitz


3 cups (300g) rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 cup (150g) roasted pecans, very coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (70g) sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (130g) smooth peanut butter (regular or natural)
1/4 cup (80g) maple syrup
1/4 cup (85g) honey
1/4 cup (60g) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
4oz (115g) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (45g) sweetened banana chips, chopped


Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small saucepan, warm the peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and water over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix it in well.

Transfer the granola mixture to a baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Toast the granola in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the granola is a golden brown. (It will crisp up as it cools.) Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cool, mix in chocolate and banana chips.

Storage: Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for one to two months.

Sweet Potato, Kohlrabi, and Peanut Stew


Over the last couple of years, our diet has slowly shifted away from meat. At first, our meals featured chicken a lot more than red meat. At some point, I found myself ordering fish from Fresh Direct and Good Eggs more and more often, until I cooked some kind of seafood at least three times a week. And in the last few months, I have found myself making a completely vegetarian meal for us at least once a week, sometimes twice. It helps that we have access to great vegetables from both local farmers (thank you Good Eggs and farmers’ markets) and far away ones (thank you Whole Foods and Fresh Direct).

Our go-to vegetarian meal has been my mom’s lentil recipe (sometimes with the addition of a little smoked fish, so…vegetarianish). But I have also cooked beans a few times, boiled in water with potatoes and carrots, that we ate with lots of olive oil and lemon juice (my favorite bean dish as a kid). So for Christmas, I gave Steve a 5lb box of five different kinds of dried beans from Rancho Gordo (isn’t it such a romantic gift? <insert fart joke here>). I’ve been cooking beans once a week since then, experimenting with different ways of preparing them.


Today’s recipe does not have beens in it, but it’s vegetarian. In fact, it’s vegan. It’s the result of needing to use up a bunch of veggies I bought in preparation for the giant snowstorm that never came last week. I had leeks, kohlrabi, and sweet potatoes. Not an obvious combination of ingredients. For some reason, however, I remembered a stew I used to make many years ago, that was based on a West African dish made with peanuts. I no longer had that recipe but I figured I could make one up myself. And I did. The result was a thick, rich, vegetarian stew that was perfect for a cold winter night. And a nice addition to our list of vegetarian meals.

DSC03745Sweet Potato, Kohlrabi, and Peanut Stew

Note: I’ve noticed that some people have identified that this is a paleo recipe as well, though I thought that peanuts were not paleo. In any case, if you are a paleo enthusiast but you still eat peanuts, this is for you.

Makes 5-6 servings


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, dark green parts discarded, white parts sliced thinly crosswise
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon paprika
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
2 medium sized kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
1 14oz can of dice tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup natural-style (no sugar added) peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/2 cup basmati or jasmine rice
hot sauce (optional)


Place peanut butter in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl and set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks and sauté stirring frequently until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cinnamon, paprika, and garlic. Continue to cook, stirring constantly for about 30-45 seconds. Add stock, kohlrabi, potato, tomatoes with their juices, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, cover pot and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover pot and add some of the hot liquid in the bowl with the peanut butter. Use a spoon or whisk to help the peanut butter dissolve. Pour dissolved peanut butter back into pot and add rice. Raise heat to medium-high and bring back to a low boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until rice and potatoes are fully cooked (kohlrabi will still have a slight crunch). Adjust salt if necessary. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Serve immediately, topped with your favorite hot sauce.

The Better With Lemon 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Are you suffering from gift anxiety? Is the holiday season especially hard on you? Do you wish you could just give everyone a gift card to and be done with it all?

Now there’s hope. For all the people on your list (except those who eat hot pockets for dinner and those who are too young to know how to hold a fork), we present the first annual Better With Lemon Holiday Gift Guide. All of the suggestions listed here have been thoroughly tested by our team of experts (ok, it’s just Steve and I) and they are guaranteed to spread joy to all (at the very least, to you, if you decide to buy all of these gifts for yourself).

So, in no particular order, we present twelve gift suggestions for the 2013 holiday season (click on the title or photo for a link where you can buy them):

1. Hell’s Kitchen Peanut Butter


This is no ordinary peanut butter. It’s sweet and nutty, definitely crunchy, and absolutely irresistible. Spread it on bread and top with some honey and you have breakfast and dessert all rolled into one. Or roll one tablespoon of it at a time into a ball and the dip them in melted chocolate to create the easiest chocolate-peanut butter truffles you’ve ever made. Whoever you give this to will thank you and hate you, because no other peanut butter will ever measure up for them.

2. OXO Good Grips Grill Pan Brush

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This is for those on your list whose chores include washing the dishes. Perfect for scrubbing persistent stuck-on food from pots and pans. I use it on my cast iron skillet all the time.

3. OXO Good Grips Solid Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop

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As you probably guessed by now from reading this blog, Steve and I eat a lot of ice cream. We’ve gone through several ice cream scoops until we discovered this one. It cuts through ice cream better than any other one we’ve ever used. And the stainless steel scoop doesn’t chip or discolor, even after multiple washes in the dishwasher.

4. Absolute Beginner’s Cookbook, Revised 3rd Edition: Or How Long Do I Cook a 3 Minute Egg?

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More than two decades ago, when I was a freshman in college, I cooked my first dish: instant ramen noodles. That was enough to get me interested in cooking. But I needed some help. So, off I went to the bookstore (we still had those back then) and this cookbook caught my eye. I used it non-stop and made some of the recipes in it for years to come. So, for those on your list who need an introduction to cooking, this is the perfect gateway drug.

5. The Breakfast Book

breakfast book

Steve and I have given this book as a gift to so many of our friends, that we should really start getting paid as its official marketing team. It is so worth it. Recipe after recipe, we have marveled at the simplicity and brilliance of what Marion Cunningham has put together in this book. It’s worth it just for the raised waffles recipe alone.

6. Slow Cooker Revolution

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Do you have someone on your list who has in the past remarked that they have a slow cooker that they never use? Give them this book and be prepared to be served slow cooker meals by them every time they invite you to dinner for the next two years. Not that you will be complaining.

7. Trudeau Aroma Aerating Pourer with Stand

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Yeah, sure, the best way to aerate wine is to decant it and let it breathe for a while. But who has time for that on a Wednesday night, when you Must. Have. Wine. Now. This aerator does the job in seconds. And as an added benefit, it serves as a perfect pourer, guaranteeing that you will not end up with drops of red wine on your table or your lap.

8. Jerusalem: A Cookbook


What can I tell you? Just buy the damn thing for yourself and try to not eat a double portion of the stuffed eggplant the minute it comes out of the oven. Then, buy it as a gift for everyone you know.

9. La Tourangelle Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil, 8.45-Ounce Tins (Pack of 2)

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The word “nutty” was invented for this oil. It is the king of seasoning oils (yeah, I went there, olive oil).

10. Minus 8 Vinegar

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So, here’s what you do. You buy a bottle of this vinegar for someone who is very special to you. You give it to them and make sure that you are there when they open it. When they look at you with a puzzled look (“are you really giving me vinegar for the holidays?”) tell them to open it and get a spoon. Watch their eyes light up when they taste a spoonful. Then you taste a spoonful. Then they taste a spoonful. Then you taste a spoonful. Then they taste a spoonful.

Yeah, it’s that good.

11. Kyocera Revolution Series 5-1/2-Inch Santoku Knife, Red Handle

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Perfectly sharp. Forever. No acid can corrode it. And things don’t stick to it when you slice them. It feels like a toy knife in your hand, but it can slice like crazy. Give it only to those who are careful with knives.

12. Craft Coffee Subscription

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Once a month you get three packets of carefully selected coffee. Each coffee is blind taste-tested by the people of Craft Coffee and each one is distinctly different. This one’s for the coffee lovers on your list.


There you have it. Twelve gift suggestions to ease your holiday buying a little bit. You’re welcome 🙂

Banana Peanut Butter Malt Shake


Ok, so my last post was a bit of a downer. Which wasn’t really my intention but I guess that’s just how it ended up coming out as I wrote it down. In any case, I didn’t want to leave y’all with such a sad taste for the week. So, consider this mid-week post an emotional palate cleanser. Sort of like a trou normande, the traditional french palate cleanser of a shot of calvados between courses (sometimes with a ball of apple sorbet in the shot glass).


Except that in this case, instead of apple brandy and apple sorbet, you have bananas, peanut butter, and malted milk powder (a more than fair exchange, if you ask me). I don’t remember exactly when, but a couple of months ago I woke up one morning feeling an intense craving for a shake that combined these three flavors. I had never had anything like that before, but as I got out of bed, I could just taste the sweet and creamy shake with the unmistakable burn of the malted milk.

So, I made it that morning. And then again a few mornings later. And then again. And again. “Should we feel guilty for having dessert for breakfast?” Steve asked me. “Absolutely not!” I replied.


Banana Peanut Butter Malt Shake

Makes 2 8oz servings

1 ripe banana
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (a brand that has sugar in it, like Jif or Skippy)
1 cup of milk
2 ice cubes

Add all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Serve and try not to drink it all at once.