I don’t know whether it’s the cold northwest climate or the chilly economic climate, but I’ve been hunkering down in the kitchen and cooking up a storm lately. My husband is ecstatic. Every time he walks into the kitchen I’m pulling lasagna out of the oven or madly stir-frying a heap of Asian veggies.

I have around 100 cookbooks on my shelves and access to thousands of recipes on the internet so coming up with ideas isn’t a problem. Even so, I often find myself pulling out much-loved older cookbooks—the ones that are tried and true. Some of them have been used so much that they are in two or three pieces. (A true sign of a really good cookbook is one that is held together with a rubber band!)

This weekend, my cooking adventures with two favorite healthy foods—peanut butter and white beans—took me to two favorite cookbooks.

We were down to the last half cup or so of peanut butter in the five-pound tub of Adams PB I get at Costco. It was kind of hard and unspread-able at this point, so I decided to make Asian peanut sauce. I first tried the recipe from Cooking From an Ecological Kitchen by Lorna Sass which is my all-time favorite vegan cookbook. But, while Lorna rarely lets me down, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results this time. So I turned to a golden oldie, the recipe for Gado Gado (Indonesian Peanut Sauce) in The Moosewood Cookbook. I have loved this recipe for exactly 25 years. My handwritten notation on the page indicates that I first made it in January, 1984!

Moosewood isn’t vegan—far from it—but most of the recipes lend themselves easily to veganization. This one requires just a few tweaks and the end result is always special and delicious. I served it over chunks of tofu and steamed green beans.

While Lorna’s peanut sauce didn’t knock my socks off, I found another recipe on the very same page that did. Her recipe for Creamy White Bean Sauce caught my eye since I’m always looking for something new, interesting and easy to do with beans. This took just minutes to make and I was instantly impressed.

So it was a good culinary weekend; I found something new and revisited something true. Here are two wonderful recipes (slightly adapted by me) from two cookbooks that are like dear and faithful friends:


1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp sugar or other sweetener
¼ tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste (I use quite a bit more)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp cider vinegar
3 cups water

Sauté the onions and garlic in the canola oil until onions are tender. Stir in everything else. Simmer over very low heat for a half hour or so until sauce has thickened. Serve over steamed or stir-fried veggies, tofu and rice. Or noodles. Or anything else you like!

Creamy White Bean Spread
(This is supposed to be a sauce, but I kept mine kind of thick and am using it as a spread).

1 ½ cups cooked white beans (I used navy)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar (I think lemon juice would be a wonderful substitute)
½ tsp herbes de Provence (or any kind of Mediterranean-type herb combination)
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup water or broth
Dash of black pepper
Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more liquid if needed. Use as a sandwich spread or a dip with chips or crackers. Or thin with more water or broth and serve over veggies and rice.