Long before I finished my second piece of the peanut butter cake, I realized I needed the recipe from Lisa Tubaugh, of Carthage. I rarely make cakes from scratch any more as I feel my convection oven helps me produce a tasty and moist, cake-mix cake. So this was one delicious cake if I contemplated starting at ground zero to make it.

Peanut butter is something I always have in the kitchen cabinets. A favorite addition to toast, peanut butter also travels and keeps well if I'm in need of lunch later in the day while on the road. Crunchy used to be my choice, but now, creamy is the only one I buy.

Popular folklore credits George Washington Carver with inventing peanut butter. Despite his many contributions using peanuts, peanut butter is not one of them. In the early 1900s, first came Peter Pan, followed by Skippy, and, later, the sweeter Jif. All of these brands are still popular today.

Peanut butter is simply a paste of ground peanuts. Regular peanut butter has been sweetened, salted and hydrogenated so the oils don't separate. This type will keep in the cabinet for three months or in the fridge for six months after opening. All-natural is just what the name suggests. This is the best choice for ethnic recipes such as Chinese dishes. It needs to be stirred before each use and after opening should be refrigerated, where it will keep about six months.

While eating a spoonful of peanut butter as a treat can be pretty satisfying, peanut butter complements many foods. There are apples, celery, honey, jelly and jam, pancakes and waffles, and, as Elvis proved, bananas. It's tasty spread on a cracker or added to a cake or entree. Stir some into your oatmeal or your favorite smoothie. And what about the combo of peanut butter and chocolate?

Because I like to eat dessert first, I'm sharing Lisa's peanut butter cake recipe first. The recipe says to garnish with chopped peanuts, but Lisa chopped up Reece's cups and put those on top. That garnish gets my vote. I'm also sharing a couple of one-pot main dishes from Betty Crocker's "1-2-3 Dinner." For the first recipe, if you have regular canned tomatoes without the garlic, simply cook some garlic with the onions in the oil. One recipe is meatless and the other isn't, and both are so quick and simple. Neither contain anything too out of the ordinary, and the peanut butter complements both.

Have a great week, and happy eating.

Peanut butter cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

1 cup water

1/2 cup peanut butter (not natural)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; set aside. Heat butter and water in saucepan until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter and oil until smooth. Let cool for a few minutes. Whisk in peanut butter and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Pour into sprayed 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients and add whipping cream until spreading consistency. Garnish with chopped peanuts after frosting.

West African sweet potato supper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, sliced into rings

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

3 large sweet potatoes

2 cans diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, undrained

1 can great northern beans, undrained

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

Hot rice or couscous, if desired

Heat oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Stir in potatoes and remaining ingredients except rice to pot. Heat to boiling then reduce heat to medium-low Cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Serve over rice or couscous. Yields 6 servings.

Thai pork and noodles

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups water

2 packages Oriental flavor ramen soup mix

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 cup baby carrots

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 medium zucchini, cut in half and sliced

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.. Cook pork and garlic, stirring occasionally, until pork is brown. Stir in water, soup seasoning mixes, peanut butter, carrots and red pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 5 to 6 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Gently break blocks of noodles in half. Add noodles and zucchini to skillet. Heat to boiling and boil, uncovered, for 1 minute, stirring occasionally to separate noodles, until noodles are soft. Yields 4 servings.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.