I have a friend, Eddie, who said I look a lot nicer in my picture than I am in person.

Thankfully, he was laughing when he said it — all three times.

Really? How distressing. I always thought of myself as polite and helpful.

So, I appreciate that Mrs. Pat Gooch of Hackett writes, “I have enjoyed your many recipes and helpful hints over the years, and truly appreciate seeing your friendly face in my paper.”

Thank you, Mrs. Gooch. I am friendly. I’m nice. Don’t listen to Eddie.

Mrs. Gooch needs some friendly help.

She writes, “I’m writing to see if you have a recipe that my late husband’s mother used to serve him as a birthday cake. My daughter recently asked me how to make the icing, and frankly, I don’t know. Since my mother-in-law used to make it, I never asked for the recipe.

“It was a yellow cake with peanut butter icing. The icing was creamy with just a faint ‘crust’ to it. I’ve tried a couple of recipes from online, but they taste like fudge — too hard and too sweet. The texture is all wrong.”

The following recipe from southernplate.com sounds like what you’re looking for. I just hope it doesn’t turn out hard or too sweet.

Readers, if you have a recipe similar to what Mrs. Gooch is seeking, please share.

Yellow Cake with Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Icing

• 1 Duncan Hines yellow cake mix, made according to package directions and cooled


• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 7 tablespoons milk

• 2 tablespoons shortening

• 2 tablespoons margarine

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine sugar, milk, shortening, margarine and salt. Bring to a rolling boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Once it reaches a boil, let boil for one or two minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and peanut butter. Beat until smooth and quickly spread onto cake.

Then I found this icing on addapinch.com and thought, “Maybe this is what Mrs. Gooch is looking for.”

Peanut Butter Icing

• 1/2 cup butter

• 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

• 1/2 cup buttermilk

• 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Add butter, peanut butter and buttermilk to a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla to a spreading consistency, or use an electric hand or stand mixer, if preferred.

Pour peanut butter icing over warm cake and spread to cover edges using a rubber scraper or offset spatula. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

This recipe is not what Mrs. Gooch is looking for, but it gets rave reviews online in case anyone else wants it.

Perfect Peanut Butter Buttercream

• 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 1 heaping cup creamy JIF peanut butter

• 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

• 1/2 cup heavy cream

• Pinch of salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together peanut butter and butter for two to three minutes. You want the color to lighten by a few shades.

Add the confectioners’ sugar, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until combined. Pour in the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Scrape the bowl again. Mix in the salt. Beat on high for three to four minutes or until the buttercream has become light and fluffy. Use immediately.

Oh, the things I find in my email.

Chinese Almond Chicken is a recipe from “The Set Table,” a cookbook from the women of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. It was shared by Pereg Natural Foods, because you know, the company is a big purveyor of spices, including Chinese five spice.

I’m no brain surgeon, but I think this sounds wonderful.

Chinese Almond Chicken

• 1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, cubed

• 1 cup oil

• 3 scallions, chopped

• 1/2 cup green bell pepper, slivered fine

• 1/2 cup blanched slivered or sliced almonds


• 1 teaspoon cornstarch

• 1 tablespoon soy sauce

• 1 egg white

• 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice


• 1 tablespoon white vinegar

• 2 tablespoons soy sauce

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add diced chicken and let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a wok and add chicken. Stir until lightly browned. Add scallions and pepper. Stir-fry one to two minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Combine ingredients for seasoning in a bowl. Pour seasoning over chicken and continue to stir-fry until chicken is coated with sauce. Add almonds.

Makes six servings.

I’ve been to Paris, France, and I’ve eaten a croque monsieur.

A croque monsieur is the French rendition of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it’s topped with bechamel sauce and grated cheese, which is then broiled until golden and bubbly.

A croque madame is basically the same thing, but with a fried egg on top.

I’ve never tried one, so when I saw this croque madame with crab on The New York Times website, I grabbed it.

I really like crab.

David Tanis’ version is served open-faced.

Crab Croque Madame

• Unsalted butter

• 6 slices rustic country bread, sliced about 1/2-inch thick (or day-old white bread)

• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 2 cups whole milk, heated

• Salt and pepper

• Pinch of grated nutmeg

• 1/4 cup creme fraiche

• 1 pound cooked crab meat

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• Pinch of cayenne

• Pinch of chipotle powder

• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• 2 tablespoons snipped chives, plus more for garnish

• 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon

• 6 thin slices ham or prosciutto cotto

• 1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar or Gruyere cheese

• 6 small eggs

• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish

Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly butter both sides of each bread slice. Add slices to pan and let sizzle until crisp and golden on each side, working in batches if necessary. Place browned slices in one layer on a baking sheet and set aside.

Make the bechamel: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and let cook for one minute. Whisk in milk, then turn heat to low and continue cooking. Adjust heat to keep sauce at a bare simmer, whisking occasionally, for about five minutes, until smooth and medium-thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir in creme fraiche. Set aside and keep warm.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, paprika, cayenne, chipotle powder, lemon zest and mustard. Add 1/2 cup warm bechamel sauce, the chives and the tarragon and stir well to combine.

Place one thin slice of ham on each slice of grilled bread. Mound crab mixture onto each toast, dividing evenly among the six slices. Spoon remaining bechamel sauce evenly over crab mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Place baking sheet on top shelf in oven and bake for 10 minutes, until bubbling and well browned.

Meanwhile, cook eggs sunny-side up in a small amount of melted butter. To serve, top each crab toast with an egg. Sprinkle with chives and parsley.

Make six servings.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten lentils.

Viking River Cruises shares this recipe called Linseneintopf (German Lentil and Sausage Stew). The literal translation of linsen and einstoph is “lentil pot.” It’s a hearty stew chock-full of sausage, bacon and veggies. The dish can cook largely unattended, with just an occasional stir, once it gets going. Served with warm, crusty bread.


• 8 ounces lentils

• 6 ounces smoked bacon

• 1 tablespoon tomato paste

• 2 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

• 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

• 1 medium onion, diced

• 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, diced

• 1 large white potato, diced

• 1/4 cup chopped parsley

• 3 pre-cooked smoked sausages, sliced

• Apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste

Clean and rinse lentils and place in a medium saucepan with bacon, tomato paste and broth. Add water to generously cover lentils; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender but still intact.

Add carrots, onion, leeks and potato. Simmer 20 minutes more.

Remove bacon. Dice and return to soup. Add parsley, sausage, vinegar, salt and pepper and serve hot.

Makes six to eight servings.

Looking for a recipe? Have one you’d like to share? Write to Potluck, Times Record, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Email: jharshaw@swtimes.com.