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Big Sky Bites: Nana Lucia’s Christmas Cookies

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Peanut butter and cake mix come together to create a moist texture and decadent flavor in this twist on a time-tested favorite. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER


Roughly 100 years ago, my great grandmother stepped off of a boat on Ellis Island as an eight-year-old Italian immigrant. Despite leaving most everything behind, she brought with her one thing—the distinguishable culinary culture of her home country.

Growing up with her, I recall every meal as an extravagant production. Each ingredient was sourced from a particular and unique location; shopping alone was a few days’ work.

In the face of her impenetrable gastronomic ethics, one recipe broke tradition: A popular treat of the mid-twentieth century, chocolate chip peanut butter cookies baked with cake mix were not Italian and not traditional, but their spongey texture and rich flavor assuaged Nana’s discriminating palette.

This holiday season scrap the trendy, yet laborious, Pinterest recipes that tend to work tears of unmet expectations into the dough. Instead, opt for a simple recipe that is sure to please even the most critical of tongues.  


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 (insert # ounces) box yellow cake mix
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease baking sheet with a layer of butter
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs, water, butter, peanut butter and half of the cake mix until smooth
  3. Add in vanilla
  4. Incrementally add the remainder of the cake mix and chocolate chips until all ingredients are completely combined, avoiding mix too thoroughly
  5. Portion into two-inch dough mounds and spread evenly onto sheet
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes
  7. Remove, allowing to cool
  8. Enjoy

Chef’s Tip: Don’t roll or overwork the dough—an uneven texture is the mark of a homemade cookie. Leave out for Santa on Dec. 24.

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