Famous peanut butter bars

I wish I had a video compilation of people’s reactions when they taste these peanut butter bars. In my experience their eyes get wide and they exclaim something like, “Oh my god!” Then they ask me for the recipe. These are seriously the most delicious and addictive treats I’ve ever had. Once I start eating them I have trouble stopping. One time back in high school I received a marriage proposal when a friend of mine tried one. I think I can safely say that if you like peanut butter, you’re going to love these peanut butter bars. I first wrote about them back in 2011, but I halved the recipe and it just wasn’t the same. But since I needed a boatload of goodies for holiday parties and other get-togethers this week I whipped up a full batch (a whole jelly roll pan’s worth) and served them on three different occasions. I ate more than my fair share too! Didn’t I say they’re addictive?

INGREDIENTS:
1 c (2 sticks) melted butter
16 oz (1 jar) chunky peanut butter
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 lb powdered sugar
8 oz Hershey bar (I used two 4.4 oz bars)

DIRECTIONS:
The original recipe, which is handwritten on an index card in my mom’s recipe organizer, simply says “mix together all ingredients except Hershey bar.” But I’ve found that it works best if you stir together the melted butter, peanut butter, and graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl first. You can just use a wooden spoon for this. When those ingredients are thoroughly mixed add about half of the powdered sugar and stir to combine. At this point you’re going to wonder how in the heck you’ll ever be able to get the remaining powdered sugar to mix in, but it will work. Dump the rest of the powdered sugar into the bowl and stir in as much as possible with the wooden spoon. I always have to resort to using my hands near the end before the mixture gets so thick. I promise if you work at it long enough you can get all of the powdered sugar incorporated! Press the peanut butter mixture into the bottom of a large jelly roll pan (mine is 15x11x1″), using whatever you can find to smooth it out (a rolling pin or round glass works best, but I used the bottom of a measuring cup).

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the Hershey’s chocolate. This should take about 1-2 minutes on high. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture with a spatula. Put the whole pan in the refrigerator to cool. Wait until the chocolate has solidified to slice into squares. Enjoy!

Based on Jane’s Peanut Butter Bars (written on an index card).

Crockpot cranberry BBQ meatballs

When I was looking for this recipe to make for this year’s annual holiday potluck at work I realized that I never shared it on my webpage. I first made these holiday-themed meatballs back in 2010, which is when the above photo was taken. I’ll take a new one the next time I have a chance. My only complaint about this recipe six years ago is that I didn’t like the meatballs I used (Italian style), so this time I used Foster Farms frozen turkey meatballs and they worked really well. I also increased the amount of meatballs, BBQ sauce, and soy sauce. If I hadn’t needed to open another can of cranberry sauce I probably would have added more of that as well! Of course I tested the meatballs before I put them out for public consumption during last Friday’s lunch, and I loved them. It seems everyone else enjoyed them as well because they disappeared quickly! Mark this recipe as a winner. It’s incredibly simple, holiday-appropriate, and tasty. What else could you ask for? Next time I might try some whole berry cranberry sauce in place of the jellied variety, and maybe some sweeter BBQ sauce, but otherwise I have no suggestions. Make these for your holiday party this year!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c BBQ sauce (I used Bull’s-Eye Original)
1 can (14 oz) jellied cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 lb frozen turkey meatballs (beef would work too)

DIRECTIONS:
In a small bowl stir together the BBQ sauce, cranberry sauce, and soy sauce. It just needs to be roughly mixed so I used a fork. Pour half of the sauce mixture into the bottom of the Crockpot, preferably with a liner to make clean up a breeze. Then dump the frozen meatballs in the Crockpot and top with the remaining sauce. Cook on low for about 6 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure even sauce coverage, or until the meatballs are cooked and sufficiently hot. Enjoy!

Based on A Year of Slow Cooking’s Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce.

Welcoming fall with pumpkin bread

When September rolls around it means that it’s late enough in the year for me to bake with pumpkin again, but somehow I waited eighteen days to take advantage of that freedom in 2016. What a shame! But I think this pumpkin bread was worth the wait. I first tried this Taste of Home recipe over a decade ago with great success, but one of the ingredients was a tad problematic. Finding cook-and-serve vanilla pudding in 3 oz packages was impossible! I had to buy a larger box and just roughly guess at the right amount to pour into the batter. It was annoying so I found other recipes to try instead. But this year I was browsing the grocery aisles and found the little 3 oz pudding packages! It was a sign that this tried-and-true pumpkin bread recipe needed to make a comeback this fall.

As I was baking today I did make a couple of minor changes to the Taste of Home recipe. Actually, they were more like augmentations. The original recipe called for just 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as seasoning, but one of my other go-to pumpkin bread recipes (see my spiced pumpkin bread recipe here) calls for a host of other spices as well. So I also included nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice in today’s baking endeavor. Similarly, I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla because it makes everything better. The result was absolutely fantastic. In spite of being on a diet I tried a piece this evening. This may be the best pumpkin bread I’ve ever tasted! The perfect fall treat to share with my co-workers tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS:
5 large eggs
1 1/4 c canola oil
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 packages (3 oz each) cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp baking soda
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer. Make sure it’s a really big bowl because this recipe makes 2 loaves which means a lot of batter! Add the canola oil, pumpkin puree, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla pudding mix and baking soda and beat until combined. Lastly, add the flour and sugar and beat until combined. Pour the batter (it’s pretty thin and easily pourable) into two 8×4″ loaf pans coated with cooking spray. (I only have one loaf pan at the moment so I used a 12 cup bundt cake pan instead. If you go this route make sure that every nook and cranny of the pan is coated with spray because you don’t want the cake to stick!) Bake at 325 deg F for 70-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before inverting the loaves (or cake) onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Taste of Home’s Delicious Pumpkin Bread.

Belated Foodie Friday – Brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies

My chocolate chip cookies were a hit with both my East and West Coast co-workers last week. The three batches I ended up making weren’t quite what I originally intended, though. The notable difference was these brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookies. I started out planning to just make some brown butter chocolate chip cookies based on a request from one of my co-workers, but as I was mixing the dough I decided to add some molasses on a whim. So this is the third time I’ve tried molasses in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I’m glad I was persistent because the result was absolutely perfect. Something about the combination of the brown butter, molasses, and potentially the little bit of bacon fat I threw in there for good measure made for some of the best cookies I’ve ever baked. Of the three different varieties that my co-workers sampled last week I got the best feedback from this recipe. So if you’re looking for a chocolate chip cookie that’s just a little bit different, definitely give these a try. They are amazing!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c dark brown sugar (light brown works too)
1/2 c (1 stick) salted butter, browned
2 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
2 Tbsp molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
1 c milk chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl combine the sugar and brown sugar. Set aside. Brown the butter in a medium saucepan. Make sure not to burn it! (If you need help with this step refer to this post on Serious Eats with a great tutorial.) As soon as the butter is browned immediately pour it over the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add the bacon fat at this point if you want. I had some left over after cooking bacon for another batch of cookies so I threw it in just for fun. Add the molasses and eggs and stir to combine. Add the baking soda and flour and stir until almost all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and stir until the flour is completely combined. Spread the dough into a 13×9″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Something Swanky’s Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies.