Tag Archives: peanut butter

Energy Bars

I can recall ubiquitous labeled ‘energy bars’ everywhere in the 90s.  It seemed like they popped up in all shapes, sizes, flavors or non.  I also recall most them making me want to gag.  They were full of healthy ingredients, but a little too healthy that you wondered why they didn’t just call it a multi-vitamin bar instead.

That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of Luna bars or crunchy granola bars.  What was left was soft, yet sugar filled granola bars.  All of them lacked various components.  When I think about an energy bar, I don’t want to see sugar on the label, or carob, alfalfa or cooked so long that it chips a tooth.  Luckily, I married a man who agrees with me on all accounts, which is probably why he found Great Harvest Bread’s energy bar stellar.  It was chewy, a bit moist, but not crumbly, rounded flavor and filling.  Everything an energy bar should behold.

Here are the ingredients in order on the G.H.B.’s energy bar: rolled oats, dates, natural peanut butter, honey, almonds, oat bran, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, vanilla & sea salt.  Of course, we don’t know how much, but that’s what my job is–right?!  I cracked a code and came up with a pretty darn close replica.  I used a full 6 cups in this recipe, but after baking them, I think 5 cups would have been better.  I had planned on using 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter, but only used 1 cup.  If I had used 1 1/2 cups, then the 6 cups of oats might not have been a problem.  But enough with what I did–go on and make them and let me know what you think.  They’re sure to be a hit and be gone more quickly than you can make them.

Energy Bars (printable recipe)

These are great to tie you over and quite filling.  If you’re vegan, then try using maple syrup or agave nectar.  If you have a peanut/tree nut allergy, you could always use sunbutter.

5 – 6 cups; 17.5 – 21 oz; 500-600 grams rolled oats
2 1/4 cups; 8 1/2 oz; 236 grams medjool dates (seeds out)
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup; 8 oz; 226 grams natural smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup; 6 oz; 170 grams honey
3/4 cup; 3.5 oz; 100 grams almonds
1/2 cup; 2.5 oz; 65 grams oat bran
1/4 cup; 1.25 oz; 34 grams whole wheat flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt
Directions: Soak your pitted dates in a bowl with the hot water and cover with a plate for about 10 minutes.  Drain the water and dump dates into a food processor.  Puree it up.  You will need to scrap the sides occasionally.  Add the peanut butter to the dates and puree again.  While the machine is running, add about 1/3 of the honey (save the rest for later).  The mixture will clump into a ball and that’s okay.
Remove as much of the date mixture into a small bowl–set aside.  Put in the almonds and pulse at 3 second intervals until they are coarsely chopped.
In a large bowl, combine 5 cups (or 500 g or 17.5 ounces) of rolled oats, leaving the additional 1 cup of oats aside, oat bran, w.w. flour, almonds & salt.  Mix it all up.
Put the date puree mixture into the rolled oats bowl.  Add the vanilla now & using your hands, begin to mix the ingredients altogether.  This will take a bit to incorporate the oats into the date puree.  You want the oats to be completely bound by the date mixture.  Go ahead and add the rest of the honey to help soak more of the oats & bind it all together–mix some more.
Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and press mixture into the pan.  You will want them to be about 3/4 inch thick.
Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.  The underside of the bars will have more of the toasty look.  (You can cut them and turn them over & bake for an additional 5 minutes)  Cut them into squares (or bars).  Serves about 12-15.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

When I was in junior high, our church youth group would have overnighters occasionally on the Sunday nights when we didn’t have school on Monday.  There were those kids who would never come to the overnighter, because they are the ones who “couldn’t cut it (Ben would have been one of those).”  In retrospect, they were the smart ones who knew at a young age what their body could and couldn’t take.  However, in our juvenile setback, we saw it not only as our duty, but our obligation to stick it to the man by experiencing the world from dusk to dawn.

Our ammunition was nothing less than your basic food groups–High Fructose Corn Syrup disguised as Dr. Pepper, Monosodium Glutamate disguised as Nacho Cheese Doritos, transfats disguised as Grease cloying Pizza & Unrefined sugar disguised as any & all candy.  And what happens when you eat those basic food groups over the course of 10 hours?  You crash and burn my friend, crash and burn.  It wasn’t until we were driving home at 6:00 am with the Arizona sun burning a hole in my retinas, that I began to wonder if a night-time of no sleep, crap food, and a bit more crap food was worth it?  My stomach was hungry for real food, but my body was beyond tired.  I felt like a two-year old at the one o’clock hour being pushed around the mall with my mom saying, “one more store honey.”  That morning my body trumped my stomach and slowly walked down the hall, with random clothes & stuff dropping the floor like Hansel & Gretel walking toward their candy house ecstasy.

It wasn’t until around 12:30 when I arose from my zombie induced coma to meander towards the wafting smell of the kitchen.  My mom was making some food for the potluck that evening and all I can say is that I’ve never tasted anything as good as chili mac at a moment like that, nor the chocolate cookie with peanut butter chips.  I ate a bit to rid my stomach from eating itself and went back to bed.  When I finally woke up for the day, I came back to the kitchen to find that the cookies weren’t just an illusion, but were actually really good cookies that I later ate a couple more.  And as I tasted these chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, I can’t help but think of those cookies on the Memorial day back in the 90s.  I remember grabbing a glass of cold milk to compliment the obvious marriage of chocolate & peanut butter.  And for these cupcakes, I recommend the same.  Just leave the overnighters to those crazy middle & high schoolers.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home.  One thing about Ina Garten’s recipes is she always uses extra-large eggs, which no one ever has in their home.  So I always use large.  I used two large as an equal exchange in this recipe.  However, if there were three or more extra-large, then I would increase the large eggs to equal it out.  And you should definitely have a glass of milk when eating these cupcakes.


  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso (follow directions) or brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and instant espresso. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low-speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing.  Sprinkle with some sea salt.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Grandma’s No Bakes

I can recall Christmas time in AZ as a little girl typically wishing I was someplace in the movies where snow wasn’t a foreign concept.  But, despite my lack of cold powdery stuff anywhere within my perimeter, one of my fondest memories entailed a box awaiting my departure from the school bus.

My parents owned a mattress/bedding store growing up.  I would ride the bus home, or shall I say, ride the bus to the store everyday.  I was in the first grade, walking to the store anticipating the coming Christmas break (I was a huge daydreamer, so not being in a routinized setting meant the world to me).  Upon my arrival, there was a package waiting for all of us to open.  It was a big cardboard box from Oregon, which meant it was from Grandma Cox.

My grandma was one of those iconic grandmother types.  She embodied everything grandmotherly (i.e. warm hugs, cards sent for every holiday, and that aura).  I loved her more than just for what she gave us, but how she loved.  She loved with an unconditional love.  If she didn’t like someone, you would never know it, because she loved them immensely.  So, whenever we received anything in the mail from her, it was as if we were getting a bit of her there with us.

And on that December day, when I walked through the store’s back door and scrounged through that box with my brother, the round tin was our golden ticket.  My mom trying to enforce some constraint on our behalf, but I can still recall the chocolate peanut butter no bakes.  I feel like these are the quintessential Christmas nostalgia cookie for me, because of my grandma.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes (printable recipe)

I used gluten-free oats, in order for my gluten intolerant friend to eat them.  However, I did notice these had a bit of a chew to them.  I think it’s because they were Bob’s Red Mill Oats.  They were still wonderful and reminiscent of Grandma’s.  This recipe is adapted from here.


2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups oats (I used gluten-free)

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa & milk and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until mixture begins to boil.  Allow it to boil without stirring for 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Then, add the peanut butter, vanilla & oats, stirring it all together.  Remove from heat and continue to stir to allow the mixture to coat thoroughly.  Using a teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on what size you want), drop mixture onto wax paper.  Allow to sit and firm up.  Eat & drink with milk.

Beyond the Reflection

Do you ever feel like you’re at a loss for words?  You feel like you’re not really in existence, but just an observer in your world?  As a little girl I had this shirt of Ernie from Seasame Street where he was looking at himself in a mirror and there happened to be a mirror behind him, so it was series of reflections of him that bounced back and forth.  I would stare at a hand mirror, while standing with my back to the bathroom mirror.  Then, I would focus on the reflection beyond the reflection.  I would always wonder how far it could go, but I could never see that far and it gave me a glimpse of what infinity meant.

It’s like that in my life right now.  I keep looking at all the reflections beyond the reflections searching for some semblance, but feel like I won’t find it anytime soon.  Whether it’s the endless pile of laundry, constant trail of toys scattered about, never ceasing broom employment, and then I go beyond the household stuff and look at my girls feeling like I have nothing left to give.  My creative juices run short come 7:00 p.m. at night, which means I hardly have anytime to do anything of consequence.

I have all these thoughts and ideas stirring in my head, but as a result of being a mom of two younger children, I have little time to really convey them or turn them into reality.  Does this sound familiar for some of you?  Some of it could be due to the heat, or the fact that as I write this at 10:40 at night my oldest has woken up crying for me.  It would seem as though there is never a spare moment for myself.  The idea of having alone time sounds superb, but the reality is when I do have it, it is spent cleaning, prepping dinner, or some other domestic activity to keep a rein on.

However, there is one way for me to unwind.  Bake!  It allows me to relieve tension, be creative, and I get to bless someone with the end result.  It reminds me of my friends asking how I made raspberry sorbet.  Of course, I begin with, “Oh it’s not that hard…”( then realize it is a little more complicated for someone who doesn’t spend as much time in the kitchen).  I was telling them how to make a raspberry puree, which requires to constantly push the blended up raspberries through a sieve, and told them it’s actually quite therapeutic (especially after the umpteenth tantrum, whiny voice & all together sour puss attitude).  You should try it!  With that said, here are some great nummies that never fail me.


Peanut Butter Scotcharoos (printable recipe)

I was making all the desserts for my friend Jessica’s Bachelorette party a couple years back, my oven completely shut down.  This was my back up peanut butter chocolate concoction made all by stovetop.


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 6 cups rice krispies
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Combine sugar & corn syrup in pot over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the sugar has dissolved remove from heat. Add peanut butter and mix into sugar syrup until smooth. Add your rice krispies and stir till completely coated. Pour into your greased 9×13 pan and smooth out.

In a small pan combine butterscotch & semi-sweet chips over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour over the rice krispies in pan. You can either let them cool at room temperature or in the fridge. The chocolate will set at room temperature. Cut & serve.