Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Buttery Chocolate Frosting

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“What WERE those things?” my friend Ingrid asked.  “They were aaaamzing.”

What those “things” were is my new favorite super easy “cookie”  recipe that is impossible to resist.  These chewy, peanutty bars with soft butter chocolate frosting have everything going for them:

First, you probably have the ingredients for them on hand right now.

Secondly, they have fiber and protein to help slow down the absorption of sugar, so  you and your kids or guests can enjoy an indulgent treat with less of a sugar rush.  (I confess to have eaten a couple of them with an ice cold glass of milk and happily called it breakfast.)

They only take about 5 minutes to mix, just 18 to 20 minutes to bake. Cool to the touch, frost, cut and serve a bunch.  This makes them the perfect dessert to bake for last-minute guests, to satisfy a gotta-have-it-now craving for a sweet treat, or make n’ take to a potluck or bake sale.

Making a pan of bar cookies is so much faster and easier than baking cookies… and, I’ve not yet met a cookie I like as well as these peanuty chocolate babies.  Be sure to save the link to this recipe because I think you’ll use it again and again.

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Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Frosting
(24 to 30 bars depending on what size you’d like them to be)
1/2 c. butter (or 1/4 c. coconut oil and 1/4 c. butter)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c.  sugar (I use organic)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour  (or 3/4 c. flour plus 1/4 c. hemp seeds or ground flax  or wheat germ)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, course chopped (I actually like them in whole or halved)
Directions:
Beat butter and peanut butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir together flour (Or flour and seed mixture) baking soda and salt, add to beaten mixture and beat until blended, stir in oats and peanutss. Spread mixture into 9″x13″ pan.
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Bake in 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let it cool, then frost with the following:
Buttery Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup softened butter
2 T. Hershey’s Cocoa
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 to 4 T. milk
Cream butter with cocoa.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and 1 T. of milk.   Mix, adding 1 T of milk at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and easily spreadable.  Pour over bars, spread evenly to edges.  Cut bars in squares and serve.
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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

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I just returned home to Denver after a fabulous road trip with my husband Greg, to visit my daughter (co-author, co-blogger, co-conspirator), Rachel and her little family in Texas.

Her little boy Jackson, the most cheerful 2 year-old in the Lone Star State, greeted us at the door as if we’ve never been gone, and we were instant buddies again.

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We loved watching him play in his “beach” (sandbox), help his dad out with yard work….

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and make himself at home in the kitchen.

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(He disappeared for 20 seconds and Rachel found Jackson eating this tub of vegan butter, and when she took it from him – quick as a flash, he grabbed another unopened tub and ran with it to the other side of the house, as if the butter tub was a football and he was toddler quarterback.)

Speaking of football and butter…. funny lady Anita Renfro posted this cartoon yesterday that cracked me up, because this could easily be me and Rachel watching Chopped, while our husbands watch Monday Night Football.

cooking show cartoon

And speaking of cooking and football…

I just may have created the perfect football snack. These Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars are a cross between a granola bar, a Pay Day candy bar,  a Reeses and Rice Crispy Treats.  They are also vegan, gluten-free (if you use gluten-free oats), chocked full of protein, healthy fiber, Omega 3s.  But your guests and kids will never guess these treats are mostly good for them.

The great thing about this basic recipe is that you can really be creative with what you like, and what you have on hand to make it your own.  They are perfect to tuck into your kids’ lunches.  Kids prefer these to cookies, in fact, and you can be sure that they are getting plenty of fiber and protein to help slow the absorption of sugar.  So no sugar crashes as happens so often with cookies.

Go, Team, Go!

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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

½ cup peanut butter (I used the natural kind)

½ cup agave nectar (you can substitute honey or brown rice syrup if you prefer)

1 ½ T. coconut oil (or olive oil)

2 T. pure maple syrup

¼ cup brown sugar

½ t. sea salt

1 t. vanilla

2 cups oats (use gluten-free oats if you want to make this recipe gluten free)

2 cups cocoa crisped rice cereal  (I used a brand from the natural cereal section)

½ cup hemp seed or wheat germ or flax meal

2/3 cup chopped peanuts (I used a mixture of plain roasted and honey nut. They were already in fairly small pieces so I didn’t chop them.)

Directions:

Preheat 350 degree

In a saucepan mix the first 6 ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add vanilla.  In a large bowl  place oats, rice cereal, hemp seed (or wheat germ or flax), and nuts.  Pour the hot peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour all into a pan that has been greased with coconut oil or olive oil. Pat the mixture down firmly, using a piece of plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Bake for 15 minutes, let cool and then let harden in fridge (or freezer, if you are in a hurry).  Then using a sharp knife, cut into squares or rectangles.  (Or footballs, if you are feeling creative!)

Variations: Add coconut, chocolate chips or dried fruit. Use other nuts besides peanuts, and another nut butter instead of peanut butter, especially if you worry about peanut allergies.  Almonds and almond butter or cashews and cashew butter would be delicious. Try another kind of crispy, light cereal for cocoa rice crisp cereal.  (I have used Corn Chex, crushed, with good results.)

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French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

(Becky, the Mama.)

I was faced with a true dilemma. We were packing up to vacate our vacation the next morning, our condo cupboards were almost bare and I still had to create something for this food blog.  Normally, I love these conditions.  They make me feel like a contestant on the show, “Chopped,” where chefs are forced to create a 5 star meal out of five unlikely ingredients in a basket.  Say, pickled pig’s feet, Lucky Charm’s cereal, passion fruit, Worcestershire Sauce, and edible fern fronds.

My “basket” was not as challenging as that list, but I was at the end of our book deadline for We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook. (Lord willing, it will be turned in by the time you read this!)  The manuscript was absorbing every available brain cell leaving me with precious  leftover neuron’s kitchen creativity. My available list of ingredients were: mustard (2 kinds), Ranch Dressing, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread and four iffy apples.

I put the list on my Facebook status, asking for help.  Within seconds my brilliant daughter came back with, “Do you have any eggs?”

“Yes, I have one egg,” I replied

“Butter or oil?”

“I have about a tablespoon of butter and plenty of olive oil.”

“Then how about a French Toast Peanut Butter Sandwich with Warmed Jelly Syrup?”

What can I say?  My daughter is brilliant. And thankfully, since I am not a contestant on “Chopped,” I am not required to incorporate Ranch dressing, mustard and iffy apples into this recipe.

I had just enough stuff to make two French Toast PBJ Sandwiches for our final morning of vacation,  and they turned out, well….. quite fabulous, actually. Greg loved it and said, “I’d definitely enjoy eating that again!”  It’s a fun way to fancy up a PBJ for kids, or when you are hankering for something a little sweet as a midnight snack with a glass of ice cold milk.  We often do “breakfast for supper” on Sunday nights, and this would be a perfect recipe for those occasions, perhaps served with some sliced oranges and bananas.

One half a sandwich was plenty filling for me, so if you make this for light eaters or children, one portion could easily feed two.

French Toast PB Sandwich with Warm Jelly Syrup

Serves 2 hungry people, 4 kids or light eaters

Ingredients:

4 slices bread

2-4 T. peanut butter

¼ c. Jelly, Jam or Preserves (I used blackberry)

1 egg

1 T. milk (dairy, almond or soy)

1 T. Butter

1 T. olive oil

Optional: 1 T. powdered sugar

Directions:

Put butter and oil in skillet and heat until bubbly and melted, stirring to mix them.  (The oil will help the butter keep from browning and burning.) Beat one egg with the milk in a shallow wide bowl.  Make two peanut butter sandwiches, using as much peanut butter as you like.  Dip the whole sandwich, both sides, into egg mixture and place in skillet.  Do the same with the second sandwich.  Turn over when one side is golden brown.

While the French Toast Sandwich is cooking, place jelly or jam in an oven-proof bowl or measuring cup.  Heat for 10 seconds at a time until it is hot, melted and the consistency of a thick syrup.

When sandwiches are cooked on both sides, move to a plate and carefully cut at a diagonal, propping one corner up on the other for a nice presentation.

Sift a little powdered sugar over all, if you like. (Alas, I had no powdered sugar in my “basket.”)  Slowly pour the hot melted jelly in a zig zag pattern over the French Toast Sandwiches and serve warm.


Gobble-Gobble Turkey Toast with Pumpkin Butter (Cooking with Kids)

Turkey Toast

(Becky, the Mama.)

Over twenty years ago now, I walked into a classroom in my debut as a first grade teacher.  

And then, I retired after 9 months of faithful service.

I was a great teacher, in that I loved my students, taught them well and had loads of fun.   On the other hand, you may have noticed that most teachers are gifted at organization and rather enjoy (or at least have a knack for) ordering small children to do their bidding immediately. Organization was never my strong suit: just counting the morning’s lunch money and turning it into the office could bring me to tears.   And I’m more of charmer and a cajoler than an “orderer.”

I slept-walked through much of that fuzzy year.  I do remember the day, however, when one of my students raised their hand and asked, “Teacher, why do you have one red shoe and one black shoe on?”   I looked at my feet and sure enough, the child was correct.  The only answer I had to offer was pure mental exhaustion.  

Now that I am a grandmother, however, I get the best of both worlds.  I get to play and create with the grandkids, and have all the time in the world to give them focused individual attention. 

This recipe is so simple and fun for Autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving,  breakfast or snack-time,  that moms, grandmas and teachers can all let their little charges have a go at it.  And as treats go, this is a pretty healthy one, especially if you use a good whole grain bread.

The toast is slathered with a simple pumpkin spice peanut butter, then after you cut it into the desired shapes to create either a pumpkin or a turkey,  the kids can smear it with the pumpkin butter and decorate it with a variety of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips or marshmallows.

Turkey Toast with Pumpkin Butter

 Makes one toast turkey large enough to feed  two to three small children.

3 pieces of bread (I used Ezekiel Sesame Bread), buttered and toasted (Vegans can use Earth Balance butter)

2 heaping Tablespoons canned pumpkin puree

1 heaping Tablespoon peanut butter (or almond butter or any kind of butter you prefer)

1 t. brown sugar

1 T. pure maple syrup

Pinch salt

½ t. cinnamon

¼ t. ginger

 

Assorted toppings, about ¼ cup each in small bowls (or little piles on a big plate)  coconut, chopped nuts, edible seeds of any kind, chocolate chips, dried fruit such as cranberries, raisins or cherries.

Instructions:

Butter & toast the bread (preferably just toast the top by broiling it as it cuts a little easier).

Leave one piece of the bread whole, then cut one piece like this:

Cut the next piece like this:

 

Mix the next 7 ingredients until smooth with a fork in a small bowl.  Spread the pumpkin-spice peanut butter on the toast and assemble the turkey. (I used a large dried cherry for his wattle.)

Let the kids decorate the turkey’s toast “feathers” with the various toppings, then dive in and eat!

 

You can also make three pumpkins, by turning the toast upside down, then cutting the corners of the toast – rounding them a bit and leaving a fat stem, like so:  (Note: Most marshmallows are not vegan, you may just let the kids use raisins for mouth.)

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