I forgot how much I love a NO BAKE recipe! No heating up the kitchen and practically instant gratification! The only problem with these chocolate-peanut butter-oat bars is that they are so tasty and satisfying, I kind of can’t resist them. So after I made this batch, I gave them all to my sister-in-law and she and her family flipped for them!!Continue reading
I am a nut butter addict. I would be so skinny if nut butter didn’t exist! I love them all — almond, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, mixed nuts and my childhood favorite, peanut. Yes, yes, yes, I know peanuts are not actually nuts, but legumes. And I know peanuts are less healthy than other nuts and that you must buy organic because they are heavily sprayed. But I love the roasted nutty flavor of peanut butter and a little goes a long way. I actually eat peanut butter pretty sparingly, but when I do, I convince myself that it has a lot of protein (which it does) and I try to eat it with other things, rather than off the spoon as I was apt to do in college and during my three pregnancies.
I also love my homemade granola recipe. Granola + yogurt + fresh fruit is my go-to breakfast when I’m running late, or haven’t prepared anything else in advance. I actually never get tired of it. If I don’t post my breakfast on Instagram on a particular day (like Monday,) it’s because I’m probably having a granola-yogurt parfait.
Last spring I decided I needed to spice up my life a little, so I went out on a limb and decided to make my granola recipe with peanut butter. Oh yeah, I am a risk-taker if you don’t know that by now! Well, let’s just say I became super obsessed with this peanut butter version and my kids went crazy for it, too. Truth be told, I think they were starting to get bored with my standard granola which I have been making the same way for at least 15 years. I need everyone in this house to be into granola — with yogurt or almond milk, it’s the easiest, balanced, instant breakfast I’ve got up my sleeve. So this new version was just the thing to get everyone interested again.
The recipe is actually not much different from my original granola. All I did was replace the coconut oil with peanut butter and swap peanuts for almonds and pecans. So it’s still vegan and gluten-free (if you use GF oats, if that’s important to you.) I’ve done lots of different dried fruits with this granola, depending on what I have on hand, but diced dates are my favorite. I still keep this barely sweet so we don’t get any blood sugar spikes first thing in the morning. You’ll test it out and see for yourself if it’s the sweetness that you like. If not, the next go round you’ll add some more syrup.
We eat granola in the obvious parfait, but we also dip bananas in nut butter and sprinkle them with granola, use it to top oatmeal, I have even started making yogurt popsicles with layers of granola inside. I also eat it out of hand when I need a little pick me up in the afternoon the car waiting for Mr. Picky to get off the bus. Zzzzzzzz.
Mother’s Day is on Sunday! Buy those cards and flowers! Make a homemade gift! Bring her breakfast in bed, like peanut butter granola with strawberries and a side of almond milk! Above all, if you are a kid, no bickering with your siblings on Mother’s Day and do something that will pleasantly surprise your mama, like clean your room or the whole house, do the dishes or eat a green vegetable. Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats for a gluten-free granola)
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
½ cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter*, creamy or crunchy, preferably organic
⅓ cup 100% pure maple syrup, Grade A or Grade B
¼ cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup roasted and salted peanuts, preferably organic
1 cup pitted chopped dates (about 8 dates) or other dried, unsulphured fruit
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If your oven runs hot, preheat to 325 degrees.) Line a rimmed baking sheet or cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
In a large bowl stir together the oats, seeds, cinnamon and salt.
In a small saucepan combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and vanilla and heat over low, whisking to combine well. It is really important to mix the peanut butter and syrups so that everything is well blended, otherwise the syrups may burn. Add the peanut butter and syrup mixture to the bowl with the oats and stir to coat well.
Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes (ovens vary), stirring occasionally until golden brown. The mixture will not be crunchy yet. Add the peanuts and dates to the pan and allow to cool. Transfer granola to an airtight container and store at room temperature or freeze.
After I posted these chocolate peanut butter bars on instagram a few months ago, I was harassed, yes harassed! into teaching them in my classes pronto. Of course they look delicious and beautiful and there’s no added sugar, so I can see why there would be interest. But, no one could focus in my cooking classes after that. “The soup looks great, Pamela. But when are you teaching “the bars?”
So I pushed this recipe up on the schedule from February to December and I am even doing something very uncharacteristic — I am posting the recipe before I have finished teaching it. It is the season of giving and I love you all, so here it is.
Are these chocolate peanut butter bars all that? Well, if I do say so myself, they really are. They are incredibly simple to put together and taste like a Reeses peanut butter cup collided with a larabar. But, they’re not terrible for you. You don’t need an oven, but you do need to make them ahead. They’re hard to beat, if you ask me.
The base is a combo of dates and roasted, salted peanuts — chewy with a little texture. The chocolate layer is melted chocolate and peanut butter plus an extra drizzle of peanut butter which gets swirled around into a pretty design like you’re all of a sudden a pastry chef. And did I mention easy to do?
Since there are very few ingredients here, you know what that means. The better the ingredients with which you start, the better the final product. Poor quality peanut butter will give you bars that are not as good as these you see here. I think you’ve seen in one of my Friday Favorites posts that I am very loyal to Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter. It is quite honestly the only one I buy because it is the only one that meets my standards for peanut butter which are these:
organic, since peanuts are very heavily sprayed
in glass, since plastics leach when food is stored in them for long periods of time
no added sugar or salt, since I like to control the types of salt and sweeteners I add to my food
no added hydrogenated oils; can you say “inflammation?” Avoid please.
I love Santa Cruz Organic because they have been in the organic business before organic became a buzz word and a trendy marketing strategy. Their products are also non-GMO and the company supports sustainable resources. They are the real deal and have been since day 1. After they saw my post a few months ago, they reached out and offered to provide me product for my next recipe that involved peanut butter. So sweet! So even though I am always reluctant to do a sponsored post, I accepted this one with a full heart since you know I have been a fan of Santa Cruz both on the blog, in my cooking classes and in my personal kitchen for many years. You can find Santa Cruz products, including the peanut butter, at most Whole Foods store and other natural foods stores. I have been purchasing Santa Cruz peanut butter from thrivemarket.com, which has the best prices. There are four options: Light-Creamy, Light-Crunchy, Dark-Creamy and Dark-Crunchy. For this recipe I prefer the creamy, either light or dark.
The key with achieving perfect swirls here is to make sure the peanut butter is a loose, drizzly consistency, like when you first stir the jar. If it is too thick, it won’t swirl well. Read the recipe for what to do if your peanut butter is too firm. I am going to pan a few pans of these for cookie exchanges and for potlucks this season!
3 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate (approximately a heaping ½ cup)
3 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or use all semi-sweet)
¼ cup creamy or crunchy natural (unsweetened and unsalted) peanut butter, divided
Grease an 8x8 or 9x9-inch glass baking dish with oil or butter and line with unbleached parchment paper.
Place peanuts and dates in the bowl of a food processor and process until completely crumb-like and sticky. Press into the bottom of your baking dish evenly, creating a crust. If mixture is too sticky, use plastic wrap to help spread it out.
Using a double boiler or glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter and stir until combined and creamy. Pour on top of the peanut/date crust.
Using a small spoon, drizzle (do NOT dollop) the remaining 2 Tablespoons peanut butter over the chocolate, teaspoon by teaspoon, in lines. If your peanut butter is not loose enough to do this, warm over a double boiler to thin it out.
Using the tip of a knife, gently create swirls along the top of the bars. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before serving. Remove from baking dish and cut into squares. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge.
It is really ironic that I try to discourage sweets but I have always have so much fun making them! I had the best time last Christmas making gingerbread men with my kids. My favorite part of every Thanksgiving meal for me is baking all the pies. And more recently, I thoroughly enjoyed making these chocolate peanut butter and almond butter cups. After my friend Rachel Sarnoff from MommyGreenest guest posted here about choosing higher quality Halloween candy, I did a little research looking for the best options (organic, non-GMO, free of artificial colors, etc.) And then I thought it might be cool to make my own candy for when I have guests over or to give as a hostess gift. Do not for a minute think I would ever make my own Halloween candy to give out to trick-or-treaters! That would for sure put me over the edge. If you do that, however, I think you are amazing.
I’ve seen DIY chocolate peanut butter and almond butter cups all over the internet, so I figured that would be a good one to try. Plus, my husband and I both love them. Reese’s peanut butter cups were always among my favorites at Halloween. Let me tell you, these are a cinch to make! No candy thermometer required. No special ingredients needed. You probably have it all in your pantry and they come together in a jiffy (no pun intended.)
Even better, I made these when I wasn’t in a rush. I wasn’t trying to beat the sunset so I would still have natural light for photographing. I wasn’t making these at dinnertime when I had other things to tend to. In fact, my son was sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework, quiet as a mouse, and my girls were out at their activities. And I found making these chocolates to be almost meditative. I can’t wait to make them again!! In fact, if you invite me over for dinner, I will likely bring you a little box of these!
I know that some of you are ready to point out to me that these candies, no matter how much love and organic ingredients go into them, are not healthful. And you know what? You are totally right. I am not going to sell these to you today as something that’s going to save your life. Are they less bad for you than Reese’s? I can argue that yes, they are probably less bad for you than Reese’s which contains GMO-sugar, non-organic peanuts and TBHQ, a toxic preservative which is a derivative of butane. Nope, no butane in mine, but also not exactly health food. But it is Halloween and I think we’re entitled to a few treats now and then and that’s that.
I have already made these several times, with both dark chocolate (less sugar) and milk chocolate. I have used (homemade) almond butter as well as organic peanut butter. And I have sweetened the filling with powdered sugar and also with a combination of powdered sugar and honey or maple syrup. Clearly the least bad (I know that’s grammatically incorrect) option would be dark chocolate with almond butter mixed with powdered sugar and maple syrup. And those are so delicious I can’t even believe it. But if you are looking to make something closer to a Reese’s peanut butter cup, then you need to use milk chocolate, peanut butter and all powdered sugar. Those were my kids’ favorites and I have to say they taste better than the real thing!
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your kids or grandkids, look no further!
Author: Pamela, adapted from several sources including Top Secret Recipes, Joy of Baking, and Sprouted Kitchen
Serves: makes 24 candies
12 ounces dark or milk chocolate
½ cup natural creamy almond or peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter if you’re nut-free)
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (or 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar + 1 Tablespoon raw honey or pure maple syrup)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
sea salt flakes or pumpkin seeds for topping, if desired
Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. If you are using a silicone muffin pan, it's probably a good idea to place the pan on a baking sheet so you can transfer it more easily to the refrigerator.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl big enough to fit over the pot of boiling water without touching the water (this is a double boiler).
Lower heat so that the water just simmers and place the bowl of chocolate on top of the pot. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until perfectly smooth. Set bowl aside.
Mix the almond or peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together in a small bowl until smooth. This mixture should be a consistency that allows you to roll it into small balls.
Spoon a teaspoonful of chocolate into each lined cup.
Scoop a teaspoon of the almond/peanut butter mixture and roll into a ball with your hands and press down slightly to flatten a little. Place in the center of each chocolate cup and push down slightly to allow the chocolate to cover the sides, but not the top of the almond/peanut butter disc.
Pour another teaspoon of chocolate on top of the cups covering the peanut/almond butter mixture completely. Use the back of your teaspoon to smooth out the chocolate on the tops of each cup.
Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt or a couple pumpkin seeds if you like and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to harden. If you need to speed this up, place in the freezer.
Because the chocolate is not tempered, you should keep these refrigerated.
I use this silicone mini muffin pan. Each individual mold measures 1½ inches across the top. I found two mini baking liners at Michaels which worked perfectly, but these were just slightly too big for my pan.
Most of the time we just call this the Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie. Mr. Picky says it’s his new favorite and he is usually the one to make it. You should see how many bananas I have to buy to keep up with the acai bowls, banana “ice cream” and the new favorite CPBBO Smoothie. Most cashiers at the grocery store either look at me funny or can’t resist asking me what I am going to do with 6 bunches of bananas.
I was going to wait a while before I posted another banana recipe, but Mr. Picky asked if I would put up this smoothie so his friends’ moms could have it, too. Cute. Smoothies and acai bowls are his favorite after-school snack. I taught him how to safely work the blender and the Vitamix and as long as I’m in close proximity, he’s welcome to give it a go. As opposed to his teenage sisters, who think making a smoothie is too much work. Yawn. I told my daughter who is a junior in high school that she needs to change her attitude that spending 5 minutes to make a snack is hard labor. What is she going to do when she’s (we hope) living away from home in college? And then I said those awful words that made me sound like my parents. C’mon, all together now, “when I was your age…” Yeah, anything that comes after that is going to get the big old eye roll. But really, wouldn’t you have DIED to have a Vitamix when you were a teenager?? Or frozen acai puree?? Or an iPad which pulled up thousands of recipes AND videos? Can we just talk about smart phones for a second? What about the fact that I went to college with a typewriter. A typewriter.
Yep, and that’s why it’s usually just Mr. Picky and myself in the kitchen making smoothies and acai bowls. Which is fine, because I’m soooooo annoying. OMG.
What’s cool about smoothies is that you really don’t need a recipe. We completely eyeball it every time. And Mr. Picky has no idea that I am so on to him that he uses chocolate syrup instead of cacao powder in this smoothie when he thinks I’m not looking. I’m annoying and flexible at the same time. I really don’t care if he squirts a little chocolate syrup in his smoothie if it’s for an after school snack, although we all know that the same antioxidants in raw chocolate don’t apply to Hershey bars or chocolate syrup. Just saying.
But if you did want this for breakfast, I think it’s a perfectly good way to start the day, provided that it’s not the middle of winter. I have a thing about not giving the kids or me really cold stuff first thing in the morning, especially if the weather is cold. It’s just too hard on the digestive system and kids have weaker digestion than adults. But back to nutrients, there’s great protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates in this smoothie so you could use this as a meal replacement. Feel free to adjust the flavors to your liking or add protein powder or spinach or ground flax seeds. This is just a guideline. Normally, Mr. Picky and I taste whatever is in the blender and then add a little extra peanut butter or sweetener or chocolate.
Also awesome if you like to plan ahead, make this smoothie the night before and you’ll be sitting pretty come morning!
2 ripe bananas, peeled, cut into large chunks and frozen (click here for how to freeze fruit)
½ cup almond milk or milk of choice*
3 Tablespoons creamy, natural peanut butter (or raw almond butter for a more neutral flavor)
¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats (use oats labeled “gluten-free” for a gluten-free smoothie)
2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder or chocolate syrup
Sweetener: add your preferred sweetener to taste, such as honey, dates or coconut palm sugar. With unsweetened almond milk and natural cacao powder, 3 pitted dates seems to be perfect for us.
½ cup - 1 cup ice, depending on how icy you want it
Add all ingredients to a blender with the ice on top. Blend until very smooth. Smoothie may be refrigerated overnight or frozen.
*If you use sweetened almond milk, you may not need additional sweetener.
If it's not too obvious, omit the chocolate for a Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie. Omit the peanut butter or substitute raw almond butter for a Chocolate Banana Smoothie. Omit the banana for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie.