Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars


There are only a few recipe sources that I always trust. 1) My mom, 2) Cook’s Illustrated, and finally Ina Garten.

When I was first learning to really cook, I was cooking dinners with friends once a week, and our meals typically featured Ina’s recipes. And they never turned out bad. As the years went on, I started cooking and realized that her recipes have a higher success rate than just the typical recipe you see.

I have enjoyed watching her new shows recently and am planning to check out her new cookbook as soon as I can get it from the library (#poorgradstudent). This treat can hold me over until then with her transformation of the classic PBJ to a dessert. PBJ has been my go to lunch at work for the past few months- would I loose any professional standing at work by eating these bars for lunch instead?


Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4-1 cup jelly
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with aluminum foil and grease it.

Cream together butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until just combined.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.

Press approximately 2/3 of the peanut butter dough in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread jelly evenly over top.  Dollop the remaining peanut butter dough on top.  Sprinkle peanuts on top.  Bake for 25-32 minutes, until done.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters

photo (1)

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Brittany’s blog We Heart Vegan. I was excited to try out some new vegan stuff and began looking through lots of interesting recipes. But then life caught up with me. I came home tired or had to do work, so I turned to something simple yet comforting. Salty and sweet Peanut Pretzel Chocolate Clusters? Please and thank you.

This recipe too was a great way to use up my hoarded peanuts and pretzels from Southwest flights (I often feel too nervous/sick to my stomach to eat on planes but damn it I paid for my ticket and I am getting my free snack and assorted soft drink).  I also apologize for a hasty picture.  After I made these, the aroma of chocolate made me temporarily forget that I was meant to take a picture, leaving me to remember only after I had begun eating most of these clusters in one sitting.

Adapted from We Heart Vegan


2 cups milk chocolate chips
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
Vanilla extract
Crushed pretzels
Salted peanuts


In a double broiler, combine chocolate, salt, butter, and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring, until melted. Stir in your desired amount of pretzels and peanuts (feel free to add anything else too your heart desires). Spread onto a prepared baking sheet or wax paper into a single layer. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Store in refrigerator.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Peanut Pie

My name is Karen, and I am a peanut butter lover.

However, I also have a weird relationship with peanut butter.  My younger sister has a peanut allergy, and since I was a worrying child, I was always a little nervous about eating peanut butter.  I was afraid that I would somehow become tainted with peanuts or have some lingering peanut butter on my fingers.  Then I would somehow touch my sister, or she would lick my fingers, and then she would have an allergic reaction thanks to me.  Yes, my name is Karen, and I am peanut butter lover and a catastrophizer. Well, since I live on my own now, I can have peanut butter whenever I want without an fear of sending people to the hospital.

As a peanut butter lover, I also love peanut butter pie.  However, I often find peanut butter pies to be lacking, with something just not quite right.  Some are not the right thickness, some are too cream cheesy, and some don’t have the right texture.  This is my idea for the perfect peanut pie, and I think you all may love it just as much as I do.  First, you bake a butter pie crust, and then you fill it with a layer of peanut butter and gooey peanut topping (think pecan pie with peanuts).  Next time, I think I will put a layer of chocolate ganache between the pie crust and peanut butter to make it even better.

And I won’t lie, it was still a little weird not having to worry about washing my hands immediately after eating this pie.  But it was so good, I got over it.

Happy Pi(e) Day to everyone!

Idea from Cinnamon Freud
Adapted from Country Cleaver and Crust from Bran Appetit

For the Crust:
1 cup & 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
8 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3-5 tablespoons ice water

For the Filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter

For the Crust:
In a food processor or large bowl, combine flour, salt, and granulated sugar.  Freeze butter pieces for approximately 10 minutes.  Sprinkle over flour mixture.  Process in food processor or cut in with pastry cutter until the butter is incorporated and pea sized pieces form.  Add in ice water and mix together with hand or process until a soft dough forms.  Start with 2 or 3 tablespoons and add more as needed.  Transfer to cling wrap, warp, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Grease a 9 inch pie pan.  Remove from fridge and place on a lightly floured surface.  Roll out to an 11 inch circle.  Press into pie pan.  Crimp the edges and trim extra.  Freeze for 20 minutes.
Line pie pan with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove pie weights and keep warm.For the Filling:

Lower the oven temperature to 275°F.

In a double broiler, melt the butter.  Remove from double broiler and whisk in sugar and salt.  Making sure it has cooled slightly, whisk in egg, corn syrup, and vanilla.  Return to double broiler and cook until it reaches 130°F.  Stir in peanuts and remove from double broiler.

Spread peanut butter into the bottom of the pie.  Top with peanut topping.  Bake for 40-50 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.

How to Make as Mini-Pies:

I could eat an entire pie by myself, but I don’t want the stomachache.  So I often make many pie recipes as mini pies using 5 inch pie/tart pans.

This recipe will make 4-6 individual pies depending on the size of your pan.  Prepare as instructed, reducing the baking time for the crust to 17-20 minutes and the filling baking time for approximately 25-30 minutes.  Just make sure to watch as you bake!

Baked Snickers Empanada

One of the toughest things moving from my family home where someone was always around to an apartment by myself is a few moments of loneliness that crop up occasionally.  One sure way to cure any feeling of loneliness is an empanada.  An empanada filled with peanut butter and a candy bar to be specific.  Also, my parents left me a huge bag of Snickers after moving me in, and they were torturing me just sitting in my refrigerator.

These empanadas are inspired by a favorite restaurant in Houston, Marini’s Empanada House.  I had tried making empanadas before, but I had definite problems with the dough.  It was just off.  So I went searching through the Internet and came across a new recipe.  And it turned out perfect- flakey, salty, and buttery.  The only downside is that it needs to chill for about 2 hours, but I promise it is so worth the wait.

These dessert empanadas are a sweet and salty treat that you can’t live without.  Dare I say it, but my homemade version is even better than what I’ve had at Marini’s.

Also, please excuse my slightly subpar photos.  I am still trying to get used to my new apartments lack of lighting, and I was also in a huge hurry to eat these bad boys.  I may just have to force myself ot make another batch and eat them again. I lead a tough life.

Crust Slightly Adapted from Handle the Heat
For the Crust:
1 cup water
6 ounces butter (about 12 tablespoons)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup peanut butter
20 mini Snickers bars
For the Crust:
In a small saucepan combine water and butter.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.
In a bowl combine flour and salt.  Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms.  Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap.  Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk.  Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferrably 2 hours.
For the Empanadas:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Divide the dough into 20 pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of peanut butter in the center of each piece of dough. Place a mini Snickers on top of the peanut butter.  Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape.  Crimp closed with a fork.  Place on lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.  Let cool slightly before eating.
Makes 16 empanadas.