Squirrel Bars


Hi friends–  Don’t ask me how this recipe got the quirky name –Squirrel Bars.  This recipe is an old favorite and dear to my heart because it came from my beloved Aunt Mary Ann.  Maybe the squirrels in my yard would like them– all those peanuts!

And I’m pretty sure you would like them too.  Quick to make and delicious as the best kind of peanut butter-chocolate cookie.

SQUIRREL BARS
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/3 cup butter (2/3 stick)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips (8 oz.)

With an electric mixer beat together the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Then blend in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Spread the thick dough in to a 9″x 13″ baking dish** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and put the baking dish into a 350 degree oven for just 3 minutes!!

Take the squirrel bars out of the oven and swirl the melted chocolate chips into the top of the batter.  Pop it back into the oven for 20 more minute until the bars are cooked through.

Let the squirrel bars cool a few minutes before you cut them into bars– delicious with a scoop of ice cream!

*I like super chunky peanut butter — the little peanuts add a nice texture.
**In these pictures I made just half of a recipe and cooked it up in a 9″ pie dish and cut it into wedges.

Happy Birthday Stu!! (and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake)

Hi Friends!! — starting off here like a blogger should never start– apologizing for the wonky photos.  But this post isn’t really about beautiful food picutres– it’s about celebrating Stu’s 90th birthday!!  He’s the best father-in-law a girls could have– and all his kids and grand-kids and great grand-kids would say the same!!  (Plus I did want to add this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake recipe– because it was so delish!).

   


Photos:  Stu about to blow out those candles, With Helen (his wife of 68 years!) and Kathi– the party thrower!!  Plus The collection of all Stu’s local kids, grand-kids and those little greats!!  We all love you Stu!

And just in case you love chocolate and peanut butter thrown together as much as I do, here’s the cake recipe:

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CAKE

Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
1  1/4 cup water
3 eggs

Peanut butter frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
4  1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
7 to 8 tab. milk

Ganache:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tab. butter
8 oz. chocolate chips (1  1/3 cup)

Garnish:
chopped peanut butter cups
birthday candles!!!

Make the cake according to the directions on the box ( mine used 1/2 cup oil,  1 1/4 cup water and 3 eggs). Spoon the batter into three 8″ or 9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop them into a 350 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Let them cool completely before you add the frosting!!

Make the ganache while the cake it cooking and let it cool.  In a sauce pan, bring the milk and butter to a simmer.  Take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips for 2 or 3 minutes until ti’s smooth and shiny.  Let it cool.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla.  Then beat in the powdered sugar and chopped peanuts.  Finally addd the milk one tablespoon full at a time until it is the right consistency–  careful–it’s easy to add too much and have runny frosting!!

To put the cake together– Frost the cake using the peanut butter frosting between, on top and around the 3 layers.  Drizzle the cooled ganache over the top and garnish with chopped peanut butter cups– and candles (!!!) if you have a birthday in the family!

Coconut Peanut Butter Brownies

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Hello bog friends– Been crazy days around here.  End of school, birthdays, showers, I’ve barely had time to cook up something to send along to you.  Been eating a lot of cobbled together dinners, completely unblogable.  But Saturday night I was asked to bring a dessert to an evening with friends and here it is…

I love brownies, hands down– and peanut butter– and coconut macaroons.  But all together???   Well, I gave it a try and these were really luscious.  It takes a few bowls, bouts of mixing, but these sweet things are definitely worth it!  Hope you give them a try too…

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COCONUT PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES

Brownies:
Brownie mix for a 8×8″ pan.
oil
egg
water

Peanut Butter layer:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tab. milk
2 tab. yogurt

Coconut layer:
1 large egg white
2 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

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Make the brownie according to the directions on the box.  Spread the batter into a 8″ square or 9″ round pan* that has been sprayed with cooking spray and put it into a 350 degree over for 25 minutes.

Take out the brownie ayer and let it cook for a few minutes, while you mix up the other layers.

To make the peanut butter layer, use an electric mixer to beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and egg.  Then mix in the milk and yogurt.  Set this aside.

To make the coconut layer, beat the egg white several minutes until stiff peaks form –works well if you have a whisk attachment on your electric mixer.  Set that aside.  In another bowl stir together the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla and salt.  Then gently fold in the egg whites until it’s all blended.

Then pour the peanut butter layer over the brownie layer in the pan.  And gently drop small spoonfuls of the coconut mixture over the peanut butter layer until it’s all covered.  Put it all back into the oven for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the top layers are set and firm.  (if the coconut starts to brown before the baking is finished, cover the pan with foil.

Take it out of the oven, and here’s the hard part.  Let it cool for an hour for the brownies to firm up before you cut them into tidy pieces to serve.

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Brownie Peanut Butter Cheesebake Bars

IMG_9913Hey there– This is a “What shall I take along to the bar-b-que potluck?” kind of recipe– a sweet chocolatey square at the end of a savory meal.  There’s the chewy brownie layer on bottom, creamy cheesy peanut butter in the middle and rich chocolate ganache to top it off.  It’s almost a Reese’s peanut butter cup in a baking pan.  Hope you try it!!

BROWNIE PEANUT BUTTER CHEESECAKE BARS

Brownie layer:
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour

Peanut butter layer:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup peanut butter**
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Ganache:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tab. butter
2 tab. corn syrup (optional)***
1  1/3 cup chocolate chips (8 oz.)

To make the brownie layer, melt the butter in the microwave and mix in just the cocoa to form a pretty chocolate paste.  The stir in the sugar and vanilla.  Whisk in the eggs and finally thoroughly stir in the flour.

Scrape the brownie batter into a 9″ (or 7’x11″) baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Set it aside for now.

For the peanut butter layer, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter with an electric mixer.  Then beat in the sugar, egg and vanilla.

Drop the mixture by small spoonfuls over the brownie batter in the pan.  And with a knife, oh so carefully, spread the peanut butter mixture over the brownies, careful not to mix the two layers. (This is the only tricky part!)

Pop that all into the oven a 350 degrees for 30 to 35  minutes–until the brownies are cooked through.  Poke the tip of a small knife in to see if you pull out small crumbs.

When it’s cooled, bring the cream, butter and corn syrup to a low simmer in a pan on the stove top.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until they are all melted.  Then beat it al with a wooden spoon for 3 or 4 minutes.

Spread the chocolate ganache over the brownies and set it into the fridge for an hour or so until the topping sets up firm and then cut into delicious squares!

*We love the Hershey’s dark unsweetened baking cocoa.
** the recipe I worked from asked for creamy peanut butter– but I used super chunky–love all those little peanut bits!
*** I often leave out the corn syrup– but it does give the ganache that pretty shine.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Dixie Cake

IMG_5003Hey y’all– If you live in the southern U.S. you’ve almost surely eaten “Dixie Cake” (aka Texas Sheet Cake).  It’s not fancy or new.  It’s just plain old home cooking– comfy and satisfying as an old favorite sweater.

My mother-in-law’s family made their way from Arkansas to California during the dust bowl of the 1930’s and with them came the Dixie Cake recipe.  So when I met up with Larry’s family, it became one of my “old” favorites too.  Usually it’s chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, but this newer version includes peanut butter–a brilliant addition!  I do think it could become an “old favorite” of yours as well.

PEANUT BUTTER & CHOCOLATE DIXIE CAKE

Cake:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, cut in chunks
1 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk**
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a saucepan, stir the water and butter over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Remove it from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and oil until it’s all blended. Add to the flour mixture.  In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.  When it thoroughly mixed, stir it into the cake batter.

Spoon the batter in to a 15″x10″ sheet pan (cookie sheet) or 2 10″ tart pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop it into the oven at 350 degrees form 20 to 25 minutes until the cake starts to brown around the edges and is firm to the touch.  While the cake is cooking, start making the frosting to pour over the cake when it comes out of the oven.

Frosting:

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa***
3  3/4 cups powdered sugar (a one pound box)
1 tsp. vanilla

In a pan, mix the butter, peanut butter, milk and cocoa over low heat until they are all melted together.  Take off the neat and beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla with a whisk.  When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the frosting over the top while it is still hot to make a lovely smooth glaze (with a some peanut bumps if you used chunky peanut butter!).

I’m made this for my Monday night ladies tonight– peanut-y slice of cake, coffee and lots of chatter.  Sounds pretty perfect to me.

*I use super chunky peanut butter because I love the little peanut-y bit in the frosting.
**substitute milk thickened with a tablespoon of cider vinegar for buttermilk
***Hershey’s dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa– makes it extra rich and chocolatey.

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

IMG_4619Hi you all–  That adorable Sally is getting married in a couple weeks!  And all the family’s baking-type friends are providing easy to serve desserts for a big bountiful sugar laden table of sweets.  She’ll have little place cards labeling “Lavendar Lemon Bars by Ruth” or “Coconut Cupcakes by Betty.”  It should be spetacu-licious!

My contribution is these peanut butter cookie brownies– I hope.  I’m waiting for them to come out of the oven to see if they are special enough for Sally’s wedding!  They do smell peanut buttery good!  If I do send this off to you, you know they turned out A-OK!

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE BROWNIES

Brownie Layer:
1 family size dark chocolate brownie mix (for a 9″x13″ pan)*
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water

Mix up the brownie mix per instructions on the box.  The one I used called for 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup water.  Stir is 50 strokes until it’s all blended and spread it into a 9?x13″ pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Peanut Butter Cookie Layer:
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)**
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tab. butter
2 tab. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Put all these ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat them together with an electric mixer.  Drop the soft batter by spoonfuls onto the top of the brownies.  Then use a sharp knife to swirl it into a pretty pattern with the chocolate batter.

Pop it into the oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until they are cooked through– Insert a sharp knife to check.

*You can make your own brownies from scratch.  I do sometimes.  But I think a dark chocolate brownie mix would work just fine here.
**I added extra peanuts–just because I love them so much.  Got one of those little bags for 50 cents at the check out line at the grocer’s–to make them a little bit peanutier.

P.S.– They turned out just fine.  I took this practice batch and set them on the table in the teachers’ room at school and they were a hit!

Tiger Bark

IMG_8224Hi there– Been making this tiger bark for a lot of Christmases.  My cousin Stephanie got the recipe when she worked in a candy shop in high school.  She passed it around the family and we’ve all been making it ever since.  You make up a pan full in about 10 minutes, honestly!  If you love peanut butter and chocolate as much as I do, you’ll think it’s just great.

TIGER BARK
18 oz. white chocolate chips*
1 1/2 cup super chunky peanut butter
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

Line a 15″x10″ jelly roll pan with foil.

Put 16 oz. white chocolate chips and the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Cook it for 2 minutes and then stir it all until it’s smooth.  Spread it into the pan.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave– about 1 1/2 minutes.  Spoon onto the top of the peanut butter mixture and then swirl it into the bottom layer with the tip of a knife.

Melt 2 oz. (about 1/3 cup) of the remaining white chocolate in the microwave– about
1 1/2 minutes.  Swirl it over both layer to give it some shiny highlights.

Refrigerate until firm (a couple hours) and then cut into squares or triangles.

*  Use good quality white chocolate.  I bought the store brand of white chocolate chips one year and they burned before they melted–a candy disaster!