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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5 and Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

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What’s to say about this week’s Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie? Seems like it’s all in the title–they’ve got chocolate and peanut butter and their soft, which is good if you don’t want crumbs all over your desk or your couch. And they’re rich and yummy, but that pretty much goes without saying at R&R. Yup, this week’s intro is all in the title–of the recipe, that is.

But what’s to say about Before the Mellowing Year? Quite a lot, really. The title comes from the first stanza of John Milton’s great pastoral elegy, “Lycidas,” and refers, ironically, to the author pushing his literary talents beyond his current ability in the quest to eulogize a college friend’s untimely death by drowning, summoning rhymes and allusions and metaphors ahead of their due season–“before the mellowing year.”

This phrase in turn refers to the novel’s main characters, Zach Sandstrom and Allison Mayes Sandstrom, endeavoring to lead adult lives and make adult choices and commitments while still adolescents (Allison is eighteen and Zach twenty). As a result, they get caught up in the riptides of emotional development and life’s challenges and changes. And the novel follows them through these struggles.

In last week’s serial, the two managed to find the common ground of affection in a stark and beautiful wilderness setting. This week’s serial describes how that setting, and their individual and communal outlook, can reverse in little more than an instant.

Check it out and see what you think, while eating your Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie.

pb choc chip cookies

Soft Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

heaping 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

To a large mixing bowl, add the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat the ingredients with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and beat into creamed butter. Mix in the peanut butter until well incorporated. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and ensure all ingredients are well mixed. Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined, careful not to over mix the cookie dough. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the cookie dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the cookie dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Place each ball of dough onto prepared cookie sheet. You should get 12 cookies.

Bake the cookies in your preheated oven for 11-13 minutes, or until just set and the edges just begin to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 cookies.

peanut butter choc cookies

{Adapted from Averie Cooks}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #5, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51 and Chocolate Turtle Cookies

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I’ve always loved turtles–that is, the four-legged kind with the built-in shelter like a mobile home. I especially like the small turtles you occasionally see in your backyard or garden, the painted and box turtles that once were so common but less so now, the ones that would hide in their shells till the dog stopped barking and moved on to something more interesting (and mobile), freeing the turtle to quietly (and slowly) plod off into the weeds.

Where have those turtles gone?

Well, in honor of those garden turtles and in recognition of (and hope for) the approach of warm spring days and the accompanying greenery of grass and leaves, we’ve named this week’s recipe Chocolate Turtle Cookies. They look like little dark-shelled turtles with their legs and head withdrawn into the shell. But don’t worry. There’s no turtle inside, just peanut butter and a vanilla wafer: good stuff.

These cookies actually mimic a certain type of popular girl-scout cookie with a trademarked name we won’t use here. But I think Chocolate Turtle Cookie is a better name than that other anyway. You see, I always liked turtles and miss seeing them in my yard. This recipe is for them, and in hopes of their return–this spring and all springs.

copy cat tagalongs

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

9 vanilla wafers

3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

4 ounces milk chocolate chips*

1-2 Tablespoons milk

Lay vanilla wafers on a plate lined with parchment paper. Top each with a teaspoon of peanut butter. Place the cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Put the chocolate and 1 tablespoon of milk in a small sauce pan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly. If the melted chocolate seems too thick, add 1 more tablespoon of milk. Once the chocolate is completely melted, turn the heat off. Place one cookie on top of a fork. Spoon melted chocolate on top to completely cover the peanut butter and cookie. Gently shake excess chocolate off. Place chocolate covered wafer back on a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining vanilla wafers.

Place cookies back in the freezer. Allow the chocolate to set on all of the cookies. Place hardened cookies in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 9 cookies.

*If you can find milk chocolate candy coating, that will result in a shinier, harder outer coating. My local store did not have this product, so I used milk chocolate chips, as indicated in the recipe. If you can find candy coating, use 4 ounces and follow instructions on package for melting and dipping.

homemade tagalongs

{Adapted from Back For Seconds}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #51, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #45 and Fluffernutter Blondies

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Who dreamt up the combination of peanut butter and marshmallow creme? Probably someone wanting to sell more peanut butter or marshmallow creme.

But whoever it was should have a statue set up in my front yard and a national holiday set aside on the calendar. The combination is delicious, and the resulting boost of energy (give me sugar! give me protein! give me fat!) surely rivals the rocket fuel used to put astronauts on the moon. You don’t need one of those high-energy drinks–just grab a spoon and dip it first in the peanut butter jar then the marshmallow creme jar. You’ll be up there with the International Space Station (but watch out for all those pieces of orbiting space junk!).

This week at Reading and Recipes, we’ve taken this match made in Heaven (or in some marketing associate’s cubicle) and repurposed it into bar form–Fluffernutter Blondies!

This may be the perfect way to eat this perfect combination. Easy to make, easy to cut and serve, easy to transport–as in a school or work lunch. One of the biggest disappointments of my grade-school life (second only to being snubbed by a certain unnamed blonde classmate) was looking forward to my fluffernutter sandwich on a warm spring day only to open my lunchbox and find the fluff in a white blob at the bottom of the sandwich bag, all run out of the two slices of bread, leaving the peanut butter in there all alone. No need to worry about that with these Fluffernutter Blondies. The peanut butter and the marshmallow creme stay together inside the blondie, not separated at the bottom of the lunchbox!

fluffernutter bars

Fluffernutter Blondies

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg yolk

6 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup marshmallow creme

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 5×7 inch pan.

To a mixing bowl, add the melted butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat ingredients together until well incorporated. Slowly mix in the flour, careful not to over mix the batter. The batter will be thick. Last, drop tablespoons of marshmallow creme into the batter; fold into the batter just slightly. Make sure to leave some streaks of marshmallow creme.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and press until even. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and center is just set. Do not over bake! Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before slicing.

Makes 4-6 bars.

fluffernutter blondies

{Adapted from Bakerita}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #45, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #45, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #44 and Peanut Butter Chocolate Molten Cake

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I’ve always been conflicted about desserts with the word “molten” in them. If it’s on a menu, my eye goes to it immediately and my knee jerk reaction is to order it. It sounds so decadent and rich and–well, obviously–hot, or at least warm and gooey.

But if the waiter or waitress takes awhile to get back to take the order, I start getting scared of that “molten” dessert, start thinking about lava running down hillsides and swallowing whole towns in its path, start imagining that lava going down into my stomach and what it would do to my insides, so that by the time the waitress returns, my first question is “What flavors of ice cream do you have?”

Well, I’ve finally found a molten dessert that doesn’t make me ambivalent: Peanut Butter Chocolate Molten Cake. You see, you make this molten cake in a cup; and I’m just not going to get scared of any dessert that comes in a cup. I mean, how much damage can a cup full of molten do, anyway? And oh by the way, the molten part is peanut butter; and that seems so much safer than molten chocolate which actually looks like the lava eating those whole villages.

Take my word for it: this molten cake is safe. And it’s decadent and rich and yummy and all those other good things.

Just not scary. I promise.

pb chocolate molten cake

Peanut Butter Chocolate Molten Cake

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup milk

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1 Tablespoon chocolate chips

Spray a large microwave-safe mug (12 ounces or larger) with cooking spray. Note: A mug with straight sides works best.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and baking powder. In another bowl, combine the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared mug.

Spoon the peanut butter into the center of the batter. Press the peanut butter into the batter so that it is almost covered.

Microwave the cake on high for 1 minute. The cake should look set but still jiggle slightly. If needed, microwave the cake in 10 second increments until done. (Mine took about 1 minute 20 seconds.) Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes. Put a plate on top of the mug and slowly invert the mug. Gently wiggle the mug until the cake comes loose. Serve warm.

Makes 1 cake, serves 1-2.

pb molten cake

{Adapted from Five Heart Home}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #44, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #44, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #37 and Peanut Butter White Chocolate Bark

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One good thing about posting each week on Thursday (aside from giving our readers a chance to pick up the ingredients on the way home from work the next day for a Friday night or weekend treat!) is that each year we get to make a post on Thanksgiving!

Now sometimes this linkage does produce logistical problems–like trying to prepare the recipe and take the pics while packing the suitcases and loading the dog in the car and heading out the door, or figuring out how to get Internet service to publish the post while weaving through mountain roads with no cell tower or wi-fi connection to be had anywhere. But we’ve figured out these glitches and will work out any new ones that arise.

And for our Third Annual Thanksgiving Day Post, we’ve come up with an over-the-moon doozy (thanks, Sally!): Peanut Butter White Chocolate Bark! This stuff is really out of this world–colorful (in perfect autumnal colors, though you could change the candies on top to red and green for our next big holiday!), easy and quick to make, and absolutely irresistibly delicious.

You may not get the recipe in time to make some for your Thanksgiving table, but save a little room in the tummy for a taste of this treat over the long holiday weekend. You’ll be glad you did, and glad R&R publishes its posts on Thursdays each year, one more Thanksgiving Day treat.

Now off to get the turkey in the oven.

pb white chocolate candy

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Bark

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 

pinch of salt

8 ounces white chocolate chips

2 teaspoons margarine

1-2 teaspoons milk

1/2 cup peanut butter candies, peanut butter chips, and/or milk chocolate chips

Line a 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

To a mixing bowl, add the peanut butter, powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix these ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Add the white chocolate chips, margarine, and 1 teaspoon of milk to a sauce pan. Heat on low, stirring constantly, until the white chocolate is melted and smooth. If the white chocolate still seems thick, add one more teaspoon of milk until it becomes smooth and easy to spread.

Pour half of the melted white chocolate into the parchment paper lined pan. Spread to cover the parchment paper. Spoon the peanut butter mixture onto white chocolate layer, and spread evenly with your fingers to cover the white chocolate. Top the peanut butter layer with remainder white chocolate, spreading to cover peanut butter. Sprinkle peanut butter candies on top.

Place the bark in the freezer for 20 minutes or until set. Remove and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

pb white chocolate bark

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #37, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #37, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #26 and No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

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So it’s back to work or school or tending the kids or tending the parents or whatever it is you do in the real world. I mean, just how difficult is it to get back into the daily grind after the long holiday weekend which may have been extended by a week or two with a summer-ending vacation at the beach or lake or hilltop retreat?

Kind of tough, isn’t it?

Then to top it off, your week is shortened by a day but you still have five days’ worth of responsibilities to fulfill and everybody wants it done yesterday!

Yep, it’s the week after Labor Day, the annual letdown from the summer high that may or may not have been everything we’d hoped but it sure was better than this jumbled mess!

So you need a little boost, a jolt of energy to get you through these challenges. And we’ve got you covered here at R&R (with a little help from our friend at Sally’s Baking Addiction). These No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars take that match made in Heaven of peanut butter and chocolate and put it into an easy to prepare, easy to cut and serve and transport (as in a bag lunch or car snack pack) form that will allow you to take this energy-booster anywhere you need to take it.

Because we’ve got to get through this post-holiday week. Fall lies just around the corner! (Think apples and pumpkins and cool crisp weather!)

pb choc bars

No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

6 honey graham crackers (full sheets)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

peanut butter chocolate bars

Line a 5×7 inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside.

Using a food processor, process the graham crackers until they become crumbs. Add the butter to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter is completely melted. Add the melted butter, powdered sugar, and salt to the food processor. Pulse until mixture comes together into a ball. Add the peanut butter to the food processor and process until fully incorporated into the dough. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In the same microwave safe bowl you used to melt the butter, melt the chocolate chips on 50% power in 20-second increments. Be careful not to burn the chocolate. Once the chips are almost completely melted, stir them until smooth. Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter layer.

Cover and refrigerate for an hour, or until completely firm. Cut into bars. Store any leftovers in refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes 6-8 bars.

chocolate pb bars

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #26 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #26, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #26, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #19 and Fluffernutter Milkshake

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Some of you have heard of the “fluffernutter” sandwich–peanut butter and marshmallow fluff between two slices of square white bread.

Fluffernutters and I have a relationship that dates back–well, let’s just say a long, long time. It’s the original high-energy snack, before there was such a thing as a “high-energy snack.” It pulled me through many a double shift at work or an unplanned late-nighter, not to mention those afternoon swoons in grade school or the long bus ride home.

This fluffernutter mix is finding its way into many places other than between slices of bread. I’ve heard of it being used in ice cream, cookies, even oatmeal (for Heaven’s sake!).

And now, exclusively on Reading and Recipes (not really exclusively–check out the credit site–but we can pretend for dramatic effect), we can add milkshake to the list of peanut butter/marshmallow fluff conquered territories. Our Fluffernutter Milkshake will simultaneously cool you off and heat you up, fill you full of energy and make you want to kick back and take a nap. In short, it does everything this unique mix of protein and sugar is supposed to do, all in a drinkable form that’s simple to throw together and goes down oh-so-easy.

So mix up a batch and share it with a friend, then take a jog around the block and a swim in the pool just before you crash on the couch.

fluffernutter milkshake Fluffernutter Milkshake

2 cups vanilla ice cream*

1/3 cup milk or cream

2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 Tablespoons marshmallow fluff

10 Nutter Butter Bites cookies

Cool Whip or whipped cream to garnish


Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend until smooth. Top with Cool Whip and serve immediately.

Makes 1 large milkshake, perfect for sharing.

*To make this milkshake healthier, you can substitute vanilla frozen yogurt and omit the Nutter Butter cookies.

fluffernutter milkshake 2

{Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #19 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #19, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #19, text © Jeffrey Anderson