For the past couple months, I’ve been playing around with making healthier treats. This came about for a lot of reasons. One is that I’ve been getting a lot of requests from friends to develop gluten-free and vegan recipes. And since I consider myself an equal opportunity baker – I’m happy to oblige. But, if I’m being honest, the biggest reason I’ve been doing this is because this style of baking is new to me and I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge. At first, I thought it might be a pain developing recipes without dairy and gluten…….and don’t get me wrong – it’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world. But what I didn’t expect was how much fun it would be.
If you guys are anything like me then you might have gone a wee bit overboard on the sweets and drinking over the holiday season. And if you’re like me, that holiday season dragged on and lasted til way past the New Year (aka up until a few days ago). Now this isn’t something I say often, but my body needs a serious break from all that sugar. So while I’m all about trying to eat a little healthier this week, I still need some kind of treat. Cause let’s face it……this girl needs her cookies and going completely cold turkey from desserts is just not realistic.
When it comes to food, I’m a firm believer in moderation and not labeling things as “good” or “bad.” A healthy relationship with food is far more important than sticking to some crazy strict diet. So instead of feeling guilty about all the delicious, amazing desserts I ate over the past few weeks, I’m going to look at the holiday season for what it was. A fun time to indulge in baked goods and share them with loved ones. But now it’s time to get that balance back…..and still get my cookie fix.
I usually try to keep things pretty light and not too crazy personal around here, but sometimes there are things going on in my life that end up seeping into my baking/blogging world. And this is definitely one of those things…….for the past couple of years I’ve been dealing with some stomach problems and this summer it finally got bad enough that I decided to go see a doctor and really figure out what was going on. At first, they thought I might have Celiac Disease…..which was definitely not what I was expecting or wanting to hear (all I kept thinking about was baking and how everything would have to change). Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. But what they did discover was almost as surprising (mostly cause I had no idea this was even a thing)……turns out barley and me don’t get along so well. I guess the technical term is “allergic” or “intolerant” but the general gist is I can’t eat a lot of barley.
Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars
- Yield: 16 bars
½ cup milk (any percentage will work)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
½ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons non-fat dry milk powder
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt – cut back to ½ teaspoon)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats, lightly toasted
Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
In a large heavy saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cocoa powder, non-fat milk powder, and butter. Over medium heat, stir the mixture together until the butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it is at a boil, stop stirring and let boil for a full 90 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the dark chocolate chips. When the chocolate is completely melted, stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. Then add in the peanut butter and mix until it is completely incorporated. Finally, fold in the oats.
Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer. Let the bars cool and set up for at least one hour. You can do this either on your counter top or in the fridge. Once the bars have set, cut into 16 pieces. If you want to add a little extra flair, drizzle the bars with some melted dark chocolate and top with coarsely chopped salted peanuts!
There’s a running joke on the husband’s side of the family that I can be a bit of a “purist” when it comes to food in the sense that I want to make EVERYTHING from scratch. And, I hate to admit, they’re not exactly wrong. But it’s not my fault!
Okay…..it’s kind of my fault, but it goes back to when I was a kid. My Dad is an insane chef and baker. He makes the most incredible pizzas, cinnamon rolls, pies, bread and pretty much everything. Growing up, he wasn’t stoked on me using boxed mixes to bake. His argument was it’s not that much harder to just make it yourself. Which is true! So that meant if I wanted something sweet (which was all the time) I had to make it myself…..from scratch.
These days, this make it from scratch philosophy has kind of taken on a life of itself. My Dad may have even created a bit of a monster……like I wouldn’t let him buy pre-shredded parmesan once because I said it’s better to shred your own. When he complained I told him, “This is your fault! You created this!” It might have been an over the top reaction to have in a grocery store, but I’m cool with it.
Homemade Pop Tarts – $2 per Pop Tart
The breakfast treat you loved as a kid, but with a grown-up twist. Flavors like Brown Sugar, Strawberry, Huckleberry, Maple Pecan, and Nutella are enclosed in a light, flaky pastry. Simply place them in your toaster for a warm, delicious treat anytime of the day.
Walnut-Pecan Thumbprints (Vegan) – .75₵ per cookie
The healthiest cookie you’ll ever eat. A hearty, but tender walnut-pecan thumbprint with fruit preserves in the middle.
Cowboy Cookies – $2.50 per cookie
This chocolate chip cookie is loaded with three different types of chocolate, toasted almonds, a hint of espresso, and a little kick of bourbon just for fun. A bit of smoked sea salt on top finishes off this cookie perfect for any cowboy or cowgirl in your life!
Chocolate Truffle Cookies (Gluten-free and Dairy-free) – $2 per cookie
A deep, dark, fudgy chocolate cookie studded with pecans.
Nutella Stuffed Cookies – $1.75 per cookie
A classic Chocolate Chip Cookie made with browned butter and sea salt envelopes a hidden surprise in the middle – Nutella!
Oatmeal Biscoff Cookies – $1.75 per cookie
A chewy oatmeal cookie is taken to a new level with the addition of Biscoff Cookie Butter Spread and rum-soaked raisins.
Mexican Wedding Cookies – .75₵ per cookie
My absolute favorite holiday cookie….buttery, melt-in-your mouth pecan cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
Salted Caramel Brownies – $2.50 per brownie
The ultimate salty/sweet treat – a thick layer of salted caramel sandwiched between a fudgy dark chocolate brownie.
Mint Chocolate Brownies – $2.50 per brownie
The perfect holiday brownie. A supremely chocolaty, fudge brownie with a layer of chocolate mint candies in the middle.
Chocolate Malted Brownies – $2.50 per brownie
The nostalgic flavor of a Chocolate Malt Shake comes to life in the form of a brownie.
Peanut Butter Pretzel Blondies – $2.50 per blondie
A rich, salty-sweet Peanut Butter Blondie with salted peanuts and pretzels folded in and frosted with a thick layer of Dark Milk Chocolate Ganache.
Huckleberry-Blueberry Streusel Bar – $2.50 per bar
A buttery shortbread crust is layered with a mix of Huckleberries and Blueberries and a crumbly streusel topping
Mini-Almond Cakes (Gluten-Free) – $1 per cake
Moist bite-sized almond cakes made with browned butter and topped with a blueberry.
*To order please contact me at Kristine@TheEarnestBaker.com. All Holiday Gift Box orders require 48 hour notice.