Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

My daughter has started her Mother's Day Out/Preschool program. Ten whole hours a week. When it's not snowing, a school holiday, or she's not sick. Nope, no make up days either. I cling to these precious hours as they give me the opportunity to run errands (in record time), go to appointments, squeeze in a run, talk on the phone, or just start dinner preparations in quiet.

These are things that take ten times as long with a toddler in tow. It's just more fun than aplogizing to the woman who looks to be in her early 40's behind us at Target that my daughter called 'grandma'. ('No, I promise, you don't really look like a grandmother. Wow! Two kids under 5? No you don't need your stylist to do darker highlights next time.) And, it's pretty terrifying to wait 10 minutes in line at the post office, only to be finally called and have your daughter pull on your leg and say, 'Mommy I  have to go potty NOW.' Not at home 25 minutes ago, not 12 minutes ago on the portable potty in the car. No, NOW. (There are like 15 people behind you, so dare you risk it even if you forgot the 'backup outfit?')

Anyway, we both win this way. My daughter comes back from 'school' singing new songs, having done fun crafts, and talking excitedly about her 'friends.' Not even 2 1/2 and happy to have friends--can't we all relate just a little? Well worth the price to combat the worry that someone will call DCFS when I step 20 feet away from my car (with my child strapped in my view) to pick up my dry-cleaning.

So the challenge now becomes: what do I pack for lunch? (all of two days a week--that's the thing about motherhood--each stage prepares you for the next otherwise we might all be in straight jackets if someone just gave us a kid for the first time without experiencing the previous stages). The obvious answer to what's for lunch on day one is PB&J. You got it.

Then I got the itch to make it into a dessert. Every recipe I researched seem to call for 2 sticks of butter. Total bummer. So, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog called, Sweet & Natural. It's awesome. Ashley's recipe apealed to me because I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate more whole grains and natural sugars, use less fat, but still get a good result in my baking. These bars are delicious! I hope you will try them for when you get that sweet and salty craving. Or when you or your kids have to go back to school :)

Adapted from

  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening (Spectrum brand is good, I use Earth Balance vegan sticks)
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar (I prefer raw sugar--if you like more 'crunch' use turbinado)
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup 100% fruit strawberry jam (I used strawberry-rhubarb but suspect any flavor is fine)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar for about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, egg, and peanut butter. Blend until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until just combined.

Spread 2/3 of dough into prepared pan. Top with jam (a mini spatula works great for this). Drop globs of remaining dough evenly over jam.

Bake for about 45 minutes.
Makes 12-16 bars.

Yes, I did overbake them a little, but they were still delicious. Ashley's picture HERE shows them being much more moist. Still playing with the 'convection' feature in my house....we'll get it!

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