Peanut butter is one of those versatile ingredients that plays well with both savory and sweet food, making it the perfect anchor for a Chinese New Year’s Dessert. Asian desserts are almost never super sweet and often times have a savory element to them; think red bean paste buns or egg custard tarts. For this Chinese New Year, consider this updated American classic, a White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter Sesame Rice Krispie Treat.
What’s great about these classic treats are they take a familiar American standard, that are a breeze to make, and that everyone loves, and gives it a slightly savory exotic twist on it. The crispy rice cereal all of a sudden becomes an Asian inspired treat with the savory sesame oil that is added to it. White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter ties the treat together cutting the sweetness of the marshmallows, elevating them to a dessert that is equally delicious at home, at a bake sale, or as part of Chinese New Year’s dinner party buffet.
If you use a gluten free crispy cereal, this treat is naturally gluten free. Just check your box of cereal to make sure it is labeled gluten free. Some rice crispy cereal contain malt flavoring which is not gluten free.
The first time I had heard of “buckeyes” my coworker, originally from Ohio, offered me one during that mid-afternoon lull. I was drearily working away at my computer when she asked if I wanted an Ohio treat. I was immediately taken with cute little confectionary, named after the buckeye nuts that drop from Ohio buckeye tree. Like a peanut butter cup on steroids (more peanut butter to chocolate ratio!) I immediately knew that I wanted to take them up a notch by making them with The Heat is On and Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter. Sure they don’t look like the traditional buckeye, but theses sassy treats are a delight both to the eye and to the mouth.
These buckeyes aren’t the traditional buckeye candies, as they use a combination of The Heat is On and Dark Chocolate Dream peanut butter. The addition of cream cheese helps mellow out the sweetness of the candy (a trick I learned from the guys over at the Baked bakery in Brooklyn) and bind the peanut butters together. I used a little coconut oil to give the dark chocolate a nice snap as well as subtle hint of vanilla for the chocolate coating, but feel free to use butter in its place if you don’t have any coconut oil.
I have a total confession to make. I didn’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was 25 years old. It was never on my radar, growing up Asian in the Midwest. True, in grade school, all my friends seem to pack them in their lunches but to me that seemed a bit gross, the idea of a sticky peanut butter and super sweet gooey jelly on a white bread. Not appealing.
I changed my mind when I had my first bite of one on a ski trip in Tahoe, and everyone decided to save some money and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the slopes. Something about the earthy peanut butter worked so well with the juicy jelly. I rarely eat them now, but they definitely inspired this elevated pie, which uses real Concord grapes and a rich white chocolate peanut butter crust. Perfect for when you want to be a kid, without looking like one.
I use tapioca starch (otherwise known as tapioca flour) as the thickener in this pie. If you don’t have any, you can substitute cornstarch at a 1:1 ratio, but the pie filling may look a little more cloudy. This pie takes a little bit of work to make, because you have to press the concord grapes through a metal sieve to remove the seeds and skin. If you are lucky enough to have a food mill, you can use that and save yourself some elbow grease. Either way, the pie will invoke a nostalgic sense of childhood, biting into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Well, most people’s childhoods at least, not mine.
I’ve been making congo bars, ever since I ran across the recipe in an old cookbook years ago and my friends have been clamoring for them ever since. In fact, I can’t seem to have a gathering with any of my friends without them asking where the congo bars are.
This variation of my congo bars brings them to a new level. Full of peanut butter goodness and aromatic toasted coconut, these chocolate studded treats are sure to be a favorite around your home too.
Congo bars are basically blondies or cookie bars. Super easy to make since there’s no measuring out individual cookies, they are equally easy to eat – as my partner can attest to. In fact, he has forbidden me to make them unless we have company over, as too many of them end up being eaten by him and him alone. I prefer to use unsweetened shredded coconut in these, as the sweetened type tends to toast rather irregularly because of the sugar, but if you do use the sweetened coconut, just watch the pan carefully as you toast it and stir constantly. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can substitute melted unsalted butter, but your congo bars won’t have that elusive vanilla scented coconut flavor that the oil gives it.
It’s funny, I grew up in an Asian household and the childhood classic Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich wasn’t part of it. In fact, shockingly enough, I didn’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was well into my 20s – on a quick overnight ski trip with friends who were all flabbergasted that I had never had one. They made it their mission that weekend to make sure I experienced this American staple and I never looked back.
Of course, I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to combine those flavor combinations into something a little bit more sophisticated, but still fun to eat. These cheesecake bars ended up being the perfect balance of whimsical fun and sophistication. I think even my Asian family would appreciate them.
The Bee’s Knees peanut butter and Gorgeous Grape Jelly infuse these honey sweetened cheesecake bars, making them a nostalgic treat with a twist. The best thing about them is that the hand held bar, makes them a little more casual than a full sized slice of cheesecake, suitable for any time you want a little something sweet. If grape jelly isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute Seriously Strawberry Jam, or Rip-Roaring Raspberry Preserves instead, though you may not be able to get the same pattern as the jelly. Just follow the instructions, and instead of drizzling the jam/preserves in a zigzag pattern, just spoon dollops all over the cheesecake batter and swirl it randomly with a knife.
Ahhh… banana bread, the staple of every household that has bananas gone slightly too far. It seems like a last resort baked good, but banana bread is actually quite the treat in our household, as we rarely have bananas around. The combination of bananas and peanut butter is a natural one (thanks Elvis!) but the addition of a few spices and some chocolate chips really ups the game. Of course, using Mighty Maple also adds that touch of earthy maple syrup flavor which goes so well with the banana bread. Soon you’ll be buying bananas and impatiently waiting for them to sweeten up for this updated classic baked good.
Banana bread is a quick batter bread, meaning you throw all the ingredients into a pan, stick it in the oven and let it bake to a golden brown loaf. The addition of Mighty Maple peanut butter, spices and chocolate chips elevates this quick bread recipe into something magical that will have you clamoring for more. I used whole wheat flour and bread flour to give the bread a little more substance, but feel free to substitute an equal amount of all purpose flour in it’s place, just be aware the bread will come out more cakey and less bready.
The combination of peanut butter, banana and oats is fantastic in muffin form. But what I love most about this particular muffin is the secret bite of strawberry jam in the center, hidden away as a surprise. Think of it as a lovechild between decadent oatmeal banana bread and jam-filled peanut butter donut, only easier to make, more fun to eat and way healthier for you. Best of all, once they’re made and cooled, stick them in a ziplock bag in the freezer and pull them out individually the night before for a quick and easy breakfast in the morning.
There’s something about the combination of peanuts, sesame and five-spice that reminds me of my childhood. Growing up Asian in the Midwest gave me a skewed sense of food, where the authentic Chinese cuisine that my mom made clashed with the Midwestern meat and potatoes food of my friends. I often times had to sneak sweets into the house, and Halloween was always a huge treat for me.
Yet we always seem to have these peanut sesame candies floating around the house. They only came out when the guests arrived, but I loved their sweet deep crunch. Making them at home is a snap.
Asian cuisine rarely has desserts to offer, at least not in the traditional European sense. No large towering cakes or plateful of brownies can be seen on the menu. That said, one of the few desserts you see, as a celebration for the Chinese New Year, is the peanut cookie. Not nearly as sweet as your usual peanut butter cookie, traditionally the New Year peanut cookie is made with freshly roasted ground peanuts.
Using peanut butter as a substitute is faster shortcut. But these aren’t your usual peanut cookie. Updated with the use of The Heat is On peanut butter, and a touch of lemon zest, these cookies will give you a kick into the new year, with their fiery red heat; perfect as red is the color of happiness and good luck.
These little cookies pack a wallop of red heat that grows after you eat it. The lemon citrus is subtle in the finish but there. If you want to dilute the heat a bit, try using 3/4 cup The Heat is On and 3/4 cup Smooth Operator in place of 1 ½ cup The Heat is On.
Most people haven’t had a chance to taste the honest flavor of butterscotch before. A combination of brown butter and brown sugar, butterscotch is one of those old fashion flavors that have fallen to the wayside, with most people associating the flavor with those sunflower yellow hard candies or the sandy brown artificially butterscotch chips you can find in the grocery store aisles. The truth is real butterscotch flavor is rich and deep and immediately reminiscent of time when you could go to sleep without locking your doors and all your neighbors had white picket fences.
The first bite will make you swoon with love. As you bite into the cookie, the first flavor that hits you is the Smooth Operator peanut butter, rich with nutty goodness. Then the butterscotch flavor comes next, buttery with touches of caramel underneath. Finally the sweet crunch of the turbinado sugar on the bottom finishes the bite in a way that can only be described as “excellent” by my peanut butter loving friends.
One warning about these cookies: once you make them, they are incredibly addictive. You have been forewarned.
Every time I made these brownies, pretty much everyone who saw them immediately had to reach for them, even if they swore they were full or they didn’t want a brownie. “No, no, I’m fine. I don’t think I want a brownie…Holy cow! I’m so taking one of those” is the usual reaction.
And let me tell you, the brownies live up to the way they look. Rich, dense and fudgy intense, these brownies marry all the best flavors of peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. A friend of mine shoved one in his mouth and then proclaimed that he was SO glad I didn’t live anywhere near him, as he would be over all the time eating my baked goods, and would be as large as a house. He then proceeded to take another one.
The recipe calls for making a caramel sauce, which isn’t as hard as it sounds, and then a brownie batter and a peanut butter batter. Though it sounds time consuming, the final product is definitely worth the bother. You and your friends will thank you for it. Make a batch or two to celebrate (or is to mourn) the end of summer!
The combination of lemon and peanut butter isn’t necessarily the first thing people think of in terms of flavor combinations. Sure there’s the banana and peanut butter combo that Elvis made famous, chocolate and peanut butter combo that Reese’s made into a treat and the grape jelly and peanut butter combo that every school kid loves, but lemon and peanut butter isn’t an automatic combo. That’s sad, because the tart bright flavor of lemon really pops against the earthy salty sweet peanut butter.
In the end, I brought a batch of these bars to a party down in Los Angeles that I was helping to host, and my friend Sara had taken a bar while I was preoccupied with hosting duties. As I mixed and mingled amongst my friends, Sara cornered me and told me in no uncertain terms that “These. Bars. Are. The. Best. Thing. Ever.” And yes she said it with periods between each word.
The secret with the bar is the honey. The sticky floral sweetness is the link between the lemon and the peanut butter. The Bee’s Knees has the honey already mixed into it, so all you need to do is add a little extra honey to the lemon curd and you’ve got a lemon bar that has people using superlative words. They’re that good.
I like to serve the lemon bars from the refrigerator, cold and refreshing like a glass of lemonade on a hot day. That said, they’re equally fantastic at room temperature, a little more gooey, a little sweeter (the cold cuts the sweetness), and perfect with an evening cup of tea or coffee.