Triple Peanut Butter Crunch Clusters

 

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My best ideas wallop me in the head like a fastball.

I was just looking in my pantry for a snack, gazing at box of Peanut Butter Cheerios, when suddenly my eyes fell to the bag of peanut butter baking chips, and WHAM. Idea formed; awesome recipe born.

My Triple Peanut Butter Crunch Clusters came together effortlessly as each necessary ingredient seemed to illuminate in my pantry and announce its presence. My pleasure was like a mad scientist’s when discovering something devilishly brilliant; picture me with a hunched back, tapping my curled fingers together with a sly grin spreading across my face, and saying, “Eeeexcellent.”

Now, erase that image from your mind because that is disturbing, and no one should have to see that.

These Triple Peanut Butter Crunch Clusters are more than excellent; in fact, you won’t believe how deliciously addicting each peanut butter-packed cluster is. I brought them into work, and my co-workers raved, one of them claiming he could eat every last cluster all by himself.DSC_1512-2

You wouldn’t think something so simple could be so delicious, but that’s the beauty here. This is a no-bake treat, requiring just 4 ingredients, but the end product is amazing. We’ve got not one, not two, but three levels of peanut butter power here: crunchy, salty Peanut Butter Cheerios, sweet peanut butter chips, and of course, pure smooth peanut butter. Combine that with white chocolate to create a crunchy, creamy treat that’ll satisfy the fiercest of snack cravings.  It’s a great change from the same old chocolate candy. Plus, they’re considerably better for you.

You can whip up a batch of these dangerously tasty clusters in no-time, and you only need one bowl to do it. I implore you to see if your taste-testers can guess all three peanut butter components. My co-workers were stumped!

What are you waiting for? Go get your peanut butter on!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Use chocolate chips instead of white chocolate chips to create Chocolate-Peanut Butter Clusters.
  2. If you can’t find Peanut Butter Cheerios, Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch would be delicious.
  3. Make these festive and seasonal by dawning them with colorful sprinkles that coordinate with a holiday, like green & red for Christmas or pastel colors for Easter.
  4. You must melt the chocolate and peanut butter in intervals or it will burn.DSC_1531-2

Triple Peanut Butter Crunch Clusters
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
  • 1 ¼ cups white chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups Peanut Butter Cheerios

Directions:

  1. Line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, cook the peanut butter chips, white chocolate, and peanut butter on high in the microwave for 25-second intervals, stirring well in between. It should only take about 4 intervals to be able to stir it smooth.
  3. Fold in Cheerios until evenly distributed. Drop generous tablespoons into prepared cupcake tins. Chill in fridge until completely set, about 30 minutes. Store in fridge in an air-tight container.

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Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes

 

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Do you want to know why these Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes exist? Because I can be an absent-minded idiot sometimes. Let’s not sugarcoat it; you’ve got to be a fool to do some of the things I do. You see, I went to make my Chewy Red Velvet Bars with Whipped Cream Frosting the other day, and I knew exactly how to make them: ignore the boxed directions; beat in a stick of butter and two eggs instead. So what did I do? I completely ejected that from my mind and poured the cup or so of water called for in the box directions onto my cake batter.

Bars = ruined.

So my marvelous Mother Cookie was kind enough to go buy me another box of red velvet cake mix for the bars, but I still had that whole bowl of ruined battered that I didn’t want to waste. So I followed through with what I started and baked it into a cake instead.

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Of course, then I needed something to actually do with the cake. Given the ingredients I had on hand, these Two-Bite Red Velvet Hearts were an easy solution. I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly addicting these red velvet devils are, and the fact that they’re bite-sized makes it so easy to inhale a hundred of ‘em. They are even better than a box of chocolate, and that means a lot coming from me.

Even with a boxed cake mix, you get a super moist and decadent red velvet cake center that’s perfectly complimented by a smooth white chocolate shell. They remind me of the snack cakes you buy at the grocery store, like the Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes I loved so much as a kid. Of course, these are even better because they’re homemade. And you only need a few ingredients to make ‘em.

Don’t disappoint your Valentine this year with boring chocolates when you can give them these candy-cake hybrids instead. They’re really easy to make, but your sweetheart will think you slaved over them. One thing he or she can be sure of is that they were made with love.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Although I’d normally scold you for using boxed mix, it’s totally okay here because we’re doctoring it up.
  2. This idea would work for any holiday, with any cake flavor, and any shaped cookie cutter. Get creative!
  3. If you don’t freeze the cake before dipping, you’re going to have a crumbly mess. Trust the recipe, my friends.DSC_1006

Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 2 dozen hearts

Ingredients:

  • 1 9×13 red velvet cake , use your favorite recipe or a boxed mix
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • Red & pink sprinkles

*The cake will be moist and fragile, so freezing it will make it hold up better to the chocolate.

Directions:

  1. Use a large bread knife to slice off just the domed top of the cake. Discard or snack on the scraps. Next, slice the cake lengthwise into two even layers, like you’re making it into a sandwich. Carefully separate the two layers. Freeze the cakes until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Set up your work station: Place one layer of cake on a cutting board and line a baking sheet or cooling rack with wax paper or parchment paper. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, no bigger than 2-inches in diameter, to cut hearts out of the two cake layers. Be gentle.
  3. Place the chocolate and shortening in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring well in between. This should only take about 4 intervals to be able to stir it smooth as long as you stir in between each interval.
  4. Gently dip the red velvet hearts into the chocolate, letting it coat the sides. Let excess drip off and transfer to the prepared baking sheet or rack. If you don’t get all the sides completely coated during the dip, just use a spoon to drizzle more chocolate on. Immediately sprinkle on sprinkles after dipping each one, before the chocolate has a chance to set.  Repeat with remaining hearts.
  5. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and allow to set completely.DSC_0986

Nilla Wafer Truffles

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Now that I finally own a big-girl food processor, I feel the need to process everything. It started with that wonderful White Chocolate Almond Butter last week, and now I’m on a roll. Filling for veggie burgers? Into the processor. Ingredients for a sauce? Toss ‘em in! Socks? Why the heck not?

Alright, don’t worry; I haven’t actually thrown socks into the food processor (yet). But I was intrigued by the idea of making cookie butter, which is just like nut butter, only made with cookies instead of nuts. Biscoff spread, made form Biscoff cookies, is the most obvious example. I wanted to make a butter out of classic Nilla Wafers, an extremely underrated cookie in my opinion.

For an extra bit of sweet indulgence, I added some smooth and creamy white chocolate. The end result tasted like candy or frosting; too good to just spread on bread (not that I’d be against it, though). There was so much I could do with it: top pound cake or brownies, dip strawberries in it, or just eat it with a spoon. In the end, I opted to make it into super easy Nilla Wafer Truffles.DSC_0063

All you’ve got to do to make these is chill the “butter” enough to be able to roll it into balls. Then, most truffles need to be coated in something, whether it be powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or more chocolate, so I opted with rolling the truffles in dusting of cinnamon-sugar, a flavor that perfectly complements the creamy blend of white chocolate and Nilla wafers underneath.

What you wind up with tastes like if a snickerdoodle and a white chocolate truffle had a baby; it’s creamy and candy-like, but you get that cookie aspect as well, plus the coating of cinnamon. You cannot possibly imagine how heavenly these are until you’ve tried them. And considering how simple they are to make, you’ve got no excuse not to!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Biscoff cookies would work here as well.
  2. The dusting of cinnamon-sugar is optional. And if you’re looking for a substitute, try shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or powdered sugar.
  3. These babies make a great gift.
  4. Your kids will love making these with you. They’re easy, so kids can help out, and they’ll enjoy using one of their favorite snacks, Nilla Wafers.DSC_0126

Nilla Wafer Truffles
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 1 dozen truffles

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Nilla Wafers
  • ½ cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • Dash salt
  • Cinnamon-sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, process Nilla Wafers until they resemble a fine crumb. Add chips and salt. Stream in oil, pulsing, until it starts to combine. Continue to process until completely smooth, resembling the texture of peanut butter.
  2. Pour some cinnamon-sugar into a shallow bowl. Transfer mixture to a bowl and place in fridge until it firms up, about 15 minutes. Roll mixture into balls. The heat in your hands will soften them enough to roll. Immediately after rolling, before the outside of the truffle sets again, roll in the cinnamon-sugar to completely coat the outside. Set in a container lined with waxed paper and container with remaining mixture. Store in the air-tight container in the fridge. Let them come to room temperature before eating, or enjoy them straight out of the fridge.DSC_0119

Milky Way Ganache over Pound Cake

Oh lord, I love me some Milky Ways.

It’s caramel and chocolate; how could you go wrong? For as long as I can remember, Milky Ways have been one of my favorite classic candy bars. I had a history teacher in high school who handed out candy to his students like a drug deal. It was hush-hush, and if you were a regular, words weren’t required. He’d slip you your candy of choice silently, and that was that. I always asked for a Milky Way, and after a little time, he’d hand one over to me without asking. Even though he had just about every candy in his arsenal, I never desired any other but the gooey-good Milky Way.

After Halloween, I was left with a surplus of Milky Ways. You might see no problem with this, but my waistline sure did. So, I needed something to make with them so they’d be out of my sight for good. This logic is not very sound though, because then I just wind up eating gobs of whatever it is I decide to make instead, as was the case with this Milky Way Ganache.

I made it to top my moist and buttery Classic Pound Cake from yesterday’s post. Really though, I didn’t even need the pound cake because that Milky Way Ganache was so slap-your-mama good that I could’ve eaten it with a spoon alone.

Which I did anyway.

This is ooey gooey heaven, rich and viscous goodness. You feel the urge to stick your face in it despite the fact that six showers wouldn’t be enough to get rid of the stickiness. You get all the wonderful chocolate-caramel Milky Way flavor you know & love in the form of a smooth and thick sauce that you’ll want to slurp right up like soup.

You only need two ingredients and 10 minutes to churn out some Milky Way Ganache of your own, then drown a slice of moist and buttery pound cake in. The cake as well is a super simple recipe that yields heavenly results. But if you’re not feeling the pound cake, there are a million other things to do with the ganache: pour it over ice cream, brownies, any kind of cake, dip fruit in it, and more. In fact, stop back later in the week to see one more thing to do with this luscious liquified Milky Way bliss.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Catch my video to see how easy this stuff is to whip up!
  2. This keeps great in the fridge, so you can use it throughout the week on all kinds of treats.
  3. Swirl into homemade ice cream for a Milky Way twist on your favorite ice cream recipe.
  4. This will set up like ganache as it cools, only gooier.
  5. You can pour this over the whole pound cake all at once and let it set up or serve warm over individual slices.

Milky Way Ganache with Pound Cake
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, continuously stir Milky Ways and cream until the candy starts to melt. Switch to a wire whisk and continue mixing to make sure it doesn’t burn. Let cook until completely smooth. Immediately remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes then pour over slices of pound cake and serve warm.
  2. Store in fridge in an air-tight container. Heat in microwave to soften up again before serving.

Homemade 100 Grand Bars (Sort of)

My dad brings 100 Grand Bars to work whenever a department processes 100,000 pounds of product. Don’t ask me what that means, because I don’t know. The details of my father’s job are beyond me. All I know is: bringing those candies in is a classic example of my father’s infamous sense of humor; it’s a cheese-tastic play on words.

One day, I realized how simple it would be to create a homemade version, a better one at that. 100 Grands are tasty, but they’ve got poor-quality caramel and a too-thin layer of chocolate. Smart Cookie can do better, my friends. So, I employed all the classic elements to create my own Homemade 100 Grand Bars.

Well…sort of.

See, I made this delicious thick and rich caramel filling then mixed in Rice Krispies to give it that crispy-crunchy element. The only problem was that the caramel made the Rice Krispies lose some of their crunch. But was this the end of the world? No sir. The Rice Krispies, although lacking in “Krispie,” still added bite, texture, and a little bit of perfectly contrasting saltiness.

One of the women my dad works with said these were “the best candies ever,” so it’s no worse for wear.

I employed super creamy, good-quality dulce de leche for the filling. That gum paste the original bars use pales in comparison. And you know I’ve got a nice thick suit of chocolate armor to hold all that liquid gold in. Is it a carbon-copy of a 100 Grand bar? Nah. Is it better? Hell yes!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you want the Rice Krispies to stay crunchy, try this: leave the krispies out of the filling and freeze it. After you shape it into the logs, roll it in the krispies before covering in chocolate. I don’t know if this will help, but it’s worth a shot!
  2. Use dark chocolate if you prefer.
  3. Dulce de leche can be found either in the foreign food aisle, the baking aisle, or by the hot fudge in your grocery store. If you can’t find it, you can make it homemade.
  4. Regular caramel sauce WILL NOT work. It is too thin.

Homemade Sort-of 100 Grand Bars
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 16-oz. jars dulce de leche (2 cups)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 4.4-oz. milk chocolate bars, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dulce de leche, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and salt until well-combined. It should be thick and kind of hard to stir. If it seems thin, add more sugar. Fold in the Rice Krispies. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  2. Line two baking sheets with waxed paper or parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Once filling is firm, put the chopped chocolate into a large microwaveable bowl. Cook on high for 30 second intervals until completely melted and smooth, stirring well in between so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Form filling into 2-inch logs with your hands. If they get sticky, cover your hands in powdered sugar. If they soften up too much to dip/cover in chocolate, put them back into the freezer.
  5. Dip logs into melted chocolate or use a spoon to pour it on so they’re completely covered. Place on lined baking sheets and refrigerate until firm. Enjoy!