Monster Granola Bars

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Let’s be real: they don’t call them “Monster Cookies” because they’ve got a monstrous amount of delicious ingredients; that’s just what they want you to think. They’re really called Monster Cookies because you turn into a monster upon eating the sinfully addicting devils. You need more and more, and you’ll do anything to get them, like the Cookie Monster but with a more severe problem.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, Monster Cookies can be a monster problem if you’re watching your waistline. Cookies, delectable as they may be, are not the most satisfying treat, so you often wind up eating 20 in one sitting. Or maybe that’s just me again.

What I need is the salty-sweet goodness of Monster Cookies in a heartier snack that can satisfy my black hole of a stomach with just one or two. What I need are these Monster Granola Bars.

With crunchy pretzel bits, salty peanut butter, and chocolaty M&Ms, these ain’t your average granola bars. In fact, I must warn you that once you try one of these chewy delights, you’ll never want sub-par store-bought again. Sorry, Quaker, but I’m running you out of town with my salt-sweet monsters.DSC_4097

What I really love about these bars is that you get all the components of Monster Cookies but in a much more filling and satisfying snack. So, you only need one bar to fill you up. However, that is not to say you won’t wind up eating five of them in one sitting simply because they’re that delicious.

And don’t worry; you might think homemade granola bars would be a bothersome task, but they’re actually one of the easiest treats to make. Just mix everything together, give it a quick bake, and let it cool. The hardest part is not digging in when they’re right out of the oven and hot enough to scold your tongue, simply because they smell too overwhelmingly delicious to ignore.

Back away from the piping hot granola bars; I promise you can make it through the 20 or so minutes it takes for them to cool. And your tongue will thank you for it.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Marshmallows are the secret ingredient here that makes these nice and chewy.
  2.  Sub the almonds for whatever nuts you have on hand.
  3. These are great for kids; they love granola bars!
  4. Use the base of this recipe to build upon and add whatever mix-ins you like. For a simple variation, leave out the M&M’s and pretzels, and sub in mini peanut butter cups.
  5. Add a little more brown sugar if you’d like these sweeter.
  6. These are way better for you than store-bought granola bars since they don’t have all the preservatives.DSC_4075

Monster Granola Bars
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups marshmallows
  • 1 cup M&Ms, plus more for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking sheet with nonstick spray then line with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts until they start to break up. Add pretzels and pulse a few times more until everything is broken into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almonds, pretzels, egg whites, oats, peanut butter, brown sugar, and honey until well combined and everything is evenly distributed. Set aside.
  4. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring continuously, until completely melted. Immediately pour into the oat mixture and stir until well-combined. Gently fold in the M&Ms so they don’t melt.
  5. Transfer to prepared pan. Use waxed paper to press down into a firmly-packed even layer. Press about ¼ cup more M&Ms into the bars. Bake 12 minutes or until fragrant and just turning gold around the edges. Let cool for 10 minutes then use the parchment paper to lift out the granola and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Slice into bars. Store in an air-tight container.

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The Weekender: Easter Week, Furry Friends, & Peanut Butter

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It’s Sunday, which means Easter Week at Smart Cookie has drawn to a close. I hope you all had as much fun as I did! We had enough delicious and festive recipes to make the ol’ Easter Bunny proud. Next week, he’ll be hopping to our homes bearing baskets of Easter sweets. Are you ready for his arrival? If you’re not, never fear. My Easter Week recipes are a great jumpstart, plus I’ll be bringing you an Easter recipe round-up next week, as is customary here at Smart Cookie. But until then…

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Baby Chick Lemon Mousse Cookie CupsDSC_3479
  2. Peter Cottontail’s Carrot Cake BarsDSC_3531
  3. Bunny Rabbit Cauliflower PancakesDSC_3361
  4. Coconut Macaroon Easter Egg NestsDSC_3178

I took a little poll on Facebook to see what the favorite from Easter Week was, and the winner was unanimously the Baby Chick Lemon Mousse Cookie Cups. Not only are they beyond cute, but they’re easy to make and absolutely heavenly. That mousse filling is velvety smooth and tastes like lemon heaven. See just how effortless those little guys are to make in my newest video.

Let’s talk about food news now. Last week, I wrote about the edible wonders I encountered on my last trip to Wegmans. One awesome product I discovered was powdered peanut butter. DSC_2981-2It sounds odd if you’ve never tried it; I was skeptical myself. But this stuff is life-changing. Add just a little water, and you get instant thick and rich peanut butter. But get this: two tablespoons of regular peanut butter has an unsettling 200 calories and around 16 grams of fat; powered PB, on the other hand, has just 45 calories and about 2 grams of fat. That’s crazy talk! I am obsessed with this stuff; sometimes I use it twice a day. It’s not just awesome for making straight up PB; I also mix it into stuff like sugar-free pudding or a little bit of Cool Whip. Yum!

Speaking of non-traditional food items, how about this Mina burrito, eh?DSC_3852

My cats are just so darn good-looking that I can’t ignore them. One minute I’m trying to photograph food; the next, they’re getting all of my camera’s attention. Such was the case when I was baking cupcakes the other day. The Cast of Characters took a back seat to my babies.DSC_3685DSC_3679DSC_3681

Do you have a furry friend who’s always by your side?

I’ve got a co-worker with a…less traditional furry friend. She has a moose named Trax that she dresses up for every holiday you can imagine. So, when her birthday rolled around on Friday, I knew the perfect cake to make her.DSC_3826

He’s almost too cute to eat, right? I’m still not sure anyone ever cut into it…but there were delicious cupcakes to go along with him, which were devoured quickly. That recipe is coming at you next week, along with some healthy delights, and the Easter recipe round-up you don’t want to miss!DSC_3701

The best way to ensure you catch every new bite on Smart Cookie is to subscribe. You’ll get my new posts emailed to you every morning! Just enter your email in the top right of the page. Also stay in touch with Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

See you on Monday!


Nutter Butter Truffle Eggs

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Every Easter, Reese’s rolls out its Peanut Butter Eggs, and in my head, I envision a chubby chocolate bunny bouncing from store to store across the country and dropping off the eggs for selling. That’s one bunny I’d like to meet. The Easter Bunny is cool and all, but a chocolate bunny that hands out PB Eggs? That’s my kind of rabbit!

Last year, I beat that chocolate bunny at his own game when I made some stellar Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs, complete with a how-to video. But this year, I wanted to step it up another level. You’re wondering, “How does one take a step up from Peanut Butter Eggs, the crème de la crème of Easter treats?”

Well, I might have something to change your mind and take over the throne for supreme Easter confection: Nutter Butter Truffle Eggs.

I took a beloved American cookie, which is also one of the most versatile (See: Nutter Butter Penguins), and turned it into a sweet & salty creamy filling. You get the peanut butter flavor, plus the sweetness and substantiality of the cookie. Then, the Nutter Butterific filling is enveloped in a silky coat of creamy and smooth chocolate.DSC_2454

What you wind up with is the Peanut Butter Egg’s cooler, smarter, all around-awesome sibling. I’m sorry, but plain peanut butter filling can’t hold a candle to rich Nutter Butter filling. That’s like saying apples are as good as apple pie. Don’t be silly.

Don’t be intimidated by the pretty appearance of these divine little eggs; their cute egg shape is easy to make, and all you need to dress ‘em up are some festive, Springy sprinkles. This is a no-bake treat that’s easy to execute, and even easier to eat. The only problem is, you might eat half of the Nutter Butter filling before you ever get to shape it into an egg. You’ve been warned.

Now get your bunny butt up and shake your cotton tail into the kitchen to whip up these must-try chocolate-covered PB cuties.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Make sure you give the filling enough time to freeze and firm up rock hard before dunking in the chocolate or it won’t hold up.
  2. Use whatever sprinkles or decorations you like. Be creative!
  3. Skip the egg shape and just make these truffle-shaped, and you can enjoy these any time of year.
  4. Go for white chocolate if that’s more your thing.
  5. Coating these in chocolate is not a technical process. Use whatever method you like. The easiest way is to stick it on a fork, or you can be like me and just use your hands!
  6. You must melt chocolate in intervals when melting in the microwave or it will burn.DSC_2436

Nutter Butter Truffle Eggs
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 2 dozen eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Nutter Butters, reserving ½ of last sleeve for your own snacking or whatever you please
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 6 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Easter sprinkles, for decorating

Directions:

  1. Place the Nutter Butters and peanut butter chips in a food processor and process until they start to come together, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down halfway through. Give it time to let the chips melt and the cookies break down.
  2. Stream in the canola oil and process until smooth and creamy, another 2 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and place in fridge to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. Form Nutter Butter mixture into scant tablespoon-sized balls. Press down lightly and pull at the edges gently to create an oval, about ¼-inch in thickness. Pinch the top to make it look like an egg. Place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper so it doesn’t stick. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  4. Transfer shaped eggs to the freezer until completely firm, about an hour.
  5. Place all the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20 second intervals, stirring very well in between to help it melt faster. This should only take about 3 intervals.
  6. Dunk frozen eggs into the chocolate and coat completely (you can use a fork to do this or just your fingers). Flip to coat both sides and let excess drip off. Return to lined waxed paper lined baking sheet. Immediately top each coated egg with sprinkles because they set up quickly, and the sprinkles won’t stick then.
  7. Stick coated eggs in fridge to set completely, about 15 minutes, then enjoy. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before eating.DSC_2415

Fluffernutter Oatmeal Balls

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I took the fluffernutter sandwich for granted as a kid. It seemed so ho-hum back then, just another sandwich for another lunch. Nowadays though, a fluffernutter would be such a treat; I never eat white bread, and I certainly don’t stuff my sandwiches with rich peanut butter and sugary Fluff. But that’s not to say I don’t want to.

The Fluff-peanut butter combo is beloved by many, whether you’re 6 years old or 60 years old. For many, it tastes like childhood. Plus, there’s no denying that the fluffernutter has mastered the ultimate balance of salty-sweet perfection. The flavors blend together so harmoniously, like the Food God intended for them to be together all along.

I wanted to take the match-made-in-culinary-heaven and turn it into a slightly healthier snack. So, I gave my classic No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls a fluffernutter twist.

These gooey, sweet and salty bundles of joy are what would happen if you could take everything delicious about your childhood and roll it into a ball. That classic flavor duo you love so much is present and prominent, but you aren’t overwhelmed by Fluff; it’s just the right amount of light and sweet marshmallow swirls. Plus, oats make this hearty, and mini marshmallows add a fun and chewy twist, giving you double marshmallow impact.DSC_2702

These little balls are no-bake, and you can make them in a jiffy (no pun intended). Even if you’re more likely to fly to the moon than cook, I promise you can handle making these. And if you loved fluffernutters as a kid, or still do now, then these are a definite must-make.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can use whatever kind of peanut butter you like.
  2. If you want these to be extra hearty and protein packed, grind us some peanuts to mix in.
  3. The honey is optional, but adds a nice touch.
  4. You might also consider a nice pinch of salt to balance things out.
  5. Kids will love these. They make a great after-school snack.
  6. Get my original No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls recipe here, or try my Christmasy Snow Covered Peanut Butter M&M Balls for the holidays.DSC_2617

Fluffernutter Oatmeal Balls
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus more for rolling
  • 1 ¼ cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 jar marshmallow Fluff

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients except for the Fluff until well-combined. Fold in the Fluff just until evenly distributed out. You should still see ribbons of it, but there shouldn’t be any giant chunks. Cover bowl and place in fridge to chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Roll mixture into generous tablespoon-sized balls then roll in the oats. The oat coating keeps them from being quite as sticky to hold while eating. Place in an air-tight container lined with waxed paper and store in the fridge.DSC_2724

Bunny Butt Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

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Get ready to shake your cotton tail!

No, you’re not looking at the wrong side of these treats. These are Bunny Butt Pretzel Bites, not Bunny Face Pretzel Bites. If you ask me, their little fluffy butts, with the tiny feet in the air and a plush cotton tail, are even cuter than their faces.

Last year, bunny butts became quite popular, especially on Pinterest. I guess I’m not the only food blogger with a bunny butt fetish. I wasn’t sure if it would be a trend, or if the butt-fest would continue this year, but it’s looking like the bunny butt is here to stay. Whoopie!DSC_2329

I made an adorable Bunny Butt Trifle last year, complete with triple chocolate layers and a bunny’s behind sticking out of the top, face buried headfirst in the trifle. This year, I wanted to give you butt-loving foodies a simpler, no-bake way to enjoy a delicious Easter treat, hence where these Bunny Butt Pretzel Bites come in. You’ve got a creamy, salty-sweet peanut butter filling sandwiched between two crunchy pretzels then dunked in silky white chocolate. Regardless of the rabbit rear end décor, these are seriously delicious, so the cute factor is just a bonus.

Join me for an Eastertastic time in the kitchen with my how-to video, and see how easy peasy these Bunny Butts are to make.

Side note: This is probably the most I ever have or will say the word “butt” in a post.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Use milk or dark chocolate in place of the white and have chocolate bunny butts instead!
  2. These are not hard or time-consuming to prepare, but you need to set aside some time for them to chill.
  3. These are great for parties, especially for children.
  4. Check out my Easter recipe page for more Easter eats!DSC_2270

Bunny Butt Pretzel Bites
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 3 dozen bites

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. butter, softened
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 72 small pretzel twists
  • 2 4.4-oz. bars white chocolate
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • Pink frosting
  • 18 mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter, and salt until thoroughly combined. This will take some elbow grease.
  3. Spread about 2 tsp. of peanut butter mixture onto a pretzel. Sandwich another pretzel on top and press down lightly. Use a knife to smooth off any peanut butter that has squeezed through the holes in the pretzels. Place on prepared baking sheet and continue until you’ve used all the peanut butter.
  4. Place sandwiches in freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour or up to 3 hours, until completely frozen. They should be rock solid.
  5. Once sandwiches are frozen, place the all the white chocolate and shortening in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, mixing well in between so it melts faster and does not burn. As long as you mix well, this should only take 3 intervals.
  6. Using either a fork or your hands, dunk frozen pretzel sandwiches into the chocolate one at a time, coating one side and the edges completely (you may coat the bottom too if you like). Let excess drip off and set back down on paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining sandwiches then return to freezer for ten minutes or until set.
  7. Turn the pretzel sandwiches so the two mounds are facing down (like a really badly shaped upside down heart). Use the pink frosting to draw two feet on the bottom of the pretzel, one on each “mound.”  For each foot, you’ll have one big circle and three smaller circles for toes. The toes should face down.
  8. Slice all the mini marshmallows in half width-wise. Use leftover melted chocolate or frosting to glue the marshmallow cotton tails onto the top center of each sandwich. Viola, you’re done!
  9. Store in fridge in an air-tight container. Let come to room temperature before eating.DSC_2349