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Peanut butter goes with back-to-school

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Here in North Carolina, schools are set to start back this Monday, Aug. 25. Some systems have already begun and some won't be starting until after Labor Day. With our youngsters going back to school, some will be taking their lunch or be ready for something to snack on when they get through the school day. One of the things I've always associated with school days is the always-popular staple food: peanut butter.

Peanut butter is well-known for its protein, which is a necessity for growing children. It's pretty hard to beat a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though my personal favorite is peanut butter with banana on whole-wheat bread. Some enjoy the "Fluffernutter," which is Marshmallow Fluff spread on the bread along with the peanut butter. The combinations of the types of sandwiches that can be made with this wholesome, golden food are hard to count!

Next to using peanut butter in sandwiches, let's look at some sweet treats for our back-to-school crowd. I'm passing along the ingredients for two recipes. The first one is for "Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies," which is flavored with peanut butter and its perfect "soul mate": chocolate! These brownies are full of chocolate and peanut butter flavor and if the youngsters in your life (or anyone, for that matter!) love this luscious combination, then they'll love these brownies! This makes a 9x13 inch pan of the brownies, so there will be plenty to pack in the lunchbox, have for an after school treat, or even for a good dessert. An added bonus is that these brownies are mixed in the same saucepan the chocolate and shortening are melted in, which cuts down on clean-up.

The next recipe is for "Fudgy Peanut Butter Cupcakes." This one also contains this fabulous combination of chocolate and peanut butter and this uses the same frosting recipe as the brownie recipe I'm sharing. This is a "one-bowl" batter, meaning all the ingredients are placed in the bowl, beaten for about 3-1/2 minutes, and then spooned into muffin cups. As you can see, this one goes together quickly. Once people taste them, they will most likely disappear quickly! This makes between 2-1/2 to 3 dozen cupcakes, so there will be plenty to go around, for either the school or work crowd!

A while back, I passed along some recipes using peanut butter and jelly, including a recipe for a "Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar", which is a bar cookie recipe. In case you missed the article earlier, here's the link, so you can give them a try:

http://www.examiner.com/article/peanut-butter-jelly-outside-the-sandwich

Do try one or both of these yummy treats for the school crowd in your life and make sure to have plenty of cold milk to serve with these! This may build a memory that your children will long remember when they look back at their school days!

PEANUT BUTTER FROSTED BROWNIES

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups self-rising flour (see note below)
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch pan. In a medium saucepan, melt the chocolate and shortening over low heat. Remove from heat and blend in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour, then the pecans. Turn batter in the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until brownies pull away from the sides of the pan (be careful not to over bake). Let cool slightly, then frost with Peanut Butter Frosting. Cut into bars. Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.

NOTE: If using all-purpose flour, add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.

PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING

1/3 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 square semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4-1/3 cup milk
Cream peanut butter, butter and the chocolate (if using it) throrougly. Blend in the sugar, followed by the vanilla. Add enough milk to make the frosting smooth and of spreading consistency.

FUDGY PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES

2 cups self-rising flour (see note below)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Measure all ingredients into large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into prepared cups, filling each 1/2 full. Bake 25-30 minutes or until centers spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool and frost with Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe above). Yield: 2-1/2 to 3 dozen.

NOTE: If using all-purpose flour, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and increase baking soda to 1 teaspoon.

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