Thursday, April 13, 2017

Peanut Butter is My Life Force

I eat an abnormally large amount of peanut butter for a grown woman. Seriously, I eat an average of three and a half PB&J's a week (I share with my dogs). Is it healthy? Sorta. Better than nachos every day. Do I have issues coming up with creative lunches? Obviously. But I eat lunch at work and hate drive-thru's. My peanut butter consumption tends to skyrocket to epic, dare I say, nutty proportions during Lent. It's my go-to Friday protein. I had peanut butter on graham crackers for dinner last Friday (in my defense, my husband was gone, and I clearly need adult supervision). I divulge all this not because I think I have a problem (I know I do) but because I was hit with a massive craving for a peanut butter and chocolate dessert last weekend. And when you eat several gallons of Jif in a week, a craving like that is both insane and insatiable. I've been seeing far too many Reese's chocolate egg commercials and Tasty videos using them lately, and apparently I'm susceptible to advertisements. Who knew? ...I ask as I sit wearing Adidas track pants, a new Fitbit adorning my wrist, drinking Coke Zero, eating only the finest of name-brand cheesy crackers (Cheezits, clearly, because Cheese Nips are for plebeians). I needed to make a dessert that was dripping with peanut butter and drenched in chocolate yet also kind on the hips. While most would say this is an impossible feat, I saw it as a challenge. And as literally the most competitive person on the planet (I dare you to say otherwise), I knew I had to come up with the perfect treat. And like any Type-A person, I did, and then I even rubbed my own face in it. Told competitive I even mock myself. Good thing I had these peanut butter cheesecake bars with chocolate crunch crust to soothe my self-inflicted jeering.
Shut myself right up, I did.
I know in no way does it seem remotely possible by looking at them, but at 158 calories a bar, these are completely guilt free. I even used incredibly limited amounts of sugar because now I'm watching my sugar intake since apparently I was enjoying life too much so I had to find some other habit to cut back on. Catholic guilt is real, y'all. Just ask all those poor fish I've been consuming the past five Fridays. I wasn't sure how cutting back on the sugar was going to impact the cheesecake layer, but thankfully it turned out okay. And by okay, I mean these are literally the best dessert bars I've ever eaten in my entire life. I love Nestle Crunch bars. I feel like they're extremely underrated. So if you're like me, the chocolate crunch crust is going to make your taste buds quite happy. And if you also inhale peanut butter at a rate some people might find "mildly startling," you're going to be pleased with the cheesecake layer, too. Oh, and these are no-bake and can be thrown together in ten minutes. Did I mention I'm the laziest Type-A person ever? Because I am.
What? You don't buy your peanut butter by the pound?
I'm fairly certain that Rice Krispies hasn't changed their cereal box since the year I was born. I'm as classic as a box of Kellogg's, baby. These bars are quick to make and require only a short list of ingredients. If you buy Jif in ten-pound jars and always have Cool Whip handy for those moments when a spoonful of sweetness means the difference between utter meltdown and total sanity, you're already there (and my kind of person). To make, gather up:
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBS skim milk
  • 3 TBS honey
  • 1 cup of creamy Jif, divided
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 8-ounce tub of fat free cream cheese spread at room temp
  • 1 8-ounce tub of Cool Whip Free
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Start by lining a 9x13 pan with Parchment paper and lightly misting with cooking spray. Honey and peanut butter are about sticky as a standard four year old, so don't skimp on the cooking spray or these bars will be glued to the paper. Then prepare yourself for a crappy photo montage!
So many spoons were used in the making of this dessert.
In a bowl, dump the chocolate chips and milk and heat in 30 second bursts at 50% power in the microwave. Stir each time to avoid scorching. Burnt chocolate is my mortal enemy. Once completely melted and no chunks remain, add in the 3 TBS of honey and 1/4 cup of Jif. Blend well!
This is the only way I'm eating Rice Kripsies ever again.
 Dump 3 cups of Rice Krispies in a large bowl, and then pour the chocolate mix on top. You'll get a nice bicep workout blending this thoroughly.
Worth it.
 Turn into the prepared pan. I highly advise also spraying your hands with cooking spray at this point to keep the crust from sticking to you. Not that that's a bad thing considering you then get to eat it off of your hands, but you want the majority of the crust to end up in the 9x13 pan:
Like so.
 You will need to press and smooth out the crust to evenly distribute it across the pan. Hold off on eating the crumbs off your finger until you're done with this part.
Hmmpphhhyum. No English words accurately describe this photo.
Set aside and avoid the temptation to just eat all the crust. To make the filling, mix together 1/2 a cup of Jif and the tub of fat free cream cheese in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and then add the 2 TBS sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and tub of Cool Whip Free. Blend until well incorporated.
Sweet dreams are made of cheese(cake).
 Take this delicious blob of peanut butter wonder and dump on top of the crust. I'd like to tell you the crust lust and desire to eat it gets covered up by this cheesecake layer, but that would mean my pants would burst into flame.
And I really like these Adidas track pants.
 Smooth out the cheesecake layer, and then take the final 1/4 cup of Jif and melt it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Literally the only way peanut butter tastes any better is when its melted (see apple nachos).
I'm the Jackson Pollock of peanut butter paintings.
 By the spoonful, plop the melted peanut butter randomly on top of the cheesecake layer.
And also the Salvador Dali, apparently.
 Take a butter knife and slowly drag in back and forth lines to create pretty swirls with the peanut butter in the cheesecake. To avoid diving mouth first into the pan, cover and place into the freezer. Let these set overnight if possible. If you're in an extreme PB&C emergency, check to see if they're set around the 5 hour mark. Waiting, always the hardest part.
And yet always so, so worth it in the peanut buttery end.
 Once these are set, you can either lift the whole slab out by the Parchment paper or cut in the pan. I divvied these up into 20 squares to equate to 158 calories a square.
And clearly, size was not skimpy.
 Only way to make these even better? A drizzle of sugar free chocolate sauce and half a square of insanely rich Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt affixed to the middle. I happened to have these Lindt chocolates on hand because my husband loves me and even though I begged for a Fitbit for our anniversary on the 7th, he still felt it was weird to give his wife a fitness tracker for an anniversary. So to remind me I asked for the Fitbit and he thinks I am in no way out of shape, said chocolate bar was found along with my present. Smart man. I've been eating the bar one square at a time, but when I wanted a square AND a peanut butter cheesecake bar for dessert (dream big), I checked with my Fitbit to make sure such luxuries were affordable, and they so were. I realize one day when Google Skynet takes over, I'll be the first in line to welcome our new robot overlords because they make my life easier and less guilt-ridden. And I won't have to share my dessert with them which is great because an entire pan of these bars simply isn't enough. They're so good I'd like to be buried with the recipe and embalmed with peanut butter. Although, if I keep eating the stuff at this rate, I'll do that on my own. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I'm probably 40 percent peanut butter at this point anyway.

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