There are some things you just never grow out of:  getting excited at the sound of an ice cream truck, relishing in a “snow day” from work, enjoying a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich and wondering how it can taste this good.  

Do you ever wish you could go back to the carefree days of being a kid again?  It’s so funny how we took time for granted and felt like the summers would never end when were kids.  Now it seems like you blink and Labor Day is coming up around the corner.  I think that these Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars are a great way to reminisce about your childhood and simply enjoy some classic comfort food.

I have been on a peanut butter kick lately and I have had this recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars tucked away for years and thought that I would finally give these layered bars a try.  I think these bars would make a great picnic treat, addition to a lunchbox or just a snack when you need to be comforted and reminded of the ease of being a kid.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: bake dessert peanut butter bar

Ingredients (16 bars)

  • 3/4 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup jam (flavor, your choice)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8-inch square or round baking dish with parchment paper so that the paper extends over the edges of the pan.

In a food processor, pulse peanuts to chop.  Pour peanuts into another small bowl and set them aside.

In the same food processor bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, salt and butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms.

Add peanut butter and vanilla and again, pulse to combine.

Remove 2/3 cup of the peanut butter dough from the food processor,  add to bowl with chopped peanuts and mix together with your hands.

Pour remaining peanut butter dough from the food processor into prepared pan and press down gently and evenly.

Spread jam over dough evenly using a large spoon.

Top jam with chopped peanut mixture and press down gently.

Bake about 40 minutes or until top is lightly browned and jam is bubbling.

Cool completely in the pan.

Lift bars out of the pan using the overlaying edges of the parchment paper.  Cut and serve.

Recipe adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray

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 combine flours, brown sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and pules until coarse crumbs form

add peanut butter and vanilla and again, pulse to combine

remove 2/3 cup of dough and add to bowl of chopped peanuts and set aside

pour dough into prepared pan and press down gently

spread jam over dough

top with chopped peanut mixture and press down evenly

bake and cool completely before cutting and serving

you might need a glass of milk with these bars 🙂


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Every week, my inbox is bombarded with inspirational information from friends, other bloggers and retailers.  I decided that it’s about time that I share what inspired me throughout the week.  Posts of what is inspiring others are some of my favorites on some of the blogs that I follow, so I decided that I would love to share my favorites with you just as much.  Please enjoy a few of the things that caught my eye this week and have a lovely weekend!  Go TEAM USA!  (I’m a just a little bit excited for the Olympics!)

1.  Oreo Cheesecake Pretzel Bites from Sally’s Baking Addiction

2.  Goat Cheese and Pesto Crostini from A Nutritionist Eats

3.  Steph Anne from Yellow & Savvy Design.  Let’s just say expect a makeover coming soon to a Satisfy My Sweet Tooth near you. Who doesn’t love a makeover??

4.  Baked Potato Wedges from Home Cooking Adventure

5.  USA Women’s Gymnastics Team (one of the teams I am most excited to watch this weekend!)

Are you as excited for the Olympics to begin this weekend as I am?  Are you doing anything fun to celebrate?

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Why in the world would I decide to stand over a pot of boiling sugar on one of the hottest days of the summer??  You got me.  Sometimes I just think I am a glutton for punishment.  Or it’s just my serious addiction to challenging myself in the kitchen and seeing how much I can take before I start crying out of frustration.

I am happy to report that this particular experiment induced no tears or temper tantrums.  I have had caramel and fudge making sessions that make me want to throw my pans away and tell them that I will not play with them anymore.

I have always heard about how fussy Almond Roca/Homemade Heath Bars/Buttercrunch or whatever you choose to call the light and airy toffee coated with chocolate and sliced almonds is to make and so I was not expecting success on my first try.  This candy also seems like a Christmas confection to me, so I guess I was craving Christmas in July when I set out to make this buttery, sweet and slightly salty Buttercrunch.

I think the other reason I was excited to make this candy was that I recently received a Thermapen which if you are not familiar, is super fast digital thermometer that is highly accurate.  What I noticed about the Thermapen that is different than other thermometers that I have used is that even if I removed the thermometer from the candy and it cooled, almost immediately when I replaced it in the boiling sugar, it was giving me an accurate reading.  The reason that a quick and accurate temperature read is so important when making candy is that sugar goes from perfectly caramelized to scorched and bitter in a matter of seconds.  I also love the convenience of not having a cord that gets in my way while I am trying to be precise and quick.  The Thermapen is cordless and folds up compactly so that it is easy to keep track of in my kitchen gadget drawer.  I honestly feel that I owe much of my rookie success with making Buttercrunch to this extremely helpful kitchen tool!  Check out the Thermoworks company that makes the Thermapen here!

Chocolate Almond Buttercrunch

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: dessert snack chocolate nuts candy

Ingredients (1 12X16-inch baking sheet)

  • 1 cup (16 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/3 cups milk chocolate chips


Generously grease a 12X16-inch jelly roll pan.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.

Stir sugar, water and corn syrup into the melted butter and bring the mixture to a boil.  Allow the mixture to boil over medium heat until the temperature reaches 300 degrees on a thermometer.  This will take about 20 minutes.

While the mixture is boiling, spread half of the nuts and chocolate chips onto the greased pan in a single layer.

When the sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees, immediately pour it over the layer of chocolate and almonds.

Quickly top with remaining chocolate chips and almonds as evenly as possible.

After a few minutes, the hot candy will melt the chocolate and you can use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to spread the top chocolate layer smooth.

Allow to cool completely, then invert pan onto a clean counter and break candy into desired-sized pieces.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

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 melt butter 

stir in water, sugar and corn syrup

bring mixture a boil and boil until mixture reaches 300 degrees

(I am aware that my thermometer does not read the desired temperature of 300 degrees in this photo, but I wanted to take a photo while I had time before the critical temperature was reached!)

while sugar mixture is boiling, spread half of almonds and half of chocolate chips onto greased pan

as soon as sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees, pour carefully onto pan over almonds and chocolate chips

sprinkle remaining almonds and chocolate chips over hot candy

after a few minutes, use spatula to spread melted chocolate evenly over candy

invert pan of candy carefully onto clean countertop and break into pieces

This candy would make wonderful gifts for the holidays, host(ess) gifts or a nice treat to send home with your party guests so that they think of the amazing party you hosted for them!

*Note:  Thermoworks provided me with a Thermapen to try and review, but all opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

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Midwesterners are notorious for complaining talking about the weather.  With this July shaping up to be the hottest on record for Minnesota, the topic seems to be more on trend than ever.  We have such extremes with the temperatures throughout our seasons.  One hundred degrees with >80% humidity makes you feel like you may melt in the summer and then winter rears it’s head and below zero temperatures and snow drifts taller than I am are fixtures that are present for a good 5-6 months.  This hot and humid summer, I find myself longing for cool autumn days.  I should bite my tongue because the cold will be hear before I know it.

The extreme heat certainly has not stopped me from turning on my oven this summer.  I usually try to refrain from making desserts that are completely over-the-top because I am well aware of my complete lack of will power and self restraint when I’ve got something ooey gooey staring me down.  When I say “over-the-top” desserts, I am not referring to a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie.  I am talking about the cookie-dough-stuffed-brownie-cupcake-with-Nutella-frosting type of over-the-top.  This is why I love being asked to bring a dessert to an event because it gives me the freedom to go hog wild since I know that I will not be trapped all alone with the entire pan of temptation in my kitchen.

Enter Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge Brownies with Peanut Butter Cookie Crust and Peanut Butter Cups.  Yep.  It was pure chocolate peanut butter insanity that came out of my oven a few days ago.

I have always loved the simple sweet and saltiness of a good peanut butter cookie and that’s essentially the way these brownies start out.  Freshly ground peanuts make the flavor particularly peanutty.

Top a peanut butter cookie base with fudgey brownies with a cream cheese and peanut butter filling swirled in and you are almost there.

What could I possibly top these bad boys with other than chopped peanut butter cups? If these over-the-top brownies don’t Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, I don’t know what else I can do for you.

Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge Brownies

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: bake dessert chocolate peanut butter brownie bar

Ingredients (24 3-inch brownies)

For the crust

  • 1 1/4 cups (20 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup peanuts

For the peanut butter swirl

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk

For the brownie

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips


  • 8 regular-sized peanut butter cups, chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 12X18-inch jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides).

For the crust

In a food processor, finely chop the peanuts.

Add other ingredients and pulse until well combined.

Pour crust dough into prepared pan and press down evenly.

Bake 15-20 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.

For the peanut butter swirl

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Set aside.

For the brownies

Place chocolate chips into a small, microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave in 30 second increments until melted. Stir and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl and with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together for 2 minutes.

Add eggs and vanilla and mix.

Add melted chocolate and mix.

Add dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Mix in peanut butter chips.

Pour brownie batter over crust and spread evenly.

Drop peanut butter swirl by spoonful over the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the peanut butter mixture into the brownie batter.

Bake 27-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups.

Cool completely, or overnight before cutting and serving.

Recipe adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

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pour mixed crust dough into prepared pan and bake

combine all ingredients for peanut butter swirl and set aside

for the brownies, cream butter and sugar together

add eggs and vanilla

mix in melted chocolate

add dry ingredients and mix, then peanut butter chips and mix

spread brownie batter evenly over crust

drop peanut butter swirl by spoonful and swirl with a knife

bake and then immediately sprinkle with peanut butter cups

What is the most over-the-top dessert you have ever made or eaten?

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Sarah Levy is a successful bakery owner in Chicago.  Her store is called “Sarah’s Pastries and Candies” and opened in 2005.  Sweetness:Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion is her first publication.  This cookbook has the intention of enabling the home baker to produce store-bought-quality baked goods in their very own kitchens.  It is a book for someone who wants to bake all of the treats you see at a bakery, but does not have the faintest idea where to begin.

In her book introduction, Sarah explains her food philosophy and it is one that I could not agree with more.  She says that she has “witnessed how the right freshly baked treat can transform a date, TV night with the girls, or just another day at work into a special occasion.”  I share her appreciation for the way that a simply cookie or cupcake can truly make someone’s day.  The main reason why I love to bake so much is that it allows me to show my love and gratefulness for others.

Sarah promises her recipes to be no-nonsense, simplified recipes that you can fit in even during a busy work or school week.   She is very encouraging to the new baker throughout the book and it is very evident that she wants to invoke the confidence that her readers need to brave a new recipe or technique in the kitchen.

Most of the ingredients in the recipes that you will find in Sweetness will be items you already have on hand, which I love.  However, on the off chance that you are unable to find one of the ingredients at your local grocery store, Sarah offers several websites where you can shop for baking equipment or ingredients.

The way that Sarah groups the recipes into chapters is very unique.  Because her philosophy about a baked good making an occasion special, she groups the chapters by occasion that she suggests you might make each treat for.  The chapters include:  Work, Social Gatherings, Matters of Love, Day-to-day Happenings, Hostess Gifts and The Holidays.  A recommendation for an occasion to make each treat for accompanies the recipes.

There is a photo with nearly every recipe and the book itself is nice and big so that it stays open while you are using it.  I used Sarah’s Supreme Chocolate Cupcake recipe for my Hoppy Easter Cupcakes and they were divine.

Up next for me out of this book will be either Decadent Chocolate Almond Toffee or Rafael’s Toffee Sugar Cookies.  I am noticing a trend here….

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