Gettin’ the kids in the kitchen

When I was a kid, the only TV chefs were Julia Child and Graham Kerr – two drunks whose culinary approach weren’t really all that kid friendly. But now, food TV is a part of our pop culture. I love to hear moms and dads talk about their kid’s favorite TV chefs. Most of the boys go for Emeril and his “BAM” action, and the girls seem to really love Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee’s perky approach. I think its so neat that kids are becoming more interested in the culinary arts and are developing an appreciation for food and food preparation early in life. Learning to cook, and enjoying the cooking process is a skill that will serve them well once they get out of the house and on their own.

I know for me, I grew up in a non-cookin’ house. My mom, bless her heart, just didn’t really enjoy cooking. She’s a farm girl to the bone, and much preferred to spend her time in the garden growing the veggies instead of being cooped up in the kitchen preparing ’em. Even as a teenager and young adult, she’d much rather have been on a combine during harvest than in the kitchen preparing food for all the workers. I on the other hand prefer to be inside away from the sun, snakes, and bugs – spending my time preparing yummy treats and satisfying meals. Needless to say, between the two of us, we’re a match made in heaven!

Because I have almost always enjoyed the kitchen, as a young teenager my mom put me (and my brother) in charge of starting dinner each night before she and my father got off of work. Yes, I grew up in a time when pre-teens were left home alone for a couple of hours after school while my parent’s finished up their work days. Overall, my brother and I were very responsible, although we did do some pretty stupid and crazy things in those two or three hours, but those are stories for another time…

Anyway, back to my original post. Our menu’s were always fairly basic and mostly consisted of Mexican food, or some kind of protein, veg, and baked potato. I grew up in southwest Kansas during a time when it was socially acceptable to eat and enjoy red meat so we always had hamburger, roast, or steaks in our freezer. We ate a lot of beef, and I know I’m a better person for it! To be fair to the bird though, we ate a lot of chicken too. Mostly because it was cheap – even cheaper than hamburger.

Thanks to my mom, I think I’m the cook I am today. Not because I stood next to her and learned how to properly prepare the secret family recipe marinara sauce or Grandma’s super soft cookies, but because she gave me the freedom to be creative if I wanted to. She encouraged me to get into the kitchen and cook. And not only did she encourage me to cook, but also to try new flavors in food. When we’d go on vacation, she’d encourage us to try new cuisine – even if we didn’t like it, she wanted us to at least try a bite of it. I will tell you that there are some pretty nasty foods out there and there are some pretty wonderful foods out there too. And I would have never known about them had I not been encouraged to at least try them.

So today, I want to share a new recipe with you. One that going to satisfy your sweet tooth, and would be a snap to prepare during the holidays. It’s a peanut butter cookie that’s reminiscent of a fudge, but it’s a no-cook recipe. It’s quick and simple to put together and you can even get the kids involved in the process. The finished product tastes very similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. You can prepare this in a baking dish and cut into bar cookies as I have done, or you can roll the dough and dip in chocolate for easy truffles. Either way, I encourage you to grab the kids and get in the kitchen and give this recipe a try.

Magic Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Fudge

2 cups peanut butter, divided
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (2 sleeves)
2 cups chocolate chips, divided (12 ounce bag)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Spray a 9″x13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups peanut butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add in 1 cup powdered sugar and mix until completely incorporated.

3. With your hands, work in remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Work the dough until all the ingredients are combined and the dough is fairly firm.

4. Evenly press the dough into the prepared baking dish and set aside (or roll into balls the size of walnuts if you’re making truffles. Place the balls in the freezer for an hour so they can really firm up).

5. In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining chocolate chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter for about 2 minutes – making sure to stop and stir the chocolate every 20 seconds so it doesn’t burn (NOTE: burned chocolate is really gross!!). Once the chocolate is melted, quickly stir in the vanilla and spread chocolate evenly over the cookie dough.

6. Cover and refrigerate cookie for at least an hour, or until the chocolate has firmed up and set. Cut the cookie into 2″ squares and store in refrigerator.


SIDE NOTE: This basic peanut butter dough is very versatile. You can use chocolate graham crackers or Oreo’s in place of the regular grahams. You can substitute dried, sweetened fruit (like craisins, raisins, chopped apricots, dates or figs) in place of the chocolate chips in the dough. You can add nuts if you’d like, or even use crunchy peanut butter. Also, other nut butters work splendidly if you don’t like peanut butter. You can use white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, or even peanut butter chips in place of the chocolate chips on the top, and pressing chopped nuts or chopped dried fruits into the topping before it sets is also very nice. The point is to play around with it and find a combination that y’all like.


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