Twix Bars with a Twist + 5 DIY Sweet Treat Links

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Halloween night I will walk our leaf covered sidewalks [crunch, shuffle, crunch…God I love that sound] with a warrior, Robin Hood and a jovial [fingers crossed, two is tough] ghost. Cold little hands resting in my hand, momentarily, before breaking free in a frantic scamper for more candy.  A warrior, headstrong and fierce will lead the way, while brave Robin Hood and a charming ghost shuffle along.

Robin Hood’s Epi-pens stored in one coat-pocket while a bag of “trade” candy sits in the other pocket…waiting.  Please no ER trips, not tonight.

Charleston Chews, Tootsie Rolls, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, filling their orange plastic pumpkin buckets, while I hand off Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers to Bubba quickly, efficiently, much like a bomb squad taking care of a situation before someone gets hurt.

Our boy, our prince of thieves, safe for now. 

House after house, we will trek along, until the air is just too chilly, our feet weary, the sugar high becoming a low.  When we reach our front door, the candy basket we left out will be nearly empty.  Robin Hood will steal the remaining safe candy, as he should.  With a tired ghost resting against him, snuggled in his neck, sticky cheeks touching coarse stubble, Bubba will open the front door.  The heat from the house will escape out the front door, warming our cold faces, reminding us we are home.  Safe.  Happy.

Happy Halloween.

Twix Bars with a Twist

A shortbread cookie topped with caramel, Sunbutter and a dark chocolate glaze

adapted from Not Without Salt’s Homemade Twix Bars

Makes 12 large bars or 24 small bars

Ingredients for shortbread:

1 stick + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Spray 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang.  (This will make it easier to remove the bars later.)

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the flour and salt.  Mix until the dough comes together.  The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pressed in between your fingers.

Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Rotate pan and bake for another 12 minutes or until the shortbread is golden brown.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Next prepare the Sunbutter layer.

Ingredients for the Sunbutter layer:

1 cup, all natural, no sugar added Sunbutter

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

4 + 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Directions: 

Place Sunbutter, sugar and butter in a medium size bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.  Set aside.

Now prepare the caramel.

Ingredients for caramel:

2 cups sugar

3/4 light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Sea Salt for sprinkling

Directions:

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan.  Using your hand or a pastry brush, wipe down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan with water.  Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil.  Again wipe down any stray sugar crystals.  Do not stir the caramel from this point on.  The mixture will bubble vigorously.  When the syrup begins to turn golden brown, insert a candy thermometer.  When it reaches 300F, remove the pan from the heat.  Allow to rest for 1 minute.  Add heavy cream and stir until smooth, then whisk in the condensed milk.  Next, add the salt.  Whisk until smooth.

Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 240F.  Remove from heat and pour over cooled shortbread.  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for 2 hours.  While the caramel layer sets prepare the chocolate glaze.

Ingredients for chocolate glaze:

6 ounces of dark chocolate- chocolate chips are fine

3 tablespoons of butter

Directions:

Slowly, melt the butter and the chocolate in the microwave.  (I checked it every 20 seconds.)  Stir well until completely melted and smooth.

Spread Sunbutter mixture evenly over caramel  layer.  Pour the melted chocolate over the Sunbutter layer.  Smooth with an offset spatula.  Decorate with holiday sprinkles, if desired.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.  They are easiest to cut when cold.  Cut into squares, big or small and serve.  Enjoy!

**If taking to a party, cut into squares when cold.  Store in an air-tight container in between layers of parchment paper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.**

5 DIY Sweet Treat Links

If you love chocolate turtles check out Creme de la Crumb’s 3 ingredient caramel cashew clusters.  My mouth is watering!

One of my favorite sweet treats is chocolate covered almonds.  Sally’s Baking Addiction has a recipe for sea salt dark chocolate almond clusters that is now on my  must make soon list.

Love truffles?  Make your own!  Head to Alexandra’s Kitchen for her boozy Grand Marnier chocolate truffles recipe.

Screw moderation.  Make  I Am Baker’s Halloween saltine toffee candy and eat every last bite.  You deserve it!

Dealing with nut-allergies?  We are too.  I feel your anxiety especially around Halloween. Head to The Kitchn  and check out 5 nut-free Halloween treats that are sure to make your kids smile.

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies + 5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

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Memories, good and bad, often flash inside my mind when I bake.  They come on strong, and leave me laughing or tear me apart; throwing off my baking zen either way.

“Mama my eye hurts.” G. “What happened? Lets have a look.” Me.

I didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t know this was just the beginning of a very long day.

I give my Dad and his wife a hug good-bye, and buckle G into his car seat. Bubba starts the car.  N sleeps peacefully in his car seat and C happily sucks on a lollipop. “I can’t believe the Easter bunny is coming tomorrow!”

We head home.

He starts to cry. I turn around. Hives cover his arms, legs and chest.  His eye lid is now the size of a golf ball.

“He is reacting.” (To what? I checked all the candy.  I always check.)

Bubba pulls over; I give G a teaspoon of Benadryl.  He won’t calm down.  This should work, I tell myself.  We get back on the highway.

He is hysterical.  “My throat!” G.

“Mama, Daddy!” C.

Breathe. This is happening.  He is having an anaphylactic reaction.  The doctors mentioned this could happen. Remember?  You know what to do.  You played this scenario over and over, in your head, while your body ran; ran miles and miles in the rain, the sun, the bitter cold. Ran.

For a moment, amid the chaos I realize I’ve made the decision. I pull the dreaded epi-pen from my bag, unbuckle my seat belt and jam the auto-injector into my son’s thigh. He screams. C cries. “Mommy, no!” N is still somehow asleep.  Bubba drives fast and remains calm.  We are many miles from an emergency room.

Within minutes G is calm. The hives are still visible, bloodied from his constant scratching.  His eye remains swollen.  “I feel better now.” The epi-pen worked. 

We arrive at the ER and a nurse evaluates him immediately.  She detects wheezing.  G is so sleepy. Poor boy. We are escorted to a room where we spend the next 6 hours watching our son sleep peacefully on a hospital bed, the ER physician checking in every hour to see how we are doing.  Bubba kisses G on the forehead, he looks tired, and worried; tears ready to pour down his cheeks, if only he would let them.  He takes C and N home, where my sister-in-law waits for them. I wait and watch our boy.

He wakes up and asks for something to eat, as if nothing happened.  We just aged 10 years in 6 hours.  He won’t understand that kind of worry until he has kids someday. He happily eats a turkey sandwich.

It is 10 pm and we are home again. G climbs up to his sleeping sister’s bunk and says “C____ I’m back.” She hugs him.  He wants to play.  “Time to go to bed G. The Easter bunny is coming tonight!”

Bubba and I spend the next two hours hiding Easter eggs and putting together their baskets.  We climb into bed, exhausted.  We snuggle up to each other, holding on tight, tighter than usual.

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Slightly sweet with a hint of salt, Sunbutter is a tasty peanut-free alternative. The original recipe called for peanut butter and peanut butter cups, which I replaced with Sunbutter and chocolate chips.  The result is a perfectly sweet and moist brownie with just enough chocolate chips.  I love blondies because the possibilities are endless. Get creative!

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies

makes 12 bars

recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup Sunbutter (I used natural.)

1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 tbsp. milk ( I used 1 percent.)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Cooking spray

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9 inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine Sunbutter, melted butter, milk and eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl until the wet ingredients are well incorporated.  Add the Sunbutter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about an hour. Cut into squares and serve. The bars will last at room temperature, in an air-tight container for about 2 days. Enjoy!

5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

If  you love Butterfingers, head over to Jelly Toast for Emily’s peanut-free butterfingers recipe!

Looking for a nut-free Nutella? Momables has a recipe for sunflower Nutella and it sounds delicious. Check it out!

Last year I made chocolate and sunbutter pretzel bars. Bubba and the kids went nuts for them. Head over to my blog for the recipe.

Instead of making peanut butter granola bars for the kids, how about trying sunflower seed granola bars with chocolate drizzle? Averie Cooks has the recipe for you.

Divvies allergen friendly chocolate cupcake recipe is a staple in our house for birthday parties.

Chocolate + Sunbutter Pretzel Bars

 

 

_KH10023When G turned one I made vanilla cupcakes with a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I dyed the frosting orange since his birthday is in October and carefully decorated each cupcake. We couldn’t wait for our sweet boy to take a bite of his first birthday cupcake. Friends and family came over to celebrate his first year. Balloons were everywhere and our camera was ready . After we sang Happy Birthday, I placed the cupcake in front of him and he immediately ate it. Within minutes of eating the cupcake, G broke out into hives, his face turned red and swelled. I didn’t understand what was happening. My mom, who is a nurse, said he was having an allergic reaction and to give him Benadryl. I remember thinking, “an allergic reaction? to what?” The Benadryl worked.

The next day I called his pediatrician and that was first time I heard the words: food allergy. He suggested we see a pediatric allergist. Within a couple of weeks, G was tested for the 8 major food allergens. I thought eggs would come back positive because the frosting contained egg whites. It did. I never thought peanuts would come back positive. In fact, I could hardly believe it when the allergist told me. She handed me a prescription for an epi-pen and sent us on our way. I was in shock and completely overwhelmed. I wanted a second opinion so we met with an allergist at Children’s Hospital in Boston who retested G. Once again, his tests revealed an egg and peanut allergy. I was told to completely avoid eggs and peanuts; and to have an epi-pen with us at all times. The fear and anxiety immediately set in. My mind raced with questions. How would I manage this for him and our family?

A few weeks, after we got our epi-pen prescription we had a play date with some friends. Shortly, after snack time G broke out into hives all over chest and face, his eye lids swelled and he kept grabbing at his tongue. I gave him two shots of Benadryl and it slowed his reaction. We left immediately and called his doctor. I was told to never hesitate to use the epi-pen. The Benadryl stopped his reaction this time; but next time it may not. I called Bubba in tears. I let this happen, but how?! I brought a safe snack for him. He didn’t eat what the other kids ate. I watched him carefully. What happened? My friend who hosted the play date told me her kids ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch and she didn’t wipe the down the table. G reacted to a peanut butter smear that was left on the table where they ate snack. I didn’t see it.

Our lives changed drastically after G’s diagnosis. He has since outgrown his egg allergy so I no longer need to bake without eggs. He is highly allergic to peanuts so we are extremely careful. A safe dessert is always brought with us. We vet restaurants before we go. Air travel requires multiple calls to the airline to make sure a peanut free buffer zone is created around us. Long road trips to see family demands a large cooler filled with our meals and snacks for the day. Food isn’t easy for us. His allergy is constant worry for us; but we try to focus and what he can eat and not what he can’t eat.

I recently came across a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars on the food blog How To: Simplify. (Check out this blog if you haven’t already! The recipes are great and the photography is beautiful.) I decided to make a peanut free version. In my recipe I use SunButter in place of peanut butter. SunButter is made of sunflowers seeds. It has the same consistency as peanut butter and is slightly sweet. Also, I browned the butter to add a nutty flavor to the crust without the nuts!

The combination of the chocolate, SunButter and crushed pretzels makes for a perfect salty and sweet, peanut free treat. This is great treat to take to school or serve at birthday parties.

_KH10002 Whisk together flour, crushed Rold Gold Pretzels (a peanut free brand) and confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Add browned butter and combined with your fingers until moist.

Line 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Press crust dough evenly across pan and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

I use Guittard Chocolate Chips which are processed in a peanut free facility. They are also taste like real chocolate. I found them at our local Whole Foods. Melt the chocolate slowly and mix in the SunButter.

_KH10015Pour chocolate and SunButter mixture over the warm crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle crushed pretzels on top. Be sure to gently press the pretzels into the chocolate. Pop it into the freezer and allow it to chill for an hour. Once frozen, remove from pan and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature, chilled or frozen. Share with friends!

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Chocolate + Sunbutter Pretzels Bars

Make about 16 small bars or 9 very large bars

Recipe adapted from How To: Simplify

Ingredients:

For Crust:

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup ground Rold Gold Pretzels

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 unsalted butter melted and browned

For Topping:

2 cups peanut free milk chocolate chips

1 cup creamy SunButter at room temperature

1 cup crushed Rold Gold pretzels

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. Be sure the parchment paper hangs over the sides so you can easily lift out the bars later. Crush pretzels in a food processor until ground.

Whisk together crushed pretzels, flour and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. Melt 1/2 cup of unsalted butter whisking frequently. Watch very carefully as little brown pieces begin to form and the butter smells nutty. Remove from heat and allow butter to cool for a bit. Add browned butter to flour mixture and combine with your fingers. Press dough into pan evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes. While the crust bakes, make topping.

Melt chocolate in a glass bowl set over simmering water. Be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Add room temperature SunButter to chocolate mixture and stir.

Remove crust from the oven. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle with crushed pretzels and press the pretzels gently into the chocolate mixture. Pop into the freezer and chill for 1 hour. Remove from freezer and cut into squares. You can serve them frozen, chilled or at room temperature. I liked them chilled but any temperature will work and taste great!