Posts Tagged ‘peanut butter’

You already know that my pants don’t fit.  I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to diet around this time of year.  It is so cold out that the last thing I want to eat is salad.  What really appeals to me are dishes like chili, lasagna, fresh baked cookies… comfort food.  Add on holiday celebrations, office treats, and Christmas candy sales; I am hopeless.  Well, it is fair to say that I won’t lose any weight in the last week or so of December, but I will do anything I can not to gain more weight.  As a result, I am making an effort to lighten up some of the desserts I am making over the next few hours weeks.

cheesecake 2

Honestly, I don’t do well “giving up” anything. I don’t do well with portion control either.  The first step in trying to combat that is pre-portioning desserts.  The other thing I like to do is take out some of the fat and calories where it won’t be missed.  Previously I’ve made ice cream desserts that taste delicious but are made with lots of low-guilt ingredients.  Well, I decided to make Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes using lower fat cream cheese with a few more decadent ingredients to balance them out.

cheesecake 5

These cheesecakes are made with a crunchy pretzel crust, a creamy peanut butter filling and chocolate chips snuck in as a layer above the crust and throughout batter.  By the way, you’d be so proud of me.  I only ate two of them!  That may or may not be because I gave some to friends and left the rest in my parents fridge.  Sorry, Mom:-)

cheesecake 4

This recipe is actually very easy and revolves mostly around a food processor.  I figured if I needed to take out the appliance for making a crust, I might as well use it for the cheesecake batter too!

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels


Run them through until they are mostly fine crumbs


In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

adding butter

Add sugar

adding sugar

Stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Mixing crust

Press a couple tablespoons of crust ingredients into two muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for about 6 minutes

crust pre-baking

When crust comes out of oven, layer with several milk chocolate and caramel chips

chips on crust 1

Regular chocolate chips would also work, but I really like the combination of caramel, chocolate and peanut butter; set pan aside

chocolate caramel chips

Meanwhile, prepare cheesecake batter; you can shake out the crumbs from the food processor, no need to wash it

cream cheese 1

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

cream cheese 2

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt

adding sugar flour and vanilla

Combine well

sugar flour vanilla mixed

Add your eggs

add eggs

Measure 1 cup of peanut butter chips

peanut butter chips

Microwave about 45 seconds and stir; microwave in additional 20 second increments until chips are melted; note this will be very thick

melted pb chips

Add peanut butter to cheesecake batter

add peanut butter

Process until smooth and creamy

pb mixed in

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl and fold in chocolate chips

fold in chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter in muffin tins

badder in pan 1

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until mostly firm

baked 2

Serve drizzled with chocolate and caramel or sprinkled with pretzel crumbs

cheesecake 12

Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes, lightened up

Makes 24 mini-cheesecakes


1 1/2 cups finely ground pretzel crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, separated

1 8-ounce block fat free cream cheese, softened

1 8-ounce block reduced fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter chips*, melted

1/2 cup milk chocolate and caramel chips

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels and run them through until finely ground

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Press mixture into two sets of muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for 6 minutes

When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle a few milk chocolate and caramel chips into each cup; set aside

Shake crumbs out of food processor and use it to prepare cheesecake batter

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt; cream until well combined

Add eggs and mix well

Add melted peanut butter chips to cheesecake batter and process until smooth and creamy

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl; fold in chocolate chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter into each cup

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until tops are mostly firm


*You can replace these with regular peanut butter (not natural)

The peanut butter flavor isn’t really strong; some people may prefer this but I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter chips next time (using regular peanut butter could also help)

cheesecake 7

cheesecake 11

Are you worried about weight gain during the holidays?

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I love peanut butter.  If a day goes by where I don’t have it, I experience withdrawal symptoms.  A few days without it? Don’t mess with me.

peanut butter

As much as I loved being in Italy for my honeymoon this summer, going without peanut butter for almost two weeks may have been enough to convince me that getting back to real life still kind of sucks isn’t so bad after all.

Oatmeal with peanut butter? Good.  Banana and peanut butter? Yum.  Ants on a log? Underrated children’s snack.  Chocolate and peanut butter? The pair should have its own show.

cooke sand 6

You may remember that my Thanksgiving with Friends featured eight desserts.  I enjoyed coming up with a fun and delicious variety of pick-up baked goods, but was stuck when it came to THE peanut butter and chocolate item.  You have seen my fan favorite cookie bar and the peanut butter brownies with chocolate ganache.  So have my friends.  Both items were a hit, so I knew when it came to my peanut butter loving friends, I was going to have to outdo myself.

cooke sand 4

Well, I did.  If you are human like peanut butter and chocolate, you are going to LOVE these.  The one upside to marrying a crazy wonderful man who DISLIKES peanut butter? More for me!

cookies baked 4

These Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling start with a rich chewy cookie dough, used here, and are slathered with a creamy peanut butter filling that is irresistible.  Salty and sweet, chewy and creamy.  Oh, and these cookies are even good eaten right out of the freezer, not that I would know.  Have I mentioned my pants don’t fit?

Begin by making the cookies

dry ingred 2

Mix together the dry ingredients- flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside

dry ingred 3

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer

butter and sugar for cookie

Beat until light and fluffy

butter and sugar for cookie 2

Beat in the sugar, eggs and vanilla

adding eggs and vanilla

Mix well

egg mixed in

Gradually add your dry ingredients with mixer on low, then mix at medium speed until well-combined

mixing dry ingred

Next up, milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips

choc chips

Stir in the chips

mixing chips

Use a cookie dough scoop for the most uniform cookiesscooping dough

A tablespoon will also work; beware, the dough will be sticky when shaping into balls

dough to bake

Cookies will flatten while baking, that is expected

cookies baked

Let them cool on wire racks

cookies baked 1

While cookies are cooling, make your filling

butter for icing

Cream softened butter until light and smooth

butter creamed

Add peanut butter and cream some more

add peanut butter

Beware of the incredible aromaPB mixed in

Mix in sugar

adding sugar

When mixture is smooth and creamy, it is done

filling done

Time to make your sandwiches

set up

Slather a tablespoon or two onto the bottom of one cookie

filling on cookie

Cover with another cookie and gently press down

cooke sand 2


cooke sand 1

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

Cookie recipe from Hershey’s

Makes ~2 dozen cookie sandwiches

Cookie Ingredients:

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Dash of salt

1 ¼ cup (2 ½ stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups granulated Sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 3/4 cup salted natural creamy peanut butter

1 cup powdered sugar

Cookie Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375

Mix together the dry ingredients, except for sugar, and set aside

Cream butter and sugar

Beat in the, eggs and vanilla

Gradually add dry ingredients with mixer on low;  then mix at medium speed until well-combined

Stir in chocolate chips

Drop dough in heaping tablespoons on baking sheets lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until cookies are slightly puffy

Let cool on cooling rack

Filling Directions:

Beat butter until light and creamy

Beat in peanut butter

Mix in confectioners sugar on low speed and then beat until light and fluffy

Sandwich Directions:

When cookies are cool, spread one to two tablespoons of filling on the bottom of a cookie

Top with a second cookie and lightly press down


cooke sand 5

Do you know anyone that can resist peanut butter and chocolate?

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dinner 2

Lots of desserts

dessert table 4


bar 2

More meat

dinner 3

Delicious side dishes


Too many desserts

dessert table 2


guests guests 2 lauren sara

guests newlyweds



decor 2

decor 3

room 1

Much too many desserts

dessert table after

More food than one could imagine out of a NYC kitchen


More people than you’d usually fit in a 1-bedroom apartment

getting food

5 Years of Thanksgiving with Friends

Five years ago, in what started out as a “dinner club” with two other couples, Matt and I hosted our first mock Thanksgiving dinner with friends.  Four friends came to Matt’s apartment at the time for a turkey, sweet potato casserole, and some other dishes that aren’t memorable enough to stand out in my mind.  It was a fun night and such a success that in the years that followed, our intimate dinner party of six has turned into an annual event with almost twenty friends.  It gives us an opportunity to be in the kitchen together, share an evening with many of our closest friends, and show them how thankful we are for them through delicious food.

matt lauren cooking

This year’s dinner was so much fun and full of many tasty traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes: Turkey, Brisket, Turkey Meatloaf, Salad, String Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

dinner 1

And of course, as you surely already know, lots of desserts

dessert table 5

Cookie sandwiches: Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches with White Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mocha Ganache and Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

sandwich cookies 2

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake bars

bars on plate 1

Cookie Dough Topped Brownies

cooke dough brownies

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

caramel bars

Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Bars

Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream and Mocha Ganache

I am excited about the recipes I have to share from the dinner party over the next few weeks!  There are definitely some new desserts that I know I’ll be making again

What is your favorite Thanksgiving-related tradition?

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