Category: Food

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Cracker Sandwiches

I hesitate to call this a recipe as you aren’t cooking or baking anything, you’re building. However, there is melted chocolate involved, which means a stove top, which means an opportunity to burn something. So, in that case, I suppose this is a recipe after all. Unless you’re using a microwave of course. I won’t be describing that method here though.

After experiencing a shift of life values last August, I decided to really focus on spending more time with the good people in my life. At the time it was common for me to make excuses why I can’t hang out, cancel last minute, or go months without talking to a friend. Not that all that isn’t okay – friendships can stand the test of silent periods – but it I really wanted to have less of that in my life. And more quality time in general.

So I started hosting Sunday dinners for friends once a month. This wasn’t a dinner party. It was just a (very) small gathering of my friends over delicious food. I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, people will eat anything that is cooked for them. I don’t need to spend all day making a gourmet meal. My friends will happily eat Sloppy Joe’s and that’s a delicious meal I do not have to stress over.

But it does give me a chance to try to new recipes. I love baking but don’t do it unless I have an event to make something for. And these dinner’s are perfect for that. That is how I found myself perusing my recipe box last weekend, deciding on a recipe titled “Grandma’s Porters Corners Crackers”. The recipe wasn’t quite descriptive enough so I took what was there and combined it with some Google research.

In the end, I combined crackers, peanut butter, and melted chocolate to make the tastiest dessert! Even though everyone recommends this for the holidays, it’s a perfect snack for any time. These freeze incredibly well and you can eat them with little thawing. In fact, they come fairly close to tasting like one of those peanut butter patty girl scout cookies. Almost.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Cracker Sandwiches

assemble the sandwiches  using just plain ritz crackers and creamy peanut butter
assemble the sandwiches using just plain ritz crackers and creamy peanut butter

Assemble The Sandwiches

Put together creamy peanut butter between two Ritz crackers to make a sandwich. Some recipes recommend making a frosting with the peanut butter but that is too sweet for me. I just used regular peanut butter. Once you have a bunch of sandwiches, I made about 36, put them in the freezer for about 30-minutes.

This is a general good practice when coating anything in chocolate. The chocolate is warm and will easily melt whatever you’re trying to cover. At the very least, it will make everything far messier and more difficult to work with than it needs to be. So, freeze the sandwiches. You just can’t be in a rush for this.

chocolate covering pb crackers station in my tiny brooklyn kitchen
chocolate covering station in my tiny brooklyn kitchen

Melt The Chocolate

Now, when it comes to melting chocolate, there are some tricks. In general, it’s really quite easy. For years I managed to melt chocolate directly on the stove top over a burner without scorching it. But, I don’t recommend this. Why? Because using a double boiler is so much easier! I cobbed one together by using a large stock pot and a smaller sauce pot. Boil water in the stock pot, then set your sauce pot in it so it is being heated by the boiling water. This is hot enough to melt the chocolate without worrying about scorching it with direct flame.

I use regular Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate. You can use chocolate candies or bark or chocolate chips. Another trick here, when actually melting the chocolate in the pot (or if you plan to use the microwave) add a tiny bit of oil to the chocolate. This helps it stay smooth and makes it easier to work with while doing the actual covering.

chocolate covered pb crackers easy to decorate with rainbow sprinkles
experimenting with different sprinkles for decorations

Coat and Cover

Covering items with chocolate is rather tedious. Again, you can’t rush it. Drop your sandwich in the melted chocolate. Then with a fork, move it around, flip it over, put chocolate on top of it. Until it’s covered. Then lift your sandwich out of there on top of the fork. Another trick, tap against the side of the pot to get excess chocolate off. This helps to prevent a mess and make the chocolate more uniform. Also, you’re not wasting chocolate. Once you’ve made nice loud tapping noises that annoy the cats, gently drop the sandwich onto wax paper.

Lay out the wax paper on a large baking sheet so you can easily transport this to the refrigerator to cool later on. You can put the sandwiches very close together as well. As soon as you drop down the sandwich, be ready to decorate with sprinkles. You want to do this while the chocolate is still warm and they will stick.

Now just repeat the process. About half way through, the chocolate will likely start to cool and become harder to work with. Simply put the pot back in the boiling water (which should have been on low all this time). Set it in for about 5-minutes and you’ll notice it’s whipped right back into shape. This is also why the double boiler is much easier to handle than direct heat.

peanut butter ritz cracker sandwiches cooling after being covered in chocolate
pb ritz sandwiches, covered in chocolate and cooling on pan (on wax paper)

Freeze, Wait, Eat

Once you have all the sandwiches covered with chocolate, decorated, and on the wax paper, pick up the whole pan and pop it into the freezer. Leave it there for at least 30 minutes if not longer.

Since these aren’t factory-chocolate-covered, they will get gooey quickly. I recommend keeping them in the refrigerator until serving. Then popping them back in the fridge throughout the evening. Keep a plate in the fridge at all times and rotate. Definitely store them overnight in the fridge. Long-term store them in the freezer.

These also work well for goodie bags; as long as you store in the fridge until handing them out. I put them in clear plastic treat bags frozen, tied with a ribbon, then put them in the fridge until the afternoon where I handed them out to co-workers. I love that these require very few decorating skills because I have very few decorating skills.

When to Use Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap for Wrapping Food

When to Use Aluminum Foil or Plastic Wrap for Wrapping Food

plastic wrap or aluminum foil when wrapping food

Overtime, I’ve learned to heavily rely on plastic wrap, especially, and sometimes aluminum foil, for wrapping food. I stopped using both plastic baggies and plastic containers quite a few years ago. Using solely glass containers, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil – I eat leftovers all the time, never throw food out, and feel much less wasteful

Years ago I abandoned plastic baggies and no longer buy them. This was a conscious decision after spending one evening rinsing them out to re-use again. I felt so ridiculous that I quickly realized plastic baggies are wasteful, whether you re-use them or not. They can’t do anything that plastic wrap or aluminum foil can’t do. With one exception, plastic baggies are useful for item storage (not food storage) like puzzle pieces, board game cards, etc. But for food, don’t bother.

Not too long after that, I also gave up on plastic containers. Since I lived with roommates, I would always use their leftover chinese takeout plastic containers. But it’s such a hassle. You have a cupboard overflowing with containers and lids, few of them matching. Sometimes the plastic will melt in the microwave. Or the plastic will stain. Or start to smell funny. And there’s nothing like eating out of a plastic container to remind yourself that you’re eating yesterday’s leftovers.

However, it took me some time to figure out exactly what food is best wrapped in plastic wrap and which is best wrapped in aluminum foil. Plus, there’s some other really good uses for both other than food. Also, wrapping food tightly in wrap or foil takes up far less space in your fridge or freezer than all those plastic containers.

Plastic Wrap

Sealing Containers for Leftovers or Liquids
Honestly, I use plastic wrap a lot. I can get by without aluminum foil, but not plastic wrap. For leftovers, I do have a nice set of glass bowls & lids that I use a lot. But sometimes I want to use a plate or a serving bowl for leftovers. And plastic wrap is perfect for this. Although it may not stick very well to plastic containers, it works great on glass/ceramics; like actual serving plates, bowls, and glasses.

I trust the plastic wrap enough to wrap it over a bowl with pasta + sauce, then tip the bowl sideways and put it in my bag everyday to go to work. It has yet to fail me. And I don’t mean the fancy ‘press n seal’ kind. Just the every day original kind. Besides, even when I’m just eating lunch at my desk at work, I still prefer eating out leftovers out of a real bowl with a real fork. It makes it feel like I’m eating an actual meal, not just reheating something in plastic.

Freezing Foods
I’ve previously mentioned that a key to making perfect chocolate chip cookies, is refrigerating the cookie dough for at least 24-hours before baking; or freezing beforehand. During this process, the best thing to use to wrap up the dough is plastic wrap. It makes a tight seal to prevent the dough from drying out or absorbing other odors in the fridge. I just directly wrap up the whole ball of dough with wrap and set it in the fridge.

I also use this same method when freezing food. Either cookie dough or meats, especially chicken. I just wrap it all up in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer. I have never had any problems with this. Though, if you’d prefer, you can then wrap that up in foil, if you’re worried about freezer burn. Just be sure to use plastic wrap first.

I tend to buy the family pack of chicken breasts when it goes on sale, then I come home and immediately slice them up into single servings for me. I’ll wrap up a few pieces in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. This way no food goes to waste and I don’t have to make 10 chicken breasts all at once. When I want the chicken, I just take out one of the bundles from the freezer and put it in the fridge; with a plate under it because it will leak chicken juices. Plastic wrap works very well for freezing up smaller sized portions in the fridge.

Storing Foods
Plastic wrap is great for providing a tight steal to really keep foods fresh. I use this method for cheese all the time. Whenever I open a block of cheese, I take it out of it’s original packaging then wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge. As long as the plastic wrap is tightly sealed, the cheese will last a really long time that way. I would’t know though, I eat those things so quickly.

This is also a useful method for sauces and dips when you don’t want them to get a film on top. For guacamole, hummus, or any other sauce, just lay the plastic wrap directly on top of the dip then push it against the sides to create a tight seal along the bowl or plate. Make sure all the dip is sealed tightly in the plastic without air. This also prevents avocados from browning.

When To Use Aluminum Foil

Reheating Leftovers
Now that I no longer have a microwave, I use the oven for everything including heating up leftovers. For awkward leftovers like pasta or mashed potatoes, aluminum foil really comes in handy for re-heating. I’ll usually just put the leftover food directly on a rectangle of aluminum foil, wrap it up into a sealed packet, then place it directly on the rack in the oven. I’ll put the temperature to warm and wait a bit. Of course the oven takes longer to reheat than zapping food in the microwave. But it all comes out at an even temperature and the foil packet helps keep pasta moist.

Liner/Separator For Baking
Because aluminum foil is oven-friendly, it is very useful in baking. You can either use it as a separator when cooking multiple food in the same pan. Or also when baking multiple cakes. For example, I’ve made separator’s out of foil when baking different color cakes in the same pan. The foil is sturdy enough to separate the batter and can withstand the heat of the oven; without tainting the taste of your food. You can also line a pan with foil to help with clean-up.

Oddly enough, wrap and foil are two products where the generic version just does not hold up. Store-brand plastic wrap just sticks together or is so thin it rips apart before you can even use it. You’ll end up throwing away the whole thing without barely using it. Splurge on the name-brand larger size of both foil and plastic wrap.

Birthday Fun with Funfetti Cupcakes

Birthday Fun with Funfetti Cupcakes

It has become a tradition that I make my friend Allison’s birthday cakes for her every March. Previously I made her an Inside Out Rubik’s Cube Cake and a Pinata Cake. This year I toned down the birthday cake project by making simple but still fun Funfetti Cupcakes.

Both the cake and frosting recipes are straight out of How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. If you don’t have the book, download the iOS app ($4) for access to all the recipes. (Not sponsored, just trying to help)

I used the Golden Layer Cake recipe from the book above. My only modification was adding 1/2 Cup of Rainbow Sprinkles for the “funfetti” part. This is my favorite yellow cake mix. The Almond Extract makes the flavor so don’t skip out on that. Then I made the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe as it was. The recipe calls for 4 Cup of powdered sugar but it took me about 6 Cups to get a stiff enough consistency to decorate.

The recipe directions in the book are only for a layer cake, not cupcakes. So, I ended up with 20 cupakes in total instead of the desired 24. The cooking time for the cupcakes was still accurate to the 25-minutes given for the cake. I baked one tin at a time for 10-minutes, turned it around in the oven, then baked for another 5-minutes. Then let it cool on a rack for 5-minutes before taking the cupcakes out to cool on a separate rack. As always, wait until the cupcakes have completely cooled before frosting.

I’ve never been all that good at cake decorating so I used assistance to help jazz up these cupcakes. With a vanilla cake and vanilla frosting, I used sprinkles and cupcake wrappers to add color. Each cupcake had different types of sprinkles on it and was in a different color wrapper. It’s tedious but the best way to add sprinkles is one-at-a-time placed by hand. The variety of colors was subtle but really added to the presentation. Everything was finished off with happy birthday candles and a song.

I have several friends with birthdays this week so Happy Birthday to all of you!