No-bake Chocolate, Pretzel, and Peanut Butter Squares

FullSizeRenderIt takes longer to type the name of these salty-sweet treats than it does to make them. My friend Sherie made these for the book club babes last time she hosted, and since she’d used Trader Joe’s gluten-free pretzels, all her GF friends were delighted to have sweets they could eat! Then when I was dying for a wheat-free cookie or a bar last week (that didn’t taste like sawdust), I asked her for her recipe. She’d found it on, recipe courtesy of country star Trisha Yearwood. My only adjustment was to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, as that’s what I keep on hand.

All you need for tools is a big bowl for stirring, and a 9″x13″ pan to chill them in. No oven! All you need for ingredients is butter (of course!), pretzels, confectioner’s sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. I found an 8-ounce bag of Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels at Kowalski’s, but I’m sure there’s a good brand at just about any grocery store. The original recipe didn’t call for GF pretzels, so use whatever kind of pretzels your little heart desires, my Valentine. 

These were so easy! (In fact, your kid’s pet hamster could probably make them, unsupervised.) I thought I was making these treats just for me, but my husband loved them, too. In fact he liked them so much he ate half a pan, all by his lone self in two days time. BOOM! He told me someone broke into the house and ate them. They didn’t touch the TV and computers, but ate my bars. Imagine that! Smart thieves.

Ease rating: Judy easy (anyone can make them!)

Makes 20 bars

1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter, melted
2 cups (8-ounce bag) pretzel rods or sticks, crushed into crumbs*
1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1¼ cups smooth peanut butter, divided
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In large bowl, stir together melted butter, pretzel crumbs, confectioner’s sugar, and 1 cup of the peanut butter. (Recipe calls for smooth, but I only buy chunky, so there are visible peanut bits in my chocolate “frosting.”) Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″x13″ pan. Combine the chocolate chips and the remaining ¼ cup peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl or 2-cup measuring cup and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave for additional 30 seconds. Stir again, until peanut butter and chocolate are smooth and creamy. If needed, heat for another 15 or 30 seconds, until all chocolate chips are melted. Spread over peanut-pretzel layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares. Do not need to keep refrigerated once chocolate has cooled. Keep covered, and store at room temperature.

*NOTE: Gluten-free pretzels have a unique texture, and do not crumble quite as easily as regular pretzels. You can try crushing them by putting them in a Ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to pulverize, but I found I needed a food processor to crush them into crumbs.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.