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I spent most of last week in Austin hanging out with my sister and her family. It was a trip I planned months ago, for no other reason than to see their new house and get a chance to spend many days playing trains with my 2-year-old nephew, Emmett.
One of Emmett’s favorite things to do is to pretend to make food (pizza and soup are two of his regulars). Because of that, I thought it would be fun to do a real food project with him. To maintain my sanity, I went in search of a no-bake cookie recipe and came up with Trisha Yearwood’s Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares.
You start by crushing up enough pretzels to make two cups of crumbs. I put them in a big zip-top bag and told Emmett to break them. He put the bag on the floor and jumped up and down on it. He enjoyed it greatly and it worked perfectly. Once they’re crushed, stir in melted butter, powdered sugar and peanut butter until fairly well integrated. I got it started so that the sugar wouldn’t explode everywhere and then let Emmett help with the stirring.
When that base layer is fully combined, pat it into a baking pan. This is another opportunity for a kiddo to help. I put a sheet of aluminum foil down and had him help me push it flat.
Finally, melt some chocolate with a bit more peanut butter, then spread that out over the pretzel crust. Once that’s done, cover the pan and pop it into the fridge. Because I am trying to make myself known as the fun aunt, I also let Emmett lick the remaining melted chocolate off the spatula. He was in heaven.
We took the finished bars to a spur-of-the-moment potluck where they were devoured in short order. It’s such a good, easy recipe for cooking with kids, last-minute gatherings and your very next Weekender.
Before you start assembling, read these tips:
— If you don’t have a small child to crush your pretzels and you want to make quick work of them, use a food processor to pulse them into crumbs.
— To emphasize the salty aspect of these bars, ease back on the powdered sugar just a bit (next time I make them, I plan on doing just that).
— Make sure to give this recipe plenty of time to chill in the fridge. You want that chocolate to set firmly.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her second cookbook, Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces, is now available for pre-order.