Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.
I'm not sure what families do when their children aren't allowed to have peanut butter at their schools. I think my oldest would have to be home schooled. He doesn't eat cold cuts, tuna fish, or cheese. He likes pastas and pizza and even tomato soup (motto: if it looks like ketchup, it must be okay), but he won't touch most of the other foods the school offers, including things that are supposed to be classic kid foods: hamburgers, chicken nuggets, burritos. He is, in fact, a vegetarian--not through any kind of a choice except that of his palate. He just doesn't like meat. Or beans. Or most nuts. Which means he is kept alive with peanut butter and whole wheat bread.
Fortunately, I like peanuts too. And even more fortunately there are no peanut allergies in this family and no peanut bans at his school.
In their original conception, these peanut butter and jelly bars were meant as a dessert. But like so many desserts containing peanuts, I saw some potential for a breakfast cookie. And I'm glad I did.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
(butter: .30, sugar: .10, egg: .10, peanut butter: .32, whole wheat flour: .18, jam: .25)
1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/3 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C peanut butter
1 Tbsp milk
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp jam
1/3 C chopped peanuts (optional--wasn't a hit in my family; now if I'd used chopped chocolate chips...)
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease 9x9 inch square pan.
Cream butter and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Add vanilla, eggs, peanut butter, and milk. Mix until well combined.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Dough will be very thick.
Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan. Glop on the jam and spread it around evenly. Plop the remaining dough over the top and very gently press it so that it is flat-ish. If you don't, it will come out a bit crumbly on top. Not a problem, but a little messier (note: it's going to be a little crumbly on top no matter what you do, unless you'd like to add more butter so that the batter will spread on its own; if you do, I promise not to tattle to the breakfast police).
Bake for about 30 minutes. These bars are tough to test for doneness. Why? Because even if you stick a fork in the original uncooked batter, it will come out fairly clean. Fortunately, this is good even if it's not completely done. And fortunately, I've made these a couple times and 30 minutes is fairly accurate, though that is not a guarantee or a promise for your oven and you may not sue me if your bars are not done at 30 minutes, thank you. Now, how do I check it, you ask. I take a small centimeter sized chunk out of the middle and look at the bottom layer. If it is still goopy, I put the pan back in. Yes, I have a lot of finesse as a chef. Which is why I get paid the big bucks.
Note: You can use jelly, but jam works best. The jelly doesn't leave much of a fruity line in these already pared down bars. Also, I wanted to make a honey-filled version and did. I used 2 oz cream cheese and mixed it with 4 Tbsp honey, which created two problems. First, the honey flavor was somewhat overpowered by the cream cheese flavoring (thus, my kids weren't huge fans). Also, it really needed to be doubled because the line of cream cheese kind of got lost in the baking, but to double something with cream cheese--well, you see the breakfast-y problem here; it's becoming less and less healthy. So we'll just be going with jam in the future, but if you'd like to experiment with honey, be my guest. If you wanted to get fussier, you could puree cottage cheese or drain plain yogurt overnight to get a cream cheese-like yogurt. If you wanted to go more gourmet, you could use ricotta cheese mixed with honey. And if your children will eat such a thing, I salute you.
Note: These are thick little bars. Which means that although they are nutritious, they are a wee bit calorie rich. I'm okay with that sort of thing. But by way of warning, you probably want to eat them slowly and perhaps with a piece of fruit thereby. Otherwise, you might look down to realize you've eaten a half a pan. And lower sugar, lower fat or not, half a pan is a whole lot of breakfast bar.