(vegan) school lunch peanut butter bars.

by Janetha on November 23, 2012

in recipes

i LOVED school lunch when i was a kid.

actually, marshall and i were just reminiscing about school lunch today as we made mashed potato-gravy-turkey-roll sandwiches using our thanksgiving leftovers. we were talking about how we used to make the very same thing when it was turkey dinner day for school lunch. you know–when they served you an ice cream scoopful of mashed potatoes and the pad of butter for your roll was ice cold so you had to place it under the warm part of your tray to soften it up a bit. please tell me you did this, too.

being the sugar monster that i am, i was always anxious to see what dessert was on tap each school day. two very specific sweet treats remind me of my elementary years of eating school lunch were those powdered-sugary chocolate crinkle cookies and chewy, delicious peanut butter bars. but not just any peanut butter bars–the ones with a soft-but-chewy, rolled-oat-filled peanut butter cookie layer topped with a thin layer of peanut butter and finally a thick slather of chocolate. do you know the ones i am talking about?

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i hope you do, because if you missed out on these bad boys as a child, i feel like you missed out big time. the same goes for playing the original mario brothers–or duck hunt, depending on your mood–and owning a skip it. two very important parts of childhood, right? right.

so, back to these peanut butter bars. luckily, momma b had a recipe that produced peanut butter bars exactly like the ones served at hannah holbrook elementary. yes, that was my elementary school. maybe that is a reason i am so obsessed with palindromes to this day? side note–i’d love to have a daughter and name her hannah, for the palindrome aspect alone.

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oh, and by the way, hannah holbrook’s mascot was the hooters. i was a holbrook hooter from kindergarden to sixth grade. here’s proof:

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it’s a wonder i didn’t end up serving hot wings and cheap beer to creepy old men on their lunch break.

there i go again, getting off track. PEANUT BUTTER BARS, JANETHA. FOCUS.

so, momma b made these bars often when i was a child. i loved them so much that i made them time and time and TIME again once i was out of the house. so often that i have the recipe memorized. there are only a handful baked goods recipes that i know by heart: the best ever chocolate chip cookies, mini white chocolate cheesecakes, one bowl brownies, and these bars. when i started dating marshall, he lived with a bunch of vegan guys. because of this, i dabbled in vegan baking. one day, i decided to try to veganize my favorite peanut butter bars. it worked. and they taste identical to the originals. true story. of course, you can always make them the non-vegan way if that’s a nonissue for you. but it’s nice to know the option is there.

whether you make the recipe vegan or not, there is one thing i INSIST upon.  you simply MUST use skippy peanut butter!

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i feel like there were only two peanut butter brands when i was a kid: skippy and JIF. it was a battle between the two, and i was most definitely not a JIF kid. we only had skippy in our house and i never ate JIF if i was over at a friends. i feel like this same battle happened between mayo and miracle whip (and we all know mayo wins every time.)

ok, so, really, you CAN use any peanut butter you’d prefer… i actually make my own peanut butter or buy the generic whole foods brand for everyday peanut butter tasks.. but not for these bars. plus, i had to state my piece on skippy. i love it. for me, it’s childhood in a jar. right there with the best food’s mayo.

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school lunch peanut butter bars. (vegan.. or not.)
active time: 10 minutes
bake time: 10 minutes
yield: 28 squares (approximately 2.5″ x 2.5″)

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ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup earth balance or other vegan margarine
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice or white sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce + 1/8 tsp baking soda OR 1 egg (for nonvegan version)
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • more peanut butter for spreading–i’d say 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • 12 oz vegan chocolate chips (i use semi-sweet) OR milk chocolate chips (for nonvegan version)

directions:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees (f) and spray cooking spray on an 11″ x 17″ baking sheet.
  2. cream together first five ingredients: margarine, sugars, applesauce or egg, and peanut butter.
  3. add next five ingredients: vanilla, flour, salt, baking soda, and oats. mix well.
  4. spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet using a rubber spatula or a very clean hand.
  5. bake for ten minutes–it will not look done, but if you over-bake it, they will be hard as a rock.
  6. let cool completely.
  7. spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the bars.
  8. in a double broiler or in the microwave on half-power, melt the chocolate chips.
  9. spread the melted chocolate over the bars. let cool completely so the chocolate hardens a bit.
  10. cut into squares and enjoy!
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step-by-step photo tutorial:

preheat oven to 350 degrees (f) and spray cooking spray on an 11″ x 17″ baking sheet.

cream together first five ingredients: margarine, sugars, applesauce or egg, and peanut butter.

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add next five ingredients: vanilla, flour, salt, baking soda, and oats. mix well.

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spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet using a rubber spatula or a very clean hand.

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bake for ten minutes–it will not look done, but if you over-bake it, they will be hard as a rock. let cool completely.

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spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the bars.

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in a double broiler or in the microwave on half-power, melt the chocolate chips.

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spread the melted chocolate over the bars. let cool completely so the chocolate hardens a bit.

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cut into squares and enjoy!

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Qs~

1. did you eat school lunch growing up? what was your favorite dish/item?

2. let’s hear it–skippy or JIF? mayo or miracle whip?

xo. janetha g.


{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee November 24, 2012 at 5:34 am

The main thing that I remember about school lunch was that on Fridays we could buy ice cream and that was the best day because of that. Well, that and that they served those rectangular pizzas on Fridays too.

My mom ALWAYS bought Jif when I was a kid.

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Michelle @ Eat Move Balance November 24, 2012 at 5:56 am

What I remember most about school lunches were the Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies. So. good. We also got the Nutty Buddy bars every once in a while, too. Ahhhhh, those were the days……

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Katie @ Talk Less, Say More November 24, 2012 at 6:22 am

YUM! Those look absolutely amazing!! We used to have these peanut butter chocolate chip rice krispie balls that were my favorite. I’d rarely ever buy lunch but sometimes my parents would give me some money and I’d get to buy one of those anyway. It must have been the midwest version of the bars. ;)

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Linz @ Itz Linz November 24, 2012 at 6:51 am

This looks amazing!! And sorry to say it, but I’m totally a JIF girl! Although really I love almond butter and sunflower seed butter more than peanut butter….

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles November 24, 2012 at 8:52 am

That’s definitely a childhood treat right there! I’m skippy all the way…I just discovered it a few months ago and now I’m absolutely hooked on the stuff.

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Erica November 24, 2012 at 9:21 am

These look amazing. Drool. The layer of chocolate on top? Amazing

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Erica November 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

PS Did I mention amazing?

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Sara November 24, 2012 at 9:27 am

In my elementary school my favorite lunch was when they had round corn tortilla chips served with taco meat in those little cardboard trays. You could chose to pour cheese over the top or put it in a small cup on the side. I was a sider. No mixture of my beef and cheese please. Best dessert was, simply, two graham crackers sandwiched with vanilla frosting. How boring is that?!

As for PB, it is Peter Pan all the way! Peter Pan for President! ;)

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Calee November 24, 2012 at 10:23 am

I hated school lunch when I was a kid. I remember my friends making those sandwiches on turkey day, and the thought of that STILL makes me gag.

Did I mention I’m the world’s pickiest eater?? Oh wait, you probably already knew that.

But, I do remember those peanut butter bars, and trying to scam them off my friends by offering to swap my cheetohs or other goodies mom packed (yeah, I hated school lunch, but I didn’t love healthy food either). My dad used to make bars in the microwave that were basically these. SO GOOD.

And JIF. And Miracle Whip. All the way. Crunchy. (the PB not the mayo).

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Cheri Z November 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

I never, ever ate school lunch when I was a kid (too expensive). I did eat school lunch at Springville, Utah when I was in college though. I was working 1/2 day in a classroom as part of my ed class. I have to tell you that (according to ever other college student working there) NOWHERE else in the US had school lunches like those found in Utah. The guys in our class lived for lunch … and it quickly became their main meal of the day. It was too calorie laden for the gals to make it a daily event, but we did indulge at least once a week. Man, they were incredible!

Our house was a JIF and MIRACLE WHIP house. It wasn’t until I was out on my own that I realized MW was not mayonnaise. ;-) My current household includes all four, usually depending on what’s on sale. So far the daughter of the house prefers Nutella to either pb, but she’s a huge Best Foods fan. “Would you like some turkey with your mayonnaise?”

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Kristina November 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I am a Skippy girl too. Mayo I am kindof iffy about (I didn’t just say that because it rhymes with Skippy… ;) ), but mayo and Miracle Whip are two totally different things! and Miracle Whip is NO miracle, ew!

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Nicole C November 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Ooh the chalupa was my favorite! Taco shell boat with meat and cheese! Never had any fancy peanut butter bars though.

I’m going with jif. I’ve never known a skippy pb eater until now. And mayo for sure.

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Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner November 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

We have Jif in the house right now, but my sister always liked Skippy. I prefer the all-natural kinds, but if that’s not available I go for Jif. :)

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purelymichelle November 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

these look amazing!!! perfect addition to lunch!

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Kelly November 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I went to a small private school, so we packed our own lunches except for Thursdays, which were “hot lunch” days, when one of the high school classes would prepare the lunch and we could choose to buy or not. I think the general favorite was pizza cups.

No preference Re: Jif or Skippy, as I just grew up with generic or whatever was on sale. Now I love almond butter. And Re: Mayo/Miracle Whip – I like Miracle Whip just as much (or more), so I go for the less calories, and I can’t tell a difference between regular Miracle Whip and the Light version either.

Oh, and Skip It. I was a champion of that (had ankle bruises to prove it, haha)

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Kelly November 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I went to a small private school, so we packed our own lunches except for Thursdays, which were “hot lunch” days, when one of the high school classes would prepare the lunch and we could choose to buy or not. I think the general favorite was pizza cups.

No preference Re: Jif or Skippy, as I just grew up with generic or whatever was on sale. Now I love almond butter. And Re: Mayo/Miracle Whip – I like Miracle Whip just as much, so I go for the less calories, and I can’t tell a difference between regular Miracle Whip and the Light version either.

Oh, and Skip It. I was a champion of that (had ankle bruises to prove it, haha)

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Meg November 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Oh my gosh. My husband and I were just talking about skip-it and the joy it brought to my heart! I have actually been on the search for a pogo-ball for the last few months! Why don’t they make toys like that anymore?!

Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for posting!

I always brought my lunch in elementary school but my fave thing was home-made lunchables. My mom refused to buy the prepackaged ones so she made me her own and they were delicious!

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candace grubbs November 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

my mom packed my lunch till i was in middle school i used to eat the subs and little debbie snacks they had nothing exciting. when i used to eat mayo i loved miracle whip and now the kind of peanut butter i eat is the one with only peanuts in it. but before i started eating clean i liked JIF

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lindsay November 25, 2012 at 6:48 am

i loved the tuesday pizza and cookies n cream ice cream sandwiches. Looking back, i am pretty sure this was all from the 7 eleven freezer section down the road. ha! Your bars would have been much better.
;-)

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Kerryne November 25, 2012 at 9:31 am

YUMMMM!!!!!!!!!! Those were my favorite too! I LOVED school lunch and can’t even remember a time that I even took a cold lunch (home lunch) to school growing up. So many fun memories for surround hot lunch!

Totally not picky as to which PB I have to have however I am SOOOO with you on the MAYO situation. Miracle whip is disgusting! EW!

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Jessiker November 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

That photo of you!!!!!!!

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Biz November 25, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Happy belated turkey day to you Janetha!

My daughter’s name is Hannah, when I named her nearly 21 years ago, we didn’t know any Hannah’s, now they are everywhere!

Here’s the story from when she was born:
http://mybizzykitchen.com/the-first-person-to-change-my-life-forever/

Our school wasn’t big enough for school lunches until I got to high school. Then it was pizza squares, warm chocolate chip cookies and fries on the side – yep, that was my staple lunch every.single.day.

Of course, I was a four season athlete back then and I could get away with it – so it was no wonder I gained 70 pounds after getting a desk job after college – turns out you can’t eat whatever you want if you don’t exercise!

Hugs!

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Ashley @ Freckles and Spice November 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Jif 100% when I was a kid.

Also, I do not know of these heavenly pb bars as a kid. I loved those ice cream bars that came in pb crunch or strawberry shortcake.

And I need to tell you – literally 30 sec before getting on my google reader and reading this post, I made a list of names I like in my phone and hannah is on there! no. lie. – insane

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sian November 27, 2012 at 11:28 am

you need a print button – so making these for when my kids come home from school. you cant bring peanuts of any kind in any school any more…sigh – there goes the lovely PBJ sandwich ; )

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Janetha November 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm

get out of town, that sucks! i am actually working on converting all my recipes to a print-friendly database, so i will do this one real quick and send you the link!

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Janetha November 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm
sian November 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Thank you!

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Katie November 27, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Oh my god, Janetha, that picture is AMAZING. I hope it is prominently displayed in your home.

I was actually that kid who, in 5th grade, crusaded the school cafeteria for lunch reform. Apparently they got a salad bar a few years later, so woo! But yeah… they made these personal sweet potato pies that were the shit. The fish patty with melted cheese in the middle? Not such a fan.

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glidingcalm December 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

mmm, these look good! I was definitely a Skippy kid too………. only because my parents couldn’t get me to eat their all natural pb. :)

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Trisha December 6, 2012 at 10:10 am

Drooling! Theselooksofreakinggood. I was THE pickiest eater as a kid so I took cold lunch for years. I made exceptions for chicken nuggets day, pancakes for lunch day & French bread pizza day (even though I peeled off the cheese to just eat the bread…).
I’m indifferent on Jif vs. Skippy but real mayo all the way. Accept no substitutes. :)

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