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?
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.
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:
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!
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.
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″)
- 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)
- 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.
- add next five ingredients: vanilla, flour, salt, baking soda, and oats. mix well.
- spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet using a rubber spatula or a very clean hand.
- 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.
- spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the bars.
- in a double broiler or in the microwave on half-power, melt the chocolate chips.
- spread the melted chocolate over the bars. let cool completely so the chocolate hardens a bit.
- cut into squares and enjoy!
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.
add next five ingredients: vanilla, flour, salt, baking soda, and oats. mix well.
spread dough evenly onto prepared baking sheet using a rubber spatula or a very clean hand.
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.
spread a thin layer of peanut butter over the bars.
in a double broiler or in the microwave on half-power, melt the chocolate chips.
spread the melted chocolate over the bars. let cool completely so the chocolate hardens a bit.
cut into squares and enjoy!
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.