Honestly, folks, this is going to be a pretty short post this week. I'm sorry about that, but when I tell you the reason why I think you'll understand.
My grandmother passed away this week. It feels strange typing this, not only because it's still such a foreign idea in my mind, but also because I didn't think I'd be telling anybody in this fashion.
I'm not telling you this for your sympathy, though it's appreciated. Honestly, the only reason I'm sharing this at all is because my grandmother was a fabulous cook and taught me so much of what I know about food. She left a giant, flour-coated impression on me and colors my food writing whether she knew it or not.
I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in her kitchen, watching her work her magic. She made the best desserts known to man, and I've told many, many, many people that if she'd ever opened a bakery it would've become a sweets-lover's destination, a national chain, or both. Chocolate pie, strawberry shortcake, peanut brittle, chip chocolate cookies (NOT chocolate chip, mind you), muffins ... the woman could do it all. And it was all so very good.
So, in her memory this week — we're working very hard to celebrate her life and how fantastic she was, rather than dwell on the sadness we all feel — I thought I'd share my favorite recipe of hers: peanut clusters.
They're simple — there are only three ingredients — but they're out of this world.
I've made them many, many times and they've been loved by people all over the country — I've made them in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Florida, and my mother has whipped up a batch or 20 in Alabama.
Honestly, I've probably known the recipe by heart since I was 10 or so, but when I got married, my mother's best friend asked for everyone in attendance to provide a recipe, hand-written on a recipe card. My grandmother wrote out the recipe in her beautiful handwriting and, now almost 10 years later, I still have it, as clean as the day she wrote it out.
So, in her memory, I'm going to share it with all of you. Honestly, it's not as healthy as most of the recipes I share in this space, but it's fantastic, and I hope you all enjoy it. The day she died, my husband insisted we make some as a little tribute. I even had one even though they're not vegan (or "funny" as my grandma would've said), and I'm glad I did.
Grandma Jeanne's Famous Peanut Clusters
1 (6-ounce) package chocolate morsels
1 (12-ounce) package butterscotch morsels
1 (12-ounce) package salted Spanish peanuts
Combine chocolate and butterscotch morsels in a double broilers (or microwave) until melted, being careful not to burn them, and stirring often.
Stir in the peanuts. Drop by the teaspoon onto waxed paper. Let set until firm either in the freezer or fridge. Store in an air-tight container in the freezer.
Last week, I promised a holiday cookie recipe. And, boy, do I have one for you. It’s super tasty, extremely easy and about as healthy as a holiday cookie can be. Plus, it is reminiscent of a holiday favorite: the peanut butter-chocolate yumminess that is the “buckeye.”
Yes, buckeyes without the powdered sugar and butter, but with all the taste. (They’re Megan Stuke/Flying Fork approved, so yeah, they’re GOOD.)
Now, I’ll quit my yapping and cut to the recipe, because I’m sure you want to get started.
Healthy Free-Form Buckeyes
1 cup puffed kamut or brown-rice cereal (I used Arrowhead Mills Puffed Kamut)
½ cup smooth peanut butter (or other nut/seed butter)
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup chocolate chips
Cacao nibs (optional)
First, cover a cookie sheet in parchment or wax paper OR fill a mini-muffin pan with liners — you will be freezing your buckeyes either on the paper or liners, it’s up to you.
Next, in a food processor, mix together the maple syrup and peanut butter until smooth.
Add cereal and process, taking care to stop the machine and scrape down the sides when necessary. Process the dough until it gets to the “ball” stage.
Next, use a teaspoon to scoop out loose balls onto your parchment or into your mini-muffin liners.
Once all the dough has been used, pour your chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl or Pyrex and melt them in the microwave, going at 30-second intervals and then 15-second intervals as you get closer to all the chips being melted. Stir in between stints in the microwave. When your chips have all melted into a thick liquid, use a teaspoon to drizzle the chocolate on top of your buckeye balls. Top with cacao nibs if desired.
Next, put them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The chocolate should get hard, while the dough will stay chewy. Enjoy!
Kids and cookies go together like Santa and his reindeer. And for some Lawrence kids, cookies are just what they need to help bring holiday cheer to their preschool.
The Lawrence Arts Center Preschool Cookie Sale begins at 9 a.m. Saturday as a fundraiser for the award-winning preschool, which teaches arts-based education. Cookies will be sold for $6 per pound and will be on sale within LAC's preschool classrooms at 940 N.H. until only crumbs are left says Linda Reimond, preschool director. Limited bagels and barbecue will also be served to those cookie shopping during breakfast and lunch.
In addition, individual cookies will be sold at the Gingerbread House Festival and Viewing beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.
The cookies are a combination of treats made by the kids, contributed by their families or donated and then decorated (both Munchers Bakery and Great Harvest Bread Co. both contributed undecorated cookies).
On Wednesday afternoon, preschool kids and their parents visited Meadowlark Estates in West Lawrence and decorated cookies with elderly residents. Reimond says about 10 dozen cookies were prepared by the kids and Meadowlark residents.
"I love the fact that there were grandparent-age (folks), and some of the moms were there, and then the kids. That was what was so special to me, that they were going to do it together," Reimond says before running through this year's treats. "You won't even believe all the cookies that will be here. There will be some decorated cookies, some holiday cookies, and one of the preschool classes made dog biscuits. So we can even have cookies for your pet."