Sunday, February 14, 2016


As my readers know very well, I'm part of a line of self-reliant and anti-consumerism people who stubbornly turn to do-it-yourself gifts. So, I’m always looking for some quick and inexpensive gift ideas. These things have to be - potentially - useful for the gift receiver and something that can be made by my own two hands - and also, if you like, by yours. The results of which, I hope, show my dear ones just how much I care. 
This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to take a break from the same-old candies and flowers routine. So, I geared up by putting on my **no-need-to-bake** kitchen mitts.

The answer was an easily put together recipe of a blend of three of my favorite, from childhood flavors: crispy rice puffs, peanut butter and chocolate. Mom made something like this for us, decades ago and it was delicious. But this updated, twenty-first century version is a bit healthier, I imagine, and also absolutely yummy. Thankfully, it’s just as easy to make today as it was years ago.

The peanut butter treats I'm writing about remind me of my Mom’s variation, but they have a cleaner ingredient list. Back then, people used corn syrup, but that was before all the worry about GMO corn. The new version uses brown rice syrup. It gives these cereal bars their chewy texture and natural sweetness and pairs well with organic peanut butter. And you can even use brown rice cereal, if you want. You can also substitute cashew, or almond butter in for the peanut butter. and it will be just as good.

Here’s the recipe. (Makes nine square treats in a 9-inch square pan)

4 cups crispy rice puffs or any puffed grain cereal
1/2 cup brown rice syrup - could also be honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter – organic is best
1/3 teaspoon vanilla – real, not imitation

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
chocolate chips – maybe, three little chips for each square or just one chocolate drop for each, like I did.

Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, gently bring the syrup to a boil and allow it to boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and, then, stir in the peanut butter and other flavors until smooth.

Place the cereal in a large bowl, then pour in the peanut butter and syrup mixture. Stir until all of the cereal is thoroughly coated. Don’t over stir. It takes only a minute or two.

Spoon the mixture into the pan, and press – with the back of a large wooden spoon - to pack the cereal tightly. Stick the chips or large chocolate drops on top, arranging them with care for each square. Put the pan in the fridge for about an hour to cool off before slicing.

Store in a sealed container in the fridge and serve chilled or at room temperature.For gift giving, place the squares in a tissue-lined decorative can or box and put the individual squares in cupcake baking papers. You can also make a gift label with the recipe on top.

I made similar treats for Christmas goodies this past year. And my husband really liked them. So, I had promised him to make more. Valentine’s Day was my opportunity. He’s already eaten some of his treats and says they won’t last more than a few days. And, hey, I made a double batch. I want to eat some, too.
Notes: For more fun, treats can be cut into heart shapes using a cookie cutter. Or you could drizzle melted chocolate on top of the treats instead of using the chocolate chips.

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