Smoke & Fire Cookies (Vegan!)

I know I’ve waxed poetic about Fix and Fogg before, but really, these guys are my favorite. When I was back in Wellington I made sure to stock up on some of their excellent peanut butter, and when I went to their adorable storefront to buy a jar, the guy working offered me a sample of the new spiced peanut butter they’re making. Spiced peanut butter! It sounds weird, and it is, but it is AMAZING. Needless to say I bought a jar.

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I know what you’re thinking – that’s nice and all, but I’m not in Wellington, so I guess I can’t bake these cookies. Well, no. While I am 100% certain these would be better made with actual F&F Smoke and Fire, I actually made them with regular old chunky peanut butter and an assortment of spices to imitate the real stuff. Because that one jar of spicy peanut butter I brought back? Yeah, I ate all of that. With a spoon. In about a week. And so until Fix and Fogg start exporting (please start exporting!) this is what I have to tide me over.

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Peanut Cookie Brittle

When I first moved to Massachusetts for college (or “uni,” as I have now been conditioned to call it) back in 2007, I quickly discovered that many things I’d assumed were American turned out to be just Californian. For example, people in New England ate Twizzlers instead of Red Vines (both are weird – I mean who even eats licorice anymore – but Red Vines are obviously superior). The most obnoxiously inescapable song my senior year of high school never even made airwaves out of state (it was called “I Wear My Stunna Glasses At Night,” I hated it at the time, and now that I’ve looked it up I can’t stop listening to it). The famously cheap $2 wine at Trader Joe’s cost (shock, horror) $3 instead. And there was no See’s Candies.

I don’t spend a lot of money on sweets or baked goods, because generally I know I can make them better and more cheaply in my own kitchen, but See’s will always have a special place in my heart. So many options! So many free samples! And best of all, their peanut brittle, which, enormous peanut butter fiend that I am, I completely adore. My dad used to send me a box during finals every year to help get me through. And while I’m sure that it, too, could be made better (or at least as well) and more cheaply at home, I’m really not set up for candy-making in my current kitchen.

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Enter this cookie brittle. It’s got that same caramel-y, sweet and salty taste, and that great, satisfying crunchiness, mixed with the buttery texture of a really nice peanut butter cookie. Plus it’s dangerously easy to make. And it’s a nice change from the endless gingerbread and sugar cookies that you get this time of year.

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Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I can’t say I’m wholly sold on this whole “Australia” thing, but I will say this – it is so sunny and warm and beautiful. A little too windy down on the beach, maybe, but after a childhood spent on Northern California beaches (where you always need a sweatshirt and the water is so cold it hurts your bones), I can’t really complain about that either. And it’s only getting hotter and more summery.

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 (Okay, that photo’s actually from up near Cairns because I haven’t shot much of Byron Bay yet, but you get the idea.)

I don’t mean to brag (I totally mean to brag), I’m just trying to explain how busy I have been at work lately. The tourists are starting to flock to Byron Bay, and everyday the little cafe I work at is packed out from about 9:30 am until sometime in the early-mid afternoon. Between the ever-busier days and some abrupt staffing changes, I have been pulling some long weeks. So the last time I went to bake, I just wanted something quick and easy and mindless. That’s what these cookies are for. The gluten-free thing is a nice bonus, but mostly they’re just so wonderfully simple. Not in a gross microwave-cake-in-a-mug (do you guys remember that fad?), just in a delicious, sometimes-you-only-need-three-ingredients way.

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And then if you’re like me, you make it all a bit complicated and coat everything in chocolate. But that’s optional.

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Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, & Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I posted a recipe a while back for something called “winning hearts and minds cake.” A great name, and totally apt for what it is – a simple, classic cake that everybody completely adores. These cookies are a little less universal: some (very strange) people don’t like peanut butter, and I think oatmeal-raisin cookies have quite understandably turned people against oatmeal cookies as a species. But those caveats aside, this is a pretty winning cookie. I’ve made a lot of friends (okay, friendly new acquaintances) with this one. And on at least two occasions, used it to convince the neighbors not to call noise control during some very loud live gigs in student housing.

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I’ve also been working through the last of my baking supplies here, so this was a perfect project. Got rid of heaps of my favorite Fix & Fogg peanut butter, heaps of oatmeal, and of course all the usual sugars and flour and whatnot. And now, a mere twelve or thirteen hours before I leave for the airport, I’m passing the recipe along to you guys.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

Guys, I love peanut butter. I know I’ve talked about the New Zealand peanut butter situation before, but since then there’s been a new development. It’s called Fix & Fogg and it is my new favorite food. And it’s locally made here in Wellington! Even better. So when I went to make these cupcakes, I had to use it. Sure, the consistency of the icing might have been better with something a little less all-natural, but the flavor! The flavor made it worth it.

I also used local sour cream, although that was less by choice and more because I found out halfway through my first batch that most sour cream in New Zealand is made with gelatin (which I, as a selectively-strict vegetarian, don’t eat). So after throwing away my first batter, including all of my extra special, exorbitantly expensive Dutch-process cocoa powder, and having a small temper tantrum, I went out and bought some lovely Zany Zeus stuff made up in the Hutt.

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Movie Theatre Cookies

A long, long time ago, I tried out an absolutely fantastic recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for popcorn cookies. I loved them (and everyone who ate one did too), but even a the time I couldn’t help but wonder what else I could do with this idea. Namely, how could I work caramel corn into the equation?

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Well. We all know peanuts and caramel corn are a good combination (Cracker Jacks, anyone?), and if you have never sprinkled M&Ms through your popcorn at the movies you are definitely missing out, so here we are. Peanut butter cookies, caramel corn, and M&Ms. Perfect for sneaking into the theatre with you next time you go…if you can hold off on eating them long enough to get there.

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Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Blondies

I’m not going to lie: sometimes baking every single week is a bit of a chore. Some weeks it’s a great excuse to try out a recipe you’ve been thinking about, or a nice quiet activity for a rainy day. But sometimes you’re coming down with a cold and you’d much rather curl up in bed and marathon Elementary. So this week, I went with something without too much hands-on work involved. Still delicious, but I could just whip the batter up, put the whole thing in the oven for half an hour, and be done.

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I’ve made these blondies heaps of times, because I love peanut butter and chocolate and (sometimes) things that are easy to make. This time I changed them up a bit. Normally I would follow the original recipe exactly, just using chocolate chips and covering the top with rich dark chocolate ganache. But this time I wanted to do something different: add pretzels. Pretzels, peanut butter, and chocolate go together amazingly. So I changed the batter around slightly to be a bit richer and softer, crushed up some pretzels, and skipped the ganache. The results were excellent.

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