People often ask me where I learned to cook. I really had to think about it at first since I can’t really pinpoint an exact point in my life where I became interested in all things culinary. I didn’t take a class, or watch a show, or read a book. I just…cooked. I always have. But as I reflect on my life and my past and all of the things that have made me into the person that I am, the answer to that question is crystal clear. I learned from my Mother. She wasn’t a chef or even a super fancy cook. She just made good food. And she made it often. Growing up in our house, meal times were consistent, treats were plentiful, and the kitchen was the heart of our home. We all gathered there and we all helped out (some more willingly than others, *cough* Drew…) My Mom always took time to include the “little helpers” even if it meant a less-than-perfect finished product. That’s a lesson I remind my perfectionist-self of often. For her, cooking wasn’t a dreaded obligation, it was a cherished opportunity. And constant exposure to that just led to a natural interest for me. My Mom created a lot of memories in our kitchen and it’s something I really try to do with my own kids. You don’t have to be a top chef to teach your children how to cook or how to appreciate good food. It’s all about the time!
Okay, therapy session over. I mention all of this because this is one of my Mom’s recipes and biting into one of these blissfully sweet bars is like taking a big chomp into my childhood. I don’t know how anyone can resist this flavor combo. We made these all the time growing up for summer pot-lucks, Christmas plates for neighbors, our weekly “Family Nights” and on lazy Sunday afternoons simply for the purpose of inhaling. As I made this batch to photograph, I made a special point to let my toddler grab a stool and help out and I smiled when he bent over and stuck his tongue directly on the icing I was about to snap a picture of. So what are you waiting for? Go whip up a batch and start making some memories with your own family!
Peanut Butter & Jam Bars
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1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C shortening
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 C flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 C strawberry or raspberry jam
1/4 C real butter, melted
2 C powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tbs hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream shortening and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and combine. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Measure out the 1 1/4 C flour. Add small amounts at a time while mixer is running. When about half of the flour is left add the baking soda and baking powder to it. Combine well and then add to the dough mixture and mix until everything is incorporated.
Reserve one cup of the dough for later use.
Take the remaining dough and press it into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 pan. I crumble it evenly all over the bottom of the pan and then press it in with my fingers. Crumbling it first helps to create an even thickness.
Then dump your jam on. My husband loves this chunky strawberry jam so that’s what I use. Growing up we always made these with seedless raspberry.
Spread the jam over the dough in a nice even layer. Add a little more if you need it. Take the reserved 1 C of dough and use it to cover the jam layer. I take small pieces and press them with my fingers to create flat little pieces of dough. You can also crumble it if you want, but I like the pressing method. Some of the jam will still show through when you’re done and that’s fine.
Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. The top should be set and just barely golden brown. Don’t overcook (uh…like the ones in my pictures for example. Someone came to my door and I got side tracked!) When done, remove from oven and cool on a rack. While it’s cooling you can mix up your glaze.
Wait until they are completely cooled to room temp to glaze (or it really melts all over and falls to the center of the pan and forms a little pool in which you will impulsively dip your finger over and over again until the little pool is no more.)
See in that picture how the edges curl up the pan a bit? When my Mom would make these, she’d cut that edge off so that all of the squares were perfect and level and the edges were for us to nibble on! It’s still my favorite part because of that.
Let the glaze set for a bit (if you can manage. I never do.) to harden a little and then cut them into squares. Or triangles. Or trapezoids. Whatever.
It’s like a perfectly soft peanut butter cookie with a surprising sweet burst of fruit in the middle. The frosting is…well, icing on the cake. Er, cookie ;)
Are you a PB fan?? Then you better try these too!