Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cereal Clusters: A tale of two treats

I have been on a no bake kick this holiday season. Lots of peanut butter cups, dipped cookies and pretzels have been shared with family and friends. I did make one batch of real cookies, our secret family oatmeal roll-out cookies, but that's about it. On my no bake mission I made two treats from my childhood that I always loved, cereal clusters. My family made two different types: a chocolate version with Cheerios, marshmallows and peanuts, and a peanut butter version with white chocolate, rice crispies, marshmallows and peanuts. Very popular in the 70s or so I am told because I wasn't alive then. Anyways I made both types for my boys because I was feeling a little nostalgic. I mixed up the peanut butter kind first and found them disappearing from the wax paper before they were even fully set. Next came the chocolate batch and as you can see from the picture below they weren't as popular.

While putting together treats for my family I told my mom about the cereal clusters. She said not to bother packing up any of the chocolate kind. After 31 years of marriage my dad informed her that he didn't like that kind. I imagine the conversation went something like this: "Emilie made cereal treats, do you want some?" "Yeah, but just the peanut butter kind, I don't like the chocolate kind." "But Kevin, you eat them." "Yeah, but I don't really like them." At least my boys didn't wait 31 years to tell me they didn't care for the chocolate kind. :) So you can make both kind for your family and decide which you like better. I hope it doesn't take your family decades to tell you they don't care for a treat you make. :)

Cereal Clusters Recipe

Chocolate Version

10 oz dark chocolate
1 cup peanuts
8 oz marshmallows
2 cups cheerios

Set aside about an oz of dark chocolate. Melt dark chocolate in microwave safe container for 30 seconds at a time. Stirring as the chocolate melts. When the chocolate is smooth and melted, temper it by adding the oz you set aside. When that melts it is ready to add the other ingredients. Add the dry ingredients and mix until coated.

Scoop into 1.5 inch clusters onto wax paper and set them in a cool area to set. We usually put them in the garage on top of the car. Out of the way of animals, and the cold winter air helps them set quicker.

Peanut Butter Version

10 oz white chocolate
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chunky (or smooth) peanut butter. I use chunky so I can use less whole peanuts.
8 oz marshmallows
3 cups rice crispies

Melt the white chocolate in microwave safe container for 30 seconds at a time. Stirring as the chocolate melts. When the chocolate is smooth and melted, add the peanut butter and stir that in to temper the chocolate. Sometimes I have to zap it in the microwave for 15 seconds if the peanut butter doesn't fully melt. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well coated.

Repeat scooping and setting process from the version above. :)

Here are some pictures from my latest batch of peanut butter cereal clusters.

Mixing in the PB to the white chocolate... Isn't it pretty? YUMMY!

Adding in the dry ingredients.

Finished product.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Take 5 Brittle

One of my favorite candy bars is a "Take 5", a delicious combo of pretzels, caramel, peanut butter and peanuts covered in chocolate! It is the perfect salty sweet combo! While experimenting with making my own, this was the result... I knew something about making caramel, but instead of the ooey gooey goodness of the Take 5's caramel, it came out more like a brittle. Still delicious! Enjoy!


1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
approx 3 cups of pretzels
12 TBS of crunchy peanut butter (I eyeball it)
1/2 cup peanuts
15 oz dark chocolate chips (1.5 bags of Nestle brand)
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Over medium/high heat, melt butter and brown sugar in a non stick pan, whisking until the butter is melted.

Once the butter has melted, stop whisking and let it come to a bubble. This happens quickly. Reduce the temperature to medium and set your timer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture bubble WITHOUT WHISKING for the entire time. While it's bubbling away, set up your pretzels on a foil lined rimmed cookie sheet (10X16).

Caramel starting to bubble.

Caramel near the end of 5 minutes.

When the timer beeps, remove the caramel from heat and slowly whisk. Then pour it as evenly as you can over the pretzels. You can carefully spread the caramel if needed, but the next step really spreads it all on its own.

Bake the pretzels for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn it off. Glob the peanut butter evenly across the surface of the hot caramel pretzels. Let it sit for about 2-3 minutes and it will start to melt from the carryover heat. Once it starts to melt, spread it over the entire surface of the pretzel/caramel mixture.

Sprinkle peanuts on top.

Sprinkle Chocolate Chips on top and then put the pan back in the oven for no more than 2 minutes. I have found the peanut butter isn't quite hot enough to melt the chocolate chips so that's why I throw it back in the (cooling) oven.

Spread the melted chocolate chips over the top. They will come out shiny and still look whole, but as you spread them they will mix in and melt. The peanut butter will mix slightly with the chocolate, but as you spread the chocolate will start to cover the peanut butter.

Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and cool on cooling rack for at least a half an hour. Once cool to the touch, place it in your freezer for at least two hours. Once frozen, remove from the pan by lifting out the aluminum foil. Cut into 1.5 inch squares and store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Market bags with pockets

There are some really cute patterns out there for market bags. I wanted to make mine mimic the size and shape of a grocery bag, plus handles. At first I followed this tutorial.

I did have a few problems following the pattern as I am still fairly new to the world of sewing, but after completing my first one, I was hungry for more. I found that 2 yards of heavy duty fabric, I bought mine in the home furnishing section at Joann's Fabric, would yield 4 bags as long as I didn't make the straps from the same fabric. Denim, duck, and outdoor canvas also work well.

Here's what you need for 4 basic bags (no lining):
2 yards of fabric
4 yards of webbing (I purchased mine at an Army surplus store for 24 cents a foot)
coordinating thread

For each bag cut:

2 lengths of webbing 18 inches each.
One piece- 37x14 (for the front, back and bottom)
Two pieces- 15x7.5 (sides)

I had leftover fabric, perfect for pockets.

I had 2 pieces that were 15x7.5, that'll make 2 pockets. If you want pockets on all 4 bags, purchase 2 1/4 yards of fabric, or buy 1/4 yard of a coordinating pattern.

Fold the pocket material in half, right sides (pretty side) out.

I ran a 1/4 inch stitch on the folded side, just looks better to me.

Next line up the raw edges of the pocket, with the bottom edge of one of the sides, right sides together.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam down the sides and across the bottom. Go ahead and do this for the other side.

Attach the sides to the main long portion.

Right sides together, make sure your pocket is on the bottom, pin in place.

You'll need to turn the material around the corner. This is a photo of the pinning right before I turned it.

After the turn, there will be a little gap of fabric here, that's ok. We'll gather that in when we sew this down.

Pin all the way around. I pinned the other side too.

Using a 5/8 seam, sew down one side right up to about 1/2" from the corner.

Lift you needle up and turn to sew across the bottom.

Turn again at the next corner.

Go ahead and do the same on the other side.

Turn your bag right side out to check your work.

Now turn the bag back so the ride side is back in and finish your seams with either a zig zag stitch or as I did, with a pinking shears.

Hem the top of the bag, I do this by turning the edge in about 1/4 inch, sew that down.

Turn again, this time 1/2 inch. Sew that down.

Add the straps.

I measured in 3 1/2 inches from each side and sewed the X pattern.

Turn it out and admire your work.