Healthy Eating: Homemade chocolate peanut butter bars to satisfy that candy craving

I imagine that Halloween will be unlike any other this year due to the current pandemic situation that we are living through. We won’t be seeing our friends and neighbors in downtown Edmonds going from shop to shop or ringing neighborhood doorbells to get a piece of candy.  (If you do decide to give out candy, here are some safe options to protect yourself and the trick-or-treaters.

Nevertheless, there are many ways that you can create new traditions for you and your family in order to celebrate Halloween.  I know families that are going to be doing scavenger hunts with your children. Here is one version that you could put together for your family. In the days leading up to Halloween, you could read stories to your child. Here’s a place where you can find some not-too-scary stories:
I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and when we went out trick-or-treating we had to tell a joke or do a magic trick before receiving a piece of candy from the homeowner. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest I discovered that this was not the practice out here. But as I have observed at a neighbor’s outdoor Halloween display, there are some awfully wonderful Halloween jokes going around. They post a new joke every day. Here is a site where you can find great jokes to tell around the dinner table. I am sure that your family would also enjoy the calming and meditative activity of coloring right now too. Check out free printables for Halloween here.
Finally, cooking with your family to make Halloween special is a great way to welcome the shorter days. Why not try to recreate one of your favorite Halloween treats? There are always ways to make it healthier and more appetizing than the mass-produced versions. I always loved receiving Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Somehow I talked myself into thinking that the cups were a healthy snack because they were mostly peanut butter. I have fond memories of peeling off the chocolate coating and eating the peanut butter filling last! The recipe this month is a “healthyish” version of peanut butter cups. It’s gluten free if you choose that route. You can even consider adding chopped toasted nuts, toasted coconut or cocoa nibs if you want to make them fancier. Also, if a peanut allergy is a problem, feel free to use the nut butter of your choice–almond, pecan, cashew, etc.  Cut them into small, bite-size pieces for a special Halloween treat. You might have to hide them if you don’t want them to disappear too quickly!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Filling

1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups plain peanut butter, creamy or crunchy (at room temperature)
½ cup pure maple syrup
2½ cups coarsely crushed gluten-free graham crackers  (feel free to use regular graham crackers if you don’t have a health reason to avoid gluten.)

Ganache Topping
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chocolate chips)

1. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan and set aside.

2. For the peanut butter filling: Put the peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. You can mix by hand or in a machine on medium-low speed. Mix the melted butter and maple syrup in a medium bowl, then gradually add the butter mixture to the peanut butter, stirring until everything is combined. Fold in the crushed graham crackers and pour the filling into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly to the edges. The filling will be somewhat loose.

3. Chill the filling until firm, about 1½ hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer.

4. For the ganache topping, combine the cream and maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. If the ganache appears a little grainy, stir in a little more cream until it is completely smooth and shiny.

5. Spread the ganache evenly over the chilled peanut butter filling all the way to the edges. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes in the refrigerator or 25 minutes in the freezer.

6. Cut into 24 pieces (2-inch squares). To cut cleanly, dip a sharp knife in very hot water until heated through, then dry thoroughly. Between cuts, dip the knife in hot water and wipe it dry.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to two days. Serve chilled, as the bars begin to melt at room temperature.

—  By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at


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