A sweet cure for the blizzard blues

The snow is coming down today in gusty swirls of white, and while all the kiddies in New York get the day off from school, here I am at the office, forlornly staring out the window. So, why am I blogging and not working, you ask? Well, this weather, like rain, just doesn’t motivate me.

The office is quiet, and many of the people who commute from out of the city are working from home this morning. But I live a 10-minute walk away, so here I am. Instead, I want to be curled up in bed with a book, or my boyfriend, or even better, a plate of chocolate and peanut butter squares.

Eating just one really is almost impossible

Using Katie’s recipe (see “A walk on the vegan side”), I put my ability to read and follow instructions to the test this past weekend. The result, as evident by the fact that not even crumbs remained two days letter, was pretty fantastic. Below is Katie’s recipe in all its easy-to-follow, no-baking-required, chocolate-and-peanut-buttery goodness glory. If I pulled it off, anyone can!

1 cup of peanut butter

1 cup of confectioner’s sugar

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (about half a package)

1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)

¼ cup of butter or margarine (4 tbsp.)

Fat chunk of crumbly deliciousness

Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl. Be ready for an intense arm workout, as peanut butter puts up a pretty good fight against being mixed.

Next, press the mix into an 8×8 pan. Using your hands works best, but to get it nice and flat, try the edge of a knife or the bottom of a glass.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double-boiler saucepan. If you don’t have one, do what I did and Google alternatives. Pour the melted chocolate-butter combo over the pressed peanut butter blend and smooth over entire surface.

Place in a cool place, like the fridge, and be patient while it hardens. If you’re like me, you may need to leave the house to avoid the temptation of running to the fridge 5 minutes after you’ve put them in.

Finally, enjoy your delicious chocolate-peanut butter squares! Personal suggestion: I found that these bad boys make a ridiculously delicious topping when crushed and sprinkled over vanilla ice cream.

And finally, it appears I’m not the only one with chocolate and peanut butter on the brain. Saveur had its own tasty and pretty -looking recipe for Valentine’s Day, worth checking out if luring a glutton’s heart is on your to-do list this weekend.

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A walk on the vegan side

"I'll have one of everything, please. Make that two."

For me, being a vegan would be like being a nun. It’s a type of abstinence I just can’t commit to.

Sometimes, I think if I really had to, I could be a vegetarian. I wouldn’t be happy about giving up burgers, bacon or prosciutto, but if I really had to, I could do it. Veganism, though? Not a chance. A life without dairy? No ice cream? No cheese? No, thanks.

But hey, to each his own, right? If it works for you, then great, more power to you! However, just because I’d never fully adopt the vegan way of eating, doesn’t mean I’m not open to trying their food. I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded eater. (Except for bugs, which I am uncompromising on. I will never eat a bug. Ever. Not even if it’s dipped in chocolate.) So when my non-meat-or-dairy eating co-worker Katie invited me to a vegan bake sale benefiting Doctors Without Borders’ relief efforts in Haiti, I was happy to go.

Sure, it was for a good cause and I went to support a friend in her baking endeavor, but mostly, I went out of curiosity. When I think bake sales I think cookies, cupcakes, brownies. I think milk, eggs, butter. I think dairy, in all its glory!

So how would this work? What would they sell? Would I like anything? Would I offend anyone?

With Flaneur in tow, I set out to find answers to these burning questions of mine.

MooShoes, the Lower East Side store hosting the fundraiser, was the perfect setting. A vegan-owned shop with an array of “cruelty-free” shoes and accessories, this place is a hotspot in the vegan community. In addition to the many hemp, faux leather and synthetic material-made shoes and bags (think stylish and trendy, not grungy and hippie) they also boast an assortment of cookbooks, t-shirts, magazines and even stickers (“Save everything! Go vegan!”) promoting the vegan way.

In search of Katie, we strolled through the busy store, nudging our way around people as we checked out MooShoes’ merchandise and more importantly, the dozens of different homemade baked goods set out on tables and counters around the shop.

Just as yummy as they are cute.

I was amazed. They were all there! All my favorites: cookies, cupcakes, brownies plus muffins, cakes, truffles and so much more. Everything with neat, handwritten explanations of what they were and what ingredients were used. These vegans, I later learned when we found Katie, don’t mess around. Absolutely no dairy or animal products.

Eager to get our vegan grub on, we bee-lined to a goodies-covered table. Decision-making when faced with multiple sweets is not something I’m good at but after much deliberation, we chose to start off with a banana and chocolate chip muffin, a peanut butter and granola ball, a cocoa carob chip brownie bite, and a strawberry cheesecake truffle.

(Note: This was a shared plate. As much as I would’ve liked to eat all that, there was lots to try and I had to pace myself.)

Why hello there new friends!

Next, we hit up a new table and bought peanut butter cookies, a fat Neapolitan cupcake, and Katie’s own creation: chocolate and peanut butter squares.

At our third and final table, Flaneur, who’s not anywhere near the avid sweet-eater that I am, pooped out on me and waved the white flag. I love eating but hate doing it alone, so I picked one last vegan treat, a rocky road brownie, and asked for a brown paper bag to take it home in.

At first I doubted the vegan baked goods, but in the end was pleasantly surprised by how delicious they were. If I didn’t know they were sans eggs, milk and butter, I would’ve never guessed. The cupcake had smooth, creamy frosting, the chocolate chip banana muffin was sweet and moist, and the carob chip brownie chunk was rich and tasty.

Everything, with the exception of the brownie I took home, which apparently petrified on the way there, was great. And even though I usually have a hard time choosing favorites, Katie’s chocolate and peanut butter squares were without a doubt the best thing I had at the sale. Made with peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, honey-free graham crackers, semi-sweet chips and margarine, these little squares were ah-mazing. How she keeps from eating these at every meal is beyond me.

The only thing, in my gluttonous opinion, that could’ve made this experience any better would have been a tall glass of cold milk. But hey, that’s just me.