Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

January is often a time for change; new diets, new fitness routines, new personal and professional goals. I am no exception to this rule, but this year I have a slightly different goal in mind with regards to my eating and this blog.

Off and on I’ve struggled with healthy eating, to the point that it’s been hard to feel good about eating anything that isn’t a plain vegetable. We are so inundated by “guilt-free” and “skinny” and “clean-eating” recipes that it starts to feel like every food is measured by how terrible of a person I am for eating it. This year, I’m done with that. Fat is not the enemy, carbs are not the enemy, and if I’m going to eat dessert then why the heck would I want it to be “skinny” or “light”. If you see me using these phrases here, please point them out. I know that changing my relationship with ingredients is not a one-woman task, and if you want to join me in this endeavor, I welcome all the help I can get.

In light of that, here is an extremely normal cookie recipe because if you’re going to have a cookie, have a proper cookie. (Those “skinny” recipes never work anyway, since most of the time people just eat twice as many of them.) Peanut buttery goodness complemented with the rustic flavor of oatmeal and the chocolatey crunch of peanut butter M&M’s, these are sure to please any peanut butter fan.

I’ve been making the standard peanut butter cookie recipe on the back of the Jif jar for as long as I can remember (even saving a label when my Costco started carrying Skippy instead), and it’s still one of my favorites. I usually add chocolate chips (and nix the sugar crosshatching) because nothing is better than melty chocolate and soft peanut butter cookie in one cozy mouthful. However, I also super love oatmeal cookies, and have featured a couple different ones on this site. Inspired by that flavor palate, I opted to adapt this recipe towards some oatmealy delight.

Largely the same as the original, I substituted some of the flour for some extra oatmeal mostly for texture purposes. I never pack brown sugar for cookie recipes, which I think blends nicely for the oatmeal pairing, but if you prefer a sweeter flavor then by all means pack that sugar firmly into your measuring cups.

For texture and color and always-welcomed chocolate, peanut M&M’s are a fun addition. I’ve also used peanut butter M&M’s and regular ole’ chocolate chunks, both with delicious success. Smooth peanut butter is my preference, but use chunky or add some chopped roasted peanuts if you’re in to that. Playing up the peanut flavor instead of just sugar is a nice twist on an old favorite, and it makes them great for hiking too.

Celebrate your progress towards your first month of goals, console yourself over the lack thereof, or just welcome in a new month with a batch of these cookies. Enjoying life is so much more than doing everything “right”, and a proper cookie is always a welcome lift in the day.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Adapted from Jif
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cup peanut butter (Jif or similar; I’ve never tried it with a “natural” sort)
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups unpacked light brown sugar
6 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 cups peanut M&Ms1

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, shortening, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat until completely combined.
  4. Add eggs and beat until just combined.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Dough should not stick to your finger if you press it; add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary.
  6. By hand, stir in M&Ms (so they don’t break.)
  7. Use a 1/4 cup cookie scoop to add balls of dough to cookie sheets (I could only fit about 8 on a pan), flattening the tops slightly.
  8. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned; remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight container up to one week, or in the freezer for longer term storage.

Notes

Or any one of the following: peanut butter M&M’s, regular M&M’s, chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, roasted peanuts, etc. Mix and match to your heart’s desire.

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Race Day Smoothie

About five years ago I discovered my favorite green smoothie, which I basically lived on during an extremely hot and smokey summer in Helena. I was admittedly liberal with the peanut butter and a bit light on the spinach, but overall it was a decently healthy dinner option for those days I didn’t want to eat anything warmer than ice.

Over the years I’ve lightened up my original recipe, opting for coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s and substituting PBFit peanut butter powder instead of the real deal. Peanut butter powder may sound silly, but in baking or smoothies I actually prefer it over the original. The peanut flavor is a bit more concentrated and it really lowers the amount of calories and fat. I’m not a calorie counter by any means, but it makes it much easier to create a snack-sized version while keeping all that wonderful peanut flavor.  I’ve also probably doubled the amount of spinach I use, since I’m now inclined to add it to almost anything from smoothies to soup to scrambled eggs, and it’s definitely my preferred salad base. The spinach only vaguely modifies the flavor but gives a big nutrient boost – presuming you don’t mind the crazy green color. I admit it’s a bit off-putting to the uninitiated but I’m so used to it that this smoothie without spinach now looks and tastes strange to me.

During the summer and fall I participate in tons of running events, where you have to get up stupid early in the morning in order to make it to the start line or bus pickup on time. My usual race day breakfast (or really any day breakfast) is oatmeal with banana and PBFit, but on the days it’s too hot for that I opt for this smoothie instead. They contain basically the same ingredients, with the smoothie having that extra spinach boost. It goes down much easier when it’s already 75 degrees or more, and takes just as little time to prep in the morning.

I like to pre-grind the oatmeal so there aren’t large chunks clogging up my straws, but it’s not strictly necessary if you have a really quality blender. The oatmeal not only adds some calories and makes the smoothie more filling, but I really enjoy the hearty flavor it adds to the palate. It’s not overwhelming but reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, and is still pleasant for people who necessarily enjoy oatmeal on its own.

This smoothie tastes like a peanut butter banana milkshake but is a much healthier way to start the day. With the addition of oatmeal it sticks with you for quite a while, making it perfect for both pre-race and post-race. It’s also a pretty legit dinner for those days you’re feeling lazy or in a hurry but still want something on the healthy end of the spectrum, and your boyfriend isn’t around to insist smoothies are not a real dinner.

Race Day Smoothie
Makes one 16-20 oz smoothie

Ingredients

1/3 cup oatmeal

1 ripe banana (peeled, sliced, and frozen)2
1 – 1.5 cups coconut milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 Tbsp PBFit
1+ cups frozen and crushed baby spinach
cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Place oatmeal in blender (I like to use the single-serve size so I don’t accidentally make a gigantic smoothie) and blend until finely ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until completely mixed (this could take a minute or so). If it’s too thick, blend in additional milk 2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Enjoy immediately with a straw, a sunny day, and a good book.

Notes

1  For a lighter smoothie I just leave out the oatmeal; this is great for the days you want a lighter breakfast or a healthier snack/dessert later in the day. But for an entrée smoothie the oatmeal adds great flavor and makes it a lot more filling!

2  I typically slice mine into roughly eighths as they fit into my single-serving blender cup better that way. You can slice yours more or less to suit your needs.

I like to put a bunch in the freezer and then crush it all once it’s frozen. Then it’s really easy to measure out a cup or two for each smoothie on the fly.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Ah, October. While most think of Halloween all month long, I focus on race season. Every weekend except one is taken up by a race, with this past weekend being the sole half marathon and taking place in Dallas. Unfortunately it was crazy hot and I missed my goal time by several minutes, but I did get third place in my age group and an award to boot!

I’m now in Houston and kicked off the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing which I’m superbly psyched to be attending. I do miss Bozeman’s October weather, but a whirlwind weekend with my favorite aunt for running and eating and Six Flags, followed by the inspiration of being around so many women in tech fields (plus my first time in Texas), is definitely worth skipping a few properly autumnal days.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Even with my disinclination towards Halloween, it does make for a great excuse to bake overly decadent treats that have no real justification. Although I’m still working on losing a few pounds and ergo drastically limiting my sugar intake, these tortes a la mode I made for my anniversary with M last Valentine’s Day are even more appropriate for the current holiday season.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe created a full-size dessert, but I felt a mini version was the right choice for me. Already portioned, pretty for pictures, and simpler to tote around. As a bonus, it’s also easier to give away the extras to my unsuspecting coworkers. I have included the instructions for the miniature ones, but for the full-size option simply double the recipe and use two 8″ cake pans.

Intensely chocolatey and riddled with peanut butter flavor, these tortes are drizzled with more of both because, well, why not? Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to round out the experience, it’s an immensely rich dessert and high in presentation points.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Fudgy chocolate cake interspersed with chopped Reese’s, the tortes on their own are a wonderful treat, made extra decadent by sandwiching a spread of peanut butter, and drizzled with a peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce. Smooth vanilla ice cream tones down the decadence just a tad, and makes for a lovely creamy and fudgy juxtaposition. (The sauces also make great ice cream toppings on their own.)

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

For an extravagant dessert experience bring out the big guns and make these layered tortes a la mode as directed below. For maybe a slightly more tame dessert endeavor, just top each mini torte with a little peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce, and call it a day. Whichever route you take, or perhaps a hybrid of the two, your peanut butter chocolate lovers are sure to be thrilled.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Makes 6 or 12 servings

Ingredients

Cake
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar
2 eggs

1.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

5 Reese’s cups, chopped

Filling
peanut butter, heated if necessary for spreading

Glaze
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 – 4 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp prepared chocolate sauce

vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Liberally coat a mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray. (A muffin tin will also work.) If you’re using anything besides silicon or mini springform pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter and cocoa powder until completely combined.
  3. Stir in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition (use a spatula).
  4. Repeat with eggs, 1 at a time.
  5. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, and stir until there are no streaks of flour.
  6. Fold in chopped Reese’s.
  7. Divide batter evenly between mini cheesecake (or muffin) wells, about 3 Tbsp each.
  8. Bake 18-25 minutes, until tops are matte and a toothpick comes out mostly clean, similar to brownies.
  9. Let cool completely.
  10. Run a knife around the edges of your pans and remove all cakes.
  11. Spread peanut butter on half of the cakes (I used about 1 tsp each), then top with another cake. Transfer to a platter, cake plate, or individual plates (or whatever you plan to serve from). Alternatively, for 12 smaller servings you can carefully cut each cake in half, spread peanut butter on the bottoms, and replace the tops.
  12. Whisk together additional peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 Tbsp heavy cream until smooth. If you want a thinner glaze, add additional heavy cream in small amounts at a time until desired consistency is reached. (If you are making 12 servings and want ample glaze, you may want to double the amounts.)
  13. Carefully top each mini cake with 1-2 tablespoons of glaze, letting it drip slightly down the sides.
  14. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips or chocolate sauce.
  15. Just before serving, top each stack with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  16. Enjoy!

Notes

I recommend you use a sweeter peanut butter like Jif or Skippy which probably doesn’t need to be heated, but if you insist on using a natural peanut butter it might need to be warmed a little in order for it to be easily spreadable.

I used homemade chocolate sauce I already had on hand; Hershey’s or similar would work great, or melted chocolate chips are always a good option. If you are concerned with presentation, I recommend putting the chocolate sauce in a piping bag and cutting off a very small tip so you have good control over your drizzle.

Banana Protein Pancakes

Back in June when I had given up bread for the month, I pinned this recipe as something to try if I was absolutely craving pancakes. I didn’t end up trying it that month, and perhaps it will feel somewhat out of season, but after a ridiculous amount of ice cream over the last two months I was looking for something rather less decadent to share with you. Originally a vegetable dish was on the docket, but after a surprise visit from M two weekends ago, and driving to Michigan with my best friend this week, I ran out of time to give it the effort it really deserved. This seemed like a great time to try such a simple recipe and with all the hot weather we’ve been having, a few minutes in front of a griddle is way more appealing that turning on the oven for half an hour.

Banana Protein Pancakes {{Baking Bytes}}

The first time I made this recipe 100% as directed and although it was delicious, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Substantially more moist and less fluffy than a normal pancake, I attempted to lighten it up a bit. I increased the dry:wet ratio with more oatmeal and nixing the applesauce, and decided to add a bit of baking powder like a regular recipe would. This definitely improved the experience for me, but it’s certainly not necessary.

Banana Protein Pancakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Very filling, no added sugar, high protein, and with a wonderful banana flavor, these pancakes are super quick and guilt-free meal – great for nights when you just need to eat something, pronto. I enjoyed mine with peanut butter, banana slices, and cinnamon because that’s how I always eat pancakes (and also so I wouldn’t have half a banana left over), but they are also delightful with real maple or berry syrup if you’re looking for a sweeter treat.

A few disclaimers: are these light and fluffy like normal pancakes? No. Do they stay rather more wet than your favorite recipe? Yes. Are they super delicious anyway? Absolutely. While they’re not a substitute for a true pancake experience, they are excellent in their own right. They are also gluten-free if you use uncontaminated oats, which is probably useful for some people.

Banana Protein Pancakes {{Baking Bytes}}

I added chia seeds and peanut butter powder to mine, but these items are both optional. I think chia is a great way to get a little extra protein without compromising flavor and texture, but you can absolutely reduce the amount or leave it out entirely. Same with the peanut butter powder; I bought some at Costco on a whim and have found it great to use in smoothies and quick breads, but it is also completely optional, especially if you’re going to top your pancakes with peanut butter anyway. I will say that if you are ditching the peanut butter powder, you probably want to use the higher amount of oatmeal if you don’t like pretty moist pancakes.

Banana Protein Pancakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Below find the recipe for one serving. I don’t expect the batter would keep super well, so make just enough for that time. It is so fast to make there’s no need to make it ahead, I promise. The three small pancakes (with peanut butter) was perfect for me, but it’s easily scaled to feed more people. Goes great with sides of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, etc. For the athletes out there, I think these would be great pre-run if you have enough time, or as a fantastic post-run recovery meal, particularly with a cup of coffee to go with it.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Pancakes

Adapted from Liz Heather
Serves 1 (three ~4″ pancakes)

Ingredients

1/2 ripe banana, well mashed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 – 1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional, I used 1 Tbsp)

1/3 cup oatmeal, finely ground
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1-3 Tbsp peanut butter powder (optional,  I sometimes use 2 Tbsp)

Blueberries, raspberries, sliced banana (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together banana, egg, vanilla, and chia seeds. Allow to rest until chia seeds have softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat electric griddle to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or medium heat on a stove).
  3. Retrieve banana mixture and add oatmeal (use a blender to grind it first if you haven’t already), baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and peanut butter powder (if using), and mix until well combined. Mixture will be fairly thick.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup of batter on the griddle, manually spreading to about 4″ in diameter.  If desired, gently press fresh fruit into the top of the batter. Cook 3-5 minutes each side, until nicely browned. They will be a bit darker than normal pancakes; that is expected. Repeat with remaining batter (I was able to barely fit all three pancakes on my small griddle at one time.)
  5. Serve immediately with remaining sliced banana, peanut butter, maple syrup, blueberry sauce, cinnamon and sugar, or your favorite toppings.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops

For this week’s regular post we will stick with the frozen theme, but with a somewhat healthier approach. Peanut butter and banana is one of my favorite combos, which you probably have noticed from previous posts. Similar to one of my favorite summer confections, these are reasonably healthy, easy to prepare, and a delightful addition to a hot day.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops {{Baking Bytes}}

Sliced bananas spaced with peanut butter, frozen, and dipped with a thin layer of chocolate, they are sweet and satisfying without having the high sugar and calorie contents of more traditional desserts. The stick makes them great for kids and fun for adults, as well as easy to serve at potlucks and barbecues. Stored in a cooler they should be just fine for a few hours during your outside gatherings even during hot weather.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops {{Baking Bytes}}

As an added bonus, you can easily tailor this recipe to suit your preferences and avoid boredom. If peanut butter or chocolate isn’t your style (or you are concerned for allergies), you can easily substitute almond butter, Nutella, caramel sauce, marshmallow creme, or whatever your heart desires. Drizzle the end result with white chocolate or colored candy melts to fit in with a theme, or roll in chopped nuts for a crunchy addition.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops {{Baking Bytes}}

My directions make 4-6 servings depending on how high you make your stacks (and how many pieces you eat), but it’s easily scaled to make a bunch at a time. A cookie sheets works great for the initial freezing, and once the chocolate layer is completely frozen you can transfer the lot to an air-tight container or Ziploc for longer term storage. In a sealed container they’ll easily keep frozen and delicious for a few weeks, assuming you haven’t eaten them all yet.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops {{Baking Bytes}}

Make a quick batch of these today, then check back on Friday morning for a brand new (and adults-only) ice cream recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops

Makes 4-6 pops

Ingredients

2 medium bananas, ripe
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips1
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions

  1. Line a plate or small cutting board with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Peel and slice2 bananas into approximately 1/2″ pieces, discarding (eating) rounded ends. Divide into equal stacks.
  3. In a small microwave safe container, microwave peanut butter for 30 seconds. Stir until liquid and smooth. If necessary, heat in additional 10-second intervals.
  4. Gently slide bananas onto Popsicle sticks, dipping (or spooning) peanut butter onto each slice. End with an undipped piece, then carefully place onto parchment paper. You will likely not use all the peanut butter.
  5. Freeze at least two hours.
  6. In a small microwave safe container, heat chocolate chips and coconut oil for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth and completely combined. If necessary, heat in additional 10-second intervals. For ease of dipping, pour into a tall, skinny container (like a champagne flute).
  7. Dip each banana pop into the chocolate, swirling to cover completely. Gently return to parchment paper.
  8. Return to freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Notes

For a richer chocolate experience, you can double the amount of chocolate chips simply repeat steps 6-7 to produce a thicker chocolate layer.

Obviously you could skip slicing and just dip banana halves or thirds into peanut butter and then chocolate, but I like the stacks so they end up straighter and able to stand up on end, as well as a higher banana to peanut butter ratio. But if you want to go that route, I certainly won’t judge.