One Bowl Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Many, many years ago I baked some peanut butter cookies for my dad.  My mom would always make chocolate chip cookies; but, I somehow thought peanut butter was more fitting.  Upon eating them he mentions to my mom how peanut butter cookies were his favorite.  Much to my mother's chagrin, as she was always told chocolate chip was his favorite, she replied, "You said chocolate chip was your favorite?!"  

"Well, yes, I like chocolate chip cookies; but, peanut butter cookies are my favorite," my dad replied.  

Come to find out he passed this peanut butter gene onto my brothers, both of whom did not care for chocolate; hence, chocolate chip cookies became a mute point.  I would bake some grain-free peanut butter cookies for my brother and have Ben bring them down to Arizona with him years ago while on a business trip.  

Sidenote on peanut butter cookies and while we're at it, snickerdoodles.  I have never been a huge fan of either for the sheer crunch factor.  I am not a fan of crunchy cookies unless it's sandwich cookie in the form of an Oreo.  Most peanut butter cookies are crunchy and crumbly.  No thank you!  

Fast forward, I made my peanut butter cookies soft for my brother, and then I added chocolate for me.  Oh heavens, it took me back to my junior high days eating peanut butter blossom cookies at Christmas time (you know the peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's Kiss in the center--they're soft).  

Those ones used regular ole Jif peanut butter, which really did enhance the "wow" factor.  However, I buy this relatively cheap organic peanut butter at Costco without any added sugar.  And they taste just as good in my opinion.  This recipe could easily be turned into cookies.  Adjust the baking time to 12-14 minutes and drop tablespoons of dough onto a pan.  Press them down with a fork to make the traditional crisscross design.  

But, since we know I prefer soft cookies, and typically don't have a whole bunch of time, I prefer the bar cookies.  You get the softness factor and the ease factor in one batch.  Adding the chocolate in my mind sends it over the top; because, if you don't see how peanut butter and chocolate marry more than peanut butter and jelly...well, I feel bad for you.  

Grain-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars (printable recipe)

Ingredients: 

1 cup peanut butter, no sugar added kind

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cup blanched almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup to 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  

Get an 8x11 pan out and set it aside, no need to grease the pan if using a glass pan.

In a large bowl, add peanut butter, butter, and sugar and mix together until they are fairly combined.  Add the egg & vanilla and mix it throughout, but it doesn't have to be perfectly mixed in.  

Add the almond flour, baking soda, & salt and mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed into the wet ingredients.  You are trying to achieve the wonderful consistency of playdoh.  Once you have achieved this, put the dough into your 8x11 pan and press it into the pan, corners and sides.  It will look rather shallow in depth; but, it will rise.  

Take your chocolate chips and sprinkle them on top and lightly press them into the dough.  

Bake for 25-28 minutes.  Bake depending on how soft or not you like your bar cookies.  At about 25 minutes you will have nice browned edges with a soft center.  At 28 minutes it will still be soft, just a bit more firm.  

Allow it to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before slicing into them.  The longer you allow them to cool the better they will taste, which also allows them to firm up without chocolate chips being melted.  

 

What Names Us?

***The first half was written prior to Willy's memorial***

In the wake of Willy's death, and how it happened, I cannot shake how others will judge him. I'm in the car driving with my girls and I see a man in his 30s on the side of the road not looking his best and see Willy in him.  I am praying for Jesus' eyes to see people more strongly these weeks.

This process is stripping me of preconceived notions and judgement; because, all I can see is Willy and who I knew him to be.  It's what also breaks me; because, honestly, in so many ways he wasn't always present to be the dad I know he was and wanted to become.  

Addiction is a beast.  It's why I can't watch shows like Breaking Bad where the world of meth is even given a platform of how easily it's used to destroy others.  Drugs are from the pit of hell. Everything about them is possessed with destruction, lies and death.  

It takes the best of an individual and turns them into a whole other person.  It denies them the right to take hold of their life and see the true kingdom life Jesus offers.  

And so, I see the addict on the side of the road and see not what maims them; but, their imago dei.  

If I could express to you how wonderful Willy really was, to know him was a gift.  Anyone who met him immediately liked him.  He had this natural ability to make people feel at ease.  He could ease the tension within a room.  It's what made children and animals instinctively flock to him (much unlike the salmon of capistrano).  

He didn't get to know his son Lucas, who looks just like him.  And Annabelle, who also looks like him, won't know her daddy.  This is the part of his short lived story, which often brings me to tears.  I so wished Willy could have held Lucas one last time.  It's the part of death's sting, which leaves it's venom lingering. 

His memorial will be on Saturday, which is almost one month since he died.  It's been said by pastors how the memorial is the crescendo of grief.  Everything rests upon this moment to be able to loosen the ties of surrealism to realism.  It's the moment when the perfect storm occurs and we are no longer wondering if Willy will walk through the door; but, we see the ashes in the box are him to return to the Earth. 

Waves of sadness come over me at random, and often unhelpful times through the day.  Washing dishes the tears roll predictably (I guess I should be exempt from washing dishes--yes?). 

***

It is now October 12th and tears are not my constant friend as they once were.  There is still a tenderness deep in my belly; but, it's like any encounter with such intensity of chaos, blood and tears...you take grip of life-breathing breath and inhale.  You hang pictures on the wall to remember your brother, you read books to your children and rekindle a newness in your marriage; because, I can either choose life or death in life.  

Another day I will write about the memorial.  That was the most profound and tender days I have ever known.  The whole extended was holy ground.  I understand more now what Moses felt like to loosen his sandals to walk before the God Almighty & live to tell it's tale.  

But, for now, I am choosing to see the gift in my brother's death.  I'm choosing to cling to love.  Oh, not my love.  My love fails immensely.  Rather, the love I see in Jesus pounding out all of his blood, sweat & tears into me and how he would endure it over and over again if it meant I would find life.  

I'm choosing to see how his love casts out fear of the unknown.  I'm choosing love to see people in a whole new light.  I'm choosing to cast off words of shame, stories of shame and throw them back into the pit of hell where they belong.  Willy's death has brought out God comforting me in some of the most profound ways I've never known.  This is where I rest these days.  This is what names me.  

My Brother Willy's Memorial Slideshow

Ben and I have returned home from Arizona after spending an extended weekend with my family celebrated Willy's life.  Currently, my heart and mind are still a bit numb from the experience.  This isn't to say the weekend was horrible; because, there were so many good parts.  Being able to see my extended family, and friends I have not seen in well over a decade was sheer gift.  

Yet, it was going to bed Saturday evening hearing Ben say, "Willy would have loved being here." Yes, he would have.  All these people who came especially for him would have done his heart good.  My dearest and nearest and bestest of friend Veronica and husband (also my friend) Alan gladly asked how they could help me with the memorial.  I immediately asked, "Do you think you could do the slideshow?"  They responded with an emphatic "yes."  

I held it together first time watching it until the very end.  Then, I watched it a couple more times before the memorial.  At the memorial we showed it right at the beginning...I blubbered like a baby.  It was knowing this is really it--he's never coming back and his kids will never know him and he will never know them.   Sorry this is so depressing; but, that's how life is sometimes and life cannot always be the glass half full.  

I will leave you with this...I see hope and perfect love continuing to cast out fear amidst the deep grief and pain in my brother's death.