Sunday, April 22, 2012

Updated Classic: PB&J Popcorn Bars

Pin It About a week ago I received an email from one of my good high school friends asking if i had any suggestions for a healthy dessert high in protein for some dinner she was in charge of making dessert for.  I was super excited to be able help her.  Helping people cook/bake and eat healthy is my favorite thing to do!  If you ever have an recipe requests or nutrition questions please don't hesitate to ask. :)

Anyways...I got right to work sorting through my recipes and trying to come up with a perfect dessert for her party.  Her only request was that the recipe was vegetarian and gluten-free.  I have to be completely honest here in saying that I don't know a tonnnnn about eating gluten-free, but I knew enough to come up with a fun healthy recipe.  I decided to use popcorn as the base of my recipe because I had heard most popcorn was gluten-free.  You just have to make sure it wasn't made or packaged in a factory with other gluten products which could potentially contaminate it.  With that being said making sure the rest of the ingredients were gluten-free and vegetarian friendly was a breeze.

With a little inspiration from a few different recipes I finally came up with PB&J Popcorn Bars.  Two American classics all rolled into one.  How much better can it get?! 

After mixing up the ingredients, pressing them into the pan, and licking off the spatula (I couldn't resist!), I confidently put the bars into the oven to crisp them up just  a bit.  I was super excited to taste test them!  Once they were cooled I cut them up, took a few pictures, offered one to my roommate, and took a huge bite of my own bar.  My reaction: Eh...  "Great." I thought, "This is not party or blog worthy."  I am not sure what it was about them, but I was not crazy for them.  Disappointed I put the rest in a container and put them in the fridge.  Later on that night when the rest of my roommates came home I had them try the bars to get their opinions.  My roommates are the best taste testers ever and I know I can always count on them for brutally honest opinions.  I was shocked at their reaction... They LOVED them! After hearing their reaction I had to try another one myself and I ended up changing my mind about them.  They were much better after hardening up in the fridge some more.  So finally after some convincing by my favorite test tasters I decided the recipe was party and blog worthy.

Cooking and baking is always an experimental process. Recipes don't always turn out like you hope they will.  I cannot even tell you how many times I've made flopped recipes.  Friday I attempted a Cinnamon Bun Cake and it definitely did not turn out how I wanted unfortunately. :(  But that's the fun of baking!  You get to use your imagination, experiment a little, and taste lots of food (bad AND good).  So don't get discouraged if nothing you make ever turns out. Keep trying!

Alright I am sorry for such a long post's the recipe:


1/4 cup Honey (or agave to make the recipe vegan)
1/2 cup Natural peanut butter (I used Natural Skippy even thought it is not completely natural)
2 scoops Vanilla protein powder (Use a soy protein powder if vegetarian or vegan)
6 cups Popcorn (Air-popped or stove-popped; no bagged microwave popcorn!)
1/2 cup Craisins

1. Pop the popcorn over the stove or in an air popper.
2. In a microwave safe dish, heat the peanut butter and honey for about 30 seconds.
3. Mix the peanut butter and honey well and microwave again if needed (mixture should be pretty runny, but be careful not to burn it).
4. Stir in the protein powder. You may need to add 2-4 tbsp of water here to keep the mixture runny although it shouldn't be super runny.
5. Fold the peanut butter mixture into the popcorn with the craisins in a large bowl.  It is ok if you crush and break the popcorn a little here.
6. Firmly press batter into a greased 9x9 pan.
7. Optional:  I baked mine at 350 F for about 5 minutes.  I am not sure if this step is necessary, so feel free to try without.
8.  Let bars firm up in the fridge before serving.
Makes 9-16 bars depending on how big you want them.

Nutrition Facts:
Based off of 16 servings.
Calories: 113
Total Fat: 5.4 g
     Sat. Fat: 1.2g
     Poly. Fat: 0.6 g
     Mono. Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 8.1 mg
Sodium: 82.7 mg
Potassium: 24.3 mg
Total Carbs: 12.1 g
     Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
     Sugars: 7.5 g
Protein: 5.4 g
Vitamin A: 0.1%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 1%
Iron: 1.6%


  1. "My roommates are the best taste testers ever and I know I can always count on them for brutally honest opinions."

    you got that babygirl! these were just great! i had at least 3!

  2. ps.. i think these pictures look wonderful :)


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