Memorial Day, the day marked to remember the brave soldiers who have given their life for our freedom is also the unofficial start to the summer season. The long weekend is spent celebrating all things that make this, The United States of America, a truly remarkable country to live in regardless of your religious and/or political views. For me, it was yet another wonderful holiday spent with the Boy Toy and his uber-awesome offspring doing all things American: cheering on baseball games, splashing in the pool, cooking out, eating watermelon and probably the most awesome American thing of all, eating peanut butter and jelly.
The habit of slathering PB&J between two slices of bread became a staple during the Great Depression when money was tight and food was rationed and has become not only a tradition but also a rite of passage for almost any American child who ever toted a shiny metal Raggedy Ann and Andy lunch box to school. A 2002 survey showed the average American will have eaten 1,500 of these sandwiches before graduating from high school! (I'm betting only my "mature" readers A) even know who Raggedy Ann and Andy are, and B) have ever seen an actual metal lunch box. I had one just like this in grade school and I'm still especially aggravated at my mother for selling it in a garage sale ~ especially since I saw it in an antique store not long ago for $40. Let's just skip over the fact that I am now old enough to see some of my favorite play things and possessions in an antique store.)
Rachael Ray's magazine I was thrilled that, after 6 months of receiving and numbly flipping through her magazine during my lunch hour, I'd finally found a recipe that I actually wanted try. Even better was the fact that it only dirtied up the bowl of a food processor and one other small bowl. Say what you will about RR and her annoying EVOO extra-virgin olive oil habit (and I say I very much like the cookbooks of hers that I own, but not so much her magazine) but her recipes are always simple and quick to pull together and don't require any outlandish ingredients. I immediately thought I'd make these for Boy Toy's kids because they both are PB&J lunch packers but ironically enough they did not deem them "kid-friendly." I didn't get feedback from them as to exactly why but I'm thinking it's because neither of them are big on eating alot of sweets and these were pretty rich. I'm going to tag them as kid-friendly anyway because maybe your kids or yourself will enjoy them. In all honesty, I was never a big fan of the PB&J combination back in the day or even now (how un-American, I know), but I stored the leftovers in the freezer after the holiday and I really enjoyed it better served ice cold when I pulled one out this week.
Enjoy your Summer 2012 and even though the Memorial Day holiday is over, continue to remember all those who helped give you the freedom to enjoy whatever flavor of jelly you like with your peanut butter!
Peanut Butter & Jelly Squares
courtesy of Rachael Ray Magazine, May 2012
3/4 cup salted, roasted peanuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounce stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup grape or strawberry jam
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees . Line an 8-inch square baking pan with an 8x13 inch sheet of parchment, letting the excess hang over.
Using a food processor, pulse the peanuts until chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl.
In the processor bowl (no need to clean), mix the 2 flours, the brown sugar and salt. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the peanut butter and vanilla; process until crumbly. Measure out 2/3 cup of the crumb mixture; transfer to the bowl of peanuts.
Dump the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared pan and pan down firmly (it doesn't have to be perfectly even). Spoon the jam on top and spread to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Sprinkle the peanut-crumb mixture evenly over the top, going all the way to the edges of the pan.
Bake until the top is golden-brown and the jam is bubbling, about 45 minutes. (If browning too quickly on top, lay a sheet of foil loosely over the pan.) Transfer the pan to a rack to cool completely.
Grasp the parchment and gently lift the entire dessert out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into 16 squares.