Never better peanut butter

Peanut butter is a beloved standby.
There’s probably a jar of either creamy or crunchy in every home, unless someone in the family has a peanut allergy.
Children take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school, parents brown bag them to work, and weekends wouldn’t be complete without this traditional combo.
But you don’t have to limit yourself.
Peanut butter can appear on the menu in a lot of different ways.
This week it appears in the Elvis Cupcake, paired with chocolate and bananas, in a cheesecake with strawberry jam, in a sweet bar cookie and in a recipe which duplicates the flavor of Reese’s peanut butter cups.
So spread it around and enjoy the feedback.

Peanut Butter Cup Bars
1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons peanut butter

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and one cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan.
In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the four tablespoons of peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.

The Elvis Cupcake
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 extra-large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon banana extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 large, overripe banana, mashed
Peanut Butter Frosting, recipe follows
Chocolate Coating, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and yolks, one at a time, and then stir in the vanilla and banana extracts. Stir in the vegetable oil. Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the mashed banana.
Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely, and then frost with Peanut Butter Frosting and dip in Chocolate Coating.

Peanut Butter Icing
8 tablespoons unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 to 4 tablespoons cream, as needed

Beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth and combined.
Blend in the powdered sugar.
Add the cream, one tablespoon at a time, if the frosting is too thick.

Chocolate Coating
2 cups chocolate chips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Melt together the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in the microwave until completely melted.

Buckeye Cookie Bars
Non-stick cooking spray
1 (18.25 ounce) package devils food cake mix
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup peanuts, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup ready made chocolate fudge frosting

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray lightly the bottom of a 13×9-inch with cooking spray.
Beat together cake mix, oil and egg in large bowl on medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in peanuts. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture. Press remainder on bottom of pan.
Mix sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter in medium bowl until smooth. Spread over prepared crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool. Place frosting into corner of 1-quart resealable food storage bag. Seal bag. Microwave 5 seconds on high. Snip small edge off bag corner. Squeeze bag, drizzling in a criss-cross pattern over crumb topping. Chill to set chocolate drizzle for ease in cutting into bars.

PB&J Cheesecake
7 oz. vanilla wafers, crushed
5½ oz. unsalted butter, melted
21 oz. full-fat cream cheese
5½ oz. caster sugar
6 eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
5½ oz. crunchy peanut butter
5½ oz. strawberry jam

For the base, mix the crushed crackers and melted butter in a bowl until well combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a nine-inch springform cake tin to form an even layer. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to350F.
Meanwhile, for the topping, blend the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth.
Spoon the topping mixture into a bowl and fold in the peanut butter.
When the base has chilled, spread the strawberry jam over it in an even layer, leaving a one-inch gap free at the edges. Spoon over the topping mixture and spread evenly.
Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the cheesecake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre with a finger and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cheesecake comes out clean.
When the cheesecake has cooked through, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven to cool down (this will prevent it from cracking).