Desserts · Gluten Free · Snacks · Vegan

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats (Vegan, Gluten Free, & Naturally Sweetened)

Someone needs to explain to me how the term “low fat” somehow became synonymous with “healthy.”

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I suspect commercialism had a little something to do with it… but to assume all low fat foods are health foods is just silly. To believe consuming low fat foods leads to a low fat body is equally as silly, and is probably wishful thinking. Unfortunately, it seems far too many Americans fall victim to this train of thought.

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When I was in second grade my mom joined WeightWatchers. She lost a pretty significant amount of weight which gave her more confidence and encouraged her to be more mindful about her eating habits. Both good things. When my mom sets her mind to something, by hell or high water she will do it. To say she is a “determined” individual would be an understatement. She’s also incredibly book smart; there’s nothing she can’t learn through reading and research.

As much as I love my mother (and as much as I’ll get my ear bitten off over the phone after she reads this) sometimes I think she pays so much attention to facts and details that she falters a little on plain ol’ common sense. For instance, while on WeightWatchers, her “healthy evening snack” was Twizzlers, because they have no fat. She has never been a breakfast person, but since weight loss specialists say you have to eat it, her “healthy” morning fuel was a banana… and a Kellog’s Rice Krispie Treat.

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Those blue foil wrapped bars were the original 100-calorie snack before companies began labeling their products as such. They have 90 calories a piece, 2 grams of fat, less than a gram of protein, corn syrup solids, some DATEM, and are virtually void of any vitamins, minerals, or nutritional favors.

But they sure are tasty. And hey, whatever works for you. I can’t say I’ve never eaten less than healthy things under false pretenses in my young life. Take for instance the ridiculous amount of unfermented soy products I consumed as a vegan. It’s a mild miracle I even have thyroid today.

The classic marshmallow-y, buttery, vanilla-y rice treats are kind of difficult to replicate using more wholesome, unprocessed ingredients. Marshmallows are just in a category of their own. I like the traditional treats alright, but they taste like sugar and not much else. It makes sense… considering they are made with sugar… and not much else.

Besides, when you could add peanut butter and chocolate to something, why on earth would you not?! These Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats are like eating a big crunchy Reese’s cup. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Except it does, because these are vegan, gluten free, and sans copious amounts of tasteless sugars. I titled them “healthy,” but I really should say “healthier.” They’re still a sweet dessert, yet they have some nutritional value thanks to the protein and healthy fats found in peanut butter. And don’t doctors say a small amount of chocolate each day is good for your heart? I’m not sure you need to go though med school to figure that one out. I mean duh why else would they sell chocolates in heart shaped boxes? 🙂 So okay, these treats aren’t a kale smoothie but they make a pretty good lunch box addition or mid-afternoon snack.

Like the traditional treats, these are made on the stove top, making them ideal for the warmer days to come, or when you just don’t feel like turning on the oven. We’ll start by heating some brown rice syrup and maple syrup together. You’ll bring them to a boil for just under a minute then stir in a whole cup of peanut butter. Peanut butter caramel, anyone? In goes the rice cereal, and then the fun part. To ensure these bars hold together, it’s important to really pack the mixture into the pan. As in hammer it (gently) in. Just listen to that snap, crackle, pop! And whack. Snap, whackle, pop?

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From there you spread on a nice layer of melted chocolate, then let your bars set in the refrigerator. Once the chocolate has hardened and the treats have firmed up, you can slice them and  store either in the fridge or at room temperature. They are great both ways!

These Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats are one of my favorite recipes to make for potlucks and anywhere I know there will be a lot of mouths to feed. You can easily double the recipe for a big crowd. They’re also one of those sweets that people are amazed to learn are vegan and refined sugar free, which is always a bonus.

Or just make a pan to keep to yourself. You’ll be snacking happy all week long. Or hey, grab a banana and a cup of coffee, and you’ve got a mom approved breakfast!

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Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats
Yields an 8″ square pan

The childhood favorite made vegan and oh-so-much better by peanut butter, chocolate, and natural sweeteners.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup (144g) brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup (110g) maple syrup
  • 1 cup (256g) peanut butter*
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 cups (160g) crisp rice cereal*
  • 6oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 2 Tbs. (14g) peanuts, finely chopped (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine the brown rice syrup and maple syrup in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir frequently as the mixture begins to bubble. One bubbling, stop stirring and cook for 30 seconds longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the peanut butter and vanilla until smooth.

Add the rice cereal to the pan in two batches, using a rubber spatula to mix until it is thoroughly coated in the peanut butter syrup.

Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan, using the spatula to spread it out. Next, using either a tamper or the bottom of a glass, very firmly press the cereal down in an even layer, getting it as tightly packed as you can. I even suggest you lightly use your tool as a “hammer.” By doing this, you ensure you’ll have neat bars that won’t fall apart.

Put the pan in the fridge while you melt the chocolate. Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or using a double boiler. Once melted, stir it smooth. Remove the pan from the fridge and pour the chocolate over the top. Use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the surface, if using.

Refrigerate the rice krispies for two hours, until the chocolate is completely solid and the base layer is set. To cut into squares, pull up on the overhanging tinfoil to lift the bars from the pan. With a very sharp knife, use single downward motions to cut your desired number of squares. Keep these treats stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


*Any peanut butter is fine here. If you use a natural style, make sure it is very well stirred before adding it to the recipe. If you use unsalted peanut butter, stir 1/8-1/4 tsp. of salt to the mixture before mixing in the cereal.

*The only all-natural brand of rice cereal I can stand behind for this recipe is Erewhon. Any others I’ve tried don’t have the  same airy, crispy texture and tend to fall apart. Otherwise, the traditional blue box or the generic counterparts always do the trick.

*If you want to keep these vegan and avoid evaporated cane juice, make sure your chocolate is dairy free and grain sweetened.

 


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