Any dessert that combines peanut butter, chocolate and cream cheese is probably going to be a winner in my book. I also love the Reese's minis. I'm on a kick where I try to incorporate them into as many recipes as possible. Whoever had the idea to make the "minis" line of chocolate candy was onto something. Most people would've stopped at the Reese's miniature cups, but then someone said, how about we make them even smaller and just call them minis!? At least that's how I imagine that happening. Who knew that mini and miniature could be different. I'm not ashamed to admit I looked at the Reese's website to see if there were any other Reese's varieties I was missing out on. I guess this is what my life has come to.

These Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Cheesecake Bars incorporate all of my favorite things. The pretzel crust is also a great spin on some of the other cheesecake bars I've made before. It comes together very easily, especially if you have a Magic Bullet or some blender of that sort to grind up the pretzels. I feel like sometimes in recipes that call for an 8x8 or 9x9 pan there's barely enough to share, but because these are so rich they can be cut into smaller pieces. I brought some to my office and shared some with friends. Great reviews all around!

Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Cheesecake Bars
Recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction

Sally's notes: Baking a cheesecake as bars is so much easier! This recipe makes 16 cheesecake bars.
Store bars in a covered container for up to 10 days in the refrigerator. Recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9x13-inch pan, baking time will vary - about 45-55 minutes.
    Pretzel Crust
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (120 grams) very finely ground salty pretzels (about 3 cups whole pretzels)
  • 3 Tablespoons (35 grams) granulated sugar
  • 7 Tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filling
  • 16 ounces (448 grams) cream cheese, softened to room temperature (not fat free)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 10 regular sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, chopped (or 30 minis) 
  • Chocolate Drizzle
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup (45 grams) chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. For the crust: In a food processor or blender, pulse salty pretzels into a fine crumb. See photo above for how it will look. Stir the pretzel crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together in a medium sized bowl. Press evenly into the lined pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
  3. For the filling: Beat cream cheese, egg, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla extract together with a hand or stand mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 full minutes. Fold in the chopped Reese's cups and spread the mixture over crust. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until the cheesecake has set up and the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator for at least three hours. Lift the foil out of the pan and cut into squares.
  4. For the drizzle: Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir until smooth and drizzle over squares.

One of my favorite things about summer is fresh fruit. As much as I love chocolate and all other unhealthy foods, if fresh fruit wasn't such a rarity at all times except summer, I'd probably be much healthier (I can say this since it'll never happen). Blueberries work with everything: breads, muffins, pies, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies. What a dynamic little fruit.

Back in the day when I was applying to colleges I saw an essay contest for the North Carolina Blueberry Festival (because apparently I come from a blueberry-loving state) where you could win some sort of scholarship just for writing about blueberries. I remember thinking, essay about blueberries? That's it? I LOVE BLUEBERRIES! How could I not win?

Well, procrastinating and never writing the essay is one way. A few months down the road I was talking with a friend of mine who was laughing about how he won a scholarship for writing an essay about blueberries, and that he didn't even like blueberries. Naturally I've been kicking myself ever since. I'll spare you all from my long-overdue essay on blueberries, but I will give you this amazing blueberry muffin recipe.

Blueberry muffins should be bursting with fresh blueberries. The key is not to have a single bite without a blueberry. This recipe takes things up a notch by adding a homemade blueberry jam on top and swirling it around a bit. And just in case you still felt like taking things up even more, you then add a crunchy lemon sugar topping. You can taste the crunch of the sugar, and oh is it good. I added about 1/4 cup extra blueberries to the pan while cooking down the blueberries because I wanted as much blueberry flavor as possible. I doubt that was necessary, but mission accomplished.


Blueberry Muffins

Recipe from The Little Kitchen
Yield: 12 Muffins


Lemon-Sugar Topping:

1/3 cup sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
1 1/2 tsp finely grated zest from 1 lemon


Non-stick cooking or baking spray, I used Baker's Joy
2 cups fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces), picked over
1 1/8 cups sugar (8 ounces) plus 1 tsp
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


FOR THE TOPPING: Combine sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir. Set aside.

FOR THE MUFFINS: If not already done, move oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray muffin tin with baking spray.

Add 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to a small saucepan at medium heat. Allow to simmer and cook, mash the berries with the back of a spoon until all of the berries are broken down. Stir frequently and cook until mixture is thickened and reduced to about ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl and whisk.

To another bowl, add 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs and whisk until thick, about 45 seconds. Whisk in butter and oil slowly, until combined. Then, whisk buttermilk and vanilla in, until combined.

Using rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, fold in egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Do not overmix. The batter will be lumpy and that's fine.)

Using an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, add batter evenly to each of the muffin cups. The muffin cups will be full. Take one teaspoon of the cooled blueberry jam and add to the top of each mound of batter. Using a chopstick or skewer, swirl the jam into the batter a few times. (Cook's Illustrated says to use figure eight motions.)

Add the lemon-sugar topping evenly over all of the muffins.

Bake the muffins until they are just about gold on top, about 17-19 minutes. Halfway through the baking time, be sure to rotate the muffin tin. Allow muffins to cool in the muffin tin for about 2-3 minutes. Using a butter knife or offset spatula, remove the muffins from the tin and allow them to rest at an angle. Cool for another 5 minutes and place on a cooling rack. Serve with softened butter.
These muffins can be stored in a zippered plastic bag for 2-3 days.

Hypothetical scenario: you are told that you can choose one dessert to make completely calorie-free forevermore. The flavor stays the same, the ingredients stay the same, but suddenly it's healthy for you to eat this dessert. In fact, you can have it to your heart's content knowing that a moment on the lips is no longer forever on the hips. (Yes, these are the sorts of things I think of in my spare time.)

I'd choose milkshakes. I love milkshakes. Love. them. If I ever have a restaurant, it will have amazing hand-spun milkshakes. The kind where you get your regular milkshake and then you get the metal cup with the extra milkshake in it. No one ever really needs the extra, but it's there so you might as well take advantage of it.

Everyone has a different favorite milkshake. Some are the purists, vanilla all the way. Some like the black and white, vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, or just regular chocolate. Then you have the others: strawberry, cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, etc. I'm a chocolate person. I've had so many chocolate milkshakes in my life that it makes it easy to judge whether a place has good milkshakes. If you get something less standard it's harder to judge whether it's the flavor or the milkshake itself that makes it good or bad. My second favorite is cookies and cream...which brings me to this recipe. In the real world, eating milkshakes on a regular basis isn't such a good thing. But there's light at the end of the tunnel, because apparently a delicious, healthy milkshake is not an oxymoron.

I've seen quite a bit of buzz around "banana whip" online. It's just frozen sliced bananas blended up. Somehow it turns into something along the lines of ice cream that shockingly doesn't taste like bananas. Who knew?! One banana doesn't whip into much, so if you wanted a milkshake size of banana whip you'd be eating around four or five bananas. That's a bit excessive. Thank goodness for Sally, who created a way to turn banana whip into a healthy milkshake. You just add skim milk, fat free Cool Whip and reduced fat Oreos. Now I'm not saying this tastes like a hand-spun milkshake, but it's pretty great considering it has maybe 1/10 of the calories. My only suggestion would be to slice the bananas before they are overly ripe. Though very ripe bananas are better for baking because they have more flavor, you don't want the banana flavor to come through in the milkshakes. Cut them in that prime time between when they are green and when they are speckled. You'll barely be able to taste it in the milkshake. Enjoy!

Skinny Cookies and Cream Milkshake
Serves 2

2 ripe large bananas, peeled, cut into chunks, & frozen
1/4 cup skim milk (or almond or soy)
1/2 cup fat-free frozen whipped topping, such as Cool Whip* (frozen, not thawed, Cool Whip will produce a creamier milkshake)
3 reduced-fat Oreos

  1. Blend the frozen banana chunks and milk together until thick, creamy, and smooth - about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
  2. Add the Cool Whip and Oreos and blend for 1 minute. Pour into glasses and enjoy!
Notes from Sally:
*Greek yogurt is a wonderful protein-packed replacement for Cool Whip.