Good Morning Sunshine Bars & Other Big News

Today I'd like to tell you about two things. They're both pretty major and somewhat related. The first is that I've made a recipe twice in three days, which is highly unusual around here, but once the first batch was demolished, there was a primal need for a second batch. That's pretty big time. And hey, speaking of second batches, there's one other piece of exciting news...

We're adding a new member to our family! Our new baby boy (!!) will be arriving sometime late February/early March and we are all just so excited (even Little C, who was initially less than impressed by the news that she won't be getting a sister--blame your father, kid; I'm just the incubator, here). After a rather horrendous first trimester, during which I'm pretty sure I aged five years, I'm getting along just fine now (except for a killer ongoing case of heartburn, which I also had the entire second half of my pregnancy with Little C, so along with garnering additional chins, I guess that just how I roll when growing people inside of me). I'm actually feeling pretty good now most days.

I have decided, though, that I will never be one of those people who positively glow during pregnancy, and find themselves deliriously thrilled about life with the energy to lift cars or something. In fact, whenever I hear women talk about how they never! felt! better! than they did while pregnant, it takes every bit of restraint I have to not inquire about the conditions under which they were previously kept. I'm just being honest here, people. I will never be Michelle Duggar, I'll tell you that much.

So now that the word is out, I can be a little more forthcoming about my lack of posts over the summer (our wi-fi connection? Yeah, not so good from the bathroom, as it turns out). Also, I can tell you this--it's challenging to keep up a baking blog when you can't decide what you feel like eating 90% of the time, and on top of that, have seemingly misplaced your sweet tooth just a bit (I know! Crazytown.) So in a nutshell, these days I'm alternately happy, exhausted, freaked out, keeping myself busy, and clinging desperately to any food that is attractive to my bipolar palate. Enter these Good Morning Sunshine Bars from the Baked boys' latest cookbook. This recipe may be a one-way ticket to gestational diabetes, but dang, is it ever worth it.

The danger of these bars exists on multiple levels. See, they are sweet, but addictively salty. Simultaneously chewy and crispy. Tasting of caramel, peanut butter, AND just enough chocolate to keep things interesting and totally craveworthy. Perfectly balanced in every way. And the whole thing comes together on the stovetop way too fast to be legal. I'm not the first blogger to post about these gems, but I may be the first to admit that I housed half a batch in a day and a half. I'm pregnant, see, so I have no patience for modesty or restraint. And I'm riding that excuse train all the way to the end of February, at least.

Good Morning Sunshine Bars Adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked Elements

Makes about 2 dozen

I actually halved this recipe, and used an 8x8-inch pan, which worked out fine. But then, for survival purposes, I had to make a second half batch just a couple days later. So maybe just go for it, make the full batch, and save yourself the extra effort. You won't regret it.

6 cups Rice Chex cereal (you could use another crispy cereal, but I think Rice Chex are ideal here) 1 1/4 cups roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped 1 cup dark brown sugar 1 cup light corn syrup 1 cup creamy peanut butter (I like Skippy) 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 6 ounces dark chocolate, melted (you may not need quite this much, the idea is to have just a drizzle of chocolate in each bite, not a coating)

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan and line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil (with a little butter, or my choice--nonstick cooking spray). Lightly grease the liner as well.

In a large bowl, toss together the cereal and peanuts.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, melt together the brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring often. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 full minute (don't boil longer than this, lest your bars turn out hard instead of chewy). Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth, then stir in the salt and vanilla extract. Pour the caramel mixture over the cereal, and using a large spoon or spatula, toss well to completely coat the cereal (lightly spraying your spoon or spatula with a little cooking spray helps in this task enormously). Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan, and press into an even layer. Let set at room temperature for about an hour, or speed things up by placing the pan in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.

Drizzle the melted chocolate over the bars and refrigerate for just long enough to set the chocolate, about 10 minutes. Remove the slab from the pan and cut into 2 dozen bars (or make them smaller, if you wish). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

BarsShauna Sever