Keeping track of all the recipes I've marked, clipped and saved over the years is a huge challenge. After digging into piles on my desk, folders in my file cabinet drawers and stacks of food magazines scattered all over the house in search of a certain recipe one too many times, I finally threw my arms up in frustration and called a professional office organizer.
Our first appointment lasted only two hours. And, oh, the things we discovered - besides the tops of both of my desks. Recipes I'd thought were lost forever suddenly appeared, tucked between pages of papers. Some of the real treasures we uncovered, though, were recipes I had totally forgotten about.
An index card with a recipe for Chow Mein Noodle Bars was unearthed from a teetering pile of food magazines, old mail and cookbooks. My neighbor, who is a wonderful baker, had given me the recipe a few years ago and I had rediscovered it a few months ago. Then somehow it disappeared again. With recipe in hand once again, the bag of chow mein noodles in my pantry suddenly made sense. I could not remember why in the world I had purchased that bag of crunchy noodles. I was just about ready to use them up in a slow cooker full of chow mein hotdish.
Before the organizing guru left my home office, the tops of my two desks were clear, two big white plastic bags were full of things to toss, and she had me all set up with a system that would keep my papers in proper places.
The next day I slid the recently rescued recipe from one of the shiny new project files in a standing rack on my desk. I headed to the kitchen and prepared the chow mein noodle bars in little time. After sharing with friends, we all decided we wanted more chocolate and more peanut butter. So, back to the kitchen I went to play with the recipe until I finally came up with a chewy, satisfying treat.
Crunchy Peanut Butter & Fudge Delights are built on a buttery shortbread crust. This bottom layer is baked before being topped with a no-bake filling loaded with peanut butter, crunchy chow mein noodles and lots of peanuts. Once that middle layer is chilled and firm, on goes chocolate topping. The fudge-like layer is thick, creamy and smooth.
The 9-x13-inch metal pan filled with the newly developed bars weighed enough so that I could use it to sculpt my upper arms. But that didn't last long. The pan quickly grew lighter as the bars disappeared.
The recipe that inspired the development of Crunchy Peanut Butter & Fudge Delights had done its job and was ready to go into the recycle bin. This new recipe is filed on my computer. I'll return to the multi-colored project folders in my "Ideas" file in the vertical organizer on my desk to see what I might write about next.
I can't wait for my next appointment with the organizer. I might discover why I have a package of wonton wraps in my refrigerator.
Crunchy Peanut Butter & Fudge Delights
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups creamy peanut butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups chow mein noodles
1 (12-ounce) can cocktail peanuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
Spray a 9-x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, making sure the paper comes up and just slightly above the sides of pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the bottom layer by mixing flour, brown sugar and 3/4 cup butter. A food processor works well for this. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
While bottom layer is baking, measure chow mein noodles and peanuts into a bowl. Set aside. Put 1/4 cup butter, corn syrup, peanut butter and marshmallows into a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Heat in microwave oven for about 3 minutes on High power, stirring after each minute, until mixture is melted and smooth. This step can also be done in the top of a double boiler over hot water, stirring until mixture is completely smooth. Add chow mein noodles and peanuts to peanut butter mixture, stirring to mix. Spread mixture over still-warm bottom layer. Allow to cool, then cover and chill.
To make topping, combine 1/2 cup butter, sweetened condensed milk and semisweet chocolate morsels. Microwave on High power for 1 minute. Remove from microwave oven and stir mixture until smooth. You can also heat the ingredients in the top of a double boiler or in a heavy saucepan, stirring until melted and smooth. Spread fudge topping over peanut butter layer. Cover and chill. Cut into squares and serve. Store in refrigerator.
Tips from the cook
--I like to put the chow mein noodles and peanuts in an oven-safe bowl. When the crust comes out of the oven, I turn the oven off and slip the bowl in for a few minutes. The noodles and peanuts warm up a little bit, making it easier to mix them with the peanut butter mixture.
--Lining the pan with parchment paper makes it possible to easily pull the prepared Crunchy Peanut Butter & Fudge Delights from the pan and cut them into serving-sized pieces.