|Chocolatey peanut butter Cheerio treats|
(Pffft. As if we need an excuse to make cookies.)
My cousin is even working her way through a book that showcases a different cookie for each day of December (you'll be happy to know that December 5th is NINJA DAY -- clearly an ideal day to whip up some Ninjabreadmen.)
This got me thinking: why the cookie? That is, why did the cookie become the de rigueur holiday tradition for swaps, parties, gifts and Santa snacks?
You know The Ninj: I jump at any chance to do a little food history research.
For once, Wikipedia completely let me down (shocking, I know). But not so the Cake Spy, who asked these same questions in 2008 and did her own research via Foodtimeline.org. According to The Spy and The Timeline
Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including smaller items such as cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, dried fruits etc.) were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages. They were highly prized and quickly incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes. Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday decorations to America. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie type recipes descended from English traditions. Did you know animal crackers began as edible ornaments?
All very interesting indeed. Apparently we can blame it all on the cookie cutter.
Leave it to The Ninj to throw all that out the window and make holiday cheerio treats.
I made these little bars for the open house that our local library hosts each year just before the lighting of the town Christmas tree (it's all very quaint and New Englandy). Given that our library seems to serve no one but small children, I thought this riff on the rice krispy treat would have extra appeal: even childless I know that the little ones take to Cheerios like an addict to crack.
I was right. While I enjoyed the macaroons, jam bars and shortbread, the little hands kept dipping into the tin loaded with chocolately, peanut buttery Cheerio goodness.
Luckily, this is one treat that isn't limited to the holidays and can involve a little helper or two.
And I don't mean elves. They're a wee bit busy right now.
Chocolatey Peanut Butter Cheerio Treats (adapted from Just Jenn Recipes)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
10-oz bag marshmallows
6 cups regular Cheerios
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Add the marshmallows and continue to cook and stir until melty and blended. Remove from the heat and stir in all the Cheerios and half the chocolate chips, really working it all around until the cereal is well-coated. Press the mixture (I use a piece of waxed paper to make it easier) into a greased 9" x 13" baking pan and sprinkle the surface with the remaining chips (they will melt a bit as the mixture cools). Let cool completely. Turn the mixture out onto a large cutting board and cut into squares.