Friday, March 09, 2012

Peanut Butter-Pretzel Shortbread Bars...

It's been just over two months since our last post - I think this is the longest delay we've ever had! I wish I had lots of news to share with you, but frankly, life has not been all that exciting. You know I've been dealing with this darn gut issue for a long time, but for whatever reason it had gotten worse last year. I've been through a barrage of tests (one doc called it the million dollar medical spree! Not quite, but it felt like it), food allergy testing and celiac testing, along with several months of heavily restricted diets to look and see if this may be a dietary issue. That is the main reason for the inactivity here - not much to talk about when you can't eat the majority of the food you used to!

What do we have to show for this? Sadly, not a whole heck of a lot. After being sent to the gastroenterology specialists at the University of NC, the conclusion so far is that my issue is most likely not dietary related and may be a problem of hypersensitivity of the nerves in my gut and a problem with how the muscles in my abdomen react when food is introduced. Where we go from here is not all that clear - I'm not big on taking medication, but we've decided to give their recommendation a go. It'll take 4-6 weeks to see if it works, but we figured I might as well - I've already done everything else!

The dogs have been doing well through all of this though. Here's Gus in his favorite spot - smack dab in the middle of the yard where the sun shines the most.

Dora, on the other hand, would rather explore every nook and cranny the great outdoors holds, rather than be lazy like her pal.

I've occasionally taken pictures of foods we've made for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day, which I have diligently continued to keep up. It has been tough not being able to sample the majority of goodies Jeff would bring into the office, but I was still able to enjoy the process of making them! One of those were these killer Peanut Butter-Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

While the combo sounded astounding, I admit the main reason I wanted to make these was to give my rectangular tart pan some love. The pan is a favorite, but I don't use it nearly enough!

Salty-sweet snacks are an irresistible downfall for me and thought it was ridiculous that I kept having to remind myself I wasn't allowed even a nibble. Thankfully, I knew they were transported into the office the next morning and wouldn't be sitting on the counter teasing me for the next few days.

The crunchy pretzel is introduced in three ways into this buttery shortbread cookie - ground into a pretzel powder to cut the flour-y base, chunky pieces mixed into the stuff dough and a handful pressed onto the top let you know exactly what you'll be diving into. The original recipe did not call for the peanut portion, but I had the refinements of an already opened bag of peanut butter chips languishing in the pantry, last used to make that layered two-toned fudge over Christmas.

Jeff nodded in agreement when I asked if I should toss a scoopful into the dough - mainly, I think, because I've caught him more than once sticking pretzel sticks into a jar of peanut butter before dinner! Another change I made was to use half brown sugar and half regular granulated, along with a splash of vanilla for good measure. Use entirely granulated if you like, but I fancy the mellow molasses undertones from brown sugar.

These take about a half hour to bake, rendering them a pale golden around the edges, with the center being firm to the touch, but not hard. You'll be left with cookies that have a crisp perimeter, yet are still melting-ly tender as you munch your way through the groovy individual rectangles. Can you still make this if you don't have this type of pan? Sure - I encourage you to do so because you shouldn't miss these! I would have to guess an 8" square pan would be just about right - you'll just have to watch the total bake time.


  1. Oh Joe, hope you find some answers soon. Being a human pin cushion is absolutely no fun. Not to mention limiting all the yummy deliciousness is virtually impossible for a true foodie as yourself.

    The pups look cute as ever! Sending good thoughts your way!

  2. Oh, that's hard. Best wishes to you for finding the cause of your health issues, and getting better soon!

  3. Sweet Joe, positive energy, hugs and some prayers for you and yours! I sooo enjoy Culinary and look forward to the messages. Are you on FB? I looked, but didn't see anything. It sounds like you both support each other - kudos to you!

    Adorable Gus and Dora - thank you for posting about them, too. We had a Gus, a Golden St. Beagle, years ago when I was a kid. Mom got the name from Lonesome Dove, I'm pretty sure.

    PS - Yes, that pretty pan does look like a treat to use!

  4. So good to hear from you, Joe. Hang in there-my thoughts and prayers are with you. Hugs~Patty

  5. Hope you feel better soon. I haven't been on a similar spree but can imagine how frustrating it might be to have test after test hoping for an answer and relief. The dogs look adorable though - so content and happy and the bars, delicious. I love the look of the pattern with the pretzels.

  6. So great to see you back! I've been through some of what you've been going through - frustrating and nerve-racking - my sympathies, Joe. Thanks for posting - it's great to know you're there.

  7. Hope you feel better soon. I am a big advocate of naturopath. I don't like medication either. The bars looks fantastic. Nice to see you posting new recipes.

  8. I've been checking every couple days to see if you had started up again. So glad to see your post today! Sorry to hear your health problems are continuing. Hope you find out a solution to the problem soon. I have missed you!

  9. I wish I could lick the computer screen to taste those yummy looking bars. Don't give up hope with your health, stay on top of those doctors and question everything. I sure hope you feel better soon.

  10. My heart goes out to you. Although I was glad to see another post from you, I want you to know that it's understandable if there's a so-called "delay" between posts. Your health comes first. Take care. Blogging can wait - it and your readers will be there. :)

  11. I have missed your recipes. I hope you can find an answer.

  12. I'm sorry you suffer with gut problems--same here! I know how frustrating and painful it can be, so I hope you find an answer soon.

    On a happier note, these bars look amazing! I am a freak for sweet and salty, so I am totally stoked to try these. And yay for finding unique ways to use odd-shaped tart pans! :)

  13. I hope you get well soon.

    That pan really is beautiful, the bars sound amazing

  14. Hi, I just happen to end on your blog; the cake looks mouthwatering :-). Wonder if you have heard of the GAP diet? It should heal gut problems...Here is a link:
    Kind regards, Britta, Denmark.

  15. Hi Joe,

    I saw your new puppy when you first got her. She is adorable. You cant have just one doxie. Follow me on FB if you want.

  16. Are you ever going to write again?

  17. Thanks everyone!

    Britta - I have been on a similar diet to GAP, though not AS strict. I've been told me issue isn't strictly dietary, so I'm going down that path as we speak.

    Anon - Perhaps, but life has to fall back into place first!

  18. Feel better, joe. I absolutely understand since I go through he same. I am trying probiotics now to get the good ones to fight the evil. It only happens with certain foods and stomach goes into violent purge mode. So I am trying to avoid eating out, eat lots of yoghurt, probiotic drinks like yakult, and include fruits and veggies. Get well:)

  19. You know, I have one of those pans, and have hardly used it since I bought it. Time to pull it out!

    Adorable pups, BTW. Peace, Mari

  20. Oh, Joe! I've missed you! So sorry about your ordeal, this makes me really sad. What can you eat safely?

    I'm going to keep you in my prayers. Hopefully one day we'll read that you're feeling better.

  21. Joe ~ I hope that the medication is effective and that you're a step closer to finding out what is going on in your belly. Meantime you and hubby are great troopers keeping up with the Wednesday treats. Get well soon.

  22. I have loved your blog for years. I am so happy to see a post and more importantly to know you are ok. Keep us posted..please.

  23. Hope you are doing well....missing your blog in Minnesota!

  24. Joe - Hope all is well. Your yummy bloggy goodness is greatly missed.
    ~ blondie

  25. I guess you have moved on to other will be greatly missed! You were always the first blog I checked each morning to see what you had made...hope your health is ok and you are just doing other interesting things!

    1. I miss it as well. You made me want to cook! I hope you are ok.

  26. Well, Joe, I guess it's time to say goodbye. You were one of the first blogs I read on a daily basis and I thoroughly enjoy your recipes and stories. Life changes and things in our life we simply took for granted suddenly becomes very important--like our health and relationships. Hope you are doing well and will soon let us know what is going on with you.

  27. Hi everyone!

    Sorry for the lack of updates - it has not been intentional!

    Thank you for checking in on us. We're doing ok - have been going through some more medical tests and a couple more in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully we'll find an answer with these! In the mean time, Jeff and I have been busy with house projects, doctor visits (his knee is bothering him still!) and, of course, the pups! Between all that, work and cooking/baking (everyday!), I haven't had time to continue taking pictures of our everyday eats and writing up posts. Perhaps this may change as the year progresses, but only time will tell!

    I'll try to write up a proper post if we find out anything from these current tests.

    Thanks again!

  28. Hey Joe! So good to hear from you! I can't believe you're still going through testing. Good luck with all your upcoming tests. I hope you get some answers and can begin the road to recovery. I was so happy to see your note... you have been missed. And I'm glad to read that you're still keeping up with all your cooking... it's the best form of therapy!!!


  29. Joe!

    I have to admit I've completely gotten out of the habit with blog posting and reading other blog posts unless it's something I've had in my reader, and somehow I hadn't added your blog to the reader.

    Brett's on the phone with his mom right now - his parents have two dauchsunds and they're talking about getting a third - perhaps an all dappled one. I instantly thought "Joe's got one! Must go find pics!"

    And now I see that you're going through some gut issues...and I'm so sorry to hear that. I've had enough gut issues in the past - and I think much of it was a combination of learning I was a bit lactose intolerant plus it's how I internalize stress. So I'm learning to deal with stress better, drink Lactaid, oh, and avoid anything like fajitas or stuff at Chipotles that has the cooked onions and peppers. Those do NOT do well with me. Combination of things here, but I'm guessing they would've ruled those things out in your situation.

    I hope you find some answers to what you're wrestling with... Good luck!


  30. Yikes, Joe!

    I keep checking to see if you have more blog posts but to no avail. :(

    But when I read you're still having health issues, I get it. I too have been there but hope you find some respite soon!

    I'll keep checking intermittently. Til then!


  31. Hi Joe

    Just want to wish you well and hope that things will improve soon - with everyone thinking about you and wishing you better, hopefully you will find a solution. Take care. Anne (Edinburgh)

  32. I check your blog almost every day. I hadn't looked at the comments lately - so was glad to see you posted an update in July. There are alot of us who hope you are feeling better soon and can continue your blog. You are missed.

  33. Those look delicious! I can't wait to try it, looking up a recipe now!