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We're into presents that involve snacking, so we paired up with Justin's to share recipes that you can gift for the holidays.
Today: Dark chocolate and peanut butter solve everything—everything.
I didn’t hear about puppy chow until late into adolescence. Which probably helps explain why I sat alone at the end of a lunch table in elementary school—not with a ham and cheese or pizza, but with sushi (a vegetable roll). While there wasn't a piece of sashimi in sight, that didn't stop my classmates from teasing me about the smell, the “weird wrapper,” and for just being me.
My family knows similar outsider status. In the small, conservative town in Western New York where I grew up, my artist-professor parents stick out like the NPR-loving, sore thumbs they are. Our family eats differently, too, and I’m pretty sure my mom consistently buys the entire town’s tofu supply.
How I make puppy chow now is far different than the first time I had it at a Halloween party my junior year of high school, where it was scantily dusted with confectioner's sugar and made with white chocolate (Why? I'll never know.), so barely covered you could still see the cereal beneath the coating. The chocolate-peanut butter cereal snack was a staple party food, however you better not care what people think of you when you're eating it.
Its powdery sugar coating is notoriously messy, in the same way cheese puff dust sticks to your hands and lips. But, puppy chow’s so addictive that it doesn't matter. Especially so if you use high-quality peanut butter, dark chocolate instead of milk (or white!), and enough salt to add a little hmm. I eat it the way I eat popcorn: loading up a handful and trying to stuff it in all at once, with some inevitably not making it.
The same year I discovered puppy chow was the same year I knew I was pretending to be a person I wasn’t—and that wasn’t okay. I realized I suppressed my love for puns in favor of phrases such as “like, totally,” refused to eat more than a slice of pizza in public, and ate lifeless school salads instead of homemade sushi. I vowed to stop pretending and start the long journey towards self-acceptance. I may or may not have been “cool,” but, I no longer cared.
These days, I have a group of friends whom I love—and who love to eat what I make them. Which makes me love them more. We have skillet cookie parties and weekly “family” dinners—always with some sort of dessert. When I make us puppy chow, we'll eat it unabashedly, with powdered sugar covering our hands and faces. And that’ll always be very, very cool.
Serves 10 to 14
9 cups Chex or Crispix cereal
1 cup bittersweet (or other dark) chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Puppy chow photos by Alpha Smoot; photo of sandwich by Mark Weinberg; photo of snack mix ingredients and chocolate bars by James Ransom