My bestie whalecat Harry passed away a month ago, after a brief but aggressive bout of lymphoma. He lived like a boss right until the end, snacking on fresh ricotta cheese, homemade mashed potatoes, and Doritos. He had no regrets—he had, and deserved, the best.
I was the one left suffering. My cooking mojo disappeared. Recipes wouldn’t work; ideas wouldn’t flow. Cakes rose in the oven, then sank like a stone on the counter. Dishes tasted too spicy or too flat no matter how much I tweaked the seasoning. I felt no shame at the mountain of Triscuit boxes and Cape Cod potato chip bags in the pantry. I slept late. I laid on the couch. I lolled on the bed. I couldn’t even go for a run without feeling like my legs were made of lead and stone. I bought a paddleboard in a fit of grief-induced retail therapy.
But I wanted to thank Harry’s doctors for their time and kindness, and the best way I can think to say thank you is through food. I had to keep it simple, since everything coming out of my kitchen was a flaming pile of failure.
Yet even in my grief fog, even though I was eating ramen noodle bowls and Amy’s frozen dinners as my only sustenance, I couldn’t turn to a boxed mix of brownies, package them up, and call it a day.
I get it. There’s satisfaction in simplicity. Not everyone wants vinegar in their strawberry sauce or miso in their peanut butter. But even if I’m just making a batch of Rice Krispie Treats (my favorite simplest stovetop dessert), there’s a deeply hard-wired part of my brain that feels compelled to do it right.
But some days, just doing enough is more than enough.
So I stretched my muscles a little further than the Rice Krispies recipe. I didn’t go whole hog and make a S’mores bar from scratch, but I did bite the bullet by using Golden Grahams as a crunchy no-bake bar base bound by rich fluffernutter goo. Topped with peanuts, more marshmallows, and messy chocolate ganache, it hit every comfort food button without being too hard for me to pull together in my blurry state of mind.
Since making the rounds with my thank-you treats, I’ve had numerous requests for the recipe, so I’m sharing it here today. I’m still a little embarrassed by its overall semi-homemadeness, but I have yet to meet someone who’s not completely head over heels for the final result. Including me.
(Obviously don’t feed this to your cats—there’s a ton of chocolate and other animal-unfriendly ingredients here. Just give them extra pets and snuggles as their treat.)
Fluffernutter S’mores Bars
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes plus 3 hours chill time
Makes about 2 dozen treats
- 1 16-ounce box Golden Grahams
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 57 grams) unsalted butter
- 10 cups (15 ounces) mini marshmallows, divided into 8 cups (12 ounces) and 2 cups (3 ounces)
- 1/2 cup (4 3/4 ounces) creamy peanut butter
- 9 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) milk chocolate chips
- 9 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) cocoa nibs, divided into 2 tablespoons each
- 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) coarsely chopped salted peanuts
Spritz a 9×13-inch baking pan or casserole dish with nonstick baking spray.
Scoop 2 cups (3 ounces) of Golden Grahams out of the box and save to eat at another time.
Melt the butter in a large (6-8 quart) stockpot over medium-low heat.
Add 8 cups mini marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Stir in the peanut butter.
Stir in the Golden Grahams a few cups at a time, making sure all the cereal is evenly coated with fluffernutter goo.
With a spatula or greased hands, press the Grahams into the prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the cocoa nibs, then cover evenly with the peanuts and remaining 2 cups marshmallows.
Pour the chocolate chips into a large heatproof bowl.
Heat the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until the cream comes to a bare simmer—you’ll see bubbles start to appear around the edges of the cream.
Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let sit undisturbed for 1 minute before gently stirring together. Begin stirring small circles in the center of the bowl and slowly increase the circumference of your strokes as the chocolate and cream blend into a ganache.
Pour the ganache evenly over the topped Grahams in the pan, tilting the pan gently and spreading with a spatula to make sure the entire surface, including the corners, is covered. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa nibs.
Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours until the chocolate is completely set.
Slice into 2-inch squares (believe me, these are intense, you don’t need big squares) and serve.