Come Into My Kitchen

Easy chocolate peanut butter bars a winning recipe at work

Mmm-Mmm GOOD!(win’s) Peanut Butter Bars are a family favorite for Kelly Goodwin and her daughters (from left), Vivian, 5; Georgia, 9; and Ella, 11.
Mmm-Mmm GOOD!(win’s) Peanut Butter Bars are a family favorite for Kelly Goodwin and her daughters (from left), Vivian, 5; Georgia, 9; and Ella, 11. Special to The Star

Kelly Goodwin knows the recipe for success, both inside and outside her Shawnee kitchen. As a cardiac nurse and mother to three girls — Ella, 11; Georgia, 9; and Vivian, 5 — Goodwin says balancing her “busyness” boils down to the support of her husband, John.

But Kelly’s kitchen also really cooks with her daughters’ help: Ella always follows a recipe’s directions; Georgia takes pride in cleaning up by loading the dishwasher, while Vivian is about the epicurean end game. “I am the taste tester!” she exclaims.

Q: As a cardiac nurse, how do you approach food in your home?

A: Our meals can be very simple, including a lean protein, vegetable, salad and fruit. I admire people who plan their menu for the week, but often I’m looking up ideas on Pinterest for inspiring chicken recipes.

For the best heart health, meals should be colorful with natural foods that are simply made. There has been a lot more education about heart attacks and women. Often, women’s symptoms can be atypical, when compared to how men experience a heart attack. I think it’s important that women listen to their own bodies, but sometimes that can be more difficult because we’re usually the ones taking care of everyone else in our lives.

Q: As a nurse, do you believe you’re a nurturer by nature?

A: Oh, yes, and I believe feeding people is a huge part of nurturing others. Our nurses are a wonderful group of people, and we don’t need an excuse to bring food into work and communally share it. With all the serious work we do with patients, it’s great to know that in the break room, there is often food to share. Eating together not only feeds the body, it also feeds friendships. Swapping recipes and sharing food ideas deepens relationships, answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”

Q: Did you grow up with this approach to food?

A: I grew up in Topeka and my mother, Jennie Krentz, is a great down-home style cook, with a pie-baking specialty.

At home, we try to adopt Dr. James O’Keefe’s philosophy of “good foods first.” If you’re hungry, there’s always a temptation to eat foods that are more readily available, which are usually processed junk foods. By eating good foods first, your body gets the fuel it needs, which will help in reducing the urge to eat things that you know aren’t the best for you.

Q: You must have a balanced attitude toward eating to be able to share this dessert recipe …

A: Enjoying and really savoring a sweet treat is one of the simple pleasures in life. But it’s all about learning limits and practicing moderation.

I share this recipe with you because every year at work around the holidays, we have a bake-off that is judged by surgeons and hospital administrators. I entered this simple recipe into the contest and it won first place!

That these simple bars won against some talented bakers bringing cheesecakes and cookies still amazes me. I think that it’s because these bars taste very similar to a peanut butter cup and they couldn’t be easier to make — the girls even help. These peanut butter bars are a family favorite — requested for birthdays, annual fishing trips and sometimes, just because!

Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at to nominate a cook.

Mmm-Mmm GOOD!(win’s) Peanut Butter Bars

Makes 24 servings

2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup butter, melted

1 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, divided

1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

Cover bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper, making sure paper reaches up over the sides of pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar together. Using a strong wooden spoon, stir butter and 1 cup peanut butter into graham cracker mixture until well combined.

Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan and place into freezer.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips by heating in microwave on full power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well after each interval. When chocolate is melted, stir in remaining  1/4 cup peanut butter until well combined.

Spread melted chocolate over top of peanut butter mixture in pan. Return to freezer until chocolate is set.

Before serving, gently lift parchment paper, removing bars from pan. Place on a cutting board, and using a large chef’s knife, cut into 24 squares. Place back into pan, or store in a resealable plastic container in refrigerator or freezer.

Per serving: 284 calories (58 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 21 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 185 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber