I hope Times readers had a wonderful Christmas, as the holiday season continues.
We can all be grateful for so many blessings as 2012 readies to come to a close.
As I've written about before in this space, I feel very fortunate that I've been able to serve on the select faculty at Purdue University North Central allowing me to teach college classes to inmates at Westville Correctional Center and Michigan City State Prison's Lakeside Facility Center.
After serving in this capacity for 12 years, following our Spring 2012 semester, Purdue was informed the State of Indiana was forced to cut this education program after its 26 years in existence.
I don't miss getting up at 5 a.m. to arrive "inside the walls" by the required 6:45 a.m. to begin teaching promptly at 7 a.m. However, I do miss the inmates, who often were some of the most respectful and truly grateful students I've taught since I began teaching as an adjunct part-time college instructor in 1996 at Valparaiso University, and then also joining the Purdue faculty in 1999. John Coggins, Purdue North Central's assistant vice chancellor for student services/ dean of students, is one of the reasons the program enjoyed such success. And after 37 years, Coggins is retiring and moving to Florida after the holidays. The program's on-site coordinator Dave Crum is another reason for the prison college program's success.
During the decade this column has been in existence, I've shared a number of great prison recipes. At last May's final prison honors luncheon event at Westville Correctional Center, one of the inmates, Matthew Titus, No. 169575, was kind enough to share a favorite recipe for delicious peanut butter dessert bars. Titus, 42, who will complete his seven-year sentence for dealing narcotics in June 2013, wrote each of the preparation steps in great detail, so readers can see the effort that goes into something that seems so everyday to the rest of us, and that we likely take for granted with our conveniences. This recipe is sure to be the most unique conversation starter if you take it to your holiday gatherings. And despite how creative and inventive inmates have to be, of course, you can convert it to more convenient steps in your kitchen.
A Happy and Healthy New Year to Times Readers!
Prison Peanut Butter Bars # 169575
2 (36- ounce) ounce jars creamy peanut butter
1 (14-ounce) package of creme sandwich cookies (preferably "duplex" style)
1 (1 pound) box sugar cubes (only thing available in prison)
2 envelopes of hot cocoa mix (with marshmallows if you prefer)
1 (1.74 ounce) bag of peanut M&M candies
1 (2.1 ounce) Butterfinger candy bar
1 brand-new clear plastic trash bag
1 10-inch by 12-inch cardboard flat box (like the type canned 6-pack soda is stacked in)
1 long cylindrical spout (inmates use a rinsed bbq sauce bottle from commissary)
2 large mixing bowls
DIRECTIONS: Begin by creating and preparing a makeshift pan by using a disposable shaver razor blade (yep, inmates are allowed them) to cut the end off of the plastic trash bag and then cut it in half to make 2 equal pieces. Take half of the cut bag and line the cardboard box. Take the other half of the plastic bag and cut into another 2 equal pieces. Take one of the pieces and cut 16 equal plastic squares. Set remaining half of cut plastic bag aside to later cover recipe while the candy sets up. To begin making recipe, separate creme filling from 2 rows of the sandwich cookies, scraping the filling into a bowl. Place the empty scraped cookies into a plastic bag (or piece of plastic) and crush into dime-size pieces, set aside. Pour sugar cubes into a microwave-safe dish or bowl and cover with just enough water to be no more than 1/4-an inch above the cubes. Microwave sugar for 3-4 minutes on high until sugar dissolves, set aside. Scoop all of the peanut butter into one of the large mixing bowls. Add 1/2 of the sugar mixture to the peanut butter and mix thoroughly. Add in the crushed cookies and combine well. Pour this mixture into the plastic lined cardboard box. Place the reserved piece of plastic over the mixture and press down with hands to flatten until evenly distributed to make a "rolled out" 10-inch by 10-inch square. Allow to cool and set up while making topping. Remove the last row of sandwich cookies and crush intact cookies with hands or in a bag to make bb-size pieces and set aside. Use any solid object (inmates use their heavy metal combination locks from their foot locker boxes) to crush up the M&Ms in their package and set aside. Cut up the Butterfinger candy bar into small pieces (inmates use the sharp edges of a metal can lid) and set aside. Add the 2 envelopes of hot cocoa mix to the remaining sugar water mixture and microwave for 1 minute, stirring until completely mixed, and then pour it over the cooling (yet still a little warm) peanut butter layer in box-pan. Next, evenly sprinkle the crushed cookie pieces as the next layer. Then, sprinkle the Butterfinger pieces and the reserved mashed white creme from the cookies to evenly distribute. Finally, sprinkle the crushed M&Ms over the top. Return plastic cover to the top of box-pan to cover and press the toppings into the peanut butter layer. Allow pan mixture to cool completely and then use can-lid to cut into 2 1/2-inch by 2 1/2-inch squares and package into the cut clear plastic trash bag squares. Makes 16 individually wrapped bars which can be "sold" and "bartered" for, with the going price rate to purchase being 3 Ramen noodle soups (which serve as currency in prison). NOTE: As of 5/22/12, the cost to make this recipe, based on purchasing the ingredients at the prison commissary, was $11.47. The cost to purchase 1 Ramen noodle soup in prison from the commissary is 31 cents.