If you only think of peanut butter as a component of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you’re missing out on some opportunities for real culinary creativity. This standard of sandwich-making for generations of kids is actually an amazing food – one that can be used in gourmet dishes, as a protein boost for snacks and smoothies or as a fast way to make a delicious Thai-style recipe.
Peanut butter is also a great energy-dense food that contains some extremely valuable vitamins, fiber and minerals – things like niacin, manganese and a dose of heart-healthy fat. Several years ago, in fact, a big study on peanut oil found that it might be helpful in the prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
And in 2003, even the Food & Drug Administration came along on the side of nuts, saying that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts a day can lower your risk of heart disease.
So with all this good news we’re hearing about peanut butter, why not open up a jar, put away the bread, and try some of my favorite and unusual ways to use it!
- The nutty bowl of oatmeal: To really add some flavor to a bowl of hot oatmeal (cooked or instant), simply stir in a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter. And nothing tastes better than peanut butter in a warm concoction!
- The tasty “glue” that holds ingredients together: Last year some baby birds at the front door in a flower pot led me to my great “invention” of peanut butter oat balls. But peanut butter can be used in any nut, granola, or fruit bar recipe to hold everything together and add a delicious nutty taste.
- The smoothie protein boost: Adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to your smoothie is a great way to give it some extra flavor and nutrition. It goes best in ones with bananas, almond milk or yogurt.
- Peanut butter humus: Humus is a wonderful dish traditionally made using tahini, which is simply ground sesame seeds, blended with garbanzo beans (also called chick peas), lemon juice and olive oil. By swapping out the tahini with peanut butter, you’ve got a whole new dip, sandwich spread or dressing. And it’s one that is super-high in fiber and B vitamins, especially the all-important B called folate.To make this dish, simply mix together in a food processor one can of drained Wild Oats organic garbanzo beans, 3 to 4 tablespoons of Wild Oats creamy peanut butter, juice from half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of Wild Oats organic olive oil and half a teaspoon of Wild Oats garlic powder. Blend until creamy and smooth and serve as a dip or use for a sandwich spread.
- Easy peanut sauce for rice noodles: This is a kind of Thai recipe that combines my favorite foods together in an easy stir-fry peanut sauce. Cut your veggies (such as broccoli, carrots and cauliflower) into small pieces, add some pea pods if you have them, and do a quick stir-fry until the broccoli is bright green. Push all the veggies to the side of the pan making an empty circle in the center. Add two tablespoons of creamy peanut butter to the (hot) center of your pan. If there is any liquid left, mix it with the peanut butter as it heats. If not, add a tablespoon or so of hot water to blend the peanut butter. Combine your peanut-butter sauce with the veggies in the pan, toss well and serve over rice noodles.
Of course it’s important to make sure that any guests you might be having don’t suffer from peanut allergies, which are far more common these days than they once were. But it turns out that our concern about peanuts might actually be helping to create such allergies researchers having now found that kids who are exposed to peanuts early in life or prior to birth are over 80 percent less likely to develop them than those who are kept peanut free!