Store bought or homemade, smooth, chunky, naked and natural, from dipping sauces to salad dressings and soup, on pasta, parfaits, in cookies, as a burger topping and more, peanut butter is a delectable national obsession.
Reportedly mashed to a paste by the Aztecs many hundreds of years ago, peanuts and peanut butter are readily identified with George Washington Carver (though some dispute his connection to the latter). Some reports claim peanut butter was invented by Dr. Ambrose Straub, a St. Louis physician, as a protein source for his patients with weak or missing teeth. In World War II parlance, peanut butter was sometimes referred to as monkey butter.
Whatever its origins, the rich, salty paste has clearly evolved into the partner of choice for jelly, honey, and Marshmallow Fluff, not to mention raising the bar on s’mores as an added ingredient to traditional chocolate, roasted marshmallows, and graham crackers. And who can forget Elvis Presley’s professed love of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Versatile peanut butter easily becomes a filling after school snack when lining celery sticks, paired with pears or smeared on apple slices (actress Ashley Judd was once quoted as saying there’s no better snack than peanut butter and apple).
A good source of protein, monounsaturated fats, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, fiber, arginine, and antioxidants, peanut butter’s pluses (especially natural peanut butter, made without sugar and preservatives and with a bolder taste) make it a healthier lunch and after school option than processed meats and sugary snacks. Though used more in Asian cooking, in main dishes peanut butter pumps up the volume making an ordinary weeknight meal more fun than ever!
Try these recipes for homemade peanut butter (a fun, easy family project), and for creative uses in dishes you might not have considered.
Homemade Peanut Butter
1 cup roasted, unsalted, shelled peanuts
1 1/2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or safflower oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sugar to taste, optional
Blend peanuts in food processor or blender adding just enough oil to make it smooth. You can use salted peanuts and omit the salt, or omit the salt entirely with unsalted peanuts. Add sugar to taste, if desired.
If you want chunky peanut butter, add chopped peanuts after you have made the smooth version.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within two weeks.
Grilled Peanut Butter Chicken
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 teaspoon curry powder
1 dash ground cayenne pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken halves
Preheat grill for high heat.
In a bowl, mix peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, curry powder, and cayenne pepper. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken on grate and brush with 1/2 the sauce. Grill 6 to 8 minutes. Turn chicken, and brush with remaining sauce. Continue grilling 6 to 8 minutes, until chicken juices run clear.
Peanut Butter Soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium onions, chopped into big pieces
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped into big pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped into big pieces
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, each tomato cut into quarters, juice reserved
10 cups (2 1/2 quarts) chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 cup creamy unsalted peanut butter
In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high, then sauté onions, bell peppers, and garlic until the onion and garlic begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add tomatoes and cook, stirring from time to time until they cook down, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour in reserved tomato juice and broth and add black pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add rice, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, 45 minutes. Add peanut butter all at once, until it melts and is incorporated. Bring back to a simmer; serve hot.
Peanut Butter Muffins
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup milk
apricot or other preserves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl; add wheat germ. Cut in shortening and peanut butter. In a separate bowl, beat egg with milk; add all at once to the first mixture. Stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into greased large muffin pans, filling about 2/3 full. Spoon about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of preserves into the center of each. Bake at 400° for about 25 minutes, or until done.
Makes about 10 muffins.