National days to shine the spotlight on various foods or beverages come up almost daily, and most are not exactly universal celebrations.
I think it’s because I enjoy peanut butter – a lot – that National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, March 1, caught my attention.
In 1895, John Kellogg, who began the enduring trend of eating cold breakfast cereal by inventing Corn Flakes, patented a process for converting raw peanuts to peanut butter. He then marketed peanut butter as a protein food that was easy to consume for people who have trouble eating solid food.
30 mL (2 tbsp) peanut butter is a serving from the Meat and Alternatives group on Canada’s Food Guide. That’s enough to use as a dip for apple slices, make a sandwich or spread on a bagel, a fast and easy way to get a serving of protein on a busy day.
If you read ingredient lists, you’ll notice that some peanut butters include added sugars, salt and fats. Peanut butter listed as all natural usually has just one ingredient: peanuts. That’s the kind I prefer, for its pure peanut flavour.
The one drawback of natural peanut butter is that peanut oil is likely to separate into a layer at the top of the jar. Before opening a new bottle, invert it to help distribute the oil throughout, and then give it a stir with a fork or a chopstick. Once it’s well stirred, store it in the refrigerator and it will stay reasonably well combined. Yes, it is difficult to spread chilled peanut butter, but it doesn’t take long to soften up at room temperature. If you’re in a hurry to use it, dip out the amount you want and let it warm up on the spoon or in a dish instead of waiting for it to soften in the jar.
Peanut butter appears in main course dishes in soups, as a sauce for pasta, a salad dressing or a dip.
This Sesame Peanut Sauce, intended as a dressing for a cold noodle salad, could also be used as a dipping sauce for rice paper wraps.
Sesame Peanut Sauce
Adapted from Chavich, Cinda: “The Waste Not, Want Not Cook Book”. TouchWood Editions, Victoria, 2015.
15 mL (1 tbsp) sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
75 mL (⅓ cup) crunchy or smooth natural peanut butter
50 mL (¼ cup) soy sauce
10 mL (2 tsp) brown sugar
15 mL (1 tbsp) seasoned sushi vinegar (or wine vinegar)
5 mL (1 tsp) Asian chili paste
50 mL (¼ cup) chicken stock or water
Combine the sesame oil, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sushi vinegar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add the chili paste and chicken stock, and pulse to combine. (You can combine these ingredients without using a blender or food processor, but it takes more patience to create a smooth mixture.)
Peanut butter cookies are classic homemade cookies, easy to make and delicious. This is a fairly standard recipe, found with slight variations in numerous cookbooks. Many older recipes use shortening as the fat. Some variations call for unsalted butter, and add 1 mL (¼ tsp) salt to the batter; others omit the vanilla; still others add chocolate or peanut butter chips.
Peanut Butter Cookies
125 mL (½ cup) soft butter
125 mL (½ cup) packed brown sugar
125 mL (½ cup) white sugar
125 mL (½ cup) peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla extract
375 mL (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
2 mL (½ tsp) baking soda
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Whisk or sift together flour and baking soda to combine. Set aside.
Cream the butter, and beat in brown sugar and white sugar until fluffy. Beat in peanut butter.
Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in flour mixture at low speed.
Drop using teaspoons, or a small scoop, onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Dip a fork in cold water and use it to flatten cookies slightly. Bake in preheated oven 9-12 minutes, until edges just begin to brown.
Cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes, then lift gently with a spatula onto racks to cool completely.
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.