Sunday, February 5, 2012

Peanut Butter Magic

In case you missed it, Tuesday of last week was National Peanut Butter Day.  Besides wondering who is in charge of imbuing obscure holidays with respectability, this all-important day made me very happy. 
My family has the impressive ability to be sustained by peanut butter alone.  There are days that see us eating it – in some capacity – at all three meals: with apples at breakfast, on sandwiches and celery for lunch, on waffles or pancakes at a breakfast-for-dinner meal.   And that’s not even counting the snacks.  So to find that there’s an entire day dedicated to the celebration of peanut butter doesn’t seem as odd as I’d first imagined.  Anything with such versatility and nutritive benefits SHOULD be cheered and beloved. 
Besides being delicious enough to tempt even a picky toddler into eating, peanut butter has enough fiber and protein to keep kids (and parents) full long past the time when a less-wholesome snack would leave them hungry.  Plus, although peanut butter has more calories than some other snack options, the fat within is of the good kind: bad-cholesterol lowering and good-cholesterol raising.
So there’s no need to worry if you missed the exciting celebration of National Peanut Butter Day; the food can stand up to an entire year of celebration.  Here are some delicious, fun, and crafty ways to incorporate more peanut butter into your lives:
Make apple sandwiches: cut thick rounds of cored apples into flat slices.  Smear one apple slice with peanut butter, sprinkle with raisins, drizzle with honey, and top with another apple slice.
Make a savory sauce: whisk 5 Tablespoons peanut butter with 3 Tablespoons warm water, 2.5 Tablespoons rice vinegar, 1.5 Tablespoons soy sauce, and 3 Tablespoons sugar until smooth.  Refrigerate the sauce for a few hours to blend the flavors.  When ready to use, thin the sauce with a few more sprinkles of water if needed.  Use on hot noodles with chopped scallions, peanuts, and roast chicken for an easy weeknight meal. 
Make edible play-doh: combine 1 Cup peanut butter with ½ Cup honey and 2 Cups powdered sugar.  Stir and knead until smooth.  Store dough in an airtight container.  You don’t have to eat it, but the idea that you can eat it would be fun for little ones.
Make dessert: skewer halved bananas onto popsicle sticks.  Freeze for several hours until firm.  Microwave equal parts peanut butter and chocolate chips, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Dip banana halves in melted mixture.  Freeze bananas again on waxed paper until coating is solid.
Make a bird-feeder: tie a long string around the tip of a pinecone.  Coat the pinecone with peanut butter and cover with bird seeds.  Hang up outside for birds to enjoy. 
Make your own blend: Fill a food processor or blender with one cup of shelled peanuts.  Pulse until peanuts are creamy.  Add one to two tablespoons of cooking oil while pulsing again to reach the desired consistency.  Store in an airtight container and use within a couple of days.
And of course, there are thousands of ways to incorporate peanut butter into baked goods and treats.  Tell yourself you’re celebrating a food worthy of national recognition, and consume without regret.
If things become desperate on a lonely, boring day, it wouldn’t be unheard of to suggest peanut butter as a finger-painting medium.  Especially since many kids – mine included – end up with smeared fingers during their peanut butter celebrations, anyway.  Consider it food art. 
And enjoy it to the fullest.

Have you ever tried any of these?  I haven't done the play-doh or savory sauce, but both are on our to-do list.  Any tips?

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