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Celebrating peanut butter all year round

 

March 10, 2022

A few weeks ago, I read somewhere that March is National Peanut Butter Month.

"Aha!" I thought. "Perfect topic for a column sometime soon."

But when I began doing research, I discovered that whoever wrote that was wrong. As far as I can tell, there is no actual National Peanut Butter Month, although November is recognized as National Peanut Butter Lovers Month.

So while peanut butter doesn't get it's own month, people who love peanut butter do. They also get their own day with National Peanut Butter Lovers Day on March 1. Maybe that's what the original writer was referring to.

But that's not the only recognition this popular food gets. Did you know (from alwaystheholiday.com):

- Peanut Butter Day is celebrated on Jan. 24?

- Peanut Butter and Jelly day gets recognition on April 2?

- Peanut Butter Cookie day is honored on June 12?

- Peanut Butter and Chocolate day is celebrated on July 23?

- We celebrate Peanut Butter Fudge Day on Nov. 20?

But wait, there's more! Going back to the ingredient that makes peanut butter, well, peanut butter, March is National Peanut Month and National Peanut Day is Sept. 21.

That's a lot of days to celebrate.

But how much do you know about peanut butter?

According to a variety of sources found online, including Wikipedia and History.com, historians have concluded that early peanut butter dates back to the Aztecs and Incas around 1000 BC, but that food was more of a paste and not nearly as creamy as the peanut butter we know now.

Peanut butter didn't be come widely used until the 20th century. First, the peanut had to be considered more than animal feed, which it was until the late 1800s. At the turn of the century, inventions that made planting, cultivating and harvesting the legume (the peanut isn't a nut at all) made it possible to see the peanut as a retail and wholesale food item.

Peanut butter fans can thank four men for the inventions and processes that bring us the creamy, smooth peanut butter we enjoy today: Marcus Gilmore Edson of Canada, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, Missouri, and chemist Joseph Rosefield.

In 1884, Edson developed a process to make peanut paste from milling roasted peanuts

between two heated plates. The famous cereal maker and health food specialist of the time, Kellogg, patented a process with raw peanuts in 1895. Dr. Straub is responsible for patenting a peanut butter-making machine in 1903.

Peanut butter was introduced to audiences at the 1904 Universal Exposition in St. Louis at C.H. Sumner's concession stand.

But the man who brought us the peanut butter we know and love today was Joseph Rosefield. In 1922, through homogenization, Rosefield was able to keep peanut oil from separating from the peanut solids. He later sold the patent to a company that began making Peter Pan peanut butter. Rosefield then went into business for himself, selling Skippy peanut butter through Rosefield Packing. He also supplied peanut butter for military rations during World War II.

That's a lot of history.

WHAT IS IT USED FOR?

Peanut butter is a nutrient-rich food, containing protein, several vitamins and dietary minerals in high content. It is typically served as a spread on bread, toast or crackers and used to make sandwiches (notably the peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

It is also used in a number of breakfast dishes and desserts, such as peanut-flavored granola, smoothies, crepes, cookies, brownies or croissants. It is similar to other nut butters such as cashew butter and almond butter.

Peanut butter is a good source of vitamin E, B6, niacin, calcium, potassium and iron, is packed with protein and is rich in healthy monounsaturated fat.

Now that I've shared everything I've learned about peanut butter, can I make a confession? I really don't like it. I can count on fewer than five fingers the number of PB&J sandwiches I've eaten in my entire life. There's just something about the texture I can't handle.

I do like Reese's peanut butter cups, some peanut butter cookies and peanut butter and toast crackers. It's also a popular ingredient in foods from India and the Far East. So I guess the flavor is okay, just not the feel. Please don't hate me.

But for fans who want to go beyond the basic sandwich, here are a few recipes for everything from main dishes to desserts.

Spicy, gingery and easy, this noodle dish from food writer Susan Selasky of the Detroit Free Press, is versatile and requires only a few pantry ingredients. You can use any kind of chicken and pasta.

Barring any peanut allergies, kids should like it, too. This works as a main or side dish. It's also terrific cold.

This recipe makes a good amount of sauce. If you don't use it all, consider using it as a dip for chicken satay or lettuce wraps. For best quality, refrigerate any leftover sauce. It will keep about 5 days.

Thai-Style Spicy Chicken and Peanut Noodles

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

8 ounces spaghetti

A few pinches of kosher salt

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup favorite creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons seasoned or unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons sesame oil, optional

1-1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or sambel oelek (Asian chili sauce), to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-1/2 cups chicken (breast or thigh meat), cut into bite-size pieces

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

1 cup zucchini slices

For serving:

Fresh chopped cilantro

2 green onions, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts or cashews

To prepare the pasta, place it in a large skillet and cover with about 4 cups water and season with kosher salt. Bring to a boil and cook, while stirring, until pasta is al dente. Much of the water will absorb into the pasta. Reserve any pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside. Meanwhile, prep all the other ingredients.

In a food processor or blender, place the warm water, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil if using, brown sugar and ginger or chili sauce. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

In the same skillet you cooked the pasta, heat the vegetable oil. Add the chicken and cook, while stirring, until it's no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the bell pepper and zucchini slices and cook another 2 minutes. Or until chicken is cooked through. Add the peanut butter mixture and heat through. Add the cooked pasta, toss to combine and heat through. To serve sprinkle each serving with cilantro, green onion and peanuts.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from: "Dinner Made Simple: 35 Everyday Ingredients, 350 Easy Recipes" by the editors of Real Simple. (Oxmoor House, $24.95)

Peanut butter cakes? Why not?

Fudge-Glazed Creamy Peanut Butter Cake

For the cake:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1 tablespoon instant ClearJel or cornstarch

1/3 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, black cocoa, or Dutch-process cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

For the filling:

3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky

2 cups confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup milk or cream

For the icing:

1 cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

6 tablespoons heavy or whipping cream

1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour (or grease, then line with parchment, then grease again) an 8-inch round cake pan. (Note: This pan needs to be at least 2 inches tall; if you have a non-standard, shorter 8-inch pan, substitute a 9-inch round pan.)

To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add the water, beating until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 35 to 38 minutes (about 25 minutes if you're using a 9-inch pan), or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, and then turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

To make the filling: Beat together the peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla till crumbly, then add the milk or cream, beating till smooth. Add additional milk or cream, if necessary, to make a spreadable filling.

To make the icing: Combine the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the cream is hot, and the chocolate soft. Stir to melt the chocolate completely, reheating very briefly if necessary. Allow the icing to rest for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until it's thickened enough to be spreadable.

To assemble the cake: Slice the cake in half horizontally, to make two layers. Place one piece, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread with the filling. Top with the second piece, cut side down. Spread the top and sides of the cake with the icing. Garnish with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Makes one 8-inch cake, 8 to 10 servings.

Recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

1-2/3 cups chocolate graham-cracker crumbs

7 tablespoons sugar, divided use

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

1-1/4 cups fat-free milk

2/3 cup reduced-fat crunchy peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese, softened

1 (8-ounce) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

3 tablespoons finely chopped salted, dry-roasted peanuts

1/4 cup shaved milk chocolate (about 1 ounce)

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Combine crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar and egg whites; toss with a fork until moist. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Prick crust with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack.

Combine milk and remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly; transfer mixture to a bowl. Add peanut butter and vanilla, stirring with a whisk until combined. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add milk mixture, beating on low speed until combined. Fold in whipped topping; pour mixture into prepared pie crust. Freeze, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight, or until hard. Sprinkle with peanuts and shaved chocolate. Transfer pie to refrigerator 30 minutes before slicing.

Recipe from: Cooking Light, August 2007

Georgia's Candy Cookies can be candy or cookie; whatever you call them, they are sweet.

Georgia's Candy Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter

1 pound powdered sugar

1-1/3 cups graham-cracker crumbs

1 cup chocolate chips, melted

Cream butter and peanut butter well. Add powdered sugar and graham-cracker crumbs and mix well with a wooden spoon. Press into a 9- by 13-inch pan. Spread melted chocolate chips evenly over top of the mixture. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small squares.

Recipe from: Ellen Folkman, Scripps Howard News Service

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]

 

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