Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut
What foods do you think of when you think of November? Turkey and gravy? Pumpkin pie? Cranberry sauce? How about peanut butter?
Everyone is talking turkey in November. There is even a “Turkey Talk Hotline®” sponsored by Butterball. For over 30 years they have provided a panel of turkey talking experts to answer any and all questions about the big bird. But instead of talking gobblers, let’s talk goobers. November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, and I want to talk about it. This past weekend was the National Peanut Festival in Dothan, Alabama. Years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Festival in Dothan and let me tell you, those folks can celebrate a peanut!
The peanut has always been a favorite food of mine. On Halloween, I would happily trade all my Hershey bars for Baby Ruths. Nothing was better than the candied peanuts in a box of Cracker Jack—and I am old enough to remember when each box included not only a prize, but a decent amount of peanuts! And what sporting event would be complete without a warm bag of goobers in the shell? My Dad still talks about the time he took my sister and I to see a Boston Bruins hockey game and the lady sitting in the seat next to him ate peanuts for three periods and dropped all her shells on his shoes. He was horrified, but too much of a gentleman to rebuke her. He would turn to us with a “can-you-believe-this?!” look on his face and we had all we could do to keep from laughing! Good times!
The classic way to have your goobers is in peanut butter, at least in America. While Americans eat 3 pounds of peanut butter per person per year, the average European eats less than 1 Tablespoon. They find our love of the nutty spread an unpalatable oddity. It is hard to imagine a life without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or peanut butter and banana (Elvis’ favorite!) or peanut butter and alfalfa sprouts (MY favorite!). But, to each his own. There are many more ways to incorporate your yearly 3 pounds of peanut butter than simple sandwiches. I have some recipes to share that will elevate your opinion of the American classic.
First a PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL ALMOND BREAKFAST BAR that goes way beyond a delicious, nutritious grab-and-go breakfast. They are perfect in your lunch box, excellent with a cup of afternoon tea and a hit at any bake sale. Take them to the office when it’s your turn to bring something for the staff meeting. They are better than donuts any day! In the similar, but different category, I offer a NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER CRANBERRY ALMOND ENERGY BITE. They WILL give you a burst of energy without the inevitable letdown that follows a sugary snack. They will satisfy your sweet tooth in a way that you can feel good about, and take just a few minutes to make.
Taking peanut butter to the savory side is NOODLES and VEGETABLES in a SPICY PEANUT SAUCE. This is such a go-to recipe for me that I have never written it down until today. It is infinitely customizable by adding, subtracting and changing up the vegetables, and also works with proteins such as chicken or shrimp. They sky is the limit with this dish!
It’s National Peanut Butter Lovers Month and you should celebrate. It’s the American thing to do! Celebrate today. We can “talk turkey” later!
PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL ALMOND BREAKFAST BAR
Makes 20 bars
1 cup dry roasted unsalted almonds (roast raw almonds at 375° for 10 minutes)
½ cup roasted, salted peanuts
4 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
½ cup granulated stevia
¼ cup unsulphured molasses
1/3 cup honey
5 large eggs
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° and spray or butter a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Add roasted, cooled almonds to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to get pea sized pieces. Alternately, chop by hand.
In a large bowl, mix oats, cinnamon, baking soda and chopped nuts. Stir well to combine.
With an electric mixer, beat together softened butter, stevia, molasses, honey eggs, peanut butter and vanilla at medium high speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
Stir in the dry ingredients and pour the dough into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and feels set when you when you press gently with your fingertips. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, turn out onto a cutting board and cut into bars.
NO-BAKE PEANUT BUTTER CRANBERRY ALMOND ENERGY BITES
Makes 24 balls
2/3 cup whole almonds
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup peanut butter
12 large OR 20 small dates, pitted
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almonds 3 or 4 times until roughly chopped. Don’t turn them into a powder. Remove almonds from processor and set aside.
To the same processor add peanut butter, cinnamon, oats, coconut and dates. Pulse to combine.
Add cranberries and roughly chopped almonds and pulse once or twice to combine.
Transfer mixture to a bowl. Take about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture and shape it into a ball by rolling between the palms of your hands. (The rolling is easier if you chill the mixture for 20-30 minutes) Repeat until the entire mixture is finished.
Keep the energy bites refrigerated.
NOODLES and VEGETABLES in a SPICY PEANUT SAUCE
Makes 4 Servings
1 pound spaghetti or noodle of your choice
1 yellow onion, cut in half and into ¼ inch half moon slices
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into ¼ inch strips
I head broccoli, florets removed and cut in half, stem peeled and sliced
For the Spicy Peanut Sauce:
1 cup peanut butter
½ to 1 cup hot water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2-3 Tablespoons Sambal Oleck (or to taste)
¼ cup tomato ketchup (optional)
While preparing vegetables, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is at a full boil, use a heat resistant measuring cup to remove 1 cup of water for the sauce. Then, add spaghetti to the boiling water and stir. Begin making sauce (see below**). Set timer for 9 minutes (or the maximum suggested time for cooking your chosen noodle). After 2 minutes (timer mark 7 minutes), add broccoli florets and stem slices to the water. Stir. The water will temporarily stop boiling, but keep the timer running. After 3 more minutes (timer mark 4 minutes) add the onions and peppers to the water. Stir. When timer is done, drain the spaghetti and vegetables into a large colander. Return to pan or large serving bowl and pour sauce over all. Mix thoroughly and serve. Good hot or cold.
**To make the sauce:
In a medium sized bowl, mix ½ cup of hot water with 1 cup of peanut butter. Stir vigorously until smooth and combined. Add more water if necessary. You want the consistency to be thick but pourable. Add the soy sauce and Sambal Oleck to taste. Adding up to ¼ cup of tomato ketchup is optional. Mix thoroughly and pour over drained, hot noodles and vegetables.