Try dipping in to a jar of peanut butter. This satisfying source of fiber, protein and plant-based pleasure isn't just for kids and isn't just about peanuts.
Planter's NUTrition peanut butter ($3, 12 ounces) comes in three flavors, including energy mix with cinnamon raisin granola nut. It's smooth and creamy with the occasional sweet crunch of granola. Indeed, sugar is the third ingredient after peanut and raisins.
Another ingredient is hydrogenated oil, which makes for rich, emulsified and shelf-stable peanut butter but is linked to health issues including cardiovascular disease. Hydrogenated oil makes NUTrition not as nutritious as its punny name suggests. A 2-tablespoon serving contains 180 calories, 130 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber and 6 grams protein. It's available in most supermarkets.
Intense, organic NuttZo Omega-3 Seven Nut and Seed Butter ($12.99, 16 ounces) contains peanuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, flax and sunflower seeds. Created by a mom to nourish her vitamin-deficient sons, it's chunky, crunchy, toasty, nutty, contains no sugar, no additives and mixes together with an easy stir.
There's a dark chocolate NuttZo that's more adult and earthy than candy-sweet, and a peanut-free version, an excellent if expensive ($19.99, 16 ounces) option for those with peanut allergies. One 2-tablespoon serving has 180 calories, 65 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber and 6 grams protein.
Under the category weird but brilliant, there's PB2 powdered peanut butter ($5.29, 6.5 ounces). Made with dried peanut powder, sugar and salt, it has a fraction of the fat of regular peanut butter. Mix two parts PB2 with one part water, stir and you get satin smooth peanut butter magic with no powdery grit. Adjust with a little more or less water to achieve your ideal peanut butter consistency. A drop of agave, honey or maple syrup would not be out of the question. One serving contains only 45 calories, 94 milligrams sodium, 2 fiber grams and 5 protein grams. Find PB2 and NuttZo at Whole Foods.
From Asian peanut noodles to African sweet potato and peanut stew, peanut butter has grown up along with us. Of course it's still great right out of the jar. For more nut butter recipes, check out "Nut Butter Universe" by Robin Robertson (Vegan Heritage Press, $18.95).
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bread
Makes 8 servings
Peanut butter takes the place of oil in this breakfast bread or anytime snack. It adds fiber and protein, too. Lightly oiling the measuring cup makes measuring peanut butter and maple syrup tidy.
1 1/4 cup dairy, soy or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (also called flax meal)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup natural peanut butter or other nut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
In a medium saucepan, heat milk, vanilla extract and flax seed over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until just warmed through. Remove from heat and set aside. Mixture will thicken a little due to the bonding nature of the flax seed.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, oatmeal, baking powder and cinnamon.
Measure peanut butter into a large mixing bowl. Stir in maple syrup until combined. Stir in about a third of the flour mixture. Pour in an equal amount of milk and stir just until smooth. Continue stirring in flour and milk mixtures until you have a thick batter. Easy does it; do not overwork. Gently stir in raisins, and pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until bread is tawny, crusty and sweet-smelling. Set aside on a rack to cool.
Per serving: 228 calories (25 percent from fat), 6.4 g fat (1.6 g saturated, 2.4 g monounsaturated), 3.6 mg cholesterol, 6.7 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 2.9 g fiber, 122 mg sodium.