Any time is right time for peanut butter

“Peanut Butter Jelly Time” is not the only time for everyone’s favorite nutty spread. One can use it for cooking dinner and lunch or even baking sweet treats or healthy snacks.

Nuts and seeds like peanuts have many health benefits, and according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate guidelines, eating peanut butter “may reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a diet that is nutritionally adequate and within calorie needs. Because nuts and seeds are high in calories, eat them in small portions and use them to replace other protein foods, like some meat or poultry.”

According to HyVee dietitian Dean Schillinger, “One positive [for peanut butter] is that it’s a protein source, eight to nine grams of protein per serving, a serving being two tablespoons.”

Another positive is that it is a source of monounsaturated fat. “Peanut butter has around 16 grams of fat. Around 2.5 grams of that fat is saturated fat, and the rest is monounsaturated fat. Peanuts are nuts, so the fat comes from a plant source, so it is a healthy fat but should be eaten in moderation,” Schillinger said.

For best health, read labels

Generic peanut butter

Natural peanut butter

Check out the amount of sugar. Commercial brands like Skippy and Jif can contain up to four grams, which is one tablespoon per serving. Sugar is not a necessary ingredient in peanut butter, so look for a brand that just contains peanuts and less than one percent of salt.

Go for the jar. If peanut butter is sealed in a jar, usually it has no added oil and other ingredients you don’t need.

Watch out for “reduced fat.” It might sound like a healthier buy, but look at the ingredients. Jif “reduced fat” peanut butter contains twice as many ingredients as regular peanut butter. Some of the first ingredients listed are corn syrup and sugar.

Look out for unhealthy oils. Many peanut butter brands have stepped away from using hydrogenated vegetable oils because it is not good for you, but some may still include it, so check the labels. Instead, many generic brands use palm oil, which is bad for the earth. To extract the oil, companies have to cut down the rainforests, so again try to look for peanut butter that just includes peanuts and salt. If you buy one that doesn’t include palm or hydrogenated vegetable oil, there may be some natural oil separation, but you can prevent this by storing it in the fridge after stirring the first time.

New uses with peanut butter

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Skillet Cookie:

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F, spray oven-safe skillet with cooking spray; set skillet aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt ½ cup unsalted butter, about 1 minute on high power. To the melted butter, add 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1 large egg, 2 tsp. vanilla and whisk or stir vigorously to combine, for about 1 minute, slightly fluffing up the batter. Add the ¾ cup all-purpose flour, ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. optional salt, and stir until just incorporated. Add 1 ½ cups oats and stir to combine. Pour slightly less than three-quarters of the dough into the skillet, reserving about 1 ¼ cups to be crumbled on at the end; set skillet and large mixing bowl with reserved dough aside. In a small bowl, combine one 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup creamy peanut butter and stir until smooth. Pour mixture over the dough in the skillet. Evenly sprinkle 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips over the top. Drop tablespoon-sized chunks of the reserved dough into the skillet, dispersing them as uniformly as possible over the surface, which forms the crumble topping. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until edges begin to barely crisp up and most of the top surface of the cookie has set. The center may not be completely set; this is OK because the cookie will continue to cook in the skillet after it’s been pulled from the oven, noting that there is a fairly significant carryover cooking effect with cast iron, so don’t overbake in the oven because the cookie is meant to be very gooey.

Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast with Mixed-Berry Sauce:

Directions: The night before, put 8 slices whole-wheat or white bread with crusts removed on a baking rack and let it get stale overnight. Combine one 16-oz bag frozen mixed berries, thawed and ¼ cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil; stir occasionally, until berries soften, 10 minutes. Add the 2  Tbsp. seedless raspberry preserves and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice; stir until combined. Transfer to a bowl; cool to room temperature. Crack 4 large eggs into a medium baking dish and whisk lightly. Add ¾ cup 2 percent milk,  ½ tsp. vanilla extract and a pinch of salt; whisk. Spread 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter on four slices of bread. Top with remaining slices to make four sandwiches. Flatten slightly. Soak sandwiches in egg mixture, four to five minutes per side. Spray nonstick spray on frying pan or melt some butter. Cook toast on one side until golden brown and then flip and do the same to the other side. Remove and plate and drizzle with mixed-berry syrup.

Peanut Butter Chicken Stir  Fry with Vegetables:

Directions: In a small bowl, combine ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup hot water, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and cayenne pepper, to taste. (Don’t worry if sauce is not entirely blended; heat will melt the peanut butter into a smooth texture when added to wok.) Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet or work over medium-high heat. Sauté 1 small head chopped broccoli, 1 small chopped red pepper, 5 sliced medium mushrooms and 1-2 pieces chicken breast for five minutes. Pour peanut sauce over vegetable-chicken mix. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and crisp.

Apple with Peanut Butter and Granola:

Directions: Cut one apple of your choice in half, then cut thin slice out of each half. Scoop 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter and spread a little on each slice. Then take  ¼ cup of a granola of your choice and sprinkle some on each slice. You may also top it off with honey, raisins, nuts or cinnamon. 

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