Ingredient SpotLight

With kids going back to school, parents everywhere might be stocking up on peanut butter. However, this versatile ingredient is for more than PBJs. Developed in 1890 and promoted as a health food at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, peanut butter is a blend of ground shelled peanuts, vegetable oil (often hydrogenated) and usually a small amount of salt. Peanut butter is sold in two forms-smooth or chunky, which contains bits of peanut. It can be easily made at home in a blender or food processor. Natural peanut butter must be refrigerated after opening and can be stored in this manner up to 6 months. Most other commercial peanut butters can be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months. Peanut butter is high in fat and contains fair amounts of iron, niacin and protein.

Some other facts about peanut butter:

  • Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter.
  • The oldest operating manufacturer and seller of peanut butter has been selling peanut butter since 1908.
  • Peanut butter was the secret behind "Mr. Ed," TV's talking horse.
  • Peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts in the USA.
  • The world's largest peanut butter factory churns out 250,000 jars of the tasty treat every day.
  • Peanut butter is consumed in 89 percent of USA households.
  • 60 percent of consumers prefer creamy peanut butter over crunchy.
  • It takes two grindings to make peanut butter. The intense heat produced from one, long grinding would ruin the flavor of the peanut butter.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Ingredient Focus without a recipe or two ... or three. Here are a variety of my favorites ... savory, sweet and healthy! Enjoy.

Nutty Noodles

  • 1/2 cup low fat, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
  • 6 cups cooked spaghetti noodles
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets, cut in thin slices
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons dry roasted, salted peanuts, chopped

In a large bowl, mix chicken broth, peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic powder and red pepper. Place cooked noodles in the bowl and coat with the sauce. Remove noodles from the bowl, saving remaining sauce. Place noodles into a covered dish and put into a warm oven.

Pour the remaining sauce into a large skillet. Stir fry the onions, carrots, broccoli and snow peas for 1 to 2 minutes in the sauce. Add the red cabbage and stir fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the vegetables and sauce to the noodles and mix. Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Rise and Shine Muffins

  • 1 cup high fiber bran cereal, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup coarsely grated apple
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon orange peel
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lite salt
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the bran cereal and milk in a large bowl and let stand until softened. Fold in the peanut butter, apple, zucchini, carrots, brown sugar and maple extract until mixed. In a small bowl, beat the egg and egg whites and then fold into the bran mixture. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, orange peel, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bran mixture, but be careful not to over-mix. Spray the cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven to prevent the muffins from drying. Place the muffins on the middle rack and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from muffin pan and serve.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter. Put batter in refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll into 1" balls and put on baking sheets. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. Do not over-bake.

  • Yields: 4 dozen cookies
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes