How Fun is That?


Adding coconut milk to the pan

Meet my new friend, the peanut butter maker at my Coop.

He, let’s call him grind-ey, makes extra special peanut butter, because it contains the peanut skins (more about that later) doesn’t have any added trans fats or sugars, and is much less likely to contain aflatoxins. It also can’t be from that nasty factory where the salmonella peanut butter was made.

Peanut butter is that lovable old friend, you took it to school in your lunch, you keep a jar for emergency snacks, and as you’ve gotten more sophisticated, you’ve learned to use it in spicy sauces and creamy soups. It’s everybody’s friend, but vegetarians have a special place for it in their kitchens.

Yep, good old peanut butter is portable, spreadable, cookable and an easy way to get a quick protein fix. And if a little voice in your head is whispering about the high fat content, shush it. The fats in PB are mostly monounsaturated, with some polys thrown in, and are associated with lowering bad cholesterol and boosting the good HDL kind. Beyond that, PB is actually a great weight-loss tool-a study at the U of Perdue showed that folks who snacked on a couple of Tbs stayed full for 2 1/2 hours, and the same amount of calories from a carb-based snack didn’t satisfy nearly as well.

In one study published on the journal Obesity, the subjects who ate nuts at least twice a week were 31% less likely to gain weight. So even though your fave spread gets 71% of its calories from fat, it gets 15 % from protein, giving a 2 Tbs serving 8 grams of protein. It’s also got a filling, healthy 2 grams of fiber, 3 mgs Vitamin E, 49 mg magnesium, 208 ,g potassium, and .17 mg B6.

Oh, and that peanut skin I like ground into my peanut butter? It’s a potent source of resveratrol, the same compound that gives grapes and wine their stellar reputation. It seems that both peanuts and grapes have developed the same chemical to fight fungal infection, and when we consume it, it helps prevent cancer. The skins also bring higher amounts of all the minerals, and that slight bitterness adds a nice complexity to the sweet, rich flavor of the butter.

A unique antioxidant in peanut butter is the polyphenol p-coumaric acid, so it even protects your cells from oxidative damage. It’s also got a few more antioxidants hiding in that creamy spoonful, making it a very protective food-even before you slather on the raspberry jam. In fact, peanuts beat carrots and apples in antioxidant levels, and have you noticed how good peanut butter is on a slice of apple?

Peanut butter is also associated with lower risks of gallstones, colon cancer, and alzheimers, so keep on spreading it on thick.

Decadent Thai Peanut Sauce

The rich flavor of the freshly ground peanut butter demanded a serious treatment, so I concocted a slightly spicy, coconut and red curry sauce. Thai Kitchen curry pastes are fish-free, so look for them to avoid non-vegetarian ingredients. This sauce keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and is great for dipping, stir fries, or even slathering on sandwiches.

1 teaspoon canola oil

3  shallots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste (to taste)

1 cup coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)

1/2 cup peanut butter, pure and natural

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 pinch salt

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and saute the shallots until browned. It’s not alot of oil but the sauce will be really oily if you add more. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the curry paste and work it all together, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk, then work in the peanut butter. Simmer for a minute, then stir in the soy sauce, sweetener and lime. Simmer over low heat until thick, the oil will start to separate when it is done.