Versatility that sticks to the roof of your mouth

The nutritional value and cooking possibilities of peanut butter

By Chef Dez

As a child, I remember when I first discovered the taste of a peanut butter and banana sandwich and wondered how many others knew about this phenomenon.

The contrasting flavours of salty nuttiness and the sweetness opened up a whole new world for me. I then started searching for other ways to indulge my newly established passion for peanut butter. Spreading a spoonful of it on each bite of an apple was my favorite.

My fascination of peanut butter has matured since then, and I have discovered many ways to use this household pantry staple.

The most important thing to keep in mind however, is the growing number of peanut allergies in people. Always inquire with dinner guests to discover any allergies you may not be aware of before planning a menu.

Peanut butter has been in existence for hundreds of years and is a regular food item in over 70% of households.

Peanut butter, in moderation, is a good part of a balanced diet and a source of protein. Although it contains a large amount of fat, approximately 80% of the fat content is unsaturated. Unsaturated fats have been proven to help reduce levels of LDL-cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) without lowering HDL-cholesterol (the good one). If the healthy aspect is your focus however, you are much better off with natural peanut butters where the ingredients are just peanuts.

Peanut butters that are not natural may contain unhealthy artificially produced trans-fats, which have been linked to increases in LDL-cholesterol.

The first alternate use for peanut butter that comes to mind is for making sauces and/or dressings.

Use it as a base in a spicy peanut dressing for your favorite salad, or in a peanut sauce for your next stir-fry.

There are many recipes available to successfully accomplish these ideas. For a fantastic finishing touch make sure that the garnish for these dishes include a handful of roasted peanuts.

For added dimension of flavour in chili, soups and stews, a tablespoon or two of peanut butter is fantastic.

One substitution that always keeps me reaching for the peanut butter, is to replace tahini. I love Greek hummus (ground chic pea dip), and it usually requires a sesame paste called tahini. Since I hardly ever have tahini on hand, peanut butter is a wonderful alternative.

It is the same consistency as tahini, and the flavour depth that the peanut butter adds to the recipe is incredible.

In addition to these uses there are many desserts that feature the wonderful taste of peanut butter. I cannot stress enough to take advantage of the free resources like the library and the Internet for an abundant amount of recipes.

Experimenting in the kitchen is the pathway to creating recipes that you can call your own and take pride in. Have fun trying these suggestions, but if all else fails there is still one use that you can rely on: the next time you have a case of the hiccups, swallowing a tablespoon of peanut butter will usually eliminate them.

Chef Dez is a chef, writer and host. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Write to him at dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. The postal code is V2T 6R4.