Stop stressing for just a moment and consider your good fortune at being born onto this earth after peanut butter was invented. Don’t you feel better? You’re welcome.
I am crazy about peanut butter and eat it daily. If you (out of sheer boredom, of course) were playing an associative game with my friends and family and you said “peanut butter,” they would say “Hannah.” I’m pathetically grateful that my children are not allergic to peanuts, and I have the utmost empathy for those who are. If I could not serve peanut butter in my home, would I prepare more exciting and innovative lunches for my family? Undoubtedly. However, I challenge you to find something more delicious and satisfying than a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich on sourdough bread. That’s what I thought! Seriously, though, there are so many yummy nut and seed butters available (my faves are almond and sunflower) that you really have no excuse for not forcing your children to subsist on nut butter sandwiches for weeks at a time.
Oh humble little legume, from whence did you come? The history is a bit murky on the peanut. Not actually a nut, but a legume more closely related to the chickpea, the plant originated in South America several thousand years ago. (Just when I figured that the Incas couldn’t possibly be more bad-ass, I find out that they sacrificed peanuts to their gods and sent peanuts into the afterlife with their mummies — right on! They may have even invented the world’s first peanut butter. Clearly they understood the heavenly nature of this plant.) Spanish explorers took peanuts back to Europe in the 16th century, where the plant gradually spread (pun intended) to Asia and Africa and was reintroduced to the Americas via Atlantic triangular trade routes in the 1700s.
Initially Americans were too snooty to eat the peanut, which was considered poor man’s fare. They instead fed peanuts to their lucky livestock. It was not until the Civil War, when soldiers occasionally had to subsist on peanuts, that more people were turned on to this fabulous little legume. George Washington Carver, inventor extraordinaire, is usually given credit for creating peanut butter in the late 1800s. Regardless of whether he smeared the very first swath of peanut butter on a hunk of bread or not, he certainly promoted and popularized peanut butter — and for that we thank him. Carver did not stop with peanut butter. This was only the very beginning of his lofty dreams; he came up with over 300 uses for the peanut, including several varieties of meat substitutes and cleaning supplies. Okay, I feel a little better about my peanut butter obsession. . .
We all know nuts and legumes are an excellent source of nutrients, and peanuts certainly hold their own, providing healthy doses of manganese, copper, vitamin B3, tryptophan, folate, and a lot of protein — 7 grams in one serving of my beloved peanut butter.
So, aside from peanut butter straight out of the jar (don’t be a hater), what are some good ways to incorporate more peanut love into your diet? I love to throw peanut butter into banana smoothies (2 T PB, 2 frozen bananas, almond milk, ice, vanilla) or baked desserts (peanut-butter-chocolate-oatmeal-cookies, yes-please) or add crushed peanuts to coconut sorbet, but peanuts are also integral to many savory dishes such as curries, stews, and salads. One of my favorite ways to enjoy peanuts is in Thai cuisine, especially Pad Thai. But Pad Thais can vary greatly, my dear reader — you know what I’m talking about — and if you’re trying to avoid fish sauce, it gets even more difficult. I have been excited to tackle vegan Pad Thai since eying a good-looking recipe at my favorite market in Kona this summer, but I’ve discovered that cooking ethnic cuisine in Idaho can be a challenge. The grocery store I shopped at this afternoon, for example, does not carry bean sprouts, had never heard of tamarind (“Tamara, someone needs you on aisle 9”), and was out of garlic. I forged on, only slightly deterred, and ended up buying some Thai peanut sauce and Thai basil to bridge the gaps. I thought my modified, un-greasy Pad Thai was quite fresh and tasty, especially as I piled on extra basil, lime, and peanuts.
Vegan Pad Thai
- 1 package Thai rice noodles, cooked according to instructions for stir-fry
- 2-3 cups broccoli
- 1 package tofu, cubed
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 3 T tamari
- 3 T olive oil (sesame or coconut would work well, too)
- 1-2 T agave syrup
- 5-6 green onions, chopped
- 1 cup chopped peanuts
- Thai peanut sauce, to taste
- 1-2 limes
- Thai basil, one bunch
- chili pepper flakes, to taste
1. Cover rice noodles with very hot water and let sit for 20 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a wok or large saute pan. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute (nobody likes burned garlic, y’all), then add carrots, broccoli, and tofu. Feel free to switch up the vegetable selection, of course. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes, adding half of the tamari and a few dashes of peanut sauce.
3. Add your perfectly soaked and drained noodles, green onions (save some for sprinkling, too), shallots (these are so cute — why don’t we use them more often?), rest of tamari, agave, peanut sauce, and the juice of one lime.
4. Serve immediately topped with more green onion, a slice of lime, Thai basil, and, of course, crushed peanuts.
And for dessert? Dark chocolate with chili pepper dipped in peanut butter, of course. 🙂