My love affair with peanut butter started early. One of my first memories in the kitchen is of my grandmother making my lunch, the lunch I had every single day—PB&J. But not just any PB&J. This was a bulging, dripping-with-jelly, stack of sweet and savory goodness held together by two pieces of white bread. It might as well have been dessert. I’m sure there was a side of fruit or milk, left untouched by my sticky fingers.
Fast forward to present, where peanut butter finds its way on my family menu on a daily basis. My little girls aren’t the pickiest eaters, but “quality protein sources” aren’t really in their vocabulary. Enter my childhood friend, peanut butter. When in doubt, an apple plus a spoonful of peanut butter will do the trick when we have 5 minutes between gymnastics and Girls Scouts. And the updated PB&J: whole-wheat bread, a smear of peanut butter (not the heaping dollop my grandmother layered on), and whole-fruit jelly or sliced banana make a nice base for the lunchbox.
I remember when good peanut butter took a quick exit out of my diet while I was in college and the low-fat craze was in full force. I was hoping to keep those freshmen 15 off with low-fat peanut butter. Gross. Thank goodness we now know that you can stick to the full-fat varieties (as long as you choose brands without trans fats) since they deliver heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Those low-fat varieties also don't save you any calories, so stick to the good stuff.
My affection for peanut butter goes beyond the sandwich; I think it makes most anything better. Cookies, banana bread, paired with chocolate in any conceivable concoction, in a Thai peanut dressing, and as a part of my daily breakfast routine, a teaspoon stirred into my oatmeal. Find 15 Ways with Peanut Butter for recipes full of the good stuff, and see which brands stood up to our Peanut Butter Taste Test. In honor of National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, we’d love to hear your favorite way to enjoy peanut butter. On a spoon? In a cookie? Do tell.
PS: On a more serious note…I know peanut allergies are a real and present danger for many. Read Peanut Allergies at School: Is Banning the Answer and join the conversation. This article from our September 2011 issue, and the online response to it, opened my eyes that a PB&J is not as innocent as it appears.