Cooking TM_CO_PEABUT_AP_001

Every first day of school, I expected two things in my brown-bagged lunch. The first was a note from my mom (yes, even in high school), and the second was a peanut butter sandwich. Luckily, the notes stopped after the first day – sparing me the embarrassment – but I still got a peanut butter sandwich in my lunch for the rest of the year. Like most children in America my school lunch from kindergarten through senior year of high school consisted of a peanut butter sandwich. Aside from the occasional bagel or the even more rare school-bought lunch, I am not exaggerating when I say that I ate a plain peanut butter sandwich every weekday for 13 years. Yes, plain – sans jelly. But I’m not complaining.

On the contrary, I love peanut butter, and I’m not alone. Peanut butter is consumed in more than 90 percent of U.S. households, smeared on slices of toast, paired with apples or celery sticks, and used in classic desserts. Each year Americans eat enough peanut butter to make more than 10 billion sandwiches. But peanut butter has so much more potential. Many other cultures have been using peanuts as a star component of many staple dishes. From Asian noodles coated in peanut sauces to African peanut stews, peanuts have proven themselves to be a worthy ingredient. So why does it get stuck as a humdrum sandwich spread or dip in the country that invented peanut butter? With this notion in mind, and a more mature palate, as well as, a kitchen of my own, I was ready to put the bread away and get cooking.
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DIY TM_DY_PBUTTER_FI_001

As recently as 15 years ago, peanut butter was nothing but wholesome. It was rubbed on Mr. Ed’s teeth, slathered on sandwiches, tucked into lunch boxes across the country, and stuck to celery and covered with raisins for “ants on a log” (a treat that always sounded more awesome than it tasted). Peanut butter was the protein-filled glue of childhood and a pleasant, nostalgia-filled comfort food for adults. Dammit, peanut butter was America.
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Chocolate TM_CH_PEANT_FI_001

Peanuts get a bad rap these days, from outright bans at schools to bags of Halloween candy proudly declaring their peanut deficiency. But when I was a kid, the more peanuts, the better. I present for your deliberation: Mars versus Snickers. Mars bar? Cloyingly sweet with an oddly slick texture. Snickers bar? Caramelly, chewy, and delicious—and stuffed with peanuts. I rest my case.

If peanuts are good, then peanuts and chocolate is better. There’s a reason that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have endured since 1928, and it isn’t because my college roommate used to—and probably still does—eat them compulsively. MORE