Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Peanut Butter

When most people think of peanut butter, they think of the classic kids’ lunchtime staple of PB&J.  However, peanut butter is not just for kids’ meals, and it should have a regular place in most adults’ diets, due to its high nutritional content.  Peanut butter is an excellent source of heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (these are the fats you want to include in your diet – in moderation, of course), provides 8g of protein per 2-tablespoon serving, is a good source of fiber, and is very low in sodium and sugar.  Both the fiber and protein in peanut butter help maintain blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full for a long time. 

Peanut butter is a very versatile food – it can be part of any snack or meal, from breakfast to dinner, and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.  I have included two savory recipes to get you thinking about different ways to use this healthy ingredient.  When choosing a peanut butter to use in cooking, baking, or snacking, the best varieties have only one ingredient – peanuts – and are usually labeled “natural.”  Natural peanut butter may appear oily at first, but all you need to do is give it a good stir before your first use, and then you can store it in the fridge.  Some natural peanut butters also include salt, and these are okay to eat if you need a little extra flavor.  Avoid peanut butters that contain any more than these two ingredients, as they’ll probably be full of sugar and hydrogenated oils (AKA trans fat) – these types of peanut butters are anything but healthy! 

Moroccan Chicken

My friends Abhishek and Jody sent me this favorite recipe, adapted from Betty Crocker, to use in my brand-new slow cooker.  The original recipe calls for chicken thighs, but I made it a little healthier by substituting white-meat chicken breasts.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained

1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes, undrained

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 cups hot, cooked, whole wheat couscous (couscous takes only five minutes to cook – follow directions on the package to ensure the proper consistency)

 Instructions

  1. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil about 4 minutes, turning once, until brown.
  2. In 4- to-5-quart slow cooker, mix onion, diced and crushed tomatoes, honey, cumin and cinnamon. Add chicken. Spoon tomato mixture over chicken.
  3. Cover and cook on Low heat setting 7 to 8 hours.
  4. Stir in peanut butter until melted and well-blended. Serve chicken and sauce over couscous.

Makes 4 servings.

Perfect Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup water

red chili flakes and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan using a whisk or rubber spatula, adding the water last. 
  2. Cook over low heat until sauce begins to bubble or thicken (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. Serve over pasta, rice, or protein, hot or cold.
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