Bring on the peanut butter

PEANUT butter offers great nutritional bang for your buck as an excellent source of protein (eight grams per tablespoon).

Its rich, satisfying flavor lends itself perfectly to sweet and savory dishes alike, and kids tend to be really receptive to anything that contains good ole' PB. It's a great staple to take along when camping or anywhere else refrigeration might be an issue - peanut butter is stable at room temperature for up to two years.

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Here are some yummy ways to get your fix of one of North America's favourite foods. Those of you with peanut allergies, please look away. Everyone else, enjoy! (Try a peanut butter and bacon sandwich sometime, yumm . . . )

Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce

½ cup creamy peanut butter ¼ cup soy sauce 2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

1-2 cloves garlic, minced ½ tsp Sriracha or sambal oelek, or more or less to taste (hot Asian chili sauce, available in the Asian food section at any large supermarket) - you can substitute Tabasco ½ cup water

1 tsp honey or brown sugar

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

8 oz dry spaghetti or vermicelli

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (leftover or buy a rotisserie chicken)

1 carrot, shredded or julienned

½ long English cucumber, seeds removed and cut into thin strips about 2" long

1 red pepper, cut into thin strips ¼ cup finely chopped green onions

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds and ¼ cup chopped cilantro to garnish

Combine the first eight ingredients (peanut butter through sesame oil) in a blender or food processor; puree until smooth, adding more water if it seems too thick. Set aside.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente; drain, rinse and let cool. In a large bowl combine the spaghetti, chicken and vegetables. Pour half of the sauce over top; toss to coat noodle mixture, then add more sauce if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped cilantro. Serve any remaining sauce on the side. Makes four servings.

Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Gluten free and super easy to make.

1 cup sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

24 Hershey's milk or dark chocolate Kisses, wrappers removed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in egg and vanilla until blended. In the palms of your hands compress and roll dough into 1¼-inch balls and place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes; remove cookies from oven and gently place one chocolate kiss in the centre of each cookie, pressing down lightly. Return cookies to oven and bake for an additional two minutes to slightly melt the chocolate. Remove from oven and gently tap the cookie sheets on the counter a couple of times to settle the chocolate on the cookies (don't rap too hard!). Let the cookies sit on the pans for five minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. Makes 24 cookies.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM BARS

The classic combo of PB&J, how can you go wrong?

½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

1½ cups all purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup raspberry jam

¼ cup chopped salted roasted peanuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar; add egg, vanilla and peanut butter. Mix until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish and spread 2 ?3 of the batter in it. Drop dollops of the jam evenly over the batter and gently spread out evenly. Drop the remaining batter by spoonfuls evenly over the top and sprinkle with the peanuts, if using. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. When cool cut into 16 squares.

PEANUT BUTTER DOGGIE TREATS

Hey, why should humans get all the good stuff?

¾ cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, natural or otherwise)

1 cup water or chicken broth

2¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and with your hands mix together until well combined. Roll the dough out ¼-inch thick and cut with a bone shaped cutter or just into rounds or strips of a size that is appropriate for your dog. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until just firm to the touch (cooking time will depend on the size of the biscuits). Cool on wire racks and store in an airtight container.

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