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Slice of Life

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Explore with versatile nut butters

When I was pregnant, the only real craving I had was for peanut butter.

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every day for over four months, as well as peanut noodles two or three times a week. Peanut butter cups showed up on the menu at least two times a week and the fact that I didn’t gain an additional 30 pounds is nothing short of a miracle.

For some, the cravings disappear as soon as the baby is born. For me, well, let’s just say that my love affair with peanut butter is still going strong.

However, due to allergic reactions, any form of peanut or peanut butter is not an option for some people. If it’s a specific peanut allergy, try making “butters” out of different kinds of nuts like almond, hazelnut, cashew, macadamia, pecan and pistachio. You just place the nut of choice in a food processor blender and process until it forms a smooth paste. You also can purchase different types of nut butters at the grocery store and specialty shops.

The following recipes are all nut butter centric and are guaranteed to make even the savviest gourmet swoon. You can substitute different nut butters in any of the following recipes.

Crunchy Peanut Broccoli

1/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

2 tablespoons hot water

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons oil

3 cups fresh broccoli florets

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

In a large serving bowl combine the peanut butter, hot water, soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Whisk to blend and set aside. In a skillet heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add the broccoli, red pepper, green onions and garlic. Cook, stirring for 4 to 5 minutes, just until the vegetables are starting to cook but are still crisp. Spoon the vegetables into the serving bowl with the sauce and mix to coat. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Chicken Salad with Ginger Cashew Dressing

2 cups fresh spinach

4 cups romaine lettuce leaves

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup broccoli florets

2 cups shredded bok choy or shredded cabbage

3 cups snap pea pods, cut in half

2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 cups cooked chicken cut into thin strips (you can use deli chicken or leftovers)

3/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons apple juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup creamy cashew butter

1/2 cup chopped cashews

In a salad bowl combine the spinach, romaine, carrots, broccoli, bok choy, pea pods and water chestnuts. Divide the salad onto six plates. Divide the chicken between the six plates. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, apple juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Whisk to combine. Microwave the cashew butter for about 20 seconds, then whisk it into the dressing. Drizzle the dressing over the chicken, sprinkle the chopped cashews over the top and serve. Serves 6.

Chocolate Maple Almond Cup

1 pound bag semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1/2 to 3/4 cup almond butter

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sea salt

1/4 cup chopped almonds

Place paper liners in a muffin pan and set it aside. In a microwave bowl melt the chocolate until it’s smooth. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, cinnamon and almond butter evenly. Spoon 3/4 to 1 tablespoon of the almond butter mixture on top of the chocolate in the cup. Top with 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted chocolate and then sprinkle the top with a pinch of the sea salt. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. You can refrigerate up to two weeks and freeze up to a month. Makes 12.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@verizon.net or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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