When you read my monthly introduction, perhaps you mumbled to your significant ones that, really, this month, the Paddling.net food writer was not pushing the envelope too hard trying to find an original food-related subject to make her New Year story enticing. Well, may I respectfully object and explain why it is, indeed, a perfect starter for this new paddling season that’s coming along. I know you have already made a few good resolutions, such as eating less artery-clogging fat, fixing breakfast on a daily basis, becoming totally faithful to your weekly workout schedule, or maybe even quitting smoking for good. But I’ll bet you have never ever thought about adding more peanuts to your daily regimen. Am I right?
As a food professional, my number one resolution for 2007 was to try real hard to find ways to simplify my readers’ lives with easy solutions for meal and snack time. And when it comes to paddling, simplicity really takes a new meaning. Because eating well without getting bored by limiting food choices is a tremendous challenge for any paddler who plans regular multi-days trips in total autonomy.
Inspiration runs in the family…
So, the other morning, I was having breakfast with my mom. Because we were in a hurry, I proposed two whole wheat toasts with peanut butter and an orange juice. She grimaced in such a comic way that I burst into laughter. “What a boring proposal for a woman with your culinary knowledge!" she said. “Go tell your readers that you’re offering your poor old mummy what she hates the most on earth, peanut butter, and there will certainly be a riot among their ranks! Or, at least a petition will be raised." Nevertheless, we ate peanut butter toasts despite her misgivings. But I prepared a slightly improved version, coating the basic layer with some chocolate-hazelnut spread, adding tiny bits of crystallized ginger and topping this assemblage with fresh pears sprinkled with lemon juice. It took me two more minutes than the plain version we are accustomed to. Mummy was ecstatic about her breakfast and could not believe how different the taste became for an ingredient she has disliked since childhood. So, let’s say that she is the inspiration behind my 2007 New Year story idea: how to improve any kayaker’s life simply by carrying along a jar of peanut butter. Because this truly North American ingredient is a lifesaver for any cook, thanks to its versatility and high nutritional profile. But it can also be turned into extra easy and exquisite recipes in no time. I swear.
Before talking about their culinary possibilities, let’s explain why peanuts have such numerous nutritional advantages. With a protein content of 26% to 28%, a third of a cup of peanuts provides 12% of the daily recommended protein requirements, which compares very well with animal sources. Because they also provide a slow release of energy over a long period of time thanks to their high content of fibers and good unsaturated fats, they are perfect for endurance sports such as paddling. Clinical trials conducted throughout the world have shown that unsalted peanuts are excellent for people who want to lower their cholesterol level naturally and are equally helpful for those with diabetes to control their blood sugar level. And despite their high content of fat a small portion is perfect for people on a weight loss diet too because they are efficient to help curb cravings.
A 16-year study published in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health involving more than 80,000 women has also proven that peanuts significantly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Other health studies from Australia and the U.K. have shown that regular consumption of peanuts can reduce the risk of cardio-vascular disease by more than 50 %. Scientists believe that this is because of a high level of Beta-sitosterol, a substance that seems to protect against heart disease as well as contributing to inhibit cancer growth. The phytochemicals called isoflavones and saponins in peanuts also provide strong anticancer properties, thanks to their amazing antioxidant power. Finally, a Dutch study released in 2002 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that food as high in vitamin E as peanuts or vegetable oils can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer Disease. Not bad for a modest member of the legume family.
A proud icon of American culture
Peanut butter became part of the American daily diet when it was invented by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who first created a “nut meal” out of peanuts for his patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium. One of his employees, Joseph Lambert, began selling his own hand-operated peanut butter grinders one year later, in 1896. But the Incas came before, using peanuts and making it into a paste as early as 950 B.C. That should be no surprise, since peanuts originated in South America. They were brought to Africa later by early explorers and then traveled by trade to Spain, who sold the product to the American colonies. The first commercial peanut crop in the United States was grown in Virginia, quickly followed by California in the early to mid-1800’s. By 1914, many companies were making peanut butter. Skippy was the first brand in North America, offering its customers both a smooth and a crunchy style peanut butter. Today, half of all edible peanuts produced in America are used for peanut butter.
African peanut butter soup for campers (4 portions)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 2 branches of celery, chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, margarine or butter
- Dry parsley and chives to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chili flakes, to taste
- 6 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup of quick cooking rice
- 8-10 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
In a saucepan, sauté the vegetables over low heat in oil or butter until they are soft. Stir in the rice, the herbs and spices and mix well to coat the rice with the vegetable and oil or butter. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, cover for 5-10 minutes or until the rice and vegetables are done. In the meantime, put the peanut butter in a small bowl, add a few tbsp of the hot broth and stir well to dissolve. Put the peanut butter paste into the large soup pot. Mix well until blended. Serve as a main dish. You can also use a mix of dry vegetables instead of fresh if you are on a longer paddling trip.
My satay-like dipping sauce
- 6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tbsp dry coriander leaves
- 1 tsp soy sauce
Mix all ingredients together. If too thick, add a bit of hot water to help dissolve. Serve this dipping sauce with an assortment of crackers, raw vegetables and pieces of extra-firm tofu for a sturdy appetizer or a light meal.
Asian cole slaw with peanut butter vinaigrette
- 1 Chinese cabbage or regular cabbage
- 1 large orange, in sections
- 1 large apple, diced and dipped in 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 scallions, with the green part, chopped
- 1 large avocado, cut and dipped in 2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
- 2 carrots, finely grated
- 2 cans of shrimps, drained
For the Dressing:
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar or honey
- 8 tbsp hot water
- A pinch crushed chilies
Finely chop the cabbage and put in a large bowl. Add the orange, the apple in lemon juice, the scallions, the avocado (optional), carrots and mix well. Let stand a few minutes while you prepare the dressing. Dissolve sugar or honey in rice vinegar, add soy sauce, chilies, peanut butter and water and whisk well. Pour on the salad and mix well until dissolved. Add the drained shrimps, mix gently and serve with some bread for a complete meal.