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The perfect peanut

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:04pm

Roasted in the shell, ground into peanut butter, or tossed in a salad, peanuts are not only a delicious snack but also a key ingredient in a variety of recipes.

But the peanut has been taking a pretty hard hit lately. Recent outbreaks of salmonella linked to peanut butter have forced a recall of hundreds of thousands of pounds of the product.

The FDA has determined the outbreak stems from peanut butter and peanut paste produced by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) located in Blakely, Georgia.

Since PCA doesn't sell its peanut products directly to consumers but in bulk, major peanut butter brands sold in jars haven't been linked to the outbreak.

Found in about 75% of American homes, peanut butter is considered by many to be a staple like bread and milk.

Whether it starts your morning or is a lunchtime favorite, peanut butter is so versatile and nutritious, it's included in many medically endorsed weight loss and diabetic diets. Like most foods, it contains some fat. Fortunately, 80% of the fat is unsaturated fat, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

By law, peanut butter must contain a minimum of 90% peanuts, with no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives. Some brands add about 7% natural sweeteners and 1% salt for taste, plus a stabilizer to keep the peanut butter fresh and the oil from separating.

Because March is National Peanut Month, it's the perfect time to celebrate one of America's favorite foods with the recipes on the following pages.

Roasted in the shell, ground into peanut butter, or tossed in a salad, peanuts are not only a delicious snack but also a key ingredient in a variety of recipes.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Prep: 20 minutes; Marinate: 12 hours; Cook: 50 minutes

Prep: 30 min.; Bake: 10 minutes per batch; Oven: 375 degrees F.

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