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I love peanut butter. Always have, always will. Peanut butter, in my humble opinion, is the ultimate comfort food whether it is smeared on warm toast or made into peanut butter cookies or fudge. Creamy or chunky, peanut butter gives off such a warm and friendly glow, nothing else compares to it. Even at my advanced age, I still get a rush from a “peanut butter and grape jelly” sandwich, especially when I’m limited on eating time.

Even if you are a vegetarian, peanut butter can provide a strong a source of protein in the meatless diet.

Nearly half of the peanut crop grown in the United States becomes peanut butter. The peanuts, after harvest, are roasted, then rapidly cooled to stop the cooking process. They are then ground in two individual stages. The nuts are first ground by themselves, then re-ground with salt, sweeteners and a stabilizer to keep the oils and nut meat from separating. If you purchase either “old-fashioned” or natural peanut butter, all that means is the stabilizer is not added so you have to stir or mix the oil into the peanuts.

I realize there is a great concern about peanut allergies. According to current data, one-half of one percent of the American population has an allergy to peanuts, with one-tenth of one percent subject to a life-threatening allergic reaction. If you fall into one of these categories never be afraid to ask, especially in a restaurant, if peanuts or peanut oil is included in anything being served.

Peanut oil is about the best oil to use for frying, as it has a high smoke point, or only burns at a relatively high temperature. American peanut oil has a mild flavor, whereas Asian peanut oil is stronger in taste. Either way, make sure to ask what type of oil the chef uses.

Over the years, I’ve personally used peanut butter in sauce recipes, as a coating for chicken and even beef, and in cookies and pies. Today’s recipe is a no-bake peanut butter pie that is wonderful for the warmer months. I also make my own peanut butter balls, which I’ll throw in today as well. The peanut butter balls are simple little things to keep in the fridge for a quick snack or energy boost during the day. I make them for a friend who is diabetic, and when low sugar knocks at her door, she munches a few and the danger is past.

At my house we keep both creamy and crunchy on hand as we cannot agree on which is best. I love the crunch, my husband prefers creamy, and my grandchildren have the same debate going on. Whichever you prefer, the nutrition and protein is there. For baking purposes, you are best to go with creamy, so on that point, I will relent.

Both recipes today are no-bake, so it’s a great time of year to try them out. If you’re having company over, or going over to a friend’s for a cook-out, or just want a little something different for dessert, this pie recipe is for you.

NO BAKE P’ BUTTER PIE

4 ounces of cream cheese

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup cold milk

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

8 ounces Cool Whip

1 ready-made chocolate graham cracker crust

Combine cream cheese and confectioners sugar, mixing well. Add in the peanut butter and then slowly add the milk. When all mixed together, add in the Cool Whip and pour it all into the pie shell. Cover it with plastic wrap and put into the freezer for at least one full hour. Before serving, I like to drizzle it with chocolate syrup.

BEAUDOIN PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup confectioners sugar

4 tablespoons softened butter

Combine all three ingredients until soft and smooth. Roll out into little balls, put on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for at least one-half hour, or until firm. While they are chilling, melt either white or semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave. Dip each ball into the melted chocolate and put back into the fridge. I drizzle the white chocolate ones with the darker chocolate, and the darker chocolate ones with white chocolate for contrast.

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