Freshly Ground Peanut Butter (A gift from the gods??)

While we’re on the topic of sodium, when was the last time you looked at the ingredient list of your favorite brand of peanut butter? I am blessed to have a wonderful food market near my home, which carries freshly ground peanut butter. Of course you could start grinding your own peanut butter at home. (I know it sounds like too much work, but it really doesn’t take too much effort to produce the heavenly goodness of homemade PB.) But if you don’t feel up to it, make sure the brand you do purchase does not have any added sodium (AKA sodium chloride), sugar, or hydrogenated oils. I mean, isn’t peanut butter supposed to be simply ground nuts? Why is all that other stuff in there in the first place???? There are a few organic brands out there on the market, which do not have any added fillers. Simply turn the jar over and take a peek for yourself.

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I started making my own peanut butter a couple of years ago…it’s way easy, takes just minutes of time, and it tastes REALLY good. No recipe is needed. All you need is a food processor, raw peanuts, some peanut oil, and, if you want, honey and salt.

Step 1 – Dry roast the raw peanuts on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they start to brown and smell good. Take them out and let them cool to room temperature.

Note:  If you want to skip Step 1 and use peanuts that are already roasted, that’s fine.  It’ll still be good, just not quite as good.

Step 2 – Put the peanuts in the food processor with the honey. Begin to process them while drizzling the peanut oil. Add as much oil as is needed to make the peanut butter soft and almost drippy. It’ll take several minutes of processing for the peanut butter to reach the right consistency.

Amounts of the ingredients are up to your discretion. The amount of oil necessary depends on the kind of peanuts you get — some are oilier than others. How much honey and salt you use (if any) is for your taste buds to decide. For 2 cups of peanuts, I usually use about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of oil, several large spoonfuls of honey, and no salt (the freshly roasted peanuts don’t need it).

The first batch of this I made lasted for about a day. Everyone in the house kept eating it by the spoon! Now, I can’t recommend that homemade peanut butter be used for baking — the commercially made stuff is much smoother — but the flavor can’t compare. Plus, you’ll know exactly what is (or is not) going into your PB&J!

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Sodium

Sodium. It’s been on my mind this past week. How much am I consuming daily? But more importantly, how much is my family consuming? I am not going to lie. I like salty things. And I have been known to over-salt certain dishes I cooked. My husband has always been quick to point this out to me, much to my disdain.

We should all know how sodium-laden fast food and processed foods are, but unfortunately, many of the products we deem as “OK,” really may not be. Just because you buy a healthier, organic food item, are you guaranteed a low sodium product? You might want to use the extra 20 seconds required to turn the packaging over and look for its sodium levels, and for that matter, its sugar levels! But that’s another topic entirely, so let me not get off track here.

There I was standing amongst the organic food aisles at my local grocery store, looking for snacks my son would enjoy during snack time at school. **(Side Note: Just so you know, I am not a big fan of pre-packaged food items, such as cheese sticks, granola bars, and juice boxes. It just seems silly to produce so much extra waste. Well, that was until my second child came along and my son started kindergarten. I believe sometimes we have to give in for a few years to maintain the bare minimum of mommy sanity. I promise I’ll be better, Mother Earth, in something like two years.)** I picked up a well-known organic brand’s box of granola bars, and decided to flip it over to the nutritional information. Wait…..there’s how much sodium in each bar????? I just did not think that was a healthy amount. It seemed way too high for me. So I checked each brand until I came to the lowest sodium offering, tucked it away in my basket, and continued on to the cereal aisle. My son loves granola for breakfast, and locating a brand with low sodium, is not always easy. One brand had 230 mg of sodium per 2/3 cup serving, while another box claimed to contain 160 mg for the same serving. Finally, after consulting with something like 8 different boxes of granola, I came upon one with only 30 mg per 2/3 cup serving. Now that’s more like it!!

After my grocery shopping excursion, I decided to do some digging into the salt mine (excuse the pun) of information regarding sodium. Many health organizations recommend using less than 2,400 mg of sodium per day. Would you believe most Americans are consuming almost 20 times that amount? Yikes!

Ok, you say, so what’s the big deal? I like my salty food: chips, hotdogs, pickles, deli meats, and pretzels. However, over time, high sodium levels result in bodily water retention, increasing your blood volume, and eventually leading to high blood pressure. That is definitely not a problem I wish for anyone, least not my children.

I am certainly not trying to scare anyone or go completely fanatic over this topic. My daughter is in love with olives, and I do admit to making organic all-beef hotdogs once in a while for lunch. I simply want people to ask questions and deem for themselves which products are right for their families. The best way to control sodium levels in the foods we eat are to make them ourselves. Only then do we have full control. And if you want to splurge, do so in moderation.

Lately, much to my husband’s dismay, I have been avoiding the deli counter. He has a weak spot for Italian mortadella with pistachios. I’ve been making more egg salad and PB&J sandwiches for lunch. And I have also been attempting to go easy on the salt while I am cooking dinner. Some canned foods, such as crushed tomatoes and chickpeas, already contain salt, usually making it unnecessary to add more to your dish.

If you happen to be in love with a certain company’s line of products, but are upset over their sodium content, let them know. They may tell you, like they have told me in the past, that their products are competitive with all the other brands’ sodium levels, and that consumers simply would not like the lower-sodium taste. Hey, if enough of us call, write, or e-mail, we might be able to change the sodium world. Cash is king and the consumer is always right…….right???

It is true that your palate for salt is something learned, so little by little, you, me, and anyone else who cares, may once again enjoy our meals with just a pinch of salt…..