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Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day!

In honor of National Peanut Butter Day, I’m sharing two of my favorite peanut butter recipes.  The Mutant Ants on a Log are from the child’s birthday party menu in Party Vegan. It’s a fun and easy snack to make anytime.  The Peanut Noodle Salad from Vegan on the Cheap can be made with any pasta shape you like and it can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature.  The peanut sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce.
Mutant Ants on a Log 
Kids of all ages love “ants on a log” and using different colored dried fruit makes the ants look like “mutants” and adds to the fun.  Best of all, this is one snack that’s made with healthful ingredients — so it’s a win-win for everyone.This recipe is from Party Vegan by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley and Sons.
10 to 12 celery ribs 
1 cup smooth peanut butter 
2 teaspoon maple syrup 
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup sweetened dried blueberries 
1. Trim the ends from the celery and, using a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, remove a thin strip from along the back of each celery rib so they lie flat without wobbling. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter and maple syrup, stirring to blend.

3. Stuff the peanut butter mixture into the celery, spreading evenly with a knife so the peanut butter mixture is flush with the top of the celery.  Gently press the blueberries and cranberries into the peanut butter.  Cut the celery into 2-inch long pieces and arrange on a platter.

Serves 6 to 8

Peanut Noodle Salad

A creamy peanut sauce combines with crisp vegetables, baked tofu, and chewy noodles in this scrumptious salad that only tastes like a luxury. This recipe is from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley and Sons.

1 pound extra-firm tofu, well drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
8 ounces linguine or other pasta shape
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
4 green onions, minced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
3 cups broccoli florets, steamed
Easy Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slabs and press well to remove any excess water.  Cut the slabs into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with the soy sauce.  Arrange the tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. Cook the linguine in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the sesame oil.
4. To the bowl with the noodles, add the green onions, carrot, bell pepper, and steamed broccoli.  Pour on enough peanut sauce to coat and toss gently to combine.  Serve topped with the reserved tofu.
Serves 4

Easy Peanut Sauce
This peanut sauce has great flavor and amazing versatility, whether using it as a dip for veggies or as a sauce for pasta. It’s especially good used in the Peanut Noodle Salad (above). Why pay more for bottled peanut sauce when you can make your own on the cheap with this easy recipe?   This recipe is from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson © 2010, John Wiley and Sons.

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 teaspoons grated ginger (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Asian chile paste

1. Place the peanut butter in a bowl. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar until incorporated.  Add the oil, ginger, and chile paste and stir until smooth and well blended. 
2. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more chile paste if you prefer more heat. Add as much water as needed to reach the consistency you prefer. Use immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.  Properly stored, this sauce will keep for several days.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

If your taste for peanut butter leans to the sweet side rather than the savory, you might consider making some peanut butter cookies:
 or, my personal favorite, white chocolate peanut butter cups:

My Last Butternut Squash

After a week of unseasonably warm temperatures, the cold weather is back and along with it, my desire for a comforting stew. I wanted to use my last remaining butternut squash that I picked months earlier from my now-frozen vegetable garden. A richly flavored African stew sounded like a good match. I adapted this stew from the recipe for North African Pumpkin Stew in Vegan Fire and Spice. In straying from the recipe, I enriched the sauce with a bit of peanut butter, added a lonely sweet potato that was languishing in the fridge, and topped it with some steamed baby spinach, because we love our greens and also because spinach goes so well with the flavors in this stew. Served over brown rice, the result was a delicious one-dish meal that tasted even better when we had it for lunch the next day.

Butternut Tribute Stew
This yummy stew was a fitting tribute to my last garden-grown squash from the fall. The recipe was adapted from Vegan Fire & Spice. If you don’t like heat, just omit the chiles.

2 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 small, fresh hot chiles, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 small winter squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, or a natural sweetener
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Cooked brown rice or couscous, to serve
4 cups fresh baby spinach, steamed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, chiles, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice, and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the squash and sweet potato and toss until evenly coated with the spices. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add the beans, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. A few minutes before serving time, remove about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and place it in a small bowl. Add the peanut butter and stir to combine, then stir the peanut butter mixture back into the stew. To serve, spoon some rice into the bottom of shallow serving bowls. Top with the stew and place a small mound of steamed spinach on top.
Serves 4