Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day With Cookies

Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day – January 24th.  Americans love “peanut paste,” and have for over a century. We even have a National Day to celebrate this staple of our kitchens – now known as peanut butter.

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In the U.S., around three-fourths of all houses possess at least 1 jar of peanut butter.

Peanuts for the Masses

Earlier this month (January) I saw a post from the National Park Service that it was George Washington Carver’s birthday. He is also known as “The Peanut Man.” Back in sixth grade I wrote a term paper on this amazing person because he was 1) a scientist and 2) a botanist. (Yes even back then I was a plant nerd.)

George Washington Carver started his peanut career by trying to help poor farmers with nutrient depleted soils from years of growing cotton and tobacco. He discovered that peanuts grew well in the area, and encouraged farmers to grow them. He was overly successful and there was a peanut glut! Farmers were worse off than before – they had a crop they couldn’t sell and were faced with losing their farms in some cases!

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1943 poster about George Washington Carver.

Feeling very badly about this negative result of his good intentions, George started researching ways to use these peanuts, besides simply peanut butter. He was a diligent scientist and came up with over 200 uses for the peanut! While he was at it, he came up 105 recipes for using the peanuts and – perhaps the most lasting – a way of using peanut butter to make delightful cookies.

Botanist Discovers the Secret to a Great Peanut Butter Cookie

The secret to success with the dense peanut butter cookie was to use a fork to flatten the cookies! That notable hashtag-like # mark has now become the signature way of making peanut butter cookies. Pressing this hash mark into each cookie ensures this dense dough will flatten out and bake evenly.

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The average person will eat 2,984 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lifetime. One acre of peanuts can make 30,000 sandwiches.

Peanut Butter Gifts

Since that 6th grade term paper I have had a special place in my heart for peanuts and peanut butter. I was delighted when good friend Niki Glen gave us peanut butter cookie as a holiday cookie this year. Niki is not just a good cook!  Niki Glen is a talented artist in many media and has just completed the installation of a wonderful series of sculptures along East Broadway in Tucson. If you live in Phoenix, some of her art is on benches in the shade outside Ikea as well as a handmade mosaic mural at Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School. Her sculptural works are also in Surprise, AZ and Las Vegas, NV.

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Before the Broadway sculptures were placed,,,,

Then there are the paintings…. well – you just need to visit her Niki Glen Studios website.

Niki got the recipe for the peanut butter cookies she gifted out of a booklet sent around by the Carrollton (Georgia) Arts Commission – titled The 12 Days of Christmas Recipes and featuring the recipes of 12 members of the Carrollton Arts Commission.  Niki’s sometimes collaborator Helen Helwig sits on this commission and shared this recipe in the book.  Niki mentions this, “Helen’s mother always made these cookies. She was a wonderful woman. So is Helen. Helen is a potter and ceramic artist.”

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Helen Helwig’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 cups peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sugars, flour, peanut butter and eggs.
Shape by hand into one-inch balls and place on untreated cookie sheet.
If dough is too sticky, refrigerate for 1/2 hour before shaping.
Flatten cookie ball with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Allow cookies to cool on the sheet.

Being a gluten free household, I am going to have to try this with almond flour, or maybe teff flour for a nutty taste. This might also work with mesquite flour – but if so I would use less sugar since the mesquite is naturally sweet.

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honey-savor-southwestMore fun with Monica in: Using Honey in New & Savory Ways (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). Only $7 online – or buy from Monica or Jacqueline in person. This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.

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