Peanut Butter and Jelly CookiesJanuary 7, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
In everyone’s life there are specific images that we associate with childhood. It might be a photograph taken on a family vacation or the memory of a swing set that used to reside in the backyard of your first home. Iconic foods can also take us back in time to our youth. More often than not, these foods consist of confections that we’ve mostly given up as we’ve grown older and more health conscious. One of the most memorable treats from my early years is the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s been a long time since I’ve had one because I no longer eat bread and sugar sweetened jelly. But Mrs.Healthy Fellow recently came up with a creative solution that could once again reunite me with my childhood buddy, PB&J.
My final column of 2009 described a health challenge in which I asked you all to help others reach a healthier weight. In most cases this would mean assisting with weight loss goals. However there are some instances, particularly in the elder population, where well-crafted weight gain would also be beneficial. Regardless of which end of the weight scale you’re working on, one the biggest obstacles to success is finding convenient and nutritious foods that are appealing enough to eat on a regular basis.
The inspiration for today’s recipe comes from an unlikely source, Paula Deen of The Food Network. Paula has a wonderful reputation among home cooks, other foodies and television viewers. She’s charming and kindhearted and loves to cook comfort food. On the other hand, she has a much more checkered history with nutritionists. Her penchant for adding liberal amounts of butter and sugar to virtually every dish explains the discrepancy among these respective groups.
A few months ago my wife was shopping at a local health food store and spotted a jar of all-natural blueberry preserves by a company called Nature’s Hollow. She looked over the ingredients and read that it only contained: wild blueberries, xylitol, fruit pectin and citric acid. These are all Healthy Fellow approved ingredients. Mrs. H then looked at the carbohydrate count and noted that it only contained 2 grams of “effective carbs” per tablespoon. This was also right in line with our dietary philosophy. The only remaining question was the taste. There was only one way to find out: buy it and try it. So we did and we loved it. Delicious!
Not long after that, the idea of combining Paula Deen’s sugarless, peanut butter cookie with this all natural, low carb fruit preserve began to take shape. The one stumbling block I personally had with this combination is that Paula Deen calls for the use of 1 1/3 cups cups of Splenda (sucralose) in her Magical Peanut Butter Cookies. In order for me to enjoy these treats in good conscience and share them with others, I’d need to somehow find a natural sugar replacement. (1)
My solution to this quandary was to create a suitable combination of inulin, a prebiotic sweetener derived from chicory root, and a concentrated stevia extract. Unfortunately, my experimentation has yet to produce an ideal ratio of these two tricky sweeteners. So for the sake of simplicity and taste I’m going to use the readily available, commercial sweetener Truvia for today’s recipe.
Mrs. Healthy Fellow’s PB&J Bites
1 cup organic, unsweetened peanut butter
1 large, organic, omega-3 egg
10 packets of Truvia (stevia) *
1 Tbs organic vanilla extract
Nutritional Information – Calories: 80. Fat: 7 grams. Fiber: 2 grams. Net Carbohydrates: 3 grams. ** Protein: 3 grams. Makes 18 cookies.
** Sugar alcohols such as erythritol are generally not included in the carbohydrate count because they do not affect blood sugar or insulin reactions in the body.
If you add a teaspoon of the Nature’s Hollow Blueberry Preserves to the top of each cookie, it would contribute about 7 additional calories and 1 net carbohydrate.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small ice cream or cookie scoop to measure the “dough” into small golf-sized balls and evenly space them on the parchment paper. Gently press down on the raw cookies to flatten them out (the cookies do not spread while baking). Bake for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven and allow the cookies to sit in the warm oven for an additional 7 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and let the cookies cool. Top with any of the Nature’s Hollow fruit preserves and enjoy!
Aside from taste considerations, these wholesome treats may also afford important health benefits. The primary ingredients in this recipe, blueberries and peanuts, have recently been shown to improve both cardiovascular and cognitive health. How many conventional treats can make that same claim? Here are some of the details that support my claim:
A new study published in the December 2009 edition of the journal Public Health Nutrition reports that adding peanuts to the diets of men with high cholesterol may help lower the risk of heart disease. Fifty-four men with total cholesterol levels ranging between 200 and 350 mg/dl were split into two groups. One half was fed 77 grams of peanuts daily for 4 weeks. The remaining participants continued to eat their “habitual diet”. The men who ate the peanuts demonstrated a significant decline in LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol. They also exhibited an elevation in HDL (“good”) cholesterol and an increase in “total antioxidant capacity”. In addition, the researchers noted a reduction in two key cardiovascular risk markers: the atherogenic index of plasma (AIP) and the “CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) estimated risk over 10 years based on systolic and diastolic blood pressure”. (4)
Other research just published this week in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry established that consuming wild blueberry juice can improve memory in older adults. Nine men and women with early stage memory loss were asked to drink wild blueberry juice over a 12 week period. The researchers noted improvements in two specific areas of cognition: associate learning and word list recall. There were a few additional benefits not specifically related to memory – a healthful decline in blood glucose levels and a reduction in depression scores. (5)
There are plenty of other ways in which you can make healthy variations of these cookies. Try adding organic, shredded coconut to the mix. Drizzle some organic, dark chocolate on top instead of fruit preserves. Or, perhaps you can experiment with adding cinnamon or pumpkin spice to add a layer of complexity to the recipe. The possibilities are as vast as your imagination and your palate. I hope that you’ll try out our PB&J creation. If you enjoy them, perhaps you can share them with others. Incidentally, these cookies can be used by those who need to gain or lose weight. Most healthy foods can be used in just this way. Onwards with the challenge!
Tags: Low Carb, Stevia
Posted in Nutrition, Recipes