Friday, May 25, 2012

Healthy Peanut Butter – A Review

Peanut butter has long been a rather guilty pleasure with me. I discovered the allure of toast with peanut butter and jam (or jelly) in the sixth form of school. On cold winter afternoons after the ritual torture of hockey in the mud and rain, we’d huddle round the countertop grill, making and burning endless rounds of sliced bread toast, which were then thickly spread with peanut butter and blackcurrant jam. As the grill and tea and coffee making area was immediately outside the door of our study it was impossible to resist the smell of slightly singed toast and join in the feasting.

In the interests of strict historical accuracy, I should add that I more often than not skipped hockey and elected to play squash instead, which had the advantage of being played inside in the dry and was unsupervised, perfect for the games slacker that I was... and still am if truth be told.

Ever since it has been an occasional comfort food and I recently discovered that it is great with marmalade too. But standard peanut butters are loaded with refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and salt, so despite all the useful protein from the nuts I’ve never been able to pretend it was healthy, and as my kids never really took to it I often leave it out of the shopping trolley altogether.

So I was quite excited when Crede, the natural oil company, offered to send me their new healthy peanut butter to try. It’s called Oh Mega because of the omega 3 rich flaxseed oil used in it. Honey replaces sugar, egg white powder stops the oils separating and vitamin E is a natural preservative.
So all the ingredients are healthy enough for guilt-free peanut butter indulgence, but what about the taste? Is it a patch on the old unhealthy stuff?

Well yes, I liked it. The flavour is all peanut as you’d expect, just sweet enough to appeal to the kids too (to my surprise my non-peanut butter eating children tried this and liked it). The taste is slightly milder than regular peanut butter (that would be the absence of salt), but has just enough oomph to take a layer of jam on top. Any salt fiends out there might want to add a sprinkling of their own to their pbj sandwich, but the lack of salt will be a major plus point for a lot of healthy eaters out there who are trying to reduce consumption.

The honey and flaxseed oil gives it a slightly runnier consistency than usual, which doesn’t actually matter to me, as I spread it fairly thinly anyway, but might bother you if you like to spread mouth-cloggingly thick layers of peanut butter on your bread!

One thing to remember is that flaxseed oil shouldn’t be heated to high temperatures, meaning that this peanut butter isn’t going to be ideal for peanut butter cookies, so I’m going to be looking out for some non-bake peanut butter recipes to try with this – anyone got any ideas?

All in all I’d definitely get this in future instead of the old, less healthy brand. Apparently it is being stocked by some of the Spars, so I’ll have to work on our local branch to get it in for me!

Disclaimer: The Oh Mega peanut butter was sent to me as a free sample to review, the opinions are however unbiased by this generosity!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Winter School Run

Car keys jingle, dogs bark excitedly, scenting a car to serenade. It’s still dark outside but a rim of light over the eastern mountains promises dawn. Heavy school bag is slung into car, headlights switched on, reversing out into grey half light. The sky holds the only colour to be seen, the land undressed in dull shades waiting to be woken. Hares switchback from restio clumps startled by the headlights, cunningly escaping as we turn down towards the gate. No talking, it’s too early, son reads book by the light of his phone.

Bumping along the long dirt road, eyes are constantly drawn left to the horizon: purple line of mountains etched against a lightening sky, like an amateur watercolour painting, but one that could never be captured, the panorama too long, thin and never-ending to be pinned on paper.

Wisps of mist float suspended at head height as we reach the tar road, swallowing colour even more, till all is headlights and wipers, fan blowing air on the windscreen to disperse the blur of moisture that grabs at the car.

School children rub hands together at the side of the road keeping warm, clustered in huddles until the school bus comes. Early morning traffic isn’t heavy here: some unhurried holding back others rushing, whisking past in an impatient flurry.

Dropping son to catch his onward lift, the sky is brighter now, horses are breakfasting on straw and hay, sleep-silent children lugging too-heavy bags into the car, son still reading, leaning against garage wall.

I retrace my path, long straight road bordered by blue gums, watching the achingly slow transformation of dawn into sunrise, as a tinge of pink warms the blank sky. Then mist wraps grey fingers, shutting out the sky entirely, creating a silver grey world with the gum trees its furthest walls. Down into the dip the wall of fog thickens, a tunnel broken only by lights of cars driving just too fast for safety.

Then back up our dirt road where fog dwindles to a fairy mist, the outline of the hill behind us floating delicately above and a rosy gold sky hovering over all. Now a bright spot on the horizon shows where the sun has chosen to rise today and, turning onto our farm, the hill has already lost its silver hue, instead washed the pinkish green of an old colour photo in the family album, its colour skewed by age.

Then a blinding flash reflected in the house windows shows that the sun has at last crested the mountains, bringing colour to the world, banishing the grey mist and promising a day fine enough to dry a load of washing. 

Kids will have arrived at school by now – will they see the sunrise or be already shut away in classrooms under yellow electric light?

A lyrical sunrise is an everyday happening in a South African winter, only remarkable to me because I don’t usually do the morning school run, so the wonder is still fresh. My sunrises are usually seen from our stoep, in between clearing breakfast and vacuuming, emails and a cup of tea. It’s nice to be out in the midst of one, noticing the progress one mile at a time without household chores cluttering the brain.