Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

 Peanut Butter and Jelly - Image property of Jessica Moseley Gordon 

Peanut Butter and Jelly - Image property of Jessica Moseley Gordon 

There's nothing like a good pb+j when the mood strikes. Whether you're partial to grape jelly or strawberry preserves, the combination of the sweet and the salty perfectly satisfies your cravings. This childhood favorite is comforting and nurturing. Whether you're a Welch's jelly purist or Smucker's strawberry fan, there's no right or wrong way to make or eat this classic sandwich. Best of all, it's simple and easy to make. There's no prep time involved and dishwashing is minimal. It's my go to for the children when I'm pressed for time. Lately we've been dressing this sandwich up a bit - Sometimes they become truly decadent, almost desertlike and sometimes they're packed with power - a perfect pre-workout energy source. Whatever your mood, style or preference there's something to satisfy your craving. 

Where and when the PB+J originated, nobody's quite sure. Peanut Butter was present and quite popular at the 1904 World's Fair. It was then considered to be quite an elegant food choice paired with pimento cheese, celery, and watercress, and served on crackers in Manhattan tea rooms. Skippy and Peter Pan came to us in the 1920s and 1930s during the Great Depression. Jarred peanut butter was inexpensive and was served on the newly introduces pre-sliced bread. This was hearty and nourishing and something simple that young children could even make themselves. 

Not until World War II did we see the peanut butter and jelly combination that remains so popular today. US Soldiers often ate peanut butter, jelly and bread together and when they returned home to the States they craved the food they ate during the war. 

Traditionally a PB&J consists of equal parts peanut butter and jelly  - roughly 2 tablespoons each but the ratio is negotiable, determined only by the sandwich maker. 

The Art of the Sandwich

First let's talk about bread. With these sandwiches, ordinary sandwich bread is really the best. Whether you opt to go with traditional white, whole grain/wheat or oatmeal is really up to you. Soft breads are optimal. For something a little bit fancier try substituting challah or brioche for your sandwich bread as do waffles and French toast. And we're really not going to worry about calories and such nonsense here. 

1. Peanut butter and Fluff

For many this is as commonplace as peanut butter and jelly, but this New England treat is pb+j stepped up a notch. The marshmallow is more decadent, more prohibitive and much more fun than your run-of-the-mill jelly. It's simple. It's easy. It's delicious as a snack, meal or dessert. If you have any natural peanut butter on hand - the freshly ground stuff - use it! While it seems silly, if not practically wasteful to mix it up with the Fluff, it brings the Fluffernutter to a whole new experience!

2. Peanut butter and Nutella

If you've not met Peanut Butter's European cousin then you really have no idea what you're missing. This delicious, decadent and sinful chocolate and hazelnut spread is enjoyed by children all over Europe. Now blend the two together and you're onto something insanely delicious. If you're going to worry about calories you might as well not read any further. 

3. Peanut butter, Fluff and Nutella.

Yes, you read that correctly. No there's no diet version. You'll want an appetite for this. And an elasticized waistband. Or yoga pants. Your tastebuds will feel like they've gone to heaven. Wanna go crazy? Toss some sliced banana into it.

4. Sprinkle some cinnamon on it, Peanut Butter and Cinnamon

Whether cinnamon or cinnamon sugar, this spice really enhances the peanut butter flavor. We love peanut butter with just a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on it. This is one of my personal favorites. I use crunchy peanut butter. This is perfect right before an aerobic workout, whether you're headed to the gym or out for a run. The protein and carbs will fuel you perfectly without the sugary sweetness that will send you soaring then crashing. 

5. Peanut Butter, Honey, Banana and Cinnamon

I often make this for my boys for breakfast when I'm lazy or short on time. We use local honey and sprinkle the cinnamon right onto it. Two of us prefer this with crunchy peanut butter and the other two prefer it with smooth. 

6. Peanut Butter, Banana and Granola

For those who like a little crunch, a great way to use up those "granola crumbs" at the bottom of the package is to sprinkle some onto your your peanut butter. Go ahead, why not. Add honey if you wish.

7. Peanut butter and bacon (and banana)

It sounds weird but anyone who's had this will tell you it's oddly delicious. I had peanut butter and bacon sandwiches in my lunch box as a child. For those who don't like or can't eat pork, turkey bacon works well here too. Go ahead and toss some bananas in there too. I think Elvis did.

8. Nutella and Banana

A little less decadent than the aforementioned versions. The bananas, the chocolate and hazelnuts ... Perfection. 

9. Nutella and Strawberries

It's a natural pairing. We see this combinations often in crepes. It works well on a sandwich too. Spread a thin layer of nutella on both sides of the bread, then place thinly slices pieces of strawberries on top of the Nutella. Suggestion: Because strawberries are so wet, we place our sliced strawberries onto a sheet of paper towel for a minute or so before placing them in the sandwich to absorb some of the extra moisture.

10.  Nutella, Strawberries and Banana

The same as above. But prefered by monkeys!

Make your own peanut butter chocolate spread 

Not that we're focusing on anything healthy in this post, we're really not, but this chocolate peanut butter spread is actually quite healthy and really good. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and mix well. Take a tiny taste, if you want to add some more add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. Mix well. If you're in the mood for something a bit sweeter add 1/2 teaspoon of honey and mix well.  Spread onto bread and eat immediately!

Try some of these...

Why not trade in your kids jelly for something more sophisticated. Bonne Mamman, Hero and Trapist are some European jams that are bursting with fruit and full with flavor. Try raspberry, plum, apricot ... add in some crushed nuts, granola, coconut... Raspberry-Apricot jam, peanut butter, homemade (natural) peanut butter on challah... Crunchy peanut butter, granola, coconut, cinnamon on whole grain... For those who have a penchant for anything chocolate and orange, try your hand at a Nutella and marmalade sandwich.

Serving Suggestions

There's nothing wrong with slicing that just made sandwich down the middle and eating it right away, but these sandwiches become truly extraordinary when tossed on a griddle or a panini press. Whether sandwich bread, challah, brioche, French toast or waffle, lightly coat each side of your sandwich with a little non-stick cooking spray (either butter flavored or olive oil) and cook them up to oozy toasty perfection. Dust with a touch of confectioners or cinnamon sugar et voila! 

  Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

 Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

  Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up

Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly :: Comfort Food Dressed Up