Growing up, I learned that peanut butter could sustain a grown man for almost an entire workday without needing a lunch break. This dogma was well supported by my father, eschewing breakfast cereal and turning to toast topped with peanut butter, a dab of mustard, and a sprinkling of sugar. This was the food of the busy man, the one with college classes to teach and research to attend to.
I couldn’t help but wonder as a child how my father started eating his favorite breakfast. He told me that it was an accident in his youth when making his familiar but boring butter-and-peanut butter sandwich: some wayward mustard in the butter dish and an aptly placed knife. The sprinkling of sugar was a remedy for peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth. He still remembers his peanut butter-mustard creation as a pivotal point in his life. It changed his breakfasts forever.
I tasted this strange, serendipitously-created concoction of my father’s, liking it mostly for the shock it brought to my relatives and friends parents’ faces when I asked for the ingredients in which to assemble it. “You want mustard? And the peanut butter?” my aunt repeatedly asked me one morning when we visited one Christmas. “Are you sure?” She paused and eyed me before she glided into her pantry and fetched the items. And then she watched, an increduous look upon her face, me make and eat my dad’s signature dish. My friends’ parents thought it was heresy, this nut-mustard combo, and probably silently questioned if I was doing some appetite-stimulating drugs with their upstanding daughters.
No, it wasn’t drugs, it wasn’t just being a smart-ass, it was actually thinking outside of the box and trying something new that had me eating this peanut butter toast with a mustard kick. Since then, I’ve found that peanut butter cookies are much more fun to make and pleasing to a suspicious friend’s parent. You throw in my go-to grain oatmeal and I am happy to eat it daily.
When I found this recipe for a peanut butter and oatmeal bar cookie, it sounded like a great combination. When I first tried it, I followed Giada’s recipe exactly, using sweetened peanut butter and regular chocolate chips. However, in my adaptation here, I’ve used unsweetened peanut butter and cacao nibs as I like my oatmeal cookies less sweet than most recipes assume. I think the honey and brown sugar provide enough sweetness without the unsweetened peanut butter seeming oily or bland. These are great wrapped up for a snack during the day, or as a quick breakfast. Maybe, if I’m feeling nostalgic and a little sassy, I’ll squirt a little mustard on top. Or not.
This is my belated Fathers’ Day post. Thank you, Dad, for being you: a little sweet and a little vinegary.
|peanut butter granola bars with cacao nibs|
* On some of my trials, I tried just using a whole egg here (so as to not waste the yolk) but the bars fell apart more easily. The yolks can be saved for a custard for ice cream making (see my Raspberries and Cream Ice Cream for an example of custard-based ice cream).
** To toast almonds per Giada’s directions, arrange nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.