Peanuts? No Problem

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: a staple for lunchboxes across the US and beyond. Cracker jacks: a time-honored traditional baseball snack.

Soon, even people with severe allergies to peanuts may be able to try these classics and many more nut-based foods.

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Source: thepaleolist.com

According to CNN, a large-scale clinical trial published last week proved that the method of oral immunotherapy- gradually increasing the amount of peanut consumed over time- can actually decrease allergic reactions to the point where nine out of ten participants were able to eat up to 5 peanuts every single day. Five out of ten could eat twice that much. After this point, the kids in the experiment were asked to eat a couple of peanuts per day to keep their sensitivity down, but after a few years they will be able to eat them less frequently.

Even though at first some of the patients suffered some stomach issues, these were a far cry from the symptoms they might have been experiencing simply by sharing a room with a peanut beforehand. According to WebMD, these effects can be anything from tingling lips or a rash to diarrhea or fatal anaphylaxis.

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Source: notimetocook.com

When I was in elementary and middle school, I saw firsthand the effects of severe peanut allergies in two of my classmates. For class parties we were not allowed to bring in anything with peanuts or peanut butter. Even if we kept the items to ourselves, it was off-limits. For the two who were allergic, it was very frustrating. Any day they could be seen glancing around them at lunch to make sure that they didn’t sit near anyone with a peanut butter sandwich.

Eventually, my school implemented the “peanut table” idea (which was recently adopted by the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Stadium, which has designated a section of seats to be peanut free). (I won’t go into the arguments about discrimination and personal freedom that ensued when they discussed banning all food involving nuts, but I note that it was indeed discussed.) The problem was, there were only so many seats at the peanut table. These kids wanted to sit with their friends, avoid the stigma of sitting in the reserved seats and being pitied by the rest.

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Source: Cyanide and Happiness

Truthfully the issue of peanut allergies has become an everyday theme after a more than tripled rate of occurrence among children in the last couple of decades (follow link for a new and worrisome Times article on the subject). Even US President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia has a peanut allergy, a fact which was disclosed when Obama signed a bill last November ensuring availability of epi-pens (shots of epinephrine to offset the effect of a severe allergic reaction) in schools across the country.

Most disturbing to me is the idea of “allergy bullying,” recently brought to light in a CNN article. Apparently, some kids have taken advantage of their peers’ sensitivities and threatened to force-feed them nuts and even thrown the food at them. Teasing I can understand but this kind of bullying, where do these kids even get these ideas?

Hopefully, treatments of the kind that the positive results came from will be helpful to stopping this sort of behavior on a wide scale. If they can perfect the procedure and ensure the safety of the kids who are participating, I think it would mean an incredible amount to those kids who can’t eat with their friends at lunch or have to run away from bullies so they don’t have a painful or life-threatening physical reaction no matter how much they might want to stand up for themselves.  They could live without having to check with the chef every time they eat at a restaurant and eat peanut butter cups and cookies!

They could even eat this Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars recipe I whipped up, modifying two recipes I found here and here!

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Ingredients: 

Cookie Crust:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg

Filling:

  • 1 small container of peanut butter, or 1 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 jar jelly or preserves (I used strawberry)

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup dry roasted salted peanuts

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

2. In a medium or large bowl combine sugar, flour, salt, and butter. Beat until the ingredients begin to hold together. Add egg and beat until fully incorporated.

3. Spread dough on the bottom of the pan and press it even.

4. Bake 20-25 minutes until the top of the dough begins to be golden. (If you’re clever and decide to do the next part while this is baking you’re just going to end up waiting a few minutes afterward anyway, I recommend having a cup of tea or something.) Remove and place on rack to cool.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

6. In medium bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add peanut butter and mix well until creamy.

7. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, beat to incorporate.

8. Spread filling over the cooled crust evenly and place in freezer.

9. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking power, baking soda, brown sugar and salt. Add butter and beat on low speed to make crumbs.

10. Remove pan from freezer. Over the peanut butter filling, spread your jelly or jam evenly.

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11. Sprinkle the crumb topping last, covering the jelly or jam. Liberally sprinkle peanuts over this, and gently press down to make them part of the crumb layer.

12. Bake for 20 minutes until the top begins to brown, then remove and cool fully. Then refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting into bars.

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I hope you enjoy! These taste almost exactly like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich… but better.

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PS: I baked these a day ago and put them on the living room table for my roommates to help themselves… they’re 3/4 gone!

P.P.S.: My whole life, my family has always made these Cheerio Squares to bring to family gatherings and holidays. They’re an insanely easy, instant hit!

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