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updated: 10/12/2010 1:22 PM

Homemade peanut spread offers flavor with the fat

Lean and Lovin' It

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If you love peanuts as much as I do you know the thrill of popping open a can of cocktail peanuts and catching that first hint of roasted peanut aroma; the moment makes our mouths water.

My affinity for peanuts made it that much more difficult to kick peanuts and peanut butter to the curb when I set out to slim down. Believe it or not, a half cup (about 2.5 ounces) of oil-roasted peanuts delivers 431 calories; a single tablespoon carries almost 55 calories.

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Fat's the culprit here. Seventy-nine percent of the calories in peanuts comes from fat.

On the upside, peanuts deliver nearly twice as much protein as carbohydrate (7.9 grams versus 4.3).

Since I've been able to maintain my 155 pound weight loss for more than three years, I decided to start working the long-banished nut back into my menu. I headed to my local supermarket in search of a lower calorie, lower fat peanut butter. My trip ended in disappointment. Here's why.

A tablespoon of standard peanut butter delivers 95 calories, while that same brand's reduced-fat peanut butter also delivered 95 calories. The regular peanut butter delivers 8 fat grams per tablespoon, while the reduced-fat version delivers 6 grams that's a potential caloric savings of 18 per tablespoon.

However, added corn syrup solids and sugar in the reduced-fat peanut butter bumped its sugar content up by one-third and more than doubled its carb count (7.5 grams versus 3.5) thus erasing any caloric savings.

Believing I just may be able to make my own reduced-fat peanuty spread, I picked up a jar of natural organic peanut butter (just dry-roasted peanuts and salt) and a can of organic garbanzo beans (beans, water and sea salt) and headed back to my kitchen.

After draining and saving the garbanzo bean's liquid I measured out a half-cup beans and the same amount of peanut butter. Don't pull out the blender for this recipe; the beans and peanut butter are too heavy and do not maintain constant contact with the blender's blades.

A small food processor proves to be the better tool, even though it doesn't produce ultrasmooth results. My reduced-fat peanut butter spread definitely delivered peanut flavor and the garbanzo bean's nutlike flavor profile helped diminish their presence. Once chilled, my spread had a peanut butter-like texture though certainly no one would be fooled into thinking that this was regular peanut butter.

Nutrition numbers told a most-excellent tale. Where a tablespoon of regular peanut butter contained 95 calories, my new spread chocked up just 35 that's almost two-thirds less. The spread's fat numbers were even more impressive: 2.6 grams vs. the standard 8. Only mathematical quirk: since a half cup of beans add only 110 total calories and bean water adds zero, my percentage of calories from fat came to 67.2 percent. In this case, due to very low calories, that's not bad.

Using my new bean-nut butter in a PB&J sandwich with sugar-free grape jam and fat-free margarine turned out really tasty. And, calories coming from fat for the whole sandwich fell under the 30-percent threshold. You gotta try this.

An aside from Don: Lean and lovin' it first began appearing in the Daily Herald on Oct. 8, 1992. With today's column I begin my 19th year. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have the opportunity to share my life and my ideas with you. That would not have been or be possible without you. Thank you for reading.

• Don Mauer welcomes comments, questions and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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