Quick, Easy, PB & J Snack Balls. Plus, Is It Safe to Eat Peanuts?

by Gena on September 6, 2013

PBJ collage

When I’m home, it’s my ongoing mission to make food that my mom will enjoy just as much as I do. So far, I’ve had mixed success. There have been certain grain or pasta dishes that qualify as a incontestable wins, and a few baked goods that were greeted with enthusiasm. There’s the fact that my mom now purchases almond milk regularly, all on her own, and uses it in her cereal every day. Or the container of Veganaise in the fridge, the open bag of flax meal, the Pure Bars on the countertop. My raw, vegan “deviled eggs,” which mom requests every time I’m with her. Victories, all.

There have been some terrific flops as well. I’m thinking about the raw cream of broccoli soup that might as well have been called “bowl of lemon juice.” The bean dishes that have been rejected. The baked goods that have crumbled apart or emerged from the oven hard as rocks; the vegan scone I recently purchased that was likened to “eating the sole of a shoe.” You can’t win ‘em all. But today, I’ll share a recent snack that got two thumbs up–so much so, that I left the remainder of the recipe in NYC for my mom to enjoy. They’re easy, four ingredient vegan PB & J snack balls, and they’re awesome.

photo 1

I spend so much time working with almonds, cashews, and walnuts that I tend to forget about the humble peanut. Peanuts have a dirty reputation among raw foodies for various reasons, some more legit than others. The most credible concern is that peanuts can containĀ aflatoxin, which is a toxin produced by certain strains of mold that can grown on peanuts when they’re stored in warm, closed environments (like silos). Alfatoxin has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory animals and is linked to liver cancer in people with chronic hepatitis B, so it’s understandable that a good many consumers are unsettled when they learn about it.

Many steps are taken in the US to prevent aflatoxin from causing harm. The US government dictates that peanuts contain no more than 20 ppm (parts per million) alfatoxin, and many organic brands have a range that is between 0 and 10 ppm. At this level, it’s unlikely that peanut consumption in moderation is problematic. Interestingly, when Consumers Union (the parent firm of Consumer Reports) investigated alfatoxin levels in 2002, they found that the big name brands (Skippy, Jiff) actually had the most quality control measures in place and the lowest levels of aflatoxin (1-4 ppm — sometimes as low as zero). Ned Groth, a former Consumers Union analyst, has stated that the most problematic levels were in the freshly ground peanut butter from health food stores, where they use less stringent and standardized testing mechanisms and controls. (1)

Because of the strict guidelines governing peanut harvesting in the US, aflatoxin consumption is very low. It’s also important to remember that aflatoxin can also be present in walnuts, pecans, certain grains, and pistachios. It’s naturally occurring, and therefore difficult to eliminate altogether (and we’ve gotten quite close). All things considered, there are many more reasons to consume peanuts than there are reasons to avoid them: they’re good sources of protein, they’re rich in Vitamin E, folate, niacin, and protein, and they’re also good sources of antioxidants. I recently heard a health writer mention that peanuts should be avoided because they’ve recently been involved in some food recalls for bacteria (like salmonella). This is true, but by those standards we’d also have to avoid spinach, strawberries, and sprouts.

I love peanut butter (who doesn’t), but rarely make recipes with whole peanuts. This week, I was inspired. First I thought about PB&J flavored snack bars, but once I started grinding up my nuts and raisins, snack balls seemed like more fun.

Quick, Easy, PB & J Snack Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups dark raisins
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • Pinch sea salt

Instructions

  1. 1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and process till the peanuts are broken down and the mixture is starting to stick together. It may release a little oil, but that's OK.
  2. 2. Roll mixture into 1 inch balls. Store in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving.
  3. Makes about 20 balls.
http://www.choosingraw.com/quick-easy-pb-j-snack-balls-plus-is-it-safe-to-eat-peanuts/

photo 4

When my mom tasted these guys, she declared them better than any of the fruit/nut snack bars I’ve made her try shared with her. Win! Perhaps you’ll give them a try yourselves this weekend.

photo 2

How do you guys like to eat peanuts/peanut butter? Would love to hear. Happy Friday to you all.

xo

1. Krampner, John. Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food. Columbia University Press, 2013.

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby September 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Fun fact: My grandpa started his own company when he was younger–The Nut Bar–and ran it until he sold it to his partner 20 years ago. The point is that I grew up with all kinds of nuts and goodies straight from the store. However, as I got older I actually developed a peanut intolerance, which broke my heart (just peanuts though, not almonds, cashews, etc.)

Anyway, I still can’t eat PB or large amounts of peanuts, but I love every other nut and nut butter! Your treats look delicious and deliciously simple. Win-win!

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Marissa September 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm

These look amazing! I can totally relate to trying to share vegan foods with my family. There’s pressure when you’re cooking for non-vegans to “prove” how good vegan food is. My mother-in-law still cringes at the thought of chia seed pudding (like your mother Gena) but goes crazy over my homemade sunflower seed butter. Yes, you can’t win them all.. but the failures make the successes that much sweeter!

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Elizabeth September 6, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I too love peanut butter. When I’m feelnig virtuous I buy the jungle peanuts from nuts.com but I have discovered, that like hazelnuts, peanuts improve vastly in flavor with light roasting. I roast them at 200 or so degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until I can peel the skins off easily. Julia Corbett has a couple of great jungle peanut recipes in her raw cookie book, one of which I make quite often. She recommends roasting as well. But I still buy good old-fashioned crunchy peanut butter in the jar as well. I don’t consume nearly as much as I did a child, or as frequently, but every now and then, I’ll add a spoonful to my oatmeal, or mix it along with some cacao nibs into banana soft serve. It is a quintessential comfort food and a suprisingly good source of protein, even compared to other nuts (well, I guess it’s not tecnnically a nut). Oh, and whenever I was eating Larabars, my favorite flavor was the peanutbutter cookie. Your recipe reminds me of those, in fact, if you swapped dates for raisins. Which I am sure I would do as I’m not so fond of raisins.

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Emma September 6, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I’d heard vaguely about aflatoxin but always ignored the issue and carried on eating peanut butter anyway as long as it was organic. Thanks for the info and reassurance on the matter.
These snack balls sound fantastic and so cheap too with the peanuts and raisins- perfect for a humble student like me :)

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Elisabeth September 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I prefer peanut butter to other nut and seed butters; it just has the perfect creamy, nutty, salty, and sweet combination that never fails to satisfy me. These snack balls sound very tasty and look like a great addition to the lunchbox. Thanks for the recipe, Gena!

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Ashley September 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Great info, Gena!! And, killer recipe. xoxo

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Suzanne @ hello, veggy! September 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Thanks for the info! I bet this would be good made with dried cherries, yum!

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Eric September 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm

A shopper at the co-op where I worked told me that she and her husband make homemade peanut butter in a food processor, and add extra seeds for healthy fats and flavor. Her inclusions of chia and flax didn’t surprise me, but my ears perked when she said she adds poppy seeds. Poppy seed peanut butter!? I made some right away. It was awesome.

I made the tastiest, highest in omega-3 ants on a log that could ever be made.

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Les September 7, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Huh! Cool – I’m going to try grinding some kind of nut butter with poppy seeds, thanks!

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Christina @ The Beautiful Balance September 7, 2013 at 1:44 am

I have made something similar but with dried cherries in place of raisins and I absolutely adore them!

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Karen September 7, 2013 at 7:52 am

I love hearing re. your ‘mom taste tastings!’ I laugh in recognition of the many times, I wait eagerly for a positive accolade emerging from my parents following a sampling of a vegan concoction of my own. More times than not, I am completely surprised my their reviews. (Though in my case, I need to do some decoding as they rarely come right out and state their disgust; it’s more like a tone that signals they appreciated the TLC that went into the homemade gift, but…)

In any event, these look like a terrifically quick and fun snack. You remind me that it’s been ages since I’ve eaten PB as AB has been my nut butter of choice for as long as I can remember. I’m inspired to place a jar on my shopping list now.

Happy weekend, Gena!

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purelytwins September 7, 2013 at 7:53 am

yum!! these sounds wonderful!

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kimmythevegan September 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

Mmmm these do sound tasty! I don’t actually eat peanuts, but it’s less from the aflatoxin scare and more about people with thyroid issues avoiding them for health reasons as they have goitrogenic properties. But I do indulge once in awhile and these look like a fun treat =)

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mauigirlcooks September 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

These sounds delicious, Gena! Will give them a try after I buy some raisins. We make homemade applesauce & eat it warm with a little crunchy peanut butter mixed in & sprinkled with roasted unsalted peanuts on top. Also love celery stuffed with peanut butter and my recipe for Banana Mocha Peanut Butter Soft Serve found @ http://mauigirlcooks.wordpress.com/2013/07/.
I love to make it when I return from a walk when I’m hot; what a pleasant way to cool down. I have to give you credit for my soft serve, because I would have never made it without reading your post for banana soft serve a couple years ago-thanks for that recipe!

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janet @ the taste space September 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I am not ashamed to admit I prefer peanuts from all other nuts (even if they are not technically nuts). Although we have been devouring it like crazy after discovering the peanut butter at Trader Joe’s. So good! I found the same information about aflatoxin so I hope TJ’s falls into the lower aflatoxin category. ;)

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Hannah September 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Do you know what’s worse than aflatoxin? Cocaine.

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Les September 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm

nuts > drugs

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lymieeatingcoconut September 10, 2013 at 5:24 pm

You said it!

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Carrie September 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

I’ve been making my dessert hummus with PB lately and I’ve also been spooning it on my banana soft-serve .

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Les September 7, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Gena, I made your Brussels sprout stuffing (with millet bread) last year at Thanksgiving and my family was mighty pleased. My parents are still stubbornly eating beef all the time but my (subtle? heh) prodding has worked on my sister, a new vegetarian. As soon as she expressed curiosity about it, I sent her your blog link. She’s already drinking almond milk so maybe we’re talking about a pre-vegan :D Thanks for so many simple, affordable recipes. Also for alerting me to the existence of kelp noodles.

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Gena September 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Aw, Les, thank you so, so much. I’m delighted that you’re having such luck with my food. I appreciate your letting me know!

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Ttrockwood September 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm

For me both peanuts and peanut butter equal happy childhood memories. To this day my father always has a handful or two of dry roasted peanuts when he comes home from work. He always would share some with me and i can’t seperate these memories from dry roasted peanuts.
When i first became vegetarian (i think i was 11?) my parents decided it was a phase, so if i wanted something for dinner ( beyond the green beans and rice/whatever side dishes) i often made a pb and j. I got so tired of them that i started to cook and discovered how much i love it

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Jade September 7, 2013 at 11:31 pm

These look super delicious–I’m going to give them a shot using almonds, though.

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Randi (laughfrodisiac) September 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Those balls look great. I love pb&j so much. Who doesn’t?
I really appreciate the info on peanut safety. It makes sense that the freshly ground pb would have less oversight re: aflatoxin than the big corporate kinds; it kind of sucks though! I’m sure the benefits of the more natural kinds outweigh that concern though.

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Hannah September 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

The first part of this post resonates so strongly with me — I cook all kinds of interesting, delicious, fun vegan things for my bf and myself on a daily basis, but oftentimes when trying to “impress” my (quite skeptical) family, I end up trying too hard and having it fall flat. I’m pretty sure anyone would love these, though!

On the subject of nut balls: they are absolutely one of my favorite things to make lately. Amazing for on-the-go snacks, pre or post-gym, or even to throw into a smoothie. And you can sneak one as a snack whenever without feeling toooooo guilty. It’s been awhile since I’ve used peanuts, so that might have to be next in queue :-)

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Byron Berry September 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I like the idea of raisins in place of jelly, I was wondering how the jelly was going to be implemented.

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Dr Scott Duke September 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I like my peanuts mixed with dark Choclate morsels :)

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lymieeatingcoconut September 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I love peanut butter! I try to mix it up with other nuts too so I’m not getting in too large of a dose. I find my appetite suffers sometimes and peanut butter is a good way to make food appealing again.

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SaraMM September 11, 2013 at 7:49 am

These are perfect! I made them this morning. They are so delicious. I was down to only a small handful of raisins so I threw those in with 1 cup of dates instead of the 1 1/2 cups raisins called for. Next time I’ll try with just raisins when I have them.

I love peanuts to the point of recently buying 30 pounds worth from nuts.com. I’ve been looking for more unique peanut recipes to use them for aside from the good ‘ol peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

We had my 4 year old’s birthday party this weekend. I woke up in the middle of the night panicking about being an ambassador for veganism with the cupcakes and frantic that I was going to be a poor representative. Luckily all turned out well but I certainly experienced inner pressure at the last minute.

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Amber September 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Yumm! Delicious recipe, gonna try it with all the different dried fruits mentioned, perhaps one with cranberries too.

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Colleen September 13, 2013 at 11:16 am

I just made a batch, with just a couple of alterations: I swapped one of the T. of peanut butter for 1 T. coconut oil, then added a teaspoon of honey and a bit more salt. Absolutely delish!!!! I do love how simple and few ingredients are in your recipe, though :)

Now I’m wondering if cocoa nibs would blend well with these… what do you think?

thank you!

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Gena September 14, 2013 at 6:50 am

I think it could be amazing, so long as the cacao nibs got ground up finely enough. Adding to the “must make” list :-)

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deb September 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

these are addictive! have lost count on how often I’ve made this
recipe. have used a combination of raisins and medjool dates, and
subbed pb2 plus a few T. of H2O in place of peanut butter….and also
added cinnamon…have always included cinnamon. we love eating them straight from the freezer. fantastic! thanks Gina!

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Gena September 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

I am thrilled that you love them, Deb!

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Gena September 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm

So happy they’re a success :-)

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janet @ the taste space September 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Another winner! Loved them, Gena. So simple yet so good. :)

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Gena September 26, 2013 at 6:20 am

Hooray!!!

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Melanie September 25, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Love, love, love peanut butter! I do try to vary my nut butters to get a variety of nutrients, but the humble peanut butter is a delicious classic I always come back to. One of my most favorite snacks is apple slices dipped in peanut butter. I grew up on it and am now sharing it with my own kids :)

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