Eating ants on a log is a happy memory for me: salty-sweet and lip-smacking (the peanut butter), cool-crunchy (the celery), and chewy-fruity (the raisins). I went back to it a few years ago during my plot to get something green into my hubby's diet.
Basic ants on a log is simple: You use a table knife or (for small helpers) a plastic spoon to stuff softened peanut butter into the channel of a stalk of celery, then press raisins into the peanut butter. The "log" is the stuffed celery, and the "ants" are the raisins. It's fun, tasty, messy, and gross; all great things for kids not afraid of wearing a peanut butter mustache and chomping up raisin ants!
While it's delicious, there is a minor problem with ants on a log. The large, exposed surface of peanut butter causes difficulty if you won't be eating this snack on the spot. Have you ever tried packing it in a lunchbox? If you wrap it in plastic wrap, the peanut butter smears onto the wrap as well as the outside of the celery, making for messy eating. If you put it in a small container, it rolls around inside, and again you get a mess.
Here is a version which is more transportable (at least, if you store your lunchbag at room temperature or colder) and more convenient to eat. To be honest, I don't remember how I came up with it, but here you go:
Ants in a Log
- Your favorite peanut butter. Mine contains only peanuts and must be mixed up thoroughly by hand.
- Celery, preferably organic.
- Raisins — dark or golden — or whatever else you might like: halved peanuts, dried cranberries, walnut pieces, bacon bits, etc. Whatever you choose, the final size of the item should be smaller than the width of the celery stalks. Crushed chocolate covered expresso beans, anyone?
- (optional) Spices and/or dried herbs. I'm not going to specify any here; just use your imagination! Mix a tiny pinch of something into a small dab of peanut butter and see how it goes. (Hint: Have a look at what flavorings are often combined with peanut sauces.)
- Also needed: Clean rubber bands. Clean twist ties might also work.
Warm. If you keep your peanut butter refrigerated, allow the jar to warm to nearly room temperature on your countertop, and decide whether you will use any spices or herbs.
Prepare the celery. While the peanut butter is warming, wash the celery. Break the stalks you'll be using off the base, and trim both ends of each stalk. You can string the celery (remove the heaviest strings, pulling them away between your finger and the knife blade) if you wish; that is a grownup job, though! Wash each stalk well under cold water, using your fingers to rub any clinging dirt away. Dry them very well. Remove any frondy tops and reserve those for other uses; you can freeze them if for use in a stock, for example. Then examine the stalks and try to pair them together according to similar width and length; width is more important.
Soften. When the peanut butter is easier to work, place it in a bowl, get out a fork, and get stirring. Give it a minute or two. (If you are using one of those hydrogenated types, you'll probably be able to finish this in just a few moments.)
Season. If you'll be seasoning the peanut butter, now's the time to do it. Mix it in well.
Fill. Working with each pair of celery stalks, fill the hollow inside each stalk with the peanut butter, with a table knife or whatever works for you. Do not overfill; the peanut butter should not be heaped up past the top of the channel.
Top. For each pair of stalks, apply your topping to one of them.
Join. Take each pair of stalks, align them so that their peanut-buttery sides meet, and press them carefully together. The idea is to create a round log of celery, with the topping trapped inside. Then, rubber band this log together to hold it closed while it sets. Use two bands, each a few inches in from either end. If any peanut butter oozes out, use a damp paper towel to wipe it off.
Chill. Set your logs on a plate, cover them with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them until the peanut butter becomes firm. This is where peanut-only pb comes into the fore, as (aside from the obvious health benefits) it sets up quite firmly.
Enjoy! Once the peanut butter has set up, remove the rubber bands. Slice the logs with a very sharp knife into bite-sized pieces. Sections about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) long works well, though you might want to slice it smaller for a child. For immediate consumption, slicing them on the bias makes for a nice presentation. For a packed lunch, cut them straight across to minimize the exposed surface area of the peanut butter, then put the pieces back into the fridge until ready to pack and go.
Cover these and keep them in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will help to keep the celery fresh, and covering the snacks prevents odor transmission and reduces drying. Celery is fairly perishable, though, so eat these within a few days.
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XWiz says re Ants on a log: I hate the idea, but damn... your writeup makes it sound so good. One upvote duly awarded, though I'll never touch the stuff ever! :) ... It's only the raisins that put me off, I think. The bacon bit is quite attractive... :)