25 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Peanut Butter

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Most people know peanut butter as a staple from their childhood lunches or something that gets stuck to the roof of their mouth. But its applications extend far beyond the lunchbox. From making repairs around the home to making precious gemstones, here are some surprising things you can do with the protein-packed spread.

1. MAKE A GLOW-IN-THE-DARK SCIENCE EXPERIMENT

Hand holding green laser pointer.
Sarah Sotin, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you ever need something to do during a power outage, try experimenting with a sealed jar of peanut butter and a laser pointer. The crushing and heating process used to make peanut butter produces phenols, organic compounds that absorb light. Exposing fresh peanut butter to the violet light of a laser pointer will cause the phenols to glow green for a few seconds at a time.

2. GET YOUR MORNING CAFFEINE FIX

Jars of caffeinated peanut butter.
STEEM

Peanut butter doesn't normally contain caffeine, but a serving of STEEM peanut butter packs more than a cup of coffee. Because it takes our bodies longer to absorb peanut butter than liquid coffee, the company claims that the caffeinated version of the treat offers a longer lasting energy boost than straight java—and will do it without any of the jittery side effects.

3. TURN IT INTO DIAMONDS

Tweezers holding a diamond.
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Peanut butter isn't considered a high-end product, but subject it to the extreme conditions of the Earth's mantle and that could change. A researcher in Germany successfully made a synthetic diamond using peanut butter as his source of carbon. The substance had to be squeezed with pressure 1.3 million times that of our atmosphere before a diamond was formed. But don't expect the peanut butter diamonds to be studding engagement rings anytime soon: The results were puny and impure compared to what's sold in jewelry stores.

4. REMOVE GUM

Girl blowing bubble gum with a brick wall behind her
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Maybe you fell asleep with gum in your mouth, or you blew a bubble that was just too big for your own good. Whatever the reason, odds are that you've gotten gum stuck in your hair at one point or another. In such cases, peanut butter has prevented many unwanted trips to the hairdresser. The oils in the product make gum less pliable and sticky, therefore easier to massage out of hair. The quick fix also works to free gum from other surfaces like clothing.

5. TREAT HICCUPS

Woman eating peanut butter with a spoon.
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Peanut butter is one of the lesser-known purported hiccup cures, but some people swear by it. The idea is that slowly consuming something thick and gooey like peanut butter will break up your swallowing and breathing patterns and dispel the hiccups. It also sounds way more enjoyable than holding your breath or standing on your head.

6. FEED ASTRONAUTS

Half-eaten peanut butter sandwich.
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Dining options are limited on the International Space Station, but even in space peanut butter sandwiches make an appearance on the menu. Assembling the meal up there isn't as easy as laying out the components on your kitchen counter. Instead of a jar, the peanut butter astronauts eat is stored in a flat-packed squeeze tube.

7. MAKE BAIT FOR FISH

Man fishing in a lake.
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Forget fancy lures: According to some experienced fishermen, peanut butter sandwiches make some of the best bait for catching codfish, catfish, carp, and bluegill. Prepare it on stale bread and garnish it with birdseed or garlic to make it especially irresistible.

8. REPAIR SCRATCHES

DVD with scratches.
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Depending on how long you’ve been holding on to it, your favorite CD or DVD likely has a scratch or two. But there's no reason to retire your scuffed-up discs for good: All you need is some peanut butter to extend the lifespan of your collection. Lightly rub the damaged surface with the peanut butter, set it down for a short while, and then remove the excess with a cloth. The scratches will still be there, but the oils from the peanuts will temporarily fill them in and smooth them out. You can also try the trick with your scratched-up wood furniture.

9. GET A HORSE TO "TALK"

Horse with its mouth open.
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Before the age of CGI, the makers of the sitcom Mister Ed used a much simpler method to get their equine star to "talk." The producers claimed that when they put peanut butter in the horse's mouth, he would move his lips to try to get it out. They dubbed the dialogue over this footage to create the illusion of a talking horse. (Though according to one theory, a wire attached to the horse's head was the primary source of the special effect.)

10. USE IT AS SHAVING CREAM

Razor sitting on the edge of a bath tub.
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If you're open to mixing up your grooming routine, consider swapping your shaving gel with peanut butter. It's cheaper, works just as well, and, as a bonus, nourishes your skin with natural oils. Give it a shot if you don't mind smelling nutty and delicious for the rest of the day.

11. ESCAPE FROM PRISON

Cell doors in a prison hallway.
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A group of prisoners at the Walker County Jail in Alabama were able to escape confinement using nothing but peanut butter and some clever deception. After smearing peanut butter on the numbers above their cell so it matched the number of the door leading outside, the inmates asked a new guard to let them into what they claimed to be their cell. From the control room, he inadvertently opened the front door and the escapees were able to walk right out. Despite the breakout, peanut butter sandwiches are still served at the prison.

12. REMOVE STICKERS

Price sticker on green background.
Alex Liivet, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Peanut butter works the same magic on hard-to-peel stickers as it does on gum. Once you have your new purchase, peel off as much of the price sticker as possible and scrub away the stubborn residue with a dab of peanut butter. Peanut butter is also a great nontoxic way to remove stickers and glue from produce.

13. COOK SAVORY DISHES

Ramen in a bowl on a table.
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It's no secret that peanut butter shines in sugary treats, whether in a cupcake or a candy bar. But peanut butter works just as well as a savory ingredient. If you have a jar in your pantry, you can add a dollop to punch up your instant ramen, or use it as a thickener in sauces or stews.

14. PREVENT DISEASE

Tools for making a peanut butter sandwich spread out on a table.
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You may already know that peanut butter is a great source of fiber and protein, but according to one study, the health benefits of eating the snack while you're young may extend to later in life. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School found that women who consumed peanut butter on a regular basis between ages 9 and 15 decreased their chances of developing benign breast disease by age 30 by 39 percent.

15. BUILD A BIRD FEEDER

You may remember this one from summer camp—to build a cheap bird feeder at home, all you need is a pine cone, some peanut butter, bird seed, and string. Cover the pine cone in the peanut butter before rolling it in the seed to coat it. Use a string to hang it up from a nearby tree branch and watch the birds in your backyard gather to enjoy the homemade treat.

16. USE IT AS FROSTING

Cupcake with peanut butter frosting.
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Looking for a more nutritious alternative to sugary frosting? Peanut butter makes the perfect topping for your baked goods. Spread it on chocolate cupcakes, cookies, or even doughnuts.

17. KEEP PETS OCCUPIED

Dog chewing a toy.
Alan Levine, Flickr // Public Domain

If dogs love one thing more than playtime with their humans, it's peanut butter. The ingredient can be used to make a toy that your pet won't rip apart or get bored with after two minutes. Get your hands on a Kong or a similar hollow, rubber chew toy and fill it with a generous spoonful of peanut butter. While your dog spends the afternoon figuring out how to get it out, you can enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet.

18. MAKE EDIBLE SCULPTING DOUGH

Sticking a finger in a jar of peanut butter.
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Peanut butter is messier than real Play-Doh, but it's also a lot tastier. Mix half a cup of it with one cup of powdered sugar and two tablespoons of honey to get a material that's the perfect consistency for rolling, shaping, and squeezing. And once your creations are complete, they can make a wholesome post-playtime bite.

19. MAKE MEDICINE MORE APPEALING

Dog being fed peanut butter.
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This trick is a favorite with parents of pets and kids. Before giving a pill to a dog, cat, or young child, hide it in a gob of peanut butter. The medication they turned their noses up at moments ago suddenly becomes a lot easier to swallow.

20. GET A POST-WORKOUT PROTEIN BOOST

Lacing up shoes before a workout.
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Fueling up right after exercising is essential to replenishing your energy stores and repairing and building up muscles. Peanut butter is one of the best foods you can include in your post-workout snack. The carbs, fats, and proteins in a serving are exactly what your body needs after being pushed to the limit.

21. QUALITY TEST PRODUCTS

Open jar of peanut butter.
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The world's most perfect jar of peanut butter is produced by the federal government. At a price of $220 for a 6-ounce jar, the National Institute of Standards and Technology sells the flawless spread to food manufacturers developing their own peanut-based products. By testing "Standard Reference Material No. 2387" in the lab, they can see how the vitamin, mineral, and aflatoxin levels in their own peanut butters stack up.

22. BUILD A 444-POUND PEANUT BUTTER CUP

Peanut butter cups on a table.
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In 2015, a Los Angeles-area candy shop lined a plastic kiddie pool with melted chocolate and filled it with peanut butter in an attempt to break the world record for largest peanut butter cup. The monstrous confection ended up weighing 444 pounds. Afterwards, it was broken up into smaller pieces and sold to raise money for charity.

23. USE IT AS CONDITIONER

Woman brushing her hair in the mirror.
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You don't have to wait to get gum stuck in your hair to lather it up with peanut butter. The oils and nutrients it contains make it a great natural alternative to leave-in conditioner. Just work it into your hair, allow it to sit for a while, and wash it out to find vibrant, lustrous locks underneath.

24. MAKE A FACEMASK

The same properties that make peanut butter a nourishing hair treatment also make it a soothing face mask. A peanut butter facial works best on dry skin and shouldn't be applied to faces that are already oily.

25. SHINE LEATHER

Hand cleaning a leather sofa.
iStock

Your dull leather is only a few dabs of peanut butter away from looking as good as new. Rub it into the material you want to shine by making tiny circles with your fingers, then use a towel or washcloth to wipe it off. The polishing hack also works on leather shoes.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Columbo

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

For more than 40 years, Peter Falk entered living rooms around the world as Lieutenant Columbo, an unconventional L.A. homicide detective known for his ruffled raincoat and trademark cigar. The actor would go on to win four Emmys for the role, while the series itself remains a benchmark for television crime dramas. But if series creators William Link and Richard Levinson went with their initial choice, the iconic role of Columbo would have gone to a syrupy-smooth crooner rather than the inelegant Falk. Get familiar with one of TV's most unique heroes with facts about Columbo.

1. BING CROSBY WAS ORIGINALLY EYED FOR THE ROLE.

Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link's first choice to play their low-key detective was crooner Bing Crosby. Der Bingle loved the script and the character, but he feared that a TV series commitment would interfere with his true passion—golf. It was probably providential that Crosby turned the role down, since his death in 1977 occurred while the series was still a solid hit on NBC. 

2. PETER FALK WAS AN UNEXPECTED SEX SYMBOL.

Peter Falk in 'Columbo'
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Character actor Lee J. Cobb was also considered for the role, until Peter Falk phoned co-creator William Link. Falk had gotten a copy of the script from his agents at William Morris and told Link that he’d “kill to play that cop.” Link and Levinson knew the actor back from their days of working in New York, and even though he was the opposite of everything they’d originally pictured for Lt. Columbo, they had to admit that Falk had a certain likeability that translated to both men and women. Falk was described by a certain female demographic as “sexy,” and males liked him because he was an unthreatening, humble, blue-collar underdog who was smarter than the wealthy perps he encountered.

3. FALK WAS A GOVERNMENT WORKER BEFORE BECOMING AN ACTOR.

Peter Falk wasn’t too far removed from the character he played. In real life he tended to be rumpled and disheveled and was forever misplacing things (he was famous for losing his car keys and having to be driven home from the studio by someone else). He was also intelligent, having earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University, which led to him working for the State of Connecticut’s Budget Bureau as an efficiency expert until the acting bug bit him. He was also used to being underestimated due to his appearance; he’d lost his right eye to cancer at age three, and many of his drama teachers in college warned him of his limited chances in film due to his cockeyed stare. Indeed, after a screen test at Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn dismissed him by saying, “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”

4. COLUMBO'S DOG WASN'T A WELCOME SIGHT AT FIRST.

Columbo's dog
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Columbo was renewed for a second season, NBC brass had a request: they wanted the lieutenant to have a sidekick. Perhaps a young rookie detective just learning the ropes. Link and Levinson were resistant to the idea, but the network was pressuring them. They conferred with Steven Bochco, who was writing the script for the season opener, “Etude in Black,” and together they hatched the idea of giving Lt. Columbo a dog as a “partner.” Falk was against the idea at first; he felt that between the raincoat, cigar, and Peugeot his character had enough gimmicks. But when he met the lethargic, drooling Basset Hound that had been plucked from a pound, Falk knew it was perfect for Columbo's dog.

The original dog passed away in between the end of the original NBC run of the series and its renewal on ABC, so a replacement was necessary. The new pup was visibly younger than the original dog, and as a result spent more time in the makeup chair to make him look older.

5. FALK'S REAL-LIFE WIFE PLAYED A ROLE IN THE SERIES.

Falk first met Shera Danese, the woman who would become his second wife, on the set of his 1976 film Mikey & Nicky. The movie was being filmed in Danese’s hometown of Philadelphia, and the aspiring actress had landed work as an extra. They were married in 1977, and she was able to pad out her resume by appearing on several episodes of Columbo. Her first few appearances were limited to small walk-on parts—secretaries, sexy assistants, etc. By the time the series was resurrected on ABC in the early 1990s, she was awarded larger roles.

She originally auditioned for the role of the titular rock star in 1991’s “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star,” but her husband adamantly refused, since the role included a scene of her in bed making love to a much younger man. She instead played the role of a co-conspiring attorney, and was also allowed to sing the song that was the major hit for the murdered star.

6. THE CHARACTER'S TRADEMARK RAINCOAT CAME FROM FALK'S CLOSET.

The initial wardrobe proposed for Columbo struck Peter Falk as completely wrong for the character. To get closer to what he wanted for Columbo, the actor went into his closet and found a beat-up coat he had bought years earlier when caught in a rainstorm on 57th Street. And he ordered one of the blue suits chosen for him to be dyed brown. The drab outfit would become one of the trademarks of the character for decades.

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG GOT AN EARLY BREAK ON COLUMBO.

“Murder by the Book” was the second Columbo episode filmed, but it was the first one to air after the show was picked up as a series. Filming was delayed for a month, though, when Falk refused to sign off on this “kid”—a 25-year-old named Steven Spielberg—to direct the episode. Finally he watched a few of Spielberg’s previous credits (all of them TV episodes) and was impressed by his work on the short-lived NBC series called The Psychiatrist. Once filming was underway, Falk was impressed by many of the techniques employed by the young director, such as filming a street scene with a long lens from a building across the road. “That wasn’t common 20 years ago,” Falk said. He went on to tell producers Link and Levinson that “this guy is too good for Columbo."

8. COLUMBO'S FIRST NAME WOUND UP THE SUBJECT OF A LAWSUIT.

Fred L. Worth, author of several books of trivia facts, had a sneaking feeling that other folks were using his meticulously researched facts without crediting him. He set a “copyright trap” and mentioned in one of his books that Lt. Columbo’s first name was “Philip,” although he had completely fabricated that so-called fact. Sure enough, a 1984 edition of the Trivial Pursuit board game listed the “Philip” Columbo name as an answer on one of their cards, which led to a $300 million lawsuit filed by Mr. Worth.

The board game creators admitted in court that they’d garnered their Columbo fact from Worth’s book, but the judge ultimately determined that it was not an actionable offense. By the way, years later when Columbo was available in syndicated reruns and HD TV was an option, alert viewers were able to freeze-frame a scene where the rumpled lieutenant extended his badge for identification purposes in the season one episode “Dead Weight” and determine that his first name was, in fact, “Frank.”

9. THE SERIES DIDN'T FOLLOW A STANDARD MYSTERY FORMAT.

The premise of Columbo was the “inverted mystery,” or a “HowCatchEm” instead of a “WhoDunIt.” Every episode began with the actual crime being played out in full view of the audience, meaning viewers already knew “WhodunIt.” What they wanted to know is how Lt. Columbo would slowly zero in on the perpetrator. This sort of story was particularly challenging for the series’s writers, and they sometimes found inspiration in the most unlikely places. Like the Yellow Pages, for example. One of Peter Falk’s personal favorite episodes, “Now You See Him,” had its genesis when the writers were flipping through the telephone book looking for a possible profession for a Columbo murderer (keep in mind that all of Columbo’s victims and perps were of the Beverly Hills elite variety, not your typical Starsky and Hutch-type thug).

A page listing professional magicians caught their eye, and that led to a classic episode featuring the ever-suave Jack Cassidy playing the role of the former SS Nazi officer who worked as a nightclub magician. When the Jewish nightclub owner recognized him and threatened to expose him, well, you can guess what happened. But the challenge is to guess how Lt. Columbo ultimately caught him. 

10. THERE WAS A SPINOFF THAT KIND OF WAS BUT THEN WASN'T.

The 1979 TV series entitled Mrs. Columbo was not technically related to the original Peter Falk series. In fact, Levinson and Link opposed the entire concept of the series; it was NBC honcho Fred Silverman who gave the OK to use the Columbo name and imply that Kate Mulgrew was the widowed/divorced wife (the series changed names and backstories several times during its short run) of the famed homicide detective. The “real” Mrs. Columbo was never mentioned by her first name during the original series, but actor Peter Falk possibly slipped and revealed that her name was “Rose” when he appeared at this Dean Martin Roast saluting Frank Sinatra and asked for an autograph.

12 Savory Facts About Bacon

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iStock

Bacon is everywhere these days. You can find it in ice cream, coffee, cupcakes, and chewing gum. There are bacon-scented candles, bacon lip balm, and even a bacon deodorant. With bacon saturating every corner of the market, it’s worth looking at the origins of this smoky, salty food and how it became so wildly popular. In honor of National Bacon Lovers Day, here are a few facts to whet your appetite.

1. IT DATES BACK TO 1500 BCE.

The Chinese were the first to cook salted pork bellies more than 3000 years ago. This makes bacon one of the world’s oldest processed meats.

2. ROMANS CALLED IT "PETASO."

Bacon eventually migrated westward, where it became a dish worthy of modern-day foodies. The Romans made petaso, as they called it, by boiling salted pig shoulder with figs, and then seasoning the mixture with pepper sauce. Wine was, of course, a frequent accompaniment.

3. THE WORD REFERS TO THE "BACK" OF A PIG.


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The word bacon comes from the Germanic root “-bak,” and refers to the back of the pig that supplied the meat. Bakko became the French bacco, which the English then adopted around the 12th century, naming the dish bacoun. Back then, the term referred to any pork product, but by the 14th century bacoun referred specifically to the cured meat.

4. THE FIRST BACON FACTORY OPENED IN 1770.

For generations, local farmers and butchers made bacon for their local communities. In England, where it became a dietary staple, bacon was typically "dry cured" with salt and then smoked. In the late 18th century, a businessman named John Harris opened the first bacon processing plant in the county of Wiltshire, where he developed a special brining solution for finishing the meat. The "Wiltshire Cure" method is still used today, and is a favorite of bacon lovers who prefer a sweeter, less salty taste.

5. "BRINGING HOME THE BACON" GOES BACK CENTURIES.

These days the phrase refers to making money, but its origins have nothing to do with income. In 12th century England, churches would award a "flitch," or a side, of bacon to any married man who swore before God that he and his wife had not argued for a year and a day. Men who "brought home the bacon" were seen as exemplary citizens and husbands.

6. IT HELPED MAKE EXPLOSIVES DURING WORLD WAR II.

In addition to planting victory gardens and buying war bonds, households were encouraged to donate their leftover bacon grease to the war effort. Rendered fats created glycerin, which in turn created bombs, gunpowder, and other munitions. A promotional film starring Minnie Mouse and Pluto chided housewives for throwing out more than 2 billion pounds of grease every year; "That’s enough glycerin for 10 billion rapid-fire cannon shells."

7. HARDEE’S FRISCO BURGER WAS A GAME CHANGER FOR BACON.

Bacon took a beating in the 1980s, when dieting trends took aim at saturated fats and cholesterol. By the '90s, though, Americans were ready to indulge again. Hardee’s Frisco Burger, one of the first fast-food burgers served with bacon, came out in 1992 and was a hit. It revived bacon as an ingredient, and convinced other fast-food companies to bacon-ize their burgers. Bloomberg called it "a momentous event for fast food, and bacon’s fate, in America."

8. THE AVERAGE AMERICAN CONSUMES 18 POUNDS OF BACON EACH YEAR.

Savory, salty, and appropriately retro: The past couple years have been a bonanza for bacon, with more than three quarters of restaurants now serving bacon dishes, and everything from candy canes to gumballs now flavored with bacon. Recent reports linking processed meats to increased cancer risk have put a dent in consumption, and may have a prolonged effect. But for now, America’s love affair with bacon continues.

9. THERE’S A CHURCH OF BACON.

This officially sanctioned church boasts 13,000 members under the commandment "Praise Bacon." It’s more a rallying point for atheists and skeptics than for bacon lovers, per se, and there’s no official location as of yet. But the church does perform wedding ceremonies and fundraisers, and has raised thousands of dollars for charity. All bacon praise is welcome, even if you're partial to vegetarian or turkey bacon over the traditional pork. Hallelujah!

10. THERE'S ALSO A BACON CAMP.


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It’s like summer camp, but with less canoeing and more bacon cooking. Held every year in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Camp Bacon features speakers, cooking classes, and other bacon-related activities for chefs and enthusiasts eager to learn more about their favorite food.

11. MODERN TECHNOLOGY WANTS TO HELP YOU WAKE UP AND SMELL BACON.

An ingenious combination of toaster and alarm clock, the Wake 'n Bacon made waves a few years back with the promise of waking up to fresh-cooked bacon. Sadly, the product never made it past the prototype phase, but those intent on rising to that smoky, savory aroma were able to pick up Oscar Mayer’s special app, which came with a scent-emitting attachment.

12. THERE’S A BACON SCULPTURE OF KEVIN BACON.

It had to happen eventually. Artist Mike Lahue used seven bottles of bacon bits, lots of glue, and five coats of lacquer to create a bust of the Footloose star, which sold at auction a few years back. No word on how well the bacon bit Bacon bust has held up.

This article originally ran in 2016.

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