Whole Wheat Banana Buttermilk Truffle Muffins

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Banana Truffle Muffins 2

If you want really good banana baked goods, whether muffins, cupcakes or bread, overcoming any squeamishness towards overripe bananas is a must.  That is the key to the flavor.  And when I say overripe, I mean over-ripe.  Like black overripe.  Like need-to-pick-up-bananas-with-latex-gloves-and-throw-in-the-incinerator overripe.  If you look at the picture below, those are overripe bananas.  But they’re not even as overripe as the ones I actually smashed in the bowl.  Almost, but not quite.  The ones I used were totally black all over – no trace of yellow left.  THAT’S what I mean by the perfect overripe bananas for the perfect banana baked goods!

So, before you make this recipe, allow those babies to ripen!

You’re going to love these muffins.  100% whole wheat for a healthier alternative, but still perfectly light and sensuously moist.  The cup of buttermilk accounts in large part for the moistness.  The acid in the buttermilk adds moisture to the wheat while allowing you to cut back on fattening oils.  Buttermilk is low in fat, it’s taste is barely discernible in the final baked product, and it contributes to a beautifully tender and light crumb.  The muffins are filled with your choice of chocolate truffles or a scoop of Nutella.  I used both in making these today – half and half.  I had chocolate truffles left over from Christmas (still have waaaaay too many left for my own good!), and let’s get real – I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity of making some with Nutella! (One of my ultimate weaknesses).  Lastly, these muffins are topped with a delicious crumbly streusel.

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Andalusian Gypsy Stew

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Andalusia is the southernmost part of Spain.  Although economically the poorest region in Spain, it is arguably the richer in culture and cultural identity.  Bullfighting, flamenco, and Moorish-influenced architectural styles, to name a few, are all of Andalusian origin.  It is also the home of Spain’s Gypsies.  This stew, called Olla Gitana, is a favorite among the Andalusian Gypsies.  The use of almonds and bread crumbs is of Moorish influence (early Muslims who once ruled Spain), while the inclusion of pear is a distinctly Gypsy touch.

A hearty stew of garbanzo beans, pork, sausage, green beans, pumpkin, pears, Swiss chard, almonds, onions, tomatoes and spices – a full array of ingredients and interesting flavor combinations that will leave you feeling satisfied.  You may even feel inspired to reach across the dinner table, grab your partner, and dance the flamenco!

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Baba Ganoush

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With an eggplant left over from last week’s Moussaka, what was I going to make?  Why, baba ganoush, of course!

Baba Ganoush (pronounced baw-baw ga-noosh).  Isn’t that fun to say?  Say it again.  “Baba Ganoush!”  This creamy, smoky dip is popular throughout the Middle East.  The traditional ingredients are eggplant, tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  The flavor is reminiscent of hummus, only it’s made with eggplant instead of garbanzo beans.  Enjoy this dip with toasted pita bread wedges or vegetables.

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Swedish Kalops

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Sweden has been open to the culinary influences of other countries for centuries. The 1800’s were largely influenced by Britain.  Today’s dish, Kalops, comes from the English word “collops” meaning slices or pieces of beef.  It has remained a well-known and well-loved dish in Sweden for nearly 200 years.

Kalops is a traditional Swedish beef stew that is slowly cooked with vegetables and spices, most notably allspice berries which gives it its distinct flavor.  Traditionally it is always served with potatoes and red pickled beets.  Delicious and belly-warming, this is the perfect comfort food for a cold Winter’s evening.

This comes by way of request from Danny and Theresa Hjelm.  They requested something Swedish that wasn’t meatballs.  Danny and Theresa, I made you some Kalops – you’re going to love this!  Now it’s your turn to recreate it in YOUR kitchen!

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Chocolate Deception Cake

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As you hand your child something healthy to eat, they ask “What is thiiiiiis??”  “Honey, it’s good, it’s really, really yummy,” you say as reassuringly as you can.  Your child takes a long, scrutinizing look at it, makes a face and holds it out to you with an emphatic, “I don’t want it!”  Does this conversation sound at all familiar?

None of us want to lie to our children (“No, that’s not zucchini, it’s…it’s…”).  So we try to cleverly camouflage healthy foods by slipping them into smoothies, grinding them up in meats, stuffing them between the fork tines (well, maybe not the last one), hoping they won’t even notice in the first place.  Sweet deception.

Let me ask you something.  If you showed this cake to your kids, would they turn it down?  I didn’t think so.  Now, come closer so I can whisper something in your ear…..this cake is the ULTIMATE DECEPTION!  Would you believe me if I told you it was 100% whole wheat, made with honey and buttermilk, and had 2 whole cups of zucchini in it?  Well, it’s true!  I created this on a whim last night after the kids were in bed, envisioning a healthily deceptive treat I could offer them the next day.  In examining this rich and decadent cake, I immediately decided to call it Chocolate Deception Cake.

So whether you’re trying to feed your kids healthier treats or eat healthier yourself, this cake is for you!  A rich, moist, finger-licking dark chocolate decadent cake oozing with a drippy chocolate honey glaze.

(And doesn’t this cake look fabulous with my Oma’s (German grandmother’s) gold leaf-rimmed china?)

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Steak With Creamy Chanterelle Sauce

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Steak With Chanterelle Cream Sauce copyright

Chanterelle mushrooms.  One of the most delectable of all mushrooms.  It is described as having a fruity smell, similar to that of apricots, and a mildly peppery taste.  Chanterelles have graced dinner plates as far back as the 1500’s, but it wasn’t until the 1700’s that they gained widespread recognition as a culinary delicacy in French cuisine.  During the 18th century they were most commonly eaten among nobility.  Fortunately they are widely accessible today and are harvested and enjoyed throughout many countries.

Chanterelle mushrooms twin beautifully with cream sauces.  Here is a delicious cream sauce to serve with your favorite cut of steak.

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Tom Kha Gai

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Tom Kha Gai is a highly popular Thai soup known for its intense and aromatic flavors and its rich and creamy coconut-infused broth.   Tom Kha Gai translates as “boiled galangal chicken.”  Galangal looks similar to ginger and is related to it, but has a more peppery and pungent flavor.  Use galangal for this recipe if you can find it (available at most well-stocked Asian markets) or substitute with ginger.

This is a quick and easy soup to make, but there is nothing simple about the deliciously complex flavors.  Aroi Mak Mak!  (That’s Thai for “Deeeeelicious!”)

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Creamy Mushroom and Tofu Stroganoff

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Creamy Mushroom and Tofu Stroganoff

MEAT EATERS…DON’T SKIP THIS ONE!  There are instructions for a chicken version.  And trust me, even if you don’t like tofu, you’re going to love this recipe!  This was a spur of the moment creation.  I had some tofu and mushrooms on hand and, in trying to decide what to make for dinner, my kitchen muse called:  “Make a Stroganoff!”  I obeyed.  And I’m glad I did.  This Stroganoff is deeeeelicious!

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Moussaka

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Sun-kissed white stone buildings juxtaposed against a sea of sapphire blue, the sound of old church bells chiming through the air, ancient ruins, a rich and intriguing history…Greece!

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Whether you’ve already been there or are still waiting, planning, dreaming…why wait to enjoy Greece?  Come with me and let’s travel there now as we embark on a culinary adventure to explore Greece’s national dish – Moussaka!

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Philly Cheesesteaks

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Philly Cheese Steak 3 copyright

The All-American Philly Cheesesteak!  Named for the city of its origin, this sandwich was invented in the city of Philadelphia by Pat and Harry Olivieri in the 1930’s.  They ran a modest hot dog stand in south Philadelphia near the famous Italian Market.  Tired of hot dogs for lunch, one day Pat decided he wanted to try something different.  He sent for some chopped steak, cooked it on his hot dog grill, threw it on a hoagie roll and topped it with some onions.  Just as he was about to eat it a customer, a cab driver, asked what he was eating.  Pat explained that it was his lunch.  The cabbie insisted Pat make him one as well.  According to Pat the cabbie took one bite and said, “Hey…forget ’bout those hot dogs.  You should sell these!”  And so the steak sandwich was born.

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