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What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin: Chocolatey Banana Nut Muffins

Cal Orey
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Today is Groundhog Day, a time when the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicts the next six weeks of weather. If we get our winter chill back or the warm El Nino effect provides Tahoe with much-needed rain and/or snow, muffins will make it feel like it’s all good. Muffins filled with Mother Nature’s finest foods taste great and can soothe your body, mind and spirit.

In my early twenties, I lived in Eugene, Ore. In the winter, I was housesitting in a rural home with a wood burning stove – something rustic to a San Francisco Bay Area suburbanite. I recall baking a large banana nut bread. It was a challenge for me, from chopping kindling to monitoring the oven temperature. It took all night long (I checked the bread every hour on the hour to see if it was done). I awoke to the aroma of fresh banana nut bread. It was worth the effort.

In retrospect, I should have baked quickie muffins. Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are a treat that I created last autumn. Banana nut muffins made their way to my oven in the late summer, but I never dreamed of teaming bananas, mood-enhancing chocolate(s) and nuts. I learned that there’s a to-live-for chocolatey banana nut muffin heaven.



Bananas are touted as a powerhouse of potassium nutrient that can help control blood pressure. Another perk of the banana is that it contains fiber (soluble fiber) which can help lower blood cholesterol. Plus, bananas are low in sodium (too much may up blood pressure), and one medium fruit is a mere 100 calories – staying at your ideal weight can help you lower the risk of heart disease.

As usual, I chose to use fresh 2 percent low-fat milk. Cocoa powder is a top antioxidant food, another key to good heart health. Both nuts and extra virgin olive oil contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Earthy ingredients, like these healthful wonders, can help keep your heart good to go for life.



Chocolatey Banana Nut Muffins

1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed

3 cups all natural whole wheat flour

1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup European-style butter, melted

2 large brown eggs

1/2 cup organic 2% low-fat milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons orange extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 cup gourmet dark chocolate chips, 60% or 70% cacao

1 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup hazelnuts

cinnamon

Topping: Mix quality white chocolate chips with some nuts (optional) and brown sugar with cinnamon to taste.

Combine eggs, sugars and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, powder and soda. Combine all ingredients and add bananas, and vanilla. Fold in dark chocolate chips and nuts. Pour mixture into muffin tins. Drop the white chocolate mixture on top of muffins. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until a firm golden brown. Cool. Serve warm. Makes 12-14 muffins.

Muffins taste best when warm. This recipe was a redo. The first attempt was a batch of Chocolatey Zucchini Muffins. You can substitute the year-round vegetable (it is higher in sodium) for bananas but I recommend the heart healthy fruit that is easy to find and inexpensive in Tahoe. These yummy muffins have layers of texture. I love the white creamy, spicy sweet and crispy muffin tops. Next, you get to the moist banana and rich dark chocolate flavor combo with a note of orange surprise and crunch of the hazelnuts.

I put the baker’s dozen into the freezer (since the muffins contain sugar, enjoy in moderation). Chocolatey Banana Nut Muffins are perfect for a wintertime breakfast teamed with fresh fruit or juice and eggs or a snack paired with a cup of hot coffee, tea or glass of chilled red wine. You’ll soar to Muffin Land in February’s rain, snow, sleet and shine.

Savor heart-healthy gourmet foods at Tahoe

February is Heart Health Month. Quality dark chocolate, nuts, extra virgin olive oils and spices (including cinnamon sticks) are all good for your heart’s sake. These gourmet goodies are found at South Shore’s The Cork & More. This is my favorite hot spot for gourmet coffee, tea, and wine – more heart-healthy delights.

Cal Orey is an author and journalist. Her books include The Healing Powers series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate) published by Kensington. Her Web site is http://www.calorey.com.


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