This week I decided to make orange scented almond and olive oil muffins…phew that name is a mouth full!☺ I was watching an episode of “Giada At Home,” and Giada made these muffins. The recipe was inspired by her trip to Santorini where reportedly she ate these muffins. They looked so yummy that I knew I had to try to make them. I love love love olive oil, but I have never ever baked with it before. I use it in savory recipes all the time, but when I am baking I always substitute apple sauce for any oil that the recipe requires. As a side note, I am sure apple sauce could have been used instead of the olive oil. However, when I make a dish for the first time, I am a compulsive rule follower, so I used olive oil like Giada indicated. This recipe also calls for Greek yogurt, a food item I don’t use a whole lot. Due to all the “hoopla” regarding its inherent health benefits, I have tried to force myself to like it. In fact, I have tried many of the popular brands, but unfortunately I just don’t care for it. In a recipe like this though, the yogurt taste is completely camouflaged, so it works. I do enjoy yogurt, I just haven’t found the right Greek yogurt yet…oh well. Anyway, I am happy to report that these muffins are “yum-a-licious!” Both of my children liked them as did Dan. Ryan told me that they “…tasted like fruit punch.” I found the taste to be very familiar, like I had eaten something like this before, but I cannot put my finger on it exactly. The almond flavor is prominent, and the orange flavor is more of a background flavor. Who knows. All I know is that these muffins are delicious, and I will definitely make them again. I only strayed from the recipe in that I didn’t sprinkle the baked muffins with powdered sugar. I thought they were sweet enough all on their own. Here is a link to the recipe that I used: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/orange-scented-almond-and-olive-oil-muffins-recipe/index.html Additionally, do not and I repeat DO NOT ever buy almond flour. It is sooooo much easier and cheaper to make your own. All you do is take 1/2 cup of almonds and grind them into a powder…that’s it. I always have almonds in the pantry so for me it was a no-brainer. The only potential pitfall is that if you grind the almonds too much you will end up with almond butter…YUM! Here is a link in case (like me) you need fine details Incidentally almond flour is also called almond meal so don’t be confused☺ http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/glutenfreeingredient1/ht/makealmondmeal.htm
I have mentioned that I am mostly Lebanese, Italian, and Greek with regards to my heritage. I know and love a TON of Lebanese and Italian recipes and food. I am familiar with a lot of the popular Greek dishes like grape leaves, spinach pie, moussaka, pastitsio, and of course Greek salads and dressing. What I don’t possess, however, is a lot of experience with regards to eating at Greek restaurants, or in Greek homes. When I was younger and still a carnivore, we used to go to Greek Town a lot. I used to love to eat at Pegasus. I love love love saganaki, and we always made sure we’d get that as an appetizer. Then I’d usually order a chicken shish kebab dish that came with some sort of rice. Since becoming a vegetarian though, I’ve only been to Greek Town twice. The kicker is that I cannot remember what I ate! I know I ate saganaki and a salad, but when it comes to my entrée I draw a total blank! That said, I have made a few of the traditional Greek dishes at home and converted them to be veggie friendly. The other weird thing is that Lebanese and Greek cuisine tend to over lap quite a bit. I actually googled “Lebanese versus Greek food,” and my research indicated that both cultures do have very similar cuisines. In fact, apparently Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon have quibbled over who invented certain dishes that all 3 cultures have in common. I can think of quite a few dishes that are very similar if not the same. The one main difference that I have noticed is that Greek food tends to be heavier with regards to the amount of oil and cinnamon used, whereas Lebanese food tastes a bit lighter due to using more lemon. This statement is all very “unscientific” of course, but if asked my opinion that’s probably how I’d decipher the difference. That said, I love love love Lebanese and Greek food. If I was hard pressed to pick my favorite, I’d have to choose Lebanese food though. It is super yummy and healthy of course, but it also has a special place in my heart as that is the food that I ate most often growing up.
I have mentioned before that my Mom’s family is Lebanese and Greek. My Grandparents (Sito and Jido) and my Great Grandmother (Sito Vicky), all were great cooks and Lebanese food is what I remember them making the most. My Dad (where my Italian heritage comes from) is also a fabulous cook, and in fact is quite accomplished at making most of the Lebanese food I remember eating while growing up. In a nutshell that is why I’d have to pick Lebanese food over Greek food. Sometimes food is more than fuel for our bodies…at least for me anyway. That sentiment reminds me of a SpongeBob Squarepants episode that I love called “Just One Bite.” In the episode, SpongeBob is trying to convince Squidward who apparently had never eaten a krabby patty before, to actually taste one. Spongebob is adamant that the only people who don’t like krabby patties are those people who have never tasted one. In his fervent attempt to get Squidward to take “just one bite” SpongeBob says to Squidward that krabby patties “…are good for you.” Squidward responds with “… Good for you? That thing is a heart attack on a bun!” Then my favorite part of the whole episode takes place. SpongeBob turns into an angel of sorts and says “…No Squidward, I meant… good for your soul.” To which Squidward retorts “Oh please! I have no soul.” It is classic. If you haven’t ever had the pleasure of viewing this episode, google it immediately. Or, next time you are at my house, just ask and I will watch it with you. ☺ Anyway, this argument between my favorite animated sea creatures illustrates my sentiment exactly. Yes food is fuel for our bodies, and we need to be healthy and all that, BUT sometimes in addition to feeding our bodies, food does indeed feed our souls. Well, that is the type of Lebanese food, Greek food, Italian food, or any food really, that I am talking about… delicious food, prepared with love, that feeds both your body and your soul.
Try this muffin recipe…you won’t be sorry. Enjoy! ♥♥