This past weekend was my best friend Rachel’s 26th birthday, which we celebrated in style in downtown DC. As some of you may know, I take birthdays (my own especially, but others’ too!) very seriously, and Rachel’s was certainly no exception. She had asked for a cookbook, so I got her Martha Stewart’s relatively new cookbook, Great Food Fast. It has beautiful pictures and the recipes are based around seasonal ingredients, which I love because it subtly encourages supporting local farmers.
I also got Rachel the book I’m currently reading and LOVING, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s a wonderful (and hilarious) tale of one man’s journey hiking the Appalachian Trail that I recommend for anyone who loves a great, witty story and learning about kooky but true facts about our country. Also it’s great for that person in your life who loves hiking (I’m looking at you, Uncle Michael).
But, this blog is about cooking, and that brings me to my third and final gift for the lovely Rachel: Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins! The story behind the recipe (originally for Banana Chocolate Chip Bread) is a great one. When Rachel went off to college, her mother, Barbara (check out her amazing website here), made her a cookbook with all of her most favorite recipes (and some new ones, I think) for her to recreate while she was away at school so she could have a taste of home whenever she wanted. This is an idea I have loved from the second I saw that book. Each recipe begins with a brief comment from Barbara about when Rachel first had the dish, or where Barbara got the recipe, or other tips and recommendations Barbara had learned throughout her years of making each recipe. (I’d also like to note that when Rachel went off to college, Barbara wrote down the kinds of cheese she liked and didn’t like and put them on a laminated card for her to put in her wallet and take with her always. Adorable!)
One of the recipes in the book was the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, originally from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook. In the note at the top, Barbara wrote: “Serves 16 (supposedly. In your case, serves 1).” I had the bread the first time when Barbara sent Rachel a care package. As roommate of the care-package-receiver, I was granted a taste of the awesome banana bread and I fell in love! This brings me to the title of the post: I was a banana bread hater before I had this bread, but it converted me! It also converted BCD Mom. In other words, if you make it, they will come.
Ahem, anyway...I wanted to make this special bread for Rachel for her birthday, but I thought it’d be easier to snack on if it were in mini-muffin form. So, I gave it a shot (carefully not mentioning this portion of the gift to Rachel prior to the birthday party in case it was a complete disaster). But, they turned out great!
The recipe begins with dry ingredients sifted together: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Then add a cup of toasted, finely chopped walnuts. The wet ingredients consist of a cup of mashed bananas (about two medium bananas), vegetable oil, two eggs, some buttermilk, and some vanilla. Then the wet and dry ingredients are added together until just combined, and a half cup of chocolate chips is folded in. If you are making the bread in a loaf pan, it takes about an hour and 15-20 minutes. The mini-muffins, however, only took about 20 minutes total!
The muffins came out great - moist, chewy, slight banana taste and a hint of chocolate in each bite. I was so excited to give the muffins to Rachel, and she seemed very happy to get them! We each had one immediately after she opened her presents. Then she called her mom :)
That night, we went to dinner with friends and then met up with more friends at a bar nearby. By some miracle, it worked out that my friend Bryce, an Australian I had met while studying abroad, who is currently traveling throughout the States, was coming to DC that night! He and his travel buddy Paul met us out and we had a glorious reunion!! It’s been almost 5 years exactly since I’ve seen him and it was so wonderful to see him and reminisce about old times. It was definitely a fantastic treat to add to an already wonderful evening!
Me and the birthday girl!
Me and Craig and Mark
Me and Bryce!
Happy Birthday Rachel, and safe travels to Bryce and Paul (who are headed to New Orleans next - I of course told them about Café du Monde and the muffaletta at the Central Grocery Co.)! And thanks to Barbara for being a great cook, a wonderful mom to Rachel, and a wonderful pseudo-mom to me!
Happy muffin making,