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January 2015

Cinnamon Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins

I'll preface this with the fact that I suck at baking. All of the things that make someone a good cook always prove to be the ruin of any aspiring baker. When I'm cooking a recipe and I'm missing something, I just improvise and use something else we have instead. But with baking, YOU CAN'T FUCKING DO THAT...and it drives me nuts. I hate working within boundaries -- I want to experiment, goddamn it! But baking is all chemistry, and you can't substitute white sugar for brown sugar and expect everything to come out the same. Science is a motherfucking bastard!

So with that, I believe I finally found a baking recipe that I can make and NOT fuck up. Hopefully this is the first of many to come that I'll write about here. 

There are a lot of reasons to like this recipe. It's extremely easy -- mind-boggling easy. And it's a great way to use over-ripe bananas; which with three kids, we almost always have. 

(Speaking of over-ripe bananas: peel them, throw them in a plastic freezer bag, and save them for when you want to make this recipe.)

But the thing I like the most about this recipe is that I can make a double batch of these and I have snacks for the boys' lunches for a couple weeks. Since these are mini muffins, they fit inside the boys' lunch boxes and I can include a couple or even three if I want to. A couple days after baking, I put them in a plastic container, freeze them, and they keep for a long time. Considering how much a box of granola/cereal bars cost at the grocery store (what's the latest cost of a box of 8 bars? $4? $5?), this recipe is a real money saver. Plus let's face it, our boys beg for them every night.

And with that, my Cinnamon Banana Mini-Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour's recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, because who the fuck has "cinnamon flav-r bites" on hand? What even ARE cinnamon flav-r bites? 

Makes about 96 mini muffins (I know that sounds like a lot but trust me, they'll go quickly).

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups mashed banana (about 4 over-ripe bananas)
2 large eggs  
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon (heaping)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (I prefer to use White Whole Wheat Flour if I can find it)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips


(Note, you may have noticed the bottle of Lagavulin in this picture and yes, drinking and baking go well together. I feel the cinnamon in this recipe pairs quite well with the flavors of the Lagavulin.)

Preheat oven to 350. Place racks in top third and bottom third of your oven.

Grease a non-stick mini muffin pan with butter or non-stick spray. (Because paper muffin cups are a pain in the ass. I promise they will pop right out when they're done baking.)

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: baking powder, baking soda salt, cinnamon, all purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until completely blended, smooth and white. Start at a low speed and then increase to medium speed. It should look like this.


Add the mashed banana to the mixer and mix until blended. But don't beat it to death. Some large banana chunks are good. 

Add the eggs one at a time, vanilla, and milk until blended. This takes roughly 30 seconds to a minute.


Reduce the speed of the mixer to it's lowest setting and mix in the dry ingredients. DON'T OVER MIX. Only mix until it's just blended and turn off the mixer. Add in the chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds until evenly distributed.


Using an ice cream scoop (4 mm is just the right size or roughly 3 tsp), place a heaping scoop in each cup of the prepared muffin pans.


Place the filled muffin pans in the top and bottom racks of the oven and cook for 6 minutes. At the end of 6 minutes, swap the rack and cook for another 6 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are golden brown. 


Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then remove the muffins from the pan and move to a cooling rack if you have one. 

Eat what you want, and then stack the rest in plastic containers to keep fresh. They keep fresh for a couple days and then you should freeze them. 

Jason and Julia

About a three weeks ago, Amy and I were sitting on the couch trying to figure out what we were going to make for dinner on Christmas Day and I was a little stumped. I didn't want to go through a huge ordeal with cooking Christmas dinner like last year with the porchetta we made. To keep things on the simpler side, boeuf bourguignon ended up being the dish of choice. I don’t know why I like this dish so much. But it’s probably because I like any dish where meat is seared in bacon fat.

Once we decided to make boeuf bourguignon, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. A couple days went by and finally I gave in. I was going to do a practice run. 

I bought all the ingredients at the store: mushrooms, pearl onions, beef chuck, beef stock, and of course, red wine -- Pinot Noir to be specific (but any red wine really works). I had some time on my hands the Saturday before Christmas, and I spent an hour or so that afternoon making it, following Julia Child's recipe to the T. I even bought fresh pearl onions and skinned them which was a COMPLETE PAIN IN THE ASS! I threw the prepped stew in the oven at 325 like the recipe says, and sat back and waited (and by sat back I mean I took care of three kids).

About an hour in, I had to go pick up my car from the shop (I had dropped it off that morning before I started) so we ran out for about an hour to get it. When I got back, I checked the stew, and it was done already, despite the recipe saying it should take two and a half to three hours (it was only about two hours in). We served it with a nice pappardelle pasta as soon as it was done which I think is a good way to serve this stew, but mashed potatoes, polenta, or just about any starchy side will do.

My initial impression was that it was dry. But Amy insisted it was just fine. She even had some for lunch the next day. “How was it reheated?” I asked the next day. “It was even better!” she said.

We had a ton of leftovers, and I figured I’d give them to some friends I was meeting for lunch on Tuesday. Suffice it to say, it ended up being a whole ordeal because I left the leftovers in my freezer at work when I met them for lunch, and I then I found myself driving halfway across Montgomery County to drop the leftovers off. It was too long of a story to tell here, but when I got home, Amy said to me, “Honey, I didn’t have the heart to tell you. The beef WAS dry!”

“What??!! You mean I just drove across Montgomery County to give our friends dry stew?”

OK. So any normal person would’ve just made something else for Christmas, but I need to get things right Goddammit! Revisiting my approach in my head step by step, I made the following mistakes.

Mistake # 1 - Using precut beef chuck

Instead, buy a whole beef shoulder and cut the meat into two-inch cubes.


The precut beef chuck I used was cut in one-inch pieces (and sometimes smaller). Shoulder is the preferable cut for stew like this and I’ve even heard of people using beef short ribs. Some people like round, but whenever I use round it comes out exceptionally dry regardless of the temperature I cook it at. And with that…

Mistake # 2 - 325 degrees is too hot

It cooks the fat out of the meat way too quickly. In the recipes defense, it does say to regulate the heat so liquid simmers very slowly, and I basically didn’t do that because I just had too much going on. But 325 degrees in just about any oven, is too hot and is going to result in your having stew with dry meat. 300 or even lower is a better starting temperature. It’s better to start it out at a lower temperature (like 250) and have to turn it up than to cook it for 30 minutes at too high a temperature and then turn it down.

Mistake # 3 - Using fucking FRESH pearl onions

There’s a reason humans invented the freezer and frozen foods. So people like you and me don’t have to skin pearl onions.  For realz people. Buy frozen ones. They’re available in the freezer section (duh) and you won’t tell the difference.


Mistake # 4 - Serving it immediately

Make any meat stew the day before you serve it (if you can). Yes, the recipe says you can serve it immediately, but in the end, making any stew or chili the day before and letting it sit in the fridge overnight to absorb all that sexy, juicy goodness is going to improve it tremendously. Trust me.

The boeuf bourguignon we had on Christmas Day for dinner turned out amazing and was NOT dry. At All. My mother-in-law was down, and she couldn’t get enough of it. And in the end, I’m keeping what little damn leftovers we have for myself. (Sorry, friends.)


(And yes, if you're wondering, we did eat Christmas dinner off our coffee table.)

Oh and if you need Julia Child's recipe, it can be found here.



Yes, it's happening! I'm bringing this site back from the dead almost 3 years from the last time anyone posted. I thought I was done with DCFoodies and came very close to shutting it down completely, but there's just something about the holidays and cooking that really made me miss sharing my experiences in the kitchen with everyone. 

Rather than writing about restaurants, which Amy and I almost never go to anymore (at least not new ones anyway), this blog will be focused on cooking and baking. That's what I spend most of my free time doing and besides, we can all cook better food than we can get at most restaurants anyway. 

I will be putting ads back to the site soon and as usual all the proceeds from the ads will go to some local hunger or food-focused charity. If any of your are interested in contributing and helping generate money for those charities, I'm always open to having guest writers or other columnists.