Friday, July 1, 2016

Skating Fridays

Chin Up 

I met with my choreographer recently to make some tweaks to my new freestyle program. I have been running it every day during freestyle and have been ending about 10 seconds too late each time. I wanted to see what changes we could make to the program so I finish on time.

She made me do a full run-through during a very crowded session, and I almost ran into 10 kids. One actually fell as she tried to avoid me.

I finished and skated over to her. Silence. I looked at her. More silence. Hmmm... this is not good.

Finally, she spoke. "You need to skate lighter. Your knees are too bent." I told her that I tried my best and worked hard to get the program where it was, and she had the perfect response: "Your skating definitely looks like you are working hard. It should be effortless."


While we did make some revisions to the program and cut out certain sections, she stressed the importance of keeping my chin up and upper body upright. My slouched shoulders added to my heavy frame, and even adding "pretty" arms didn't help my overall hunched lines. Her suggestions:

  • Stay light on the toes
  • Make every movement meaningful and stretch it out
  • Feel like you are spreading butter on toast - back and forth, with effortless movement
  • Finish each stroke completely - particularly crossovers and during footwork; end each stroke on a clearly defined edge before moving to the next one
  • Chin up and project outwards
I tend to rush, which makes the program seem heavy. My music is light and spirited, yet my skating tells a different story.  I need to remember to take my time and tell the audience and judges my story - one about hope and achievement.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Butterscotch blondies

This one bowl butterscotch blondie dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your summer potlucks. Bet your guests can't eat just one!
Our neighbors invited us over one weekend for an impromptu cookout. They had some out-of-town guests staying over and wanted to have us join them for some wings and beer. I couldn't arrive empty-handed so I made a chocolate cake. Then I decided to make these butterscotch blondies in case there were people who didn't like chocolate (I'm sure they exist somewhere).

This was a super easy recipe that I whipped out in minutes. I made everything in my stand mixer and did not need to use a separate bowl to mix together the dry ingredients. After my blondies finished baking, I added some extra butterscotch chips on top for a nicer presentation.
Our neighbors and their friends loved these blondies. In fact, most of the adults had 2 or 3 servings. Thankfully there were a few left over for the kids to enjoy, but there were only a handful left over after the evening was over.

The blondies were nice and crispy on the top like a crackly brownie, and the insides were soft and chewy. The butterscotch chips were sweet and a perfect complement to the brown sugar. You can always customize these blondies to your taste - adding chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, M&Ms, chocolate candy bites or whatever your heart desires. Just make sure you save at least one piece for yourself before your family and friends gobble these up.

Butterscotch blondies
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 8"x8" baking pan and set aside (I used a silicone pan and did not line or grease it).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the egg and vanilla until well combined. Then add the baking powder and flour until just combined. Turn the mixer off and fold in the butterscotch chips by hand.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Leftover bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 16 servings

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Jen's Favorite Cookies

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Braided Nutella pastry

This easy, super impressive pastry is sure to wow your guests! With a buttery texture and layers of smooth Nutella, this dessert is sure to please them all!

It was a hot and humid 90+ degree day when I wanted to bake some bread. Of course. Why I couldn't get a desire to make some ice cream instead, I don't know. But bread it was, and it had to include chocolate.

I saw this beautiful Nutella pastry that resembled a snowflake, so I was sold. That was the way I could feel slightly cooler on the otherwise miserably hot day. Surprisingly, this pastry was very easy to make, despite the impressive presentation.

The dough is divided into 4 equal parts. You'll roll each piece out into a circle and then layer them on top of each other like a stack of pancakes. Then you'll slice the dough, twist them together and bake. Easy as that.

My husband saw this come out of the oven and was very impressed. He wanted to dive right into it, but I told him that it would burn his tongue. Although the finished pastry was a bit dry, the Nutella definitely made up for it. If you make this, I'd recommend using a different recipe for the dough since this one wasn't quite as soft and fluffy as I would have wanted.

Braided Nutella pastry
  • ¾ cup milk of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 and ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for brushing the pastry)
  • about 1 cup of Nutella
In a small measuring cup, heat up the milk and butter in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low speed. Add the yolks and the milk mixture and turn the mixer to medium speed to knead (alternatively, you can knead by hand if you don't have a stand mixer). Knead for about 5-7 minutes or until you achieve a soft dough. Transfer to a large oiled bowl and cover for at least 40 minutes or until doubled.

Punch down the dough and separate into 4 equal parts. Work with one piece at a time and cover the remaining dough pieces.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the dough into a 10-inch circle. Place onto a baking sheet topped with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Spread a layer of Nutella onto the dough, making sure to leave at least a 1-inch border around the circumference.

Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner. Place it on top of the other piece of dough (like you're stacking pancakes) and brush with Nutella. Repeat with the 3rd dough ball. Roll out the 4th dough ball and place on top of the 3rd layer.

Using a plate as a guide (or eyeball it like I did), trim away any excess dough so you have a perfect circle. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the dough into 16 equal slices, leaving a 3-inch wide circle in the middle (I used the top of the Nutella container as my guide).

Taking two adjacent sections at a time, twist them in opposite directions and then pinch the ends together. Work your way around the circle. You'll end up with 8 "arms." Brush the tops with the reserved egg whites.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow the pastry to cool before serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: The Baker Chick

Friday, June 24, 2016

Skating Fridays

Bobbe Shire Spin Clinic - Part 3: Final Thoughts

Here are a few additional notes that I took from the clinic.

  • The hardest thing about skating is putting your body in the right position at the right time. You essentially have 2 brains - one in your head and one in your body. Don't listen to the "body brain" because it goes against the real brain.
  • For Step 2 of the spin (see previous week's post), think of Newton's law: You want the curve to get smaller for centrifugal force ("George") to work. Feel the edge slice through the ice at an angle and press against the direction you're going.
  • The camel spin is the only spin where you can't swing your leg to get George
  • In IJS competitions, it's better to execute an amazing spin than flub up a hard jump (for example, a CCoSp4 is worth 3.5 points whereas a Double Axel is only worth 3.3)
  • Anytime you change feet in a spin, you have to start over at Step 3 (the hook) again. Find George and pull in.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest spin coaches in the country and hope that I can apply these techniques to my practices.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Salted caramel popcorn

A super easy, 3-ingredient caramel popcorn recipe that requires minimal effort! Make this sweet and salty classic at home at just a fraction of the cost!

One of my favorite childhood memories was receiving one of those huge tins of popcorn. I think my dad used to get one from a client every year. The tin contained cheese popcorn, plain and my favorite - caramel. I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make my own, but here I am.

Many, many months ago, I got the itch to make my own caramel corn. But time went by and the thought got pushed to the back of my mind. I don't know why.

I had some leftover caramel sauce from the 'Ohana bread pudding and didn't want to waste it. I didn't want to make the typical caramel desserts like blondies, brownies, or cake. This was one of those lazy days where I didn't want something with too much effort. Then I remembered the popcorn in the pantry.

This is probably one of the easiest treats ever. You only spend about 1 minute stirring up the popcorn and let the oven do all the work. The hardest part is waiting for the popcorn to cool down and trying not to eat the whole batch in one sitting (which I may or may not have done).

Salted caramel popcorn 
  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, freshly popped
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup caramel sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside.

Pop the bag of popcorn in your microwave. Transfer to a large bowl. Pour on the caramel sauce and stir until the popcorn is well coated.

Spread the popcorn onto your prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the salt and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.

Allow the popcorn to cool before serving. It should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will last at least a week.

Yield:  About 1-2 servings (1 standard bag of popcorn)

Source: Inspired by Cookies and Cups

Monday, June 20, 2016

{Giveaway} $100 Amazon gift card and baking tools pack

I've teamed up with 15 other bloggers to help celebrate The Emotional Baker's 100th Recipe! We're giving away two prizes.
  • Grand Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card.
  • 2nd Place: TEB's Favorite Baking Tools Prize Pack.

The prize pack includes:
Giveaway Made Possible By:
Giveaway Rules:
  1. Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below. Earn entries by following the host bloggers on social media. (If you’ve followed in the past, that counts! Just enter the information as prompted.) All entries will be verified. No purchase is necessary to win.
  2. The giveaway is open until Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. EST. One Grand Prize winner and one Second Place winner will be chosen at random and e-mailed within 48 hours. Winners must claim prize within 48 hours of initial contact. The retail value of the prize is $75. Prizes listed above are the only ones available.
  3. Grand Prize: Open to USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom. Second Place: Open to U.S. residents with a valid shipping address only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Strawberry pistachio crumble pie

This strawberry pistachio pie is the perfect way to show off all those fresh summer strawberries. The epic pistachio crumble on top might be something you'd want to eat on its own with a spoon!

Happy Father's Day!

This is always a special time of year for many reasons. One - it's Father's Day. Two - it's my husband's birthday. Fun fact: he was actually born on Father's Day! While the two celebratory occasions don't coincide this year, I still had to bake something to appreciate my husband.

As with our tradition, I let him pick whatever dessert he wants for both days. This year he chose this pie that he saw in our Bon Appetit magazine. The only ingredients I had to buy for this were pistachios and tapioca flour/starch (they are the same thing).

My husband absolutely loved this pie and couldn't stop talking about it. He said that it wasn't too sweet and even slightly tart from the strawberries that we had bought for the recipe. He's been eating this with a scoop of ice cream on top too.

I'm not normally a nut type of person but also enjoyed the pie. It was nice to have a crunchy crumble on top of a sweet and tart fruit pie. We're visiting my in-laws later this summer, and my husband is already lobbying for me to bake this for them as well. I'm sure he'll find a way to make it happen.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads, father figures and awesome men out there!

Strawberry pistachio crumble pie
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted toasted pistachios, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose four
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled, and cut into halves or quarters
  • 5 Tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pie base and topping
  • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios
Make the pie crust: In a food processor, pulse the salt, sugar and flour together to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and 3 Tablespoons ice water and sprinkle over flour mixture. Knead with your hands until the dough comes together. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours (dough can be frozen for up to a month).

Let the dough thaw for at least 5 minutes at room temperature before rolling onto a lightly floured surface or parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a 9" pie dish. Fold edges under and crimp.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and weigh it down with pie weights (or beans or rice). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges turn a pale golden color. Remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and bake for an additional 7-12 minutes or until light golden. Cool and set aside.

Make the crumble: In a medium sized bowl, mix the chopped pistachios, flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon zest, poppy seeds, cardamom and salt together. Add the butter pieces and mix everything together with your hands until no dry ingredients remain. The crumble should hold its shape if you squeeze it. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the strawberries, tapioca starch, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Assemble the pie: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the cream cheese onto the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Add the strawberry mixture (minus the juices) and pile it into a dome shape. Then evenly spread the crumble on top. Be sure to place a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pie in case juices drip out. Bake in your preheated oven for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until the filling is bubbling around the edges.

Allow the pie to cool completely before serving, about 4 hours. Then top with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Leftover pie should be stored, covered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few days.

Yield: One 9" pie; about 6-8 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2016 issue, pages 148-149


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