Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes (Vegan)

These beautiful chocolate cupcakes contain a secret - they are made with beets and are completely vegan! Believe this non-beet fan that you'll fool others with these intensely chocolate treats!

Before you run for the hills, hear me out. I am NOT a beet person. We subscribe to a biweekly CSA, and my profile explicitly lists "no beets." Imagine the horror when I opened up our CSA box only to find 3 ginormous beets. These vegetables were huge - way bigger than my fists and easily could be used to play a game of softball.

What was I supposed to do with these things? Return them? Give them to a neighbor? Chuck 'em in the trash? (I was briefly contemplating the last option there but didn't want to waste food) I very reluctantly decided to work with them, despite my negative attitude towards beets.

I roasted my beets for over an hour to soften them, and when I tried to puree them in my blender, that red juice got everywhere. My hands looked bloody and the kitchen was starting to resemble a Halloween horror movie.

These fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes seemed promising since they contained cocoa powder and would hide the bright color from the beet puree. Plus they required no frosting - just a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed these cupcakes. They didn't taste like beets (whew) but were chocolate-y instead. I'd recommend upping the sugar in these since they weren't quite as sweet as regular chocolate cupcakes (I did not make those changes below).

Fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes (Vegan)
  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup raw turbinado OR granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola or melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup and 1 heaping Tablespoon white whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
 and more for topping
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
Roast the beets: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Remove and discard the stem and root from your beets. Thoroughly scrub and wash them. Dry with a towel and rub on some canola oil. Then wrap tightly in foil. Roast them in your preheated oven for about 1 hour or until tender. Allow to come to room temperature.

Once cooled, puree the beets in a blender. Measure out 1/2 cup and set aside.

Bake the cupcakes: Keep the oven at 375°F and line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and allow it to curdle. Then add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup beets and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to and gently fold together. Then mix well until there are no lumps.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin wells, filling each at least 3/4 full.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool before serving. If desired, dust with additional cocoa powder on top to finish. Cupcakes should be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: 10 cupcakes

Source: Minimalist Baker

Friday, December 2, 2016

Skating Fridays

Another Axel Exercise

Coach B is still over the moon that I was able to land my axel in my last exhibition.  I've been practicing my axel training techniques diligently and now have another one to add to my repertoire: axel, tap toe, axel.

The trick to this jump sequence is to take one element at a time. Do the axel. Then the tap toe. Then the axel. If I think too far ahead, I will fail and end up on the ice. Coach has me doing these to help with my axel technique and to prepare for double toe loops. If I can get this sequence pretty consistent, we can consider adding this to my program at some time.

I just started working on these, so they are not very pretty yet, but it's a good start.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ultimate pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

These ultimate pumpkin chocolate chip muffins contain no oil or butter and stay soft and moist from a full can of pumpkin puree, applesauce and Greek yogurt. Spice it up with your favorite baking chips!

If you are searching for the perfect pumpkin muffins, look no further. These are it. They are super fluffy, use a full can of pumpkin (hooray for no leftover puree!) and will stay soft and amazing for days.

What's not to love about these muffins? There is no butter, oil or crazy ingredients you can't pronounce. You can even make these with 100% white whole wheat flour if you wanted to make them slightly healthier. The applesauce, pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt make these soft and pillowy and best of all, they won't dry out overnight.

You can increase the spices if you're sassy and want a little more ooh-la-la to your muffins. I added chocolate chips to mine (hello, chocoholic here) but you can leave them out or use cinnamon chips or even white chocolate chips for some flair.

I'm so glad that these muffins turned out perfectly and were both husband and kid-approved. This will be my new go-to pumpkin muffins from now on. And yes, they are that good!

Ultimate pumpkin chocolate chip muffins
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 (5.3 ounce, or about 3/4 cup) container nonfat plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Generously grease two standard muffin pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, eggs, applesauce and Greek yogurt until well blended.

Transfer the pumpkin puree mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pans, filling each well almost all the way to the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow muffins to cool slightly before serving. They should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 18 muffins

Source: Adapted from Cooking with My Kid

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Soft batch double chocolate chip cookies

Super soft double chocolate chip cookies that will undoubtedly melt in your mouth! You won't want to share these!
I was on a business trip a few weeks ago and did not get to bake during my regularly scheduled time. I ate way too much barbeque (definitely a good problem to have) and walked a ton. But oh how I missed my chocolate. I made up for it by getting some killer triple chocolate ice cream at a local ice cream joint.

When I haven't baked in a while, I usually want to make all the chocolate things. Brownies, cakes, cookies, you name it. So here I am, back from my trip, with a batch of double chocolate chip cookies. I ran out of semi-sweet chocolate chips so I substituted with whatever chips I had in my pantry. I found half a bag of dark chocolate chunks and half a bag of white chocolate chips.
These cookies do not flatten very much during baking, but that's ok! Even though they remain pretty tall, they have the absolute perfect texture. They bake up nice and crispy on the outside and soft and pillow-like on the inside. In fact, they are even better than your standard soft textured cookies.
My husband declared these a 10 out of 10, which is a huge deal. I've made tons of cookie recipes in the past, and he actually put these near the top. He loved the textures of the chocolate chips and chunks and even commented on the lightness and airiness of the interior. I originally intended to gift these to a neighbor, but I think we'll eat them on our own instead...

Soft batch double chocolate chip cookies 
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ¼ cups chocolate chips of choice (I used dark chocolate chunks and white chocolate)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Turn the mixer off and add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix briefly with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer to medium-low speed and mix until everything comes together. Turn the mixer off.

Fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Portion out mounds of cookie dough by using a medium sized cookie scoop (you could also use 2 spoons or a measuring cup). The cookie dough should be about 1-inch in diameter. Place them on a lined baking sheet at least 2-3 inches apart. You'll need 2 baking sheets.

Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are just set. They may look underdone, and that's OK. Turn off the oven and remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

Leftover cookies (if there are any) should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for at least 1 week.

Yield: 18 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from Just So Tasty

Friday, November 25, 2016

Skating Fridays

Axel Tips

One of my readers and fellow skaters (hi, Emily!) asked me for tips on the axel jump. This jump is considered the pinnacle for skaters - most people want to be able to land one, and if and when they do, it's a huge accomplishment. A skater is likely to remember when and when they landed their first axel.

First off, let me point out a few things about my axel journey so you can understand my struggle.
  1. It took me over a year of intensive practicing and training before I finally landed one
  2. I was 30 when I finally landed it for the first time
  3. Not only did I fall a lot, but I also pinched my sciatic nerve --twice-- during my axel training
  4. It took me 7+ years before I crossed my legs for the first time
I'm sure that list can go on for several more pages, but I hope you get the drift. This was no easy feat and required a lot of hard work before it got to its current state.

OK, enough with the rambling and onto the tips!
    1. The jump takes off sideways and is only 1 full revolution in the air. You'll hear experts and commentators (perhaps even coaches) say that this jump is 1.5 revolutions. Not true. Watch any skater's axel video and you'll see that they rotate a 1/4 turn before jumping off their toe pick. An "IJS-clean" axel can be 90 degrees short of the direction of travel. So, the actual rotation is a minimum of 1 full revolution. This is important to know because I find that adult skaters freak out if we hear that a jump is over 1 revolution. One revolution seems more feasible and less scary.

    2. Don't focus on jumping up. We adult skaters think that we need a HUGE jump so we exert all of our energy getting as much air time as we can. In reality, we don't need the air time. In fact, a huge jump makes it harder for us to pull in and fully rotate. Rather than jumping up, focus on jumping OUT (like a waltz jump). You'll want to have good flow in and out of your jump. Someone once told me that a decent axel should cover at least 3 blade lengths from takeoff to landing. Elite skaters will cover their body length.

    3. Watch the free leg before and during takeoff. Remember that old physics saying that "for every action, there must be an equal and separate reaction"? Well, the same holds true here. If you stretch and straighten your free leg behind you before takeoff, you'll have to stretch it out during takeoff. This is not an efficient jump. Keep the movements small. Think "tick tock." Keep the "tick" part small so the "tock" is small. Less movement = better jump.

    4. Jump outside of the circle. Skaters working on beginning axels tend to pre-rotate their jumps and end up "inside" the direction of travel (inside the circle).

    5. Make sure you are using an active edge prior to takeoff. There are 2 kinds of edges: passive and active. Passive edges are where you simply glide along the ice (think figure 8s and edges on a circle). Active edges generate power and accelerate. The takeoff for the axel requires an active edge. If you're familiar with power pulls, the active edge is what generates the "crunch" and the momentum forward. 

    6. Watch your head. Your instinct will be to turn your head into your jump rotation. This actually causes pre-rotation and is incorrect. The head should be the last thing that moves.

That's all I have for now. I'll post more if I can think of any other tips to share. I hope this was helpful to all of you who are working on this jump. You can do it!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Butternut squash fall spice cake with cream cheese frosting

A perfect alternative to pumpkin or apple cake, this butternut squash fall spice cake is bursting with autumn flavors! Take one bite and you'll think it's made of pumpkin (but it's not)!

One of my close friends from middle school came to visit me recently. She moved away before we started 8th grade and we've kept in touch ever since (via "snail mail" if you can believe it!). I've only seen her a handful of times since she moved, and it had been about 13 years since I saw her last.

She and I were not part of the popular clique in school. We had our close-knit group of friends but weren't part of the 'in' crowd. We had a great time reminiscing about our past and giggling about all the drama we used to create as teenagers.

Butternut squash, like my friend and I, typically isn't a popular baking ingredient in the fall. It gets overshadowed by apples and pumpkins and can often be forgotten. In fact, butternut squash is just as good as its fall friends. You just have to know how to use it.

This soft and fluffy fall spice cake is made with butternut squash puree and contains your typical fall spices. It's topped with a heavenly layer of cream cheese frosting. If you served a slice to your friends, they might mistake it for a pumpkin cake. But we both know better. This is definitely a dessert that lets the less popular kid shine for a while.

Butternut squash fall spice cake with cream cheese frosting 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 and 2/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce 
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour  
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and line two 9" or 10" round cake pans and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, puree and vanilla extract on medium speed until well combined.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour, baking powder, soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt.

Evenly distribute the batter between your two prepared baking pans and bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until it is well combined. Add in the vanilla and salt. Continue to beat. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it is too stiff, add a tiny splash of milk.

To assemble the cake, place one layer on a stand stand or plate. Using a serrated knife, cut off any part of the cake that has domed so your cake is level and flat. Spread a layer of cream cheese frosting on top. Add the second layer on top and again, cut off any part of the cake that has domed. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container or covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It should keep for a few days.

Yield: One 10" cake; about 10-12 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Pastry Affair

Friday, November 18, 2016

Skating Fridays

Extended and Crossed Legs (Flip Jump)

One of the biggest issues with my jumps is that I cannot for the life of me straighten my left leg in the air. It's always bent. Coach B has told me ad nauseum that I need to straighten that left leg. My mind understands what to do, but my body cannot execute it (this is, sadly, the story of my skating life).

Coach B told me to do a "Canadian" half flip jump where I double pick/hop on my toe pick. She told me to focus on getting full extension up through my top toe pick.

I did a few and she went bonkers. I wasn't sure if I didn't something wrong, but she said that I got crazy height and that my leg was straight.

So we tried the Canadian half flip again, followed by a single flip jump. Same entrance.

Again, Coach B went crazy. She went to grab her phone to video me. I was able to repeat what I did previously:

If you play this in slow motion, you'll see that my left leg is fully extended in both the half flip and flip jumps. I'm launching off the top toe pick and 'hang' in the air for a brief moment before descending. Also, on the full flip jump, my legs actually cross!!
I can't tell you how happy this makes me. We've been working on crossing my legs for YEARS (no exaggeration here) and extending my legs. To see that I am actually capable of doing this is nothing short of a miracle.
If I can just translate this same feeling into all my other jumps (and fix my flappy chicken arms), then I'll be set.


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