Friday, July 31, 2015

Skating Fridays

Grassroots to Champions Seminar, Part 2

I'm back again with some more information that I received from the Grassroots to Champions (G2C) adult seminar from Atlanta. Today, I'm going to share some of the more technical parts of jumping in particular (we did not cover spins).

  1. The Flox
    • Flox = Flex and Lock.  The proper air position is to flex and lock your landing leg. When you cross your legs in the air, the leg underneath (the landing leg) should be fully locked so it's parallel to the ice. Do not point this leg. You will not land flat footed. The other leg (free leg) should be pointed down.  Your feet should form a "V" if you look down.
    • All elite skaters do this. Brian Boitano has an excellent "Flox" but didn't know it at the time. This is the most efficient way to rotate in the air.
  2. Shoulder / Chin connection
    • Don't pre-rotate your head. Keep the shoulder and chin moving together. Once the head moves, the rest of the body will follow so try your best to keep it looking forward until the last second.
  3. All jumps (single, doubles, triples, quads) have the same entry. The only difference is the timing on when to pull in (the moment of rotation).
  4. Change your mental perspective. Rather than think negatively ("I can't jump at 8:00am!"), think "Yes I can!" Michael Weiss was in Nagano and successfully landed a quad lutz during a warmup. He was in a completely different country across the world in an unfamiliar rink and time zone. Rather than think negatively, he thought positively and look what happened!
We also had the opportunity to work in the off-ice harness. This useful tool is used to help skaters train their bodies on the proper air position. It's imperative to get a good takeoff from the ground and pull in tightly into the "flox" position we discussed above. The quicker you can get into the flox position, the better your chance of properly executing the jump.

Here I am in the off-ice harness and attempting to hit the "flox" position. Happy to report that Nick liked what he saw!

More to come next week!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vegan double chocolate banana zucchini bread

This double chocolate bread is so rich and decadent that you'll never know that it's vegan or filled with zucchini! This is one bread that is definitely kid-approved.

A few weekends ago, our friends invited us to their pool to spend the afternoon. I wanted to bake something for them, but her youngest son has some food allergies. In the past, I've made this super fabulous vegan chocolate cake and vegan deep dish chocolate chip pie (both were received really well). Since we were going to the pool, it would be hot outside, and I couldn't risk bringing anything that would melt.

I still had a few zucchini in the refrigerator from our CSA and thought it would be fun to bake a zucchini bread. This particular recipe used no oil, eggs or butter so it was perfect. Addie watched carefully as I baked it and got jealous that I didn't make her a loaf either.

Our friend sent me a note the next day and said that the zucchini bread was wonderful and that she was looking forward to snacking on it throughout the day. Addie asked me again if I could bake her a loaf too since she likes chocolate zucchini bread and muffins. Of course I agreed and this time I asked her to help me bake it.

She tried a few nibbles of it for breakfast one morning (after she scarfed down some double chocolate zucchini muffins) and said it was good. She asked me to save the rest of the bread slice for later since she was full for the moment. I enjoyed the bread too and liked that it was soft yet chewy and almost cake-like. Addie thought I was lying when I told her there was zucchini in this bread and kept saying, "There's no zucchini in here, Mommy! Just chocolate!"

Honestly, this bread got eaten so quickly at our house that I might need to buy more zucchini soon!

Vegan double chocolate banana zucchini bread
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (can substitute all-purpose if needed)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups zucchini, grated (I used 1 large zucchini)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks of choice (vegan or semi-sweet)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside (I used a silicone loaf pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, banana, applesauce and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini, mixing well.

Transfer the zucchini mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold everything together with as few strokes as possible. When most of the dry streaks are gone, fold in the chocolate chips. Mix until everything just comes together - do not over mix. Your batter will be thick.

Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (or with some melted chocolate).

Allow the bread to cool before serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If stored at room temperature, it will start to get slightly soggy after 1-2 days.

Source: Barely adapted from So Small So Strong


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cookies and cream ice cream

Smooth and creamy vanilla ice cream with chunks of your favorite creme-filled sandwich cookies! This cookies and cream ice cream will surely become one of your favorite recipes!

I am back with another version of cookies and cream ice cream! The previous version was adapted from David Lebovitz's recipe (please excuse the horrendous photo). This one is from Jeni's.

Am I bit obsessed with Jeni's ice cream base? Possibly. I absolutely love her ice cream technique because it doesn't require any tempering of egg yolks and I don't need to find recipes to use up the remaining egg whites. And since it's summertime, I need to keep making more ice cream. We just can't get enough!

Cookies and cream ice cream is one of Addie's favorites (cookie dough is a close second). My 5 year old helped me assemble the ice cream and enjoyed watching me layer the ice cream and chopped cookie layers into the container. Like any good helper, she got to taste test a few bites for quality control. Needless to say, this batch passed the taste test and received an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Cookies and cream ice cream
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • About 15 sandwich creme cookies, chopped
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Set this aside. Reserve the remaining milk and keep it separate.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the sea salt until well combined. Set a fine mesh sieve above it and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cream, remaining milk, sugar and corn syrup on medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Allow the mixture to boil for 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the stove and very carefully add the cornstarch/milk slurry. Mix until everything is well incorporated and put the pan back on the stove. Allow the mixture to come back to a boil and until the liquid becomes slightly thicker, about 1 minute.

Turn off the stove and pour the liquid through the sieve into the large bowl with the cream cheese/salt. Add the mint extract and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

At this point, you have two options. You can either set the ice cream over an ice bath (pour the contents into a large zip-top bag, seal it shut and place it over a large bowl with ice cubes), or put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Once the mixture is completely cool, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Fold in the chopped cookies by hand.

Pour the ice cream into a container and set it in the freezer until it has hardened (at least 4 hours).

Yield: About 1 quart

Source: Adapted from here


Friday, July 24, 2015

Skating Fridays

Grassroots to Champions Seminar, Part 1

This past weekend, I traveled to Atlanta to participate in an adults-only Grassroots to Champions ("G2C") seminar. It was taught by 3 distinguished coaches, all of whom have directly worked with Olympians and National champions.

This was the second time I have attended G2C, and I was certain that I would get something new out of it this time around. I was right.

I'm going to share the notes I took into a few different posts. Hope you all find these helpful.

The first thing we did was talk about the proper way to learn. Before you even step out on the ice, you need to understand a few things about the sport and how our brains work.

1. Technique, Technology and Training
  • Technique: Learning proper technique is the safest and most efficient way to getting things right
  • Technology: Utilizing technology (Dartfish, Coach's Eye, Videos, etc.) to pinpoint problem areas can be extremely helpful in skating
  • Training: Training your muscles to execute proper technique. "More drills than spills." If you train your muscles correctly, you will be less prone to falling.
2. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. You need to commit to making a change if you want to improve. If you know your arms are in the wrong spot on a certain element, don't keep doing it incorrectly. Make the change and drill it into your head to make the new position a new habit.

3.  (Time) x (Rotation rate) x (Axis) + (Desire) = Landed jump
  • Time: There have been several informal studies showing that each jump requires a minimum amount of air time. If a skater cannot achieve the minimum air time, then the jump will be impossible to execute. Trevor Laak wrote about this a few years ago, and this chart is extremely helpful. For example, if your waltz jump is under 0.3 seconds air time (defined as the time you launch off the toe pick and land on the other toe), then you will most likely never land an axel.
  • Rotation rate: How fast do you rotate in the air? The quicker you can get your body into the proper position, the better your chance of landing a multi-rotational jump.
  • Axis: What does your air position look like? Are you correctly tilted in the air?
  • Desire: This is the key. If you truly want to land the jump, you can train the body to do the jump. If you have any ounce of fear or doubt, then you won't land it. The brain is a powerful thing.
4. Get the "er" out of life. Rather than focus on being the strongEST, fastEST, highEST (etc.), focus on the -er instead: I want to become a strongER / fastER skater. I want to jump highER.

5. Brain / Body / Blade
  • Brain: Your brain has a vision of what to execute
  • Body: Your brain tells your body what to do
  • Blade: Your body guides the skating blade
  • Watch out for "paralysis by analysis." One example is snapping your fingers. You can watch videos on how to snap your fingers together - rub thumb and finger in a quick motion to make a sound. And you can analyze this ad infinitum and still not get it. It takes some natural element to do it. Same with skating. You can watch videos and analyze all you want, but that doesn't mean you can do it. Train your brain to visualize the element and have the true desire to want to execute it correctly.

OK, that's it for today. Stay tuned for more next week!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fresh cherry layer cake with cherry buttercream

A dense and fluffy cherry cake made with fresh cherries and topped with a fresh cherry buttercream. If you're like my dad, you'll want to eat a slice for breakfast!
I visited my parents a few weeks ago for the 4th of July holiday. My mom has been getting into baking and has been having a blast using all the fun new kitchen appliances that I bought for her (she is making my homemade peanut butter with sesame seeds and giving them away as gifts to friends). 

I asked what fun dessert she wanted me to bake with her while I was home, and she couldn't think of anything. She looked in her refrigerator and saw that she had at least 5 pounds of cherries and suggested we use them up. I came up with a cherry cheesecake, but it turns out that my mom threw out her springform pan. I finally settled on a cherry cake since I could use cherries in the cake and in the buttercream. Plus, this particular recipe did not use any egg yolks (my dad has been limiting his egg yolk intake) so that was a plus.

I'm happy to report that this cake was a big hit with my family. My mom, dad and husband all helped me bake this cake so it truly was a family effort. The cake was dense and fluffy with just a hint of cherry flavor, and the cherry buttercream was nice and smooth. My husband asked me if we saved any of the cake for ourselves, and I said no since we would have to travel about 4 hours to bring it home. He made a sad face but smiled again after I told him that I could recreate it at home for him if he wanted.

As for my dad? Well, he ate a big slice of it for breakfast the next day. Now you know where my sweet tooth comes from.

Fresh cherry layer cake with cherry buttercream
Cherry puree
  • 2 cups pitted red cherries
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1 and 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cherry puree
  • 1/4 cup half & half or milk of choice, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 12 Tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Cherry buttercream 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons cherry puree
  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bake the cake: About 3 hours before baking, toss the cherries with the 3 Tablespoons of sugar and set aside. Allow the cherries to completely mascerate and break down. Then put the cherry mixture in a blender and puree it. Set aside 3/4 cup of the puree for the cake and 3 Tablespoons for the buttercream. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line two 8" round baking pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 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 the cherry puree, milk, egg whites and vanilla on medium speed until well combined. Add butter and continue to mix well.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients until everything is well incorporated. Beat on high speed for an additional 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter into your prepared baking pans and bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the reserved cherry puree about about 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. Keep adding powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency. Add the vanilla.

Assemble the cake: After the cakes have completely cooled, place one cake down on a cake plate, flat side up, and frosting with about 1/2 cup of buttercream. If desired, add extra cherries on top of the frosting. Place another cake layer, flat side down, on top of the filling. Frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Garnish as desired - with fresh cherries, whipped cream flowers, chocolate shavings, or whatever makes you happy.

Leftover cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: Indigo's Sugar Spectrum


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Homemade English muffins

Stop buying the pre-packaged English muffins at the store and make your own version at home where you control the ingredients. Toast them up, add your favorite fruit spread, honey or butter and enjoy a delicious breakfast or snack anytime!

Eva's warning: This is an overnight recipe. It will require you creating a starter (dough) for ~12 hours plus another overnight rise. Once shaped, the dough will require another 1 hour to rise. Plan accordingly!

Prior to my current muffin obsession, I had an English muffin problem. I ate one every day for what seemed like months. I kept buying those commercially made ones at the grocery store. I did my best to buy the whole wheat ones so they seemed a bit healthier. After eating English muffins for many weeks, I finally branched out into other breakfast items.

Recently, I got tired of making muffins so I went back to my original English muffin craze. As expected, I bought the brand at my local grocery store. My husband started reading the ingredients and was not too happy with what he saw. He did some follow-up research and read online that mass-produced English muffins contained a lot more preservatives and shelf stabilizers than what we'd typically expect. At that moment, he encouraged me to make some of my own.

I freaked out a little bit because I had never made English muffins before. What if I failed? What if my yeast never rose? What if I didn't have the time? I pushed those negative thoughts away and decided to take a leap of faith and just try it. I mean, who cares if they turned out ugly, right? Homemade muffins beat mass-produced ones any day.

I did my research and found a few contending recipes. I finally chose this one since it involved a technique I had never attempted before: creating a starter dough. Sourdough has been on my to-bake list for a while, so this recipe would be a great introduction to that process. I set aside a day and a half to make these and am glad I tried.

Since I was used to the commercially made English muffins, I didn't know what to expect. The muffins were light and tender, similar to a freshly made bread. The muffins were slightly tangy from the sourdough-like starter, so it was a nice contrast to the sweet fruit jam that I spread on top. My family and I all enjoyed these homemade muffins, and I hope yours will too!

Homemade English muffins
  • 3/4 (3 and 1/3 ounces) all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/2 cup room temperature water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
English muffins
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3 and 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Butter for the skillet
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, water and yeast. Whisk the mixture until it is smooth and glossy, about 100 strokes. Cover and set aside for 1-12 hours (the longer the better).

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if you don't own a stand mixer), combine the milk and the yeast. Add the starter and mix well with a spatula or whisk. The dough will look really frothy.

Add the sugar, melted butter and salt. Whisk to combine. Then add 3 cups of the flour and mix with a sturdy spatula. The dough will be shaggy.

With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough with your stand mixer for on medium speed for about 5-8 minutes. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can knead by hand. Add extra flour a little at a time as needed. The final dough should be springy and tacky. It should not stick to your hand.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Place it in the refrigerator and allow it to rise overnight. It can stay refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Remove the dough and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Sprinkle a standard baking sheet with cornmeal. Place each ball on the baking sheet and allow some room in between each ball of dough. If you have muffin rings, you can place them around each dough ball. Sprinkle the tops of each dough ball with more cornmeal. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour or until puffy.

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Add a few muffins to the pan and make sure you do not crowd the pan. Cook each muffin for 5-6 minutes per side. Adjust the heat as needed.

Once all the muffins have been made, split them and add your favorite spread, butter or honey and enjoy.

Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: the kitchn


Friday, July 17, 2015

Skating Fridays

Camels That Don't Spit

Camel spins and I don't get along. I'm pretty sure I've shared that on here before. Prior to Adult Nationals, my camel spin disappeared completely. No matter what I did, I couldn't do them. I jokingly referred to these failed attempts as "spitting camels." If it was a bad camel spin day, I would say that the camels were spitting.

I am happy to report that my camel spins have much improved since then.

However, my BACK camel spins (and all variations thereof) have definitely been spitting. Every attempt at a back camel, no matter what spin entry or entrance I tried, ended horrendously. My posture was bad, my legs were bent, and I fell out of them after less than 1 revolution. Back camels and I did not get along.

Until this week.

I'm not sure what happened, but something clicked this week. I tried a regular back camel spin entry and figured out what I needed my body to do in order to properly hit the spin. Part of my problem was trying to figure out where my arms should be. Once I got that, the rest of it fell into place.

Here is a back camel spin from this week. While it's not the best back camel spin you will ever see (far from it!), this is a huge accomplishment for me. Especially considering that my back camel spin was non-existent prior to this week.

And this is my flying camel spin from the same practice session. I'm starting to figure out where my arms and body need to be on that spin too. I still need to consistently ensure that I'm doing a true flying camel spin instead of a flying salchow (or flying "sour cow" as my friend K likes to say).

Here's to hoping that there are no more spitting camels in my future...



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