Sunday, June 25, 2017

Oatmeal muffins

This is a fantastic oatmeal muffin that you can dress up or down with dried fruit or nuts. It's soft and fluffy without feeling too hearty or dense. They are definitely kid-approved!
Call me crazy, but I think I'm starting to lose my mind as I get older. I find myself heading to the pantry, only to forget what I was supposed to be doing there. Then I'll start walking up the stairs and when I'm halfway up, I don't remember why I was going upstairs.

Am I the only one? Or do you experience this loss of memory too? Maybe I'm the only crazy one here.

So these muffins. I had every intention of making these oatmeal raisin muffins. I really did. I searched high and low in my pantry and couldn't find the raisins, even though I was fairly certain we had a big box of them. And because I wasn't able to locate them, these just became plain oatmeal muffins.
Even without the raisins, these muffins were fabulous. The oats made them nice and hearty while the warm cinnamon and nutmeg gave them a nice warm undertone. I kept mine in the refrigerator, and they heated up very nicely in the refrigerator for a quick breakfast.

As for those raisins - do you want to know where they were all this time? In the refrigerator, and right next to the applesauce that I used in this recipe.

So maybe it's time for that yearly eye appointment...

Oatmeal muffins

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute with whole wheat if desired)
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the milk, vanilla, applesauce and eggs until well blended.

Transfer the milk mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix. The batter will be slightly runny.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pan, filling, each well about 3/4 full. Sprinkle some coarse sugar on top and bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will last for several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

Friday, June 23, 2017

Skating Fridays

A New Dramatic Program 

I really admire artists who continue to reinvent themselves throughout their career (Madonna, Picasso, etc.). It's wonderful when one is able to find 'their style' and stick with it. Me? I haven't found my sweet spot yet in terms of my skating style or music.

We've tried lyrical (Piano theme from The Notebook), emotional (Angel by Sarah McLachlan), Broadway (Bring Him Home from Les Miserables), soundtracks (Star Wars melody), Top 40 (Uptown Funk from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars), and others. While some of these pieces have been more successful than others, I haven't identified my secret sauce yet.

So I thought I'd try to reinvent myself again this upcoming season and skate to something completely different for my dramatic program. I've cut the music already but have not begun the choreography yet. I'm excited to bring this music to life and see how I connect to it (and the audience).

Don't worry, I will post a video when I'm ready to share it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Oatmeal chocolate chip skillet cookie

This giant oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is your answer to a cookie craving. With hearty oats and plenty of chocolate chips, you'll be tempted to eat the whole thing! Best of all, there are no cookie sheets or scoops to clean up!
Ever get one of those crazy mad cookie cravings? Like the kind where you are ready to drive to the nearest grocery store or bakery to buy yourself some? Well, what if I told you that you could have a giant cookie ready to eat in a little over 30 minutes?

I got one of those "I NEED A COOKIE NOW!" cravings very recently and decided in the moment that I had to bake cookies. Except that I didn't want to have to scoop cookies on multiple sheets and have to clean up all the bowls, spatulas and cookie scoops. Cue this skillet cookie.
While the dough was done by a stand mixer, I only had those dishes to wash. I put all of the dough into a greased skillet and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. After my kitchen timer went off, I went to town.

This cookie was amazing and definitely hit the spot. It was like just a heartier version of a giant chocolate chip cookie. The hint of ground cinnamon made the cookie even better - feel free to add some nutmeg too if that's your thing.
I shared this with some skating friends and got a text almost immediately afterwards. A skating friend, who normally doesn't eat much dessert, said that it was awesome. Feel free to share this - or not - the next time you get a cookie craving!

Oh, and just for fun, here is a behind-the-scenes look at how the photos above came to life. After photographing the cookies, I then edited the pictures in Photoshop afterwards. You'll see my old school Nikon camera in there (a D40, which isn't even made anymore!). Compare that to this new camera, which has 16 (!) lenses. How do I sign up??

Oatmeal chocolate chip skillet cookie
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a 9" or 10" cast iron pan 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, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add in the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the cinnamon and salt until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour. Mix until everything is just incorporated - do not over mix. Turn the mixer off and fold in the oats. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Sprinkle on additional chocolate chips if desired and bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. The middle may appear slightly underbaked, and that is OK.

Allow the cookie to cool slightly before serving. Top with ice cream, caramel or chocolate sauce, or anything else that makes you happy.

Store the cookie in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One large 9" or 10" skillet; about 8-10 servings

Source: Jessica N Wood

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chocolate chia seed pudding

This chocolate chia seed pudding is super chocolate-y and healthy for you! Kid-approved, this vegan pudding is a great alternative to dairy versions.

Don't worry, I'm not turning this into a health blog. I just like to try new ingredients occasionally and found some chia seeds at my local supermarket the other day. I like the texture of chia seeds and thought that it would be fun to make some pudding with it.

We are such big chocolate pudding fans that I wanted to try a chia version. Plus I wanted to see if my 7 year old would like it. Well, it turns out that Addie could not get enough of this pudding. She got chocolate all over her face and chia seeds in between her teeth. But she wanted more after she finished the first serving. Little did she know that this pudding was actually good for her.

This no-cook dessert just requires a bit of patience since the chia seeds expand overnight while cooling in the refrigerator. They turn out tapioca-like so it makes for a fun texture. The original recipe contained the wrong chia seed to liquid ratio, so I have corrected it below.

I enjoyed eating this as an afternoon snack and sprinkled mine with some granola for a crunchy texture. You can also eat it plain if that's your thing.

Bon appetit!

Chocolate chia seed pudding 
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (can substitute with honey)
  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • pinch of salt
In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well until all of the cocoa powder has been incorporated.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Leftovers should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 4 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Fit Foodie Finds

Friday, June 16, 2017

Skating Fridays

Mid-year goals update

At work, it's time for our mid-year calibrations and performance management activities. That's when people managers get together to see how their team members are doing and if they are trending below, ahead of, or on par with their peers. I'm anxiously awaiting my one-on-one discussion with my manager to see how I fared when compared to my peers.

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to check in on my 2017 skating goals and see how they are progressing (or not).

Here we go!
  1. Improve PCS. About a month prior to Adult Nationals, my coach asked me about my goals for the competition. I mentioned "higher PCS," and she repeated the question. I was confused. After she explained that a goal is something that is within your control, I finally understood. I should have altered this goal to say that I wanted to improve my extension on landings, skate with deeper edges (etc.), because those were within my power to execute. I cannot control how an individual view/judges that. So with respect to PCS, while it did not improve score-wise, I am skating better than ever. I just hope this translates into higher scores at future competitions.

  2. Increase technical scores. Same as above. I should have said that I wanted to fully utilize my toe picks on jumps and hold my landings for a full second before moving to the next transitional element. I cannot control how a judge marks my elements on my score sheet, so I will be updating how I state this goal in the next year. So how am I progressing here? Well, I have been spending 75% of my practice time on basic skating skills and have noticed a drastic improvement. As a result, jumps are becoming easier to do. I would like to see this translate from practice to competition since that is where the true test lies. (In case you are wondering, my technical score did not improve)

  3. Approach 30 points in my IJS score. Same as #1 and #2. I cannot control a score. I need to be focused on being in the moment and delivering the elements as I know how to do them. I should alter this to say, "Focus on the element at hand and successfully execute it to the best of my ability." (And if you are curious, I did not approach 30 points this season)

  4. Land a correct double salchow. Still working on this. I am hoping that with my renewed focus on basic edges and skating skills, that it will translate into an easier double salchow. I'll be sure to post a video if and when I land one correctly.

  5. Add another axel to my program. This happened. I had two axels in the last version of my program. We'll see if I keep this approach for the upcoming season.

  6. Continue working on double loop and/or double toe loop. While we have been working on my skating skills, double jumps have not been a priority. So I have no updates here.
In summary, I need to restate my goals to focus on what I can control versus what it beyond my reach. I can skate on deeper edges, hold landings, emote, etc., but I cannot control a score or how a judge reacts to my skating. Theoretically, if I can skate with authority and with great precision, that should translate to better scores.

We'll see how I continue to improve throughout the rest of 2017.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Japanese red bean (azuki) milk bread

A super soft and fluffy yeast bread made with Japanese red bean (azuki) paste. Feel free to smear some jelly or chocolate spread on top for an extra special treat!
Do you guys ever get sucked into watching those food shows on television and then you have all of the cravings? It happens to me All.The.Time. As a result, I often get hungry for BBQ, Korean and all kinds of ethnic cuisines around 10:00pm. #foodieproblems

I'm not sure what show we were watching, but I wanted Japanese food. I didn't have the energy to make anything too difficult but I remembered that I had a can of sweetened red bean paste in the the pantry that I could use. Then this Japanese red bean milk bread was born.
The recipe below makes 3 mini loaves or 1 large loaf. I unintentionally underbaked my bread the first time so I had to pop them back in the oven for 350 degrees at 20 minutes to complete the baking. This bread was so good that I baked a full loaf the next day and also saved some red bean paste to spread on top of the dough for extra flavor.

We've been happily eating this bread as a side dish and even for breakfast. You can always add your favorite breakfast spread on top (chocolate hazelnut spread, fruit jam, etc) if it isn't sweet enough for you. I thought it was plenty flavorful but my 7 year old wanted more red bean - that's why I added some in the 2nd loaf.

Either way, I hope that you enjoy this bread. It's a great alternative to plain toast!

Japanese red bean (azuki) milk bread
  • 1/6 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sweetened red bean paste (can find at your local Asian grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons butter or melted coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 and 1/2 cups bread flour
  • tangzhong from above
In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the flour and water for the tanzhong. Continuously stir until it reaches pudding consistency. Once it thickens, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Mix for another 30 seconds and set aside.

In a large measuring cup, mix together the red bean paste and the milk. Add the egg and mix well. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, add the butter, sugar, salt, yeast, red bean paste mixture, tangzhong and flour. Mix until everything comes together. The dough will be extremely sticky, so you may need to add more flour. Mix until the dough is still sticky but workable.

Generously grease 3 mini loaf pans (about 5 and 3/4" x 3" x 2"), OR a standard 9"x5" loaf pan.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured working surface. If baking 3 mini loaves, divide the dough into 9 equal parts. If baking 1 large loaf, divide the dough into 4 equal parts.

Take one portion of dough and roll gently into a rough oval. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Take the dough and place it so the shortest end is toward you. Roll the dough slightly and then, starting with the shortest end toward you, roll it up, jelly-roll style (like you are making cinnamon rolls). If you have extra red bean paste, you can slather on a layer of it before roll up your dough - I did this the second time I baked it and got delicious results.

Place seam-side down in your prepared loaf pan. If baking 3 mini loaves, you'll want to place 3 dough rolls in each pan side by side.

Let the dough rise for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 335 degrees F.

Bake in  your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes for mini-loaves or 30 minutes for a large loaf. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days.

Yield: 3 mini loaves or 1 standard (9"x5" loaf)

Source: The 350 Degree Oven

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Copycat Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies

A copycat of the famous Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies from New York City. These gigantic beauties are the epitome of what a perfect chocolate chip cookies should be - crispy edges, soft interiors and bursting with chocolate chips!
There are some days when all you want is a chocolate chip cookie. Am I right? And I'm not talking about any old chocolate chip cookie. I'm talking about a big mama chocolate chip cookie that you can stuff your face into. One that seems to go on forever... until you almost get a tummy ache.

I'm here to solve that for you. These are a copycat of Levain Bakery's massive chocolate chip cookies. They weigh in at a hefty 5 ounces before baking. The entire batch is only 8 cookies. That means there's less to share, right? 

See this photo down here? That's my husband's hand. He wears a men's size large in gloves... so you can see how gigantic these cookies really are. He barely fit one of these babies in his palm.
We both quality controlled a cookie after it came out of the oven. We each kept taking bites until the behemoth was gone (cue sad face). The cookie was crispy on the edges yet soft and pillowy in the middle. Each bite was bursting with chocolate chips, and once the cookie was gone, I was almost satisfied. Almost. 

The good news is that we had 7 more of these cookies left. We gave most of them away because otherwise my booty would have expanded another dress size or two. And although my cookies expanded quite a bit, they were still amazing. Just make sure your dough is cool before baking. If it's not, just pop it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes before baking.


Copycat Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies 
  • 1 and ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) COLD salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 410 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornstarch and baking soda 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, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time until each has fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the vanilla. Turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.

Your dough should be cold at this point. If it's not, stick it in the refrigerator to firm up. I made this mistake and my cookies spread.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. They should weigh between 5 and 6 ounces each (they are huge). Roll them into balls and place 4 on each cookie sheet and make sure to leave plenty of space in between each one.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-13 minutes or until the tops look set. The cookies will continue to firm up as they cool. Allow them to cool slightly before serving.

Leftover cookies should be sent to me (just kidding... kind of). Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 8 giant cookies

Source: Wishes and Dishes


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