Friday, March 24, 2017

Skating Fridays

Back to Basics

I feel like every year after Sectionals is over, Coach has me going back to basics. I don't blame her. My presentation and skating skills still need a lot of improvement, even though the progress there has been slow. She wants to see my technical and presentation scores even out so I'm not stronger in one or the other.

This week, Coach gave me a list of ~50 warmup exercises to do. While this may seem like a lot, they don't take much time to execute. I'm reallocating my practice time so that most of it is spent on skating skills. I'm confident in my technical abilities and need a lot more help and practice on the skating part.

Here's a sampling of what Coach has me doing:
  • Forward outside cross rolls
  • Backward outside cross rolls
  • Forward outside swing rolls
  • Backward outside swing rolls
  • Forward chasses
  • Backward chasses
  • Forward inside slide chasses
As you can see, many of these warmup exercises come from ice dances. She's borrowing a few pages from our ice dancing friends to help me strengthen my basic edges and skating. Maybe it's time to take up ice dancing too?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dorie's chocolate oatmeal cookie butter cookies

What do you get when you cross cookie butter, an oatmeal cookie with a classic chocolate chip cookie? These chocolate oatmeal cookie butter cookies! With a crispy top and soft and chewy middle, these bars are sure to be on your favorite cookie list!
Dorie Greenspan has done it again. She created another phenomenal cookie that I just can't stop eating. I told you about my delight when our librarian found a copy of Dorie's Cookies for me a little while ago. I've been baking my way through that cookbook since I took the book home.

As an added thank-you, I packaged up some of these cookies for the librarian and her coworker (who leads the weekly story times that we used to attend). She was so excited and said that she might eat them all by the time we left the library.

Addie and I were attending a fun activity at the library that day. Kids were invited to read to service dogs that morning, and we were one of the select few who secured a spot. We arrived first and got to pick which dog we wanted to partner with.

I brought these cookies to the story time librarian (who arranged the service dog activity). I had them in a zip-top bag and in a paper bag so I thought they were safe. Well, as Addie was reading, the service dog turned his head and kept sniffing my paper bag. He knew something smelled good. And he kept interrupting Addie because he wanted to know what was in the bag.

I eventually moved the bag so the dog couldn't smell them, and the librarian was grateful for our gift. We had a few left over and devoured these in a matter of days. The cookies had a nice crispy top and a soft and chewy interior. The oatmeal and chocolate chips provided some nice textural contrasts. Addie initially complained about the oatmeal but realized she was being silly after not being able to taste it. Note that the dough will need to chill for at least 2 hours so plan accordingly.

Dorie's chocolate oatmeal cookie butter cookies
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (120 grams) old fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) cookie butter (do NOT use homemade)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
In a large bowl, whisk the oats, flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together. 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, cookie butter, sugars and salt together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the egg and mix for an additional minute.

Turn the mixer off and dump in all of the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off to pulse the ingredients together. Then turn the mixer on low until everything just comes together.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons), scoop out even portions of dough and roll them into balls. Place them on your prepared cookie sheet and make sure you leave at least an inch between each cookie dough ball.

Bake in your preheated oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back. Bake another 6 minutes. The cookies will appear underdone - that is OK. Take the cookies out of the oven.

Allow the cookies to cool for at least 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 24 cookies

Source: Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Sunday, March 19, 2017

One bowl banana cookie butter muffins

Fabulous banana cookie butter muffins that are made in one bowl! These muffins are so amazing that you'll want to make a second batch right away!
You all know that we are a muffin-loving family. We eat them almost every week, and some of us (aHEM) eat them just about every day for breakfast. What I like better than muffins are ones that are made in one bowl. I mean, who wants to do dishes?

I knew that we had a few frozen bananas in the freezer and at least one jar of pumpkin cookie butter in the pantry. I decided to bake something that used both of those ingredients. While this is made in the stand mixer, you can definitely try mixing these by hand if you really want to cut down on the number of things you need to wash.
Addie and I have happily been munching on these. While the cookie butter flavor isn't as pronounced as I would like, it's a fantastic, cupcake-like muffin. The cookie butter prevents the muffin from drying out and provides some subtle flavor undertones. Addie claims that these were too much like banana bread, but I think that's a good thing.

We ate the entire batch really quickly and probably could have devoured another batch just as easily. Next time I may try making these with regular cookie butter.

One bowl banana cookie butter muffins
  • 1 cup banana, mashed
  • 3/4 cup cookie butter (I used pumpkin cookie butter)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin 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, beat the banana, cookie butter, eggs and vanilla together on medium speed until well combined and almost doubled in volume, about 3-4 minutes.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the baking powder, baking soda, salt and all-purpose flour. Mix until everything just comes together - do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full.

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.

Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days. They can also be frozen and thawed.  

Yield: About 12 muffins

Source: Meg's Everyday Indulgence

Friday, March 17, 2017

Skating Fridays

Adult Sectionals Recap 

Hello! I'm back from Adult Sectionals and ready to recap how the weekend went. The best part about these competitions is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Since a lot happened, let me just summarize with some highs and lows from the weekend.

  • Practicing at a nearby rink. I attended an hour-long freestyle and had a great practice. After it was over, I got to watch two world-level competitors skate their programs. The senior man attempted a quad lutz (!) and the senior lady landed a gorgeous spread eagle into a double axel. Mind=blown.
  • Watching the championship masters junior-senior ladies. The woman who won landed two (!) monster double axels. She got a standing ovation after her skate, and it was well-deserved.
  • Being there to cheer on my friends and see many of them walk away with medals and special achievement awards. I'm so happy for them!
  • Earning positive GOE (grades of execution) on my Level 3 sit spin. I botched this at my last competition, so I was happy to have executed this well.
  • Placing 15th out of a very strong group of 26 skaters (we had 27 originally but one withdrew)
  • Popping my two planned axel jumps. I had been landing these with no problem during practices and warmup. My mind essentially blanked and my body didn't know what to do.
  • Experiencing the power outage. The entire town lost power and it affected one of the ice surfaces. The championship men's gold event was supposed to go on around 6:30 but didn't actually start until 9. I felt horrible for all those competitors who were supposed to skate on that ice.
  • Seeing many of my peers have shaky skates. The rink was cold and the last skater in my event didn't take the ice until after 10:00pm. I felt bad for her and know she did not skate her best.
I have about a month to go until Adult Nationals and plan on making a few more minor edits to my program to get it ready. Coach and I will be coming up with a game plan so that I can perform better next time. I am determined to finally show everyone what I am capable of doing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dorie's Maine bars

These soft and chewy molasses bars will remind you of gingerbread. The recipe is a perfect non-chocolate dessert to feed a crowd!
I've been trying to borrow a copy of Dorie Greenspan's Dorie's Cookies for the past month or so at my local library. It's been checked out every single time. One week, I checked the online catalog and saw that the book had finally been returned.

I went to the shelf and couldn't find it so I asked our librarian to locate it for me. She's one of the two librarians in the children's wing that we've known for years, so she was more than happy to help me out. She found it in the sorting room pretty quickly. When she came back, she claimed that the book was so big that she could use it for weight training.
These bars were one of the first things that caught my eye. They seemed very similar to gingerbread but without the ginger. The bars happen to be eggless, so that is a positive for anybody who is allergic to eggs.

Dorie's bars are soft, chewy and have a similar texture to gingerbread. The bars have a bit of spring and chew to them and the flavors are almost holiday-like (minus the ginger). We gave a bunch of these away at gymnastics one weekend and they were really well received. You can cut these into larger or smaller bars depending upon your needs, but it's a wonderful non-chocolate dessert to feed a crowd.

Dorie's Maine bars 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (204 grams) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) unsulfured molasses 
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) canola oil
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • Coarse or granulated sugar for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together 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, mix the sugar, molasses, canola oil and egg together on medium speed until well blended.

Turn the mixer down to low and add in half of the dry ingredients until a few dry streaks remain. Then pour in the buttermilk and mix. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients until everything just comes together. The batter will be thick and heavy.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and evenly spread it out, making sure that you cover all the corners. Sprinkle the coarse or granulated sugar on top and bake in your preheated oven for 26-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the bars to cool for about 10 minutes. Then run a blunt knife around the edge of the pan and flip the pan over onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Slice and serve.

Leftover bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; About 20-24 squares (or more, if you cut them smaller)

Source: Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕)

A traditional sticky red bean nian gao that is reminiscent of mochi and symbolizes prosperity. Sweet and chewy, this nian gao is a wonderful dessert to share with a large group!

Happy Year of the Rooster! I know that this post is a bit late, but better late than never, right?

I've been friends with Kenny for more than 10 years. He and I met at work through mutual friends. He comes from a family of chefs and restaurateurs - in fact, my husband and I used to go to his uncle's Chinese restaurant every time we were in the area. We were especially fond of the dim sum items and were sad when the restaurant shut down a few years ago.

Every year, Kenny organizes a Chinese New Year celebration with his closest friends. In years past, we'd go to a local Chinese restaurant and Kenny would order all the dishes for us. As everyone's families started expanding, we realized that hosting this yearly celebration at a restaurant would get more and more difficult with crying babies and restless toddlers.

So this year, Kenny invited us all to his house for dinner. He mentioned that we'd order Chinese food and just enjoy it in the comfort at his home. Imagine my surprise when I walked into his house only to find that he had spent the entire day preparing a feast instead. Kenny made dumplings, fried rice, noodles, stewed turnips, vegetables, Chinese sausages and even steamed a whole fish for the occasion.

I didn't want to show up empty handed, so I made this Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕) as my contribution. Nian gao is a traditional Chinese dessert eaten during the New Year to symbolize prosperity and togetherness. I was thrilled when Kenny gave me the thumbs up on the dessert - he's a Chinese food critic (and rightfully so), so I was happy when he said that the nian gao was excellent.

I added red bean paste to mine since my family enjoys the sweetness and the texture of the red bean. If that's not your thing or if you can't find it, you can omit it and just serve plain nian gao. But, I highly recommend including it if you can since you'll probably need to find the glutinous rice flour at your local Asian grocery store anyway. Might as well pick up a can of the red bean paste while you're there!

Chinese red bean nian gao (紅豆年糕)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups milk of choice, warm
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour (can find in most Asian grocery stores)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 can (18.75 oz.) red bean paste or sweetened red beans
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and mix. Slowly fold in the glutinous rice flour and baking powder and mix vigorously until most of the lumps are gone.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan. Drop spoonfuls of red bean paste on top of the batter.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 60-70 minutes or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides and the tops and edges start to turn golden.

Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

The cake is best served the day of and will start to harden overnight. Keep this stored, covered, at room temperature.

Yield: About 24-36 slices

Source: Food 52

Friday, March 10, 2017

Skating Fridays

Tips From My Mentor 

Note: I am competing this weekend! Follow the Eva Bakes Facebook page for photos and updates!

My skating mentor checked in on me not too long ago to see how I was doing. I was having a horrible skating week. I couldn't land anything. Simple jumps were wobbly, and my body just couldn't get organized to do anything right. I had some pretty bad falls all week. Even the skating director came up to me to see if I was OK and told me to be careful.

So when my mentor asked me how things were going, I told her that it had been a frustrating week. I was keeping my skating log and couldn't seem to do anything correctly. I knew what I needed to do physically and mentally, but things just weren't clicking.

Here's what she said to me:

I think you're being TOO hard on yourself! If you're keeping a log of all your programs, that's great, but make sure it's all positive. If you're constantly being reminded of what you lack and what needs to be better, then that's all you will think about. Now all of a sudden you're putting all this pressure on yourself to skate perfect programs in PRACTICE. Allow yourself to make errors in practice. That's why it's there.

I'm the queen of putting pressure on myself. But over time I've found that the more pressure there is, the worse things are. It takes the joy away. Remember why you do this! Because you love it.

Spoken like a true champion. I keep logs so I know what I need to improve and to train my body to get the correct movements into muscle memory. But she's right - I should be focusing on the positive so I can change my mindset. Happy thoughts will get me further in life (and on the ice) than negative ones.

And yes, I skate because I love it. It gives me the freedom away from worries, obligations and stress. It's not for medals or glory. It's just for me.

What words of wisdom have you received that have helped you in your life or in your skating journey?


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