Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mini thin mint cheesecakes

Time for another What's Baking challenge! Amanda from Our Italian Kitchen asked each of us to bake mini/bite-sized treats for April. Immediately, my head start swirling around for ideas... mini cakes, mini trifles (in shot glasses, no less), and even donut holes. Hey, they're mini, right?

Then the light bulb went off. Mini cheesecakes! My husband and I enjoy eating cheesecake, but we simply can't eat a full sized one between the two of us. Mini cheesecakes would be the perfect individually portioned snack, and we could easily share leftovers with coworkers or friends.

I wanted something chocolatey and minty and remembered that we ordered Thin Mints from one of our neighbors. I found a mini thin mint cheesecake on Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy that sounded good, so off I went to bake.

I loved these mini cheesecakes. The crust was nice and minty from the crushed Thin Mint cookies, and the cheesecake layer was smooth, creamy and chock full of the crushed mint cookies and chocolate chips. My favorite part of these cheesecakes was that they were portion controlled. No need to decide how large to cut a slice!

Mini thin mint cheesecakes
  • 1 box Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies (can substitute with Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joe's or Mint Oreos)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Two (2) 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Whipped Cream, optional (for garnishing)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the cookies a few times until coarsely ground and the cookies resemble sand. Or, you can place the cookies in a resealable clear bag and crush them with a rolling pin or another object (like the bottom of saucepan).

In a small mixing bowl, combine half of the crushed cookies with the melted butter and mix until well combined.  Using the back of a spoon, press about one teaspoon of the cookie crumb mixture into the bottom of each paper liner. Place in the refrigerator and cool for about 30 minutes.

While the cookie crumb base is chilling, make the cream cheese filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

Individually add the eggs and mix well until the first one is fully incorporated before adding the second egg. Beat until both eggs are well combined.

While the mixer is still running, add the peppermint and vanilla extracts and beat for one additional minute.

Stop the mixer and gently stir in the remaining cookie crumbs (you may want to save a few tablespoons for garnishing), and the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 25-28 minutes or until set.  The cheesecakes will jiggle slightly when they are fully baked.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer each individual cheesecake to a wire cooling rack. Allow cheesecakes to cool completely and then transfer to your refrigerator for several hours until the cheesecakes are fully chilled.

If desired, garnish each cheesecake with a swirl of whipped cream and the reserved cookie crumbs.

Yield: 12 standard muffin-sized cheesecakes

Source: Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy


Friday, April 26, 2013

Skating Fridays

I took my Adult Gold Moves-in-the-Field test this week. Before I get to the results, let me share the events leading up to the test.

Surprisingly, I was calm the day before the test. I did a lot of visualization exercises and kept envisioning my test papers with "Pass" circled on the forms. The morning of the test, I was a bundle of nerves but closed my eyes and ran through the entire test in my mind. When I opened my eyes, I was calm and confident.

I finally drove to the rink and was actually feeling OK.  Before I knew it, I was on the ice for my warm-up.  Those five minutes flew by like it was only 30 seconds. I practiced my forward and backward power circles, and those felt good, but the T-stop afterwards caused me to trip.  Then I did my forward double 3 turns, which turned out fine. When I got to the backward double 3 turns, my body just wouldn't cooperate. I accidentally put all my weight on my heels and couldn't do the turns. Then the announcer said it was time to get off the ice. We didn't even get our 1 minute warning so a coach lobbied to give us one more minute (it was granted). I got to do two or three bracket patterns and that was it. I was shaky, and I felt horrible.

Worst. Warmup. Ever.

I didn't stick around to watch the first skater and even stayed out in the hallway when my skating friend K took the ice. I wanted to watch her, but I also needed to warm up my feet and calm my nerves. I closed my eyes and ran through my test again. I kept telling myself, "You can do this." I was so in the zone that when my coach came to talk to me, I didn't hear her initially.

Next thing I knew, it was my turn to take the ice. Power circles went fine (forward and backward). Forward double threes were steady. Backward double threes were another story. I got so nervous on the backward inside double threes that I actually put my foot down on the very last one. ARGH! The ones before the touch-down were OK, but not my best. I cruised through the backward circle 8, and my brackets were actually secure and steady.

The judges did not ask me to re-skate anything so I went to take my skates off. It hadn't been 5 minutes when the test coordinator approached my coach with my papers. My coach came over and told me the news... I passed!  Two out of the 3 judges passed me, and the 3rd judge must have been dozing off somewhere because her score was 0.7 points under the judge who scored me the highest (note to non-skaters:  most judges are in line with each other plus or minus one to two tenths of a point).

And my skating buddy K passed too!  She passed from all 3 judges, which is phenomenal! I am so proud of her...and us! We are excited to become our rink's newest Gold Medalists and can't wait to see our names published in Skating Magazine.

Now onto my Adult Gold Freestyle elements... time to perfect my axel and lutz!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chocolate cupcakes with mint chocolate chip frosting

For Addison's party, I made these homemade Funfetti cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. We expected anywhere from 10-17 kids to attend her birthday party (some people didn't RSVP, which irked me) and their parents. I knew that the two dozen Funfetti cupcakes would not be enough so I brainstormed some ideas for a chocolate cupcake that would satisfy the chocoholics in the house (me).

Addison mentioned that she also wanted chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles for her birthday. I have made several chocolate cupcakes before on this blog but wanted to try something new. Again, I turned to my baking friend Sally for some ideas. She recently developed chocolate cupcakes with mint chocolate chip frosting that I had be ogling over for quite some time. Now was the time to make them.  And don't you think that the mini chocolate chips look like dark sprinkles?

The result? No leftovers. Although the cupcake base was a bit drier than I had hoped, the frosting was what people were raving about. It was only slightly sweet with a burst of peppermint and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips. I brought 24 Funfetti cupcakes to the party plus 12 of these chocolate cupcakes with mint chocolate chip frosting, and this one easily won the head to head battle. I can't tell you how many times people complimented me on this cupcake, and it may have lead to a potential future cupcake order.  Yup, they were a hit, all right.

When I make these again, I may use my tried and true chocolate cupcake base and make a batch of this divine mint chocolate chip frosting to go on top (and possibly inside the cupcakes too, because there is no such thing as too much mint chocolate chip).

Chocolate cupcakes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder(I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mint chocolate chip frosting
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 or 3 drops green food coloring
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Chocolate cupcake directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a standard muffin tin with 12 liners.

In a small saucepan, boil the water over high heat.

In a separate medium bowl, add the cocoa powder. Once the water has come to a full boil, add it to the cocoa powder and mix until smooth and no lumps remain. Set in the refrigerator and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and continue to mix.

Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Evenly divide the batter and fill each liner so they are 3/4 full. Bake for 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not over bake the cupcakes or they will be dry! Remove the cupcakes from the oven and place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before before frosting.

Mint chocolate chip frosting directions
In the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 30-60 seconds or until smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add 3 cups of powdered sugar, cream, peppermint extract, and food coloring.

Turn the mixer to high and beat for an additional 3 minutes. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream. If the frosting is too sweet, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Depending on your personal preferences, you can increase the amount of food coloring and peppermint extract as desired. Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.

Generously frost each cupcake with mint chocolate chip frosting and enjoy the extra frosting with a spoon!

Yield: 12 cupcakes and enough buttercream to generously frost 12 cupcakes, plus about 2/3 cup of extra frosting (for snacking)

Source: Sally's Baking Addiction


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Homemade Funfetti cupcakes

When Addison told me that she wanted some vanilla cupcakes with sprinkles, there was no doubt about what type of cupcake I'd make for her birthday. Funfetti! Yes, I know that there are some boxed mixes that I could easily have made, but I honestly don't think I've used a boxed cake mix in years. My little girl's birthday cupcakes had to be homemade. Would you expect anything less?

My baking friend Sally posted these homemade Funfetti cupcakes not too long ago, and it was something that I quickly bookmarked and knew that I would use for Addison's birthday treats. The batter came together quickly and nicely, and the frosting was very easy to whip up.

These cupcakes were a huge hit for her party. Most of the kids opted for the Funfetti cupcakes over a chocolate variety I made (recipe coming shortly). I mean, who can resist sprinkles? As suspected, the birthday girl dove straight into the frosting, which she managed to get all over her mouth and hands. She left some of the cake uneaten, but I can't blame her - the frosting is always the best part.

I was able to sample one of these after we returned from the party and was happy about how these turned out. Neither the cake nor the frosting were overly sweet, and that was one thing that I heard over and over again from the parents of Addison's classmates. They kept complaining about how grocery stores and other local cupcakeries produced cupcakes that hurt your teeth after a bite. But, these cupcakes contained just the perfect amount of sugar. And the sprinkles really made the cakes super fun.

Thanks, Sally, for these sharing your recipe for these awesome Funfetti cupcakes. I'll be sampling many more of your creations soon.

Funfetti cupcakes
  • 1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla; can sub sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup milk (can sub soy or almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles 
Vanilla buttercream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered (confectioners') sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (see note above about substituting milk or half-and-half)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Cupcake directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a standard muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Remove from microwave and mix in the sugar (the mixture will be gritty and sand-like). Place in the refrigerator for 1 minute to chill. Remove from the fridge and mix in the egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.

Gently and slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth and thick. Gently stir in sprinkles and do not overmix (the sprinkles will bleed into the batter otherwise).

Evenly divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Buttercream directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. Once all the ingredients have been added, Increase the speed to high and beat for 3 minutes. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream. If your frosting is too sweet, add about 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt.

Generously frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with additional sprinkles. Store frosted cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week

Yield: 12 cupcakes and enough frosting to generously frost all 12 cupcakes (I doubled the recipes above to get 24 cupcakes)

Source: Sally's Baking Addiction


Friday, April 19, 2013

Skating Fridays

Time has crept up on me. My Adult Gold moves-in-the-field test is next week. Surprisingly, I have not started seriously freaking out yet, but that could easily change the day of the test. My skating friend K and I will be each other's support systems, as we are both taking the same test. She will skate right before me, so I will be there to cheer her on and encourage her. I know she'll do the same for me.

Unfortunately, I have no videos to show you today but instead wanted to share with you my mental preparation. For the past month or two, I've been doing visualization exercises: I'm skating through my entire test in my mind, seeing myself finish and visualizing the test papers.  In my head, I see my paperwork and visualize an 18.1, 18.3 and an 18.4 (I need two out of the three judges to give me a score of at least 18.0 to pass). I also envision myself giving my friend K a huge hug as we both celebrate.

Two things I'd like to share with fellow skaters (or anybody who knows a figure skater that tests in the USFSA system) are these great resources that have been invaluable to me:
  1. Common errors for moves-in-the-field tests
  2. Judges' test forms.
Fingers crossed that my (and K's) test goes swimmingly and that we both pass with flying colors. I hope to share some good news with you next Friday!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


One of my dear friends, Krystal of Mrs. Regueiro's Plate, asked me if I wanted to collaborate with her and make tiramisu. I adore Krystal and wanted to do a joint posting with her. Plus, tiramisu was something on my baking bucket list, so of course I agreed. Tiramisu is a dessert that I enjoy ordering when we eat at Italian restaurants. I always thought that tiramisu seemed complicated so I avoided making this for the longest time. Also, since neither my husband nor I are coffee drinkers, it was the perfect excuse for me to not make tiramisu.

The flavors of my tiramisu were wonderful, but I am ashamed to admit that I made some silly amateur baking errors. I dunked my ladyfingers, so the spongy layers were way too soggy. And I was dumb and used a full cup of cold heavy cream instead of 3/4 of a cup (I was trying to finish off a carton of heavy cream). Therefore, my mascarpone layer was too watery. I thought I could get away with these small changes, but it turns out that my miscalculations resulted in a very watery and soggy dessert. Regardless, I still enjoyed the flavors and would make it again, but next time I will make sure to follow the directions exactly.

If you haven't already, please hop over to Krystal's blog to see how her tiramisu turned out.

Thanks, Krystal, for making tiramisu with me, and I hope to bake many more things with you!

  • 2 and 1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 TBSP instant espresso granules
  • 4 and 1/2 TBSP Kahlua
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds mascarpone
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
  • 14 ounces (42 to 60, depending on size) dried ladyfingers (savoiardi)
  • 3 and 1/2 TBSP cocoa (preferably Dutch-processed), separated
  • 1/4 cup grated semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (optional)

In a medium to large bowl, stir together the coffee, espresso granules, and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of Kahlua until the espresso granules dissolve; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks at low speed until just combined. Add the sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until the yolks are pale yellow. It will take about 2 minutes. Be sure to stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a  rubber spatula at least once or twice. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of Kahlua and mix at medium speed until just combined, about 20 to 30 seconds. Then add the mascarpone and whisk at medium speed until no lumps remain, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the mixer at least once or twice to scrape down the bowl. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

Using the same stand mixer bowl with the whisk attachment (you do not need to clean it), beat the cream at medium speed for about 90 seconds. Then increase speed to high and continue to whisk the cream until it reaches stiff peaks, about another minute or two longer. Using a silicone spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until no white streaks remain. Set aside.

Individually dip (do not dunk like I did) each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture for about 2-3 seconds total. Place the laydfingers in a single layer in a 9x13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

Using a silicone spatula, spread half of the mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and into the corners of the dish. Smooth out the mixture. Place 2 tablespoons of cocoa in a sieve or fine-mesh strainer and gently dust the cocoa over the mascarpone.

Repeat the process and dip more ladyfingers, arrange them on top of the cocoa, cover with the remaining mascarpone mixture and dust with the remaining 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa.

Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours. If desired, grate some chocolate and sprinkle over the top. Cut into slices and serve the dessert chilled.

Yield: One 9 x 13 inch pan

Source: Meggles' Meals; originally adapted from the November & December 2007 issue of Cook’s Illustrated


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Flourless chocolate cake

Can you believe that my baby girl is 3 today? It seemed like just yesterday that she was born. She has developed quite the sweet tooth and always asks for a cookie or ice cream after dinner. Of course, I don't fulfill this request very often, but she continues to ask anyway.

When I asked her what type of cake or cupcake she wanted for her birthday, Addison said that she wanted a vanilla one with sprinkles (stay tuned for the recipe). She usually amended her statement and said that she wants chocolate cupcakes as well. So, off I went to find a new chocolate cake recipe that I haven't tried before.

My husband and I have been curious to try a flourless chocolate cake for a while, and I didn't have any reason to bake one for just the three of us. Since my in-laws were coming to town to visit the week before Addison's birthday, I thought that this would be the perfect time to give it a whirl.

I've got to be honest and say that this wasn't fabulous. It was too dry, even though I baked it for only 35 minutes. If I make this again, I will either add some Greek yogurt or reduce the baking time to 25 minutes to see how it turns out. Or, I'll just stick with my tried-and-true perfectly chocolate cake. At least the birthday girl enjoyed it.

Happy 3rd birthday, Addison!

Flourless chocolate cake
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided and cut into chunks
  • 1 and 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 TBSP milk
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.

Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you may use your microwave to melt the butter with the chocolate, if desired). Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.

Yield: 12-16 slices, plus or minus a few slices depending on how big your appetite is

Source: Whole Foods


Friday, April 12, 2013

Skating Fridays

Happy Friday!

Time for another edition of Skating Fridays. I just realized that I haven't shown you any of my jumps. Well, you're in luck because I have two videos of the same jump to share with you today - one of what NOT to do, and one that is landed but still needs improvement.

Today I'm featuring my axel jump, which is something I talked about briefly here. As I mentioned in that post, successfully landing the axel is a defining moment in a skater's career. One will almost always remember the date when this glorious accomplishment occurred. I had been working on this jump for several months before finally landing it about two weeks after my 30th birthday.

My biggest problem with this jump initially was fear. I was afraid I'd crack my head open or break a bone. Finally, I decided to stop being afraid and believe in myself. Once I changed my mentality, the jump finally came. My next problem was landing the jump flat-footed, and I have a suspicion that it was due to my previous training in gymnastics.

This jump has come and gone multiple times in my skating career, and it is something that I yearn to perfect. Perhaps one day I will be able to attempt a double axel, but for now, I am thrilled to be landing this difficult element (although imperfectly) in my 30s.

I trained for the axel without a harness and without any padding. My former coach believed that the harness would impede my progress because my body would get used to the harness, so he recommended that I learn it without any training aides. So, it definitely is possible to land without the harness or other "help."

Here is a video of what not to do. You'll see that my left shoulder dropped mid-jump, and that mistake resulted in my entire left side collapsing. Thank goodness for my natural padding!

And here is a jump that I think is fairly good. I need to work on my ankle contact and pull in tighter, but otherwise this is a clean landing.

Until next Friday!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chocolate covered cherry cookies

You know how sometimes things were just meant to be? Well, these cookies is a good example of that. I had half a can of leftover sweetened condensed milk and didn't want to waste it, so I researched some recipes that would use up the remaining can. Most people said to just eat it up with a spoon, but I didn't want to do it (at least not this time).

I stumbled across a Cooking Light forum and saw that one of the posters shared a recipe that was popular on that particular board. It was for chocolate covered cherry cookies, and it just happened to use half a can of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, this recipe was just meant to be.

Holy cow were these cookies good! My favorite part was the chocolate cherry glaze that covered the maraschino cherries. I only spooned about a teaspoon over the cookies before they baked. Once the cookies came out of the oven, I spooned the leftover glaze over each cookie. Don't tell anybody, but I ate the remaining glaze with a spoon...!

Chocolate covered cherry cookies
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 18 undrained maraschino cherries (about one 10-oz jar) 
  • 1 (one) 6-oz pkg semisweet chocolate pieces 
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small mixing bowl combine flour and cocoa; set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or till softened. Add the sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and mix until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add in the flour/cocoa mixture until it is fully incorporated.

Turn off the mixer and shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet (I used my imitation Silpat). Using your thumb, make an identation in the center of each ball so you have a well.

Drain the maraschino cherries and reserve the juice. Put a cherry in the center of each cookie's well. In a small saucepan set over low heat, combine the chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk until the chocolate is completely melted. Mix in 4 teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the frosting over each cherry, ensuring that each cherry is fully covered in the frosting. If needed, you can thin out the frosting using any remaining cherry juice.

Bake cookies in your preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got 18 cookies

Source: Cooking Light forum; originally from the January 1997 edition of Better Homes and Gardens


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Oatmeal raspberry muffins

I don't know about you, but I am definitely a creature of habit. I pretty much have the same set schedule every weekday, with the exception of Monday mornings (dang those 6:00 am skating lessons!). My breakfast routine rarely changes - I have an English muffin topped with honey, jam, Nutella or fruit butter. Then I have a glass of soy milk and a banana. 

My baking friend Sally recently posted these skinny blueberry muffins, and I was dying to make them until I sadly realized that I had no leftover bananas or blueberries. I didn't have time to run out to the grocery store this week to buy these ingredients, but I did have Greek yogurt and frozen raspberries on hand. So, I found some oatmeal raspberry muffins that I could make instead. They seemed easy, healthy, and sounded like a fantastic addition to my boring and uninspiring breakfast routine.

This batter came together very quickly and easily, and I didn't even need to bust out my stand mixer for this one. I beat the egg white and other liquids with a whisk in a bowl and put the dry ingredients into another bowl. Then I combined the two using as few strokes as possible to prevent hard, dense muffins.

The oatmeal raspberry muffins turned out great. The tartness in the fruit was nicely balanced by the brown sugar and honey. What amazed me about these muffins was that there was no butter, eggs yolks or oil. The Greek yogurt was the ingredient that helped keep these nice and moist. All in all, I was happy with these and was super excited to have something else besides English muffins for breakfast.

Oatmeal raspberry muffins
• 1 cup oatmeal
• 1 cup white whole wheat flour (can sub all-purpose)
• 1 TBSP baking powder
• ⅛ tsp. salt
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup milk 

• ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
• 2 egg whites
• 2 TBSP of honey
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1 ¾ cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Lightly grease a standard muffin tin and preheat your oven to 400°F. Note: Do NOT use cupcake liners - the muffins will stick to them. (I used a Silicone muffin pan and did not grease it.)

In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Mix well. 

In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for 1-2 minutes or until frothy. Continue whisking and add in the milk, Greek yogurt, honey and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Slowly add to the bowl of dry ingredients until just incorporated - do not overmix. Gently fold in raspberries.

Evenly distribute batter into prepared muffin pan and bake for 15 minutes. 

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Coach's Oats


Friday, April 5, 2013

Skating Fridays


This week has flown by.  My coach is on vacation this week, so I did not have a lesson. I did manage to go to the rink a few times, and my skating friend K was able to come with me. She has been such a huge support for me. We are both testing in less than 3 weeks (AHHH!), and she knows what my strengths and weaknesses are and can help me see what I'm doing wrong (thank you, K!).

K brought up a good point at one of our practices this week. She said that we needed to make sure we are not overtraining. Although most of my focus in the past few weeks has been on the required elements for my test, I need to make sure I set aside some time to work on other things like jumps and spins.

Case in point: I lost one of my jumps a few weeks ago, and it was probably because I've been concentrating on this upcoming test too much. But, it is slowly coming back and I know it will be there once I practice it more.

On a separate note, I had an awesome layback spin the other day and didn't get a chance to have someone record it for me. Boo. When I tried it again last night, I couldn't center it, so it was a lost cause. So, I decided to a combo spin instead - camel to sit spin. This isn't the best one I've done, but it's not too bad considering that spinning has been in the backburner for a while.

Check it out...

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fudgy 4 egg white brownies

Week after week, I feel like I am always faced with the same dilemma - what to do with leftover egg whites. I wanted to do something different this time and not create a white cake, angel food cake, meringues, macarons, Swiss meringue buttercream frosting or pavlova. Once again I scoured the internet for something worthwhile to bake.

Amazingly, I found this recipe from LunaCafe that promised a silky smooth yet fudgy brownie. It certainly got my attention. I read the ingredients and noticed that it didn't contain any egg yolks, but it did use up 4 egg whites. This definitely piqued my interest, and I totally had my doubts.

I am pleased to say that these brownies were everything that was promised and more. The tops were perfectly crisp and the insides of the brownies were smooth and fudgy as advertised. The most important step in these brownies is to beat the egg whites with the sugar and cocoa powder for a full five minutes. This technique reminded me of making Swiss meringue buttercream since the egg whites are constantly whisked in a similar fashion.

I am glad that I only baked these for 25 minutes because they would have turned harder than bricks if I had baked a minute further. Although the King Arthur Flour brownie recipe remains my favorite, these are definitely in the top 3.

Also, I just found out that my triple chocolate cupcakes is a finalist in a Food & Wine contest that is being held on Facebook. The photographs are paired up in a head-to-head battle, and the food photograph with the most votes as of April 9th wins. The winner gets two tickets to the Food & Wine Festival in Aspen, Colorado. I've never been a finalist in any type of contest before, so this is super exciting. I would appreciate your vote if you have a few minutes!

Fudgy 4 egg white brownies
  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter  
  • 6 ounces of 62%-72% bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used two Lindt 70% dark chocolate bars)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder 
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
  • 4 large egg whites, cool room temperature
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
Preheat your oven to 375°F and position your rack in the upper middle position in the oven

Grease an 8 x 8 inch, light colored, metal baking pan (I used a silicone baking pan and did not grease).

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Turn off the heat, remove the saucepan from the stove and stir in the chopped chocolate, vanilla, espresso powder and salt until the chocolate has completely melted. Allow the mixture to cool until it is lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), mix the sugar and cocoa powder.

Slowly add the 4 egg whites and mix on medium speed for a full 5 minutes. The mixture will slightly thicken. Be sure to stop the mixture to scrape down the sides a few times to fully incorporate the dry mixture.

Add the lukewarm butter-chocolate mixture and mix well.  Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the flour until it is fully incorporated. Beat the batter for one more minute.

Evenly spread the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Turn the oven down to 350°F and bake for about 40 minutes. Check your brownies around the 25 or 30 minute mark (and every few minutes thereafter; I baked for 25 minutes) to see if they are done. It is better to underbake these than overbake. This is how you can test to see if your brownies are done:
  • The top will appear shiny and crackled
  • The brownie edges will be cracking.
  • The edges may start to pull away from the pan.
  • The center will no longer be jiggly when you gently shake the pan. (But this occurs about 10 minutes before the brownies are fully baked, so use this indicator only with the others.)
  • A toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and center will contain moist crumbs when removed.
Cool the brownies on a wire rack and allow to come to room temperature. Cut into squares and serve.

Brownies can be stored in an airtight container (or covered tightly with aluminum foil) at room temperature for about 3 days.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: LunaCafe



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