Sunday, June 30, 2013

Biscoff white chocolate chip blondies

Several months ago, I bought a container of Trader Joe's Speculoos (cookie butter) spread. I'd already fallen in love with Biscoff spread (see Biscoff chocolate chip cookies, Biscoff cupcakes with Swiss meringue buttercream and Biscoff swirl gelato) and wanted to try the Trader Joe's equivalent. It helped that it was a few dollars cheaper too.

The Speculoos spread was hanging around in my pantry waiting to be used. I probably should have added some to my boring English muffins for breakfast, but for some reason, I did not. The jar of glorious cookie butter finally got opened when a friend invited us over to their house for a cookout. Biscoff blondies were practically begging to be made.

I baked up a double batch of these blondies and found that the original suggested baking time for a 9x13 inch pan was too much. If you double the recipe like I did, reduce your baking time to 30 minutes and add more time as needed.

These blondies were one of the highlights of the party, as I am told. I wasn't able to stick around the entire night since it was Addie's bath night. The bars have a nice chewy texture like a traditional blondie but have a distinct cookie butter flavor profile (in other words, super yum). The white chocolate chips are a nice feature that add a bit of sweetness and fun crunch in every bite. If you're not a fan of white chocolate, you can certainly substitute with other baking chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch or even cinnamon). I bet any of those would taste just as good.

Biscoff white chocolate chip blondies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread (or Trader Joe's Cookie Butter/Speculoos)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add in the
egg and egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.  Add in the Biscoff/cookie butter and mix well. 
Gently add the flour mixture into the Biscoff mixture and use as few strokes as possible to blend everything together. The blondie batter will be extremely thick. Finally, stir in the white chocolate chips, and again making sure to not overmix the batter.

Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. 
Bake for about 25-26 minutes or until the tops and/or sides are a light golden brown. The bars may look a bit underdone but will continue baking and firm up as they cool.

Let the bars come to room temperature (around 3 hours) before slicing them into squares.

Note: If you double the recipe like I did (and bake in a 9x13 inch pan), bake for about 30 minutes. I baked mine for 35 minutes as the original recipe suggested and found that my bars were a bit overdone.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Sally's Baking Addiction


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quick reminder - Google Reader is shutting down on 7/1

Most of you probably already know this, but I wanted to quickly remind you all that Google Reader is shutting down on July 1. There are a few alternatives out there, but two of the services that I have found to be pretty good are Feedly and Bloglovin.

If you want to follow me on Bloglovin, I have a button on the right-hand side of the page underneath the social media buttons. Please click that to follow me on Bloglovin.

If Feedly is more your cup of tea, it should automatically transfer all of your subscriptions over. I think there's a glitch with the starred items (I've heard that it only transfers 1000 starred items), so be forewarned.

Or, you can keep reading my posts via Facebook.

Hope you are able to find a subscription service that works for you!


Friday, June 28, 2013

Skating Fridays

Adult Gold Freestyle program elements

Coach S is in the midst of choreographing my Adult Gold Freestyle program. Because it will be judged via the IJS system, there are lots of things we have to factor in to gain additional points.  I'm having a hard time figuring out which 3 spins I want to include.  I know that swapping out spins is fairly easy, but I'd still like to quickly finalize which three I will use so I can do some hard-core practicing on the selected spins. Plus, once I finalize my spins, I can ask Coach B to help me perfect them and get them competition-ready.

So far, this is what we are thinking for the spins and the things I need to work on for each:
  • Cannonball (sit) - for at least 8 revolutions. I need to work on consistently hitting the 8 revolutions. Sometimes I get 6-7 and then lose my balance and fall on my heel. I also need to condition myself so I stop getting so dizzy afterwards. This is much easier said than done.
  • Death drop - I'm actually just learning this spin and am working on the preparation exercises. I can hit a flying camel, but since it's hard to achieve (and receive credit for) features on a flying camel, we decided to nix it and change it into a death drop. Coach B thinks the death drop will be easy once I understand the mechanics. After it's fairly comfortable, I may add a twist on the back sit in order to gain an additional feature.
  • Camel/broken leg/attitude - I need to work on the transition between the three spins and ensure that I hit 3 revolutions for each (technically, I only need 2, but I want to focus on achieving 3). The broken leg position needs to be nice and low, which I am still working to get.
For my maximum of 5 jump elements (of which no more than 3 can be combinations or sequences), I will probably end up doing:
  • Axel - Need to focus on jumping up and out instead of pre-rotating.
  • Lutz - Must get rid of the flutz!
  • Lutz/toe loop - Ditto above. Once I can get the lutz more comfortable, I should be able to easily add the toe loop at the end.
  • Flip - I need to work on landing on less of a curve since Coach S has me holding the landing for 3 counts, and then doing a back outside three turn out of it (for bonus points to show control).
  • Loop - We'll see about this one. Maybe I'll switch this out for something a bit more challenging or doing a combination. I had talked to Coach S about doing a walley, but it's not an official jump, so I wouldn't get credit for it. Bummer.
I'll let you all know what I end up including as part of my program, and once the choreography is done, I'll try to videotape a practice of the run-through.

Here are two attempts (one not successful) at the death drop spin walkthrough exercise.

Unsuccessful attempt

Successful attempt, though not 100% correct 

And just for fun, here are two separate attempts at the flying camel, but from a standstill.

Until next Friday!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Salted fudge brownies

Sweet and salty. This combination seems to be such the rage in the baking world. One of the most popular baking fads at the moment is salted caramel. It's seriously everywhere, and for good reasons.

But this post isn't about salted caramel. It's about these salted fudge brownies that I made for this month's What's Baking challenge.  Heather from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks chose this month's theme, Sweet and Salty, and I decided to veer away from the salted caramel. Once I saw these salted fudge brownies, I knew I had to make them, especially since they were a one-bowl (saucepan) batter. They promised to be super fudgy with flecks of sea salt dispersed throughout the batter. Call me sold.

Sadly, my husband did not seem excited when I told him about these chocolatey bites. He tried one and was not impressed at all, so he avoided the brownies the next day. When I decided to snack on one the following evening, he decided to give the brownies one more chance. Then he said, "Wow, these are really good!" Ah, the sweet (and salty) smell of success. Even after a few days, the brownies retained their gooey centers, and the sea salt was even more pronounced than the day they were baked.

If you love sweet and salty desserts and hate washing dishes, give this one-bowl fudgy brownie a try. They are still every bit as good as a regular brownie but with just a pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness.

Salted fudge brownies
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (can use dark brown sugar)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch or 9x9 inch square baking pan. As an alternative, you can line the pan with aluminum foil and generously butter or grease the foil.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate. Stir occasionally until the mixture is uniform.

Turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa until it is fully incorporated. Do the same with the sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Be sure to add in each ingredient individually and fully mix them in before adding the next one.

Transfer the the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle the sea salt over the top of the batter. Using a spatula or knife, swirl the salt into the brownie batter.

Bake the brownies in the center rack of your oven for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are done but the center is still slightly gooey. If you insert a toothpick into the center, it should come up with a little bit of the brownie batter.

Turn off the oven, and remove the brownies. Set them aside and allow them to cool for at least 1 hour. Transfer the brownies to the refrigerator and cool for an additional (1) hour.

After the brownies have been chilled, cut them into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

The brownies can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Kate Krader, via Food and Wine


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gooey Biscoff butter cake bars

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One of my coworkers hosts an annual crawfish boil that my husband and I always look forward to. They order 300+ pounds of crawfish and fly it in from Louisiana. The crustaceans are boiled in a hollowed out keg barrel and seasoned with traditional shrimp/crawfish boil spices. Fresh red skin potatoes and corn on the cob are thrown in as well. On top of all this, my coworker brews his own beer, which he proudly tells us has been fermenting for 3 months. Want to come join us?

And every year I am faced with the same dilemma of what to bring. This year's crawfish boil fell on a day where the temperatures were over 90 degrees with high humidity. My husband suggested two of his all-time favorite desserts (cool mint dessert and chocolate caramel bars) but I thought that both of those might melt in the heat. I decided to bake something that would hold up in the blistering sun and humidity - gooey Biscoff butter cake bars.

These melt-proof bars are made up of two distinct layers - a butter cake layer which provides the base, and a gooey Biscoff layer that is screaming to be eaten on its own. I followed the directions to a T and thought that my bars were a bit overdone. The gooey layers in the corner pieces baked too much and became brittle. And the cake base was a bit on the dry side. I'd recommend baking these bars for 25 minutes and adding more time as needed. These are best when they're still a tad gooey and still slightly warm.

Gooey Biscoff butter cake bars
Butter cake layer
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Gooey Biscoff layer
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment.

Make the butter cake layer: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat in the egg, melted butter, milk and vanilla and mix until just combined. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, firmly press the mixture into the prepared baking pan.

Make the gooey Biscoff layer:  In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium to medium-high speed until it is smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and Biscoff and continue to beat until the ingredients are well incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated. Do not over mix.

Pour the gooey batter onto the already-pressed cake layer and spread evenly with a spatula.

Bake the bars for 35 – 40 minutes or until the tops appear shiny and the edges are a light golden color. The center may appear to be slightly underbaked but it will continue baking and set.

Turn off the oven and remove the bars. Let the bars cool and come to room temperature before slicing.

The bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about one week.

Yield: About 20 generously sized squares (more if you want to cut them smaller)

Source: Butter Baking; originally adapted from Bake Your Day


Friday, June 21, 2013

Skating Fridays

The Lutz

The lutz is a jump that I have never been able to do correctly. My original coach was in the midst of teaching me lutz exercises when he took an extended leave of absence. I never "graduated" to doing the full jump. This particular coach had me start off on a standstill on my gliding foot, doing an outside power pull and jumping up onto my picking toe. Again, no rotation here. It was just a power pull and a hop (up).

Unfortunately, this exercise left me in a really bad spot with this jump because I didn't get to learn the follow-up exercises. Every lutz attempt since then has been horrendously flawed. I eventually found another coach, but this time, my coach moved to the west coast after a few months. We barely got any lesson time on the lutz, so it was back to square one.

Thankfully, I've been fortunate having Coach B work with me since last September. She's a very technical skater and was excited to work with me on freestyle elements (no more Moves - at least for now).

With Coach B, I've had several lessons on the lutz. She initially had me doing a bunch of lutz exercises so I could understand the proper mechanics of the jump to avoid the dreaded "flutz" problem. She claims that she has never had a student flutz before, and that I certainly would not be the student to break that streak for her. No pressure.

Coach B finally graduated me to another exercise that included the jump. It's a 6-count drill done on a hockey circle. I do a forward crossover for two counts (going counterclockwise - remember, I'm a clockwise jumper, so most of you would go the other way), mohawk (1 count), a two footed backwards swizzle pump (1 count), glide on my right back outside edge (1 count), and then jump (1 count).

Yes, I did flutz a bit, but Coach B said that my initial attempts were actually pretty good, especially for an adult skater and one who has never worked on the lutz with her before. My toe-in was a bit farther than the takeoff edge (it was the length of a blade - I need to work on making it half a blade length or less). But my takeoff edge did go past the toe pick, which means I'm correctly drawing the foot backwards. I just need to work on keeping on an outside edge and take off more pigeon-toed.

Here are two videos of the lutz using Coach B's 6-count drill. I'm going to keep working on it and hope that it improves quickly. I'd like to include this jump in a competition I'm hoping to enter this September.

 Need to work on not bringing my arms up so high!

Two footed landing - and arms are still too high

Until next week!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Healthy deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie

It's no secret that I'm not vegan. I respect those who are and understand their reasoning. We recently had some friends come over for dinner, and one of them was dairy and soy free. She also happens to love dessert, so I wanted to make something that we all could enjoy. I feel like vegan desserts sometimes get a bad rap because people fear that they'll taste bad. This was not the case at all.

As I've shared with you all before, I follow a vegan dessert blog called Chocolate-Covered Katie. I've made many of her creations, most of which were successful. I found this deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie on her blog, and it happens to be one of her most popular recipes. It's easy to see why.

The pie truly tasted like a large, warm chocolate chip cookie. My friend was ecstatic that she could eat something so awesome that happened to be dairy and soy-free. Even the two men (my husband included) ate an entire slice without blinking. I sent our friends home with most of the leftovers so they could enjoy them at home.

Shockingly, my husband actually declared this as one of his favorite dessert recipes to date. I make at least two desserts a week, and somehow a vegan one made its way into his top 10. Wow. That's truly saying something. Looks like I'll be making this healthy chocolate chip cookie pie again.

Healthy deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie
  • 2 cans white beans or garbanzos (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 TBSP oil (canola, vegetable, or coconut)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (or more - I used closer to 2 cups; if you want this truly vegan, you can use vegan chocolate chips)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a food processor (NOT a blender, unless you have a super high speed/powered one like a Vitamix or a Blendtec), pulse everything together except the chocolate chips until you get a smooth batter.

Turn off the food processor and fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Transfer the batter into a 10-inch springform pan (can also use a greased tall round cake pan or a smaller springform pan - you may need to adjust your baking times). Bake in your preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes (I baked mine for slightly longer, as the middle still looked too underdone). The center might still appear slightly underbaked.

Turn off the oven, transfer the pie to your countertop and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan and serving.Top with (vegan) ice cream, chocolate sauce or (vegan) whipped cream if desired.

Yield: One 10-inch pie

Source: Chocolate-Covered Katie


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Beatty's chocolate cake

My husband's birthday falls on Father's Day once every few years. Last year they happened to fall on the same day. This year, they are a day apart (his birthday is tomorrow). I offered to bake two separate desserts for my husband, but he told me to make just one item. This year he chose a recipe that I've been wanting to try for a while - Beatty's chocolate cake from Ina Garten. I already have my tried and true chocolate cake recipe but was curious to see how this one tasted in comparison.
The chocolate cake itself was very good and moist. The addition of the hot coffee made the chocolate flavor very intense, and I could barely taste any coffee flavor at all. The frosting was a bit strong for our tastes, but it was still very good and extremely smooth and buttery. I had a difficult time dissolving my coffee granules for the buttercream and probably would just use a bit of room temperature coffee instead of the hot water/coffee granule mixture.  If you are looking for a coffee-flavored frosting, this one is quite excellent, but if you want a plain chocolate frosting, then do not use this one. You can use the frosting recipe as-is and omit the coffee or try this frosting instead.

All in all, this was a really good chocolate cake, and I understand why bloggers love it. I am very glad that I tried this cake, but my favorite remains this Perfectly Chocolate Cake from Hershey's. This one is a close second, though, and I certainly would make it again.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there (especially mine and my husband), and Happy Birthday to the best husband any woman could ever ask for.

Beatty's chocolate cake
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Chocolate buttercream
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 TBSP instant coffee powder
For the cake:Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 8x2 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Then generously grease the parchment paper and add a bit of flour to coat the pans. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low speed until all the ingredients are combined. 

Keeping the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients in the medium bowl to the dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Slowly pour the coffee and mix until just incorporated - do not over mix. 

Evenly divide the batter and pour into the two prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Turn off the oven, remove the pans from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pans for about 30 minutes. Then flip them out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
For the buttercream frosting: Melt the chopped chocolate it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Alternatively, you can heat the chocolate in a microwave oven in 30-second increments (be sure not to overheat or the chocolate will burn). Stir the chocolate until it is just melted and set aside until it comes to room temperature.

In the clean bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix for an additional 3 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low speed, and slowly add the powdered sugar about a half cup at a time until it is fully incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium and continue beating the frosting until it appears smooth. 

Mix the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of super hot tap water and allow the granules to fully dissolve. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the melted and cooled chocolate and coffee to the frosting until just incorporated. Do not mix on high speed or overmix.

To assemble the cake: Place one cake, flat side up, on a plate or cake stand. Using an offset spatula (or a butter knife), evenly add a layer of frosting. If desired, you can also add some fruit jam. Place the second cake on top, with the rounded side up, and frost the cake with the remaining buttercream.  

Yield: About 8-10 servings (more or less, depending on the size of your slices)

Source: Ina Garten, via the Food Network


Friday, June 14, 2013

Skating Fridays

A plea for adult-only group classes

I've been skating at my rink for over 13 years. Way back in the day, we used to have two rinks at this facility. Due to high maintenance costs (and probably high rent), one of the rinks was eventually shut down and converted into retail spaces. At the time, we also used to have adult-only group classes. It was awesome.

Don't get me wrong - I am happy to see so many kids participating in my favorite sport. But the reality is that classes have gotten so big at our rink that my upper-level adult freestyle group has been relegated to half of the end of the rink. That means 8 adults have to cram into an area slightly bigger than one hockey circle.  To complicate things even further, at least two of us (myself included) jump and spin "the other way." Every week we play a game of Keep Away so we don't collide into one other.

I would really love to have an adult-only class session (it would still range from Basic 1 through Freeskate 6). Many adults need extra space because we are a bit slower and more cautious on the ice. It gets nerve-wracking when kids are whizzing around us, even if they are in the next class over. I can't tell you how many times a kid crosses the imaginary line between our designated class space and gets *thisclose* to knocking out an adult. Or vice versa. If we had an adults-only class session, we could significantly decrease the number of skaters on the ice and give each of us more room.

I've made the plea to our skating director before, but I haven't gotten my wish yet. It probably makes good business sense to pack the session with both kids and adults alike. Otherwise you'd have to open up another 30 minutes of ice time that could be used by another paying group. Until I get my wish, I'll continue keeping my eye out for kids and my counterclockwise-spinning classmates so I don't run into them. First world problems, I know.

What does your rink do?  Do you have an adults-only group class session, or are kids mixed in as well?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry bread

I recently posted a recipe for roasted strawberry muffins that featured some local strawberries. Since I had an abundance of strawberries after my trip to the farmer's market, I decided to make something else to highlight the fruit.

My family and I enjoy munching on quick breads, so I decided to bake a strawberry bread that we could eat for breakfast or in between meals. I found this particular recipe on Martha Stewart, and it was extremely easy to put together.

The bread was fantastic on the day it was baked, but it seemed to lose a bunch of moisture the next day. I loved the subtlety of the cinnamon paired with the sweet strawberries. I'd recommend making a few changes to this recipe (changes not reflected below). First, I'd roast the strawberries for a deeper and brighter berry flavor (and infuse the juice into the bread). Second, I'd add a bit of Greek yogurt or applesauce (perhaps replacing the water with the yogurt or applesauce) in order to introduce more moisture to the bread, and upping the cinnamon to about 3/4 teaspoon.

Don't get me wrong - this is a nice strawberry bread. I just think it needs a few tweaks to make it even better.

Strawberry bread
  • 1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled, quartered, and mashed with a fork
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan (or a 9x5 inch loaf pan). 

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the strawberries until they boil. Cook and stir for 1 additional minute and set aside.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and eggs until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

Alternatively add the flour mixture with the water, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined - do not overmix.  Turn off the mixer and gently fold in strawberries by hand using a rubber or wooden spatula.

Transfer the batter into greased loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 45 minutes. Then cover/tent the loaf with aluminum foil and bake an additional 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around edges, invert the bread onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before transferring back to the loaf pan.

Yield: One 8x4 inch loaf (can also use a 9x5 inch loaf pan)

Source: Martha Stewart


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Healthy chocolate pudding or mousse

This is a recipe that I've bookmarked eons ago and finally got around to making.This was originally supposed to be chocolate frosting shots, but my frosting didn't quite set up as thick as I wanted to. So, I'm going to call this chocolate pudding or mousse. Take your pick.

Traditional chocolate puddings or mousse requires either egg yolks, egg whites and a stove. Not this one. This recipe literally comes together in less than 5 minutes. I almost like this better than the chocolate pudding that I made over a year ago (ugh - the photo I took at the time was simply horrendous). The coconut flavor is barely distinguishable, so every bite is full of decadent chocolate.

Just the way I like it.

Healthy chocolate pudding or mousse
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (or coconut cream)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar to taste (Use stevia or powdered sugar for thickest results.)
Open your can of coconut milk and drain out any excess liquid (you can save or toss it). If the coconut cream is already thick, move onto the next step. Otherwise, leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.

Dump the coconut cream into a small bowl and mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat well with a spatula, fork or a whisk.

If the mixture is thick enough, you can call it chocolate frosting. If it's not as thick like mine, transfer to a bowl or a jar. Then you can call it a chocolate mousse or pudding.

Whatever it's called, it sure is good!

This pudding or mousse will keep in the refrigerator for several days. If you keep it uncovered, it will thicken up each day since the liquids will evaporate.

Yield:  About 1 cup of chocolatey goodness

Source: Chocolate-Covered Katie


Friday, June 7, 2013

Skating Fridays

Lessons Learned

Disclaimer: I am not a coach and don't play one on TV or on the internet.  Please consult your figure skating coach(es) for their advice and expertise. The information below is simply a compilation of what I have learned as I skated through these moves.

I thought it might be helpful to provide some of the lessons I've learned in Adult Moves-In-The-Field. Moves were definitely difficult for me, and other than consulting this Common Errors document, I had to learn a lot of it on my own and through my coach. Prior to this spring, my rink did not have an Adult Gold level skater for me (or other adult skaters) to get advice from.

I wanted to share the things I've learned, since I had to learn them the hard way. I failed my Adult Bronze and Adult Silver MIF tests the first time I took them, so the judges' papers gave me good insights on what I needed to work on. I'd love to help someone avoid the mistakes I made. I'll be as candid as I can and hope to reveal things that you may not have heard yet.

Adult Bronze MIF
  1. Forward and backward perimeter power stroking: They call these power stroking for a reason - the judges are looking for smooth, continuous flow and lots of power. For forward power stroking, the FI edge needs to be sustained and balanced. On the backward power strokes, make sure that the two-footed transitions are done on both inside edges - this is crucial! Judges will also watch to make sure your lobes are even.
  2. Forward power three-turns: Make sure that the edge coming out of the 3-turns are controlled and that the 3-turn is properly placed at the top of the lobe. The two-foot glides need to be done on both inside edges. Judges will be watching closely for this two-footed inside edge transition (I got dinged on it). Watch for toe scraping and make sure you come back to the long axis before starting the next set.
  3. Alternating backward crossovers to backwards outside edges: You need to have a strong push/stroke onto the backward edge (no cheating by faking a push).  This move should flow effortlessly, or at close to it as possible. Watch for toe scraping and make sure you come back to the long axis before starting the next set. Also, be sure that you don't create subcurves and regress before hitting the long axis.
  4. Forward circle eight: The rulebook states that these circles need to be at least 3 times the skater's height in diameter (for each circle). And yes, this is what they are looking for. Err on the conservative side and make your circle as big as you can, but with control. I wish I was kidding. Make sure the start of each circle is on an edge and not a diagonal. Nice arms and posture can result in bonus points, as can returning to the same center axis after each circle (I'm not sure why judges don't expect this already, but whatever).
  5. Five-step mohawk sequence: Judges did not like it when I skated on a flat, and I got called out on it a few times (on my test papers). Make sure each edge is nicely sustained and on the correct edge. Watch toe scraping and keep an even cadence. The judges will also be checking to see if all lobes are the same size.
Adult Silver MIF
  1. Eight-step mohawk sequence:The cadence for each of the steps is crucial. Every step is one beat and needs to be clean and skated on the correct edge. Timing is essential. The faster (and cleaner) this is skated, the better. If you're familiar with musical terms and metronome speeds, you'll want to aim for a quarter note (each stroke) equaling mm=120. For those who aren't knowledgeable with metronome speeds, think about doing two strokes per second (steps 1 and 2 should be in done in one second; 3 and 4 in another second, 5 and 6 in another second and 7 and 8 in another second; the entire 8-step should be completed in 4 seconds). The lobes should be even, and there should be no toe scraping - especially after the mohawk. The transition between the two circles should be two beats (2 seconds).
  2. Forward and backward free skate cross strokes: Watch the toe picks on these! There should not be any toe pushes or scraping going either forward or backward. Make sure each stroke starts on the outside edge. Judges will be listening for the "rip" sound (a plus).
  3. FO-BI three-turns in the field: 3-turn placement is key (at the top of the lobes), and watch out for sub-curves (the edge should not regress and look like a comma at the end). The edge coming back to the long axis needs to be on an edge and not on a flat. I failed this move on my first attempt because I was going too slow. My edges were fine, but the judges said I wasn't fast enough. So don't do what I did and pick up the pace.
  4. FI-BO three-turns in the field: Ditto #3 above.
  5. Consecutive inside and outside edge spirals: I have no advice here since this is a new element that I did not have to skate.
  6. Forward and backward power change of edge pulls: Judges are looking for that "edge" sound, which is the sound of gold. The deeper your edges are, the louder the "rip" (a plus). For forward power pulls: watch for extraneous upper body movement. For backward power pulls: don't lean too far forward or you'll end up scraping on your toe pick.
Adult Gold MIF
  1. Stroking: Forward power circle: The pattern should resemble one of those fancy sea shells that spirals out from the center (or one from a snail). It should start off small and tight, then slowly "unwind" and get larger and larger. Cadence/timing is big on this move. If you're familiar with musical terms and metronome speeds, you'll want to start off with a quarter note (each stroke) starting off around mm=36-40.  At your top speed, you should be going at least mm=120-144, if not faster. Counterclockwise is going to be most people's stronger side, so make sure your weaker side doesn't appear to be too weak. Judges will listen for the "edge" or "rip" of your blades since this denotes strong, correct edge pushes. You'll also want to make sure you push off both feet - one on the initial push, and one on the underpush for the actual crossover.
  2. Stroking: Backward power circle: Ditto #1 above. Watch your center of gravity on this one though. Most adults (myself included) lean too far forward on these and start scraping. Like above, judges will be listening for your edges to "rip." Same timing as above.
  3. Forward double three-turns: Placement of the 3-turns is crucial. The 3s should be done at 10:00 and 2:00 (if the lobes looked like the face of a clock). The top of the lobes and the exiting edge that comes back to the long axis cannot be on flats. Speed is huge here. Judges want to see this skated with power, but in control. It's actually better to be quick and slightly sloppy than slow with more accuracy. Seriously, don't get dinged for skating too slowly. My skating friend and I used to joke that we were practicing "kamikaze threes" because we were going so fast.
  4. Backward double three-turns: Again, placement of the 3-turns is critical. This time, the 3s are placed at 12:00 and 2:00 (or 10:00). Judges are looking for extension and speed/flow. Similar to the forward double-threes, you should not skate on any flats throughout this move. Judges are listening for scraping on the 3s, so try to avoid those. Skate these fast!
  5. Backward circle eight: Similar to the forward circle-eight in the Bronze Moves, you want to make these circles as large as you can while staying controlled. If you think your circle is large, try again and make it even larger. Even though I passed this move, one judge dinged me and said that my circles weren't large enough (they were pretty ginormous). The hardest transition will be from the backward outside to the backward inside edge. Make sure the start of each circle is on an edge and not a diagonal. Nice arms and posture (and a nicely controlled free leg) can result in bonus points, as can returning to the center axis.
  6. Brackets in the field: Judges are watching to see if your lobes are even and if the brackets are placed at the 12:00 position. They will be watching to see if you are "hopping" the edge and cheating the bracket. This move tends to result in subcurves, so be on the lookout for those. Each bracket should start and end on true edges (not flats or a diagonal). I got bonus points for correct bracket placement, even lobes and speed. This move is one of the hardest to do with speed, but the judges will reward you if you can attain it!

Let me know if this was helpful (or not) and if there's anything that I left off!


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chocolate mug cake

Surely you've heard of Mario Batali. He's the orange Croc-wearing Iron Chef who is well-known in the world of food. He's most famous for his Italian dishes and vivacious personality. Last summer, my husband and I were fortunate enough to dine at his restaurant, Osteria Mozza, in Los Angeles. We both agreed that it was the best meal of our trip. 

To celebrate its 100th birthday, Hellmann’s is teaming up with celebrity chef Mario Batali to showcase how decades of delicious meals start with real, quality ingredients. For 100 years, Hellmann’s has brought together the best ingredients - such as oil, vinegar and now cage-free eggs – to help bring out the best meals and moments to America’s tables.As part of the brand’s 100th birthday celebration, Hellmann’s is helping provide one million meals* to Feeding America to help the fight against hunger nationwide.

Mario recently took 6 classic Hellmann's recipes and recreated them with his own twist. I normally follow recipes to a T but thought that it would be a fun challenge to put my own spin on Mario's classic chocolate cake recipe.  You all know that I love chocolate (and chocolate cake), but a full-sized cake just isn't something that my 3-person family would normally eat. I thought about making cupcakes, but I didn't feel that it was original enough.

So, I decided to make a single-serving chocolate mug cake with chocolate frosting. This is perfect for portion control and something you don't have to share - unless you're feeling generous.The mug cakes were nice and moist from the Hellmann's mayonnaise and reminded me of a slightly fudgy brownie. There is lots of chocolate in every bite. And the frosting on top (totally optional, but you'd be silly to omit it) was smooth and decadent. Best part? No leftovers.

I hope you'll take a moment to visit to watch Mario share his modern twist on some of Hellmann’s classic recipes and enter for a chance to win a seat at the Blue Ribbon table in NYC for Hellmann’s 100th Birthday celebration.Join the Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon table, co-create a recipe with Mario Batali and enter for a chance to win a seat at the World’s Longest Picnic Table for Hellmann’s 100th birthday celebration in September.

Check out the Hellmann's contest page to enter for a chance to win. This could be your opportunity to meet Mario in person and cook with him. I'd love to go and would be thrilled if you could be there with me.

Chocolate mug cake
  • 4 TBSP cake flour (can substitute all-purpose, but it won't be as fluffy)
  • 4 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP milk of your choice (I used soy)
Chocolate mayonnaise frosting
  • 1/2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1/2 TBSP Hellmann's mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon milk of your choice (I used soy)
For the cake: Using a fork, thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large coffee mug. Microwave on high for 1 and 1/2 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.  Allow the cake to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before frosting.

For the frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, mayonnaise and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the powdered sugar and milk. Add more powdered sugar or milk as needed to achieve your desired consistency. Frost on top of the mug cake and enjoy.

Yield: 1 serving (or 2, if you are willing to share); Frosting will yield about 2 Tablespoons

Source: An Eva Bakes original; inspired by Mario Batali

Disclaimer: I received a stipend for this sponsored post.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Roasted strawberry muffins

One of my favorite things about this time of year is our local farmer's market. For reasons unknown, we have several small farmer's markets in town rather than one large one. I wish that these smaller ones would consolidate into one single farmer's market similar to the Des Moines Farmer's Market that I love to attend when we visit my in-laws. Des Moines knows their stuff because their farmer's market is phenomenal.

We made a trip to one of the small farmer's markets one weekend and I was excited about the abundance of strawberries. These bright berries are my favorite fruit, so I bought two large containers of them.

I decided to make a few recipes with my loot and one of them was these roasted strawberry muffins. This was my first time roasting this particular fruit, and I adored how the juices turned out to be a deep gorgeous red color. The muffins were a bit on the soggy side, much to my husband's disappointment. The flavor, though, was really nice. The roasted strawberries had a nice bright flavor, and the muffins were not overly sweet.

If I make these again, I would recommend cutting down on the liquids a bit (either decreasing the strawberry juice/milk mixture, the Greek yogurt, or both). Regardless, I was still happy to be eating this for breakfast rather than my tried-and-true toasted English muffins.

Stay tuned for another strawberry recipe...

Roasted strawberry muffins
  • 1 pound strawberries - rinsed, hulled and quartered
  • 1 cup sugar, plus a pinch for roasting
  • Milk, as needed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour*
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • Coarse sugar, for topping (optional)
* You can substitute all-purpose flour if you don't have white whole wheat flour

Preheat your oven to 400˚ F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the rinsed, hulled and quartered strawberries on the aluminum foil in a single layer. Sprinkle the berries with just a pinch or two of sugar and gently toss to mix. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake/roast for about 20-22 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Once the berries have finished roasted, you should have between 1-4 Tablespoons worth of strawberry juice. Strain the roasted berries into a colander or strainer and reserve the juice (you can place the colander over a liquid measuring cup or other container). Measure the strawberry juice and add enough milk to make total 6 tablespoons worth of liquid.

Immediately lower your oven temperature to 350˚ F.  Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flours, baking powder and salt. In a separate large mixing bowl, mix together the strawberry juice/milk liquid, Greek yogurt, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Add in the melted butter and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour mixture into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Using a rubber or wooden spatula, gently fold in the roasted strawberries.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin liners.  If you want, you can add a few pinches of coarse sugar to the tops of the batter.

Bake the mufins, rotating the pans halfway through, for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.  Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and transfer to a wire rack and allow the muffins to cool completely.

Yield: I got about 14 muffins, but Annie says that the recipe makes 16

Source: Annie's Eats



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