Friday, August 30, 2013

Skating Fridays

Just a bit behind

There are a few things that I'm a bit behind on this week. I didn't get to practice because we've been away on vacation, so this post is late. We just got our mail, so there is a week's worth of mail to sift through. Laundry needs to be done, and flowers need to be watered.

Another thing I'm behind on is my music for my Adult Gold freestyle program. I attended a freestyle session last weekend before we left on vacation and ran through my program for the first time. I had played my music beforehand and envisioned my program while I was listening to the recording, so I mentally knew where I need to be on the ice.

Unfortunately, when I ran through my program, I was behind. About 5-10 seconds behind, which is a pretty big deal. Even though I cut out a few elements (mainly in my footwork, which was a bit too complicated and slowing me down), I was off from the very beginning. My spins are taking longer than expected and throwing off the rest of the program's flow.

Thankfully I did catch up at the end and got all my required elements in before the music ended, but I felt very rushed. Now that we are back in town, I will be sure to try and run through my program at least once a week. I have less than a month before competition day, so it's time to play catch up and be fully prepared.

How do you prepare for a competition when you feel behind?


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vegan chocolate cake


I mentioned in a previous post that we have a friend who is currently dairy and soy free. She and her husband invited us over for dinner one evening, and of course I volunteered to bring dessert. I scoured the internet for some dairy and soy free recipes but nothing jumped out at me. Our friend also mentioned that she didn't like coconut, so that made my search a bit more challenging.

I found a few potential recipes and almost settled on some vegan blondies. After I read the instructions, I realized that the ingredients and baking method were very similar to the healthy (vegan) deep dish chocolate chip pie that I made the last time our families got together. I obviously did not want to repeat a dessert so I kept looking for other potential recipes to try.

Eventually, I came across a recipe that boasted "the best chocolate cake you will ever have... that happens to be vegan."  Well, that definitely caught my attention. I looked through the ingredient list and was thrilled that I didn't need to buy any special ingredients and that I already had what I needed in my pantry.

I brought this cake over to our friends' house, and they were all very impressed with this cake. My husband said that it tasted amazing, and he never would have guessed that it was vegan. Even my friend, the non-coconut fan, said that she liked the frosting and kept the leftovers so she could snack on it another day. This is a cake that I know I will be making again because it was so easy to bake and didn't require a trip to the grocery store. The frosting, of course, is optional, but it helps take the cake to a whole new level.

Vegan chocolate cake

  • 1 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white or apple cider vinegar
Vegan frosting
  • 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.)
Directions
To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or line an 8x8 baking pan and set aside (I used my 8x8 silicone baking pan and did not grease or line it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Then add in the warm water, vanilla, oil and vinegar. Mix well until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting or serving.

To make the frosting: 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. Be sure to NOT add too much liquid from the can of coconut milk or else your frosting will be runny.

If the mixture is thick enough, you can use it immediately to frost your cake. If it's not as thick (like mine), transfer to a bowl and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight so the liquid evaporates. Then you can drizzle it on top and call it a ganache.

The frosting 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 16 squares of cake; frosting recipe makes about 1 cup

Source: Instructables; frosting from this post
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cannoli tart


This year is going by so quickly. I can't believe another month has gone by because it's time for another What's Baking challenge. This month's host is Nicole from Seven Ate Nine (cute blog name, right?). She selected "Chow Ciao Italiano" as our theme. We were asked to bake something Italian dessert-inspired. Gelato, tiramisu and cannoli all popped into my head. Since neither gelato nor tiramisu required baking, cannoli was the default winner.

I didn't want to buy any special ingredients for my cannoli, so I didn't want to purchase a cannoli tube (plus, those cannoli shells are traditionally fried... again, this doesn't meet the requirements for a baked good). I thought that the next best thing would be to bake a cannoli tart (this cannoli cheesecake is incredibly good too).

And, timing-wise, this would be the perfect treat to take to work for my friend Eddie's birthday. I actually was so preoccupied on his actual birthday that I forgot to wish him a happy birthday! I brought him this cannoli tart a week late, but he appreciated it nonetheless.

Eddie and our coworkers enjoyed the tart very much. I loved smelling and tasting the homemade cinnamon crust and liked the flavors it brought to the filling. The soft ricotta filling was reminiscent of a real cannoli, and I know that the Amaretto helped too.  =)  Happy belated birthday, Eddie!

Cannoli tart
Crust
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • ½ cups and 1 TBSP granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅓ cups cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP milk of choice
Cannoli filling
  • 2¼ cups ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
  • ½ cups chocolate chips or chunks
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

For the crust: In your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and pulse a few times until the crust resembles pea-sized clumps. Then add the egg and milk and pulse the dough turns into a large ball.

If you do not own a food processor, you can mix this by hand: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until you achieve pea-sized clumps. Using your hands, mix in egg and milk and knead the crust into a ball.

Using a rolling pan or a cylinder-like surface (like a wine bottle or coffee can), roll the dough into a circle so that it is slighter larger than a deep dish pie or tart pan. You may want to place the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper, waxed paper or plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking to your working surface.

Grease your deep dish pie or tart pan with butter or cooking spray. Place the rolled out dough onto the pan and gently push the dough into the sides. Remove any excess dough. Chill the pie/tart pan in the refrigerator.

For the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), mix together the ricotta, egg, sugar, and Amaretto on medium speed until just combined. Stop the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

Remove the cooled pie dough/pan from the refrigerator and pour the filling on top of the crust. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. If desired, you can sprinkle on additional chocolate chips or chunks.

Bake the pie in your preheated oven for about 25-35 minutes or until the crust is golden in color and the filling has slightly poofed up.  Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Pie can be served cold or at room temp. If desired, you can dust the top with powdered sugar or drizzle the top with melted chocolate. The pie should be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container and will keep for about 3 days.

Yield: About 6-10 servings



Source: Tasty Kitchen

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Skating Fridays

Three short videos - Death drop spin and axel jump

I don't have much to report this week. The competition is about 4 weeks away and I am feeling grossly underprepared. I'm hoping to hit up a few freestyle lessons so I can run my program and see what needs to be cut.

During group class last night, I worked on my death drop spin and axel jump. For both elements, my main focus was to keep my upper body slightly arched back rather than slouched over. I know how important the entries are for both the jump and the spin, so I have been working hard to fix this.

Would love to hear your thoughts on whether these have improved... or not!

Death drop spin - back sit still needs to go down lower, and my free leg needs to kick up higher and straighter

Axel attempt #1 - need to land in a tighter position

Axel attempt #2 - again, I'm opening up too soon on the landing

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

3 Musketeers rice krispies treats


I'm proud of my 3 year-old daughter. She has shown some interest in baking with me, and she always likes to push the buttons on the food processor or mixer when I'm using those appliances. This summer, her daycare has offered various clubs that the kids can join during the school day. Each club meets once a week for about 4 weeks to learn about their respective activity. And of course, I signed Addison up for the cooking club. To date, she's learned how to make pancakes, cinnamon-sugar pretzels and rice krispies treats.

The item she's been most proud of are the rice krispies treats. The kids covered theirs in melted candy bark so they were more fun to eat. I wanted to make some at home but wanted to shy away from the traditional rice krispies treats. I happened to find a recipe for 3 Musketeers rice krispies treats and made that instead.

When I looked in my pantry, I had a full-sized 3 Musketeers bar and a package of 8 fun-sized mint flavored ones. I decided to include all of these for a subtle mint flavor, but if you are not a fan of mint, then you could substitute it with 8 regular flavored fun-sized or 4 full-sized candy bars.

While Addison loved the idea of chocolatey rice krispies treats, she was not a fan of the mint flavor. She only ate half of her bar, but my husband and I gobbled these up. If you're a fan of mint, you can dial up the mint flavor by adding a 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and adding a chocolate mint drizzle on top (this would be a fabulous holiday treat idea). Otherwise, you can just keep these chocolate and dress it up or down to your tastes.

3 Musketeers rice krispies treats
  • About 10 fun-sized 3 Musketeers candy bars (I used a package of 8 mint flavored, fun-sized 3 Musketeers and one full-sized plain 3 Musketeers bars)
  • 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 4 cups crispy rice cereal

Directions
Generously grease or line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan (with parchment paper or aluminum foil prepared with baking spray). Set aside.

In a large, microwavable bowl, microwave the unwrapped candy bars, marshmallows and butter on high for 1 minute.

Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until it is smooth. You may need to microwave in additional 10 second increments to make sure all the marshmallows and candy bars are completely melted.

Mix in half of the rice cereal and stir until the cereal is fully incorporated. If needed, you can add more rice cereal.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down with your spoon or spatula. Allow the treats to set for at least an hour (I prefer overnight).

If desired, you can drizzle the tops with melted chocolate for a festive look. Remove the bars from the pan and cut into 16 squares.


Yield: One 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking dish; about 16 generous-sized bars

Source: Slightly adapted from Something Swanky

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Peaches and cream popsicles


My brother and I used to be popsicle fiends. I wish I was kidding here. When I was old enough to drive on my own, he and I would make monthly "popsicle runs" to our local grocery store. Our mom would give us about $20-$30 for us to spend on frozen treats. He and I would return with all kinds of frozen goodies - from push pops to fudgsicles to Italian ices. And yes, we'd spend all of the money that Mom gave us each time.

I haven't indulged in popsicles as much as an adult. I know that they are generally not very good for me and filled with preservatives and artificial flavorings and colors. I finally got smart and bought my very first popsicle mold set and couldn't wait to make my own popsicles. The question now was - which flavor combination do I try first?

The same week my molds arrived, our biweekly CSA delivery included 4-5 fresh peaches that I was excited to dig into. I didn't want them to go bad so I decided to make some peaches and cream popsicles. I was initially worried about the tartness from the Greek yogurt (and not quite sure if Addie would eat it), but these were perfect. The three of us ate our popsicles together after dinner one evening and all of us had the biggest smiles on our faces because they were so good and hit the spot. Addie was proud of herself because she helped me push the button on the blender to mix these so these were essentially popsicles that she had "made."

The popsicles are slightly tart from the Greek yogurt, but those flavors are nicely balanced out by the simple syrup and natural sugars from the ripened peaches. Addie wanted another popsicle to eat, so these are definitely toddler-approved as well. I'm already thinking about what flavors to make next and hope that my little girl will help me again. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that she doesn't turn out like my brother and I and spend $30 on frozen treats that we can easily make at home. Only time will tell.

Peaches and cream popsicles
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (I subbed with about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups pitted, sliced and peeled peaches (about 2-3 medium peaches)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Directions
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, melt the sugar and water. Slice the vanilla bean down the middle and scrap out the seeds and add it to the saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod to the saucepan as well and bring everything to a boil. Keep stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat, remove the vanilla bean pod and allow the sugar syrup to chill.

Alternatively, if you are not using a vanilla bean pod, you can add about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sugar/water mixture and allow it to come to a boil. I was lazy and did not allow the mixture to cool down much before adding it to the next step.

Puree the pitted, sliced and peeled peaches and sugar syrup in a food processor. Add the heavy cream, Greek yogurt and optional bourbon and blend until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the liquid mixture to 4 popsicle molds and freeze for at least 4 hours or until firm. To unmold the popsicles, you can either run the popsicle molds under hot water for about a minute or dip the molds in hot water.

Yield: 4 (4-ounce) popsicles

Source: The Craving Chronicles; originally adapted from Bon Appetit

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Skating Fridays

An update on the harness and my Gold Freestyle program

Coach B and I had a lesson last week where she put me in the harness again. Of course, with the horrible harness lesson still fresh in my memory, I was hesitant to go into the evil contraption once more. This time, Coach B stood in front of me (last time she stood behind me), and she told me to jump earlier than I normally do.  And what do you know - it worked!  I first attempted a simple waltz jump and successfully landed it. Then I popped a waltz-backspin and that came very easily. Finally, we went straight into the axel, and I am happy to report that was able to land most of them.

I still think that there's an aspect to the harness I don't like. It feels like the harness gets in my way and is preventing me from fully rotating, but that could all be in my head. Regardless, I was thrilled to have had a fairly successful lesson in the harness and hope that the efforts will translate onto the ice. I practiced some axels on the ice (sans harness) in group class last night and landed most of them, albeit incorrectly.

I still need to work on pulling in (pretending like I'm hugging myself) and stopping my rotation earlier. I tend to overrotate and also land flat-footed. Maybe I should just go for the double axel instead since I'm already way overrotated! Just kidding - kind of.

In other news, Coach S finished choreographing my Gold Freestyle program. K and I went through it together and made some tweaks to make it flow better. After it feels comfortable, I will practice it with music to see what other adjustments I need to make. I have a feeling that I'll need to cut out a bunch of steps since my spins usually take up a lot of time and I know I'll be nervous on competition day.

I am also pleased to say that I received my certificate and lapel pin from the US Figure Skating Association (USFSA) in the mail yesterday. The certificate is to commemorate my achievement of passing the Adult Gold Moves in the Field test in April. The President of the USFSA also sent me a letter congratulating me. I believe there's one more thing before all this celebrating is done - my name will be printed in Skating Magazine, and that will be very cool and exciting to see.

Now to figure out when to take the Adult Gold Freestyle program...

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roasted red cherry Greek yogurt coffee cake

Cherries were on sale at the grocery store a few weeks ago, so we decided to buy a bunch of them. For reasons unknown, they did not get eaten very quickly. My husband suggested that we make something with the remaining cherries, and he strongly hinted at a cherry pie. I'm not a big fan of cherry pie (they are too tart for me), but I thought that a coffee cake sounded like a good idea. Thankfully, my husband liked the suggestion, and off I went to find a coffee cake recipe.

I eventually found one on King Arthur Flour that incorporated sour cream. Since Chobani was kind enough to send me some of their plain and vanilla yogurt, I swapped out the sour cream for Greek yogurt instead.


I decided to roast my cherries and add them into the cake, and that proved to be a great idea. The cherries added a fun texture to the cake and made it more complex. This cake was not overly sweet like a traditional coffee cake. It was just sweet enough to balance out the tartness from the cherries and the Greek yogurt. I brought a few slices to the rink and both Coach B and Coach S were beyond the moon after tasting a bite. Coach S said that these were her 2nd favorite dessert to date (the whole lemon bars are her #1 favorite).

I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the cherries - maybe I'll just snack on them after dinner tonight.


Roasted red cherries
  • About 1.5-2 cups of cherries, pitted and de-stemmed
  • About 1-2 TBSP of sugar
Greek yogurt coffee cake
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter 
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 0% vanilla)
  • Cinnamon-sugar mixture: Mix about 2 TBSP sugar with 1/2 TBSP of cinnamon
Directions
For the roasted cherries: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pit and de-stem your cherries. If desired, you can slice the cherries in half. Place the cherries onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the cherries with the sugar and allow to roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. The cherries will shrink a bit after roasting. Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool.

For the Greek yogurt coffee cake: While the cherries are roasting in the oven, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium to large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer over medium speed (or in a large mixing bowl if you are using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until they are fully incorporated. Turn the mixer down to low and alternately add the dry ingredients with the sour cream. Mix well after each addition.

Grease a 9x9 or 8x8 inch baking pan (I used a silicone baking pan and did not grease it). Transfer half of the batter to the prepared baking pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Sprinkle on about half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Add the roasted cherries on top. Then transfer the remaining batter on top of the cherry layer. Smooth out the surface with a spatula and sprinkle on the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (mine baked for 40 minutes).

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. The coffee cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

Yield: About 16 squares

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fudgy cocoa brownies

What kind of brownie person are you? Do you like yours cake-y or fudgy? I'm more of a fudgy brownie girl. If I wanted something cake-y, then I'd eat cake. I've made a bunch of brownie recipes before, including my favorite brownies, these salted fudge brownies and even fudgy egg white brownies. My baking friend Averie has praised Alice Medrich's brownie recipe multiple times, and I thought that I'd finally bake them to see what the fuss was all about.

I was a bit skeptical when I read the instructions and saw that the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt had to be melted over a double boiler. The brownie recipes I've tried (and loved) previously all needed direct heat, so this double boiler method was new to me. Regardless, I followed the directions and kept my fingers crossed. I got a bit worried when the mixture looked grainy and slightly lumpy before adding the eggs, but it became smooth and shiny again after I continued adding more ingredients.

I have to say that these brownies were fantastic. They truly were thick and fudgy as advertised, and they didn't even require any type of leavening ingredient like baking soda or baking powder. Addie had a small sample and immediately asked for another serving (nice try, kid) after she shoveled her piece into her mouth.

These brownies would be wonderful with some add-ins as well. If you're a nut fan, you could add those. Or, you could add peppermint patties, caramels, chocolate candies... the list goes on. Thanks, Averie, for introducing me to this awesome brownie recipe and method. Although these brownies are slightly more time-consuming than most (since the double boiler takes a while to melt all the butter), the results are definitely worth waiting for.

Fudgy cocoa brownies
  • 10 tablespoons (1 and 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Directions 
Preheat your oven to 325° F.

Either 1) generously grease an 8x8 inch square baking pan, or 2) line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, making sure to leave an overhang on the two opposite sides. I used a 3rd alternative and baked it in my ungreased silicone 8x8 inch baking pan.

In a large heatproof bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water (you're essentially creating a double boiler).

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, occasionally stir the mixture until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. The sugar may not have melted yet, and that is perfectly fine. The mixture will not be completely shiny and glossy.

Turn off the stove and remove the bowl from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

Using your rubber spatula, whisk in the vanilla. Then individually add the eggs and whisk vigorously after each addition. Once the batter appears shiny and glossy, gently incorporate the flour until it is completely incorporated. Finally, beat the mixture for 40 additional strokes.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Bake your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some moist crumbs and/or batter. You do not want to overbake these.

Turn off the oven, remove the pan and allow it to cool completely before cutting and serving.

The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 5 days.

Note: I doubled the recipe and baked for 20 minutes, and they came out perfectly.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Food 52; via Averie Cooks

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Skating Fridays

Some Progress

The skating competition I entered is slowly sneaking up on me. We are less than two months away until the big day, and I still have lots to practice. I'm excited to report that my cannonball (sit) spin has improved. I'm now hitting about 10 revolutions each time and am able to stand up afterwards.

The lutz jump has gotten to the point where I'm not quite as scared of it as I was two months ago. I used to be afraid of this jump because I never learned it correctly (until now). I'm adding a loop jump to the end since this combination is included in my Adult Gold freestyle program:


I'm trying to get my camel-back sit spin combination more consistent. My free leg tends to go to the side (rather than stay in front), so it throws me off my axis and I cannot hold the back sit. Coach S has me exiting out of this combination spin with two back power pulls into a back outside three turn. This is immediately preceding a very difficult footwork sequence on the same leg. Ahhh!

The axel has improved slightly. What I need to keep working on is getting a quicker rotation. I need to begin the rotation almost as soon as my toe pick hits the ice and keep pulling my arms in. This jump happens shortly after the cannonball spin, so I have been trying to practice this entire section of my program together.

And finally, the death drop spin has also made some slight improvements. My free leg is still bent, so I need to work on straightening it and getting a better snap into the back sit spin. The back sit itself has gotten lower, so that makes me happy. Eventually I hope to do this from a forward inside three turn, but we will see about that. Here are two videos that were shot back-to-back.




I'm happy with the progress I've made to date and hope that things continue to improve before the competition.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peach Greek yogurt coffee cake


One thing that I love about the summertime is the abundance of fresh fruits. I cannot even estimate how many fresh strawberries and blueberries we've consumed since the beginning of spring. We recently received some fresh peaches in our bi-weekly CSA delivery, and I was excited about what to make with our loot.

I asked my husband what he preferred, and he initially said that he wanted some peach cobbler. Then he quickly changed his mind and said that he wanted a peach coffee cake. This sounded perfect to me since my last batch of breakfast goodies was running out, and I desperately wanted to avoid eating English muffins again.

This peach coffee cake was was beyond phenomenal. I have been eating slices of this every day for breakfast, and I am always tempted to eat more throughout the day. The fresh, juicy peaches really shine in this coffee cake, which isn't too sweet on its own. And the addition of Greek yogurt make the cake nice and moist so it doesn't become too dry the next day.

Although my husband initially said that his favorite coffee cake flavor is cherry, he stated that this peach one was up there and may even have overtaken it into the #1 position. If you have some fresh peaches, I highly recommend this coffee cake. It is absolutely divine.

Peach Greek yogurt coffee cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 2%)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (I did not peel mine)  
DirectionsPreheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan and set aside (I used a silicone 8x8 inch pan and did not grease).

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar on medium high speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Decrease the mixer speed to low and individually add the eggs until the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the second. Add the Greek yogurt and vanilla, and continue beating until the batter is uniform and smooth.

Gently and slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. Do not overmix.

In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining ½ cup sugar and the cinnamon together.

Transfer half of the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula or off-set spatula. Add half of the peaches on top of the batter and then sprinkle half to two-thirds of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Repeat: add the remaining batter, peaches and cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake in your preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (Mine baked for 55 minutes). Allow the cake to cool slightly before serving.

Coffee cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: One 9x9 or 8x8 inch cake

Source: Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker; originally adapted from Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Honey lavender ice cream


I've spoken ad nauseum about our CSA, Dominion Harvest. I love this subscription because I receive boxes of produce once every two weeks, and it always includes locally made cheese and farm fresh eggs. Plus, they deliver to my house, and I don't have to pay for weeks when I am on vacation. On top of all that, they also email recipes that feature the produce that you receive. Are you sold yet?

One of our CSA boxes included a bunch of fresh lavender. I had never thought about using lavender in cooking until I attended a cooking class for my friend Katie's birthday party. We baked a very memorable buttermilk lavender cake for the class, and I have yet to recreate it at home (I'll be sure to share the recipe once I finally bake it). I wasn't quite sure what to do with the lavender but was thrilled to see that a honey lavender ice cream was included in that week's recipes.

The ice cream base was only slight more high maintenance than the ice creams I've made previously. It requires the custard to steep for half an hour with the dried lavender. Unfortunately, both my husband and I thought that the ice cream was too lavender-y. He took one bite and immediately spit it out.

Unless you are a super fan of lavender (and I am not exaggerating one bit... you have to be SUPER FAN), then please follow the directions as-is. Otherwise, I'd recommend cutting back on the lavender significantly (to perhaps 1 tsp) and only steeping for 10 minutes or not steep at all. The level of sweetness is perfect though, but unfortunately, that is all that is perfect about the recipe below. My former manager also received a bunch of lavender in her CSA delivery, and she tried the ice cream recipe like I did. She and her husband both also thought that the ice cream had too much lavender flavor, so I'm not trying to pull your leg. Please take my notes into consideration if you decide to make this so your tastebuds aren't overwhelmed with the fragrant floral taste.

Honey lavender ice cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half (I subbed with 1 cup of heavy cream)
  • 2/3 cup mild honey
  • 2 TBSP dried edible lavender flowers (you can find these at Penzey's but you have to ask them at the cash register; they are not displayed in-store)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Directions
In a medium-sized heavy saucepan set over medium heat, mix the cream, half-and-half, honey, and lavender and allow it to come to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the stove and cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the mixture to rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes. 

Strain the mixture through a sieve or strainer and discard the lavender.

Heat the mixture in a clean medium-sized heavy saucepan over medium heat.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and the salt. Temper the egg mixture by slowly adding the warm heavy cream mixture into the eggs and whisking them together. You'll want to add about 1 cup of the heavy cream mixture into the eggs. Once you've added about 1 cup of cream into the egg mixture, pour the egg/cream mixture back into your saucepan and whisk together to combine. Keep whisking until the temperature reaches about 170°F to 175°F on a thermometer. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula. It is important to NOT let the custard boil!

Turn off the stove, remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the custard through a fine-meshed sieve or strainer into a clean, large bowl. 

Allow the custard to cool before covering and transferring to the refrigerator. Chill the custard in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to overnight (preferred).

Once the custard has properly cooled, transfer to your ice cream maker and churn according to your manufacturer's directions.

Finally, transfer the ice cream into freezer-proof containers and freeze.  If you prefer soft-serve consistency, you can eat the ice cream as soon as it is done churning in your ice cream maker.

Yield: About 1 quart

Source: Uncited emailed recipe from Dominion Harvest; original source appears to be Epicurious.com

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Skating Fridays

The Harness and I Do Not Get Along

I may have mentioned in a previous skating post that I have traditionally not used a harness in any of my skating or training. One of my former coaches had a belief that skaters' bodies get used to the safety of the harness and have a difficult time translating it to the ice. Once that physical safety net is removed, the mind has a hard time executing because it knows that there is nothing to prevent the body from taking a hard fall. And then the mind and body both freak out.

I believed that theory and therefore began my axel (and some double jump) training on the ice. I took many falls, a few of which resulted in some severe sciatic pain (I was out of commission for a least a month each time and could not stand up straight or sit/walk without chronic, shooting pain). But you know what this taught me? Not to be afraid. Adults in general have more fear about falling and injuring ourselves since our bodies don't heal like they used to. Fear is a good thing, but not when training for a jump like the axel.

After switching to Coach B, she wanted me to practice the jump in the harness. We did several off-ice drills and on-ice exercises and preparations. She thought that the harness would help me perfect the jump.

Well... not so much. I had a fantastic off-ice lesson about 15 minutes before she put me in the harness, and I was confident that it would easily translate onto the ice. To say that it was an utter failure would be the understatement of the year. I'm not sure if it was the way I jumped or the way Coach B pulled on the harness or a combination of all of the above (plus some misalignment of the planets), but I did not land a single jump. I couldn't even do a waltz-backspin while strapped in the harness, and this is an exercise I can easily pop in my sleep.

What I did end up with was a severely bruised knee and a cut on my leg from my blade. So yes, you can get injured while in the harness and manage to cut yourself.

I haven't been in the harness since but have been landing the jumps more than 50% of the time. Some of them are even a bit over-rotated, so I guess that is a good problem to have. In the meantime, I'm going to avoid the harness like the plague since I don't think it's helped me much at all.

Do you have any success or failures from using the harness?

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