Sunday, September 29, 2013

Frozen banana pops

 
Addie is very into Dora the Explorer these days. She even requests to watch the Dora television show on a daily basis. Addie received a workbook, Dora's Healthy Habits, as a present earlier this year from a family member. The book talks about how kids should exercise, eat right and stay clean. One of the pages inside the publication also included a recipe for banana pops. This definitely caught the attention of my 3-year old and she kept asking to make these pops.

Since Dora's recipe called for the bananas to be dipped into peanut butter (which I don't eat), I decided to dip them in chocolate instead. I found an easy recipe that she and I could try one morning and enjoy later on in the day.

We covered our pops in rainbow sprinkles but also tried regular sized M&M candies too. The M&M candies were actually too heavy and kept sliding off the chocolate. If you decide to go the M&M route, try the mini M&Ms instead.

Addie had a blast making these with me, and she had an even more fun time eating them. This is definitely a fun (and somewhat healthy) treat to make with kids and is absolutely toddler-approved.

Frozen banana pops
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 TBSP flavorless oil (corn, vegetable, canola, safflower, a light olive oil or coconut oil)
  • 2 large ripe bananas
Directions
Line a standard baking or cookie sheet with waxed paper, parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Cut the bananas into thirds. Insert a popsicle stick into the banana (length wise). Put the banana on the baking sheet and transfer to the freezer for about 30 minutes.

While the bananas are freezing, transfer the chopped chocolate to a small saucepan. Heat the chocolate and the oil over low to medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Do not allow the chocolate mixture to simmer or boil. Alternatively, you can heat the chocolate and oil in the microwave in 15-second increments. Transfer the chocolate to a small bowl with high sides (for easier dipping).

Once the chocolate mixture is ready, remove the bananas one by one and dip into the melted chocolate mixture. If desired, you can roll the chocolate-coated banana in sprinkles, miniature M&Ms (the large ones will fall off - we tried), chopped nuts, coconut or anything else you like. Place the dipped bananas back into the freezer for another 30 minutes.  

The frozen bananas can be stored in an airtight container for about one week. The bananas will be hard once removed from the freezer, so place them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. 

Yield: About 6 frozen banana pops

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Skating Fridays

Competition weekend!

This weekend is the big competition. I'm a bit excited and nervous at the same time. I need to remember to treat this like a flute audition, flute jury (a "final exam" where you perform your pre-selected piece) or regular music performance. As long as I continue to think positive thoughts, my body will know what to do. It's well trained and knows how to perform all the jumps, spins and connecting footwork. It's just muscle memory from here. I also need to remember to smile and have fun!

I am going in with little to no expectations on the Adult Gold program since this is my first competition as a singles skater. My hope is to get a baseline of my IJS scores to see if they are competitive enough to do well at Sectionals and Nationals.

The duet, on the other hand, should be a hoot. We are hoping to appeal to the judges and earn a place on the podium (we are competing against 3 other duets, including skaters on the standard testing track).

Fingers crossed that I do well. I'll be back with an update - and hopefully some videos - next week. Or, you can follow me on Facebook, where I will probably post my results first.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oatmeal cream pie cupcakes

Can you believe a whole month has gone by? That means that it's time for another What's Baking challenge. This month's hostess is Sandra from She Cooks and Bakes, and the theme she has chosen is Back to School. We were asked to bake one of our favorite childhood dessert, but incorporating a modern twist to it. I am ashamed to admit that I was almost going to opt out of this month's challenge because all I could think about was ice cream (it was and still is one of my favorite childhood desserts), and since ice cream wasn't baked, I wouldn't have anything to contribute this month.

Then I remembered that I used to devour Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies like nobody's business. I'm pretty sure I bought a package of these every time we went to the grocery store, and I ate one every day for lunch. Come to think of it, there is a good possibility that I may have eaten these for breakfast too... Anyway, my modern twist on the oatmeal cream pie is that I made them into cupcakes. Since cupcakes are still popular, what better way to celebrate my old snacktime favorite than to turn them into cupcakes?

The texture of the cupcakes was almost spot-on. I know I haven't eaten a Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie in over 15 years, but I can distinctly remember the slightly chewy texture from the oatmeal. The frosting, in my opinion, was too sweet. Although I used the full recipe below, my frosting was too runny. I tried fixing it by adding more powdered sugar. And then balance out the sweetness, I added more salt. Unfortunately, the frosting was still too sugary.

Overall, the cupcakes were good and definitely had the taste of an oatmeal cream pie from my youth. If you make these, consider scaling back on the marshmallow fluff or look for another marshmallow buttercream recipe. This one is a tad too runny and sweet and could certainly use a bit of tweaking.

Oatmeal cream pie cupcakes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup quick cooking rolled oats (I used regular oats)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  •  1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Marshmallow frosting
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 and 1/2 ounces marshmallow fluff
  • 3/4 cups shortening, butter flavor (I used unsalted butter as a substitute)
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners and set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, boil the water. Once the water has boiled, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Stir in the oats and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.  
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed.  

Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is uniform. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour (dry) mixture. Mix until just incorporated - do not overmix.

Finally, add the oatmeal and mix until the oatmeal is just incorporated. You do not want to overmix the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake in your preheated oven for 16-20 minutes. Once cupcakes are done baking, turn off the oven, remove the cupcakes and allow them to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frostingIn a small bowl, mix the hot water with salt until salt is dissolved.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat the marshmallow fluff with shortening/butter on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer back to medium-high speed and continue to beat until the frosting looks light and fluffy. Add in the salt water mixture and continue beating until combined.  
Frost the cupcakes with the frosting once the cupcakes are cool. 

The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days.

Yield: 24 cupcakes (Note: I halved the cupcake recipe and got 10 cupcakes; I used the full frosting recipe though since the halved recipe was not enough to frost my 10 cupcakes)




Source: Did Someone Say Party?

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cosmic brownies


My friends at OXO recently contacted me about a Cookies for Kids' Cancer program that they are sponsoring to help raise funds for pediatric cancer research. I have had several friends and family members affected by cancer, so obviously agreed to participate in this cause.

For every specially marked item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as part of its $100,000* pledge to Cookies for Kids' Cancer. (Look for specially marked OXO products at participating retailers.) You'll see a green sticker like this one below:


 
To help raise money for this awesome cause (OXO will be donating $100 towards the cause for my blog post), I decided to bake up some Cosmic brownies that I found online. I used to eat Little Debbie's Cosmic Brownies quite a bit growing up but always picked off the nuts. This version is nut-free, but you are welcome to add them if you are a fan of them. 

These brownies were straight-up awesome. The brownie layer was incredibly fudgy, and the frosting/ganache was simply out of this world. My husband took some brownies to his swimming friends one morning, and everyone was fighting for a slice. He actually had to turn some people away because the brownies were claimed so quickly. Yes, my friends, these brownies were that big of a hit, and I know that I will be making this recipe again.

*In 2013, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids' Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids' Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids' Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.


For more information about OXO's involvement with Cookies for Kids' Cancer, visit oxogoodcookies.com, or watch this video. To learn more about this worthy cause, visit cookiesforkidscancer.org

Cosmic brownies 
Brownie layer
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 and 1/2 sticks), melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 TBSP coffee or water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules, optional but recommended
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Ganache
  • 1 and 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
  • 1 cup M&M candies (can use mini M&Ms as well)
Directions
To make the brownies: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and set aside (I used a silicone 8x8 baking pan and did not spray or line with aluminum foil).

In a large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Then mix in the eggs, sugars, coffee (or water) and vanilla.

Add the cocoa powder, instant espresso (if using), and mix the batter with a spatula until the batter uniform and smooth. Finally, add the flour in small increments and gently mix with your spatula until the flour disappears. You don't want to overmix your batter.

Transfer the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in your preheated oven for about 25 to 29 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven, remove the brownies from the oven and let them cool in the pan at room temperature.

To make the ganache: In a medium bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for 1 minute (they might not be fully melted, but that's OK - just let them hang out and rest, but do NOT stir them).

In a small bowl, microwave the cream for 1 minute. Pour the cream over the somewhat-melted chocolate chips and let the two ingredients rest. Again, do NOT stir them.

Using a hand whisk or a lot of elbow grease with a spatula, mix the chocolate and cream together until you achieve a smooth and silky ganache. If the chocolate has fully melted by this point, you can pop the entire mixture into the microwave for about 15 seconds and continue to stir. If the chocolate still isn't melted, microwave for an additional 15 seconds at a time.

Once the brownies are cool, pour the ganache over the brownies and use a rubber or silicone spatula to even out the ganache layer. Add the M&Ms on top of the ganache and cover with aluminum foil. Place the brownies in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until the ganache has hardened - it should not longer be liquidy.

The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for about 1 week at room temperature, up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and about 6 months in the freezer.

Yield: One 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan; About 16 brownies

Source: Averie Cooks

Disclaimer: OXO provided me with some complimentary baking tools for participating in this program and will donate $100 towards the Cookies for Kids' Cancer program, but I did not receive any compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Skating Fridays

Speed and flow - an update on my Adult Gold freestyle program

Coach B asked to see my Adult Gold freestyle program a few weeks ago. She hadn't seen it yet because we have been working on my program elements. Plus, Coach S was the one who choreographed my program so Coach B wanted to see how it was coming along.

The first thing she said to me after I finished was that she wanted to work on the speed and flow of my program. She said that I didn't have much speed because the connecting elements were slowing me down. Also, she said that I looked like I was walking on the ice rather than gracefully gliding.

Nothing like a good old smackdown.

Seriously though, I really appreciated the honest feedback, and Coach B and I started altering parts of the program so that it flowed better. We added a few more crossovers here and there so I could gain speed into jumps, and we also changed up some of the transitions so I didn't lose momentum.

After 30 minutes, my program felt so much better.  I had more energy and skated quicker. At my next lesson, Coach B will work on altering my footwork and the end of the program. My footwork has to span the entire length of the ice, and what we both learned last weekend is that even though the footwork itself only takes up 3/4 of the ice, my flip-toe combination stretches it to the full sheet of ice (from goal line to goal line). In IJS rules, a jump sequence in the middle of a footwork sequence is permitted and legal. Whew.

I'm so thankful that we're making these changes now rather than after the competition. Coach B had been watching other Adult Gold skaters on icenetwork.com and said that the big difference between the ones who placed versus the ones that didn't was how the skaters executed their programs. Required elements aside, the ones who did well had good power and flow throughout the entire 2 minutes and 40 seconds of music. That is something I am striving towards, and I hope to get there soon.

I wasn't sure if there was anybody else who would be skating against me, but I found out that there are two other skaters, both of whom have competed at Adult Nationals and placed (one lady won 1st place in the Adult Gold Ladies 2 division, which would be my level). I need to remember that this is my first competition, so I am using it as a practice to see how I do. Even if I get last place, it is good experience, and then I will know what I need to work on for the next competition. It will also help me determine whether I want to test out of Adult Gold this fall.

One more week to go until the competition!

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Triple chocolate cheesecake

Don't forget to enter my Prevention RD cookbook giveaway!

 
My summer has been so hectic that I haven't been able to participate in many blogger's swaps recently. Thankfully, I had a little bit of time this month and Sarah assigned me Cheese Curd in Paradise (I bet some of you are singing Jimmy Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise right now, right?). Ashley has a lot of fun recipes on her blog, and I ultimately decided to make the triple chocolate cheesecake that I found. My husband and I both like cheesecake, and it had been a while since I've made one so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to bake something super chocolatey for both of us.

Although this cheesecake requires more pots, pans and bowls than your average cheesecake, it was worth it. This decadent dessert has five layers of chocolate-y goodness, and a small slice goes a long way. The bottom layer is a standard Oreo cookie crust and is topped with 3 different cheesecake flavors - milk, white and semisweet chocolate. Then the whole thing is topped off with a layer of chocolate ganache. Yes, this cheesecake will definitely satisfy any chocolate cravings you have...and then some.

My coworkers devoured this cheesecake, and I received a few requests for the recipe. Thank you, Ashley, for this showstopping cheesecake. I have no doubt that this will part of my cheesecake rotation, and I know that it will be making appearances at a family gathering soon.

Triple chocolate cheesecake
  • 18 Oreo cookies
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter, melted 
  • 4 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, room temperature 
  • 1 and 3/4 cups sugar 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 4 oz milk chocolate bar, melted and cooled 
  • 4 oz white chocolate bar, melted and cooled 
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate bar, melted and cooled 
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate bar, chopped
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a high speed blender or food processor, pulse the Oreo cookies until they are fined crushed and resemble sand. If you don't own a blender or food processor, you can put the cookies in a large plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin, wine bottle or other hard object.

Transfer the crushed cookies to a medium sized bowl and pour in the melted butter. Mix until the crumbs are well coated.

Wrap the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with two layers of aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Immediately turn down the oven to 325 degrees F and remove the springform pan in order to allow the crust to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy.  Be sure to stop the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Continue beating the cream cheese and add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time until they are each fully incorporated. Turn down the mixer speed to low and add in the cream.

Evenly divide the cheesecake batter into three bowls. Add the melted milk chocolate into one bowl, the melted white chocolate into the second bowl, and the melted semisweet chocolate into the third bowl. Mix each batter until the melted chocolate is fully incorporated and no streaks remain.

To layer the cheesecake, pour the milk chocolate batter onto the baked cookie crust and spread evenly with a spatula. Next pour the white chocolate batter on top, but be sure that the batters do not mix together. Finally, add the semisweet chocolate on top. Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The cheesecake should be set on the sides but slightly jiggly in the middle. Turn off the oven and crack the oven door open. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven (with the door cracked) for another hour.

Then transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator and allow to cool for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight).

To make the glaze, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl, and pour the hot cream over it. Allow the chocolate to sit for one minute before stirring. Continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the glaze over the top of the cheesecake and spread it evenly across the surface (using an offset spatula is extremely helpful here). Chill the cheesecake for at least another 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: One 10 inch springform pan; about 12-16 servings, more or less

Source: Cheese Curd in Paradise; via The Redhead Baker

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chinese red bean moon cakes (紅豆沙月餅)

Don't forget to enter my Prevention RD cookbook giveaway!



When I was younger, I did not fully appreciate being Asian. What it meant to me at the time were the dreaded 3 hour Chinese School classes on Sunday afternoons, constant jokes involving my last name, other juvenile comments and actions by my peers. Not exactly a cakewalk, in my opinion.

The one thing that I have always enjoyed about being Asian is our love affair for food. Our culture revolves around food, and I believe I have been a big foodie since the moment I grew teeth. One of my favorite times of the year was in September around the Mid-Autumn Festival, or 中秋節. Each year around this time, Asian grocery stores (and talented "aunties" and friends) would offer up moon cakes. These sweet treats are usually baked into a circular shape to signify the unity of families.

I have always wanted to try and make my own moon cakes, but they always looked impossible to create. My mom bought me a moon cake mold on her last trip to Taiwan, so I was dying to try it out. I originally did not want to have to buy any special ingredients for my moon cakes, so I found a recipe online that used regular honey. However, those moon cakes were dense and extremely difficult to shape and turned out more like dense cookies than moon cakes. So, I finally caved and bought some alkaline water (potassium carbonate) at my Asian grocery store. I had to ask a worker where to find it, and it was right next to the soy sauce. I also broke down and purchased a bottle of Lyle's golden syrup at my grocery store.

Although I wasn't able to make my moon cakes turn out as beautifully as I wanted, they were beyond awesome. The sign of a good moon cake is having an extremely thin moon cake skin but having a plentiful filling. Expert moon cake makers can do this quite easily. Since this was my first attempt at making moon cakes, let's just say that I am still very much a novice. My moon cake was exactly how I wanted it to be (minus the aesthetics). The skin was thin with a slightly syrupy taste yet contained a nice chew. The insides were nice and sweet and reminded me of my childhood.

My dear Addie ate two moon cakes as soon as they were made, and my husband liked them too. Moon cakes actually taste better after 1-2 days after baking, but we weren't able to wait that long. Now that I know how to make these, I'll try to make this an annual tradition so I can get back to my Asian roots.

Chinese red bean moon cakes (紅豆沙月餅)
  • 60 grams golden syrup (I used Lyle's golden syrup)
  • ½ teaspoon alkaline/lye water, available at Asian grocers (it is also called potassium carbonate - this is the kind I bought); in Chinese it's called 梘水
  • 28 grams vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 100 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 can of sweetened red bean paste (you can also use lotus paste or salted egg yolks)
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
Directions
In a large bowl, mix together the golden syrup, alkaline water and oil. Using a spatula, fold in the flour in as few strokes as possible. Do not over mix the dough. Using your hands, knead the dough for about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to sit for at least 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

On a clean working surface covered with plastic wrap, parchment paper or waxed paper, roll the dough into a long cylinder. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each portion into a ball.

Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll the ball into a circle about 2-3 inches wide in diameter. Do not make the centers too thin or else the moon cake will tear in the middle.

Using a spoon, add about a spoonful of sweetened red bean paste into the center of each dough disc. Wrap the filling completely with the dough and pinch the seams to seal it. Roll it into a ball and set aside. Repeat with the 11 remaining dough pieces.

Transfer the ball into the moon cake mold and make sure that the non-seamed side is facing up (so the mold can stamp the surface). Press down on the mold, lift and remove the moon cake. Transfer the moon cake to a lined baking pan. Repeat with the 11 remaining balls.

Bake the moon cakes in your preheated oven for about 7 minutes. Then remove them from the oven and brush with the egg wash and place them back into the oven for another 5 minutes. The moon cakes will turn golden brown when they are done.

Moon cakes can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for about a week. They will taste better after 1-2 days and should be served then, if you can wait that long. 

Yield: 12 moon cakes

Source: Christine's Recipes

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chocolate chip cookies and a giveaway


My blogging friend Nicole of Prevention RD recently published her first cookbook - Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking. I've "known" Nicole for many years, as she and I are both active in an online cooking forum (she is also an ice hockey player, so we both spend a good amount of time at our respective skating rinks). Since Nicole is a registered dietician, she took 100 every day recipes and made them healthier by using lower-fat alternatives. Her cookbook is filled with lots of dishes - from appetizers to desserts, and all recipes include nutrition information. .

I have been on somewhat of a chocolate chip cookie obsession lately so I decided to bake her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Instead of using butter in her recipe, Nicole substitutes coconut oil. This is an ingredient that I have heard a lot of good things about but just have not gotten around to trying yet (although I am not sure what my hesitation has been). I finally bought a jar of coconut oil during our last trip to Trader Joe's and had it on hand when I came across Nicole's recipe.

Even though I read and re-read the ingredients and instructions, I still managed to goof up the first batch. I misread the amount of flour in the batter and omitted nearly half a cup. As a result, my cookies baked up flat and spread like crazy. Despite my baking error, the cookies still tasted amazing. The second attempt went much better and my cookies came out looking better than the first batch.

I took these to a party and it got good reviews. Most people did not even know that these were baked with coconut oil until I told them, and they all said that it tasted really good. My husband and daughter both gave these cookies a big thumbs up, so I know that they will be added to the cookie rotation.

And now for some good news - I am giving away a copy of Nicole's cookbook to one of you. All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter entry form below. Please be patient, since the widget may load slowly. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chocolate chip cookies
  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute all-purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup plus 1 TBSP brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  •  10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used a full bag)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet (I used my imitation Silpat).

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

In a small bowl or measuring cup, melt the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Transfer the melted coconut oil and the brown sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Using the paddle attachment and putting the mixer on medium speed, beat together the coconut oil and sugar until it is uniform and well blended. Individually add the eggs until the first one is fully incorporated before adding the second. Add the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Beat until just combined (do not over mix).

Turn off the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

Using a spoon or a cookie scoop (I used a medium cookie scoop), scoop out portions of dough onto your prepared baking sheet. Do not put more than 8 cookies on a sheet because they will spread.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until the cookies are very lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cookie rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be served warm or at room temperature and can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. The baked cookies can also be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for at least one month.

Yield: About 20 cookies (I used a medium cookie scoop)

Source: Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking: 100 Light and Delicious Recipes to Promote Energy, Weight Loss, and Well-Being

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Skating Fridays

Axel progress... somewhat

I'm still working on fixing my axel jump and hope to have it fairly decent in time for the competition at the end of the month. Coach B and I have had a few additional lessons in the harness, and while those have gotten slightly better, I'm not advancing as much as I had hoped. For whatever reason, I seem to perform the jump better on the ice sans harness than doing it in the harness.

I have worked very hard on the entrance to the jump to make sure that my back is straight and that my leg is bent backwards. I am standing up straighter in the jump, but my problem is the landing. My hips and legs open up before I touch down on the ice with my toe pick. The tightest part of the jump should be the landing, but I am anticipating it too early.

Coach B has a few helpful exercises for me to try, so I will need to continue working on those.

Here is what my axel jump looks like right now. I think it has improved since the last videos I showed you, but I'm probably biased.





Thoughts?


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blueberry ricotta muffins


I had a bunch of ricotta cheese left over from the cannoli tart that I recently made. Since I didn't want to waste the ingredients, I decided to bake something with it. The challenge was that I only had one egg in the refrigerator. Many recipes that I found online required 2 or more eggs, so those were out.

My blogging friend Anne at Uni Homemaker shared a few of her ricotta recipes with me, and I was delighted to see that her blueberry ricotta muffins only required 1 egg. Yay! This sounded like a wonderful recipe to try, and I knew that it would make my tummy happy in the mornings (especially since I am back to my boring English muffin breakfast routine).

These muffins were extremely easy to make and did not require a mixer. The muffins had a nice and light crispy exterior and a springy and not-too sweet interior. I enjoyed a muffin right before skating one morning and it certainly hit the spot. These muffins rival the blueberry muffins with Greek yogurt that I love so much. It just has less of a tang because it uses ricotta instead of Greek yogurt.

Thank you, Anne, for introducing me to these wonderful muffins. They are a welcome addition to my otherwise humdrum breakfast routine, and I hope that they will be part of yours too.

Blueberry ricotta muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) frozen or fresh blueberries
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used a silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the egg, vanilla extract, oil, ricotta and milk until everything is fully incorporated and well mixed.

Add your egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.  Do not overmix the batter. Gently fold in blueberries.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 20-22 or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Turn off the oven, remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-7 minutes in the muffin pan before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Muffins can be kept in an airtight container stored at room temperature for 3-4 days. They can also be frozen for at least 1 month.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Uni Homemaker

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Greek yogurt banana bread

My family and I recently returned from a week-long trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My in-laws rented a house in Duck and were kind enough to invite us to spend the week with them at the beach. We went to the Outer Banks for the first time on a similar trip last year and enjoyed the area so much that we decided to return again this year.

One thing that I wasn't quite sure what to expect was the house rental. There were so many things to remember - when to pick up/drop off the keys, what amenities were included, when trash pickup occurred and other a host of other things. We quickly learned that house rentals like ours did not come with many (or any) home necessities like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and basic kitchen condiments. Those were all items that we had to buy on our own.

Food was another big item we knew that we would have to buy. We were provided with an empty refrigerator and pantry and had to fill it with something that our families could eat. Last year, I made and brought blueberry muffin Lärabars, healthy no-bake Thin Mint brownies, and shoo fly pie to the beach house. This year, I decided to bake Greek yogurt blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cereal bars, healthy deep dish chocolate chip pie and this Greek yogurt banana bread.

This bread was wonderful. A few people in the house normally were not big fans of banana bread but said that this was incredibly moist and not too banana-y. The bread itself was only slightly sweet so it wasn't too sugar-laded like many of the banana breads you come across online. If you like nuts, raisins or chocolate chips in your banana bread, I am sure that they would be great additions as well.

Greek yogurt banana bread
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a standard 9x5 inch or 8x4 inch loaf pan and set aside (I used my silicone loaf pan and did not grease).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a stand mixer, beat together the applesauce and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add the eggs and continue to mix until the eggs are fully incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer.  Mix until the dry ingredients are about halfway combined (if you continue beating the dry ingredients, you will end up with hard banana bread).

Stop the mixer and add in the mashed bananas, Greek yogurt and vanilla. You can either incorporate these by hand (using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon) or turn the mixer on low. The key is to not overmix the batter. You want to see some lumps of bananas.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Check at the 1 hour mark to see if your bread is done. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Once the bread is fully baked, turn off the oven and transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.

Bread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.

Yield: One standard 9x5 or 8x4 inch loaf pan

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Skating Fridays

Bling bling

I am very new to the competition scene so I am still learning about the world of competitive skating. Sure, I watch it on TV, but I don't know much about the action that happens off-camera. One aspect of skating competitions that I certainly had no knowledge about was the costuming.

The dress I wore for my Adult Bronze freestyle dress cost less than $50 and it was very simple. It had an empire waist and was red on top and black on the bottom (I skated to a tango piece). My Adult Silver freestyle dress was a little bit more fancy, but it was still considered an off-the-rack purchase. Since the Adult Gold program is a big deal (at least in my mind), I decided to go all out and buy a fancier dress.

My dress is still considered an off-the-rack design, but the manufacturer also added a set of Czech crystals for some extra sparkle. I did not want to pay an additional $300+ get the dress fully embellished so I asked my skating friend K to see if she could help me. K has been "blinging out" all her skating dresses since she was little, so she was fully versed in the blinging (also known as "stoning") process. She and I took a trip to our local craft store and bought a bunch of crystals to stone my dress.

I spent under $30 for all the stones and borrowed the heat gun from K, so my total investment (besides the dress) was minimal. It took a few hours to get everything the way I wanted, but I think it looks pretty awesome.  I won't offer a tutorial here, but my skating friend Sarah recently posted instructions on how she stoned her skating dress (she used glue, whereas I used hot fix stones).

And because I want to keep the final product (and my program) a surprise until competition day, here is just a small section of what my dress looks like.



I'll show you the final dress after the competition. It is super sparkly!


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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fudgsicles

My love for popsicles has not waned over the years. The chocolate lover in me always yearns for the fudgsicle over its fruitier companions. I have been wanting to make my own fudgiscles since the moment my popsicle molds arrived in the mail.

I told my husband about wanting to make fudgsicles and he almost balked at the idea because I had just finished making these peaches and cream popsicles. Of course, he took back his words after devouring his fudgsicle and has been happy with my suggestions ever since. Addie, of course, scarfed down her fudgsicle in near record time.

These fudgsicles are creamy, chocolatey and a better version of the treats you'd get from your neighborhood ice cream cream (or your local grocery store). They are not too sweet but perfectly chocolatey, which is the way I like them. Since this recipe only makes about 3-4 pops, you may want to consider doubling the recipe.

Fudgsicles
  • 2 TBSP semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 and 1/2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Directions
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the chocolate chips and stir until they are completely melted and smooth.

Increase the stove to medium heat and add in the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt. Continue to stir and cook until the chocolate mixture thickens (like a thin pudding consistency).  It should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the mixture has thickened, turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and butter and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Allow the mixture to cool and transfer into your popsicle molds. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until the popsicles are firm and frozen before serving.

To remove the popsicles from the molds, run them for a few minutes under hot water. Alternatively, you can submerge the popsicle molds in a bowl or cup of warm water for a few minutes.

Yield: About 3-4 fudge popsicles

Source: smitten kitchen; originally adapted from On A Stick!

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chocolate chip cookie dough brownies

I bet that most of you are one of those people who like to lick the spoon or bowl after making a batch of cookies or brownies. For whatever reason, I'm not one of those people. I don't know why, but it's just never appealed to me.

Don't get me wrong - I do love some cookie dough or brownie batter ice cream, but I just am not the type of person who likes to clean off the excess batter. My husband and daughter, on the other hand, well - let's just say that they both enjoy having the honors. I foresee some fights in the not-too-distant future between the two of them to see who will get to the spatula first...

I know that I already have these fabulous cookie dough brownies on the blog (excuse the terrible photo), but I thought that these sounded divine as well. My best friend and her family were on their way to visit us, and I wanted to make sure we had something yummy to snack on during the evening of their visit. What could be better than cookie dough brownies? They would be easy to eat (especially with our young kids) and would satisfy any chocolate fan, myself included.

I'm pleased to say that these brownies were a big hit. Addie wanted more, as usual, but the girl has a sweet tooth that rivals her mother's. My one critique is that the brownie base was a bit dry. If you make these brownies, I recommend that you check out the brownie base from the cool mint dessert that my entire family loves and adores. Other than that, the cookie dough and chocolate glaze layers were just as I expected. These brownies definitely hit the spot and was something that both my and my best friend's families all enjoyed.

Chocolate chip cookie dough brownies
Brownies
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3.5 ounces (1 bar) dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cut unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Cookie dough
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 TBSP milk or cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (regular sized chips work too)
Chocolate glaze
  • 3.5 ounces (1 bar) dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper with two sheets (one going vertically and one horizontally so they lay on top of each other and form an X). Make sure that there is an overhang all around. Or, you can use a silicone square pan like I did (I did not grease my pan).

To make the brownie: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt Set aside. In a double boiler (or in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water), melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Alternatively, you can heat the chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30 second bursts, but be sure not to scorch the chocolate.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the brown sugar and mix until it has melted. Slowly mix in the eggs and the vanilla extract. Then slowly incorporate the flour mixture until the the batter is just incorporated - do not over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium to large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in the milk/cream and vanilla and mix until smooth. Slowly add the flour and salt until the cookie dough is nice and fluffy. Turn off the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Set aside. (Note that this can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until you need it.)

To make the glaze: In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir constantly until the mixture is completely smooth. Turn off the heat and set aside.

To assemble the bars: Once the brownies have completely cooled, spread the cookie dough on top and smooth with a spatula, knife or angled spatula. Make the tops as smooth as you can. At this point you can either refrigerate the bars to allow the cookie dough to set or move onto the next step. Pour the glaze directly on top of the cookie dough and smooth the top. Transfer the bars to a refrigerator to allow them to set.

Once the bars are cooled, you can cut them into squares and serve. Bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Yield: One 8x8 inch pan, or about 16 square bars

Source: The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, by Lindsay Landis, pages 39-40

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