Friday, January 31, 2014

Skating Fridays

Adult Nationals

One of my long-term skating goals is to compete at Adult Nationals. This is an open event that anybody can skate in. Unless, of course, you want to skate in what they deem as the "championship" events. For those, skaters have to compete in their respective sectional (regional) events, and the top 4 from each region get to skate at the championship event.

Since I just passed my Adult Gold freestyle, I don't have time to prep for sectionals, which is being held in March. Instead, I will be spending the next weeks/months altering my program to make it IJS-ready. Maybe next year or the year after I will try to compete at Sectionals, but for now, I am just honored to be skating in Adult Gold.

This year, my plan is to enter the open Gold Freestyle and Gold Dramatic events at Adult Nationals.  I'm pretty sure if I had to qualify for these, I would not have made the cut since I am new to this level.

Adult Nationals is in Boston this year, and I can't wait to go. My skating friend K will be joining me, and she will be entering her level's Freestyle and Dramatic events as well. Time to start training!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's Baking January roundup

This month, I am hosting our What's Baking group. I know that many people choose to eat healthier in the new year and thought that Small Servings would be a great theme for January. You all know that I love to bake, but sometimes it's a bit overwhelming to have something that yields a lot of portions. That is why I pawn graciously gift the leftovers to coworkers and friends.

Take a look and see what my baking friends made this month:

Nicole from Seven Ate Nine baked a wonderful chocolate mug cake that she finally perfected. I'm tempted to make this right now since I am feeling a chocolate craving...(no photo)

Kate from Kate's Recipe Box baked a Reese's Pieces peanut butter cookie for two. This would be perfect for my husband and daughter to share since I am weird and don't eat peanut butter.

Ali from Sparks in the Kitchen made a wonderful cranberry and Meyer lemon strudel for two. I am still on the hunt for Meyer lemons, and once I find them, I need to make this strudel!

Coleen of The Redhead Baker made irresistible tiramisu tarts for two. I love, love, love tiramisu and usually have a hard time eating the entire batch with my family, so I adore how Coleen made this Italian dessert into individual tarts!

Ange from The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen baked chocolate souffle cakes for two. Souffles are on my baking bucket list so I need to make these ASAP (maybe for Valentine's Day).

Amanda, who blogs at Our Italian Kitchen, created these adorable macaroni and cheese cupcakes. Sounds perfect for the Big Game (and every night at our house)!

And last but not least, I baked chocolate cupcakes for two. I loved this recipe since both my husband and I got one cupcake each and no sharing was involved.Sometimes a girl just wants to have her own dessert and be selfish, you know?

Stay tuned for next month's challenge, Red Velvet, which is being hosted by my sweet friend Kim of Just Baked.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chocolate cupcakes for two

This month, I am hosting our What's Baking group and got to choose a theme for our lovely bakers. Since many people have food-related resolutions in the New Year, I thought it would be fun to bake something that only serves 1 or 2 people. Most baked goods serve enough for an army (or one toddler, if I let her) so I wanted all of us to put on our thinking caps and bake something that yields no leftovers.

I already feature a chocolate molten lava cake recipe for two on this blog, and it's a perfect dessert that is ready in 20 minutes (including the prep time). I also have a single serving chocolate mug cake and a 2-minute chocolate and salted caramel mug cake that are great for 1-2 servings. Since I often crave cupcakes and obviously have a love for chocolate, it was only fitting to bake chocolate cupcakes for two during this month's challenge.

I could have tried to adapt my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe but wanted to try something new. I eventually found this recipe and decided to test it out. This is probably one of the easiest recipes I've ever put together since the batter only makes two cupcakes. The frosting was extremely quick to prepare as well. The hardest thing about this recipe was figuring out how to photograph it.

Stay tuned for the roundup of everyone's creations.

Chocolate cupcakes for two
  • 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (just eyeball half of a quarter-teaspoon and it will be fine)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP cold water
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • a small splash of vanilla (about 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1 TBSP chocolate chips, optional
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter, softened (or, if you use salted butter, omit the salt below)
  • 1 TBSP + 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 3 TBSP powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon milk of choice (can substitute with half and half or heavy cream)
  • Pinch of salt

To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with two paper liners and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix the cold water, vegetable oil and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just to combine. You can add the chocolate chips directly into the batter or sprinkle them on top of the cupcakes later. Evenly distribute the batter into the two paper liners (this is when you can top the cupcake batter with the chocolate chips). Bake in your preheated oven for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

To make the frosting: While the cupcakes are baking, melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Add the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk and salt and whisk together thoroughly until the frosting is smooth. Transfer the bowl to your refrigerator and allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes or until the frosting has cooled and is spreadable. Once the cupcakes and frosting are both completely cool, spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes.

If you have leftovers (and you shouldn't, since there are only 2 cupcakes), they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Yield: Two (2) cupcakes

Source: Manhattan Craft Room


Friday, January 24, 2014

Skating Fridays

Homecoming (results of my Adult Gold Freestyle test)

Last fall, I took and failed my Adult Gold Freestyle test. It was a disappointment to say the least, but it was one of the worst skates I've ever had. I've been working on skating with more power and speed and getting my axel more consistent. I looked up local skating clubs to see when the next available tests were. I had the option of re-testing at two different clubs in January, one of which was at the University of Delaware (UD). I felt like this was perfect since UD was where I first learned to skate. It would be a Homecoming of sorts, since I was returning to the place where I first picked up the sport.

Unfortunately, I had a horrible practice and lesson three days before the test. None of my axels were working and my spins were off. It was a bad day. Coach B told me to just do a waltz jump when I ran through the program again so I didn't freak myself out. She said that I was thinking too hard and to just rely on my training.

The day before the test, I drove up to UD for an open freestyle practice. It was one of the most inspirational practices I've ever had. Kids half my age and younger were landing doubles and triples all around me. I tried to stay out of their way since I was clearly the oldest (and one of the lowest level skaters) on the ice. My axels felt good, and everything else was solid. I left the rink feeling very happy and relieved.

Test day finally arrived. I got to the rink an hour before my scheduled warm-up time and found out that they were running 25 minutes early. That meant that I had to put on my skates just minutes after I got to the rink. Coach B wasn't able to be there with me, but a former skater at my rink (and a current UD skater), J, was my stand-in coach for the day. I texted her right away to tell her that the test session was running early, and she said she'd be right there.

J arrived as promised, just minutes before I took my warm-up. I was on the ice with two kids taking their pre-preliminary freestyle test and a man taking his Masters dance test. I was last in the skate order, and the 3 previous tests before me flew by. Next thing I knew, they were calling my name.

I skated to my starting area and took my opening pose. One minute went by, and I heard J calling my name. "Relax!" she said. Apparently the judges were still finalizing something and I wasn't able to go yet. I skated around and then the judges finally acknowledged me and told me to take my position again.

The music started, and off I went. Everything felt good except the axel. I landed it flat-footed and it was under-rotated. Regardless, I kept going and finished the program on time. I skated over to J and then heard the judges say, "Please reskate your axel. Would you like a warmup jump?" I politely declined and just went straight into it. Thankfully, I landed on my toe, and it felt awesome. The judges then said, "Thank you" and I skated off the ice.

I actually wasn't nervous before or during the test. I was, however, a bunch of nerves when I saw the UD volunteer come downstairs with my test papers. I was shaking. He handed the papers to J and said, "Congratulations." My mouth flew open as J looked through each paper.  "Pass... pass... pass."  I got passes from all 3 judges! Holy cow!

I quickly texted Coach B and my skating friend K. I was speechless. I finally reached my goal, and what a perfect Homecoming.

I will cherish this moment and this feeling that I have right now. I'm on an emotional high and don't want to come down from it. Nobody can take this moment away from me, and I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can before I start up my training again.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sausage and broccoli frittata

My family has been on a Bon Appetit kick lately. We have finally started bookmarking recipes from our monthly magazine and made them. My husband was flipping through one of our previous issues and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw this frittata. He immediately called me and asked if we could make it that weekend.

The recipe was simple enough. I had never made a frittata before but it was honestly very simple. Addie cracked all 12 eggs without any assistance (I did have to scoop out a bit of shell, but she did really well overall). She even helped me mix in the milk and cheddar and was proud of her contribution. Addie normally isn't a big fan of baked eggs but had a hefty serving of the "egg pie" that she made.

We all liked this dish because it was hearty and contained some vegetables. I hardly seasoned my frittata since the sausage already contained spices and salt. Both my husband and I agreed that this would be a great brunch dish or something to serve to overnight guests (unless of course, you want to make overnight cinnamon rolls).

Sausage and broccoli frittata
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground sausage
  • 2 heads broccoli crowns, cut into florets
Preheat your oven's broiler.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Mix in 1/2 cup ofthe grated cheddar, salt and pepper.

In a large oven-proof skillet or cast iron pan, cook the onions and sausage until the sausage is brown and the onions are translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the broccoli and additional salt and pepper (if desired). Keep cooking until the broccoli is tender, about 8-10 minutes longer.

Reduce the heat to low and pour the egg mixture on top of the vegetables. Allow the eggs to cook until the sides are set. Wiggle or shake the pan every once in a while to allow the eggs to cook evenly. This will take about 10-12 minutes.

Add the remaining cheddar on top of the frittata and transfer the pan to the broiler. Broil for about 4 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the eggs are set.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the frittata to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: About 10-12 slices

Source: Slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2013 issue, page 120


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Double chocolate bundt cake with chocolate ganache

"I like big Bundts, and I cannot lie. You other brothers can't deny." Yup, I am rockin' it old school and taking you back to the 90s. In fact, the 90s station is my favorite XM channel in the car and you will rarely find me changing the channel. But I digress...

Back to this Bundt cake. I don't own an actual Bundt pan, so I baked this cake in a regular tube pan. I had leftover buttermilk and heavy cream to use up and was craving something chocolate so this is what I found.

The cake was moist, chocolate-y and didn't have the slightest trace of coffee flavor (this is a good thing in my opinion since my husband isn't a fan of coffee; he never said a thing about tasting coffee in this cake). The ganache is obviously the best part. It was super creamy and thick, and I even saved some to eat with a spoon. The only thing I didn't like about the cake was that it was a bit crumbly, so this wouldn't work well as a layer cake. Other than that, it was a solid chocolate cake and received two thumbs up from my husband and I.  
Double chocolate bundt cake

  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 TBSP baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup strong-brewed coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Chocolate ganache
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 TBSP corn syrup
  • 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously spray a Bundt or tube pan with the baking spray and set aside.

In a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt 2 ounces of the chopped chocolate. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the canola oil and sugar until well incorporated. Then whisk in the egg and mix well. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Transfer 1/2 of the cocoa powder mixture, 1/2 of the coffee and 1/2 of the buttermilk into the large bowl with the chocolate mixture. Mix well. Add the remaining dry ingredients, coffee and buttermilk and mix until no lumps remain.

Pour the batter into your prepared Bundt or tube pan and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Place the remaining 3 ounces of chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Add the corn syrup and butter. In a small saucepan, boil the heavy cream. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk well until the ganache is smooth and creamy.

Invert the cake onto a cake plate and pour the ganache over the top. Allow the ganache to set before serving.

Cake should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container and will keep for several days.

Yield: One Bundt or tube pan (about 12-16 servings)

Source: Kate Neumann, via Food and Wine


Friday, January 17, 2014

Skating Fridays

Why I Skate

I received a (handwritten!) letter from a friend recently, and he asked me a good question - Why do I skate? I stopped to think about this and finally came up with an answer. I skate because I love it.

Yes, there are occasions where judges or other critics are involved, but do I really skate for them?  No. Do I skate for medals, points and fame (no, no, and definitely no). I'm not trying to be the next national champion or even anything close to it.  The reason why I skate is because I enjoy it.

Like most humans, I choose to participate in something because I love it and it makes me feel happy. Skating gives me a sense of freedom and thrill. I can't explain the feeling I get when I hit a perfectly centered spin or when I learn a new skill. The rink is the place where I can get away from my daily stress and obligations. The only barrier on the ice is myself. I control my own destiny out there, not bylaws, policies or other people (unless, of course, it's a reckless hockey player who runs into me... ha!).

I find this post (and my friend's question) timely because I will be re-testing my Adult Gold Freestyle this month. Yes, judges will be there to tell me whether I'm skating up to their standards. If I pass, then I will be ecstatic to say that I've crossed something off my 2014 skating goals. If they don't like my skating, so be it. I skate for me, and I don't need a piece of paper to define me. Either way, my love for the sport will not wane and I will continue to work hard and improve at something that I adore.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pumpkin and peach muffins

Almost every week, I try to bring some baked goods to my coaching coach before our lesson. I know that she and her family enjoys my baked goods, and I love getting feedback from them on what they've enjoyed. My coach has a daughter in middle school who apparently is quite the baker herself. At one point, she dubbed me as "mom's favorite student that I've never met."

My coach told me one day that her daughter wanted to bake with me. We found some time over the holidays and both my coach and her daughter came over to bake pumpkin s'mores bars (this was the daughter's favorite dessert to date, and she wanted to make it with me). I had a blast baking with her, and her bars turned out magnificently. I sent them home with the entire pan, minus a few samples for my family.

The pumpkin s'mores bars only used part of my can of pumpkin puree so I wanted to use the rest of it for something else and not let it go to waste. I also had a can of peaches in the pantry so I looked for a pumpkin peach muffin that I could make and finally found them on Delectable Delights. The original recipe also included a streusel topping but I omitted that in order to make these somewhat healthier.

My entire family enjoyed these muffins. Addie normally isn't a big muffin eater but scarfed this down in about 5 seconds. I told my husband that these were fairly healthy (minus the sugar, of course), and that's all Addie kept saying. "Mommy! These are healthy, right? They are good for you!" The muffins had a slightly crispy exterior, and the interiors were moist and thick like a muffin should be. If you are a peach fan, you can add more peaches to the recipe (and even the peach juice from the canned peaches if that is what you are using). You could even substitute the oil with applesauce and swap out some of the white sugar with brown sugar for more depth. All in all, these were yummy and definitely something I'd make again.

Pumpkin and peach muffins
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped peaches (I used canned peaches)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup milk of choice, optional (I used about 1/4 cup of soy milk
* If you do not have pumpkin pie spice, you can make your own by combining 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

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

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin and vegetable oil.

Slowly fold the flour mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture. Add in the chopped peaches and combine gently. If the batter seems too dry (like mine did), add up to 1/4 cup of milk of choice (I added about 1/4 cup of soy milk).

Evenly distribute the batter to your muffin tins. Fill each well about 2/3 full.  Bake in your preheated oven for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days (or can be frozen for several weeks).

Yield: About 18 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Delectable Delights


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spicy brittled peanuts

If there is one thing that I absolutely cannot do, it is making peanut brittle. I've tried making this treat no fewer than 5 times and each time it's been an utter failure. I have used a candy thermometer, but for whatever reason, it hasn't helped. My brittle turns out burnt, too dry, too grainy, too crumbly, or just plain gross.

Imagine my horror when our CSA delivery included a bag of fresh peanuts. I didn't feel like making a batch of fresh peanut butter since we already had some so I found this peanut brittle recipe in my copy of the smitten kitchen cookbook. I had low expectations for this since I am 0-5 when it comes to peanut brittle. I was banking on making it 0-6.

I asked my husband and Addie to help me shell the peanuts. We sat around the kitchen table and had fun smashing the shells and extracting the peanuts. The next day, I put the peanuts in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes so I could get the skins nice and crispy. Once they were cooled, I was able to remove the red skins.

Much to my surprise, this brittle recipe actually worked. I think the main difference is that the peanuts are added much later in the candy-making process and only after the sugar mixture turns into caramel. Deb mentions in her instructions that there is a time when the peanuts will look dry and crumbly, and that readers will want to smack her at that stage. She was right - I was ready to call it a failure until the sugar remelted and turned back into caramel.

My skating coach loved this brittle and I gave her some to enjoy at home. My husband still said that the brittle had a slightly burnt taste, but that is probably because I left the peanuts on the stove for too long. User error, as usual.  But for those of you who have unsuccessfully made peanut brittle before (please tell me I'm not the only one), then this recipe is for you. No candy thermometer required, which makes it that much better. (Note: I did not taste any because I don't eat peanuts, so I cannot personally vouch for the brittle)

Spicy brittled peanuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 cups (280 grams) shelled raw or roasted unsalted peanuts, skins removed
In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda, sea salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the sugar, butter and water on medium high heat until it starts to turn golden brown. Add in the peanuts and stir constantly until the peanuts are fully coated.

In a few minutes, the peanuts and sugar will clump up and look dry and crusty. Keep stirring. The sugar will melt back into caramel after a few more minutes of stirring. Do not stop stirring or else your peanuts may burn.

Once the sugar has melted again, make sure that all the peanuts have been fully coated with the caramel mixture. Turn off the stove, remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly add in the baking soda mixture.

Working as quickly as you can, stir the peanuts and try to get the baking soda mixture incorporated as evenly as possible. Immediately transfer to your prepared baking pan. Use a spatula and break up any clumps as you try to smooth it into an even layer.

Allow the brittle to cool completely before breaking it into smaller pieces.

Brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: About 2 cups of brittle

Source: The smitten kitchen cookbook, pages 286-287


Friday, January 10, 2014

Skating Fridays

Skating "Lefty"

We all know that most people on this earth are right-hand dominant. On the ice, most skaters jump and spin counter-clockwise (CCW).  Not me.

I am right-handed by nature and do everything "righty" except figure skate. How on earth did this happen? Gymnastics. Yes, that's right - gymnastics.

When I was younger, gymnastics was my sport of choice. During my first introduction to the sport, the coaches taught everything clockwise (CW). Everything in the sport, including turns, twists and jumps, was performed CW.

Several years after I quit gymnastics and switched to skating, I continued to go CW. I had no idea that most of the world jumped and spun the other way. Some skating coaches tried to teach me to go CCW, but that obviously didn't work.

Skating "lefty" has been challenging at times. For example, I have to carve out extra space for myself during group classes because I jump and spin the other way. Public sessions are scary because everyone is skating around the rink counter-clockwise.

The other challenge has been learning new techniques or elements with various coaches. I have had to learn how to "flip" their instructions around in my head so I can mirror what they're doing. This can be incredibly frustrating.

Although it's not easy skating as a "lefty" sometimes, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Some of the world's most beautiful and accomplished skaters have all been lefties like me (Ashley Wagner, Carolina Kostner, Todd Eldredge, Alyssa Czisny, Sarah Hughes, and more here).


Old fashioned iced oatmeal cookies

This month I am participating in another recipe swap hosted by Sarah of Taste of Home Cooking. Our theme was Cooking/Baking for the Holidays.  I was assigned Nichole's blog, The Cookaholic Wife. I honestly had a difficult time choosing just one thing to make from her blog since she has so many amazing recipes. At some point, I need to try baking her apple pie for one. I love apple pie, and I certainly don't want to share sometimes, so this would be the perfect excuse to eat the pie all by myself. Heh heh.

I saw Nichole's old fashioned iced oatmeal cookies and knew that I had to bake them. I used to eat these when I was younger and even at the start of my working career. I remember them being nice and chewy with a bit of icing drizzled on the top for a sweet finish. They were similar in taste to oatmeal raisin cookies, only without the raisins.

Nichole's recipe did not disappoint. I shared these cookies with my skating coach and friends, and they all raved about them for several days afterwards. My husband also enjoyed these, and we had a fun time fighting over the last ones.

Thank you, Nichole, for sharing such a wonderful recipe.

Old fashioned iced oatmeal cookies
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon. salt 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 TBSP milk of choice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease or line two standard cookie sheets (or use a silicone baking mat like I did).

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Individually add the eggs until each has been fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and gently and slow add the flour mixture until just combined.

Using a medium cookie scoop (or two rounded teaspoons), scoop out portions of dough on your cookie sheet and space them at least 1 inch apart.

Bake in your preheated oven for 14-16 minutes or until the tops of the cookies turn a golden brown.

Turn off the oven and remove the baking sheet from the oven and set on your countertop to cool.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk. After the cookies have cooled, use a fork (or a whisk) and drizzle glaze on top of the cookies. Allow the glaze to completely harden before storing.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 5 days.

Yield: I halved the recipe, used my medium cookie scoop and got 16 cookies

Source: The Cookaholic Wife; originally from The Novice Chef


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chocolate brownie cookies

When my husband saw this recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine, he immediately bookmarked this. After all, it was a brownie but in the form of a cookie. Better yet, it didn't require any leaveners and only contained 6 ingredients (7 if you add the cacao nibs, which we omitted).

I first baked these at my in-laws' house over Christmas. We already had a plethora of sweets, but I thought that it would be fun to bake cookies with Addie and leave these out for Santa. She helped me whisk the batter and was very excited when Santa left a thank-you note for her about the yummy cookies.

We made these again once we got home, and I found that using a cookie scoop and a baking mat made huge differences. The texture was still chewy and chocolate-y like a brownie, but the shapes were more uniform with a cookie scoop, and it came off the pan easier with the baking mat.

If you aren't sure if you are a cookie or a brownie person, have no fear. This cookie is a perfect mix of both, and you can enjoy both brownies and cookies in one tasty treat.

Chocolate brownie cookies
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 TBSP cacao nibs (I omitted)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Add the egg whites and egg and whisk together thoroughly.

Gently fold in the chopped chocolate and cacao nibs if using.

Use a cookie scoop (or two spoons) to portion out the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. Space them about 2 inches apart.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 14-16 minutes, or until the cookies are puffy, cracked in the middle and set on the sides. They may look slightly underdone, and that is OK.

Remove from the oven and allow them to firm up while cooling.

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

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got 16 cookies

Source: Bon Appetit magazine, January 2014 issue, page 94


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dark chocolate pudding

Addie loves looking at our Bon Appetit magazine. One of the features titled r.s.v.p. is a section where readers request their favorite restaurant recipes. In the January 2014 issue, Addie saw a black and white drawing of what appeared to be ice cream. Naturally, she asked me to make it. Turns out that the picture was of dark chocolate pudding with crushed pretzels on top.

Over the holidays, Addie had some vanilla pudding that her grandmother made. She'd been talking about pudding non-stop and kept asking me to make her some. I finally took out the Bon Appetit magazine and made her the pudding.

This pudding was nothing short of amazing. It was smooth, silky and very chocolate-y. In fact, it is probably one of the best puddings I've ever tasted. Addie had a bowl, and I only allowed her to have half of it so she could save the other half for the next day, and understandably, the girl threw a fit. I'm talking about a high-pitched scream fest that had the ability to wake the neighbors type of tantrum.  Thankfully, she was all smiles again when she got to eat the other half of her pudding the next day, but I still don't think our lesson on portion control got through to her. Maybe another day.

This recipe is from a restaurant called High Cotton in Charleston, SC and was requested by a reader named Suzy in Boca Raton, FL. Now it's something that will be constantly requested by our 3.5 year old.

Dark chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups whole milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I omitted)
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: fresh whipped cream for serving
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and heavy cream. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the bowl and add the vanilla bean pod.

Add the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan (with the cocoa powder mixture) and keep whisking until the mixture is smooth.

Turn the stove on to medium high and constantly whisk the mixture until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and keep whisking for another ~4 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick (enough to coat the back of a spatula). It should resemble a slightly thinner version of regular pudding.

Take the saucepan off the heat and turn off the stove. Whisk in the melted chocolate, butter and vanilla extract. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding.

Strain the pudding through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Then transfer the pudding into individual jars, bowls or containers. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap and make sure to put the plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding so a skin does not form during the cooling process. Place the pudding into the refrigerator and allow to cool for at least 4 hours.

Serve with fresh whipped cream or crushed pretzels if desired.

Keep the pudding covered and chilled in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got enough for 5 servings

Source: Bon Appetit magazine, January 2014 issue, page 12


Friday, January 3, 2014

Skating Fridays

The only thing constant is change

You ever heard the saying that "the only thing constant is change"? Well, it certainly holds true in skating. Just when you think you've perfected something, you are asked to tweak it a bit. Like when I thought my sit spin was good, Coach B asked me to make a minor change to it so I get more efficient at using my energy. That's not that big of a deal, of course, but just an example.

I am planning on retesting my Adult Gold Freestyle later this month, and we've made some big changes to my program. Instead of having intricate connecting steps (that slow me down), we are sticking with good old crossovers and mohawks. Simple, but efficient. Since speed and power are my theme for 2014, we are simplifying my entire program to maximize the flow. We switched around the order of some of the elements and re-mapped the whole thing.  I added another length of the ice to the program so I have maximum ice coverage and utilize every corner of the surface.

One additional change we are making is to my footwork sequence. The old one was fine, but it slowed me down. We are in the midst of altering it so I can appear to be quick, nimble and effortless.

The good news is that Coach B has noticed an improvement in my speed and power, so we are definitely on the right track. The bad news is that since I am skating so fast (at least in my mind), I am getting winded pretty quickly. I am severely out of breath about 1 minute into my 2:40 program. I need to keep running my program to build up my endurance.

Until next week...


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

White chocolate macarons and a cookbook giveaway

I think I ate my weight in food over the holidays. Please tell me that I'm not the only one. I wanted to start this week off with something that's a tad lighter but still full of flavor and texture - macarons. I have made them before, but that was back in the dark ages when I did not own a kitchen scale. My ratios of almond flour to egg whites were off, so my macarons spread like mad. This is my first time making macarons with a kitchen scale, so I had high hopes that things would turn out better.

The kind folks at Skyhorse Publishing sent me a review copy of macaron fetish, and I was blown away by all the different types of macarons. I've never been to a real patisserie with hundreds of macaron varieties, so this is the closest that I've gotten. Author Kim H. Lim-Chodkowski knows her macarons - she has chapters on traditional macarons to savory ones to cocktail varieties. There's really something in the book for everyone!

I was flipping through the book and asked my husband what type to try. I originally wanted mocha, but he isn't a big fan of coffee-flavored things so we chose white chocolate instead. The recipe was very straightforward, and my macarons came out beautifully - hooray! I'm telling you... the kitchen scale makes a world of a difference when it comes to these cookies. I did not bring my egg whites to room temperature or do anything else crazy or special, and they turned out just fine.

The macaron shells baked up perfectly crispy on the outside and had a nice chew on the inside. The white chocolate filling was smooth and creamy, and it felt like a lighter dessert to partake in after all the calories I consumed last week. I can't wait to try more flavor combinations from this cookbook.

And now onto the giveaway... One of you will win not one, but TWO cookbooks! You will receive a copy of macaron fetish and one copy of Little Sweets and Bakes (I will be featuring a recipe from Little Sweets and Bakes in a future post). Simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Be patient since sometimes the widget is slow to load. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

White chocolate macarons
Macaron shells
  • 1/3 cup + 4 teaspoons (50 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30g) almond flour
  • Silver powder food coloring, optional (I did not use)
  • 1 egg white (40 g)
  • 2 and 1/2 TBSP (30g) superfine (granulated) sugar
White chocolate filling
  • 1.75 ounces (50g) white chocolate, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons (20g) heavy cream
To make the macaron shells: Using a blender, finely blend the powdered sugar, almond flour and powdered food coloring. Use a sieve to sift out any large pieces of almond remaining and toss them out. Transfer the dry ingredients to a large bowl.

In the bowl of a spotless stand mixer (or in a large clean bowl if using a handheld mixer), beat the egg white on high speed until it is frothy. Add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on high speed until you reach stiff peaks. The egg white mixture should be very smooth and shiny.

Turn off the mixer and slowly transfer the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients and use no more than 60 strokes. Your macaron shell mixture is ready once you lift your spatula and the mixture falls back onto itself like lava.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip (if you don't have a piping bag, use a ziploc bag with the end snipped off).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Gently squeeze out some batter from the piping bag onto the lined baking sheet in a vertical motion. Pipe until the batter forms a circle about 1/2" to 1" in diameter. Pipe the remaining circles on the sheet.

Lift the baking pan up and rap on the counter several times to get the air bubbles out. Allow the tray to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Bake the macarons for 12 minutes and allow the shells to cool before removing from the baking pan.

To make the filling: In a small saucepan, heat up the heavy cream until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and turn off the stove. In a double boiler (or in the microwave in 30 second increments), melt the white chocolate. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl with the white chocolate and whisk vigorously until the ganache is smooth and free of lumps. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow it to cool for at least an hour so the ganache hardens a bit.

Once the macaron shells are cool, pair them up by size. Pipe a round of filling into the middle of one of the shells and top it with the other shell. Continue until all shells have been used.

Macarons should be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will keep for about 5 days. Macarons are best enjoyed the day after they are baked in order for the flavors to develop.

Yield: About 12 one-inch macaron cookies (with filling); otherwise, it makes about 24 macaron shells
Source: macaron fetish, by Kim H. Lim-Chodkowski, page 20



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