Sunday, March 30, 2014

Buttermilk blueberry muffins

Is there anything better than a blueberry muffin in the mornings? I've made two versions of blueberry muffins on this blog (see here and here). I had some leftover buttermilk in the refrigerator and wanted to make some muffins so I made these pretty spur-of-the-moment. 

These muffins were similar to a light and fluffy blueberry pancake. It wasn't too dense or cake-like and was only slightly sweet. I'm glad I used applesauce in these muffins to keep them moist - the original recipe calls for oil, but I couldn't tell the difference. 

I enjoyed these muffins and thought that it was a wonderfully solid recipe. If you happen to have extra buttermilk, bake these up. Your tummy will thank you.


Buttermilk blueberry muffins
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5-2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (or any other berries you'd like)
Directions 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, applesauce and vanilla. Slowly add this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. In as few strokes as possible, mix everything together. When the mixture is about halfway mixed, fold in the blueberries.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Store the muffins in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for several days. Muffins can also be frozen and reheated for later.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Joy of Baking

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Skating Fridays

Nationals Team Send-Off

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In previous years, our rink did not send many adults to the Adult Figure Skating Championships ("Nationals"). I'm not quite sure why. There was one year where I think 3 or 4 adults from our rink competed, but that was long before I even began testing.

This year, we have 5 adults competing at Nationals. It will be neat to go up there and know that I have 4 other people who will be there to cheer me on (and I will be there to support them as well). None of us will be competing against each other, since we are all in different levels and/or age groups.

One of my Nationals teammates organized a wonderful send-off for us this week. She baked a gorgeous cake (as seen above, but with the other skaters' names covered up), which was a chocolate cake filled with a chocolate mousse and decorated with a cream cheese whipped cream icing. Addie came along and ate a piece and my extra frosting. I'm going to ask for the recipe and hopefully can share it with you here.

My teammate also gave us each a goody bag - filled with snacks, a restaurant gift certificate for Boston, champagne, plastic champagne glasses, water with our events labeled on it, candy, ibuprofen and tissues. It was completely unexpected but very much appreciated. I am floored that someone would do something this kind for us, and I am blown away by her generosity.

This same teammate has been to several Nationals before, and she told us about a long-honored tradition after each skater's performance. Audience members throw "tossies" at the skater to congratulate them for a fantastic performance. The tossies are usually small stuffed animals but can be any small gift. We are tagging them with our names and home rink so the skaters can remember us. It is going to be fun to be showered with gifts after my skate, well, assuming that people throw me a few.

I'm still trying to run through my program as much as I can, but it's hard when I work full time. Regardless, I'll be happy to debut it in a few short weeks.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Key lime cheesecake bars

This is probably the first time in many years that we did not get asked by neighbors, coworkers or friends to buy Girl Scout cookies. Thankfully, I still have some in the freezer that are stashed away for a rainy day. To my horror, I saw a box of Savannah Smiles® hiding in our pantry. If you've never had these cookies before, they are lemon flavored wedge cookies that are dusted with powdered sugar. I wanted to find a use for the cookies since we hadn't eaten them.

I also happened to find bags of key limes at my local grocery store. These citrus beauties are a rarity at my grocery store, so I was happy to snatch a bag while I saw them. My one-pound bag only yielded 1/2 a cup of juice, so I sought to find something to do with this liquid gold.

I asked my husband and daughter what I should make with the key limes. My husband said that he wanted bars, but Addie suggested cheesecake. How was I supposed to pick between bars and cheesecake? Well, I didn't. I decided to make cheesecake bars to make both of my family members happy.

The lemon Girl Scout cookies turned into my cheesecake bar crust, and I used all of the juice and zest from the limes for the filling and topping. Surprisingly, Addie did not want to try a bar (silly girl), but my husband and I both liked them. We wanted the bars to be more lime-y, but since my juice was limited, there wasn't more I could have done given my limited resources.  If you make these, I hope your key limes yield more juice so your bars have a more pronounced lime flavor. The other change I would suggest is to halve the crust recipe below so it's not as thick (be sure to shorten the baking time if you do this).

Regardless, these key lime cheesecake bars were great, and it was a wonderful way to kick off the beautiful weather we experienced the day I made these.

Key lime cheesecake bars
Crust
  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers, graham crackers or Savannah Smiles® Girl Scout cookies (I used a combination of the Girl Scout cookies and vanilla wafers)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Filling
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup key lime juice, depending upon how much juice your limes yield
  • Zest from 1 pound of key limes, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions
To make the crust: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease or line 9x13 inch baking pan and set aside.

Mix together the vanilla wafers (or graham crackers or Girl Scout cookies), flour, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Gently and evenly press this into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove the pan from the oven.

To make the filling: In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Add the sweetened condensed milk, the key lime juice and about 3/4 of your lime zest. Mix well.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Pour the cheesecake mixer over the baked crust and bake in the preheated oven for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is no longer jiggly when shaken.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining lime zest.

Allow the bars to cool slightly before refrigerating and slicing. Bars are best served cold but can be frozen and thawed as necessary.

Yield: One 9x13 inch pan (about 24 bars, or more if you cut them into smaller portions)

Source: Adapted from Food.com


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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bailey's Irish cream cupcakes

Holy cow - how is it March already? This year seems to be going very quickly, even though I've been sick for almost every day of 2014. Although it technically just became spring, I feel like summer is just around the corner. I digress... Since it's March, that means it's time for another What's Baking challenge. Coleen from The Redhead Baker is this month's host, and she chose Baking With Irish Cream as March's theme.

I wanted to re-make Irish car bomb cupcakes from several years past (I made them before I started my blog), but I didn't have any Guinness on hand and did not want to buy any just for the cupcakes. Yes, I could have easily drank the rest, but we have a bunch of homemade beer at home that needs our attention first. Instead, I found these Bailey's Irish cream cupcakes that used the liqueur both inside the cupcakes and in the frosting. Yes!

Yes, these cupcakes were good, but as you can see from my photo above, they cracked. The batter was too dry and needed more liquid ingredients. When I distributed the batter into my paper liners, it didn't move. Normal batter should be a bit liquidy, and mine was too thick. I'd recommend adding some milk (or more Bailey's), or even using 3 whole eggs instead of 2 eggs and 2 whites. If you don't want to add milk, you could try substituting Greek yogurt or applesauce instead.

The frosting, on the other hand, was divine. It was smooth, thick and full of Irish cream. If you have any extras (which I doubt you will), you can add some on top of sugar cookies or spread on some pound cake. Or eat with a spoon...

Bailey's Irish cream cupcakes
Cupcakes
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 TBSP butter, at room temperature
  • 2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
Bailey's buttercream
  • 1 cup butter 
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 TBSP Bailey’s Irish Cream
Directions
To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.Set aside.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs and egg whites individually and mix until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and continue to mix.

Turn the mixer down to low and alternately add the flour and Bailey's in 3 additions, starting and ending with flour.

Evenly distribute the batter into your cupcake liners and fill them about 2/3 full. Bake in your preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Beat the butter in the clean bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the frosting is smooth and free of lumps. Finally, add the Bailey’s and continue mixing until it is fully incorporated.

If desired, use a toothpick or fork to prick holes on the top of your cupcakes and use a silicone brush to brush on additional Bailey's.

Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, frost with the Bailey's buttercream.

Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be refrigerated and thawed before serving.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got 12 cupcakes; I used the full frosting recipe and had enough to frost and fill my 12 cupcakes with no leftovers


Source: Erica's Sweet Tooth

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Skating Fridays

Obligatory Fall... Check!

I don't know what it is about me, but I always, always fall before a competition or a test.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm not paying attention to where I'm going, or if it's my body's way of getting out the jitters, but I am guaranteed to fall before a test or a competition. I have a 100% fall rate for these things.

What do I fall on? Usually silly things. Once I fell while gliding on two feet - I tripped in a crater that a high level freestyle skater left from a double or triple jump.  And I can't tell you how many times I've fallen on mohawks before a test.

This time? Well, this fall was a bit more glamorous, I suppose. Earlier in the week, I was getting ready to jump into my axel when I (correctly) hit my toe pick but didn't take off. Instead, I tripped and fell completely forward on both knees. It hurt. Now I have some lovely bruises that perfectly match my purple skating dress. Thank goodness for skating tights, since those should cover up my injuries quite nicely.

Now that the fall is out of the way, I can breathe again. All is well with the world because I have taken my obligatory fall. Hopefully this means that I have met my quota for falling and that I will have a clean skate for both my Freestyle and Dramatic programs next month at Nationals.

Gotta watch out for those pesky mohawks...

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meyer lemon bars

Can I tell you how excited I am now that spring is just around the corner? Fingers crossed that there will be no more snow, viruses or chilly temperatures heading our (and your) way. I think the school-aged kids had about 10 days of cancellations due to snow this year, and I have been healthy for maybe 2-3 days in the entire months of January of February combined. Needless to say, I'm done with winter.

To brighten things up around here, I decided to make some Meyer lemon bars. I'd been looking for Meyer lemons for years and finally found them at my local Trader Joe's this winter. I snatched up a bag and set out to bake these bars to get rid of our winter blahs.

If you're unfamiliar with Meyer lemons, they are essentially a cross between an orange and a lemon. They are small and shaped like lemons (with a lemon-ish flavor and yellowish juice) but have orange-colored rinds. The fruit is sweet yet tart and can be used in place of lemon in many dishes and desserts.

These Meyer lemon bars were wonderful. Addie wasn't a fan because she thought they were too tart, but my husband adored them. He said that the flavors got better each day and that he liked them more and more every time he ate one. I'm still a proponent of the whole lemon bars but these come in a close 2nd place.

I hope spring arrives soon for all of us.

Meyer lemon bars
Crust
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease or line a 9x13 inch baking pan (one with high sides). I halved the recipe and used a standard 8x8 inch square baking pan and lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Stop the mixer and remove the dough from the bowl and transfer to a well-floured surface.Gently form the dough into a ball. Transfer to your prepared baking pan and flatten the dough evenly into the pan and gently press up on all sides so you have at least a 1/2 to 1-inch wall of crust on all sides of your pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the crust turns a light golden color. Remove from the oven.

While the crust is baking, prepare your filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, Meyer lemon juice and flour. Mix well until no lumps remain. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is no longer jiggly when shaken. 

Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting. You may dust the tops with confectioner's sugar for a prettier presentation. Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for about 5 days.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got an 8x8 inch pan (about 16 bars)

Source: So Tasty, So Yummy

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chocolate coconut milk ice cream

As I have gotten older, I've noticed that my tolerance for dairy has decreased. My tummy hurts after I eat too much cheese or ice cream, but it's usually OK in low doses. The same thing happened to my husband. The two of us switched from drinking skim milk to soy milk, and it's made a big difference in our digestive systems. We still indulge in ice cream, of course, but we just don't eat the same amounts as we used to.

I've made a lot of ice cream on this blog, and I thought it would be nice to make a non-dairy (and optional vegan) version. I bought a can of coconut cream from Trader Joe's and wanted to make some ice cream with it, so here it is. If you want to buy coconut cream like I did, be sure that you don't buy "cream of coconut" from the store because those have extra sugar and preservatives added.

This recipe could not have been easier to make. You literally dump everything in the blender, turn it on, and then transfer to a freezer-safe bowl to freeze. That's it. The hardest thing is cleaning the blender (or waiting for the ice cream to chill).

The chocolate coconut milk ice cream was a surprisingly good alternative to traditional ice cream. The coconut cream made the ice cream smooth and creamy and only really lacked the nice, thick texture from the lack of heavy cream. What I liked about this ice cream is that it didn't freeze up with ice crystals like many non-dairy frozen concoctions. I prefer my ice creams a bit on the sweeter side, so next time I may add a bit more honey. Other than that, I'm happy to have found a dairy-free alternative to one of my favorite treats.

Chocolate coconut milk ice cream
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk (I used Trader Joe's coconut cream)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Using a blender, blend all the ingredients together until it is smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm. Alternatively, you can pour the liquid into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's directions before transferring to a freezer-safe container.

Scoop and enjoy. If the ice cream is too hard to eat, let it thaw for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Yield: About 4 servings

Source: Detoxinista

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Skating Fridays

In Need Of New Blades

I bought my current pair of boots and blades about 7 or 8 years ago. I honestly don't even remember how long it's been. This is my first pair of "real" skates since my previous pairs were bought in a hockey (gasp!) shop attached to my home rink. I think I spent $90 on my former skates.

I drove to a skate shop about 90 minutes away to get fitted for new boots and blades. I have wide feet, and the only boot brand that worked for me were Jacksons. I ended up with Jackson Competitor boots and have been very happy with them.

The blades I bought with the boots were Coronation Aces. The skate fitter said that it was a very popular blade that would help me get through an axel and some early double jumps. She was right, because I have been landing axels in these blades and had a few (inconsistent/incorrect) double jumps before I gave birth to my daughter.

Now the blades are finally on their last legs. They have maybe 1 or 2 sharpenings left before they are done.

Coach B said that I should replace them with the same blades, but I'm curious to see if there is anything else out there that might improve my skating. Do blades make that much of a difference, or is it mostly the skater? I'm interested in trying out Gold Seals but the price tag is a bit high. And I don't know the difference between the various models of Gold Seals (parabolic? taper? cross cut?), so I need some help.

Thoughts? Recommendations?  Or maybe, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Brownies with salted caramel sauce

Don't forget to enter my Driscoll's berries giveaway!

I'm not very good at bookmarking recipes from magazines that I want to try. I've subscribed to Bon Appetit for several years now and have only made a handful of their recipes. Addie was rearranging our magazine stash one day when I saw a headline on the cover of the April 2013 issue that caught my eye - caramel glazed brownies. How on earth did I miss this almost a year ago?

I read through the ingredient list, and lo and behold, I already had everything on hand. I found some time on a busy Sunday morning to bake these and asked my little girl to help. She liked seeing the dark chocolate-y brownies go into the pan and kept watching the oven as the brownies baked. When the brownies were done, she said, "Mmm! Those look yummy!"

She was right, of course. The brownies were outrageously good and very rich. I underbaked mine a bit so my brownies would be gooey instead of cake-y. They firmed up overnight and were the perfect texture... almost a melt-in-your mouth kind of brownie. The caramel sauce was ridiculous, and I could have eaten that straight with a spoon. I recommend adding a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt on top of these to cut down on the brownie's sweetness, since you get a double whammy from the bar itself and the caramel sauce.

Yes, these brownies are a bit more complicated than your average brownie, but then again, these aren't your average brownie. These were fantastic and something that I'd make to wow my friends and family.

Brownies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 TBSP instant espresso powder (I omitted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Salted caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
Directions
For the brownies: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch baking pan and set aside (I used my silicone baking pan and did not grease it).

In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and chopped chocolate in the microwave. Heat in 15 second bursts until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir well so that chocolate mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix the eggs and sugar together on medium speed until it is pale yellow. Add in the vanilla extract and continue mixing. Turn the mixer down to low and add the melted chocolate mixture until it is fully incorporated. Then slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until everything is uniform.

Turn off the mixer and add the chocolate chips in by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber/silicone spatula.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with moist crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the salted caramel sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Turn your stove to medium high heat and allow the sugar to boil. Use a silicone spatula to stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, allow the sugar to continue boiling until it turns a deep amber color (about 5-8 minutes). Do not stir the saucepan during this stage. Remove the caramel from the heat and turn off the stove.

Quickly whisk in the heavy cream and butter and continue to mix until the sauce is smooth. The mixture will bubble vigorously. Allow the caramel to cool slightly - it will thicken up a bit.

Once the brownies are fully cooled, slice into 16 squares and drizzle the tops with the caramel sauce. Sprinkle the tops with the flaky sea salt and serve.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. They can also be stored in the refrigerator.

Yield: 16 brownies

Source: Zest! Exciting Food Creations in Indianapolis, via Bon Appetit, April 2013 issue


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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Raspberry lemon ricotta muffins and a giveaway

Blueberry muffin fans, listen up. I think I found something that may rival our beloved breakfast staple - raspberry lemon ricotta muffins. Don't believe me? Well, the texture of these muffins is out of this world. These muffins are soft yet dense, fluffy and pretty much perfect.

My friends at Driscoll's asked me to participate in their #MuffinMadness event during the month of March. I was asked to bake some muffins that highlighted their berries. Originally, I was going to bake some blueberry lemon ricotta muffins, but I couldn't find any blueberries because they were all sold out. So I bought raspberries instead, and I am so glad I did. The raspberries baked up a gorgeous pink color, which brought us some cheer one snowy morning.

If you still aren't convinced and want blueberry muffins instead, be my guest. Swap out the raspberries in this recipe with blueberries (or even blackberries), and I think you'll be very happy. I am absolutely loving the ricotta base in these muffins and can't wait to try making these with other Driscoll's berries.

And now onto the giveaway! My generous friends at Driscoll's want to give you the opportunity to try their berries. One winner will receive a coupon pack to redeem for free Driscoll's berries. All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as sometimes it is slow to load.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Raspberry lemon ricotta muffins
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (I used Driscoll's)
  • Turbinado sugar - for topping
Directions
Use a zester and zest the two lemons. Use your fingers and gently rub the zest into the 1 cup of sugar. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan or use a silicone muffin pan like I did.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and the lemon-sugar mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the ricotta and egg and continue mixing until smooth. Then add in the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer to low and gently and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix - just mix until the flour is fully incorporated.

Turn off the mixer and fold in the raspberries by hand. The batter will be very thick.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin pan and fill about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes or until the tops are a light golden color.

Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container and will keep at room temperature for several days. They can also be frozen and reheated in the microwave.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Southern Fairytale

Disclaimer: Driscoll's provided me with coupons to try their products, and I was given no additional compensation for this post. All opinions, thoughts and reviews are 100% my own.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Skating Fridays

Skating Blogs I Read

In case you are curious, these are the skating blogs that I enjoy reading and following. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
  • Change of Edge - I love hearing about Jules' figure skating adventures. She's based in New Zealand and recently competed at the 2013 Australian Figure Skating Championships.
  • Figure Skating Advice - Gigi skated competitively for 15 years and offers skating advice and lots of DIY projects.
  • Fit and Fed - Mary is a food and skating blogger like myself and has been so supportive of me. Last summer she skated a beautiful program in memory of her dad. I'm hopeful that she'll pass her Adult Gold Moves this year.
  • Footwork and Fancy Threes - Alejeather has lots of great videos of her skating on her blog and on her YouTube channel. She is *thisclose* to landing her axel. Squee!
  • My Figure Skating and Life - Olga is a Russian skater now living in New Zealand. She successfully balances the love of the sport with her young family - what an inspiration!
  • Sarah on Ice - I love watching Sarah's videos to see how she's progressed. She even created a few videos that show her improvement from the first time she tried a new element to the latest attempt. So cool!
  • The Ice Doesn't Care - This is hands-down, the funniest skating blog I've ever read. Author Babbette says things that I'm often thinking, but she manages to make it even funnier by incorporating animated GIFs (usually of cats). My favorite phrase from her: "ice tourists"
  • Thrills, Chills, and Spills - oh my! - Janet and I must be related somehow because we are both flute-playing figure skaters. Otherwise known as the best kind of figure skaters.
  • Waltz Jump - Diane is so good about videotaping almost all of her practices. It's neat to see her improve on a daily basis. I'm uber jealous of her spread eagles.
  • Xanboni - Xan is a figure skating coach and offers a unique perspective on the sport since she teaches skaters.
There are a few more skating-related blogs that I follow, but some of them have not been updated in a while so I didn't include them here. Please share more skating blogs with me so I can check them out.

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Garlic cheddar biscuits

Another month has gone by, and it's time for another Blogger's Choice recipe swap. Our wonderful hostess Sarah of A Taste of Home Cooking assigned me her blog. I was excited to dig through Sarah's recipe archives and discover what to make. I thought I'd try her baked oatmeal, then changed my mind to chocolate crinkle cookies, and finally ended up baking these garlic cheddar biscuits instead. What can I say, other than the fact that Sarah's got a bunch of great recipes on her blog?

We had some chili in the freezer from our mini Super Bowl party, so while that was thawing out, I baked these biscuits. I thought it would be a nice pairing and that the biscuits would be a great way to mop up the chili in our bowls.

These biscuits were very yummy. They were tender and fluffy and paired extremely well with our chili. I could have easily eaten half the batch for my dinner but refrained from doing so. I liked how these biscuits contained cheese and had the buttery garlic sauce on top. These biscuits would also be a nice compliment to seafood or pasta, and I bet they would taste good for breakfast too.

Thank you Sarah, for hosting our Blogger's swap, and also for sharing this wonderful recipe with me.

Garlic cheddar biscuits
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (for topping)
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Seasoned or garlic salt, to taste
Directions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease a muffin tin (alternatively, you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper if you want to free-form your biscuits).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 2 ounces of shredded cheese, sugar, baking powder, salt and garlic.

Slowly add in the milk and mix together - do not overmix. Add more flour or milk if the batter is too wet or dry. The resulting batter should be sticky but not too liquidy or dry.

Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, portion out the dough into your prepared muffin tin (or on your baking sheet). Sprinkle the additional shredded cheddar cheese on top of each biscuit.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits turn a light golden color.

In a small bowl, melt the butter, dried parsley and garlic salt. Use a brush to spread on top of biscuits when they are done baking.

Biscuits should be eaten warm but can be stored at room temperature for a few days. They can also be frozen and reheated as necessary.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got 5 biscuits

Source: A Taste of Home Cooking; originally from Sugared Whisk



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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dutch letter cookies

I've already sung my praises about the Des Moines Farmer's Market. This place is amazing, and I look forward to visiting it every year. When we go, we always order a breakfast burrito, a homemade cinnamon roll and Dutch letters.

Honestly, I'd never heard of Dutch letters until I met my husband. My first reaction when he asked me if I ever had a Dutch letter was, "a Dutch what?" Turns out that I was seriously missing out. Dutch letters are a classic Dutch pastry that is popular around Dutch/Amish towns in Iowa. They have an amazing, flaky and buttery crust and are filling with a sweet, tender almond paste. I had one bite of a Dutch letter and loved it.

Several years later, I attempted making my own. My in-laws were visiting one summer and I had just made some Dutch letters for them to try. Much to my surprise, they turned out pretty well (although ugly). I made them again recently and won the praises of my husband.

If you decide to make these, make sure you chill the dough really well before rolling it out. Otherwise, the dough will be sticky and hard to work with. Don't overfill the pastries or else it will ooze out the side and become hard to shape. And finally, make sure you bake enough of these because they will be gobbled up quickly.


Dutch letter cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP milk of choice
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Slowly add in the ice water and knead with your hands to form a ball. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (preferably more).

In a medium sized bowl, mix the almond paste and granulated sugar together. It will be hard to stir, but keep working at it. Add the egg and mix until there are no more lumps. Transfer to a pastry bag or a heavy-duty zip-top bag with a corner snipped off.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a rough square so it is about 1/8" to 1/4" inch thickness. Cut the dough into strips about as wide as a ruler and about 10-12" inches in length.

Pipe some almond filling onto the bottom half of the long strip. Fold the top half of the dough over and pinch the edges to seal. Make sure no filling comes out. Shape the strips into an S-shape. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. You may have some filling left over.

Brush the tops of your shapes with the milk and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. If you don't have coarse sugar, you can use regular (granulated) sugar.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops turn a light golden brown color.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container and is best eaten on the same day. They will start to get soggy after a day but can be stored in your container for several days. The cookies can be frozen and reheated in the oven as well.

Yield: About 12 Dutch letters

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Salted peanut butter and jelly blondies

Is there a flavor combination more classic than peanut butter and jelly? Probably not, unless you count peanut butter and chocolate. When these salted peanut butter and jelly blondies appeared in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, my husband pretty much stopped what he was doing and asked me to make these.

Luckily, I took a photo of these before my blondies got burnt. I realized that the centers of the bars were a bit underdone, so I turned the oven back on low and popped the blondies in for another 5 minutes. I went upstairs to do something and when I came back downstairs, I smelled something burning. Yup, my beautiful bars had burnt to a crisp, so I was barely able to salvage the lower third layer of my blondies. Le sigh.

After you take these out from the oven, check and see if the middles are done. They should be slightly gooey and will firm up a bit, but please learn from my mistake and do not bake for another 5 minutes. Otherwise, you'll end up with a burnt, smelly mess.

P.S. My husband did like the flavors of these blondies, even though he only ate the bottom third layer. Since I don't eat peanut butter, I didn't taste these.

Salted peanut butter and jelly blondies
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (not all-natural)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, or 8 TBSP) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 TSBP jam of choice
  • 1 TBSP honey-roasted peanuts, chopped (I omitted)
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch baking pan. Set aside.

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

In a separate large bowl, mix together the eggs, brown sugar, peanut butter, melted butter and vanilla. Gently fold into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is uniform.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan. Dollop the jam on top of the peanut butter batter and swirl with a knife. Top with the chopped peanuts and sprinkle the top with the sea salt.

Bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the bars to cool before slicing and serving.  They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Bon Appetit, February 2014 issue, page 24

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