Wednesday, April 30, 2014

8 egg white Funfetti cupcakes and (7 minute) frosting

Would you believe me if I told you that I baked 7 dozen cupcakes this month? It's true. I baked over 2 dozen for Addie's birthday, 3 dozen for her joint birthday party, and just under 2 dozen here. I sound like a crazy cakes baking fiend, don't I?

The ~2 dozen I baked here was to celebrate my successful skating at Adult Nationals. I wanted to do something nice for my coach and my skating friend since they've given me so much support over the past few years. What better way to celebrate than with Funfetti cupcakes from scratch?

I had 8 egg whites left over from making the peanut butter honeycomb pie. This recipe uses 8 egg whites - 6 in the cupcakes and 2 in the frosting. The cupcakes are light and airy like an angel food cake, and the frosting is similar to marshmallow fluff. Both my skating friend and coach were very appreciative of these cupcakes, and I hope they know how much I appreciate their help.

Funfetti cupcakes
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 and 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 TBSP (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sprinkles
7-minute frosting

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a small bowl or in a measuring cup, mix together 1/4 cup of milk, the egg whites and the vanilla. Mix well and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed. Slowly add in the butter until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Add in the remaining 3/4 cups of milk and mix well on medium speed. Turn the mixer down to low and add the milk mixture in 3 separate additions, mixing well after each. Stop the mixer and slowly and gently stir in the sprinkles, being careful not to let them bleed to much into your batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg whites on the highest speed until they are foamy and thick. At this stage, the egg whites will not hold a peak. Turn the mixer off and allow the egg whites to rest while you prepare the sugar mixture.

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, mix together the sugar, cream of tartar, water and salt. Continuously stir the mixture until all of the sugar has melted. Do not allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat.

Turn the mixer back on high speed and slowly but carefully pour the sugar mixture in a steady stream into the mixing bowl. Continue to beat on high speed until all of the sugar mixture has been fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until the frosting is thick and will hold a peak.

Frost on cooled cupcakes.

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

Yield: I got 21 cupcakes and more than enough frosting to generously decorate all the cupcakes (the frosting should be enough to decorate 24 cupcakes)

Source: Cupcakes from Cook Like a Champion; frosting from King Arthur Flour

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cranberry orange muffins

Addie is a big Disney fan these days. Everything she owns is Disney or princess-themed. We have princess cups, utensils, a floor mat, toothpaste, pillow, stuffed Disney characters and just about everything under the sun. I really need to invest in some Disney stock, come to think of it...

We were eating dinner one day, and my husband and I added some sweetened dried cranberries to our spinach salad. Addie was looking at the packaging and noticed that Mickey Mouse was on the front. Naturally, she asked what Mickey was doing on there, and it looked like he was promoting some Disney-inspired recipes that were on the back of the package. We turned it over and saw some muffins above the nutritional information.

Next thing I knew, Addie was asking me to bake these muffins, which we nicknamed "Mickey muffins." She asked me about them every day until I finally made them. When I offered her a muffin to try, she snarfed it down in about 3 bites. And every day after that, she asked for a Mickey muffin to eat with her meal.

One criticism that I had for these muffins were that they were a bit too crumbly. The muffins produce a small, flaky crumb that will get all over your floor (this is definitely speaking from experience).  I tend to like my muffins a bit more cake-like with a studier base, so these were just OK from my perspective. The flavors were good, but I would personally add more liquid/Greek yogurt into the batter if I were to make it again. But, since these muffins were Addie-approved, it was worth baking.

Cranberry orange muffins
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries 
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin tin (you will need 2) with paper liners, or use a silicone muffin pan like I did. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a medium bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and lemon extract on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add 3 tablespoons of the flour mixture with the last egg. (The mixture may appear curdled, but that is OK) Continue mixing for 3 to 4 minutes, or until creamy.

Turn the mixer to low and gently add in the remaining flour mixture, orange zest, and cranberries, mixing until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Evenly distribute the batter among the 15 muffin wells and fill them 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


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

Yield: 15 muffins 

Source: Craisins.com

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Skating Fridays

Detailed Breakdown of my Freestyle Scores from Nationals

Last week I shared with you that I earned 22.22 points in my Gold Freestyle program at Adult Nationals. Today I'd like to break that down so you can see what elements I executed and how those points were earned.

Here is the video, as a reference.



And here is my protocol, which is a fancy way of saying score sheet.


The top section lists out my executed elements, so here is how to interpret the marks.
  • SSp2: I did a sit spin, with two difficult variations (cannonball position and back tuck), so I earned a Level 2 spin. Four judges gave me a '1,' which  means that I did it better than average, so I earned a positive Grade of Execution (GOE). For this spin, I earned a total of 1.90 points.
  • 1A<+1T: This is my axel-toe loop combination. The < symbol means it was underrotated, so that is why you see negative numbers in the judges' scores. I got negative GOE, so I earned 0.80 points for this combination.
  • 1Lz+1Lo (e): The 'e' means that I took off on the wrong edge, so I performed a flip instead of a lutz (skaters call these "flutzes"). I got negative GOE because I flutzed and earned 0.94 points.
  • 1S: My single salchow. I earned the base level for this and got 0.40 points
  • ChSq1: Choreographic sequence. Judges didn't like this as much, so I got negative GOE and earned 1.70 points
  • CSSpB: Change foot sit spin, base level. I was hoping for a Level 2 spin since I had two "features" on this element. But, my coach said that I didn't get low enough on the back sit spin to count, and I didn't fully complete the 3-turn going into it. That is great to know so I can fix this for the next time.
  • 1Lz+1T+1Lo: My lutz-toe loop-loop combination. I know I botched this, and that is why you see negative GOE and an 'e' for taking off on the wrong edge. Regardless, I earned 1.41 points.
  • 1F: Single flip. It was as expected, so I earned 0.55 points
  • CCoSpB: Change foot combination spin, base level. I was hoping for positive GOE on this, but I guess I didn't deliver. I earned 1.46 points.
In the lower section of the score sheet, the judges ranked me on my skating skills and execution. My scores were in the 1 and 2 ranges, which isn't that great. I need to make my transitions more difficult and emote more energy and "sell" the program better. Those are definitely things I can work on, and hopefully they will improve with time.

The woman who placed first in my event earned 33.06 points, so I still have a ways to go. But, it's been a wonderful learning experience and now I have information on what I need to improve. The top skaters earned about 14 points in the technical elements (I earned 10.64), so I am not too far behind with my jumps and spins. I need to improve the most in my skating skills, so that is helpful to know.

Hope this has been enlightening and that my explanations are helpful. Next week's post... the S.T.A.R.S. program recap!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and a giveaway

Are you tired of my chocolate cupcake posts yet? This is the 2nd one in a week, so apologies if you are not a chocolate or cupcake fan (if you aren't, then I'm sorry - we can't be friends. Just kidding.)

This past weekend was Addie's joint birthday party with her classmate. She asked me to make another batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and rainbow sprinkles for her celebration, and I happily obliged. Since I didn't want to repeat a chocolate cupcake recipe from before, I found this one online. The ingredients and instructions are very similar to the Hershey's recipe that I adore so I knew this would be a winner. Plus, I got to bedazzle Addie's cupcakes with these fabulously awesome glitter magenta pink cupcake wrappers from Bella Cupcake Couture. Are these super cute or what? I had a difficult time deciding which gorgeous cupcake wrappers to use for Addie - I want one of everything.

And how did the birthday girls and their friends like their cupcakes? Let's just say that they and they parents devoured them. I brought almost 3 dozen to the party, and I hardly had any left to take home. The cupcakes were a huge hit.

And now onto the giveaway!  My friends at Bella Cupcake Couture want to give one of you some cupcake wrappers to decorate your next batch of cupcakes. Do you want to get glittery ones like I have above, or are you more of a polka dot kind of person? All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as it is sometimes slow to load. Good luck, and may your cupcakes always be beautiful!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chocolate cupcakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder (I omitted since I was serving cupcakes to kids)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  •  ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup boiling water
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder (if using). Alternatively, you can whisk this by hand in case you don't want to get flour and cocoa powder all over the floor.

Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla and mix on medium high speed. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute. Turn the mixer off, add the boiling water, and mix by hand until the batter is no longer watery (or, you can very carefully stream the water into your bowl with the mixer on low speed - I found that the water splashed everywhere when I did this, so I mixed by hand first). Then turn the mixer on medium speed and beat until well combined.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin tin and fill them about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Since I tripled the recipe, I had to bake closer to 24 minutes until my cupcakes were done. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

I made a basic vanilla buttercream frosting and tinted it purple. I creamed 3 sticks of unsalted butter and added 3-4 cups of powdered sugar. I added heavy cream until I achieved the consistency I wanted for frosting. Then I added 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 4 drops of red food coloring and 4 drops of blue food coloring in order to make the frosting a light purple. You can also use food gel instead of the food coloring.

Yield: 12 cupcakes (I tripled the recipe and got 36 cupcakes)

Disclaimer: My friends at Bella Cupcake Couture sent me some cupcake wrappers to try, and I received no additional compensation. As usual, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Source: Add a Pinch

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peanut butter honeycomb pie

I am still in shock that I am now the parent of a 4 year old. How did that happen? Wasn't it just yesterday that I was headed to the hospital? My little girl is definitely opinionated and loves her desserts. One of her favorite things to do is flip through my Bon Appetit magazines and pick out things I need to make for her. She was browsing an issue one day when one of those subscription cards fell out of the magazine. On it, was a photo of a peanut butter honeycomb pie. She stopped what she was doing and yelled, "Mommy! I want you to make this!"

My husband came over to see what Addie was referring to, and he immediately agreed that I had to make this pie. It looked simple enough, and I had all the ingredients. I omitted the honeycomb and salted peanut topping to scale down the calories in this already super-rich pie.

Since I don't eat peanut butter or nuts, I did not taste any of the pie. My husband said that the flavors were great, but the peanut butter custard was too runny for him. He said that it had the consistency of pudding, but he expected something a bit more solid. He noticed that the pie was a bit on the sweeter side, and I am thinking it's due to the sugar that is already in the peanut butter. So, if you like your desserts a tad on the sweet side, follow the recipe below. Otherwise, you can consider omitting or reducing the 6 TBSP of sugar in the filling.

Despite his constructive criticism, my husband still happily ate this pie (and continues to eat it). Take that for what it's worth.

Peanut butter honeycomb pie
Crust
  • 9 graham crackers, coarsely crushed
  • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Filling
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 12 TBSP sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Topping
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
  • 2 and 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • Optional: 1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

In a food processor or blender, pulse the graham crackers, brown sugar, salt and nutmeg until you achieve fine crumbs. Transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add in the melted butter and mix until the crumbs resemble wet sat. Transfer the crumbs to a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and push the crumbs onto the bottom and sides of the pie plate. You may want to use a spatula or the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust firmly into the pan.

Bake the crust in your preheated oven for 15 minutes. You won't need the oven again, so turn it off.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), mix the egg yolks and 6 Tablespoons of the sugar until ribbons form, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, mix together the milk and remaining 6 Tablespoons of sugar. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Add the empty bean to the saucepan as well. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Turn the mixer back on to low speed and slowly and gently pour the hot milk mixture into the stand mixer bowl with the egg yolks. Once all the milk has been added, turn off the stand mixer and pour the entire mixture back into your medium saucepan. Let the mixture come back to a boil while you whisk constantly.

In the meantime, clean the bowl of your stand mixer - you will need it again in a bit.

Once the mixture in the saucepan comes to a boil, turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat. Whisk vigorously for about a minute. Then pour the mixture back into the (clean) bowl of your stand mixer (or another large clean bowl if you are using a handheld mixer). Beat the custard on high speed for about 4 minutes or until cool.

While the mixer is still going, add the butter one Tablespoon at a time. Then add the peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt. Keep mixing until the custard is uniform.

Pour the peanut butter custard into the baked pie crust and transfer to your refrigerator. Allow it to cool for at least 2 hours or until the pie is firm.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Drizzle on top of your cooled pie. Garnish with peanuts, if desired.

The original recipe included honeycomb pieces, but I omitted it. You can certainly add it or dollop the pie with some freshly whipped cream or ice cream.

Pie will keep in the refrigerator for several days, if it lasts that long.
 
Yield: One 9-inch pie (about 12-16 servings)

Source: Bon Appetit

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Skating Fridays

Recap from Nationals

 My Nationals teammates!
I am back from Nationals! I had a wonderful time and got to meet so many wonderful and supportive people while in Hyannis. It was inspiring to watch those who were better than me (and there were a LOT of them), and to watch those who are still skating in their 60s and beyond. It made me think, "I want to do that!" or "I want to be like them!"

We arrived on Tuesday, and I did not have to skate until Thursday. On Wednesday, I watched my teammates compete. They all skated really well, and I am proud of how they did. I'm still puzzled by the 6.0 judging system since many of the judges' marks and ordinals were all over the board. Regardless, it was still a fun time and I was glad to be able to support my fellow teammates.

On Thursday, I practiced at Tony Kent Arena (where Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie trained). It was smaller and darker than I had envisioned, and the ice wasn't as hard or smooth as I was used to. K and I even recreated one of our favorite moments from our Tonya and Nancy duet last fall - check out the photo below! Regardless, I had a good practice and even met a Gold skater who was competing in the championship round. Hopefully that will be me one day...
K and I doing our best Tonya and Nancy impression

My freestyle event was late on Thursday afternoon. There were supposed to be 17 ladies in my event, but two of them dropped. I was the second to last person to take the ice, so I got to watch the others and hear their scores. I honestly had no expectations since this was my first official competition as a Gold skater, and I just wanted to do my best.

My program went well, and I finished on time and did not fall. I'll post a recap of my scores next week so you can see what I received from the judges. I earned 22.22 points, which is higher than my previous score of 18.10. Four points is a huge difference in Gold level, so I am proud for improving since last September.  I placed 13th out of 15, but I am happy with that since I was the newest skater to the Gold level out of all the competitors. Most of them have been at this level for years (whereas I am new as of January 2014), so I have a lot to learn. Here is my program:



I also skated on Friday night in the Gold Dramatic event. Again, I had no expectations since I was the newest Gold level skater. Not surprisingly, I placed last. I received 7th, 8th and 9th place ordinals. The skater who won the Silver medal received a 9th place ordinal, and the lady who won the event received an 8th place ordinal. So, it shows you that what one judge likes may completely differ from what another judge likes. I'm not complaining about my placement and know that I can only improve from here on out. Here is the video:



Some memorable moments from my week in Hyannis were meeting fellow skating bloggers Alejeather from Footwork and Fancy Threes and Diane from Waltz Jump, doing well at the S.T.A.R.S. athletic combine and of course, meeting Olympic Gold medalist Dick Button, and chatting with my skating hero and inspiration, Paul Wylie.

 With Alejeather

Meeting my hero, Paul Wylie!

Olympic Gold medalist Dick Button

More to come in upcoming Skating Fridays posts!


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream


I know I say this every year, but how on earth has an entire year flown by already? My sweet baby girl turned 4 on Monday, and she has grown up to be quite the little lady. She loves wearing dresses, hair bows and lip gloss.  And Mommy's shoes, of course. Her latest obsession is singing songs from Disney's Frozen. She hasn't seen the movie yet, but we watch the videos on YouTube.

When I asked her what kind of cupcakes she wanted for her birthday, she did not hesitate. She said that she wanted me to bake chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and topped with rainbow sprinkles. I didn't want to repeat a chocolate cupcake recipe so I found this one that looked promising. I made a basic vanilla buttercream to top it and colored it pink, which is Addie's favorite color.

These cupcakes were yummy, but I still like the Hershey's version better. The original recipe asked for hot coffee, but I didn't think that would be appropriate for a bunch of pre-schoolers. I substituted with milk, so that could have made a slight difference in the taste and consistency of the cupcakes (though, probably not by that much). Regardless, these were still solid chocolate cupcakes, and if I make them again, I will use the original ingredients and chocolate ganache filling.

Addie's classmates and teachers all enjoyed the cupcakes, and I'll actually be baking yet another chocolate recipe for her birthday party this weekend. Stay tuned for that post.

Happy 4th birthday to my sweet baby girl!

Chocolate cupcakes
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used a Trader Joe's 54% dark chocolate bar)
  • ⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup milk of choice, heated
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners (you may need two pans) and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Slowly pour in the hot milk and whisk until no lumps remain. Set the chocolate mixture aside and allow it to cool slightly.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.

Add the vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla to the chocolate mixture. Whisk well until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the chocolate mixture in the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well until no lumps remain and no flour streaks are visible. The batter should be smooth and slightly runny.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pans and fill them about 2/3 full.

Bake for 17-19 minutes in your preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before garnishing with your favorite frosting.

I used a basic vanilla buttercream to frost my 30 cupcakes. To do this, I used 3 sticks of butter and beat it on medium-high speed in my stand mixer. Then I added about 3-4 cups of powdered sugar, a few Tablespoons of heavy cream and about 2 teaspoons of vanilla. I added 5 drops of red food coloring to turn my frosting pink. I piped with an open star tip.

Yield: I doubled the recipe above and got 30 cupcakes, so the original recipe above should yield about 15 cupcakes

Source: Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker; originally adapted from Cook's Illustrated

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Whole wheat double chocolate raspberry Greek yogurt muffins

We were eating dinner one day, and Addie finished her entree. She said she was still hungry, so I asked her what she wanted. "Muffins!" she proclaimed. Unfortunately, we didn't have any muffins left. I guess that was a hint that I needed to bake some more. I had some applesauce and a larger container of Greek yogurt on hand (I had a 7 ounce container, whereas I normally have a 5.3 ounce container in the refrigerator). Obviously I wanted to bake something that Addie would eat, but I wanted to make something that was more on the healthy side.  We had frozen raspberries in the freezer, so I thought about raspberry Greek yogurt muffins.

I nixed the idea since we just had Greek yogurt muffins. Then I remembered that I had made some double chocolate Greek yogurt muffins that were a huge hit with my family. I could substitute all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour and throw in some raspberries. I knew I would have to increase my liquids in this muffin because I was using white whole wheat flour (it tends to be drier, so you have to compensate by adding more liquids into your recipes). To do that, I used my larger container of Greek yogurt and added some more milk.

And how did these muffins turn out? Awesome, as expected. They were nice and moist from the applesauce and Greek yogurt. The raspberries added a welcome blast of fruit into these chocolate beauties. In case you are wondering, you can't taste the white whole wheat flour. It didn't taste gritty or grainy, so no worries there. Addie loved these so much that she asked me to make a batch for her friend, which I happily obliged to.

Tomorrow my little girl turns 4. It's amazing how quickly she has grown up, and it's obvious that she has a sweet tooth like me. I'll be sharing the cupcake recipes (yes, plural) that I am using to help celebrate my preschooler's special day.

Whole wheat double chocolate raspberry Greek yogurt muffins
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute all-purpose or use half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 egg
  • 1 7-ounce container of Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice (plus more, if the batter is too dry)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

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

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda. Mix in the chocolate chips and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the egg, Greek yogurt, milk, applesauce and vanilla. Slowly transfer this mixture into the large bowl with the wet ingredients and mix with a spatula until just combined. Gently fold in the raspberries. Do not overmix. The batter will be very thick. If it is still too dry, add more milk.

Evenly portion out the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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

Yield: 15 muffins

Source: Adapted from my double chocolate Greek yogurt muffins

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Skating Fridays

Competition Week

I don't have any news to share since it's Nationals week. I skated my Freestyle program last night and will be skating my Dramatic program tonight. I hope to have a recap and share some videos with you all next week. If you don't already follow me on Facebook, I should be posting some quick results there as well.

I am also participating in the S.T.A.R.S. program, which is a fitness challenge that is similar to the Presidential Fitness challenge that I did in middle school.  It is supposed to test skaters' strength, agility and conditioning. And most importantly, my skating hero is rumored to be there for a meet-and-greet.  That's right, Paul Wylie is going to be at the S.T.A.R.S. event, and I hope to be first in line to meet my idol.

Fingers crossed that I skate a clean program tonight, and that I get to meet Paul!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Basic banana bread

My family goes through a bunch of bananas very quickly. My husband and I each like to eat them at least once a day, and Addie eats them as a snack or breakfast on occasion. We eat so many bananas that we often have to make a mid-week trip to the grocery store to buy another bunch. Sometimes we buy so many bananas that we don't eat them all before they turn brown.

That's when I freeze them. I had a stash of about 5-6 bananas in my freezer when my husband made the suggestion for banana bread. I turned to my The Best New Recipe cookbook to try their recipe. Since the people behind the cookbook test and re-test various recipes and publish the best one, I knew that what they included in the cookbook would be the ultimate recipe.

I pulled out 3 frozen bananas and thawed them in the microwave. Then I proceeded with the recipe and had my banana bread baking within 10 minutes. I had to run an errand while the bread was baking so my husband got to be the lucky one to take it out of the oven. Obviously, he snuck a slice before I had returned home.

This bread was just as expected - it was soft, moist, and full of bananas. It is a solid banana bread recipe and would be great with some add-ins of your choice: nuts, cinnamon, chocolate chips, etc. I happily ate this bread for breakfast for several days - along with a fresh banana, of course.

Basic banana bread
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very soft, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (can substitute with plain yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard 9x5x2 inch loaf pan. You can coat the sides and bottom with flour and tap out the excess. I used a silicone loaf pan and did not grease it.

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

In a medium bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla.

Slowly add the banana mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until the batter has just come together - do not overmix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top should be a golden brown.

Turn off the oven, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container (or covered tightly in plastic wrap) at room temperature and will keep for about 5 days.

Yield: One 9x5 inch loaf

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from The Best New Recipe by Cook's Illustrated Magazine, pages 685-686

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chinese chives pockets (韭菜盒子)

My mom is a phenomenal cook. She cooked everything from scratch, and my family and I had homemade meals 7 days a week. Occasionally, my mom would take a break and allow us to order a pizza or make boxed macaroni and cheese. My mom's friends were the exact same - everyone cooked homemade meals every single night of the week. I honestly don't know how they did it.

One of my mom's friends (who also happens to be my former Chinese school teacher), Julianna, was one of the best cooks of the bunch. She and her husband owned a mushroom farm and also planted numerous varieties of Chinese vegetables on their land. Every time we visited Julianna and her family, we would return home with a plethora of produce. Julianna was very known for her cooking, and all of my parents' friends loved going to her house because they all knew that they would eat well. In fact, an invitation to Julianna's house was considered a "golden ticket" because it was so coveted.

The dish that Julianna is best known for is her Chinese chives pockets (韭菜盒子). She grew Chinese chives (also referred to as Chinese leeks) in her backyard. When we were lucky enough to be invited over for dinner, Julianna would fry up about 50 of these Chinese chive pockets for us. My brother and I could each eat 5 or 6 of these as our appetizers. We could have eaten many more, but our mom told us to save some for the other guests.

I was lucky enough to obtain Julianna's recipe to share with you all. These are essentially Chinese empanadas that are filled with Chinese chives, vermicelli, eggs and dried tofu. The filling is good enough to eat on its own, but I think you'll agree that it tastes better when served inside the crispy exteriors. You can serve it with a side of sweet chili sauce, or eat them plain as we did. Yes, these are quite time-consuming to make, but they are so worth it. Thanks, Julianna, for keeping me well-fed, educated and for sharing your secret recipe.

Chinese chives pockets (韭菜盒子)
  • 3 pounds Chinese chives/leeks, washed and minced
  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, hydrated in warm water (keep the mushroom water)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 packs dried bean curd (tofu), diced
  • 1 pack (8-count) of LungKou vermicelli
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil, divided
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 7 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups cold water
  • additional flour for rolling out the dough (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
Directions
Soak the vermicelli in cold water for 10 minutes. Then remove from the water and cut into 1-cm (or so) pieces.

In a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, stir fry the eggs using 1-2 TBSP of vegetable oil. Then add the diced bean curd and chopped chives. Mix well and move quickly. Take it off the heat before the chives get soggy. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In the same pan, heat up 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Stir fry the rehydrated mushrooms. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and the soy sauce, then the mushroom water. Add the chopped vermicelli and cook until it becomes clear. Turn off the heat, remove from the pan and mix together with the chives. Add the salt, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 TBSP sesame oil and black pepper and mix well. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.

In a large bowl, add the flour. Add the boiling and cold water and mix well to form a dough. Knead it into a smooth dough and add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Once it is smooth and pliable, let it rest for 10 minutes.

Knead the on a well-floured surface and cut into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a log and cut into 8-10 pieces.

Using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Place an abundant amount of filling in the middle and fold the dough in half and pinch to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. You may end up with extra dough, which you can save for something else or discard.

In a heat-proof Dutch oven pan or another non-stick pan with high sides (or in a deep-fryer, if you have one), fry the chive pockets in about 1/2 inch of oil. Make sure the oil is hot before adding the chive pockets. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the skin is golden brown.

Serve hot or warm. Chive pockets can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave, though it will get a tad soggy. You can also try baking them or popping them in a toaster oven to reheat. Obviously, these are best eaten on the same day.

Yield: I halved the recipe and it made 16 huge chive pockets

Source: Our family friend Julianna (her original recipe)

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Skating Fridays

Goals for Adult Nationals

I can hardly believe that Adult Nationals is next week. We finally finished choreographing my brand-new freestyle program, and what better venue to premiere it than at Nationals? I honestly have no expectations for getting on the podium in Boston since: 1) I am very new to my skating level, and 2) there are 17 (!!) ladies skating in my event. But, I still have goals for Nationals. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Skate a clean program and end on time
  • Land a clean axel jump combination (still haven't decided on axel-toe or axel-loop)
  • Hit all of my spins and earn positive GOEs and/or attain Level 2 spins on all or most of them
  • Earn 20+ points for my IJS program (I scored 18.10 points at my first competition)
  • Meet other adult skaters (some of you, perhaps?) and make new friends
  • Get inspired by watching more elite skaters
  • Meet Paul Wylie (my hero since middle school)
  • Have fun!
Are you going to Adult Nationals in Boston? What are your goals while there?  If you are going, please send me an email so we can meet up - I'd also love to cheer for you during your skate(s)! You can find my contact info on the envelope icon on the upper right-hand corner of this page.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Martha's chocolate fudge

Homemade fudge has been one of those things that I've failed miserably at making. Sure, I've successfully made 4-ingredient fudge, Funfetti cake batter fudge, mint chocolate fudge, peppermint cookies and cream fudge and peppermint chunk fudge. But let's be honest here. Those are all "cheater's fudge," which uses sweetened condensed milk as the base. Don't get me wrong - I love those recipes and would make them again in a heartbeat, but I just haven't successfully made any fudge that required a candy thermometer.

I tried peanut butter fudge but they turned out grainy and dry. I needed to prove to myself that I could actually make this candy successfully. I found Martha Stewart's recipe and saw that she asks for the fudge mixture to rest before beating. The reason for this is to allow the sugar crystals to relax. When I made the peanut butter fudge, I whipped the mixture too quickly after it hit soft ball stage that the sugar crystals seized up and made my fudge grainy. So why not give Martha's recipe a try? I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Halleujah - my fudge turned out! It was soft, full of chocolate flavor and had just enough chew but also melted in your mouth. You're probably wondering how it tasted compared to the other fudges that use sweetened condensed milk. Well, it's less sweet and has a more authentic flavor, if that makes sense. Martha's fudge definitely tasted like a homemade candy since it was slightly more pliable.

I'd still happily eat any fudge that came across my way, but it's so satisfying knowing that I made this without any shortcuts. Maybe now I'll have the confidence to try other types of non-cheater fudge. Maybe.

Martha's chocolate fudge
  • 1 TBSP cold unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions
Place the slab of butter in a large bowl and set in the refrigerator.

Generously grease and/or line a standard 8x8 inch square pan. Set aside.

In a medium heavy saucepan, mix together the chopped chocolate, sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup and salt. Put the saucepan on medium-low heat and keep mixing constantly until the sugar has dissolved (about 10 minutes).

Increase the heat to medium and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Stop mixing at this stage. Allow the mixture to come up to a boil and hit 238 degrees F (soft ball stage).

Once the temperature reaches 238 degrees F, immediately transfer it to the large bowl with the butter. Gently pour the mixture on top of the butter but do not stir! Also, do not scrape the bits of mixture from the bottom of the saucepan into the bowl. Clip the candy thermometer on the large bowl and allow the chocolate mixture to decrease to 110 degrees F. This will take about 1 and 1/2 hours.

Once the mixture has cooled to 110 degrees F, remove the candy thermometer and begin stirring the mixture with a rubber or silicone spatula. Keep mixing and increasing your speed until the chocolate thickens and loses its shine (about 4-5 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to your prepared square pan and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Allow the fudge to cool on a wire rack for about an hour before covering with plastic wrap and transferring to the refrigerator for another 8 hours.

Once the fudge has set, cut into 64 one-inch squares and serve. Fudge should be stored in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator and will keep for up to 1 week.

Yield: About 64 pieces

Source: Martha Stewart

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