Friday, May 30, 2014

Skating Fridays

Some Back Sit Spin Progress

Last week I mentioned that the MCL on my spinning leg was sore. I believe it's from doing broken leg sit spins - the position I take causes a lot of pressure on the inside of my skating knee, and it probably aggravated my MCL. While it's healing, I've started working diligently on my back sit spin.

At Nationals, I did not receive credit for a backwards entry feature in my back sit/forward sit combination. Coach B thinks that my back sit wasn't low enough, so it didn't count. Well, I am determined to fix that, so I am focusing on lowering my spin so my thighs are parallel to the ice.

Here is where I am at right now.



And I hope to add a twist to my back sit spin this season so I can gain an additional level for my spin.  This is the beginnings of a back twist.  It's not 100% there yet because I need to turn my head and torso more, but it's a good start.



Happy Friday,

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chocolate coconut pound cake


I know I recently shared a vanilla pound cake with you, and but I wanted to bake a chocolate version as well. Technically, it's a chocolate coconut pound cake, but the coconut isn't too pronounced so coconut haters may actually enjoy this.

I found this recipe in the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit. It didn't grab my attention initially, but once I saw that it was made with coconut oil, I was sold. I've started enjoying baking with coconut oil since it's supposedly a "better" oil/fat to consume.

Addie and my husband ate a piece of this pound cake when I was at skating one night. Apparently, the cake was devoured in about 0.1 seconds, so I know that it was a winner. I had a piece the next day, and it was nice and dense, with a hint of coconut flavor. It tasted more like a chocolate cake rather than a true pound cake, but I am not complaining. The buttermilk keeps the cake from drying out and provides a nice tanginess to the overall loaf.

If you are a coconut lover, add some coconut flakes on top. I'm not a big fan, so I left those off.

Chocolate coconut pound cake
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8"x4" loaf pan and set aside.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, coconut oil and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and make sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 separate additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

If desired, you can sprinkle the top with a tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes.

Bake in your preheated oven for 70-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Pound cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: One 8"x4" inch loaf (about 12-16 slices)

Source: Bon Appetit, March 2014 issue, page 104

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nora Ephron peanut butter sandwich cookies

Last summer, my husband and I flew to Seattle for a conference. Technically, we were in Bellevue, but we were able to sneak away during the day to visit downtown Seattle. One bakery I had wanted to try was Dahlia Bakery. Tom Douglas is probably the most well-known chef in this Pacific Northwest city and owns Dahlia Bakery, so I knew I had to pay his store a visit.

I've made Dahlia Bakery's chocolate truffle cookies before, and they were amazing. When we visited the bakery, my husband bought the Nora Ephron peanut butter sandwich cookie and could not stop talking about how awesome it was.

I wanted to recreate the cookie for him, so I asked for the Dahlia Bakery cookbook for Christmas one year. My generous in-laws gave it to me for Christmas last year, and I finally cracked the book open to make these cookies for my husband and daughter (remember, I am an oddball and don't eat peanut butter).

Since I don't eat peanut butter, I had to rely on my husband to describe these for you. He said that the cookies were slightly dry, so check your cookies around the 11 minute mark so they don't overbake. I put one batch in for 11 minutes (instead of 12), and he said that they were much better. The cookies were a bit crispy on the edges but were still soft and chewy near the middle. The peanut butter filling was a big hit and complemented the cookie very well. My in-laws got to taste some and said that these cookies were wonderful. These were very peanut butter-y and got two thumbs up from everyone that tried them - including Addie.


Peanut butter filling
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (14 ounces/400 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 6 TBSP (3/4 stick/3 ounces/168 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 TBSP powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Peanut butter cookies
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (8 ounces/227 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (5.25 ounces/99 grams) old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP (2 sticks plus 2 TBSP/11.25 ounces/320 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup (3.5 ounces/125 grams) crunchy natural peanut butter, stirred well
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces/150 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the peanut butter filling. Mix well with a whisk. Cover and cool in the refrigerator.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Then add in the salt and oats. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter, white and brown sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the eggs one at a time until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla and continue to mix.

Slowly add the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions and mix until just combined - do not over mix.

Use a cookie (or ice cream) scoop to portion out the dough onto a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet. You may need two baking sheets. Place them close together and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

After the cookie dough has thoroughly chilled, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange only 8 cookies on a parchment-lined (or Silpat-lined, like I did) baking sheet. Stack this baking sheet inside another baking sheet so it's double-panned.

Bake the cookies for about 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for an additional 6 minutes (12 minutes total) or until the cookies are golden. Bake the cookies in several batches.

Remove the cookies and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before filing them.

To fill the cookies, turn a cookie over and spread about 2 teaspoons of the chilled peanut butter filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Top it with another cookie, flat side down, and press gently. Repeat with the remaining cookies and filling.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for up to a week. They can also be frozen and reheated.

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got 41 cookies, which equaled 20 cookie sandwiches and one extra cookie for my husband to taste test

Source: The Dahlia Bakery cookbook, pages 130-132

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Skating Fridays

Two Steps Forward... and Two Steps Back

You know that lyric in the Paula Abdul song Opposites Attract - "two steps forward, and two steps back"? Well, that has been me in the past 2 weeks.

Ever since I got my new blades, I made good progress on my elements. My axel was clean and fast, and my spins were improving. Then all of a sudden, something changed. The axel disappeared and was nowhere to be found, and then I hurt my MCL (on my spinning leg) and my lower back was sore for several days. Nothing I did or tried on the ice was "clicking." Needless to say, it was very discouraging.

So instead of working on the elements that temporarily disappeared, I worked on other things. I tried to lower my back sit spin so I wouldn't have to aggravate my MCL on my spinning leg, and then I also worked on several crossover exercises to increase my power and speed. So while I took a step backwards in some elements, I strengthened other parts of my skating that also needed attention.

Thankfully, the setbacks were only temporary, as my axel returned in full force this week. I had a great practice on Sunday and not only did the jump feel relatively easy, but the tracings were also 100% correct. I didn't have any "flagged" landings where I got a backwards '7' on the ice, so that means the jump was fully rotated and IJS-correct. This is so exciting for me since I've been working really hard on NOT under-rotating the jump.

My MCL is still a bit sore, but it has enabled me to work on the back sit spin. Coach B said that it was IJS-correct as well, so that means it's low enough to count and receive appropriate credit. My leg is finally parallel to the ice, so I would call that a win. I'm very pleased about this since a year ago, I wouldn't even have dreamed of doing a back sit spin at all.

I'll post some videos of my back sit spin next week so you can take a look. In the meantime, I'll keep resting my MCL and hope that it heals soon.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Blueberry lemon Greek yogurt muffins

A few weeks ago, it was Teacher Appreciation Week at Addie's daycare. As you'd expect, I wanted to bake something for her teachers. Addie's main teacher usually arrives before the kids eat their breakfast, so I wanted to bake something that she could easily eat while tending to 10 preschoolers. I asked Addie for suggestions, and she said to bake "blueberry lime muffins." My sweet child confuses her lemons with her limes, but I knew exactly what she wanted.

Her teacher was getting married two weeks after Teacher Appreciation Week, so I knew she was watching her diet. I substituted some ingredients to make them slightly healthier and omitted the streusel from the original recipe. If you want to make these even healthier, you can substitute part or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

I've got to tell you - these were the BEST blueberry lemon muffins I've made to date. You all know I've been on a blueberry muffin kick lately, and these are solidly in the #1 spot. My main complaint with fruit-based muffins is that they are either too dry or too wet. Many muffins that contain Greek yogurt tend to get soggy overnight and the resulting muffin tastes more like a bread pudding the next day.

These muffins kept their texture and did not turn to mush or dry out. They retained their chewiness at least 5 days after I baked them and tasted just as good as the day they were baked (actually they tasted better, since the lemon juice and zest got to hang out in the muffin a bit longer). I'm bookmarking this recipe and will make it my go-to blueberry muffin from now on. You should too.

Blueberry lemon Greek yogurt muffins
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 standard muffin tins and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar, eggs, Greek yogurt, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Pour the applesauce mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently fold until the mixture is about 80% incorporated (you may see some areas with dry ingredients, and that is OK). Gently add the blueberries in and fold until the mixture is just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared muffin pans and fill each well about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 5 days. They can also be frozen and reheated.

Yield: 18 muffins (the original source said 24 muffins, but I only got 18)

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Vanilla pound cake

It's no secret that we Asians like eating pastries for breakfast (see here, here, here and here). In fact, when I was growing up, it was perfectly acceptable for my dad and I to eat pound cake, milk, and a banana for breakfast. I thought nothing of it, but now I shudder at the thought of pound cake for breakfast.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to attend our city's Restaurant Week last month and try out a new (to us) restaurant downtown. We had the ability to choose our appetizer, entree and dessert from a prix fixe menu. I saw that "foie gras pound cake" was on there, so I ordered that.

Don't be confused - there was no duck liver in this pound cake. It was dense and smooth like the consistency of fois gras, but it was 100% pound cake. Oh my heavens - this cake melted in my mouth and made me want more. I couldn't stop thinking about pound cake all week and finally went on the internet to search for a recipe to try.

I baked the recipe as written, but it came out a bit browner and drier than I had hoped. I even baked it for 7.5 minutes less than instructed, so be sure to check your loaf often so it doesn't get too dry. I enjoyed the texture, as it was exactly as a pound cake should be, but it wasn't anything like the foie gras version we had during Restaurant Week. I'll keep searching for a similar recipe, but in the meantime, this one will do. I can always top it with fruit, ice cream and syrup so the pound cake isn't too dry.

Vanilla pound cake

  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 TBSP milk of choice
  • 1 and 3/4 cups + 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 9x5 loaf pan 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, cream together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and almond extract on medium speed until well combined.

Add the eggs in one at a time, and mix well after each egg to make sure it is fully incorporated. After all the eggs have been added, turn the mixer to high and beat for 3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and the milk. Then slowly add the flour and mix until just incorporated - do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for 55 minutes.

While the loaf is baking, you can prepare a sugar topping that will enhance the pound cake. Simply mix 2 TBSP of sugar, 1 teaspoon of water and 1 teaspoon of vanilla together. It will look like syrup.

Once the loaf has finished baking, pour the syrup onto the pound cake and return to the oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The top center of the pound cake may come out a bit soggy, but that is OK. It will solidify as it cools.

Store the pound cake in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days and can be served with fruit, syrup, honey, ice cream or whatever your heart desires. It can also be frozen and thawed for later.

Yield: One 9x5 loaf

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Skating Fridays

New blades

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted to get a new pair of blades. My old pair was going on about 7 years, and I only had 1-2 sharpenings left in them. I asked other skaters and coaches for their opinion on what to buy next, and I received quite a variety of answers.

Some people told me to stick with what I had (Coach B being one of them), while others recommended Pattern 99s or Gold Seals. There was a $300 price difference between my existing blade (Coronation Aces) and the Gold Seals, so they would be a hefty investment.

I spoke with my blade fitter, who happens to be a world reknown boot and blade specialist, and he recommended that I stick with my Coronation Aces. He said that the $300 extra that I'd pay for Gold Seals would not be worth it for the level of skating I am currently at. In other words, I wouldn't see a $300 difference and would be better off keeping the same models of blades.

Since both my blade fitter and my coach recommended that I keep my Coronation Aces, that is what I did. I ordered a new pair and got them mounted onto my existing boots. It took me a few days to get used to the new blades since they felt "sticky." I'm still having a hard time stopping, but at least I have real edges now.

What is interesting also is that my axel seems more stable. I was skidding a bit into the entry on the old blades, and now I'm getting a better takeoff with the new blades. I can also do a fake-out outside spread eagle (my legs are bent and/or I'm on a flat), but it is eons better than where I used to be.

Maybe I'll upgrade in a few years, but I'm happy with my decision, and I'll see how things go from here.

Anybody have ideas on what to do with the old blades? Apparently, there is no blade recycling, which makes me sad. I've accomplished a lot in these blades so they have sentimental value to me. Ideas?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blueberry lemon muffins

I am back with yet another blueberry muffin recipe. I hope you're not getting tired of them yet. This particular version was a huge hit at my house. I realized that I ran out of frozen blueberries, so Addie and I took a quick trip to the grocery store after our weekly library storytime one week. She normally isn't a fan of this particular grocery store (it's not the normal one we go to), so I told her that I only needed one thing. Of course, I walked out with 3 more items I had to have, so I'd call that a successful trip.

Addie asked me why I needed the blueberries and I told her that I wanted to make muffins. Her eyes got wider and she wanted to know when I would make them. "Tonight?" she asked. Unfortunately, I did not have time that evening but did later that week. I added some lemon juice and zest to the muffins and hoped that these flavors wouldn't deter my preschooler from eating the muffins.

I offered Addie these muffins during breakfast on the weekend, and she was so excited. I said that these were blueberry lemon muffins and she kept referring to them as "lime" muffins. She took one bite and promptly scarfed down the rest of it in under a minute. Then she asked for another one.

I liked these muffins because the lemon flavor didn't get lost. Every few bites, I got some lemon zest, and the lemon juice blended nicely with the blueberries. The only way these could have been improved is by adding a glaze or streusel. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I am sure I will be making them again.

Note: Because there is so much liquid in the muffins, they tend to get soggy after a day. I recommend enjoying these the day of or freezing them.

Blueberry lemon muffins
  • 1 and ½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners or use a silicone muffin pan like I did.

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

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, applesauce, milk, and egg until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and gently mix until just combined - do not overmix. Using a rubber or wooden spatula, gently fold in the blueberries.

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

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool before serving. If desired, you can top the muffins with a lemon glaze (mix 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar with lemon juice and/or milk to achieve the appropriate consistency; drizzle on top of cooled muffins and allow to harden).

Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for 2-3 days. They can also be frozen and reheated as needed. Muffins will become soggy after 1 day so they are best enjoyed the day they are baked.

Yield: 11 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Alaska from Scratch

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fresh strawberry glazed baked donuts

Happy Mother's Day! Addie and I enjoy spending time together on Sunday mornings while my husband is at the gym. It's our chance to bond and cook together. One Sunday morning, I was prepping for that night's dinner when Addie said that she wanted some donuts. Well, of course she did - she's 4. What preschooler doesn't want to eat a donut in the morning? I told her that I'd look up some recipes for us to try together.

Addie's request came at a great time since my donut pan has been tucked away in the pantry for the past several months. I asked her if she wanted to help me, but she didn't. She went about her merry way and started flipping through her newest princess book, so I was left in the kitchen on my own.

The donuts were very easy to make, and I admittedly botched up the glaze. I didn't add enough powdered sugar (I was eyeballing instead of measuring - shame on me). As you can see in the photo above, my strawberry glaze looked more like strawberry syrup and it was a gloopy mess. Don't copy me, and make sure you measure out the powdered sugar so you can get a nick thick glaze.

Although my glaze was syrupy, the donuts were still amazing. The donuts were spongy like a muffin and soaked up a lot of the strawberry syrup. They were too messy to eat with bare hands, so I opted to attack it with a fork instead. The glaze was a tad on the sweet side, but I loved it nonetheless. After Addie finished her donut that afternoon, she asked me for another one. Nice try, kid.

This would be a breakfast/snack to serve your mom on her special day, or a fun treat to make with your children. Ask the kids to help you dunk the donuts in the glaze and add some sprinkles to the tops.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, especially to mine.

Fresh strawberry glazed baked donuts
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup applesauce (can substitute with canola oil)
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 and 1/2 cup powdered sugar (1.5 cups)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a standard donut pan and set aside.

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

In a small bowl, mix together the applesauce, milk, egg, vinegar and vanilla. Add the applesauce mixture into the large bowl and mix until just incorporated. Lumps are OK.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared donut pan and bake in your preheated oven for 13-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Turn off the oven, allow the donuts to cool slightly before inverted onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, puree the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Transfer the strawberry puree to a shallow bowl or dish. Slowly add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 a cup at a time, until you reach a semi-thick glaze consistency.

Once the donuts are cool, dip the tops into the strawberry glaze. Allow to harden before serving.

Donuts are best enjoyed on the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 day before it starts to get soggy. They can also be frozen and reheated.

Yield: 6 donuts

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Fifteen Spatulas


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Friday, May 9, 2014

Skating Fridays

A Renewed Focus and Motivation... Plus Updated Skating Goals

When I attended Adult Nationals last month, I honestly had no expectations. I had no butterflies before my programs and had no stress or pressure since it was my first real competition as a Gold lady. This is only my second competition overall, so I didn't have much experience under my belt.

I'm not sure that I was making an excuse, but I kept telling myself that I was the newest at this level, so I shouldn't expect to place high. Maybe that self-talk was too convincing because I really didn't place high. But, I skated clean, and that's all I could have asked for at the time. Watching the other ladies in my event was very inspirational. I've come home from Boston with a renewed motivation to skate. I want to show the others (and prove to myself) that I belong in this level, and that I'm here to stay. I no longer want to be the new girl. I'm a strong skater and need to skate like one.

Here were my original goals from the beginning of the year, and how I've progressed.
  1. Pass the Adult Gold Freestyle test - Done; I passed in January.
  2. Get the axel more consistent and fully correct - Still a work in progress. It's getting more consistent in practice, but it needs to be "on" during a program.
  3. Work on an axel combination (like axel-loop, axel-toe, etc) - I attempted an axel-toe in my Nationals program. So, it's still a work in progress.
  4. Work on a double salchow and/or double toe loop - I will be working on these elements in the coming week. Can't wait!
  5. Add a high level GOE spin to my repertoire (like sit-cannonball for 8-back tuck) - I earned a Level 2 sit spin at Nationals. It was a sit spin-cannonball-back tuck.
  6. Skate with more power and speed- Still a work in progress
And these were my goals for Nationals and the results.
  • Skate a clean program and end on time - Check
  • Land a clean axel jump combination (still haven't decided on axel-toe or axel-loop) - Almost there. I attempted an axel-toe but underrotated it.
  • Hit all of my spins and earn positive GOEs and/or attain Level 2 spins on all or most of them - I received a Level 2 sit spin and negative GOEs on the other two spins. There is work to be done.
  • Earn 20+ points for my IJS program (I scored 18.10 points at my first competition) - Check! I earned a 22.22.
  • Meet other adult skaters (some of you, perhaps?) and make new friends - Check; I met some wonderful skaters in all levels and hope to see them again!
  • Get inspired by watching more elite skaters - Check. WOW. Some of these skaters were phenomenal. I want to skate like them!
  • Meet Paul Wylie (my hero since middle school) - My dream came true - I not only met Paul, but I also got a photo with him. He even invited me to visit him in Charlotte the next time I am in town (seriously). I would love to take a lesson with him.
  • Have fun! The competition and experience were so fun. The adult skating community was so kind and supportive.
Now, here are my revised goals for the remainder of the year.
  • Earn a score in the mid- to high- twenties
  • Secure more high GOE or level 1/2/3 spins
  • Skate with more power and speed and increase my points on skating skills
  • Make the axel become my strongest jump
  • Learn a double salchow and double toe-loop
  • Exude more confidence - I belong here!
  • Earn a spot at the Championship Gold event (this might take a few years to accomplish)

My coach suggested that I write down my long-term goals and track towards them and see how I'm progressing on a weekly basis. We can adjust things as needed and focus on the areas that need the most attention.

Now I just need to keep telling myself to keep my head high and fulfill my skating potential. Sky's the limit, right?

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lemon poppy seed muffins

I've never bought poppy seeds in my life until recently. I have no idea why because I've always been a big fan of lemon poppy seed muffins and bread. Maybe I just haven't paid attention to the containers in the spice aisle at the grocery store. Whatever the reason was, I have gotten over it. I finally went to my local Penzey's store and bought myself some poppy seeds.

These muffins were wonderful and lemon-y. I enjoyed the lemon glaze for an extra lemon-packed punch. The muffins were a bit on the crumbly side, but it wasn't from being too dry. My husband and I ate this batch very quickly, and I am now looking for another recipe for my poppy seeds. Maybe I'll try a lemon poppy seed quick bread or pound cake next. Or cake. Or...

Lemon poppy seed muffins
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream (I used 0% Chobani Greek yogurt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 TBSP poppy seeds
Glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin pan (or use a silicone muffin pan like I did) and set aside.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips. The sugar will become lumpy and you will get a strong lemon aroma. Whisk in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sour cream/Greek yogurt, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Mix well until everything is well incorporated.

Transfer the sour cream mixture into the large bowl with the flour and gently fold the ingredients together, using as few strokes as possible. You do not want to overmix this. The batter will be very thick and lumpy. Gently add in the poppy seeds and mix to distribute.

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

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the tops are a light golden color and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze: mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth and pourable. Drizzle the glaze on top of the muffins.

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

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan; pages 10-11

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Blueberry lemon Greek yogurt loaf bread

Can I brag for a bit? I think I ate English muffins only a handful of times in the past month. I finally got out of my breakfast rut and made breakfast sweets to eat in the mornings. This is a big accomplishment for me, since I am a big proponent of routines and tend to stick to my regular English muffin breakfasts.

I've been loving all the Greek yogurt muffins I've made this year and wanted to branch out a big and make a bread. I was happy to find this recipe online and was able to mix everything together very quickly. Gotta love that about quickbreads.

This Greek yogurt bread was moist, as expected, and full of bright, juicy blueberries. It was pretty much like eating a cake for breakfast, only without the frosting. You can definitely add some streusel or drizzle on some glaze if that's how you roll.


Blueberry lemon Greek yogurt loaf bread
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested (I only had juice from half a lemon, so that is what I used)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (5.3 ounce) container Greek yogurt (I used 0% plain Chobani)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard 9x5x2 inch loaf pan or use a silicone one like I did (I did not grease it). Set aside.

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

In a separate medium sized bowl, mix together the sugars, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and eggs. Then mix in the Greek yogurt. Mix well.

Transfer the Greek yogurt mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until the mixture is just combined - do not over mix.  The batter will be thick and lumpy.

Gently fold in the blueberries using as few strokes as possible.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan, smooth the top and bake in your preheated oven for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine only baked for 40 minutes, so check your bread after the 40 minute mark).

Remove the loaf pan from the oven and allow to cool before serving.  If desired, you can add a glaze to the top of the loaf by combining lemon juice and powdered sugar and drizzling it over the top.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days. It can also be stored in the refrigerator or frozen and reheated.

Yield: One 9x5x2 loaf (about 12-16 slices)

Source: Slightly adapted from She Cooks and Bakes!; originally inspired from Nosh and Nourish

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Skating Fridays

S.T.A.R.S. Program

Olympic Silver medalist (and my hero), Paul Wylie

While at Adult Nationals, I participated in the S.T.A.R.S. Program, which stands for Standardized Testing of Athleticism to Recognize Skaters. It's similar to the Presidential Fitness Challenge that I did in middle school (and possibly high school) that tested your balance, coordination, power, strength and flexibility.

Sixty-two skaters signed up for the combine, including some youth skaters. We were tested on various skills, and our individual results will be added to a database to evaluate what a "typical" adult skater should be able to do. I'm imagining that they will also group us by skating level and be able to see that a Bronze skater should be able to do X, while a Masters skater should be able to do Y.

The program itself lasted about an hour, and Paul Wylie gave a talk afterwards. Paul talked about how important it was to warm up and warm down after a skating practice, and not to expect immediate results after learning a new element. He told us to focus on what our future goals were, and to celebrate what we had accomplished that day. Adults tend to be hard on themselves, so we need to learn to be happy with the baby steps we've made along the way.

Paul told us to focus on our "line" and understand that our sport is two-fold: there is the athletic portion with jumps and spins, and the aesthetic portion that shows off the beauty and grace of figure skating. Ballet helps, but we shouldn't go to extremes and become ballerinas. We should stand in front of the mirror and work on pointing our toes or perfecting our facial expressions and our body lines.

Of the 15 different testing elements for S.T.A.R.S., I did fairly well in all of them except one. There was something called the Hand Press, where individuals sit on the ground with legs in a V. Then you put your hands on the ground and try to lift your body off the ground. I have lost all my arm strength since my gymnastics days, so I wasn't able to do this. I felt bad about this until Paul told us that he couldn't do it either!

I compared my scores to a chart that listed the range, mean and median for younger skaters and am proud to say that my scores were pretty in line with most higher-level athletes. I scored lowest on the front and side splits (I've lost my flexibility, obviously). My push-ups and V-ups (similar to sit ups) were off the charts, so I'm happy to know that I am still somewhat strong in those elements.

I'll be curious to see how I stacked up against other adult skaters who participated and where else I need to focus my training. The S.T.A.R.S. testing team will send out overall results after this year's combines have concluded so we can see how we stack up across the country. I'll be sharing my results with my coach so she can see the areas that I need to improve upon and how that affects my skating.

For more information on the S.T.A.R.S. program, you can visit the USFSA website.


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