Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Asian pear clafoutis

Have a bunch of pears (or apples) and don't know what to do with them? Make this simple yet fancy-sounding clafoutis. It's essentially fruit-filled flan batter cake!
Clafoutis. I had never heard of this until recently. In fact, I didn't even know how to pronounce it ("cla-foo-tee"). What is it? Clafoutis is a French dessert, usually filled with cherries. It's baked in a round cake pan with a thick, flan-like batter. It's not silky smooth like flan or pudding, but the batter is thick before baking.

Our CSA delivered a whole bunch of Asian pears one week, and I didn't want to eat them plain. So of course I tried to find a dessert to use them up. When I told my husband that I wanted to try making a clafoutis, his response was, "a WHAT?"

The clafoutis was wonderful. The cake was dense and springy and definitely not too sweet. I thought the cake would be more custard-like but still enjoyed the texture. I read online that traditional clafoutis are sprinkled with powdered sugar, but this one didn't need it because the fruit was already quite sweet. If using tart cherries, then a sprinkling of sugar would be perfect.

Go ahead and impress your friends and bake this. Not only will you sound fancy with your French speaking ("Why, 'alo! May I serve you some clafoutis?"), but you can add a new cake to your baking repertoire. Don't have Asian pears? Substitute with apples or regular pears instead.

Asian pear clafoutis
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 and 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Asian pears, peeled, cored, sliced (do this while the batter rests)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and baking powder.

In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well. Add in the melted butter and mix until well incorporated. Allow the batter to rest for about 30 minutes while you prepare the apples.

Peel, core and slice the pears. I sliced most of them and cubed the rest. Add the cubed pears to your batter and mix well until they are all incorporated.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9" round cake pan.

Arrange your sliced pears on the bottom of your prepared cake pan. Pour the batter on top of the arranged pears and bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.

Keep the clafoutis in an airtight container and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" pan; about 8-12 servings



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Double chocolate cookies and cream ice cream sandwiches

Coolhaus double chocolate cookies paired with Jeni's cookies and cream ice cream - it's a combination made in heaven! Chocolate-y and chewy cookies are filled with a smooth and creamy frozen ice cream. Finger licking encouraged!

I was perusing one of my favorite kitchen stores one day when I saw something in the clearance section. I saw the Coolhaus Ice Cream Book sitting on the clearance table. I quickly snatched it up and saw that it was on sale for less than $10. Score!

Shamefully, I left the book on my counter for a few weeks and almost forgot about it. But without fail, every weekend this summer, I've seen various ice cream trucks, popsicle vendors and other frozen treat companies show their products across town. It triggered my memory and I remembered that I had this book sitting in my kitchen.

I promptly grabbed the book and went through the contents. Since I am indecisive, I asked Addie to help me. I read all the cookie flavors to her and she picked one out right away - double chocolate chip. When I asked her what kind of ice cream I should use as the filling, it took her a little while to decide. After I gave her a few choices, she settled on cookies and cream.

The cookies were a really easy recipe to put together. Foolishly, I read the recipe wrong and accidentally omitted 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. My dough was a bit wet but the cookies still turned out really well. The cookies were soft, chewy and fudgy. My husband said that they were too soft, but when I told him that the cookies were meant for freezing (hello, ice cream sandwiches), he retracted his complaint.

My tip for assembly is to make them when the ice cream is slightly soft. I tried scooping hardened ice cream onto fresh cookies and that was a disaster. You can freeze your cookies first and let the ice cream thaw a bit. Then assemble, wrap, and throw back in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

Oh, and just between us... I hid a few of these in the freezer. You know, so I don't have to share!

Double chocolate cookies and cream ice cream sandwiches
  • 2 cups pastry flour (or substitute with 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 cup cake flour)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, halfway melted and cooled
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • Store-bought or homemade cookies & cream ice cream
Bake the cookies: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the butter in 15 second increments until half of the butter is melted. Allow to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the cooled butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Once everything is combined, turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips by  hand. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Scoop out the dough using a medium cookie scoop or two teaspoons and roll the dough into a ball (it should be slightly smaller than a golf ball). Allow at least 2 inches in between each ball of dough.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly crispy and the centers are a bit overdone. Do not over bake these. Allow to cool completely.

Assemble the ice cream sandwiches: Pair up the cookies according to size. Take one cookie, flat side up, and top with 1-2 scoops of ice cream. Place another cookie on top, flat side down. Wrap in parchment paper or waxed paper. Repeat with remaining cookies and freeze for at least 1 and 1/2 hours.

Ice cream sandwiches should remain in the freezer and will keep for about 2 weeks.

Yield: About 15 ice cream sandwiches (30 individual cookies)

Sources: Cookies from Coolhaus Ice Cream Book by Natasha Case & Freya Estreller; ice cream from here


Friday, September 25, 2015

Skating Fridays

Final Notes and Thoughts from Skating Competition Seminar

Nick Perna and Doug Webster also led some sessions with us, but I will not be typing them up. Doug's advice was similar to what he shared with us at the G2C Seminar that I recapped previously.  Nick talked to us about boots and blades, and it was mostly geared toward younger kids since their feet and skills are constantly changing. If you want me to give you any specifics about that, please contact me privately.

All in all, this was a fantastic seminar and very timely since I am competing this weekend. There are only 2 people in my event, including myself, so I am competing against myself. I want to see if I have made any improvements since Adult Nationals in April and where I need to focus my efforts over the next few months.

In closing, here are few other thoughts that Audrey shared with us about competing.
  • Instead of thinking, "I shall prepare, and then perhaps, my chance will come," say to yourself, "I can, I will."
  • Remove all doubt
  • Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do
  • A coach is someone who gives correction without feeling resentment
  • Follow your path
  • Visualize your victory - however you define it
  • "Control the controllable"
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection
  • Your beliefs become your thoughts, which become your actions. Your actions become your character and that becomes your destiny.
I'll be back next week to let you know if my competition preparation has paid off. If you want more real-time updates, follow me on the Eva Bakes Facebook page, where I will likely share photos and live results.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Caramel apple pie cheesecake bars

A thick and hearty bar featuring chunky caramel apples, cheesecake and lots and lots of crumble. You'll want to go apple picking just to make these irresistible bars!
We live in a fairly quiet neighborhood. We only see our direct neighbors once a year (on Halloween, when we go over to trick-or-treat). There aren't too many elementary school kids around, so things are generally pretty calm.

We were fortunate enough to meet one set of neighbors the next street over one year. Their neighbors held their annual pig-pickin' and we got to talking. They have two girls around the same age as Addie, and we became fast friends. Their oldest daughter is in 1st grade so we see them at the bus stop every day.

These generous friends of ours went apple picking one weekend and shared some of their loot with us. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of 2 pounds of Granny Smith apples. Although I had apple pie on my mind, I wanted to make sure that I made something that was easily shareable, and pie was not one of those things. Can you imagine me trying to give our friends a few slices of pie at the bus stop? Yeah, me neither.

I baked these caramel apple pie cheesecake bars with the sole intent of sharing them with our friends. They had all the flavor of apple pie, plus a cheesecake layer and were slice-able. I could easily pack up half of the bars and give them to our friends at the bus stop.

I found that the crust/topping recipe made plenty. I generously topped my bars and they still spilled over. Once I cut into the bars, I lost some crumble on the bottom of the pan. So feel free to omit some of the topping and save it for another recipe or just pile it on and enjoy it to your heart's delight.

These bars did not disappoint. The crust was thick, sturdy and slightly crunchy. The cheesecake layer was smooth and velvety, and the caramel apples were reminiscent of a freshly baked apple pie. And the topping? Well, that's always the best part.

Our friend loved these so much that she claims to have eaten 3 bars in one sitting. Looks like this is another winning recipe. (P.S. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps below. The food processor does most of the work for you.)

Caramel apple pie cheesecake bars
Crust and topping
  • 2 and ½ cups old-fashioned oats, divided
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Caramel apple filling
  • 2 pounds (about 6 medium) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Cheesecake layer
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
Make the crust layer: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line an 8x8-inch square baking dish. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse 1 and ½ cups of the oats until finely ground. Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and process until combined. Add in the butter pieces and pulse about 8 times or until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add in the remaining 1 cup of oats and pulse 5 times.

Transfer half of the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and press down with your spatula or the bottom of a cup. Bake the crust in your preheated oven for 18 minutes and allow it to cool slightly.While the crust is baking, prepare the caramel apple layer. Transfer the remaining crust mixture to a medium sized bowl and do NOT wash the food processor (you will be using it again shortly).

Make the caramel apple layer: Place all of the caramel apple ingredients into a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the apples are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the cheesecake layer: Combine all of the cheesecake layer ingredients into your food processor. Process until everything is smooth and creamy.

Assemble the bars: Once the crust layer has finished baking and is slightly cool, pour the cheesecake mixture on top and smooth it out with a spatula. Add the caramel apples to the top in an even layer. Finally, top with the remaining crust/crumble mixture.

Bake in your preheated (350 degree F) oven for 40-45 minutes. Allow it to cool completely and then place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving.

Leftover bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Kristine's Kitchen


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lemon blueberry Greek yogurt muffins

Classic blueberry muffins get a healthier makeover! These lemon blueberry muffins contain Greek yogurt and have no oil or butter. Bet you can't taste the difference!

The muffin fiend is back. That's me, in case I was being too mysterious. Ha!

Addie polished off our last batch of Nutella stuffed chocolate chunk muffins so it was time to bake some more muffins. While I love my daisy dose of chocolate, I can't always eat it every day for breakfast. It was time for a slightly healthier muffin. (Well, at least for me. I did bake up another batch of the Nutella muffins, in case you are wondering.)

Yes, I have made lemon blueberry Greek yogurt muffins before, but this one is different.  The other recipe bakes up 18 muffins and uses 1.5 cups of sugar. It also doesn't contain any whole wheat flour. Even though we're not exactly comparing apples to apples here, this one just seems a little healthier than the other. I haven't calculated the nutritional content so I can't say that with confidence.

Anyway, these muffins were fabulous. The Greek yogurt and applesauce provided a lot of moisture in these muffins, and they didn't soften up too much the next day (I kept mine in the refrigerator). I've been happily eating these for breakfast and my husband has been snacking on them too. While Addie liked these just fine, she much preferred the Nutella muffins. Because you know, chocolate. That's my girl.

Lemon blueberry Greek yogurt muffins
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the applesauce, honey and vanilla until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time until each if fully incorporated before adding the next. Add in the lemon juice and zest and mix well.

Gently fold in the medium bowl with the dry ingredients until a few streaks remain. Fold in the blueberries and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pans.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for a few days. Muffins can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Running with Spoons


Friday, September 18, 2015

Skating Fridays

Warmup Exercises

I'm back again this week to recap what I learned at the skating seminar a few weeks ago. Today I am discussing the warmup exercises that Laurent Depouilly shared with us. Laurent is a French figure skater and was Brian Joubert's coach.

These exercises should be done every day, and not just competition day. Laurent stressed that if you don't perform these exercises on a daily basis, then doing them only day-of will do no good.

Begin these exercises as soon as you arrive at the rink.

Warmup for Competition Day
Sequence 1
  • Body Stretching: Start from bottom of body to top (feet, knees, hips, core, shoulders, arms and hands)
Sequence 2
  • Blood pressure: Do exercises to elevate heart rate (running for >6 minutes, skipping rope, climbing stairs)
  • Jump exercises: Jump up and down (10x), jumping jack type jumps (10x), cross feet jumping jacks (10x)
Sequence 3
  • Full body stretching
Sequence 4
  • Jumping techniques (rotations and landings)
  • Hold rotation and landing positions for all 3 spin positions (upright, sit, camel)
  • Music simulation (listen to music, run through choreography using arms)
 Sequence 5
  • Visualization: Visualize your program
Next week: Final notes


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Salted caramel brownies

Jazz up plain brownies with some caramel sauce to make them ooey, gooey and irresistible!

Remember the epic small-batch salted caramel sauce I just posted? If not, click on the link and get ready to drool. Well, I finally found a swoon-worthy recipe to showcase the sticky, gooey caramel sauce I made.

I'm a strange bird and like to eat my ice cream plain (no toppings!), so I didn't want to use my caramel sauce for that. Instead, I decided to add them to brownies to make them that much more decadent and irresistible.

I brought these to a party and they were devoured in about 0.01 seconds flat. The gooey caramel made for an irresistible center, while the brownies themselves were soft and very chewy. We loved these brownies so much that I made a second batch a few days later.

These definitely are one of my favorite brownies to date. If you have caramel sauce, use this recipe for brownies. They are the perfect texture to complement the luscious caramel. Just make sure you hide a few pieces for yourself because they will go very quickly.

Salted caramel brownies
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup chocolate chips or chunks, optional
  • Salted caramel sauce, store-bought or homemade
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line or grease an 8"x8" baking pan and set aside (I used my silicone baking pan and did not grease or line).

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Add in the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Mix well. Fold in the cocoa powder, flour and mix until just combined. If desired, you can add in toss in some chocolate chips or chunks. bittersweet chocolate disks.

Transfer half the brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Evenly pour ¾ cup of the salted caramel sauce over the batter as evenly as you can. Add the remaining brownie batter over the top and cover as much of the caramel as you can.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

Slice into squares and enjoy. Leftover brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will last for about a week.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Barely adapted from Broma Bakery


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pecan pie

A classic pecan pie from my husband's Aunt Jo. She is famous for this pie and always has to make at least 2 for every family gathering!

My husband's Aunt Jo is the family's pie expert. She got her recipes from her mother, who passed away before I met my husband, and I am sad that I never had a chance to meet her in person. She did share some of her dessert recipes with Aunt Jo, who keeps the family pie making tradition going. Every time Aunt Jo visits with family members, she makes pie. Pecan, apple and tart cherry are her classics. All the ingredients are sourced from her land, so this truly is a homemade treat.

Aunt Jo's oldest brother Roger is a pecan pie fiend. In fact, every time Jo bakes pies, she has to bake 2. One for Roger and the other for the other family members to share. Addie has a hard time remembering everyone's names, so we refer to that particular uncle as "Pecan Roger."

When we saw Aunt Jo this summer, Addie asked her if she would be willing to teach her how to make pies. Of course Aunt Jo said yes. I'm selfishly hoping that I can tag along too so I can learn the family secret for making these pies so amazing.

I made this pie for my husband one weekend morning, and when he came home, he had a huge smile on his face. Addie told him that we made him a pecan pie like the kind Pecan Roger would like. I tried a slice and loved it immediately, despite my dislike for nuts in general. Addie enjoyed it too and favored the flaky, buttery crust. And my husband? Let's just say that he happily ate the rest of the pie on his own.

Aunt Jo - I hope I did your pie justice, and I can't wait to have a pie-baking day with you soon. If you let me join you and Addie, that is!

Pecan pie
Crust (makes 2 crusts)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup cold butter or shortening (lard is preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 6-8 Tablespoons water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped or whole pecans 
Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the eggs, butter and vinegar and pulse. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. It should be pliable, but not sticky. (Alternatively, you can mix everything together in a large bowl and use your hands to work the dough) Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The extra crust can be stored in the freezer; just thaw before using. Once dough is cool, roll it out into a circle that is about 1-2 inches wider than the diameter of your pie plate. Place the dough into the plate and crimp the edges.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Mix in the sugar, corn syrup, cooled butter, salt and vanilla until well blended.

Assemble and bake the pie: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the pecans over the pie shell. Slowly pour the filling over the pecans. Bake in your preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the center is almost set.

Yield: One pie; about 8-10 servings

Source: Crust from Aunt Jo; filling from Jo's friend Barb Lauthen


Friday, September 11, 2015

Skating Fridays

Tips for Competition Preparation

As I mentioned last week, I attended a skating seminar focused on competition preparation. My all-star faculty included Audrey Weisiger, Doug Webster, Laurent Depouilly, Kalle Strid and Nick Perna. Wow, that's like a "Who's Who" in figure skating coaches. How amazing is that?

The first section of my seminar was a lecture provided by Audrey Weisiger. Here are the tips and advice that she offered us:
  1. Visualize victory.
  2. Make a plan that starts with the successful outcome you desire and map it out, in reverse, about 6-8 weeks back. Select a specific focus for each week. “Failure to plan is planning to fail” (Winston Churchill)
    • Taper training the week of the competition and take it easy
  3. Identify purpose, problem-solve and progress. Use training logs. Be honest and focus on details. See sample training logs below.
    • Do exhibitions during the worse possible times to prepare for the worst case scenario in order to toughen up.
    • Every program run-through should have a purpose. Come up with 2-3 things you want to improve during each run-through.
  4. Expect the unexpected. Practice coping skills. Watch your language.
    • Say, “This is a great day. I am here and I am ready.”
    • Laugh while you are scared (watch funny vidoes online). It will make the frightened part go away.
  5. Simulate a variety of scenarios. “The best draw is the one you drew” (Audrey Weisiger)
    • Have a friend cut your lace (or simulate it)
    • Have your coach skate next to you with a camera in your face
    • Have friends boo at you
    • Have friends ring cowbells during your program run-throughs
    • Have friends tell you negative things prior to your run-through (“Don’t mess up! You’re going to fall! You’re going to fail!”)
  6. Get inspired and be inspirational. Who are your role models? Are you the person that somebody would aspire to be like?
    • Watch your own videos and find elements you want to copy
    • Watch videos of others to get inspired
  7. Approach competition as if your life depended on a successful outcome, but realize that it doesn’t and be grateful for that.

  8. You become what you practice the most.

Other thoughts
Why do we compete?
  • To see if we’re improving. There will always be somebody better than you. Don’t worry about the other skaters – control only those things that are within your control.
  • Remove the barriers – if a jump combo isn’t working, move it or change it
  • Review your video (of previous performances) and watch it as if you were critiquing your best friend.
Sample training log

Sally Smith

Long Program LRP (Landed, Rotated, Popped)



I have been using the training log and listed out all the elements in my program and mark down how I execute it during program run-throughs. I'm aiming for Ls ("landed") on my most difficult elements and want to keep those as consistent as possible. If I see a  pattern in certain elements (if I am popping or falling on them), then I know it is an area that needs attention.

Hope this has been useful for skaters reading this blog.

Next week: Warmup exercises.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Homemade waffle cones

Homemade waffle cones are a perfect way to enjoy your (homemade) ice cream. They are crisp, crunchy and hold a lot of love and frozen goodness in their centers!

I love ice cream. I love it so much that my mom and I used to eat it as a meal. True story. In order to make it a complete meal, we'd order our frozen treats in a waffle cone.

There was something about a freshly made waffle cone that made it irresistible. The aroma of the freshly pressed waffle brings back some vivid memories of the many times I enjoyed ice cream with my mom. To this day, she still orders her ice cream in a waffle cone.

When my friend Kim from Feed Me, Seymour invited me to join in on her Waffle Week celebration, I immediately jumped at the chance. Rather than share a classic breakfast waffle with you, I thought it would be fun to make a waffle cone instead. I mean, come on. Ice. Cream. Am I right?

This waffle cone took me 4 attempts to make. I had one batch of batter and poured it into my regular waffle iron (I don't own a waffle cone or pizzelle maker). The first waffle was too small. The next one was too big. Then I realized the waffle iron wouldn't work so I switched to my cast iron skillet. The first waffle was too small, and the one you see above was just right.

Although my waffle cones didn't have the traditional criss-cross waffle pattern on it, it didn't detract from the classic waffle cone flavor. They were crisp, crunchy and a perfect vessel for my homemade ice cream (the one you see in the photo is the goat cheese ice cream with roasted red cherries).

#WaffleWeek2015 Hosted by Kim @ Feed Me, Seymour   
Dessert Dish-affles
Homemade waffle cones
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lightly grease/spray a nonstick flat-bottomed pan or skillet. Put it on the stovetop and turn to medium heat.

In a medium sized bowl (I used a glass one with a spout), whisk the egg and sugar together until light and pale, about 2 minutes.

Add the flour and continue to whisk. Then add the milk and vanilla and whisk until everything just comes together.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Lift the pan up and swirl it around so the batter is about 5-6 inches in diameter.

Once the batter starts bubbling, flip it over. Cook until both sides are browned to your liking.

Quickly take the waffle off the pan and shape it into a cone. I shaped some aluminum foil into a rough cone shape and draped the waffle over it and allowed it to cool.

Repeat with the remaining batter. If there is a hole on the bottom of your cone, you can dip it into melted chocolate or fill the bottom with marshmallows to prevent your ice cream from dripping.

Cones should be eaten the day they are made. They will get soggy otherwise (you may be able to freeze them but I haven't tried it).

Yield: About 5 waffle cones

Source: Our Best Bites


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mini banana chocolate chip muffins

Mini banana chocolate chip muffins are perfect for small hands. Or, eat a few without feeling too guilty!
Addie's preschool recently had an end-of-year sleepover. Yes, a sleepover. With preschool kids. When we told her about this event, she went bananas (pun intended). This was her first sleepover, and she was extremely excited.

The cost of "admission" for the sleepover was a brand new board game and a nut-free breakfast item. Since I am still obsessed with muffins, I decided to bake some mini muffins. I knew the kids would have a bunch sugary cereals and other processed things so I wanted to make something small and homemade that they could enjoy. I settled on mini banana chocolate chip muffins.

This muffin recipe made enough for 24 mini muffins plus 4 regular sized ones. I really enjoyed the regular muffins (I was quality controlling for the kids, of course) and found it a bit on the sweet side. I'd recommend cutting down the sugar to 1/2 cup or less and baking for less time than the original recipe (suggestions noted below).

While Addie did not eat any of these muffins the morning after the sleepover, she had a great time. They played games, watched a movie and went to bed around 11pm. Most of the kids were up before 7am, so it was a long night for those courageous teachers that chaperoned the event. It's still hard to believe that my little girl is now a kindergartener!

Mini banana chocolate chip muffins
  • 3 large bananas 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a mini muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, smash the bananas. Add the sugar, egg and applesauce and mix well.

Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Gently mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix until everything is just combined.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes (check after 10 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

Yield: I got 24 mini muffins plus 4 regular sized muffins

Source: Spark Recipes


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dark chocolate raspberry truffle cake

This decadent 3-layer cake tastes like a dark chocolate raspberry truffle. It's perfect for special occasions or any time you are craving some chocolate cake!

Holy moly. I have been married for 10 years already. How on earth has 10 years passed so quickly? It seems like just yesterday when I got engaged and was planning my dream wedding. And yet here we are, ten years and one beautiful daughter later.

You all know that I am incredibly indecisive. I had no idea what to make for our 10 year anniversary, so I turned to my Kindergartener (ahhh!) for ideas. She told me to bake a chocolate caramel cake, but I have already baked 2 different kinds on the blog so I wanted to try something new. Being a chocoholic, I knew I needed to bake something chocolate-y so I started brainstorming.

I saw this gorgeous dark chocolate raspberry truffle cake and knew that I had found our anniversary cake. Yes, there are many steps to the cake, but each one is very easy to do and can be done a day or two ahead of time. I made the filling and ganache two days in advance and baked the cake and made the frosting one day ahead of assembly day. Let me be clear here - this cake is a labor of love, just like any marriage. In other words, don't expect to make this entire cake in one hour.

I have to be honest with you all. This cake was NOT easy to assemble. My cake did not come out very easily from the pan and stuck pretty badly (granted, I didn't grease my pan but I used Williams-Sonoma Gold Touch pans, which normally don't require greasing). Also, the cake started crumbling and falling apart when I started stacking layers and adding frosting. I can't even begin to tell you how much cake was lost in the process. I covered up a lot of the holes with extra frosting and piped a decorative border around the edge to hide some of the ugly spots. Can you tell?

Despite the difficulty assembling my cake, it tasted fantastic. The dark chocolate cake layer was reminiscent of my favorite Hershey's perfectly chocolate cake, and the raspberry filling and ganache were decadent and rich. The frosting was out of this world too - I mean, with a full pound of chocolate in it, how could you go wrong?

Happy wedding anniversary to my loving husband of 10 years. Here's to at least 100 more years of marriage!

Dark chocolate raspberry truffle cake
  • 330 grams all-purpose flour
  • 600 grams granulated sugar
  • 135 grams cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups strong black coffee, hot
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Raspberry filling
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • splash of fresh lemon juice
Chocolate ganache
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
Dark chocolate fudge frosting
  • 6 Tablespoons cocoa powder  
  • 6 Tablespoons boiling water 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar  
  • pinch of salt 
  • 1 pound dark chocolate, melted and cooled   
  • Whipped cream and raspberries, for decorating (optional)
Bake the cakePreheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. 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 flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined.  

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla until well blended.  

Pour the buttermilk mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for about two minutes. The batter will be thin. Evenly distribute the batter to the 3 prepared baking pans and bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pans and bake for an additional 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool the cakes for about 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Make the filling: While the cakes are baking and cooling, drain the thawed raspberries, reserving the liquid in a measuring cup. Add just enough water to the raspberry juice to yield 1 and 1/4 cups of liquid.

Transfer the raspberry-water liquid to a medium saucepan and add the sugar and cornstarch. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Continuously whisk to prevent lumps.

Once the mixture thickens, remove the saucepan from the heat and add in the lemon juice. Whisk again until smooth and fold in the reserved raspberries. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the ganache:  Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, heat the cream in the microwave for about 90 seconds or until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes without stirring. Whisk the ganache vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Add in the butter, one tablespoon at a time until each has been fully incorporated into the mixture. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens and whisk it again until the ganache is smooth before using.

Make the frosting: In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and boiling water until the cocoa powder has dissolved. In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter, confectioner's sugar, and salt on medium high speed until the butter is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Decrease the mixer to low and add the cooled, melted chocolate, beating until it is well combined. Add in the cocoa mixture until everything is well combined. If the frosting is too thin, place it in the fridge for a few minutes to thicken up.

Assemble the cake: Level your cake so they are not domed on top.  Place one cake layer, flat side down, on a cake pan or plate. Transfer about 1/2 cup of the ganache to a piping bag (or a plastic zip-top bag with a hole cut in the corner).

Evenly spread about 1/2 cup of the ganache onto the first cake layer. Using the piping bag, pipe a circle around the edge of the cake so you are making a ganache "wall." Evenly spread about 1/3 cup of the raspberry filling inside the ganache "wall." Top with a cake layer and repeat. When placing the top cake layer, make sure the flat side (non-cut side) is on top.

Once all the layers are stacked, frost the cake with a thin layer of the frosting to create a crumb coat. Place the cake in the refrigerator to let it firm  up. Once the frosting has set, frost the cake with a thicker layer of frosting and decorate as desired.

Store leftover cake in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If stored in the refrigerator, it will keep for several days.

Yield: One, 3-layer, 8" or 9" cake; about 10-12 servings

Source: ambrosia


Friday, September 4, 2015

Skating Fridays

Competition Seminar

This past weekend I attended a skating seminar that was focused on preparing for competitions. I was honored to have an all-star faculty with world and Olympic level coaches. My skating friend K came with me.

The seminar consisted of skaters from all levels and ages. The oldest kid skater was 17, and she thought she was old until I told her that I was double her age and then some.

The faculty assigned us to the group with the elite skaters and asked us to try to do the best we could and keep up. I'm happy to say that we did. Although some of the exercises were difficult for us, I am thrilled that I only fell twice that day and didn't make too big of a fool of myself.

I'll break up my notes into a few different posts so I don't overwhelm you all at once. There was a lot of information to digest, and I'll try to share it all. First up: Tips for competition preparation.

See you  next week!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whole wheat fruit jam muffins

Soft and chewy whole wheat muffins contain a surprise of melted fruit jam in the middle. These muffins contain no butter or oil so they are healthier than your average muffins!

One of Addie's most recent favorite games is "surprise." She likes to tiptoe down the stairs, come up to me and yell, "Surprise!" She thinks she's being so sneaky.

This time I decided to surprise her by making some muffins with a jam-filled interior. The muffins would appear unassuming on the outside, and when she bit in, she'd get a surprise of strawberry jam.

As expected, Addie took one bite of these and said, "Mommy! There is something in the middle!" She continued to lick out all the jam and left the remaining parts of the muffin on her plate. Dang. I thought I was being sneaky, but I guess I was outsmarted this time.

These muffins were definitely a lot of fun to eat. The muffin is slightly dense and does not fall apart easily, which is very important since it contains fruit jam in the middle. The jam melts while being baked, so it oozes out a bit once you take a bite. And because it contains no oil or butter, it's slightly healthier than your standard muffins. I made these with whole wheat flour, but you can certainly use all-purpose if that's your thing.

Whole wheat fruit jam muffins
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 4 oz. jar of your favorite fruit jam
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used a silicone muffin pan and did not grease it).

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

In a separate medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, applesauce, honey, buttermilk and milk.

Transfer the egg mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Fill each muffin well about halfway with the batter. Then spoon a dollop of fruit jam into the middle of the well and top with additional batter (fill until each well is about 3/4 full).

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and brown sugar. Sprinkle this on top of each muffin.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean (you may get some jelly on there, and that's OK).

Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. If storing in the refrigerator, you may want to heat them in the microwave before serving.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Lighter and Local



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