Sunday, May 31, 2015

Flourless chocolate cake with Greek yogurt chocolate ganache frosting

A dense, brownie-like flourless chocolate cake that will make you beg for seconds! The frosting contains only two ingredients and comes together in about 2 minutes!


Redemption. That is what I call this flourless chocolate cake. I've made one before, but it was too dry. Two years later, and here I am. This one is a keeper.

The cake tastes very similar to a brownie. It's dense and has a crunchy, crackly top like a brownie. If you want, you can even top the cake with raspberry preserves or jam and then add your favorite ganache or frosting on top. I didn't have any heavy cream in the house so I made a Greek yogurt-based 2-ingredient ganache frosting. Yes, I said two ingredients.


This cake was a million times better than the previous flourless chocolate cake from two years ago. The frosting is slightly tart from the Greek yogurt and gives a nice contrast to the brownie-like layer beneath. You can garnish the cake with fresh whipped cream, berries or chocolate shavings. Whatever your heart desires. Make this for a friend - chances are they will never know it's flourless!

Flourless chocolate cake
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Greek yogurt chocolate ganache frosting
  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and warm (not hot)
  • 3/4 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt, at room temperature
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously grease a round cake pan (8"-10") and set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and butter. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Add the sugar, salt, espresso powder and vanilla and mix on medium speed until smooth.

Add the eggs, one at a time until the mixture just comes together. Stop the mixer and stir in the cocoa powder by hand. Do not over mix.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a thin crust has formed on the top. Allow the cake to cool slightly before turning out onto a cake plate or stand. Allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting, mix the melted chocolate with the yogurt. The frosting will become stiff as you fold. Mix until no white streaks remain. Spread onto your cooled cake.

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

Yield: One 8"-10" cake (about 8-12 servings)

Source: Cake from King Arthur Flour; ganache from Bakepedia

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Skating Fridays

Bedazzled

Non-skaters often ask the question, "What is it about skaters and their sparkles? Why must you put rhinestones on everything?"

The answer is: "Why not?"

Think about it - most ice surface are white. Skaters need to wear costumes that show up well against that bright white background, and if they are skating with spotlights on, it's even harder to see what they are wearing.

This is where the sparkles come in.

Rhinestones make costumes stand out. They add a bit of flair, or character, to what would otherwise be a normal and boring outfit. We skaters like to feel special, and some sparkles remind us of brilliant and shiny diamonds that twinkle on the ice.

I shared via the Eva Bakes Facebook page a photo of some skates that I saw at a skating competition earlier this year. The skater, who is now a friend of mine, added over 1600 Swarovski crystals to her boots. They were breathtaking. Of course, I wanted to do the same, but my skating isn't quite up to the same level as her. So I did the next best thing and only partially bedazzled my skates:

I bought various sizes of Swarovski crystals and used industrial strength glue (E-6000) to adhere them to my boots. I added these stones to the outsides of my boots, so the photo you see above contains all the sparkles on my skating boots. I used about 200 stones to accomplish this feat.

If I ever get to a higher level of skating (meaning that I am consistently landing doubles and placing well at competitions), then I may consider adding more sparkles to my boots. Until then, this is all I feel that I have earned.

So what do you think about my newly bedazzled skating boots?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sweet lemon sticky rolls

A wonderful alternative to cinnamon rolls, these sweet lemon sticky rolls are perfect for lemon lovers! A soft, pillowy roll is filled with a sweet yet tart filling and topped with the most amazing lemon cream cheese frosting. You'll want to eat seconds and thirds!

My parents always taught me the importance of being a good neighbor. From early on, I always made a point to say hi to my neighbors and become friends with them. I'm proud to say that my neighbor from Delaware (whom I met when I was in 4th grade) still keeps in touch with me. He and his grown children live in Arizona, and we still send each other Christmas cards.

We moved to our current neighborhood almost 3 years ago and tried our best to be friendly with our neighbors. A few of them keep to themselves since they don't have children around Addie's age. Our newest neighbors moved in about a year ago, and they have two boys that are slightly older than our daughter. We've become friends with them, and I always try to share treats with their family.


During Mother's Day weekend, I decided to make my own brunch. My husband was going to be traveling that day, so what better way to treat myself to a well-deserved meal? He and Addie played outside while I prepared these sticky rolls for my morning treat. I doubled the recipe and decide to gift some to my neighbor.

My neighbor had been attending lacrosse games all weekend and didn't have the time to make breakfast on Mother's Day because they were attending another lacrosse game. I gave her a batch of these sweet lemon rolls and a container of the lemon crease cheese frosting as her Mother's Day present. She came over later that day to tell me how wonderful the rolls were. Her non-dessert eating husband even devoured a few rolls. She even told me that I'm slowly converting him to a dessert fan.

Addie and I scarfed down our rolls in record time. She and I both love cinnamon rolls, and these were reminiscent of those. I did find that the recipe for the filling made too much, so I recommend cutting that down. Also, I baked my rolls for only 20 minutes and they were already a bit too brown on top. So if you make these rolls, decrease the amount of filling and check on your oven about 15 minutes into baking so the rolls don't burn.

These rolls are perfect for any motherly figure in your life - or for yourself!

Sweet lemon sticky rolls
Dough
  • 3/4 cup warm milk, about 100°F
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • 4 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Filling
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very soft (I recommend cutting this down to 2 or 3 Tablespoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, from 2 lemons (I recommend cutting this down to the juice of 1 lemon)
Lemon cream cheese frosting
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced 
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Directions
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the warm milk. Sprinkle the yeast over  the milk and allow it to rest for about 5-10 minutes or until it gets foamy. Add in the butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and 1 cup of the flour and mix on medium speed until everything is well incorporated and the dough is soft and sticky.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and slowly add the remaining flour until you achieve a soft and pliable dough. It should be soft, stretchy but not sticky. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover (with a wet towel or plastic wrap). Allow to double in size, about 1 hour.

Make the filling: While the dough is rising, add the sugar to the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Add the lemon zest and gently rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until all the zest is mixed in. You should get a fragrant lemon aroma. Add the butter, ginger and nutmeg and mix on medium speed until the butter is light and fluffy. Slowly drizzle in the lemon juice until the filling is creamy. Set aside.

Make the frosting: In the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), cream the lemon juice, zest and cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If it is too stiff, add more lemon juice or a bit of milk.

Assemble the rolls: Generously grease or butter a 9"x13" pan and set aside. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a large (10"x15") rectangle.

Add the filling to the middle of the dough and evenly spread it out. Leave about a 1" border around all sides. Starting on the longer end of the rectangle, roll it up, jelly-roll style, until you get a long cylinder. Make sure the roll is seam-side down.

Cut the rolls into 12 even slices (a bench scraper is great for this) and place them into your prepared pan. At this point, you can refrigerate the rolls and bake them another day or bake immediately. If baking another day, allow the rolls to thaw for 30-60 minutes before baking.

To bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the rolls turn a light golden brown. Mine baked for 20 minutes and were already brown, so check your rolls after 15 minutes.

Allow the rolls to cool slightly before adding the frosting. If desired, top with additional lemon zest to serve. Leftover rolls should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. They can be rewarmed in the microwave or oven. Leftover glaze can be eaten with a spoon or used as a dip for whatever your heart desires.

Yield: About 12 generously sized rolls

Source: the kitchn

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Breakfast pizza

Not sure what to make for weekend breakfasts? This quick and easy breakfast pizza can be customized to your tastes. It's hearty, satisfying and sure to bring a smile! Who can say no to pizza?

The last month has been crazy busy in the Eva Bakes household. I competed at Adult Nationals, we went to the men's Final Four, we had family visit from Taiwan, my in-laws came to town, and we had Addie's 5th birthday party. And somehow I still managed to keep my job and keep this little blog running.

When my husband and I were out of town for the skating competition, my parents came to take care of Addie. For whatever reason, Addie will not eat any food that my mom makes (she is a phenomenal cook, so this baffles me). Since Addie refused my mom's food, they resorted to something that I normally don't allow - they took her to fast food restaurants. Addie ate at fast food places 5 days in a row and gained at least 2 pounds. #truestory

While I wasn't thrilled that she ate chicken nuggets and hamburgers for a full week, I knew that she'd be a picky eater because my parents allow her to be. Addie can be picky when I am cooking too, but one thing I can always count on her eating is pizza.

When I told her that I was making pizza for breakfast one day, she was intrigued. Pizza? For breakfast? We didn't add too many crazy toppings so she would actually eat the whole thing. And you know what? She did. She ate her entire slice and then some.

Although this isn't the healthiest of breakfast--far from it, I might add--it at least satisfies picky preschoolers and husbands. You can customize your breakfast pizza to your personal tastes and whatever toppings you enjoy. So the next time someone asks for pizza for breakfast, you can say, "Yes!"

Breakfast pizza
  • 1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 1 pound ground breakfast sausage
  • Toppings of choice (mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc.)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • 1 and 1/4 cups grated cheese of choice (I used mozzarella, but you can use cheddar, parmesan or any other cheese you desire)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Open the package of crescent rolls and separate them into 8 triangles. Press them together to form a large circle and transfer to a deep dish pizza pan, 9" round cake pan or skillet. You may need to grease the pan first, depending upon the type of pan you use. Press the dough up the sides of the pan like you are forming a deep dish pizza crust.

Brown the sausage and drain the grease. Add to the bottom of the crust and add any other toppings you prefer.

Whisk together the eggs, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Pour this over the sausage and toppings. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the eggs have set.

Allow the pizza to cool slightly before serving.

Yield: One 9" breakfast pizza (about 6 servings)

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com

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Classic blueberry muffins and a giveaway

This classic blueberry muffin is light and tender and will not dry out overnight. A crunchy sugar topping provides a nice contrast to the fluffy muffin. You'll want to make these muffins again!

It was Teacher Appreciation Week at preschool recently, and I knew what I wanted to bake Addie's teacher. I wanted to bake her some classic blueberry muffins since she gets to school pretty early and barely has time to eat a good breakfast. Addie said that she sees her teacher eating yogurt in the mornings.

I've brought them Greek yogurt muffins before and thought it would be fun to try a classic blueberry muffin recipe. This came from a cookbook that I already own, and the authors are good old Southern bakers. Having gone to college in the South, I know that Southerners really know their food. I knew this recipe would not disappoint. Normally, I would replace the butter and oil with applesauce, but I left the ingredients as-is to see how the muffins would turn out.


As expected, the muffins were soft and fluffy. Each bite yielded a tender and light crumb, and the muffins did not dry out overnight. The coarse sugar on the muffin tops provided a nice textural contrast to the airy muffin base. This is definitely a recipe worth keeping if you aren't counting calories. Addie said she wasn't hungry yet ate one and a half of these one afternoon. For a girl who wasn't hungry, she certainly ate her share of muffins!



And now onto the giveaway! One lucky U.S.-based Eva Bakes reader will receive a ChefAlarm from ThermoWorks.  Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as sometimes the widget is slow to load. Good luck!

ChefAlarm from ThermoWorks
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Classic blueberry muffins


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional
  •  
    Directions

    Preheat your oven to 350 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, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    In a medium sized bowl, mix together the oil, melted butter, vanilla, eggs and milk. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold gently until a few dry streaks remain.

    Gently add the blueberries and fold until no dry streaks remain. You do not want to overmix the batter.

    Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan and bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Allow muffins to cool before serving. Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

    Disclaimer: ThermoWorks provided me with complimentary products, but I was not compensated for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.

    Yield: 12 muffins

    Source: The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, page 19


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    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Skating Fridays

    Jump and Spin seminar from a famous Ukranian coach


    Last week, I had the honor of attending a jump and spin seminar from a famous Ukranian coach at our rink. He coached an Olympic gold medalist and happens to teach at our rink. I have said hi to him a few times, but he and I never really had a conversation.

    I had no idea what to expect at this seminar. Would we work on standard jumps and spins? Would someone demonstrate and then we'd copy them? Whatever the format was, I was excited because this would be my first time working with him.

    There were around 25 skaters on the ice, and they ranged from moderate beginners to elite skaters (at the intermediate and junior ladies and novice men levels). I was one of two adults. Naturally, the two of us stuck together.

    Ukranian coach gave us some warmup exercises to try down the rink. The first ones seemed simple enough: backwards swizzle, backwards swizzle, hop to right back inside edge, hop to left back inside edge. OK, I got this. Then things got progressively harder. He had us try the same exercise but add on same-foot salchows going into a regular salchow. Then he got crazy and added backwards three turns into forward power pulls followed by a waltz jump or axel.

    Now came the spins. He gave us some very difficult spin entry exercises, and none of the skaters (not even the elite skaters) could do most of these. One of the most challenging entries was from a standard crossover windup - except you started off with the windup from "the other direction." So, I would do the spin windup that a normal counterclockwise spinner would do (right over left backwards crossovers). But, instead of stepping into the spin, I would hold the backwards crossover edge, extend my (left) free foot behind me, and then try to whip the free leg around directly into a sit spin. This entry was nearly impossible.

    He had a few other entrances that were equally as difficult. Of all the spins we tried, I actually managed to do 2 of them. And of the 15-20 various exercises we did in the hour-long class, I am proud to say that I was able to correctly execute about 5 of them. Not bad for an adult skater, right?

    All in all, it was a fun hour, and the time went by very quickly. I'm not sure when I'll get to interact with the Ukranian coach in this capacity again, but at least now I can say that I learned from a coach whose skater won the Olympic gold medal!

    This would count as a "sit-behind" position if I could get fully down into the sit position

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    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcakes

    Never been to the famous Magnolia Bakery? Never fear - make your own version at home for a fraction of the price! These are perfect for a birthday celebration or any other special occasion!


    With Addie's joint birthday party quickly approaching earlier this month, I wasn't sure what kind of cupcakes to bake. This year's party was huge - we would have over 20 kids and their parents attend, so I planned to make 4 dozen cupcakes. I needed a recipe that I could easily double and appeal to both adults and children. I thought about Oreo cupcakes but didn't want to make things more complicated. On top of that, my in-laws were going to visit for the party weekend, so my time was extremely limited. I needed a good cupcake recipe - fast.

    The recipe I finally decided to try was this one from Magnolia Bakery. I've heard a lot of hype about Magnolia Bakery and their cupcakes. In fact, I hear a lot about cupcakeries. But what can I say? I'm cheap. I'm not usually one to dish out $2+ for a cupcake when I know that I can bake a dozen for the same price. Plus, I just get a lot of joy baking things for people. Not to mention I don't add any funky ingredients into my cupcakes to make them shelf-stable.


    Addie was disappointed when I told her that I'd bake vanilla cupcakes, but once I said that I'd make the frosting "Elsa" blue and add fun sprinkles, she was sold. The cupcake was nice and fluffy, and the frosting was a classic American-style buttercream. The frosting was such a hit that several of the kids quickly ate it off the tops of the cupcakes and then complained that I forgot to frost them. Sneaky kids!

    I wasn't able to try a cupcake on the day that they were baked, but I can tell you that they dried out just slightly overnight (but didn't lose any additional moisture after several days). I had them stored in an airtight container, but the cupcakes lost a bit of moisture. The parents all loved the cupcakes, though, and the kids seemed to love them too, so that is all that matters.


    Please visit Mandy's Recipe Box for the full recipe!

    Yield: About 24 cupcakes

    Source: The New York Times; frosting from here

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    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Beef wellington and a giveaway

    Beef wellington is an impressive entree that will really wow your guests. A medium rare filet mignon and sauteed mushrooms are surrounded by a crisp and lightly browned puff pastry crust. Bon appetit!

    I hate when things break. I am one of those people who likes to hold onto things until they no longer work. You might call me a pack rat, but I don't know of any good reason to replace something unless it fails to work.

    For example, I bought a Brooke Shields hair styling kit in 4th grade that lasted until just a few years ago. True story. The pink and purple hair dryer from that kit lasted me a good 20+ years. I was pretty devastated when the hair dryer finally broke and I had to buy a new one.

    But one thing that has never worked for me is a kitchen thermometer. I own at least 3 or 4 expensive kitchen thermometers, including ones from fancy, well-known high-end stores. None of them has worked. Even the cheapo ones didn't work.


    Imagine my delight and surprise when ThermoWorks contacted me to try out their kitchen thermometers. Of course, I was a bit weary about their products since I have yet to own a kitchen thermometer that works. My in-laws were in town visiting one weekend when I decided to make them a beef wellington for dinner. This was the perfect time to put the thermometers to the test and see if they functioned.

    The original beef wellington recipe asked me to bake the dish for 35-40 minutes. I knew my oven was running hot that day so I wouldn't need to bake it as long. But because I couldn't see the filet mignon (it was wrapped in puff pastry, remember), I didn't have a way to measure the internal temperature. Enter the Thermapen.  In 3 seconds flat, I had a temperature reading - 135 degrees F. Just for fun, I tried the ThermoPop in the other beef wellington to see how that one was doing. To my excitement, both beef wellingtons measured within 1-2 degrees of each other, which was normal since the filets weren't exactly the same size. Since the wellingtons were within the correct internal temperatures for the recipe, that meant that I could turn off the oven and let them rest.

    Thanks to my Thermapen and ThermoPop, my wellingtons came out perfectly. My in-laws and husband enjoyed their beef wellingtons and ate every bite. I've tried this dish at Gordon Ramsay's in Las Vegas, and while it's good, it cost upwards of $100. I made two wellingtons for about $30 total, and it fed 4 people.

    I am so happy to finally own some kitchen thermometers that work - and work well! Best of all, they can measure food's temperature in a matter of seconds, unlike many of the other expensive brands I've tried.
    Thermapen - my first working kitchen thermometer!
    And now onto the giveaway! One lucky U.S.-based Eva Bakes reader will receive a Thermapen   from ThermoWorks. Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as sometimes the widget can be slow to load. Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Beef wellington
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 (6-8 ounce) filet mignon, at least 1-inch thick
    • Salt
    • Black pepper
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley)
    • 1 pound frozen puff pastry (1 package), thawed
    • 1 large egg
    Directions
    Thaw the puff pastry according to the package (if using frozen).

    Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan (or other frying pan; do not use a non-stick skillet) over high heat. Season the filets with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear in the hot pan for 1-2 minutes on each side, making sure not to cook the steaks too much. Transfer to a plate and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Do not clean the skillet.

    In the same skillet, melt the butter. Saute the shallots until they are soft. Then add the minced garlic and mushrooms until they are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

    Roll out one sheet of puff pastry using a rolling pin. Place one of the seasoned steaks in the middle of the pastry. Using a sharp paring knife, you will cut out a large "+" shape (so the steak is in the middle of the cross/plus-sign). You will end up with 4 squares of extra pastry that you can save for another day or use for something else.

    Add some of the mushroom mixture on top of the steak. Fold up the top, bottom and sides of the pastry and pinch to make sure there are no holes. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.

    Repeat with the other steak and sheet of puff pastry.

    When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

    Brush each pastry with the egg. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the steak reaches 130 degrees F for a medium rare steak. (If your wellington is frozen, heat your oven to 400 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees F and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a thermometer reads 130 degrees F.)

    Allow the beef wellington to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting in half and serving.

    Yield: 2 individual beef wellingtons

    Disclaimer: ThermoWorks provided me with complimentary samples of their products, but I was not compensated for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% mine. This post contains affiliate links.

    Source: Slightly adapted from use real butter

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    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Skating Fridays

    Lost and Found


    I think I mentioned on here several times that my camel spin disappeared about a month before Adult Nationals. I'm not even kidding here - the spin completely went away, and no matter what I did to work on it, the spin was gone (ask my coach - she will vouch for me). I took the camel out of my freestyle program so I wouldn't stress about it.

    Also, my axel was nowhere to be found at Adult Nationals. I was landing them left and right during my official and unofficial practices at the competition. When I skated my programs, the axels left the building.

    After I returned home after Nationals, I took things easy the following two weeks. I *only* skated three times a week instead of my normal 5-6. I didn't run through my programs at all and instead tried to nail the troublesome elements.

    And wouldn't you know it - the camel was perfect, and the axels were huge and fully rotated. My coach said that my mental game needs some tweaking this year. I can physically execute all of these elements, but my head got in the way at Nationals. Little bits of doubt prevented me from skating my best. I thought that I was pretty good at the mental preparation for this sport, but I have been proven wrong.

    It's been about a month since Nationals (I hardly believe that), and the camel spins and axels have been back to regular form. I just hope they are here to stay. As my skating friend K says, I need to "leash" the axel and camels so they don't try to run away again!


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    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Recipe Roundup: Almond flour recipes

    Image courtesy of Nuts.com

    Is it me, or does it feel like more people are going gluten-free (GF) these days? One of the skating moms at the rink is GF, as is one of my former coworkers. Several kids in Addie's preschool have various food allergies, so it appears that a GF diet is becoming more and more popular.

    One popular GF flour substitute that I've been seeing is almond flour.  In fact, my friend Nicole actually created an entire cookbook devoted to it.

    Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I don't eat nuts (it's a texture thing). But, I do like using nut flour in baking to get benefits from the protein and nutrients found in regular nuts. In fact, I love using almond flour in macarons instead of buying raw almonds and grinding them myself.

    For those who are gluten-free or simply want a list of GF desserts to try, here is a roundup of what I have made with almond flour:






    Hope you enjoyed this nutty roundup!

    Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation or products for this post. This is simply a partnered post with Nuts.com that I chose to participate in.

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    Sunday, May 10, 2015

    Greek yogurt chocolate layer cake

    This chocolate layer cake from Nigella Lawson is one of the chef's favorites. It contains Greek yogurt in both the cake and frosting for an extra boost of protein!

    Happy Mother's Day! Are you doing anything special for the mothers in your lives? I am most likely going to make myself a cake today. In fact, I have been a cake- and cupcake-making fool in the past few weeks. As you know, Addie turned 5 in April. I baked cupcakes for her to celebrate with two of her best friends at a dinner party. I baked a (different) chocolate layer cake for her actual birthday. I baked cupcakes for her joint birthday party. And I baked this cake for my cousin when she visited from Taiwan.

    My cousin was on a 3-week vacation to the US and made a pitstop at my house to visit. She and I never really hung out much as kids, mostly because we lived on the other side of the planet. Literally. My family and I would visit Taiwan about once every 5 years, and we would see my cousin, but we never got a chance to really get to know each other.

    I wanted to make my cousin a new recipe rather than repeating something I've already blogged about. I knew that the chocolate that they have in Taiwan is slightly different (read: less sweet) than the chocolate here. And I knew that the chocolate cake in Taiwan was more like a sponge cake rather than what we know as chocolate cake. So chocolate cake it was.


    My cousin and her travel companion loved this cake so much that they both ate it for breakfast. Twice. On the day I drove them to the train station to return to my parents' house, they were a bit rushed in the morning. As I was ready to leave the house, I saw both of them shovel a small slice of cake in their mouths before we got in the car.

    Personally, I found the cake to be a tad on the dry side, but the frosting was good. The addition of Greek yogurt really made the frosting smoother and fluffier than a traditional buttercream. I think the frosting recipe is a keeper, but I the cake itself was a bit disappointing.

    Greek yogurt chocolate layer cake
    Cake
    • cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs  
    • cup plain Greek yogurt
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Frosting
    • ¾ stick unsalted butter
    • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon golden syrup (can substitute light corn syrup)
    • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
    • cups powdered sugar (plus more if needed)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Directions
    Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generous grease and/or line two 9" round cake pans and set aside.

    In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa 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 the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time until each one is fully incorporated. Add the Greek yogurt and vanilla and mix well. Batter will be thick.

    Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared pans and bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

    Make the frosting: Melt the butter and chopped chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer.

    Whip the chocolate/butter mixture on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes. Add in the golden syrup and Greek yogurt and mix until smooth. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time. If the frosting seems too runny, add more powdered sugar (I ended up using about 4 cups). Finally, add in the vanilla and mix until the frosting is smooth.

    Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a cake pan and add about 1/2 to 1 cup of frosting on top. Smooth with an offset or rubber spatula. Add the other cake layer and repeat. Remaining frosting should be added to the sides of the cake and smoothed out. Add sprinkles or other decorations as desired.

    Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

    Yield: One 9" cake; about 10-12 servings

    Source: Slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson

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    Friday, May 8, 2015

    Skating Fridays

    Recap from Adult Nationals - Part 3 of 3

    After my Freestyle event, I had a dramatic event the following day. I signed up to practice the day of so I would have a chance to properly warm up before the event. The practice ice that I signed up for said it was available for Gold, Championship Gold and above. Or so I thought.

    When I arrived at the practice rink, I noticed that I was the only one who wasn't skating in a championship event. I probably read the description wrong and accidentally signed up for a practice time that I wasn't supposed to. Oops.

    At morning practice with a beautiful mountain backdrop

    I am actually glad that I made that mistake because I met some wonderful skaters there. One of the men was skating in the Championship Gold Men event, and three ladies were competing in the Championship Gold Ladies event. I had already met one of the 3 ladies, so it was very cool to meet the other two (both of them medaled by the way, and one of them ending up becoming the Ladies'  Champion!).

    I ended practice feeling really motivated and inspired. My event wasn't until later that evening, so I had a full day to prepare.

    I didn't really know anybody from my event, so I introduced myself to the other skaters. Four men were skating against me. I was 8th to skate out of 12.

    As I did in previous competitions, I looked up towards the heavens and talked to my recently departed family and friends. When I took the ice, it felt like an out of body experience. I focused on connecting to the music and just letting my legs and body go on autopilot.

    I didn't land the axel at the end, but the rest of the program felt good. After watching the rest of the competitors, I had no idea how I would place. I mean, there were 12 of us, so I could end up last like I did the previous year.

    To my surprise, I tied for 4th! And because of the tiebreak, I dropped down to 5th. Medals are awarded to the top 4, so I was *thisclose* to earning my first national medal. Rather than be bummed about this, I was ecstatic because I made so many improvements from 2014 in this event. I moved up from last to tied for 4th!

    Skating to Sarah McLachlan's "Angel"
    I wish I could share the video with you, but YouTube doesn't like me. I purchased a legit copy of the music and didn't claim copyright to the music, but YouTube has blocked it. The music is to Sarah McLachlan's Angel and is the first minute and 40 seconds of the song (minus the introductory chords).

    I'm not sure how long I'll keep this program. While it seems to resonate well with the audience and somewhat with the judges, I may retire it and try something completely new. Who knows?

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    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    Chocolate peanut butter pie

    This chocolate peanut butter pie was included in Food & Wine's Best of the Best cookbook compilations. The creator of the pie says that this pie is always included in her restaurant, The Loveless Cafe in Nashville.


    I'm sharing this decadent chocolate peanut butter pie recipe over at Books 'N Cooks today! Be sure to visit me over there for my guest post!



    Yield: One 9-inch pie, about 8-10 servings

    Source: Slightly adapted from Alisa Huntsman, via Food & Wine: Best of the Best; pages 105-106

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    Sunday, May 3, 2015

    Eggless chocolate layer cake

    A super moist, dense and rich chocolate cake that is made without eggs! The moisture comes from applesauce and buttermilk and will stay fresh for several days. Top it with sprinkles to make the cake even better!

    I'm still astounded that Addie turned 5 last month. It doesn't seem that long ago when she was crawling or drooling on her bib. Now we have to prepare for Kindergarten (!!) and all the fun stuff that comes with that.

    When I asked Addie what kind of cake she wanted for her 5th birthday, she immediately said chocolate with sprinkles. I looked for a recipe that would fit the bill but wanted to keep in mind my parents' dietary needs. As I mentioned on here before, my father had a minor heart attack over a year ago, so he has not been eating too many eggs. I thought an eggless cake would be difficult to find, but I was wrong. Don't get me wrong - this recipe uses plenty of butter so it's not health food, but I can honestly say that there are no eggs in it.


    The cake extremely moist and chocolate-y and was a huge hit with my family. My dad was surprised when I told him that there were no eggs in it. Since he is also watching his butter intake, he only took a small slice, but I know he wanted more.

    The birthday girl ate her slice in record time and got some chocolate all over her face. It was a precious moment that I wish I had captured on camera, but the OCD mom in me wiped her face before I could even think about taking a photo.

    This was one of the best chocolate cakes I've had to date, and that's definitely saying something. I've had plenty of chocolate cakes in my lifetime, and this was rich, dense and full of chocolate flavor. The applesauce and buttermilk made the cake nice and moist, and the cake didn't dry out even after a full week.

    I'm keeping this recipe in my back pocket because I know I'll be making it again.

    Eggless chocolate layer cake
    Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 225 grams unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup water/milk of choice/coffee


  • Directions
    Bake the cake: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease and line two 9" round cake pans and set aside.

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

    The bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add in half of the applesauce and mix. Add the remaining applesauce and vinegar and mix well. The batter will look curdled, but do not worry.

    Add in the vanilla. Then alternatively add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

    Evenly divide the batter into your two prepared cake pans. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting. I found that it's best refrigerated overnight before frosting (the cakes will be a bit soft to slice in half and frost otherwise).

    Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute.

    Add in the melted chocolate, vanilla, salt and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Mix for 1 minute. Alternatively add in the remaining powdered sugar and milk in 3 increments, beginning and ending with the powdered sugar. Once all the powdered sugar is in the bowl, beat on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. If the frosting is too stiff, add a bit more liquid (milk or coffee). If it is too runny, add more powdered sugar.

    Assemble the cake: Remove the cooled cakes from the pan and slice each one in a half horizontally (optional). I used a serrated bread knife to cut mine in half. Put one layer on the bottom of a cake pan and top with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of frosting. Repeat with remaining layers. Add frosting to the top and sides of cake and serve.

    Leftover cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for about 1 week.

    Yield: One 9" cake; about 10-12 servings

    Source: Eggless Cooking

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    Friday, May 1, 2015

    Skating Fridays

    Recap from Adult Nationals - Part 2 of 3

    I hope you all enjoyed my last post about Adult Nationals (ANs). Seriously, I had the best time. Of course, I was missing my rinkmates and especially my skating BFF and training partner (Hi, K!), but I still managed to have a wonderful time.

    While I was in the locker room getting ready for my freestyle event, I met another skater from Colorado (Hi, P!). After we started chatting, we realized that we were very similar. Both of us had children, we were working on similar elements, and we both only skated in 4-5 total competitions. She was new to the Gold level, as was I. We scored similarly in previous competitions, and we were both at ANs with no other rinkmates or coaches. In addition, we had similar music, hair, dresses and even had the same poses in our programs. I had a skating twin! Naturally, we decided to hang out together and coach each other for our event. As it turned out, she skated first, and I would skate third.

    As I took my beginning position, something just felt weird. I'm not sure if it was the high altitude or jet lag, but I felt really sluggish on the ice. I also think I forgot to smile throughout my program because I felt heavy.

    I was hitting the elusive camel-sit spin combination in practice earlier that day, but what I realized was that once I put it into the context of my program, I wasn't getting enough speed going into it, so I couldn't get the required number of revolutions for it to count. As a result, I made the decision to take out that spin and swap it for another one. This turned out to be a good move, since I gained positive GOE (grade of execution) on the new spin and didn't get the dreaded "dash of doom" for 0 points.

    Unfortunately, I fell on my axel, and I ran slightly over time. The 2 point deduction from these two mistakes cost me greatly. Had I not received these penalties, I would have placed 10th.

    Although I was bummed and disappointed in myself for this skate, there is a lot to be proud of. I only received one "dash of doom" this time, which was on my lutz combination. I two-footed it and they didn't count the request of my combination (a toeloop-loop). It's an improvement from the last competition, where I got two dashes of doom. Also, my PCS (presentation) scores improved too. In fact, my PCS scores were higher than many of the skaters who placed above me.

    Coach B and I will be strategizing soon to see what else we need to change to increase my scores for the next competition, whenever that will be. I hope to add a few more difficult spins to my repertoire and earn a score in the mid to high 20s.

    Here is my performance from ANs:


    Next week I will recap my Dramatic event.

    Until then...

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