Friday, December 30, 2016

Skating Fridays

Best axel of my life {Video}


Those of you who have been on my axel journey (9 years and counting) know that it took me about 8 years before I finally learned how to cross my legs. I had been doing this jump with a 'stork leg,' which was really ugly. But hey, it got the job done.

Coach desperately wanted me to get rid of the 'adult leg syndrome' and cross my legs. For the past few weeks, I've been working very hard on getting this concept into muscle memory. It's funny - she mentioned that working on the double salchow was going to help my axel, and she was totally right. While I still haven't landed a fully clean double sal yet (YET!!!), my axel has gotten significantly better.

I'd like to end 2016 on this high note - a big axel with fully crossed legs! I know that I'm not fully crossing at the ankles yet, but I'm taking baby steps and hope to get there some day. This is my best axel to date, and I am pleased to have gotten it on video.

Happy New Year to all, and I'll see you in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top posts of 2016

Top posts of 2016 

As the year comes to close, it's that time to share the top posts of 2016, as clicked on and viewed by all of you. I'm not surprised at most of these since some of the recipes are definitely things that I continue to bake and enjoy. (You'll have to forgive the photos, as many of them are from several years ago when I didn't know what I was doing.)

Here we go!

10. Hawaiian mango bread - What a great way to reminisce about my place of future retirement...



9. Vanilla buttermilk cupcakes - Still my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe


8. Chinese steamed sticky rice cakes - An amazing dessert that's perfect for Chinese New Year


7. White chocolate cheesecake - Always a staple in my kitchen during the holidays!

6. White Russian cupcakes - Boozy cupcakes perfect for parties and celebrations!

5. Spaghetti squash muffins - A wonderful, sweet way to enjoy spaghetti squash

4. Brown derby cake - One of my childhood favorites from New Jersey!

3. Honey butter croissants from Hop's - Gosh, I miss this restaurant and their amazing croissants!

2. Chinese bakery-style cake - A traditional Chinese cake that I'll be baking for my dad's birthday

1. Acorn squash bread - One of my favorite ways to feature acorn squash!

Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope to see you in 2017!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

One bowl gingerbread muffins

These gingerbread muffins are the perfect way to enjoy a spicy gingerbread for breakfast! As an added bonus, everything is mixed in one bowl so there are fewer dishes to clean!

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating the holiday today! I hope that Santa was good to you all and that you are able to spend the day with your loved ones.

When I was growing up, we never baked anything holiday-themed so I was always jealous of the kids that got to bake cookies or decorate gingerbread houses. Now I want to do all the holiday baking so I am definitely making up for lost time.

A few weekends ago, my family and I decorated our very first gingerbread house. The house was already pre-made (with glue, nonetheless) so the structure was all ready to go for us. They gave us a bunch of holiday candy, frosting, and allowed us to go to down. We went with our neighbor, who gave us the fantastic tip about leaving at least one wall of the gingerbread house lightly decorated. That way, the gingerbread aroma could permeate throughout our house and make it smell like the holidays.

We took their advice and man has our house smelled like a million bucks. Rather than try to sneak a bite of the gingerbread house and risk eating glue, I decided to bake gingerbread muffins instead. That way I had an excuse to eat gingerbread for breakfast and all the other meals and snacks throughout the day.

I loved that these muffins were made in one bowl so there wasn't as much to clean up. These muffins bake up super dense, so if you want them a bit fluffier, I'd recommend upping the applesauce to 3/4 cup or even adding about 1/4 cup of water. My husband and I loved these since they weren't too sweet and had a wonderful gingerbread flavor. Addie wasn't as big of a fan, but only because I didn't add chocolate chips to them. You can certainly throw some in if you like, but we preferred keeping the gingerbread flavor as the hero in these muffins.


One bowl gingerbread muffins
  • 1 small/medium sized banana (about 1/2 cup), mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the banana, egg and vanilla extract until well blended. Add in the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt until well incorporated. Mix in the applesauce, molasses and milk. Then add in the sugars, baking powder and baking soda and mix until well blended. Gently fold in the flour until everything just comes together - do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into the baking wells, filling each about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 375 degrees F, rotate the pan, and bake for another 7-10 minutes more 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 several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Fork Knife Swoon

Friday, December 23, 2016

Skating Fridays

2017 Skating Goals 


Last week I recapped how I progressed on my 2016 skating goals. This week it's time to declare my 2017 goals. Here they are:

  1. Continue to increase PCS (program component scores) in freestyle programs. I still want to achieve at least 17 points in the PCS. I've been working with a different choreographer and am taking ballet classes to help with my presentation. I haven't competed since these two coaching additions so I am curious to see how judges react to my skating. Stretch goal - approach 20 points in PCS.

  2. Increase technical scores. I'd like to aim to receive full credit (no underrotation) for my axel jump and land it cleanly in competition. I'd also like to receive either 0 or positive GOEs on all technical elements, including my spins.

  3. Approach 30 points in my freestyle program (will depend on above, since my overall points consists of PCS and Technical). Stretch goal - earn Top 6 placement at Adult Sectionals. Ultimate fantasy - earn Top 4 placement at Adult Sectionals and spot in the Championship Gold Ladies event at Adult Nationals.

  4. Land a correct double salchow. That means my legs are crossed, arms are pulled in and I have an "IJS clean" landing. No forward landings with a 3-turn exit, which is what I am doing now.

  5. Add another axel in my program. Assuming that I can continue to land these cleanly when running programs, I'd like to add a second one to increase my technical score.

  6. Continue working on double toe loop and/or double loop. Maybe even land a few cheated ones here and there. Stretch goal - land one (or both) of these cleanly!
So there you have it. Keep me honest and accountable here and feel free to check with me to see how these are progressing. I'd love to hear what your 2017 goals are, whether they are skating related or not.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Apple gingerbread cream cake

This apple gingerbread cream cake is a cross between an apple tarte tatin and a gingerbread. With a caramel apple topping and spiced molasses cake, what's not to love?
Did you go apple picking this fall? Are you still up to your elbows in apples? If so, then this is the dessert for you. It's a perfect blend of fall and winter. It's essentially a combination of an apple tarte tatin and a gingerbread cake.

You start off by caramelizing the sugar and layering your apples on top. Then you add a spiced molasses gingerbread cake and infuse it with some cream. Are you drooling yet? Because if not, I am.
I am not surprised by how quickly we devoured this cake. The cake was dense yet soft and bursting with gingerbread spices. The caramel and apples added some additional sweetness and texture to this already-amazing cake.

So if you're looking for a new twist on a traditional tarte tatin or simply want to be able to marry two seasonal fall flavors together, bake this cake. As an added bonus, it will make your house smell like the holidays.

Apple gingerbread cream cake
  • 3 Tablespoons plus 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 pound apples, cored, seeded, peeled and sliced thinly, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (please do not use the imitation kind)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 10" springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper and butter that too. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon of the butter with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons of water over medium heat. Stir constantly until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and allow the mixture to slowly caramelize. Continue to swirl the pan until large bubbles slowly form and caramel starts to turn amber. Pour the caramel into the bottom of your pan and make sure it evenly coats the bottom.

In the same saucepan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter. Add half of the sliced apples and cook over medium heat until the apples start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked apples to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Repeat the process with the remaining apples. Once the apples have cooled enough to handle, arrange them on the bottom of  your pan on top of the caramel.

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

In a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, melt the stick of butter. Add in the molasses, maple syrup and remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar until well blended. Add in the eggs and ginger until everything is well combined.

Measure out 1/4 cup of hot water in a measuring cup. Add in the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda and mix until it is fully dissolved. Add this to the molasses mixture and mix well.

Transfer the molasses mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Combine all ingredients together. Pour the batter into the springform pan over the apples. Shake the pan so the batter is even. Gently and slowly drizzle the 1/2 cup of cream on top of the batter, ensuring to cover as much of the batter as you can.

Bake the cake in your preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to chill for at least 15 minutes. Unmold the sides of the cake and invert onto a plate or can pan. Slow peel the parchment layer off (the apples might stick, so be careful). Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Cake should be stored, covered, at room temperature. You can heat slices of cake in the microwave and may want to drizzle on some maple syrup on top to plump up the apples again. The cake will last a few days and can be made a day ahead.

Yield: One 10" cake; about 8-12 servings

Source: Bon Appetit, October 2016 issue

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peppermint bark cheesecake

Smooth and creamy peppermint bark cheesecake has extra peppermint goodness in every bite. From the peppermint crust to chunky peppermint bark in the filling, this cheesecake is bursting with peppermint flavor from top to bottom. It's the holiday's most pepperminty dessert!
Oh my gosh, you guys. We just found a new favorite cheesecake! I normally bake this white chocolate cheesecake during the holidays but decided to change things up a bit this year and try a peppermint version.

And man am I glad I did! While there were quite a few steps to this cheesecake, every component was easy. If you are strapped for time, you can certain buy pre-made peppermint bark, use peppermint baking chips or exclude them completely. You could even exclude the white chocolate ganache on top if you need to take a shortcut.


My in-laws and I went crazy for this cheesecake. I exercised self-control and only had a few bites of this rich and creamy dessert. Each forkful was bursting with pepperminty goodness and the chunks of peppermint bark provided extra creaminess and peppermint flavor.

We ate half the cheesecake in 24 hours. Had we stayed longer at my in-laws' house, I am fairly certain that we would have finished the rest of it while we were there. I was tempted to eat a slice for breakfast, but I refrained and made an English muffin instead.

I hope you'll enjoy this peppermint bark cheesecake. It's sure to become a favorite at your house too.

Peppermint bark cheesecake 
Peppermint bark
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable, coconut, or canola oil, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract, divided
  • ⅓ cup candy cane, crushed
Crust
  • 24 chocolate or peppermint sandwich cookies (like Oreos or Joe-Joes), finely crushed
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Cheesecake filling
  • 4 - 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3 eggs
  • Peppermint bark, chopped into small pieces
Chocolate ganache
  • 5.5 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
Garnish
  • ¾ cup whipped cream
  • Crushed candy cane or hard peppermint candies
  • dark chocolate pieces
Directions
Make the peppermint bark: Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Melt the white chocolate with ½ teaspoon vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl for about 45 seconds and mix well. Add in ⅛ teaspoon of peppermint extract and mix until smooth. Spread the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to set.

Repeat with the semi-sweet chocolate - melt the chocolate with the remaining oil in a microwave-safe bowl for 45-60 seconds and mix well. Add the remaining peppermint extract and mix until smooth. Spread the semi-sweet chocolate on top of the white chocolate layer and sprinkle with crushed candy cane bits. Place it back in the freezer until set (can do this overnight).

Once the bark has cooled completely, chop it into small chunks and return them to the freezer until you're ready to assemble the cheesecake.

Make the crust: Line the bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of the pan. Wrap the exterior of the pan with two layers of thick aluminum foil.

Mix together the crushed cookie crumbs with the melted butter. Then transfer it to your springform pan. Gently press down with a spatula or the bottom of a cup to keep the crumbs together. Set in the refrigerator briefly.
Make the filling: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the sour cream/Greek yogurt, flour, salt and extracts. Add eggs individually and mix until just combined.

Turn the mixer off and gently fold in the peppermint bark chunks. Pour the batter into your springform pan onto the cookie crust. Smooth out the top.

Reduce your oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake the cake for 70-90 minutes or until center is no longer jiggly.Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven (with the door shut) for an additional 30 minutes.

Allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to cool completely (at least 4 hours or up to overnight).

Make the white chocolate ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a measuring cup until it boils and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour it over the cheesecake and place the cheesecake back in the refrigerator to cool.

If desired, you can decorate the top of the cheesecake with any combination of whipped cream, crushed candy cane and chopped chocolate. Store the cheesecake, covered, in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days if it lasts that long.

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

Source: Lil' Luna

Friday, December 16, 2016

Skating Fridays

2016 Skating Goals Recap 


How is it December already? You know what that means around here - time to recap how I progressed on my skating goals that I set a year ago. Let's just cut to the chase. Here we go!
  1. Increase PCS (program component scores) in freestyle programs. My PCS increased slightly and was around the 15 point mark. This number needs to keep going up.

  2. Increase technical scores. My best skate to date was at Adult Sectionals, where I finally did not receive the dreaded 'dash of doom' in my program. I did get a half loop downgraded and my axel was deemed underrotated, but it is definitely progress. I'll call this a success for 2016 with lots of room for improvement in 2017.

  3. Earn at least 27 points in my freestyle program I earned just shy of 27 points this year (I was a few tenths away) so I will call this success as well.

  4. Get my double salchow more consistent. Well, I didn't achieve this, but it is more consistently correct (but not fully correct). I am learning to cross my legs, which is huge, but I am still underrotated.

  5. Work on higher level spins and include in my freestyle program.This didn't happen either but I did get all positive or 0 Grades of Execution at Sectionals. Huge success there. I had received the 'dash of doom' in all competitions prior to this one.

  6. Start working on double toe loop and/or double loop. Note that my goal was to start working on them. Yes, I did start work on them, but I am nowhere near close to landing correct jumps anytime soon.
In summary, 2016 was successful in terms of meeting most of my goals. I am building on some momentum and hope to make 2017 an even more successful skating year.

If you are a skater, how did your year go? Did you meet your goals?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gingerbread chocolate chip cookies

These soft and chewy gingerbread chocolate chip cookies combine everyone's favorite gingerbread flavors with a classic chocolate chip cookie. 'Tis the season!

What do you get when you combine two favorite holiday cookies together? You get these wonderfully soft and chewy gingerbread chocolate chip cookies! Gingerbread is such a classic around this time of year. Something about those spices gets me every time and makes the house smell amazing. And who can resist a classic homemade chocolate chip cookie? Definitely not me. These cookies are a perfect blend of both of those cookies.

I baked these for my friend's annual cookie swap and wish I could have kept a dozen for myself (I doubled the recipe below). I put them into my container and caught my husband opening it up to see what was in there. He and I both tried some the day these were baked and we both fell in love.

These cookies had the perfect texture for cookies - slightly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. These were essentially the ultimate chocolate chip cookies that happen to taste like gingerbread. I couldn't have been happier with my cookie choice for this year's swap.

Since these were so amazing, I have a feeling that these cookies will become one of the ones on my rotation, regardless of season. They might have to make another appearance next spring and summer!

Gingerbread chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg until well incorporated. Then add the molasses and vanilla until well blended. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just incorporated. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand. Transfer the bowl to your refrigerator and allow it to cool for at least an hour and up to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking pans with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop out balls of dough approximately the size of a golf ball (about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter). Place them at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until they are puffy and slightly golden on top. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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

Yield: About 2 dozen (24) cookies

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Chocolate Moosey

Sunday, December 11, 2016

One bowl Greek yogurt pumpkin chocolate chip bread

A pumpkin chocolate chip bread that features whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt and but no butter or oil! This bread will be loved by both adults and kids alike!
'Tis the season for more pumpkin recipes. I've featured several pumpkin recipes here and have also baked with acorn squash and butternut squash. I thought it was time to go back to trusty old pumpkin recipes but make this one a bit healthier.

This classic pumpkin chocolate chip bread features whole wheat flour and Greek yogurt. In lieu of oil, we use pumpkin puree and applesauce. That means no butter or oil!

We loved this bread so much that I made it twice in two weeks. In fact, this bread became my breakfast every day. Addie fought me over the last slice (I let her eat it, naturally) and proceeded to get chocolate all over her mouth.

When I made this bread the first time, I found it to be on the dry side. The second time I made it, I added some unsweetened applesauce and then the bread was much better. My husband and I both agreed that the bread needed extra liquid ingredients so it wouldn't dry out quickly. I've made those updates below.

I hope you enjoy this.

One bowl Greek yogurt pumpkin chocolate chip bread
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose or do a mixture of both)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a spatula. Add in the pumpkin, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Slowly fold in the flour and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix until they are fully incorporated. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the bread to cool before serving. It should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf; about 8-12 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Running with Spoons

Friday, December 9, 2016

Skating Fridays

My New Skating Mentor 


Mentors can play such an important part of our lives, whether it's for personal or professional reasons. They are there to help us through difficult decisions and help us better ourselves as humans and employees.

In case you are wondering, I do have a professional mentor. I've had one since I began my first job out of college, and it's been an experience invaluable to me. My mentors have been my sounding boards and helped me evaluate and see multiple options that I would not have realized on my own. I am a better person because of them.

This year, I realized that I lacked a mentor for my skating. Yes, I have a few coaches that I work with, and yes, I have several skating friends. But I didn't have someone 'on my side' who has been through my journey to offer advice and become my confidante. It was something I wanted since I felt like it would help boost my skating career, so to speak.

I thought about who I'd like to have as a skating mentor and reached out to her recently. She graciously accepted and said that she was all ears and would be there to help me every step of the way. So whom did I choose? Well, without revealing her identity for privacy reasons, I will share this:

  • She holds a full-time job and skates as a hobby/passion, much like myself
  • She is a competitive figure skater and has seen tremendous success in local and national competitions
  • She has struggled, physically and emotionally in this sport
  • She formerly skated as an Adult Gold lady and is no longer in my level
In summary, this lady embarked on my journey many years before me but is now older and wiser because of her successes (and struggles). I distinctly wanted to work with someone who knew what I was going through so could offer their guidance and expertise based on their experience.

I'm grateful for my new mentor's friendship and am excited to add another member to my skating 'team,' as I know that one person's success (or lack thereof) is a team effort. I'm just hoping that her guidance, along with those in my inner skating circle, can help me reach my skating goals.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

One bowl double chocolate beet muffins

Nutrition-packed beet puree is the crazy ingredient hidden in these chocolate muffins. Fluffy, moist and chocolate-y, you'll never know that these were healthy!

I know, I know. Another crazy beet recipe? This is the last one for the year, I promise. I had a full cup of beet puree left over so I wasn't going to just throw it out. Also, because my company is focusing on diversity and inclusion, I felt like I needed to include beets into my baking repertoire. Plus, look at how gorgeous these muffins baked up! Do they look like they contain beets? No.

Look, I'm not saying that I am now a fan of beets, but I can learn to appreciate them and the value they bring to baked goods. This recipe and the one for fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes have really opened up my eyes to a world of possibilities in the baked good environment. I normally would never have considered baking with this root vegetable but now I know it's within my realm.

Let me assure that these do not taste like beets. The chocolate flavor really shines through and the additional chocolate chips help with that too. In fact, nobody would never know that these muffins contained beets unless you told them. I know because that's what I did to my 6-year old daughter. I told her that these were chocolate chip muffins and she ate them all up.

You can make these muffins vegan if that's how you roll. I've included substitutions below.

One bowl double chocolate beet muffins
  • 2 eggs (substitute with 2 flax seed eggs if vegan)
  • 1 cup beet puree
  • 1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup/agave nectar if vegan)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs (or prepare the flax seed eggs if you are making these vegan).  Add in the beet puree, honey, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and applesauce. Whisk well until everything is well incorporated.

Add the milk and mix well. Add in the cocoa powder and flour and fold until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pan, filling each well at least 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-22 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 several days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes (Vegan)

These beautiful chocolate cupcakes contain a secret - they are made with beets and are completely vegan! Believe this non-beet fan that you'll fool others with these intensely chocolate treats!

Before you run for the hills, hear me out. I am NOT a beet person. We subscribe to a biweekly CSA, and my profile explicitly lists "no beets." Imagine the horror when I opened up our CSA box only to find 3 ginormous beets. These vegetables were huge - way bigger than my fists and easily could be used to play a game of softball.

What was I supposed to do with these things? Return them? Give them to a neighbor? Chuck 'em in the trash? (I was briefly contemplating the last option there but didn't want to waste food) I very reluctantly decided to work with them, despite my negative attitude towards beets.

I roasted my beets for over an hour to soften them, and when I tried to puree them in my blender, that red juice got everywhere. My hands looked bloody and the kitchen was starting to resemble a Halloween horror movie.

These fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes seemed promising since they contained cocoa powder and would hide the bright color from the beet puree. Plus they required no frosting - just a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed these cupcakes. They didn't taste like beets (whew) but were chocolate-y instead. I'd recommend upping the sugar in these since they weren't quite as sweet as regular chocolate cupcakes (I did not make those changes below).

Fudgy chocolate beet cupcakes (Vegan)
  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 
3/4 cup raw turbinado OR granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola or melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup and 1 heaping Tablespoon white whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
 and more for topping
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
Directions
Roast the beets: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Remove and discard the stem and root from your beets. Thoroughly scrub and wash them. Dry with a towel and rub on some canola oil. Then wrap tightly in foil. Roast them in your preheated oven for about 1 hour or until tender. Allow to come to room temperature.

Once cooled, puree the beets in a blender. Measure out 1/2 cup and set aside.

Bake the cupcakes: Keep the oven at 375°F and line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine the milk and vinegar and allow it to curdle. Then add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup beets and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to and gently fold together. Then mix well until there are no lumps.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin wells, filling each at least 3/4 full.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool before serving. If desired, dust with additional cocoa powder on top to finish. Cupcakes should be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: 10 cupcakes

Source: Minimalist Baker

Friday, December 2, 2016

Skating Fridays

Another Axel Exercise


Coach B is still over the moon that I was able to land my axel in my last exhibition.  I've been practicing my axel training techniques diligently and now have another one to add to my repertoire: axel, tap toe, axel.

The trick to this jump sequence is to take one element at a time. Do the axel. Then the tap toe. Then the axel. If I think too far ahead, I will fail and end up on the ice. Coach has me doing these to help with my axel technique and to prepare for double toe loops. If I can get this sequence pretty consistent, we can consider adding this to my program at some time.

I just started working on these, so they are not very pretty yet, but it's a good start.

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