Sunday, September 17, 2017

Whole wheat chocolate chip banana muffins

Classic banana muffins get a healthier makeover - with no butter or oil, these fantastic muffins have chocolate chips in every bite!

I am a fan of bananas... but definitely not banana flavored things. In fact, my family and I go through a bunch of bananas every 3-4 days and often have to make another grocery store run in the middle of the week to buy more bananas.

There are weeks though, where we don't consume all the bananas in the house so those get thrown into the freezer. I soon noticed that we had somewhere around 12 bananas stored in the freezer. That meant that it was time to make some banana bread.

I recently made two loaves of banana bread (using up 8 total bananas) and still had about 4 more. Rather than make banana bread, I opted for banana muffins this time and threw in some chocolate chips for good measure. Because chocolate.

These muffins were dense and chewy with beautiful pops of chocolate in every bite. I happily ate these for breakfast over the course of a few days. I liked the fact that the muffins were somewhat healthier than traditional banana bread because I had swapped out some of the ingredients for more wholesome ones and omitted any butter or oil.

Hope you enjoy these!

Whole wheat chocolate chip banana muffins
  • 1 and ½ cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set it aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the bananas, sugar, egg, and applesauce.

Pour the banana mixture into the large bowl and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared 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.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Adapted from The New York Times

Friday, September 15, 2017

Skating Fridays

Staying in the Moment

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard others tell me to learn how to "stay in the moment" while skating. That advice went in one ear and out the other, I hate to say, but honestly - I just didn't really know what it meant. I mean, it makes sense, theoretically. But what, really, does it mean, and how does one do it?

I enlisted the help of a seasoned professional to help me understand what this actually meant in practice and how one could accomplish it. Here is what I learned.

Our mind can be in 3 different stages: past, present and future. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Sometimes we dwell on things that have happened (past), and sometimes we try to visualize or hope for things that haven't happened yet (future). But what about being in the present?

I have learned that when I skate, or am preparing to skate, my mind tends to go to the past. "I failed on this element at <competition/event>." Or, it fast-forwards to the future... "I want to earn X points and place # at this event."

Unfortunately, this type of thinking is very, very bad for figure skaters. Our mind gets stuck in the past or future and does not know what to do in the present. We get too fixated on what has already happened or what we hope to happen that we aren't skating in the moment. So what does skating in the moment actually mean?

In a perfect world, we should execute like robots. Just do the elements as they come up in the program. Do not think about potential outcomes. Like Nike - Just Do It. Your mind should be clear, and you should focus on the element at hand. When you are in the moment, you are being robotic and just doing.

There are different methods on how to actually be in the moment, and I am playing around with various ways to get myself there. There are times when I think I'm in the moment, but then my mind "blips" and either goes to the past or to the future. Then I can't execute my element.

This has been a really long journey to shift my mindset and to not focus on anything but the element at hand. What's been really eye-opening is that skaters tend to focus so much on the physical aspect on the sport that we often neglect to learn how to train our minds as well.

I am hoping that this new mental training will get me to a better spot once the competition season actually starts. I have a local competition coming up where I am hoping to test this new methodology and see how it serves me. I have a few more months until qualifying competitions so hopefully I can fine-tune some things before then.

Have you ever focused on mental training? How do you stay in the moment?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pumpkin cookie butter rice krispy treats

Who said that rice krispy treats have to be boring? Spice things up a bit with some pumpkin cookie butter and a layer of frosting!

Now what's better than rice krispy treats? How about ones covered in chocolate? And pumpkin spice cookie butter? Now we're talking. Well, that's exactly what I have for us here. I made some rice krispy treats with pumpkin spice cookie butter and then slathered on a layer of chocolate pumpkin spice cookie butter frosting. Oh yeah.

Now if you can't find pumpkin spice cookie butter, do not fret. All you need to do is add a bit of pumpkin spice to some regular old cookie butter and voila! I also made mine slightly healthier (ha!) by using puffed wheat instead of puffed rice cereal. But you can definitely use regular puffed rice cereal if that's how you roll.

I brought these to a neighbor's house one evening and all the kids that were over for the evening (there were 7 of them) loved these. We even called these pumpkin rice krispy treats and they didn't get all weirded out. So try these - they are kid and adult approved!

Pumpkin cookie butter rice krispy treats 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin cookie butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups puffed rice cereal (I used puffed wheat)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin cookie butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Generously grease a standard 8"x8" pan and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add 2 cups of the marshmallows and stir occasionally until they are completely melted. Add the cookie butter and salt and mix until everything is uniform.

Turn the stove off and take the saucepan off of the heat. Stir in the puffed rice cereal and the remaining 1 cup of marshmallows.

If desired, you can melt 1/2 cup of the pumpkin cookie butter with 1 cup of chocolate chips and spread it on top of the bars.

Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will last for about a week.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Barely adapted from Warm Vanilla Sugar

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Baked chocolate chip hush puppies

Jazz up hushpuppies with some chocolate chips - and bake them so they are slightly healthier!

My 7-year old has been eating out with us on a pretty regular basis. My husband and I go out once a week and have been taking her since she was born. We wanted to get her used to the idea of going out and teach her the patience one needs to have when dining out.

Over the course of her 7 years of life, our daughter got used to getting seated, having waitstaff take our order and waiting for our food to be prepared and brought to the table. In fact, we created a memorable order of events for her: "Order the food, cook the food, then eat the food." She's memorized this so questions about how much longer we have to wait have cut down immensely. (I might add that we do not bring any electronic devices when we dine out, so she has learned how to have a conversation rather than glue herself to a screen).

Anyway, there is a Latino-inspired seafood restaurant on our rotating list. The restaurant has these fried saffron potato cakes that Addie loves - she calls them hush puppies. So when she saw this recipe in a cookbook that I had borrowed during our weekly mother/daughter library trip, she freaked out.

I mean, chocolate chip hush puppies? Come on - the girl was on cloud 9. We had to bake these, and bake them soon.
I took a week off from work to spend some quality time with her, and we bake these hush puppies one afternoon. My batter was a little on the dry side so I added a little extra water to bind everything together.

Both Addie and I had a hush puppy fresh out of the oven and we agreed that these were very tasty. Although the texture wasn't entirely the same as a traditional hush puppy, it was still pretty darn good. I'd liken these to a cornmeal-textured cookie, but a fantastic one at that. I may try frying a batch sometime but liked that these were slightly healthier due to the fact that they were baked.

Baked chocolate chip hush puppies
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fine- to medium-grain cornmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup sour cream (I substituted with Greek yogurt)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two standard muffin pans and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and ground cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Try to get rid of the brown sugar lumps if you can.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, butter, maple syrup and vanilla.

Transfer the egg mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently knead everything together until everything is just combined - do not over mix.

Using a cookie scoop, portion out balls of dough into golf ball sized fritters and drop in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place in a muffin well. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake your hush puppies in your preheated oven for about 13-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Store the hush puppies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for about 3 days.

If you'd rather fry your hush puppies, heat a pot of oil to 350 degrees F. Drop 1 Tablespoon of dough into the hot oil and fry for about 2 minutes on the first side, then 1 minute on the other side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Then toss with the cinnamon sugar and drizzle on additional maple syrup if desired.

Yield: About 24 hush puppies

Source: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Friday, September 8, 2017

Skating Fridays

Too Much Speed 

I've been running my revamped freestyle program and have been keeping a log of how I executed each element (using the LRP method I talked about here).

The good: I am ending my program on time. I feel like I am now "in the moment," rather than anticipating the next element and hurrying to get there. I am extending better.

The bad: I need to emote more and have cleaner, sharper transitions. I also need to skate on deeper edges so I'm not on flats. My final spin isn't going well so I need to change it out for a more stable one.

The ugly: I am popping that dang axel and axel combination almost every time.

I've dissected the root cause for me popping the jumps, and I think I've figured out what is wrong: I'm going too fast.

Normally, going fast is a good thing. Coach B has been telling me for years that this is skating. I need to go fast and utilize the ice. The good news is that I'm doing just that (well, it's an improvement at least; it's definitely nowhere near where I want it to be). The bad news is that I'm going faster than I used to so my elements are popping. My body is used to the slower speed so going faster is causing my setup to be off.

Coach B and I broke down the axel jump into its components. I could do each exercise with no problem. When she finally had me attempt one, she noticed that my setup was too slow. My arm swing was slow so it caused my jump to slow down.

She also said that all elements have 3 phases in their lifetime: introduction, refinement and mastery. For this particular jump, I am in the refinement phase. I can land the axel, but now that I'm skating faster, I have to adjust the tempo of my execution in order to be successful.

I'll keep you all posted on how this goes, but this quicker speed is making me nervous!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Pecan pralines

Pecan pralines are well-known throughout New Orleans. Get a taste of the Big Easy with these no-bake confections!

My husband and I visited New Orleans over the summer for a few days. He and I are both members of a co-ed business fraternity (that's actually how we met) and we were in town for our bi-annual conference.

Everywhere we walked in the city, we saw shops selling pralines. Although I'm not a fan of nuts, I had to make an exception and try this famous New Orleans sweet. We tried no fewer than 5 different types, and each was creamy, sweet and very fudge-like.

When we returned home, I made it a mission to try making these on my own. The method is similar to making caramel, where you boil your ingredients until soft ball stage and then let them rest and harden. What was different about this recipe was that the pecans were thrown in at the beginning so they could caramelize as well.

While these pralines were pretty fantastic, they weren't as creamy and fudgy as the ones I tried in New Orleans. My mind is still thinking about the soft and chewy ones that contain cream and molasses, so I am hoping to find another recipe with those ingredients.

Regardless, my coworkers raved about these pralines and several asked for the recipe. My family and I all enjoyed these very much and foresee making these again in the future... maybe as holiday gifts!

Pecan pralines
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk of choice (whole is preferred, but I used 1%)
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) salted butter (if you use unsalted, you'll want to add a pinch of salt to the recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (12 ounces) pecans - whole, chopped or roasted (totally up to you)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.

In a medium saucepan with high sides (preferably one that is at least 4 quarts in capacity), combine all of the ingredients over medium-high heat. Stir constantly and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Let the mixture reach 238-240 degrees F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage).

Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, remove it from the stove and turn it off. Vigorously stir until the candy starts to become thick. Once it starts to look grainy, the pralines are ready to be dropped onto your prepared baking sheets.

Using either two greased spoons or a greased cookie scoop, drop the pralines onto your prepared baking sheet. Space them at least an inch apart.

Allow pralines to cool and harden, at least 10 minutes, before serving.

Pralines are best the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: About 24 pralines (more or less, depending upon how big you make yours)

Source: The Kitchn

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Nutella brownies

Thick and fudgy Nutella brownies are smooth, rich and a chocolate lovers dream! Drizzle with whipped cream, ice cream or caramel for an even more decadent dessert!

My brother, sister-in-law and nephew came to visit us a few weeks ago. We didn't have anything planned for their visit so just played things by ear. One thing that I had been hoping to do was visit a (new-to-me) dessert bar that opened up about 2 years ago. And when I say dessert bar, I truly mean dessert bar - they have both desserts and adult beverages. Genius!

Naturally, my dessert-loving family had a difficult time deciding what to order. I usually go for items that I don't typically make at home so I can indulge in something new. Addie, being the 7-year old she is, does not go by this strategy. She orders whatever she wants to order, regardless if I make it at home or not.

The dessert that caught her eye were the Nutella brownies. I wasn't too sure about ordering the brownie since it was similar to ones I'd made before. But, we ordered one anyway so we could keep the peace and not cause a scene at the restaurant.

The brownie was thick and rich, and warm from being in the oven. My first thought was, "I could make this." At that point, my husband turned to me and said the same thing. Challenge accepted.

So here I am, with a decadent Nutella brownie that you can dress up or down and share (or not). I would argue that this is best served slightly warm and with some warm caramel sauce and your favorite vanilla ice cream. Grab a spoon or a fork and dig in.

Nutella brownies
  • 1 cup (170 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (150 grams) Nutella
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (245 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (96 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened (25 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips, butter, and chopped chocolate. Microwave for about a minute and stir everything together. Keep microwaving in 15-second increments until the mixture is smooth and there are no more lumps. Allow to cool slightly, then mix in the Nutella and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix the sugar, eggs, and egg yolk together on medium speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla. Then add in the chocolate mixture.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Mix until everything is just combined.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Do not over bake (it's better to yield on the side of underbaking for a fudgy center or else your brownies will be dry and gross).

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving. Feel free to drizzle with caramel and/or top with whipped cream or ice cream for an even more decadent dessert.

Brownies should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Handle the Heat

Friday, September 1, 2017

Skating Fridays

Tribute to Bobbe Shire 

I had another post ready to go for today but I pushed that out to next week for good reasons.

This week, I heard the sad news that the skating world lost its best spin coach - Bobbe Shire. She was one of the most popular skating coaches on and used a fantastic spin methodology that my own coach abides by. Bobbe used a fun analogy to teach skaters of all ages about centrifugal force (calling it "George").

I was fortunate enough to have attended two of her seminars and had one shared private lesson with her. She and I bonded over the fact that we both are clockwise spinners (we both dubbed ourselves as "righty" skaters since we spin to the right). And despite her claiming that she is horrible with names, she remembered my name when I worked with her this past summer at a spin clinic. It had been at least a year since I saw her last.

Funny story - Bobbe was kind enough to allow me to take photos with her, but she never wanted to see them. She claimed that she looked horrible in photos and to please not share them with her. But here I am, sharing these photos... Sorry, Bobbe!

I will remember all the knowledge that she shared with me and try to apply it to the best of my ability. I hope that she is at peace and smiling down upon us. She will truly be missed.

Bobbe - thank you for sharing  your passion for skating and life with us. You have no idea how many of us you have positively impacted. Your smile, knowledge, passion for our sport, and teachings about squeezing "George" will live on in each of us. May you rest (and spin) in peace.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dorie's caramelized rice krispy topped bars

Shortbread-like bars are topped with a layer of chocolate and then with crunchy caramelized rice krispies! You might want to double the batch of rice krispies just to snack on!
This is one of those desserts where I say to myself, "Now why didn't I think of that?" I'm already a huge caramel fan, so when I saw this caramelized rice krispy topping from Dorie Greenspan, I was ready to smack my own head for not thinking of this idea on my own. Caramelized rice krispies is such a genius idea and needs to be its own snack and mixed in with everything.

Like yogurt. Ice cream. Brownies. And the list goes on.

But back to these bars.
The bars Dorie chose for these are shortbread-like. If that's not your thing, then feel free to try another base. I'm sure a solid sugar cookie in bar form would be perfectly suitable for the topping. My one complaint is that I should have doubled the rice krispy topping because I wanted to eat it as a snack. They also tended to fall off the bars, so that got a bit annoying.
But, Dorie has another winner here with these great bars. Again, feel free to use whatever bar base you want, but make sure you double that topping!

Dorie's caramelized rice krispy topped bars
Caramelized rice krispies
  • 3 and 1/2 ounces (99 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (500 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 cup (27 grams) rice krispies
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
Make the caramelized rice krispies: Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In a small saucepan, preferably one with a stainless bottom, combine the sugar and water. Put the saucepan on the stove and turn the stove to medium-high temperature. Do not touch the mixture, but feel free to swirl the pan around as needed. Once the mixture starts to change color to a light amber, remove the pan from the stove and stir in the rice krispies.

Work quickly and stir the rice krispies so each one is fully coated in the caramel. Place the pan back on top of the stove and continuously stir. The caramel may start to smoke a bit, and that's OK. Keep stirring until each rice krispy starts to turn a golden caramel color. Quickly scrape it onto your prepared baking sheet and spread everything out into one single layer. Allow it to cool and set aside.

To make the bars, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 8"x8" square pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt together on medium speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and add in all of the flour. Pulse the mixer about 5-6 times until the flour is fully incorporated. If it's not at this point, turn the mixer to low until it's well blended. The dough will be very sticky.

Transfer the dough to your prepared pan and spread it over the bottom of the pan. You may need to use your hands.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 22 minutes or until it starts to puff up. Turn the oven off.

Sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top of the hot bars and place it back in the (turned off) oven for about 2 minutes or until the chocolate is melted. Spread the chocolate evenly, using a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Break off the caramelized rice krispies and add it to the top of the melted chocolate, making sure to press down so it adheres to the chocolate.

Allow the bars to cool to room temperature and then cool in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or until the chocolate is set.

Slice and serve once the bars have set. Bars should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tortilla fruit tarts

Bake up fruit tarts in a fun and easy tortilla shell! Customize these with your favorite custard filling and top with the fruit of your choice!
I can't take credit for these fruit tarts since it was actually Addie's idea. When I was brainstorming  dessert ideas for Mission Organics® Tortillas, the thought of a fruit tart did cross my mind, but I also wanted to think of something else to try. So naturally I asked my 7 year-old what kind of fun dessert we could make together with tortillas.

She thought for a moment and exclaimed that we could create a bowl and serve ice cream out of it (the girl always has ice cream on her mind, much like her mother). Her idea solidified my original thought of developing a tortilla bowl. Except rather than fill it with ice cream, I'd fill my bowls with a custard and top it with fruit.
The custard recipe that I have included below is a fairly simple one that does not require only egg yolks. If you are a regular reader of Eva Bakes, you'll know about my dilemma for separating eggs. I tend to dislike recipes that require multiple egg yolks because I never know what to do with the whites (other than meringues, macarons or savory egg dishes). You can always substitute the custard with vanilla pudding, a traditional pastry cream or even Greek yogurt. Fill your tarts with whatever makes you happy.

I happened to have fresh blueberries and used it to top my tarts, but feel free to add any type of fruit you have around - strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or even diced up mangoes.

The great thing about this recipe is that you don't need to create a separate crust for a traditional fruit tart. Just bake up a tortilla and use that as your base instead. Easy peasy!

Tortilla fruit tarts
  • Mission Organics® Tortillas
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • About 2 cups of pastry cream or custard, recipe below 
  • Fruit of choice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
At least 2 hours ahead of serving time (or up to 3 days ahead), make the custard.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, flour, and salt. Add 3/4 cup of milk and mix until smooth.

Bring mixture to a boil at medium heat, whisking constantly. Do not scrape off any clumps that form on the sides and bottoms because they will leave clumps in your custard.

Cook another 2 minutes and remove from heat (do not turn off the stove). The mixture should have thickened up dramatically.

Mix the egg with remaining 1/4 cup of milk, then pour it into the mixture in the saucepan. Whisk vigorously to combine. Return the mixture to the heat and cook until it just starts to boil. There will be a lot of lumps initially but just keep whisking over the medium heat and most of the lumps should disappear.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in vanilla. Transfer the custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If there are still lumps in the custard, you can 1) keep whisking until they disappear, 2) strain the custard using a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the lumps, or 3) scoop them out with a fork or spoon.

Chill the custard for at least 2 hours in the fridge or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously butter 3 heatproof ramekins - both on the outside and on the inside. Set the ramekins in a pan with high sides (I used a 9"x13" baking pan).

Brush melted butter on one side of a tortilla. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Flip the tortilla over and repeat on the other side.

Gently place the tortilla into your prepared ramekin. Fold or flute the tortilla to make it fit. This doesn't need to be perfect! Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the tortillas start to turn a golden brown.

Turn the oven off and remove the pan from the oven. Take the tortillas out, turn the ramekins upside down and place the tortillas on top (which is now the bottom of the ramekin). Return the tortillas back into the oven for about 5 more minutes.

Remove the tortillas from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, spoon custard into the center of each tortilla "bowl" and top with your favorite fruit.

Tortilla fruit tarts are best served the same day. I do not recommend keeping these overnight, as the tortillas will become soggy.

Note: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for my time. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Yield: About 3 tarts, suitable for sharing or eating on your own

Source: An Eva Bakes original; custard is from here

Friday, August 25, 2017

Skating Fridays

Difficult Camel Spin

Blogger ate the video that I was hoping to show you from last week's post on my spins.

Here is the difficult variation on the forward camel spin that I was able to check off on the spin pyramid.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Greek baklava

Traditional Greek baklava contains layers of crispy phyllo dough, crunchy chopped walnuts and is topped with an irresistible honey syrup! Bake this up for your next get-together!

Baklava is one of those once-a-year desserts that I enjoy at our city's annual Greek festival. I was very intimidated by the thought of baking some myself since it looked complicated (and sticky).

One day at work, my old boss brought in some homemade baklava to share with the team. I asked her how difficult it was to make, and she said that it wasn't hard at all, and she's not even a baker. She mentioned that it was just layers of phyllo dough with some nuts tossed in. Then you doused the entire thing in a honey syrup.

OK, that didn't sound too hard. But where to find a recipe? While I did ask my former boss for her family recipe (she happens to be Greek), the request slipped her mind and she never brought it in for me. I then decided to turn to an online friend and Greek blogger, Elly Says Opa.

My old boss and Elly were both right - this wasn't hard to create at all. It just requires some time and patience, as each layer phyllo dough has to be thoroughly brushed with melted butter before layering on the next. This recipe makes about 24 triangles of baklava so it's plenty to share.

From a baker who doesn't typically eat nuts, this is one fantastic recipe that I know I'll be making again. I actually tolerated (and maybe even enjoyed) the nuts in this!

Greek baklava
  • 1 pound walnuts
  • 1 and 1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • strip of lemon or orange peel, or a couple tsp. fresh lemon juice
In a 300 degree F oven or in a dry nonstick skillet, toast the walnuts until fragrant. Toss them into a food processor with the cinnamon and cloves and pulse until fine but not powdery. Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a standard 9"x13" pan.

Take 1 piece of phyllo and place it on the bottom of your prepared pan. Using a pastry brush, brush a layer of melted butter on top. Repeat with 5-7 more layers of phyllo.

Add 1/2 of the walnut mixture on top and then add another 5 layers of phyllo.

Add the remaining half of the walnut mixture and the remaining phyllo (my package only had about 15 sheets of phyllo dough, so feel free to add more layers if your package contains more).

Don't forget to brush a layer of melted butter on the very top layer of dough.

Cut the baklava into squares and then cut each square in half into triangles. You should have about 24 total triangles.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 50 minutes or until golden. Turn the oven off and remove the pan and allow to cool.

While the baklava is cooling, make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon, and citrus peel (if using) and allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes. It should thicken slightly.

Pour the hot syrup over the cooled baklava. Allow the baklava to sit for several hours to soak in (or overnight for best results).

Baklava should be covered and stored at room temperature and will keep for about 3-5 days.

Yield: About 24 pieces

Source: Elly Says Opa

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Root beer float cupcakes

If you're craving a root beer float but don't want to leave the house, make these root beer float cupcakes! These soft and fluffy treats are topped with a smooth and root beer-licious frosting!
When my brother and I used to go to the mall, we'd always stop by the food court. Next to the amazing cinnamon roll place (you know the one) was a root beer stand. Without fail, my brother and I would buy a root beer float and somehow managed to share it. There were always fights about who drank the bigger sip and who ate a bigger spoonful of ice cream, but demolishing that root beer float was usually the highlight of our mall trip.

Sadly, I haven't had a root beer float in years, even though it remains a favorite summertime treat of mine. But in lieu of that, I decided to make some root beer floats into cupcake form. I mean, how else to satisfy my root beer float craving than to turn it into a fully edible version with a moundful of luscious frosting?
I had a hard time finding root beer concentrate but eventually spotted some at my local Walmart. I'm sure you can buy it online as well. The sticky concentrate is a deep brownish color so it is the ingredient that will tint your cupcakes and frosting that nice hue of root beer brown.

Root beer float cupcakes 
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon root beer extract or 1 teaspoon root beer concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup root beer
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons root beer
  • 1 teaspoon root beer extract or 1/4 teaspoon root beer concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two standard muffin pans with 18 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 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 until light and fluffy on medium speed, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the eggs, root beer extract and vanilla and mix well.

Turn the mixer to low and alternatively add your dry ingredients and root beer, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Fill your cupcake liners with the batter, filling each liner about 3/4 full.

Bake your cupcakes in your preheated oven for about 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream the butter on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer. Turn the mixer to low and add in the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Turn the mixer to medium speed and add in the root beer, root beer extract and vanilla. If needed, add more powdered sugar. You can also add a splash of milk or cream for a creamier consistency.

I used a large open tip to frost my cupcakes.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for a few days.

Yield: About 18 cupcakes

Source: Cincy Shopper

Friday, August 18, 2017

Skating Fridays

Check and Check - Another Spin Pyramid Update

When I am not running my revamped freestyle program at the rink, I've been furiously trying to check off more boxes on Coach B's spin pyramid.

I finally got to check off the 20 revolution forward sit spin, the 10 revolution camel spin and the 6 revolution flying camel spin. Well, I am pleased to tell you that I can check a few more things off now: 6 revolution back camel, back sit difficult variation, difficult entrance to a spin, difficult forward sit variation and a forward camel difficult variation. Whew!

Remember, video evidence or it doesn't count! I sent these to Coach B for verification, and she happily approved these to officially count. That means that I can check these off the pyramid!

So here is the video proof...

6 revolution back camel:

Back sit difficult variation:

Difficult entrance to a spin and difficult forward sit variation:

Forward camel difficult variation:

So that leaves only 1 more box on the bottom row of the pyramid (back sit for 15 revolutions) and 2 more on the next row (upright difficult variation and back camel difficult variation). I'll work on getting those checked off soon.

How is your spin journey coming along?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Chocolate babka

Stun your friends and family with this beautiful chocolate babka from David Lebovitz. This sweet and chocolate-y bread is something you'll always remember!

For those of you keeping count, yes, I have made a chocolate babka before. But that was about a year ago so it was time to make another loaf. This one comes to us from famed blogger and current Parisian David Lebovitz. The previous recipe that I tried made two loaves, and because we were going to be out of town the days following this baking experiment, I made only one loaf this time (the horror! I know better next time).

In full disclosure, I wanted to share that I did not allow my dough to rest in the refrigerator for 6 hours. I just don't have for long waiting periods like that, particularly when there's bread that needs to be baked and eaten. I went straight from mixing the dough to rolling and filling it. This probably wasn't a good move on my part because my dough was super soft and the dough strands were hard to twist together. As a result, I had a chocolate-y mess on my hands (quite literally).

Despite my impatience, my babka baked up beautifully. I suppose it may have set even better had I allowed it to rest and meld all the flavors together. Regardless, I was still a huge fan of the final product - a soft, sweet, buttery, and chocolate-y bread with just the perfect bit of crunch from the simple syrup layer that I drizzled over the top.

Chocolate babka
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast)
  • Scant 1/2 cup (100 grams) whole or lowfat milk, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces or 90 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 7 Tablespoons (3 and 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces (80 g rams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons (40 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (62.5 milliliters) water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the yeast, milk, sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour. Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes until foamy.

Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer to low and add in the butter, egg and salt until well mixed. Slowly add in the remaining 1 and 2/3 cups of flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, about 1 Tablespoon at a time. Turn the mixer to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4-5 minutes.

Cover the dough and refrigerate for 6 hours or up to overnight (I skipped this step and went directly to the next step since I am impatient).

Make the filling: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and mix until most of the sugar has dissolved. Turn the stove off, remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth and allow to rest for 1 minute. Then add in the cocoa powder and ground cinnamon and mix until well blended. Set aside.

Roll and shape the dough: Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out onto a lightly floured surface to an approximate 12" x 20" rectangle. Brush the filling on top, leaving at least 1 inch around all edges free of filling.

With the long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough up, jelly-roll style. With a sharp knife, slice the bread down the middle, length-wise. Turn each half of the dough, cut side up. Pinch one of the ends together and cross one side of the bread over the other. Continue to twist the bread, making sure that the cut sides of the bread remain up. Pinch the remaining end.

Transfer the bread to your prepared baking pan and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

Make the syrup: While the dough is rising, boil the sugar, water and honey in a small saucepan. Let the mixture boil for 4 full minutes. Turn off the stove, remove the pan from the heat and set aside and allow to come to room temperature.

Finish the babka: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake your babka in your preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center (without chocolate) comes out clean. Once the babka is done baking, pour the syrup over the top.

Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing and serving. Do not attempt to remove the bread from the pan while it is warm or else it may fall apart.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 3 or 4 days. It can also be frozen and thawed.

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

Source: Barely adapted from David Lebovitz; originally adapted from the Honey & Co. Baking Book by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich

Sunday, August 13, 2017

S'mores skillet cookie

When it's too hot ouside to make authentic s'mores, skip the campfire and make this skillet s'mores cookie instead. With a graham cracker cookie base, melted chocolate and two layers of marshmallows, this indoor version is hard to beat!
What would you say if I told you that my first taste of a real s'mores was in a department store? Yup, I'm afraid that is a true story. My husband and I were browsing a department store one day when a salesperson was demonstrating something in the homewares department and handed out free s'mores. While that wasn't an authentic s'mores that was created over a campfire, it was good (but remember that I had nothing to compare it to).

Even though I haven't had too many opportunities to create real s'mores over a campfire, the combination of graham crackers, melted chocolate and charred but toasty marshmallows stayed in my mind. Enter this s'mores skillet cookie.
I had a craving one day for some s'mores but had no outdoor fire to work with. All I had was an oven and a cast iron skillet. So, I made the next best thing and created this s'mores skillet cookie. The cookie base was made up of crushed graham crackers so it had a nice graham cracker flavor. I topped it with marshmallows, more cookie dough and a full layer of giant marshmallows.

This giant cookie definitely satisfied all of my s'mores cravings, and I was grateful that I gifted some away to friends. Had I kept this in the house longer, I would have eaten it all and gained another 10 pounds.
The marshmallow layer is a bit sticky and tricky to cut into, so I'd recommend greasing a butter knife or server so that it doesn't get stuck. So the next time you want some s'mores but don't want to go outside, consider making this skillet cookie.

S'mores skillet cookie 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I pulsed 2 packages of them in my high-speed blender)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups mini marshmallows, or several large ones cut into thirds
  • 15-20 large marshmallows, cut in half
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease a 10" cast iron skillet and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Then add the baking soda and salt and continue to beat.

Turn the mixer to low and fold in the graham cracker crumbs and mix until the dough is uniform. Add in the flour and mix until everything just comes together.

Spread half of the dough onto the bottom of your prepared cast iron pan. Smooth the top with a spatula.

Add the broken chocolate pieces on top of the dough. Sprinkle the mini marshmallows on top.

Cover the marshmallows with the remaining cookie dough, making sure to cover the marshmallows completely.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and cover the top of the cookie with the marshmallow halves, making sure to cover it almost completely. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

If the marshmallows aren't browned enough, turn on the broiler and broil the pan for about 10-15 seconds.

Cookie should be served warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container. It will keep for a few days.

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

Source: Cookies and Cups


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