Sunday, May 28, 2017

Copycat department store blueberry muffins


These blueberry muffins were once the rage of a Boston-area department store. Have one bite and you'll understand!
You all know by now that I am a muffin fiend. I'm obsessed. Don't believe me? Well, I've posted about 70 muffin recipes (including ~13 blueberry ones) on my blog since its inception. Seventy!! I seriously think I have a problem and seriously need to rename my blog to Eva Bakes Muffins. Ha!

Anyway, an online friend of mine told me about these muffins that a department store was famous for. Apparently, countless shoppers would go shopping at this Boston area department store and stop upstairs for a muffin. Unfortunately, the store was acquired by another department chain and the muffins eventually went away.

But never fear - here is the recipe! In case you are wondering how these compare to the 70 other muffin varieties that I have made, these are definitely one of the best. With a crispy, crackly top and soft, fluffy interior, I couldn't stop eating this muffin. The next time I bake these, I will try to find a way to make it a bit healthier so I may try substituting half of the flour with whole wheat and cut down on the butter.

Enjoy!

Copycat department store blueberry muffins 
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh preferred (but frozen is OK)
  • granulated or coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin 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 and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, until each is thoroughly blended. Add in the baking powder, salt and vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and alternatively add the flour and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until everything just comes together. A few dry streaks may remain.

Mash about 1/2 of the blueberries and gently fold these in with the whole blueberries into the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into your muffin pan and sprinkle the tops with the sugar.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

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

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: King Arthur Flour

Friday, May 26, 2017

Skating Fridays

Adults Skate Too!


The U.S. Figure Skating Adult Skating Committee just compiled a video from their #AdultsSkateTuesdays social media campaign and debuted it at Adult Nationals. It was also recently shared with the adult figure skating community.

This video features several high-profile skaters and coaches, including Frank Carroll, Johnny Weir, Kori Ade and Jason Brown, among others. 

What's super exciting is that I am included in the video at 3:52. You may remember that I attended a Paul Wylie seminar earlier this year. During the seminar, we filmed a fun snippet for the social media campaign. You'll see me in the front row looking like a fangirl. Sorry - it was hard to contain my excitement for being in the same arena as my skating hero.

Enjoy the video! 

#AdultsSkateToo 


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fig cake with cream cheese frosting

A beautiful and spice-filled dense fig cake topped with an irresistible cream cheese frosting. This is a wonderful cake for a celebration (or just because)!
YOU GUYS. I have to tell you about this cake. I made it for my family for Mother's Day (that's how I roll - I like to make my own celebration meal!) and it was a huge hit.

I discovered the magic of figs fairly late in life, as fig newtons never really did it for me as a kid. Maybe it was the crunchy texture in the cookies that turned me off, but now I am a fig fan through and through. Fig jam is always at my house because that is the best jam flavor ever.
Well, I sacrificed some of my precious fig jam in order to make this cake. I had bought a jar of the jam at a farmer's market in Pennsylvania the last time I visited my parents. Parts of the jam melted beautifully into the cake, while glorious chunks of it sunk to the bottom to provide a lovely fig-bottomed bite.

I topped my cake with a glorious layer of cream cheese frosting and smeared it in between the two layers as well. Feel free to double the cream cheese frosting so you can have a batch to taste test. I won't tell!
Everyone in my family loved the cake. I have a feeling that I will be making this again since it was so incredible. The fall spices would make this a lovely fall cake as well, so maybe I will bake this for my birthday as well.

Fig cake with cream cheese frosting
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fig preserves
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 batch cream cheese frosting
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and line two 8" pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg 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 together the eggs, sugar and oil on low speed until well combined. Slowly add in the buttermilk and vanilla. Then add in the fig preserves and applesauce.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything just comes together. Evenly distribute the batter into your two pans and bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool completely. You may want to level the cakes by slicing any domed pieces off with a serrated knife. These scraps are great for snacking!

To assemble the cakes, place one cake layer on a cake plate or platter, cut side up. Add about 1/4 cup of frosting on top. Place the second layer of cake, cut side down, on top of the frosting. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.

The cake should be stored in the refrigerator and can be garnished with fresh figs or berries for a nicer presentation.

Yield: One 10" cake; about 10-14 servings

Source: MyRecipes; originally from Southern Living

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Funfetti sugar cookie bars

A perfectly soft and chewy sugar Funfetti cookie but in bar form so it's easy to share with others. These customizable cookie bars are topped with a fantastic Funfetti frosting for a special touch!
Addie shared a birthday party with one of her friends a few short weeks ago. She and this little girl have known each other since they were 3 months old. They were both enrolled in the same daycare and have been friends ever since. Last year, they even shared the same kindergarten teacher.

The girl's mom and I were discussing our birthday party plans for the year and just couldn't get motivated. We wanted to do something low-key without breaking the bank. We decided to do a fun swim outing at our local YMCA. We invited about 15 girls, and unfortunately only 1 or 2 of them were able to attend.
Rather than pay the $150+ to rent out the party room at the YMCA, we canceled the party and held at our friend's house. She ordered pizza and I bought an ice cream cake at the grocery store. Since I relinquished the cake to a grocery store this year, I figured that I could bake some Funfetti bars as an additional item.

The bars baked up beautifully, and I chose to use blue and white sprinkles to reflect Addie's favorite colors (of the moment). She is still obsessed with Frozen so the color scheme was perfect for her. I added the same sprinkles to the frosting to finish the look. You can absolutely customize the sprinkles to whatever color or shape makes you happy.

The girls loved these bars and had no problem finishing them off along with a slice of ice cream cake. I think they were sugared up for the rest of the afternoon. But, it was worth it to see their little faces light up that day.

Funfetti sugar cookie bars
Cookie

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • sprinkles

Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter or grease a standard 9"x13" 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 and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Add in the baking powder and salt until well mixed. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour until no dry streaks remain. Add in the sprinkles.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and spread it out evenly, making sure you cover all the corners. Smooth out the top. Bake in  your preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the tops and sides are golden brown. Allow the bars to cool completely.

While the bars are cooling, 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. Add in the vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. Slowly stream in the milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Fold in the sprinkles last.

Once the bars have fully cooled, spread the frosting on top. Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 24 bars

Source: Inside Bru Crew Life

Friday, May 19, 2017

Skating Fridays

Bobbe Shire Spin Clinic 


I had the distinct privilege of working with Bobbe Shire again recently, as she traveled to our club's sister rink. Bobbe's seminar was very similar to one that I attended last summer (here are the recaps from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

In addition to Bobbe's lecture and on-ice seminar, we also had separate breakout sessions for yoga, IJS and competition preparation. We even had our own adult group so we could get specialized attention for our needs. I found the IJS breakout session the most helpful since it was led by a technical specialist. She explained how IJS works and spent a lot of time answering our questions and how certain spins would get called under the system.

After chatting with the tech specialist, I realized why I have never gotten one of my spins called. My coach had been under the impression that the difficult spin variations were available for each foot (assuming you are changing feet and doing a change foot spin). Apparently, the rule is that the variations are only available once per program, and not once per foot. This is a big deal because once you 'use up' a variation, you cannot repeat it again. While I did not repeat a variation, the IJS code for the difficult elements was the same for both. And because I couldn't repeat a variation, the 2nd one never got called. Cue light bulb and frustration.

All in all, the seminar was a great refresher. We mostly worked on forward scratch spins, back spins, sit spins and camel spins. We ran out of time and did not have the opportunity to work on any additional spins or spin variations. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to get Bobbe's thoughts and expertise on some of the new spins I am trying to work on (coming soon!).

I did ask her a fun question and inquired about her favorite spin to teach. She said that she enjoys teaching layback spins and playing with arm positions.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Double chocolate muffins

These super moist double chocolate muffins are sure to knock your socks off! With no oil or butter, they are healthier than the bakery versions. Eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack!
When my 7 year old daughter isn't asking me to make butterscotch pudding, she's asking me to make chocolate muffins. She scoffs at blueberry muffins now and won't touch anything without chocolate chips. I guess I am raising a mini chocoholic, which is fun and scary at the same time.

These muffins were one of the best breakfast items I've made this year. Since they don't contain butter or oil, I don't feel quite as bad when I eat more than one in a given day. And you definitely know that's happened!
I replaced the butter and oil with applesauce, which keeps the muffins from drying out and keeps them light and springy. I loaded my muffins with extra chocolate chips because I'm a chocoholic like my little girl. Feel free to top these with a sprinkling of coarse sugar for a little extra crunch or throw in some chocolate chunks for variety.

If you want to eat cake for breakfast but can't justify it, make these instead. They're pretty dang close to cake so it should satisfy your cravings. Enjoy!

Double chocolate muffins 
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I made my own by adding 1 teaspoon of white vinegar into 1 cup of milk)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease or line 2 standard muffin pans and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, applesauce and vanilla. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently fold everything together until a few dry streaks remain.

Add in the chocolate chips and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pans, filling each well about 3/4 full. Top with extra chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 3 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for several days. Muffins can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 15 muffins

Source: Barely adapted from Pretty.Simple.Sweet

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Chocolate cake for one

A single serving chocolate cake that you can easily share - or not! This fun alternative to a mug cake is a great way to get your chocolate fixing and have no leftovers!
 
Happy Mother's Day, everyone! If you are still looking for a special dessert to serve the mothers in your life or simply want a single serving cake all for yourself, have I got a treat for you! This cake is large enough to share with a friend... or not. Your call. No judging from me.
I gotta admit that the baking method is a bit unconventional, as this cake is baked in an empty can of soup (or vegetables - just use whatever you have laying around). The cake will rise up halfway up the can, and you can slice it in half to add your favorite frosting or filling in the middle. Then spread additional frosting on top and around the cake and garnish with your favorite toppings.

I shared this cake with my husband and daughter and there was still cake left over at the end (yes, we are strange). One note about the frosting below is to make sure that your Greek yogurt is at room temperature or slightly warmer so the chocolate doesn't seize up.

Enjoy, and Happy Mother's Day!

Chocolate cake for one
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons egg, beaten (save the rest for scrambled eggs!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Chocolate ganache
  • 9 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (can use a blend of chocolates here, including milk chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Clean out two standard canned food containers (the kinds that canned veggies comes in - clean out the insides very well and peel off any labels and residue from the exterior).  Spray the interior with baking spray and lightly dust with flour or cocoa powder. Line the bottoms of the cans with rounds of parchment paper and spray with baking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the milk, egg and vanilla.

In the ball of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a spatula. Add the butter and half of the milk mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

Turn the mixer to medium speed and continue mixing for another 45 seconds or until the mixture gets lighter and airier. Add the remaining milk mixture and mix until well incorporated.

Transfer the batter into your prepared baking cans.

Bake in your preheated oven for 27-29 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the cans for about 10 minutes. Then run a sharp paring knife around the cakes and turn the cakes over on a wire rack. Remove the cake from the cans and allow them to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolates in a microwave-safe bowl (heat it up 30 seconds at a time). Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and allow to cool completely. Beat in the Greek yogurt, vanilla and salt. Make sure the chocolate is cool and the Greek yogurt is at room temperature or else your frosting will seize up.

Cut the cakes in half. Place one half on a serving plate and add frosting to the top. Add the second layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake. Repeat with the other cake and decorate as desired.

Yield: Two mini cakes (I halved the recipe above so I only got one cake to share - it was honestly big enough to share with my family of 3)

Source: Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debby Maugans

Friday, May 12, 2017

Skating Fridays

Photos from my Freestyle Event


I was browsing the official photos from Adult Nationals the other day and came across these two of my freestyle event. I was so excited to see that I was actually smiling and looking like I was enjoying myself. Also, I noticed that my arm extension has improved.

Here's to progress!



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Brownie cookie dough layer cake

A truly epic brownie cake filled with an eggless cookie dough filling and topped with luscious ganache. This cake is so rich and amazing that you'll want to keep it for yourself!

Hi friends - this cake is EPIC. There is just no other way to describe it. I baked this once last fall for my birthday when I went to my friend E's house to celebrate. We baked this together one evening since our birthdays are two days apart. She was gracious enough to let me take a large slice home to share with my family, and I had been dreaming of this cake ever since.

The photos I took that night were not the best. I didn't have natural lighting and only had my smart phone. So I made a mental note to recreate this cake.

Addie's birthday was coming up and I asked her what type of cake she wanted me to bake. When she told me to keep it a surprise, there was no question what I was going to make her. It was the perfect opportunity to bake this cake again.

Don't get overwhelmed with the ingredients or the steps. It's really very easy. The cookie dough filling can be made in advance. Just make sure you don't eat it all when you're taste-testing and save some for the actual cake! It's hard, I know. The brownie cake layer can also be made in advance. Just wrap the layers in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. You can always assemble the cake a day or two later.
This cake is very dense and very rich. Addie was so excited to eat this for her birthday cake, and we were even more thrilled that her grandparents were here to help us celebrate and eat the cake with us. I should have sent them home with some, but we've been happily snacking on it bit by bit since we cut into the cake.

If you like brownies, and you like cookie dough, then this is the cake for you. It stores well and is easily sharable so it will definitely feed a small crowd. Enjoy!

Brownie cookie dough layer cake
Brownie layer
  • 1 and ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Cookie dough filling
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 and ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 2 and ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Ganache frosting
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (can substitute with chocolate chips)
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Extra chocolate chips, for garnish
Directions
Bake the brownie cake layers: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line three 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper (this is important so your cake doesn't stick). In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil until well combined. Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding another. Add in the vanilla and stir well.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Slowly transfer the dry ingredients into the large bowl with the egg mixture and mix until everything is just combined. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your 3 prepared baking pans and bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some wet crumbs. Allow the cake layers to cool completely before removing from the pans. Cakes can also be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature overnight before assembling.


Make the cookie dough filling: 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 brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined. Add the flour and powdered sugar and mix well. Add the milk and vanilla and continue beating until well incorporated. Set aside.

Make the ganache:  In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat the heavy cream until hot but not boiling, about 45 seconds. Remove the bowl from the microwave, and add the chocolate chips into the cream. Let the chocolate chips rest for about 30 seconds. Then beat with a spatula until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix well until everything is fully combined. Set aside.

Assemble the cake:  After the cakes have fully cooled, place one layer on top of a cake platter or plate. Add about 1 cup of the filling on top and spread with an offset spatula all the way to the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and filling, ending with a cake layer.

Put the cake in the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes.

Pour the about 1/2 of the ganache on top of the cake and push until the ganache drips over the edges. Put the cake back in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes for the ganache to set. Top with remaining ganache and allow to set. If desired, add more ganache or decorate with additional chocolate chips.

Leftover cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

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

Source: Lemon Sugar

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lemon crumble muffins

Intensely lemony lemon muffins with a soft and tender crumble are sure to brighten your day! One bite and you'll wish you baked a double (or triple) batch!

"Mommy! There's too much lemon in these!" That was the phrase I heard my daughter say when I made a mango lassi recipe from the last issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It called for the juice of 1 lemon, and apparently, my little girl was not having it. I was planning on making a triple batch so everyone in my family could enjoy the lassi, but I decided not to so I had this one lonely lemon left over.

Naturally, my mind went to muffins. Although I love all things lemon, I've only made 2 lemon muffins on this blog (Greek yogurt lemon muffins and lemon poppy seed muffins). It was clearly time for another one, and I made these even more fantastic by adding a low-fuss crumble from my coffee chain blueberry lemon muffins. The best part about baking and cooking is that you get to mix and match your favorite parts of recipes and mash them together, so the crumble just had to be done. #sorrynotsorry

How did our little lemon critic react to these lemon crumble muffins, you wonder. Well, I've concluded that she just isn't a lemon fan, but my husband and I did enjoy these very much. The lemon flavor was there, and it wasn't overpowering at all. In fact, I think it actually could have used even more lemon so I'd probably double the lemon in the recipe below or even add a hint of lemon extract.

And as expected, the crumble was the best part. Because obviously.

Lemon crumble muffins
Muffins
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Crumble
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set it aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Transfer the egg mixture into your large bowl and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

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

Make the topping by combining all of the ingredients together until it resembles wet sand. Sprinkle it on top of each muffin.

Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.
 
Yield: The recipe claims it makes 12 muffins, but I only got 10

Source: Muffins barely adapted from Some the Wiser; crumble from here

Friday, May 5, 2017

Skating Fridays

Throwing Chickens 


One week during our regularly scheduled adult Learn to Skate group class, our coach was teaching us about edges. At one point in the class, he asked us to raise our arms and make them ballet-like (high 5th position). Being Ukrainian, our coach is sometimes hard to understand. He mumbled something when he asked us to raise our arms up during the edge exercise and we had no idea what he said.

I turned to one of the other skaters and said, "Did he just say to throw the chicken?" Cue confused looks from the rest of the class. "Throw the chicken? What?"

We then asked the Ukrainian coach if he said to throw the chicken. As he was laughing, he said no. The rest of us laughed so hard that some of us started crying, including the coach.

Little did we know that this was the start of an epic movement.

Everything we did was centered around 'throwing the chicken.' We sent each other chicken memes and even called ourselves the #bocksquad. Chicken throwing has been an ongoing joke ever since that class, and it even made a very prominent appearance at adult nationals. Here is a sign I printed out for my fellow skaters:


I gave t-shirts to a few of my fellow chicken throwers as tossies. The fronts said #bocksquad while the back had a skating chicken with "Throwing chickens since 2017."

One of our skaters gave us these amazing tossies after our performances:
We lovingly named them Sir Bocks-a-Lot (on the right), who is a wannabe rapper, and Jumpin' Joe Sa-bock-chick, who is his BFF. These are our new club mascots.

So if you see us clucking around at future competitions, understand that it is meant to make you laugh and calm your nerves. It worked for all the other skaters who were asking about our chicken obsession. We got a lot of laughs along the way, which made us very happy.

Watch out for the poultry posse!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Thick and chewy triple chocolate cookies

Super thick and chewy triple chocolate cookies are irresistible for any chocolate lover! One bite, and you'll be in love!
Stop what you're doing. This is a recipe that you need to make RIGHT NOW. And yes, screaming was absolutely necessary. This is a triple chocolate cookie that will change your life. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic there but hear me out.


Let's see... we have cocoa powder, melted chocolate and chocolate chips. Is that enough chocolate for you? If not, you can always drizzle melted chocolate on top and make that your 4th dose of chocolate. Mmm - why didn't I do that here?

Anyway, this recipe makes about 18 cookies so if you're baking for a crowd, you'll more than likely want to double this. I mean come on, what kind of normal person will only eat one of these? If you're like me, you'll want to quality control a few of these juuuuust to be sure that they're good enough to share. *wink*

These are some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten, so take that for what it's worth. They're a bit soft, a bit melty and also chewy all in one (gigantic) bite. What are you waiting for? Go make these now!

Thick and chewy triple chocolate cookies
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) dark cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
  • 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Line two baking pans with silicone mats or parchment paper and set aside.

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

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or very carefully in the microwave (in bursts of 30 seconds). Stir until it is smooth and glossy. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together using a fork. Sprinkle the espresso powder on top and allow it to dissolve.

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 sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and add in the egg mixture until well incorporated. Then slowly pour in the melted chocolate and mix until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until everything just comes together - do not over mix. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Cover and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a medium cookie scoop (or two spoons), evenly portion out the dough into golf-ball sized mounds, making sure to allow at least 1 and 1/2 inches apart on your cookie sheets. I placed 9 cookie dough mounts on each sheet.

Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pans halfway and switch racks. Then bake for an additional 5 minutes. These cookies will not spread much so don't be alarmed if they still resemble mounds of dough.

Allow the cookies to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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

Yield: About 18 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Double chocolate skillet cookie

This giant deep dish double chocolate skillet cookie will definitely satisfy your chocolate cravings. Feel free to share this with someone else or eat it all on your own - I won't tell!

It's been a crazy travel month for me. Last month, I drove 6+ hours to compete at Adult Sectionals (figure skating). A few short weeks later, I flew to Chicago for work and had to fly back a week afterwards for another work event. Then I competed at Adult Nationals, which was in yet another state.

I don't mind the travel, but it's just been weird that I haven't been around much. The day I was traveling to Chicago for the second time, I wanted to make sure that my husband and daughter had plenty to eat while I was gone. I baked some muffins, prepared a pierogi bake dinner for them and made this cookie.

I was so tempted to dive right into this cookie but then remembered that the skillet and the cookie were both super hot and that I would very likely burn my mouth. So, I mustered up some patience and allowed the cookie to cool down a bit before I sampled some.

This skillet cookie was phenomenal - the edges were crispy and the middle was soft and chewy, just like a cookie should be. I used two types of baking chips (semi-sweet and salted caramel) and liked how the salted caramel made the flavors more intense. Plus, the cookie didn't end up too sweet.

If you're looking for a satisfying and easy to make chocolate dessert, this is it!

Double chocolate skillet cookie 
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups baking chips of choice (I used a blend of semi-sweet and salted caramel)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 10" cast iron skillet (if you don't own one, you can use a round baking pan - just make sure you grease it well).

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 in the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Add in the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix thoroughly. Turn the mixer down to low and gently add in the flour and mix until just combined.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand. Save a few to sprinkle on top after the cookie is done baking.

Transfer the batter to your prepared skillet and smooth out the top (I used an offset spatula). Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until the center is just about set. The cookie will continue to cook and will firm up.

Allow the cookie to cool before serving. Top with ice cream, whipped cream and any additional sauce you might like (chocolate or caramel syrup, or even fresh berries would be good).

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

Yield: One 10" cookie; about 8-12 servings, depending upon how large you slice them

Source: the view from great island

Friday, April 28, 2017

Skating Fridays

Recap from Adult Nationals


Well, friends - my 3rd Adult Nationals is in the books. If you followed me on Facebook, you'll already know the results from my two events.

The summary is that I did not skate my best and wound up placing last in both events. But, please don't feel sad or bad because I am not upset. Quite the opposite, actually. Yes, I am disappointed that I missed a few elements here and there, but I really had a wonderful time. We had a great representation from our local club, and each of us was there to cheer the others on.

I reunited with old skating friends and met new ones, and the atmosphere was overwhelmingly supportive. We also kept joking that everyone in an event should buy a drink for the person who comes in last. That means that 14 people owe me a drink in my freestyle event, and another 5 in my dramatic event. Yes!

All kidding aside, I am actually pretty energized. I am excited to work on new elements as well as fine tune and improve my skating skills. I am motivated by watching others' performances and would love to be a beacon for someone else in the stands.

Here are some highlights from the weekend:
  • I got to meet and take photographs with Charlie Tickner and "Jumpin' Joe" Jozef Sabovcik, who are both skating celebrities (I had met Jumpin' Joe in 2014 at Adult Nationals there so it was cool to meet him again):
    Charlie Tickner, 1978 World Figure Skating Championships Gold Medalist
    "Jumpin' Joe" Jozef Sabovcik, 1984 Olympic bronze medalist
  • I met Rohene Ward, who was briefly in attendance on the final day of competition. He is Jason Brown's choreographer and such a fantastic and amazing skater!
    Rohene Ward, 4-time US National competitor and Jason Brown's choreographer
  • I made the Raleigh News & Observer, which is the local Raleigh newspaper. Check out the video at the top of the page and you'll see me at 1:13 and 1:29.
  • I received a crazy amount of 'tossies,' which are gifts that fellow skaters throw on the ice after each performance. It was humbling to see how many people cared and wanted to show their love and appreciation.
  • I also got to have several heart-to-heart conversations with some pretty inspirational people, and their encouragement and advice lifted me to want to become an even better person and skater.

Next week I'd like to tell you about our new club mascots. They were quite popular and certainly made everyone laugh!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Funfetti mug cake

Got a craving for cake but don't want any leftovers? Make this single serving mug cake and satisfy your sweet tooth in about 5 minutes!

I had a craving for something sweet one lazy afternoon but did not want to bake an entire cake. Call me crazy, but I didn't want to have an entire cake sitting on my kitchen counter for the next few days. While I normally welcome that kind of thing, I wasn't feeling it this particular day. Rather, I wanted something small that I didn't need to share with anybody. You know, because I am selfish like that. So I made myself a Funfetti mug cake.

There are so many good things about this mug cake. You can make it in less than 5 minutes, there are no bowls to clean, and everything is mixed in the mug! Oh, and the best part - you don't have to share. Heck, you could eat this in a few minutes and have the kitchen all cleaned up in the time it takes to watch a commercial break.

If you want, you can always add a scoop of ice cream, some caramel drizzle or even a dollop of whipped cream on top. Whatever way you top it, this Funfetti mug cake is sure to become a new favorite!

Funfetti mug cake 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable/canola oil or melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sprinkles
Directions
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in an 8 ounce (standard sized) mug. Add in the milk, vanilla and oil. Mix well until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Stir in the sprinkles and add a few sprinkles on the top.

Microwave for 90 seconds and serve immediately.

You can always top with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream (and extra sprinkles of course).

Yield: One mug cake (serves 1-2)

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Caramel toffee brownies

Got brownies on the brain? These cake-like brownies contain a fun toffee layer for a more sophisticated flavor. Enjoy with a cup of milk or coffee!

Brownies seem to be a staple at our house. If it's not muffins, then it's brownies. I mean, who can resist a square full of rich, chocolate-y goodness, right?

One lazy Sunday morning, I got a craving for brownies but didn't want to repeat a recipe. I happened to have half a bag of toffee bits left in the pantry and decided find a recipe that featured these fun baking chips. Enter these caramel toffee brownies.

This recipe makes a large 9"x13" pan so it's perfect for sharing (or not!). There are 3 layers to these brownies... a caramel/toffee middle layer that's sandwiched in between two identical brownie layers. I do want to note that these brownies are more on the cake-y side and not the typical fudge brownies that I am addicted to. Regardless, they are still awesome despite not being ooey gooey.

My family and I loved these cake-like brownies and were happy when I kept half the pan for ourselves. Although fudgy brownies are my jam, these cake-like ones were great too!

Caramel toffee brownies 
Caramel layer
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 cup toffee bits

Brownie layer
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x13" pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt 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 sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine the caramel topping and milk. Pour this into the bowl and mix until well blended. Turn the mixer off and fold in the toffee bits. Set the batter aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate and stir until uniform. Add the eggs, one at a time, until each is well blended. Add in the sugar and vanilla and mix well. Slowly fold in the flour and mix until no dry streaks remain.

Pour half of the brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Dollop all of the caramel batter on top and smooth the top (I used an offset spatula). Add the remaining brownie batter and spread it evenly (or if you prefer, you can swirl the batter in using a knife).

Bake in your preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool before cutting and serving.

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

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; about 24-30 servings (depending upon how big you cut your slices)

Source: Taste of Home

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