Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top posts of 2017

Happy last day of 2017! Do you have any fun plans for tonight? For the 4th year in a row, we are celebrating with some friends. We met this couple through Addie's preschool - their son was in the same class when they were about 2 years old. Even though the kids do not attend the same elementary school, we still try to see them several times a year. The kids will be watching movies and eating pizza with a babysitter while the adults go out for an early dinner.

As I do every year, here are the top posts that I published for 2017. These are the recipes that you all read and enjoyed the most.

On with the countdown!

10.  Lemon yogurt cake - No butter or oil in this wonderfully tart treat

9.  Copycat Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies - I still need to try the real deal...




6.  Chocolate dulce de leche tart - A must-have dessert for chocolate and caramel fans

5.  Dorie's Maine bars - A wonderful bar made from sprouted wheat flour

4.  Christina Tosi's oatmeal cookies - A raisin-less wonder from baker extraordinaire, Christina Tosi

3.  Sticky toffee pudding - Joanne Chang's winning recipe that beat Bobby Flay

2.  Coffee crumb cake - A fun, yeasted version of a classic coffee cake

1.  Double chocolate skillet cookie - One of my favorite skillet recipes ever!

Looks like you all enjoyed several copycat recipes and desserts from famous chefs. I'll keep that in mind for this next year.

Thanks again for reading my blog, and I'll see you in 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Skating Fridays

2017 Skating Goals Recap


Goodness - how is it almost 2018? Where did this year go? And wasn't it just yesterday when I declared my 2017 skating goals?

Anyway, I am back again to recap how I progressed on my 2017 goals. I have a feeling that I didn't quite reach my goals, but then again, I don't think that I did a good job goal setting this year. I'll have to take that into account when I share my 2018 skating goals with you next week.

Here we go!
  1. Continue to increase PCS (program component scores) in freestyle programs. Admittedly, this was a bad goal that I declared last year. One thing I've learned over the course of the year is that I cannot control what the judges do. I can't control what scores I receive. I can only control myself, which is how I extend my legs, stretch my positions and keep my head up. By properly doing these things, my scores should begin to increase. Also, since the IJS system got slightly revamped for Adult Gold (changing the multiplication "factor" from 1.2 to 1.0 and one category within PCS being eliminated), PCS numbers decreased for everyone this year. I'm going to call this a wash because while I feel like I've improved in this area, it wasn't realistic to aim for a certain score.

  2. Increase technical scores. Last year, I declared that "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." I'm pleased to report that I received mostly 0 GOEs on all my spins, and I did not receive the dreaded "dash of doom" on my camel spin. That is a HUGE win in my book. I did not receive full credit for my Axel last year, but I continue to work on that. I've made progress here, but again, I needed to reword my goal so it wasn't results-based.

  3. Approach 30 points in my freestyle program.  Again, not a great goal to declare since it is results-focused and not something I could control. This did not happen, and my mental state was altered because I was too worried about future outcomes.

  4. Land a correct double salchow. I did not focus on the double salchow last year so this, sadly, did not happen. I am continuing to work on this and hope to make better progress in 2018.  

  5. Add another axel in my program. While I did add a second Axel to my program, I did not land it cleanly in competition. So I can check off the fact that I did add it, but I'd have to cross it off because I didn't correctly execute it. Call this one a wash as well.

  6. Continue working on double toe loop and/or double loop. I did not work on these with a coach this year but did practice them on my own. Not a great goal from last year, but oh well.
As you can see, I was too focused on outcomes in 2017, which affected my mental state and therefore affected my overall skating. Rather than trying to stay in the moment, I concentrated too much on what score I wanted to achieve. This put too much pressure on me so my mind wasn't relaxed.

I know better now and will do a better job goal setting for 2018.

Until next week!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Gingerbread fudge brownies

My favorite brownie recipe is improved by adding a layer of gingerbread fudge to the center. The gingerbread fudge brownie is my new favorite holiday brownie!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, and start to Kwanzaa! Hopefully you all got to enjoy some time off and spent it relaxing, watching movies and eating all of the desserts (like me!).

If you're still looking for something new to try, hear me out. I took my favorite brownie recipe and made it even better. How? By adding FUDGE to it, of course!
I was testing out a gingerbread fudge recipe that was an utter fail. I didn't add enough chocolate chips to the base so it was runny. Rather than throw it out, I decided to take advantage of the texture and added it to my favorite brownies. And then voila - gingerbread fudge brownies!

The runny fudge bakes up like an oozy caramel. It's sticky, gooey and absolutely perfect. Can you see it just melting from the photos?

So it turns out that this fudge faux pas was probably the best thing ever because I turned it into cookies and now these brownies. And the gingerbread flavor was a wonderful complement to a classic brownie because it added ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves to every bite. It's like a mashup between a gingerbread cookie and brownies with a caramel layer in the middle.

Who wants one?

Gingerbread fudge brownies
Brownies
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 

Gingerbread fudge (full recipe is listed below; you will only need 1/2 a recipe)
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Directions 
First, make the fudge. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and molasses. Mix well until the chocolate chips have completely melted. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and mix until everything is well incorporated. Pour into a greased or lined 8"x8" pan and chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. The fudge will not completely set (this is expected).

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease or line an 8x8 inch or 9x9 inch square baking pan. As an alternative, you can line the pan with aluminum foil and generously butter or grease the foil.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate. Stir occasionally until the mixture is uniform. Turn off the stove and remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa until it is fully incorporated. Do the same with the sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Be sure to add in each ingredient individually and fully mix them in before adding the next one.

Transfer half of the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Add half of the fudge on top (remember, the fudge will be sticky and slightly runny, and that is what we're looking for). Top with the remaining brownie batter and cover as much of the fudge as you can.

Bake the brownies in the center rack of your oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are done but the center is still slightly gooey. If you insert a toothpick into the center, it should come up with a little bit of the brownie batter and fudge.

Turn off the oven, and remove the brownies. Set them aside and allow them to cool for at least 1 hour. Transfer the brownies to the refrigerator and cool for an additional (1) hour and up to overnight. After the brownies have been chilled, cut them into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

The brownies can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: An Eva Bakes original; brownie recipe adapted from my salted fudge brownies

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Andes creme de menthe chunk cookies

'Tis the season for everything mint! These refreshingly minty cookies feature Andes creme de menthe baking chunks. You'll get a taste of chocolate mint in every bite!
Oh my gosh you guys - these cookies might be my new favorite cookie! They are perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Plus they are made with one of my all-time favorite candies - Andes!

I was so happy to see that Andes started making baking chunks. They are small, chopped up versions of the larger Andes mints that we all love and adore. I baked with Andes mints over Thanksgiving when I made this cheesecake and just couldn't shake off my love affair for Andes the following weeks.

We were invited to a retirement party earlier this month and got a babysitter. These cookies were the treat that I baked for her (and Addie of course) for their after-dinner treat. I also shared some with my skating friends. I would have brought these to my friend's annual cookie exchange, but it got cancelled because she and her children came down with an illness. Maybe next year (and more Andes cookies for me!).


Andes creme de menthe chunk cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (10 ounce) package Andes creme de menthe baking chips
Directions
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 in the salt, baking soda, and baking powder until well blended. Add in the vanilla and eggs and mix well. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour until everything is uniform.

Add in the baking chips and stop the mixer once the chips are evenly distributed.

Chill the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out balls of dough and place onto your prepared cookie sheet. Space each dough ball at least 2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Slightly flatten each dough ball before baking.

Bake in your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the sides are set and light golden in color. The cookies will continue to set as they cool.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will last several

Yield: About 30 cookies (I used a medium cookie scoop)

Source: Barely adapted from a recipe from the back of an Andes creme de menthe baking chips package

Friday, December 22, 2017

Skating Fridays

Tonya and Nancy [Video]


This week was our rink's annual holiday show. I have never been able to participate because I have always been out of town.  I've been with my husband for 15 years, and this is the first year we have not traveled for the holidays.

Since we were home this year, I finally got to participate in the holiday show. My friend K and I resurrected our old Tonya and Nancy routine and made some tweaks to it. This is only the second time we've skated this program, and it was such a fun and hilarious program to perform.

Several audience members, skating parents and coaches came up to us afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed our program. I wasn't a bit nervous and really tried to ham it up in the spotlight. I'll let you judge how we did.

You'll see that the theme for the evening is "The Olympics." In addition to the two of us, other skaters portrayed other Olympians such as Ashley Wagner, Jason Brown, Dorothy Hamill and Johnny Weir. There was also a spoof of the two main characters from the movie, Blades of Glory. All in all, it was a fun show, and I'm glad I was able to be part of the action this year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gingerbread fudge cookies

Cinnamon cookies get jazzed up with half a batch of gingerbread fudge baked directly into the dough! The resulting cookie is a soft and chewy gingerbread masterpiece!

These cookies were a result of a fudge fail. I was trying to make some fudge for my annual holiday gift giving when the fudge I made never set. I even put the fudge in the freezer for several days, and it was still too runny. Rather than throw it out or just eat it with a spoon, I decided to incorporate it into some cinnamon cookies.

My fudge disaster turned out to be a happy accident because these cookies were awesome. While I enjoy gingerbread cookies, I don't like the hard, snappy kinds. I like my cookies to be soft and chewy, and these cookies were exactly that.

I baked some cinnamon cookies and mixed half a batch of the failed fudge into the cookie dough base. These cookies were not overwhelmingly sweet but still had a great gingerbread flavor. Since the fudge isn't full set, you won't get chunks of fudge in your cookies. It's more of a subtle fudge flavor in these cookies, and I am perfectly happy with that.

I gifted some of these cookies to my skating friends and coach, and one person said that it was "da bomb." Ha ha. If you're still looking for a cookie recipe to make for family, teachers or friends, consider this fudge cookie. It's a fun way to incorporate fudge into a traditional cookie.

Gingerbread fudge cookies
Cookie base
  • 2 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
Gingerbread fudge (full recipe is listed below; you will only need 1/2 a recipe)
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Directions
First, make the fudge. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and molasses. Mix well until the chocolate chips have completely melted. Add the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and mix until everything is well incorporated. Pour into a greased or lined 8"x8" pan and chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. The fudge will not completely set (this is expected).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. See 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. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Add the egg and mix well.

Add in half of the chilled fudge (remember, it will sticky and will not set like regular fudge). Mix well.

Using a medium cookie scoop or spoons, portion out about golf ball sized dough balls and place them on your prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches in between each piece of dough.

Bake in your preheated oven for 9 minutes. Then rotate the pans, front to back and top to bottom and bake an additional 2 minutes or until the bottoms start to turn golden. The tops may appear to be underdone, and that's OK. The cookies will continue to set as they cool.

Allow the cookies to cool for about 5-10 minutes until transferring to a wire rack to set completely.

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

Yield: About 28 cookies

Source: An Eva Bakes original

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lower sugar monkey bread

Who doesn't love a good monkey bread? This lower sugar version has all the flavor of the classic versions we're all used to. Nobody will know the difference!
I was envious of my middle school best friend. She had it all - a hot tub, a pool, a waterbed (!!), an adorable puppy, a space-themed room... I could go on and on. Needless to say, I loved it when she would invite me over to her house.

Her mom was super cool too, as she let us girls stay up until the wee hours of morning during sleepovers. We'd usually gossip about boys, tell scary stories and attempt to take a dip in the hot tub when we were at their house.

In the mornings, my friend's mom made us monkey bread for breakfast. I was intrigued. I never had monkey bread at my house - all we ever ate was Chinese food. I was smitten with the cinnamon-sugar dough balls that I was encouraged to eat with my fingers.

For some inexplicable reason, I haven't had monkey bread since. Perhaps it's because I know how bad it is for me, or maybe because I'm afraid I would eat the whole thing. Regardless, it was time to make things right and finally bake myself some monkey bread.

Thankfully, I found a lower sugar version in Joanne Chang's Baking with Less Sugar cookbook. While this still contains butter and cream, it's not a low fat breakfast food, but at least it's got a lot less sugar than your traditional monkey bread recipes.

Addie was over the moon when she had her first taste of this monkey bread. I served it to her and her babysitter one evening as I left to attend a retirement party. The babysitter adored this so much that she happily brought a large piece home to share with her family.

I'm looking forward to the day that I can serve this to my own daughter when she has a sleepover. And maybe, just maybe, I can be the cool mom with the cool house that everybody wants to visit. One can hope, right?

Lower sugar monkey bread
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
Directions
In a measuring cup, add the yeast to the milk and allow to sit for 10 minutes or until frothy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, mix the flour and salt together on low speed until well blended. Slowly drizzle in the milk mixture until you achieve a shaggy dough. Add in the 3 Tablespoons of butter and egg yolk and mix until you get a soft, pliable dough.

If the dough is too sticky, add more flour (about 1-2 Tablespoons at a time). If it's too dry, add a few Tablespoons of water. The dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover. Allow it to rise for about 2 hours. It should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a long rectangle, about 12 inches by 4 inches. Divide the dough into 4 equal strips. Then divide each strip into 8 pieces so you end up with 32 chunks of dough.

Generously grease an 8-inch round cake pan that is at least 2 inches in height. 

Pour the melted butter into a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk the sugar and cinnamon together.

Roll each dough piece into a small bowl and dip it into the melted butter. Then transfer to the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Shake off any excess. Place the dough ball into your prepared baking pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Make sure to place the dough balls somewhat close together - just allow for a little bit of space between each one. Keep stacking the dough on top of each other.

Cover the pan and allow to rise once more - about 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture with the cream. Pour this over the dough pieces and bake for 45-55 minutes or until the tops have turned golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Invert the pan onto a plate. The bread is best served warm and on the day it is baked. It can be stored in an airtight container and will keep for up to 2 days. You can reheat this in the oven for 10 minutes at 300 degrees F.

Yield: One 8" pan; about 32 dough balls to share

Source: Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang

Friday, December 15, 2017

Skating Fridays

Tonya and Nancy


Have you all heard about the new biopic that is being released in theaters called I, Tonya? If not, it's a movie that is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for Margot Robbie, who plays Tonya Harding. It's almost been 23 years since the "whack heard around the world" when Tonya's ex-husband planned an attack on Nancy Kerrigan. I've watched several documentaries about this subject, and it's definitely one of the most memorable figure skating moments in our history.

Several years ago, my friend K and I skated a Tonya and Nancy duet for a local competition. It was such a blast to perform, and we had fully intended on bringing it back last year. Due to other commitments and conflicts, we didn't end up performing it again. But a new opportunity presented itself recently.

Each September, our rink's coaches start planning for our holiday show. This year's theme was The Olympics since it is an Olympic year. K and I decided that this would be the year that we resurrect our program and perform it for our holiday show.

We've tweaked it and made it even funnier, and I can't wait to skate it. I'll try to get someone to take a video so I can share it with you all.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Melted ice cream mint chocolate chip brownies

Mint chocolate chip brownies with a secret ingredient - melted ice cream! This American classic gets lightened up with Arctic Zero Fit Frozen desserts. With no eggs, dairy or processed sugar, these brownies can't be beat!
What kind of ice cream person are you? Do you like it straight out of the freezer, or are you the kind that likes to microwave it? I'm in the former camp - I like my ice cream nice and cold so that I get a brain freezer after taking a few bites.

My sister-in-law is the opposite. She has sensitive teeth and enjoys microwaving her ice cream for a little bit before she digs in. When I thought about what she was doing (this is me in deep-dessert thought), I realized that she's melting eggs, cream and sugar together.  And those are classic ingredients in many desserts.
What I decided to do was to conduct a little experiment to see how melted ice cream would hold up in classic desserts. My friends at Arctic Zero gave me a few pints of their holiday flavors to try, along with some secret ingredients (mini chocolate chips and candy canes) and asked me to create something.

I came up with these pretty amazing brownies. Now you already know that Arctic Zero offers Fit Frozen Desserts with zero compromise - they are low glycemic, gluten-free and GMO free. So yes, these brownies are MUCH healthier than your typical bakery-style brownie. But you'd never know it.
Both my husband and 7-year old daughter oohed and ahhed over these brownies. They had no idea that these were made from healthy ingredients and were shocked to find out that the brownies contained melted Arctic Zero!

I featured the Hint of Mint flavor and added in chopped up candy canes and mini chocolate chips for extra flavor and texture. Plus, with all that minty chocolate chip goodness, these brownies are perfect for the holidays!
So if you're looking for a healthier dessert for those pre- or post-holiday eating marathons, consider these melted ice cream brownies. That way you can still eat your ice cream AND brownies all in one fun, lower calorie dessert!

Melted ice cream mint chocolate chip brownies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Arctic Zero Hint of Mint frozen dessert, melted (the 1/2 cup is measured AFTER melting)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 candy cane, crushed
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

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

In a small bowl, mix together the melted Arctic Zero, 1/2 cup of melted chocolate chips, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Transfer this to the large bowl and mix everything together until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the crushed candy cane and remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few wet crumbs. Turn the oven off and remove the pan from the oven.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing and serving.

Disclaimer: Arctic Zero provided me complimentary samples of their products. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: An Eva Bakes original

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Andes mint cheesecake

This showstopper will definitely wow all your guests at your next gathering! With Andes mints in the cheesecake and ganache topping, this mint cheesecake will be the star of the party!

I have to express my deepest apologies to Aunt Jo. She is a pie baker extraordinairre and the best cook on my husband's side of the family. She brought 4 varieties of homemade pie for Thanksgiving (cherry, pecan, pumpkin and apple). Not only does she make everything from scratch, but she also grows most of the food she makes, including the apples and cherries for the pies.

So why am I saying sorry to Aunt Jo? Well, this cheesecake was the most requested dessert of the day. After we demolished our turkey meal, I asked all the guests what dessert they wanted to eat. I decided to play waitress and took everyone's individual orders on a sheet of paper. Although there were 4 fabulous pies to choose from, most people chose cheesecake.

The feedback that our family gave on the cheesecake was overwhelmingly positive. They said that it was dense, rich, and full of mint flavor. Not a single bite was left on people's plates at the end of the day. My husband and daughter both finally a small slice apiece and said that this was one of their favorite cheesecakes to date.

So again - I'm sorry, Jo - about baking this cheesecake. I'll happily trade you another cheesecake for a pie or two!

Andes mint cheesecake
Crust

  • 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 32 ounces (4 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup Andes mint baking chips (can substitute with chopped up Andes mints if you can't find the baking chips)

Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 cups Andes mint baking chips (can substitute with chopped up Andes mints or semi-sweet chocolate plus 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract)
  • Andes candies, for decorating (optional)

Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare a 10" springform pan by putting it on top of a baking sheet. I usually cover the bottom of the pan with two sheets of aluminum foil to catch any drippings.

Make the crust: In a small bowl, mix the wafer crumbs, sugar and butter together. Press onto the bottom of your springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add the vanilla and peppermint extract. Turn the mixer off and fold in the baking chips by hand. Pour this on top of the baked crust and bake in the oven for 65 minutes or until the top is no longer jiggly. Allow cheesecake to chill to room temperature.

Make the topping: Heat the cream in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Add in the baking chips and stir until all the chips are melted. Set aside until ready to decorate.

Assemble the cheesecake: Run a warm knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the sides. Pour the topping onto the cheesecake and allow to run down the sides if desired. Decorate with additional Andes mints, baking chips or shaved chocolate for a pretty presentation.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight before serving.

Cheesecake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: One 10" cheesecake; about 10-12 servings

Source: Genius Kitchen

Friday, December 8, 2017

Skating Fridays

Bronze Pairs Test (Video)



I know you've all been eagerly anticipating this... here is the video from our Adult Bronze Pairs test. A few things to note here:
  1. I technically did not need this test in order to skate pairs. The USFS rules grandfather me in to either Silver or Gold Pairs since I have passed my Gold Freestyle. I am only allowed to compete in Silver or Gold Pairs (not Bronze).
  2. My partner needed this test in order to compete pairs. He has passed his Bronze Freestyle and is currently working on Silver Freestyle. If he passed this test, then he could skate either Bronze or Silver Pairs. Since I'm unable to skate Bronze Pairs, we would have to compete at Silver Pairs together.
  3. Surprisingly, I was not a bit nervous for this test at all. I viewed this as a "fun" test so the results honestly didn't matter to me. Maybe that's why I had so much fun with this and tried to up my presentation.
  4. We had the option to skate this test twice - once for a score for me, and once for my partner. We opted to skate only one time and to receive the same score. I didn't know testing twice was even an option!
  5. My partner choreographed this program two weeks before our test. I'd say he did a pretty good job (we enlisted the help of a skater friend who outlined the beginning of it for us but she had to back out due to other commitments).
We passed from all 3 judges. Two of the judges passed us 0.1 over - this extra tenth of a point was based on our presentation. Some comments included "great salchows!" "you skated to the music" "good unison" and "good choreo."We had a little bit of a fumble on the ending pivot spiral but were able to save it.

We're not sure what our next steps are - maybe we'll try to test Silver Pairs at some point or even put together a Silver program, but we have a long way to go before either of those things happen. There Silver Pairs couples across the country, and we are nowhere close to being competitive against those teams at the moment.

Without further adieu, I present to you our Bronze Pairs program!




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chocolate chip cookie dough fudge

A smooth and creamy chocolate chip cookie dough fudge that is made in the microwave! This eggless wonder is a must-make for the holidays and makes a perfect gift!

'Tis the season for fudge! With the holidays upon us, it's time for me to start my fudge making factory so that I can gift it to friends, coaches and teachers. I normally make peppermint fudge and wanted to add in something new this year so I decided that cookie dough fudge was going to be it.

Like the rest of my fudge recipes, this one is easy and requires no candy thermometer. The thought of cookie fudge over a stove frightens me. I have a glass electric range that likes to turn on and off and cannot maintain temperature, so until I get a gas range (hint, hint), this easy microwaveable fudge will have to do.

This fudge starts off with an eggless cookie dough base and then gets mixed into your standard microwave fudge recipe. Top it off with additional chocolate chips for a pretty presentation.

If you're still looking for an easy, edible gift for the holiday season, look no further - this is it!

Chocolate chip cookie dough fudge
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanila extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate chips
  • 1 and 1/4 cups mini chocolate chips, divided
Directions
Generously grease or line an 8"x8" square baking 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 in the vanilla, flour and salt until well blended. Set aside.

In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the sweetened condensed milk with the white chocolate chips. Stir well until it's smooth and free of lumps.

Transfer the cookie dough mixture into the large bowl with the melted white chocolate chips. Break up the cookie dough as best you can while stirring.

Pour everything into your prepared baking pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until set. Cut and serve.

Store the fudge, covered, in the refrigerator. It will last for several weeks.

Yield: About 36 servings (more or less, depending upon how big you cut your pieces)

Source: Barely adapted from Delish

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Biscuit Head's classic cathead buttermilk biscuit

Big, soft and fluffy buttermilk biscuits from Asheville's Biscuithead is the breakfast of your dreams! This Southern classic can be dressed up or down with fresh jams, whipped honey or even turned into a breakfast sandwich. The possibilities are endless with these popular cathead biscuits!

A few weeks ago, I went on a girls' trip to Asheville with 4 of my close college friends. The last time all of us were all together was in college. A few of us have been together since, but not all of us at the same time. So this particular weekend was long overdue.

I had never been to Asheville but had heard many wonderful things about it. It was supposed to have an amazing restaurant and shopping scene, not to mention the Biltmore Estate that was nearby. While we opted out of the Biltmore tour, we did indulge ourselves in a full day at the Grove Park Inn Spa. And holy cannoli, that place was heaven in the mountains. After our 1-hour spa treatments, we got to the enjoy the rest of the amenities for the remainder of the day. My favorite relaxation spot was a waterfall sauna where the waterfalls fell so hard and so quickly on me that it acted like a massage.

Earlier that morning, my former roommate E had gone to a local restaurant called Biscuit Head. This was an Asheville institution where the lines are almost always out the door. E went and lined up as soon as she could and ordered several biscuits for us to try. She also brought us some fresh jam from their jam bar (YES that is a thing, and I want one!). Needless to say, these were the best biscuits I had ever tasted. They were tall, soft, fluffy and full of buttery goodness.

I had to recreate it.

Lucky for me, Biscuit Head had a cookbook, and their signature cathead biscuit was the featured recipe. I promptly ordered myself a copy and have been scouring through the cookbook to see what to make next.

If you've never been to Asheville, go, and go now. If you're unable to make it for some reason, make these biscuits. You'll finally understand why people line up for an hour just to sink their teeth into these fantastic biscuits.

Biscuit Head's classic cathead buttermilk biscuit
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (they use White Lily brand)
  • 2 and 1/2 cups cake flour (they use King Arthur Flour brand)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 2 cups whole buttermilk
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a cast iron pan or baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt and baking powder. Add in the butter cubes and mix by hand. Pinch the butter cubes so they disperse throughout. Slowly add the buttermilk and gently fold it in by hand or with a spatula/wooden spoon. Do not over mix.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto your prepared pan, making sure to have each dough mound touch the next one.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and fluffy.

Yield: I got 9 biscuits, but the recipe says it will make 6 huge ones (at 5 ounces each)

Source: Biscuit Head by Jason & Carolyn Roy

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