Sunday, June 17, 2018

Blueberry scones

These beautiful scones are bursting with blueberries in every bite! They have a generous sprinkling of sugar on top for a crunchy contrast. Serve these up for your next breakfast!
I've been having somewhat of a scone kick lately. I think it all started off with these chocolate chocolate chip scones, and I've been going strong ever since.

I used to not like scones, mostly because they always tasted too dry to me, but I've since realized that it was because I wasn't using the right recipes. The scones I've been making recently are anything but dry.
These scones are bursting with blueberries in every bite and are topped with a crunchy layer of coarse sugar. I made these over the weekend when we were running out of things to eat for breakfast (other than our standard fare of fruit, yogurt, cereal and granola bars).

Addie was excited when I told her we were making scones. She's been a fan of them too and has been happily eating half a scone for breakfast. Sometimes she'll put Nutella or honey on them for an extra special sweet treat.

I opted to use frozen blueberries in my scones but you can certainly use fresh ones too (I like snacking on the fresh ones).

Enjoy!

Blueberry scones
  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, and cut up into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • Coarse sugar, for topping, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Using your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, add in the butter and keep working until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

In a measuring cup, mix together the egg and the buttermilk until well blended. Slowly drizzle this into the large bowl as you continue to knead everything together. Gently fold in the blueberries. Your dough will look loose and shaggy at this point, but do not fret.

Continue to gently knead the dough onto a floured surface until no dry streaks remain (do not over work the dough). Press into an approximate 8" circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Separate the wedges and place onto your prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of each wedge with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Allow the scones to cool slightly before serving.

Leftover scones should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will last about 2 days before they start to get soggy. You can also refrigerate them and reheat in the microwave or in the oven. They can be frozen and thawed as well.


Yield: 8 scones

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Baker by Nature

Friday, June 15, 2018

Skating Fridays

Another Double Salchow Analysis


I got such great feedback from you all on my previous double salchow analysis from my coach that I decided to share another one. I've been focusing on the takeoff and making sure that it's similar to the takeoff for a single salchow.

Previously, I had pre-rotated prior to taking off, and it was costing me air time. Now, I am getting more air time but still landing short. The issue isn't my timing - it's the lack of internal rotation on my landing leg.

Check out what my coach had to say about this. I love that he compared my jump to that of a skater who already has this jump.


Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Harry Potter's treacle fudge

This is the fudge at Hagrid attempted to make for Harry Potter in the first book of the epic book series. Hagrid's attempt didn't come out quite right, but yours will. This molasses-based candy will require a bit of elbow grease but is worth it in the end.

I remember the first time a coworker talked to me about Harry Potter. Honestly, I thought it sounded silly. Why would I want to read a children's book about a wizard? My coworker persisted and let me borrow her first three books.

Needless to say, I was hooked.

While I wasn't one of the die-hard fans that stood in line to buy the next available book, I did try to speed read through them as soon as I got my hands on a copy. I am proud to say that I own all of the books and hope that my daughter enjoys reading them one day.

One of the treats that has always intrigued me in the book series is the treacle fudge. Not being from the UK, I had no idea was treacle was (it's molasses). Imagine my surprise when I found a copy of the unofficial Harry Potter cookbook in the library one week. I immediately checked it out.

Delighted, I found the treacle fudge recipe in the book. Now before you get started, I wanted to let you know that this fudge will require some work. It will need to be stirred for about 15-20 minutes before allowing it to set. My arm got tired throughout so I took some breaks and my fudge turned out just fine. Just don't let the stirring scare you because I promise it's worth it.

Hey, if it's good enough for Harry, it's good enough for me.

Harry Potter's treacle fudge

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons black treacle or dark molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" square pan and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, mix together all of the ingredients except for the vanilla. Heat on medium-high and stir until the butter has completely melted.

Allow the mixture to cook until it reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Do not mix during this stage. Once the mixture comes to temperature, remove the pan from the stove and stir in the vanilla.

Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes.

Now, roll up your sleeves and keep stirring (and stirring and stirring) until the mixture becomes super thick - to the point where you can no longer stir because it's so dense. It will resemble a very thick brownie batter consistency. I took a few breaks here and there to rest my arms, but I would say it took a good 15 minutes or so of constant stirring.

Transfer the fudge to your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Chill in your refrigerator until firm, about 1-2 hours. Slice and serve.

Leftover fudge should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Yield: About 36-64 pieces, depending upon how big you cut your fudge

Source: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

Sunday, June 10, 2018

One bowl fudge brownie cookies

When you have a craving for brownies AND cookies, make these fudge brownie cookies! The best part is that they are made in one bowl for minimal cleanup!

Every day is a chocolate day at my house. I crave it in the mornings, in the afternoons, and at night. The problem is, sometimes I don't have time to make something with chocolate. I don't usually have a preference for what type of chocolate, but there are times when I want it in cookie form. Other times, I want it in brownie form.

This brownie cookie is the perfect marriage of the two.

These super chewy and soft cookies have all the flavors of a classic fudge brownie. But they are in cookie form! And even better, you make everything in one bowl so there is little cleanup.

You will need to chill the dough for a little while before baking so there is some wait time involved. But it's worth it because these will be your next favorite cookie.

One bowl fudge brownie cookies
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped up bars)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Directions
In a large bowl, melt the butter and 1 cup of the chocolate chips together in the microwave. Stir well until uniform.

Add in the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended.

Fold in the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda until a few dry streaks remain.

Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until firm.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line or grease a standard cookie sheet and set aside.

Using a medium cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop out mounds of dough and place on your prepared cooking sheet. Space each cookie dough ball at least 1-2 inches apart.

Bake in your preheated oven for 9-11 minutes or until the edges are set. The center may still appear underbaked, and that is OK. The cookies will firm up as they cool.

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

Yield: About 22 cookies

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, June 8, 2018

Skating Fridays

More Than One Right Way


As skaters, we're often taught one way to do things. For example, I was taught early on that a loop jump had to take off from backward crossovers and that a toe loop had to be done from an inside 3-turn.

As I've started to progress, I've learned that there's more than one way to do elements. As long as you can get into the position correctly, it doesn't matter how you get there. That loop jump can be done from inside 3-turns, and the toe loop can be done from outside 3-turns. Those are just two examples.

I have found with my double salchow journey that this jump is proving to be more difficult for my body to get into the correct rotation position. We've tried it from a 3-turn entry, and back 3-turn mohawk entry. Both yield similar results. I get the height but lack the snap into the backspin during rotation. As a result, I'm landing 1/4 turn short.

Leave it to my jump coach for suggesting a different technique. He has worked with some of the country's top technical coaches, and they've all come to the same realization that the world's elite skaters who are successfully landing quadruple salchows are using similar techniques. And none of them are going from the traditional 3-turn entries.

Rather, they are setting up the jump from a backwards hockey glide (on two feet). The skater vaults off the back/straightened leg, and the jump resembles a toe loop except without the toe-in. Here is an example.

I'll try to video a few attempts from this approach and share with you soon. I am getting better rotation using this entry, but my landing is still 1/4 turn short. I have a feeling this will be a more successful technique for me though.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Two giant oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies

Sometimes you may not want to share your desserts... When that happens, make this one-bowl oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookie. It only yields 2 cookies so you can share this with a friend or eat it all to yourself. I'll let you guess what I chose to do!

I would like to think that I'm a fairly generous person. Obviously, I like to bake, and I almost always share the fruits of my labor with friends, family, and coworkers. Today was not that kind of day.

We had just gotten heavy rains that caused a lot of flooding in the area. It was so much water that schools were closed. We even had a bunch of water creep into the garage so we had to clear out the water-logged areas and get rid of some stuff. True story.

Since the flooding got me in a groggy mood, I wanted to bake something just for myself. I guess I was in a selfish mood that day because I certainly did not want to share anything. Enter these cookies.

I was able to make these cookies very quickly. I mixed everything together in about 5 minutes and then they baked for another 15. That means that I was able to eat these cookies in about 20 minutes total. That's less time than it takes to watch a typical show on television (DVRed of course).

The cookies are big and chewy and are a perfect blend of a traditional oatmeal raisin cookie and a classic chocolate chip cookie. And even better - they are made in one bowl so there is minimal cleanup.

And because it makes only 2 cookies, you don't have to share! You can bake these up and nobody would ever know! Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything... ;)

Two giant oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons (35 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons (25 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Heaping 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 Tablespoons (30 grams) chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons (20 grams) raisins
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips and raisins until well combined.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a circular mound.

Place the dough balls on your prepared baking sheets and bake in your preheated oven for 15-17 minutes or until the top turns golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The cookies will continue to set as they cool.

Cool before serving. Since there are only two cookies, I don't anticipate that you'll need instructions for leftovers. If you do, send them to me and I will take care of it for you. :)

Yield: Two giant cookies

Source: smitten kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Double chocolate quick bread

A fantastic, super chocolate-y bread made without butter or oil! Throw in your favorite add-ins like chocolate chips or nuts and turn this into your next breakfast! 

See the photos of this bread? Well, I am embarrassed to say that the first batch was an utter failure. The pictures you see in this post are of the second batch.

I attempted baking this bread once, only to realize once the bread was done that I had forgotten to add sugar. Yup. Cardinal sin #1 in the baking world: Always read the instructions. Twice. And what kind of dessert baker forgets to ADD SUGAR? Um, that would be me.

Hesitantly, I sliced a piece of the bread to see how bad it was. Thankfully, because of the generous amount of chocolate chips I had included, it wasn't disgusting. I wasn't that big of a fan of the bread, but my daughter and husband thought otherwise. They actually liked it without the sugar! One of them slathered on some Nutella while the other just ate it as-is. I was astonished.

And then before I knew it, the bread was gone.

Well, being the perfectionist I am, I couldn't make this bread once and have it be a failure (at least in my eyes). I had to make it again. So here I am. This time I made sure I included the sugar.

My husband said that he couldn't notice the difference between the first (sugar-free) loaf and this one.  could definitely tell. But, if you wanted to cut back on the sugar, feel free to scale the sugar below to half a cup. This was one of the best breads I've made this year, and I'm just happy that I was able to redeem myself the second time around.

Double chocolate quick bread
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (5.3 ounce) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and Greek yogurt. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do not over mix the batter.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and smooth out the top. Add more chocolate chips on top if desired. 

Bake in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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


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

Source: Barely adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Friday, June 1, 2018

Skating Fridays

2018 Mid-Year Skating Goals Check-In


It's June (ahhhh!!), which means it's time to check in and see how I am progressing towards my 2018 goals. Let's take a look, shall we?


  1. Improve my presentation on the ice: My goal was to have a straightened back, extended free leg, "come up" after a spin or jump element, "feel" the music, and keep my chin and eyes up. I believe I made improvements here over the end of the season (which concluded in March for me), and it reflected in my PCS. I know there is still a lot of work to do here, but I do feel more in tune with the ice. I'll call this still a work in progress.
  2. Skate in the moment during competition: My hope was to be in the present and enjoy what I am doing. At Sectionals this year, I did just that. I was not focused on outcomes and truly was out there to enjoy myself and be in the moment. This was such a huge accomplishment for me, and I hope to continue to employ this technique. Although this will always be a work in progress, I did successfully execute this at least twice this year.
  3. Land a clean Axel in competition: My only goal was to be able to land this jump cleanly during a competition - that meant a clean takeoff with full rotation. Much to my surprise and delight, I landed not only one, but TWO clean axels at Sectionals this year! Check this one off the list! And let's hope I continue to make this a habit!
  4. Successfully execute a correct double salchow: This is still a work in progress, as you've all been seeing in my occasional updates and videos. I am making improvements and am now only 1/4 rotation short.
  5. Check off at least one more spin off Coach B's spin pyramid: We're just starting a few other basic spins positions to get them solid before moving on to difficult variations. So this one is on hold for now.

All in all, I'd like to say that I'm having a successful year so far. If I continue to work my hardest, I can hopefully get the remaining goals checked off by December!

How are you progressing on your goals this year?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

One bowl chocolate fudge

A quick, one-bowl fudge recipe that tastes like brownies! Top with additional chocolate chips or some flaky sea salt for a fun crunchy texture!
My 8 year old daughter made me a fun little present for Mother's Day this year. She gave me a little coupon booklet that enabled me to redeem something from her. Things like one giant hug, one big kiss, a bike ride, an opponent for a board game and a person to bake with.

The catch was, I could only redeem one coupon per day (her rules, not mine).
On Mother's Day, she and I had finished all of her Chinese school homework so we had a bit of extra time left on our hands. I thought that it would be fun to make something easy together and allow her to help. We settled on chocolate fudge, and she was more than happy to assist.

Addie went to the pantry and got out the ingredients we needed and offered to take a whiff of the vanilla extract (her favorite). She helped me measure out ingredients and mix everything together.
It was fun watching her mix the bowl after all the ingredients had melted in the microwave. She said that her arm was getting too sore so that I needed to take over. We opted to throw on some additional mini chocolate chips and sea salt for fun decorations and added crunch.

As a reward, she got to lick the spatula and the bowl. Then her mouth was covered in fudge-y chocolate. It was priceless. We put the fudge in the refrigerator and watched one of her favorite shows on TV.
Making this fudge together was a present that I'll always remember. The fudge itself was reminiscent of a thick fudge brownie too, so it was oh-so-amazing. We opted to gift the fudge to some friends so we wouldn't eat the entire batch ourselves.

One bowl chocolate fudge
  • 1 pound + 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a mixture of chocolate bars and chocolate chips)
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Additional mini chocolate chips, for topping (optional)
Directions
Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" pan and set aside.

In a large microwave safe bowl, mix together the chopped chocolate, butter, sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Microwave for 45 seconds, then stir. Microwave another 15-30 seconds or until chocolate has melted.

Stir quickly and until the mixture is smooth.

Immediately pour it into your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Top with additional chocolate chips or sea salt if desired.

Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours or until firm. Slice and serve.

Fudge should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for at least 1 week.

Yield: About 32-64 pieces (depending upon how big you cut your fudge)

Source: Food and Wine

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Salted caramel chocolate cake

This show-stopping salted caramel chocolate cake will knock your socks off! Each layer contains a luscious chocolate sour cream cake, topped with an amazing homemade caramel sauce and sprinkling of flaky sea salt. Then the cake is covered with a rich and creamy chocolate buttercream frosting. This will be your favorite dessert of the year!

Do you guys ever dream about dessert? Or at least daydream about dessert? If so, what is it? Ice cream? Macarons? Brownies or cookies? Me? I'm always daydreaming about dessert, which is probably why I write a dessert blog.

One dessert that I can't seem to get out of my mind is the salted caramel chocolate cake from a dessert restaurant we visited about a year ago. Their 5-layer (!!!) monstrosity was out of this world. Each layer was bursting with a decadent salted caramel sauce and topped with the richest chocolate buttercream I had ever tasted.

Oh yes, it was that good.

I hadn't found a good reason to recreate this cake until now. As you all know, I like to bake myself something for my birthday and for Mother's Day. This year was no different. I wanted to make the salted caramel chocolate cake for myself. Believe me, I was tempted not to share this with anybody but like a good mother and wife, I allowed my husband and daughter to try some (ha!).

Don't let the multiple ingredients and steps intimidate you. You can absolutely do this over a few days. Make the caramel sauce ahead of time and let it hang out on the counter. The frosting can be made a few days in advance (store it in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw to room temperature; you may need to re-whip it). Or you can even make the cake earlier and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble. Each element doesn't take that much time and the assembly isn't hard either.

If you're in hunt for a show stopping cake, this is it.

Salted caramel chocolate cake
Cake
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
Caramel
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Flaky sea salt, used for layering the cake
Chocolate buttercream frosting
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
Directions
Make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line three 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water 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 together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add these dry ingredients with the sour cream and mix well, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Add in the cocoa mixture and mix well.

Evenly distribute the batter into your three baking pans. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. If the cakes have a dome on top, shave it off with a serrated knife.

Make the caramel: In a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat, mix together the sugar and water. Let the sugar mixture sit and heat up (do not stir) until it reaches a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up the cream (do not allow it to boil). Once the sugar turns amber, slowly drizzle in the warm cream. Stir vigorously, as it will bubble up. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and mix well. Set aside.

Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and cocoa powder on medium speed until it is free of lumps. Alternately add the powdered sugar and mix, beginning and ending with the powdered sugar. Mix until well blended. Add in the vanilla and instant espresso powder. If the frosting appears too liquidy, add more powdered sugar. If it appears too dry, add more milk. Once the frosting is ready, set aside.

Assemble the cake: On a cake stand or on a plate, place one of the cake pieces flat side down ("flat side" refers to the side that was on the bottom of the round baking pan). Top with a generous layer of buttercream, leaving about 1/4" - 1/2" unfrosted along the circumference. Drizzle on some of the caramel and sprinkle on some flaky sea salt.

Top with another cake layer, again, with the flat side down. Repeat with layering with the buttercream, caramel, and salt. Top with the final layer, this time flat side UP.

Apply a thin layer of frosting on top and all around the cake. A bench scraper or offset spatula will be helpful here. Put in the refrigerator to allow the frosting to set (about 30 minutes). Then add a generous layer of frosting on top and all around the cake again. Decorate the tops and sides with whatever you like, but I find that leaving it plain and simple is also very effective.

Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature again before serving.

Yield: One 3-layer, 8" cake; about 8-10 servings

Source: Inspired by Shyndigz; cake from Taste of Home; caramel from Bobby Flay via the New York Times; frosting from Add a Pinch

Friday, May 25, 2018

Skating Fridays

The Power of Our Skating Family


I've partaken in many organized sports in my lifetime - like swimming, tennis, competitive gymnastics, and softball, to name a few. None of these sports offered me with a sense of family or togetherness like the skating family. I'm here to share a story of how I recently experienced the power of our bond.

In my short 4 years as a competitive figure skater, I've met hundreds of new friends from across the country. I've attended their weddings, stayed at their homes and shared many fun moments with them on and off the ice. We've laughed and shed many tears together and built some strong friendships that will last a lifetime and more.

A few weeks ago, I was having a terrible day on the ice. Nothing I tried was working, and I felt defeated. I was having a pity party for myself when a skating friend (that I had only met once in person at a national competition) lent me an ear and allowed me to vent about my challenges.

Several days later, this arrived in the mail:

Brian happened to know that the koala was my favorite animal and somehow knew that I needed to be cheered up. He sent this stuffed animal to brighten my day and let me know that he believed in me.

I was floored by his thoughtfulness and am humbled that he would take the time out of his busy day to do something this kind. And even though we've only been face-to-face once, we have already built a strong bond through the sport that has given us so much.

This skating family is truly remarkable. I've never seen anything like it, but I am grateful to be part of it.

If you are a skater, how has our extended family embraced you? Do you have any stories to share about how others have helped you or how you have assisted others in our community? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Triple chocolate scones

A super chocolate-y breakfast treat that is perfect with a glass of milk or coffee, these triple chocolate scones are a fantastic way to kick start your day!
My 8-year daughter told us that she wanted to watch the Kentucky Derby. I was shocked to hear this statement since we'd only seen it on television once. I guess she saw the commercials for the race and wanted us to record it. I'm not sure what about the Derby appeals to her, but we happily set our DVR that day.

While we didn't watch it while wearing fancy hats (although I would argue that a unicorn headband might count), I thought it would fun to bake up some scones for the occasion. We didn't go all out and drink mint juleps either but maybe we will some other time once our daughter is old enough.
When I told her that I was making triple chocolate scones, my daughter's mouth gaped open and her eyes lit up. She came over to me as I was drizzling on the chocolate sauce and wanted to quality control it. A mouthful of chocolate later, she gave me two thumbs up and promptly went to go wipe her face.
We had fun watching the Derby and being fancy with these scones and her unicorn headband. I can see this turning into a fun tradition for us every year. And as for the scones? Well, you certainly can't go wrong with triple chocolate right? With cocoa powder, chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle, your day is made.

Triple chocolate scones
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (can omit if you don't have any)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk of choice
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternatively, you can mix this together by hand using a spatula.

Turn the mixer to low and add in the butter pieces. Mix until everything resembles wet sand. You will have butter chunks at this stage and that's exactly what you want. Add in the chocolate chips. 

In a measuring cup, mix together the vanilla, egg and milk.  With the mixer on low, stream in the milk mixture and mix until everything just comes together.

Roll the dough out onto your prepared baking sheet until it's about 3/4" thick. You can keep it as a circle or roll it out into a rectangle. Slice the dough into wedges or rectangles (I sliced my circular dough into 8 wedges). Top with additional chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the scones to cool before serving.

If desired, you can drizzle some additional chocolate on top like I did. I heated up some milk and mixed in some chocolate chips and mixed well with a small spatula. Then I drizzled it on top of the scones.

Scones should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days.

Yield: 8 large scones

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mocha chocolate chip brownies

A rich and fudge-like mocha brownie that's bursting with chocolate chips! This brownie comes together very quickly and can be made in one bowl (no stand mixer required)!

I had one of those weeks at work where I felt exhausted for some reason. Maybe it's because I had expected to be gone half the week for jury duty, only to have it cancelled. Mentally, I thought I'd get a break on Wednesday, but with my civic duty cancelled, I would have a full work week.

There's been a lot going on at the office (in a good way), and my brain just wasn't able to function properly. I came home and needed some brownies. Better yet, make that mocha brownies.

Now I'm not a coffee drinker but do adore coffee-flavored things. These brownies were certainly up my alley. Rather than simply adding instant espresso powder to the batter, the powder is dissolved in hot water for a more intense coffee flavor.

I was able to mix up the batter very quickly and in one bowl (minus the dissolving of the espresso powder - that I just did in a very small prep bowl). My brownies were ready to go by the time I had to leave for the rink to teach a class.

Make sure that you don't over bake these. I put mine in the oven for 30 minutes and felt like it was too much, as my brownies were drier than I expected. They were still chewy and fudge-like, but they could have been even more so. I'd recommend baking these for 25 minutes and checking from there. Remember, the brownies will start to firm up while they cool and will be even better if you allow them to chill in the refrigerator (if you can wait that long).

Mocha chocolate chip brownies
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 4 Tablespoons hot water
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips of choice
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, microwave the chopped chocolate and butter (I heated mine up for about 45 seconds, stirred and heated for another 25 seconds). Stir well until smooth.

Mix in the sugar until well incorporated. Add in the eggs, one by one, until each one is fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract

Dissolve the espresso powder in the 4 Tablespoons of hot water. Add this to the batter.

Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some moist crumbs. You'll want to make sure you don't over bake your brownies so they're still a little gooey.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing and serving. These are best after they've been refrigerated. 

Leftover brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. Top with whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 16 brownies

Source: i am baker

Friday, May 18, 2018

Skating Fridays

Double Salchow Attempt and Analysis


I've declared 2018 the year of my double salchow. I am determined to land one clean this year and will do whatever I can to make it happen.

The best way for me to learn is to video myself and watch it frame-by-frame to see what I'm doing incorrectly. These videos have been invaluable since I can see where things start to go awry.

Another amazing resource for me has been my jump coach. This individual has decades of experience and has worked with top skaters across the globe. He is a self-proclaimed technical "geek" and enjoys analyzing videos for skaters.

I sent him a video of a double salchow attempt last week, and while I am still short on rotation, the jump appears to be more organized. And I'm actually crossing my feet!

Listen to what my coach has to say about it.

Hope this was enlightening for you!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Smitten Kitchen's perfect one bowl blueberry muffins

Deb Perelman's absolutely perfect blueberry muffins - they are even made in one bowl! They have a beautiful dome and are soft, fluffy with just the right amount of crunch on the outside. Double the recipe so you'll have enough to share!

It may be hard to believe, but I've made about 80 different muffins on this blog. Eighty! That's almost a muffin recipe every week for two years. A good portion of my muffins have been blueberry, since that's the type my family and I enjoy.

Even though there are plenty of muffins to be eaten around here, I'm always on the lookout for another great recipe to try. I received Deb Perelman's second cookbook for the holidays and finally decided to bake something out of it.

The only minor edits I made were to add lemon extract and use Greek yogurt for these muffins. They baked up nice and fluffy, with perfectly domed tops. The turbinado sugar on top made the muffins nice and crunchy and even held up overnight.

Dare I say that these muffins really were perfect in every way. Well, except for the serving size. Even Deb complained that these only made 9 muffins, so I took her advice and doubled the recipe so I got 18 muffins to keep around the house.

Best of all, these are made in one bowl so there's minimal cleanup involved. That's good because you'll want to sink your teeth into one of these as soon as they're out of the oven. No time for dishes - must eat!

Smitten Kitchen's perfect one bowl blueberry muffins
  • 5 Tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (or the juice and zest of one lemon)
  • 1 (5.3 ounces) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (255 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • Raw (turbinado) sugar, for sprinkling
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Then add the lemon extract, Greek yogurt and egg. Mix until everything is uniform. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Fold in the flour and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Toss in the blueberries and mix until no dry streaks remain. Do not over mix. The dough will be very thick.

Evenly distribute the batter and portion into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with the turbinado sugar if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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

Yield: 9 muffins (I recommend doubling the recipe above!)

Source: Barely adapted from smitten kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

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