Friday, April 20, 2018

Skating Fridays

We've Come A Long Way


Last week, we began the choreography for my new freestyle program. My choreographer had asked me to execute a few chunks of it for her to watch, and Coach B skated up to her. The two of them were making small talk as I was skating.

Coach B then said, "Your butt's sticking out."

I said, "I know. Give me a break. I just learned this choreography so cut me some slack here."

She and I talked a bit later, and even though she was critiquing my posture, she said that she and my choreographer were actually complimenting me while I was skating. They talked about how my PCS had improved by 5 points over the year and that I was covering more ice with fewer strokes.

It was neat to be able to reflect back on my progress from just a year ago and see how far I've come.

Yes, there is still a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm ready for it. I believe that I just had my breakthrough season (with all the mental blocks and improvement in my skating skills). Hopefully this next season I will continue to break down more barriers and keep successfully climbing those mountains. I've got a good team to help me achieve my goals.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. You all are part of my team, and I appreciate your support and encouragement.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nutella chocolate chip fudge brownies

Thick, chewy and fudge-like Nutella brownies that will knock your socks off! Don't half this recipe -it's so good that you'll want to eat the full pan!

We have an annual tradition at the rink. Every year since I've been competing, our adult skating community hosts a send-off celebration for those skaters who are competing at Adult Nationals. One of our multi-talented (and generous) skaters goes all out. She bakes a huge sheet cake, decorates it, and gifts every skater with a goodie bag - filled with snacks, water, medicine, gloves, a stuffed animal and other random things a skater might need.

This year, only two of our adult skaters will be attending the competition. I was not one of them. But, I still wanted to do something nice for them since they've been so supportive of me in the past, and the generous skater I mentioned above was one of the ones competing this year.

Sadly, we weren't able to find a time for all of us to get together and send them off properly. Regardless, I wanted to bake them something in lieu of the traditional cake and decided to make these Nutella chocolate chip fudge brownies. They're easy to hold and eat and easy to share with others.

I dropped these off at one of the skaters' homes one afternoon. I did keep two for my husband and I - you know, for quality control purposes. I didn't keep any more because we were heading out of town for a while and didn't want to keep anything at home. I wish I would have kept more of these for ourselves since they were pretty wonderful.

Nutella chocolate chip fudge brownies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 and 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips of choice
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter. Add in the sugar, mix well and keep stirring for about 1-2 minutes. The sugar will not completely dissolve.

Remove the pan from the stovetop and stir in the Nutella and mix well.

Transfer the Nutella mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer or if mixing by hand.

With the mixer on low, add in the eggs. Then add in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, instant espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix well. Finally, add in the flour and mix well.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The batter will be super thick and sticky. Transfer this to your prepared baking pan and evenly distribute the batter.

Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.

Allow the brownies to cool before serving.

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

Yield: One 9"x13" pan; about 24-36 brownies, depending upon how large you cut your slices

Source: Barely adapted from Buns in My Oven

Sunday, April 15, 2018

One bowl Funfetti cupcakes

An easy, one-bowl cupcake recipe that will tickle the kid in you! Chock full of sprinkles, these cupcakes will certain bring a smile to your face!

Oh my goodness. How has another year gone by? My baby girl turned 8 years old yesterday and is blossoming into a beautiful young lady. I feel it it was just yesterday when she was born and I struggling to find time to cook and bake.

I'm grateful that my girl Addie is a great eater. She's always had a good appetite, even if it was only Mac and cheese and hot dogs. Each year on her birthday, she gets to choose the restaurant she wants to go to for dinner. She also gets to pick out what she wants me to bake for her birthday.

This year, Addie originally wanted to eat at the Cook Out (fast food-style hamburgers). We wanted to give her something a little bit more special so were able to convince her to go somewhere else. She chose a Greek/Italian restaurant so she could eat either lasagna or pastitsio. For her birthday dessert, she chose Funfetti cupcakes.

I contacted our ballet instructor to see if she offered birthday parties, and luckily, she did. Addie wanted to try hip hop, so we enlisted the studio's hip hop instructor for the celebration. We invited 9 girls to come dance with us for the birthday party.

The girls had a blast and danced their little hearts out. Addie got to choose some songs she wanted to groove to, and it was so cute watching them shake their little bodies. After dancing, the girls enjoyed making a craft and munched on some snacks before diving in these cupcakes. Addie requested blue frosting to match her blue decorations so I happily obliged.

Happy birthday to my little girl! Mommy loves you!

One bowl Funfetti cupcakes
Cupcakes

  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1 (5.3 ounce) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup sprinkles
Frosting
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • Additional sprinkles for decorating, optional

Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.

Make the cupcakes: In a large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave and allow to cool slightly. Add in the sugar and mix well. Add in the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add in the eggs, one at a time and mix thoroughly in between each addition. Mix in the milk and Greek yogurt until well blended.

Add in the baking powder and salt until well mixed. Slowly fold in the cake flour until a few streaks remain. Fold in the sprinkles until no dry streaks remain. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking liners, filling each about 3/4 full.

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

Make the frosting: Cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until light and creamy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time. Add in the vanilla and mix well. Slowly stream in the milk until you achieve your desired consistency. Add more milk if the frosting appears too stiff or more powdered sugar if it's too runny. I added a few drops of food coloring because my daughter wanted blue frosting.

Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, top with the frosting. Add more sprinkles on top if desired.

Cupcakes should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will last about 2 days before they start to get stale.

Yield: About 24 cupcakes

Source: Barely adapted from Baker by Nature

Friday, April 13, 2018

Skating Fridays

Skating Fridays


This is the best time of the skating season for me. Because I am not at Adult Nationals this week (boo), and I have retired my program, I have nothing to work on. I haven't met with my choreographer yet so I don't have a new program to practice.

So now I'm just playing around and working on various skills.

One thing I'd love to do this year is land a clean double salchow. I've been working with a jump coach to help me get there, and although I'm still not close, I understand what my problems are.

Here is a video analysis from the coach so you can see where I'm going wrong. It's neat to get an expert's point of view and see exactly what I'm doing incorrectly and to view my video in slow motion.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Whole wheat pumpkin Nutella quick bread

Who says that pumpkin season is only for the fall? Fill your kitchen with these wonderful autumn aromas with this whole wheat pumpkin Nutella quick bread. It's also made without butter or oil!

Spring break was around the corner, and my family and I were getting ready for our big trip. I wanted to make sure we had something to eat for breakfasts throughout the week without yielding any leftovers. I didn't want to have to clean out my kitchen before we left so we needed something that would get eaten very quickly.

The thing I baked was this whole wheat pumpkin Nutella quick bread. I was able to rescue a can of pumpkin from my pantry and fill up my kitchen with the amazing aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

My family and I could not wait to eat this once it came out of the oven. In fact, we treated this as a dessert and each enjoyed a slice after our dinner. And of course, this served as our breakfast the next morning.

And I was right - this bread did not yield any leftovers and was enjoyed very quickly. I'm sure it will do the same for your family too.

Whole wheat pumpkin Nutella quick bread
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
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 flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, milk and applesauce. Pour this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.

Gently fold everything together until no dry streaks remain. Do not over mix.

Pour half of the mixture into your prepared baking pan.

Melt the Nutella in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds.

Pour half of the Nutella on top of the batter and gently swirl it in with a knife or spatula.

Pour the other half of the batter on top and top with the remaining half of the melted Nutella. Swirl it in with a knife or spatula.

Bake in your preheated oven for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (don't worry if melted Nutella comes out - we're mostly worrying about the batter).

Allow the bread to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

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

Source: Adapted from Broma Bakery

Sunday, April 8, 2018

30 minute one bowl super fudge brownies

Want fudge brownies in a flash? These super fudge brownies are made in one bowl and will be ready in 30 minutes, including prepping and baking time!

Do you ever get brownie cravings? Please say it's not just me! My body was screaming "BROWNIES" to me one day but I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

These super fudge brownies are the answer. You can enjoy an entire batch of brownies in the time it takes to watch your favorite television show. The mixing and prepping takes less than 10 minutes, and the brownies bake up in about 20 minutes. And as an added bonus, you mix everything in one bowl so there is minimal cleanup and prep!

When I gave one of these to my daughter, she exclaimed, "MOM! What kind of brownies are these?" I told her that they were super fudge ones, and she said, "These are the best!" Now, these aren't the ooey gooey kind of brownies, but they are nice and chewy and very fudge-like. You won't necessarily get a crackly top on these but they are still pretty dang amazing.

We actually kept the whole batch to ourselves. You know... because brownies!

30 minute one bowl super fudge brownies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking oil (canola, vegetable, coconut or olive all work)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Add-ins of choice (baking chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc), optional
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, melt the butter. Add in the oil and sugar and whisk vigorously for about 1 minute until it starts to turn pale. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly until well blended.

Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the mix-ins if desired and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Do not over bake these or they will not be fudgy. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out with batter, but the tops should be set.

Allow the brownies to cool before slicing and serving. They are best cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Store brownies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for best results. They will last for several days.

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

Source: Cafe Delites

Friday, April 6, 2018

Skating Fridays

Not Going to Adult Nationals


I'm sad to be sharing with you that I am not competing at Adult Nationals this year. While I wanted to go and see my skating family (you know who you are), the event coincides with my daughter's birthday.

My little girl only gets to turn 8 years old (!!!) once in her life, while there is always another Adult Nationals to compete in next year.

This is the last year for my current freestyle program and I retired it after my skate at Sectionals. I already have my music picked out for next year's program, which I will keep for 2 seasons. I am not ready to share that with you yet so stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Root beer float cookies

Spring is around the corner, which means that it's almost time for a classic root beer float! Rather than drinking this classic treat, why not eat it in cookie form? These soft and chewy cookies are topped with a luscious root beer frosting!

Is it really spring? I don't know about you, but it seemed like an awfully long winter this year. We got some snow, and the weather was cold enough to keep the kids out of school for several days. They even had to make up a school day over a holiday!

Anyway, I'm jazzed that spring is here and it's almost time for all of the ice cream stores around here to re-open. Many of them close during the winter so you can bet that I'll be one of the first customers to line up once their doors open up again.

One classic treat that I love to get is a nostalgic root beer float. I have great memories of sharing these with my brother when we were growing up. Of course, being the wonderful sister that I am, I usually liked to trick my brother so that I could eat the remaining ice cream at the bottom. Ha ha!

Tricks aside, these cookies are a fantastic way to enjoy the classic treat without fighting for the ice cream at the bottom. The cookies contain a ton of root beer flavor and are then topped with an amazing root beer frosting. The recipe below makes a huge batch, so feel free to share some. Or, you can follow my lead and just keep them to yourself and tease your sibling about it. I won't tell.

Root beer float cookies
Cookies
  • 1 cup (1 sticks / 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (if you don't have butter, simply add 1 teaspoon of vinegar to 1 cup of milk)
  • 1 teaspoon root beer concentrate
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Frosting (note: I halved the recipe below and had plenty to frost my cookies)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks, or 12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon root beer concentrate
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats 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 brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Then add the buttermilk and root beer concentrate. Mix well until the batter is smooth and uniform.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix well until no dry streaks remain.


Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop out portions of dough and place them on your prepared baking pan, making sure that you allow at least 2 or 3 inches in between each cookie.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly browned. Remove the baking pan from the oven and set on the counter to cool for about 5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling. The cookies will continue to set as they cool.

To make the frosting, combine the powdered sugar and butter together and mix well (I did this in a stand mixer but you can do it by hand or use a handheld mixer). Add in the milk and root beer concentrate and mix until the frosting is smooth. Feel free to add more milk or powdered sugar to achieve your desired consistency.

Frost the cookies once they are cooled. Do not frost while the cookies are still warm or else it will melt the frosting.

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

Yield: About 42 cookies

Source: Six Sisters Stuff

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Whole wheat marbled cinnamon sugar quick bread

A beautifully swirled cinnamon sugar quick bread that is made with whole wheat flour! If you're stuck inside the house, this loaf will fill your home with a wonderful cinnamon aroma!

It was near the end of March, and spring had arrived. But not at our house. Oh no. We got a snowstorm on the first full day of spring that cancelled school. I stayed at home to hang out with Addie, and we'd already played multiple rounds of cards, so I needed to get up and make something for us to snack on later.

I asked her what type of bread I should bake, and she said "chocolate." Since we just had some chocolate muffins, I tried to convince her to try something else. Cinnamon was the next option so we went with that.

While we were playing another round of cards, I started smelling the amazing cinnamon-y goodness coming from the oven. My loaf baked up quite beautifully with a crunchy cinnamon sugar layer on top.

You guys! We ate this bread faster than you can say "cinnamon." Each one of us ate at least a large slice each day and it was gone in about 2 days. I need to make a note to double the recipe next time so that we have two loaves on hand at a time.

The crunchy topping does start to soften after about a day, so keep that in mind if you don't plan on eating this in 24 hours. Other than that, this has been one of our favorite quick breads to date!

Whole wheat marbled cinnamon sugar quick bread
  • 1/6 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the egg, milk and applesauce.

Pour the applesauce mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients until no dry streaks remain. Do not over mix.

Transfer half of the batter into your prepared baking pan. Sprinkle about half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Add the last half of the batter on top. Use a knife to swirl the batter a bit. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool slightly before serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days. The topping might start to get soggy after a day.

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

Source: Adapted from Genius Kitchen

Friday, March 30, 2018

Skating Fridays

Official Video From Sectionals


I received my official video from Sectionals. I wanted to share this with you all since this is a better version to see my elements more clearly.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Brown butter cinnamon crinkle cookies

Who can resist the taste and aroma of brown butter? Not me! Brown butter is the star in these cinnamon crinkle cookies. It's a fun new twist on the traditional chocolate crinkle cookies we all know and love!

I got back from my Sectionals skating event and wanted to eat all of the cookies. Perhaps because I saw a bake sale at the rink while we were skating and I saw a plethora of homemade cookies, or perhaps it's because I haven't baked them in a while. Either way, I wanted cookies.

Although I love a good chocolate chip cookie and will never turn down any type of chocolate cookie, I wanted to bake something new. Something soft, pillowy, and heavenly.

Enter these cookies.

These amazing treats start off with browned butter, so you know it's going to be a winner. They're a riff on the traditional chocolate crinkle cookies that we've all had before. Except these are cinnamon flavored and full of brown butter.

Don't be alarmed if these cookies don't flatten out all the way. Since they are chilled before baking, they will stay in a ball until close to the end of the baking time. And even when they're done in the oven, they still won't be super flat. Fret not though, and please don't overtake these so they get hard and crunchy (unless that's your thing). Just keep an eye on these so they stay nice and soft.



Brown butter cinnamon crinkle cookies
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Directions
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Keep it on the stovetop until it starts to foam and little brown flecks form. Keep a close eye on the butter so it doesn't burn. Swirl the pan around until you achieve a nutty aroma and the butter has lots of brown flecks to it. Set aside to cool slightly.

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

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

Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Turn the mixer to low and slow add in the dry ingredients, mixing until you get a uniform, smooth dough. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and allow it to chill for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop or two spoons, portion out the dough and roll them into balls. Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl and roll the dough balls into the powdered sugar. Make sure you cover the surface entirely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Place the dough balls on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet. These cookies will spread slightly so make sure they are about 2 or 3 inches apart.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set. Allow them to cool before serving.

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

Yield: About 24 cookies

Source: Cookies and Cups

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cranberry orange bread

A wonderfully delightful cranberry quick bread with a touch of bright orange flavors. This bread is perfect to snack on throughout the day!

Why do I feel like I'm always running out of options for breakfast? I'm not a cereal girl, and I usually eat yogurt with my lunch so I don't like it first thing in the morning. Therefore, I usually turn to something like muffins (I don't have time to make something fresh like eggs and I'm not a fan of toast). English muffins used to be my jam, but muffins and quick breads have been my go-to breakfasts as of late.

I made this bread on a whim when I was running out of breakfast ideas. I don't usually like to make the same muffins so we don't get sick of them so rather than bake an old favorite (hello, chocolate), I tried to bake something with some citrusy vibes.

Enter this bread.
This bread uses orange juice and sweetened dried cranberries, but you can absolutely substitute with raisins or other dried fruit to your liking. You could even throw in some orange zest if you're feeling fancy, but I did not.

I used half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat for this bread and replaced any butter or oil with applesauce. You'll never know the difference.

My family and I loved this bread and were happy to get a break from our breakfast rut!

Cranberry orange bread
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the applesauce, orange juice, and egg. Transfer this to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until a few dry streaks remain. Toss in the cranberries and mix until everything just comes together - do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for 60-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool before slicing and serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen and thawed.

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

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Friday, March 23, 2018

Skating Fridays

Adult Sectionals, Part 2


After the excitement of the Championship Gold Ladies event the previous day, I had two more events to skate. I entered the Gold Dramatic event and the Gold Duet.

There were 6 ladies in my dramatic event, and I was 2nd to skate. I tried to "sell" my program and emoted as much as I could. But alas, I came in last place (although I did receive a 1st place ordinal from one judge).

I put that behind me and started getting ready for my duet. My friend and I were the last skaters of the evening so we wanted to bring down the house. She and I skated our Tonya and Nancy duet and had a blast. My friend really worked the crowd and we put on the performance of a lifetime. We earned the gold medal and most importantly, lots of laughs from those who saw the program.

All in all, I had an amazing time over the weekend and was able to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. I can't wait to see everyone again.

Here is our video!


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Salted caramel chocolate tart

A gorgeous salted caramel chocolate tart that will remind you of a candy bar! With a crunchy chocolate crust, a generous layer of sticky caramel and a smooth ganache layer on top, this dessert is sure to impress!

We had just received the latest issue of Bon Appetit when my husband stopped in his tracks and said that I had to make this. He handed me the magazine, and when I saw the name of the dessert, I immediately agreed.
The recipe didn't seem too difficult. I would need to make a chocolate crust (in my brand new tart pan!), fill it with a salted caramel and then top it with a luscious ganache. What's not to love about that?
This recipe does take a bit of time to cool the dough before baking and to allow the caramel layer to set. So make sure you set aside a few hours to bake this tart. Thankfully, a lot of that time is waiting time, so you can go ahead and browse your favorite Pinterest boards or whatever makes you happy.

When I took a bite of the tart, it immediately reminded me of my favorite candy bar - a Milky Way - with the chocolate and caramel pairing. The crust can get a little bit crumbly so just make sure you have a few napkins handy to wipe them off your mouth.
We all loved this tart and think that Bon Appetit did another fantastic job with another winning recipe.

Salted caramel chocolate tart
Crust
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 Tablespoons cold milk or water
Filling
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Ganache
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (do not go over 70% cacao), chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Flaky sea salt
Directions
Make the crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and flour. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. The mixture will resemble wet sand. If you pinch it, it should stay together. Add the egg yolk and milk and mix until a loose dough comes together. Knead with your hands for a few minutes until you get a smooth dough. Flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. While it is chilling, make the caramel.

Make the caramel: In a medium sized saucepan, mix together the sugar, cream of tartar and water. Heat over medium heat until the sugar gets bubbly and the mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Take the saucepan off the stove and add in the butter, one piece at a time and stir vigorously (the mixture will bubble and fizz). Slowly add in the cream and stir vigorously again (it will continue to bubble and splatter). Stir in the salt and set aside. Caramel can be made a day in advance - just heat it up in short spurts to get it soft again.

Bake the crust: Once the dough is chilled, allow it to thaw for about 5 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle. Generously grease a removable tart pan that is either 9" or 10" in diameter. If you don't own a tart pan, you can make this in a round cake pan or even a springform pan. Remove the bottom from the tart pan and place the rolled out dough on top - the dough should hang over the edges. Place the removable bottom back into the tart pan and gently push the overhung dough up onto the sides of the pan. It's OK if the dough hangs over the edges here. Use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the pan - the excess dough will fall off. Press down on the bottom of the crust with a measuring cup or any other flat-bottomed item. Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze the crust for about 15 minutes.

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and line the top of the crust with foil. Add pie weights, beans or anything else to weigh down the crust. Bake in your preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the crust appears dry. Carefully remove the pie weights and patch any holes with leftover dough. Bake for an additional 18-22 minutes or until the crust is firm and dry. Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool.

Make the ganache: In a large measuring cup, microwave the cream until just bubbling. Add the chopped chocolate and allow to sit for about 1 minute. Then stir vigorously until everything is smooth and glossy.

Assemble the tart: Once the crust is cooled, pour the caramel on top. Let it sit and firm up for about an hour. Then pour the ganache on top, and using the back of a spoon, you can make decorative patterns or swirls. Sprinkle the top with the flaky sea salt. Allow the tart to set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

The tart can also be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Allow it to thaw for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" or 10" tart; about 8-10 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2018 issue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cinnamon banana muffins

Cinnamon banana muffins make a great breakfast or snack during the day. These are a great alternative to a classic banana bread or banana muffin!
Do you guys ever participate in spring cleaning? While I don't set a dedicated time to organize my home and my life, there are times when it's time to start throwing away the old stuff and de-cluttering.

Last fall, I got fed up with all the junk that was in our garage. We kept it really unorganized since we moved in. I don't know why. Stuff just started piling up and I couldn't take it anymore. For a type-A personality like myself, it was driving me nuts. So I finally hired a company to build some organizational systems into my garage. Life has been better since then.
Another area that is constantly a mess is my freezer. We have things from who-knows-when, and my husband is usually the one that finds them and throws them out. I was digging in there one day and found a lot of bananas. And rather than make some boring banana bread, I made some cinnamon banana muffins instead.

I've been avoiding using butter in muffin recipes to make mine a little bit healthier, but I used it this time so I could stick to the original recipe with the creaming of the butter and sugar. That process made these muffins light and fluffy. I did swap out the oil with applesauce and used white whole wheat flour to lighten up the calories a tad.

These were some pretty fantastic muffins. My family all enjoyed them, and my husband and I particularly enjoyed the fact that the freezer was a little bit more de-cluttered. I'm afraid to tackle some other rooms, like my closet... ;)

Cinnamon banana muffins 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup overripe bananas, mashed (about 2-3 large) 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute with white whole wheat if desired)
  • Coarse sugar for topping, optional
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 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 until well incorporated. Add the applesauce, baking soda, bananas, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour. Mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar and bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Friday, March 16, 2018

Skating Fridays

Sectionals, Part 1


I am back from my Sectionals event and am ready to give you a summary of how the weekend went. This year's event was a bit crazy, since there were 30 (!) ladies entered in my championship event and 39 ladies in the Silver event. Since there were so many competitors, they had to extend the schedule out by a day.

The day before my competition, I could not spin to save my life. I had a lesson and complained to my coach about it and she told me to cover over to the boards. She took one look at my blades and said that I had no rocker left and needed new blades ASAP. Um, that was not going to happen with 24 hours before my competition. I made an emergency call to my blade guy and he was able to shave off part of my bottom toe pick and create a rocker for the time being. I wasn't going to be able to skate on it until the day of the competition so I was nervous and anxious.

We arrived one day earlier than planned so that I could attend my official practice ice at 7:25 the next morning. I ran through my program and missed a few elements and then tried to go back to the hotel to relax. My blade felt fine during the warmup, thankfully. A friend sent me inspirational messages, and I attempted to take a nap (I didn't actually fall asleep, but it felt good to just chill).

As I started to get ready for my event, I felt some butterflies in my stomach. But I tried to take the attitude that I had nothing to lose. I knew that making the championship round for the weekend would be a long shot, so I might as well attempt to execute every difficult element I had planned.

I lost a coworker to Lou Gehrig's disease just a week before the event, and when I took the ice to wait for the announcer to call my name, a vision of him appeared in my mind. He was smiling at me, and I told him that I'd skate for him. Then I took my starting position.

I am proud to report that I finally was able to skate in the moment. This has been a constant struggle, where I typically think ahead to the future or dwell on the past. I took each element one by one and skated the final performance of this program. While my spins weren't "on," (the ice was a bit wonky that day and I was also nervous about my faux rocker) I was able to execute both of my axels and receive full credit for them. By the end of the program, I knew that I had achieved my goals for the day.

Once the scores were finally posted, I was in shock that I had earned 6th place out of a very strong group of 13 ladies in my qualifying round. They were going to take the top 4 ladies from each qualifying group and then the next top 4 scores for the championship round the next morning. I essentially was "on the bubble" for the next top 4 scores. It was a very exciting position to be in, and not one in a million years that I'd ever thought I'd part of.

As the events came to a close, I was excited for the possibility of being able to skate in the championship round. But alas, I came in 13th place overall and missed the championship round by 1 placement. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed, but more excited that I was able to even be considered for that honor. I was beyond thrilled to have earned a personal best and overcome my mental hurdles for several elements. This was definitely a huge win for me. I'm excited to build on this foundation and hope that my mental game continues to improve.

Next week I will recap the other two events I competed in. In the meantime, here is a video that my friend took of my freestyle event.

Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chocolate truffles

Rich, dense and perfect chocolate truffles for a special occasion or as an after-meal dessert! Dust them with cocoa powder, sprinkles or melted chocolate for a beautiful finish!
Is there anything better than receiving a box of truffles as a gift? OK, maybe a pint of ice cream with that box of chocolates, but I hope you'll agree that truffles are a pretty perfect dessert. I mean, they're bite-sized, smooth, rich and full of that intense chocolate flavor that I love.

What I don't love are the insane prices of these treats. One can easily pay a few dollars a truffle at some high-end stores and bakeries. If you can use a microwave and stir something with a spoon, then you can make these beauties.
All you need to do is heat up some heavy cream, add chocolate chips and stir it all together. Then after the mixture has cooled, just scoop and roll into balls and you're done. You can make them prettier by rolling them in cocoa powder, sprinkles or a layer of melted chocolate if that's what your heart desires.
I served these truffles with the chocolate torte on Valentine's Day and they were a big hit with my husband and daughter. With only 3 ingredients, these truffles will be a great addition to your baking repertoire to wow your friends and family!

Chocolate truffles
  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Directions
Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.

In a saucepan, boil the heavy cream. Pour it over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Then stir vigorously until the mixture is even. Allow to cool slightly and then transfer to your refrigerator and let it chill for at least an hour. The mixture should be slightly soft.

Scoop out spoonfuls of the chocolate with two spoons or a cookie scoop. Roll these out into balls with the palms of your hand.

Roll in cocoa powder, sprinkles, powdered sugar, melted chocolate or whatever makes you happy. You can eat them plain too. Place them back in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Leftover truffles (hahaha!) should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 2-3 dozen, depending on how big you roll them

Source: An Eva Bakes original

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