Friday, June 22, 2018

Skating Fridays


There are very few constants in life. We all know that death and taxes are two of those, and change is a third.

I made a very hard decision recently. After many agonizing days of self-reflection, I came to the conclusion that I needed to make a coaching change in order to meet my skating goals. I am grateful for everything my current coach has done for me, as she and I have both grown leaps and bounds since we first started working together in 2012. With her partnership, I've been able to pass my Gold Moves in the Field and Gold Freestyle tests. I've also improved tenfold in other areas within the sport, thanks to her guidance and expertise.

I have a new coaching team in place and am excited about what the future holds. To quote Semisonic's "Closing Time," I'd like to leave you all with this lyric:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

To a new chapter!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Australian meat pie

A tried and true Australian meat pie that will make you want to visit the Land from Down Under! With a buttery and flaky crust made from frozen puff pastry, this pie is sure to please!

In 2008, I had the good fortune of traveling to New Zealand and Australia for vacation. My husband and I were still fairly newly married at the time and wanted to travel to the other side of the world to to explore. Luckily for me, I had an aunt and uncle that lived in New Zealand, so we were able to stay with them for a few days and let them be our tour guide during our visit.

Before we visited New Zealand, we toured Australia for a week. We spent about 4 days in Sydney and another 2 days in Port Douglas. The highlights of our Australian adventure were climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, hugging koalas in New South Wales and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the quintessential foods in Australia are meat pies (next to Vegemite and Marmite). Ironically, we did not have any meat pies in Australia but did have plenty of them in New Zealand. The ones we tried were individual sized and filled with various meats. I especially enjoyed meat pies made of lamb and venison, but the one I'm making here today is made from ground beef.

I don't know why it took me 10 years to finally muster up the courage to recreate the Australian meat pie, but here I am. This version uses frozen puff pastry for the top and bottom of the pie for a buttery crust. The filling is nice and thick and will not run when sliced into. I'd recommend adding in some sautéed mushrooms as well for a different textural contrast but loved it otherwise.

My husband gave the pie a two thumbs up, and my 8-year old daughter approved as well.  Hope you enjoy these!

Australian meat pie
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used ground meatloaf mix from the grocery store)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Ground pepper for taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 10" deep dish pie plate and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, brown the meat and onion. Drain off the fat.

Add 3/4 cup of the water, beef bouillon cubes, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring the mixture to boil, turn the heat down to medium low and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1/4 cup of water with the flour until a smooth slurry forms. Transfer this to the saucepan and mix well until the meat mixture is thick.

Roll out one of the puff pastry sheets and line the bottom of the pie pan. Add the meat mixture on top. Roll out the final puff pastry sheet and cover the meat mixture. Trim the edges, pinch it together with the bottom puff pasty sheet and make a few slices on the top with a paring knife.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15 minutes. Without turning off or opening the oven, turn it down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Pie should be stored, covered, in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

Yield: One 10" pie; about 6-8 servings

Source: Genius Kitchen

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).


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
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.


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
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
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
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
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?


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