Friday, April 29, 2016

Skating Fridays

Spins, Spins and More Spins


The adult skating season is finally over. I'm in the midst of working on a brand new freestyle program (sorry, I'm not giving you any hints). Coach and I are trying to decide which 3 spins to include this year. I'm fairly certain that I will keep my Level 3 sit spin since it is my "money" element and gains me a lot of points. The other two I'm not so sure about.

We are working on all kinds of spins, including:
  • Back camel spin into something else (maybe back sit into forward sit)
  • Broken leg sit spin (I need to be careful with this one since this is how I tore my meniscus)
  • Cross-foot spin
  • Camel spin variations
  • Flying camel spins
One day I was playing around during practice and came up with this combination. It is a flying camel spin into a back sit spin into a forward sit with variation ("broken leg" or "sit to the side").

We'll keep playing around to see what spins fit me and what I can consistently execute. In the meantime, enjoy.

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Easy focaccia

This easy, flavorful focaccia from Anne Burrell is perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You'll want to make a meal out of this!
You ever get those days when you're just craving bread or carbs? I had one of those days recently and wanted a thick, hearty bread without too much work. Focaccia came to mind so I set off to find a worthy recipe to try.

I found this one from Anne Burrell that seemed very simple. Her recipe made a huge batch so I was able to gift some to a friend. I sprinkled the top of my focaccia with sea salt and Italian seasonings (I did not have any fresh rosemary or I would have used that).

We served our focaccia with a comforting ravioli soup. Some of us dunked our focaccia in the soup and ate it that way. The next evening, I topped some focaccia with pasta sauce and mozzarella and made mini focaccia pizzas as appetizers.

The focaccia is perfect for a side dish, appetizer or as a main dish. Feel free to dress it up or down however you like and add whatever toppings floats your boat. Just save some for me, OK?

Focaccia
  • 1 and 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • Dried Italian seasonings (or fresh chopped rosemary), for sprinkling
Directions
In a measuring cup, sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the warm water. Allow to sit until it becomes frothy, about 5-10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if kneading by hand, whisk together the flour and salt on low speed. Add the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Keep kneading until the dough comes together and is soft and pliable. It should not stick to the bowl - add more flour if needed.

Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover, and allow to double (about 1 hour).

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bottom of a standard jelly pan (if you don't have a jelly pan, use two brownie pans - the pans will need to have high sides). Place the dough onto the oiled pan and gently stretch it out to all four corners of the pan. Then using your fingers, make deep indentations all the way into the dough (this gives it a nice dimpled look for the finished focaccia). Allow the dough to rise another hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle the top of the focaccia with additional olive oil and sea salt. Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow the focaccia to cool before cutting and serving.

Leftover focaccia should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and can be reheated in the oven. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: One jelly pan's worth (depending on how big you cut the pieces, can range from 8-24 servings or more)

Source: Barely adapted from Anne Burrell, via The Food Network

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Chocolate chip meringue cookies

Got leftover egg whites? Then make these 5 ingredient chocolate chip meringue cookies for a light and airy snack. You'll have enough to share (unless you want to keep the whole batch to yourself)!

Every few months I have to do a Google search to find ideas on how to use up egg whites. For whatever reason, the recipes I choose always yield leftover egg whites. I've used the leftovers for frosting, bread, cake and other sweet treats. I thought that it was finally time to make some cookies. But not just any cookies. Chocolate chip meringues.

Regular old meringues are just that - boring. Sure, they are crispy on the outside yet soft and super airy on the inside. But I didn't want plain old meringues. Being a chocolate lover, I had to find a way to chocolate-tize them (I totally just made that word up, by the way). I chopped up some dark chocolate and folded it into the meringues for a subtle chocolate kick.

These chocolate chip meringues were just perfect.  I got a nice crunch when I bit into the meringue and saw all the beautiful air pockets inside. It was like looking into a crevasse - lots of little nooks and crannies everywhere. The cookie was impossibly light, yet the whole thing melted in my mouth after I took a bite. The bits of chocolate interspersed throughout were an awesome addition too.

I was a good friend and gifted some to friends. I could have easily eaten all of the meringues but decided not to hoard the cookies this time. That doesn't mean I will share the next batch of sweets though.

Chocolate chip meringue cookies
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • About 7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped finely
Directions
Preheat your oven to 300 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 whisk attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), whisk the egg whites on medium speed until they get frothy. Then add the cream of tartar and salt until they are fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer up a notch and slowly stream in the sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to the highest setting and let it whisk. You'll want the mixer to go for at least 4-5 minutes. Turn the mixer off and check to see if your meringue has achieved stiff peaks (the egg whites will stand up straight and not move). If not, keep whipping in 30 second intervals on the highest speed.

Once you've achieve stiff  peaks, turn the mixer off. Gently fold in the chopped chocolate into the meringue and be sure not to deflate the egg whites.

Using a large spoon or a pastry bag (or zip-top bag), dollop the meringue onto your prepared baking sheets.  Make sure you space them at least an inch apart on the baking pan.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 2 hours (I baked for 90 minutes). Allow the meringues to cool completely before eating or storing. Meringues will get soggy if exposed to moisture, so you will not want to store these in an airtight container. If using a lidded container, crack the lid open a bit when storing. Meringues are best served the day they are made and will start to get slightly soggy after each day.

Yield: About 54 cookies (you may get more or less, depending upon how big you make yours)

Source: Adapted from Serious Eats

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Skating Fridays

My Stretching Routine


One of my readers suggested that I share the exercises I use to stretch. I shamefully admit that I don't do any warmups prior to getting on the ice, but I do spend about 10 minutes on the ice doing various edge work around the rink before doing any elements. I can write about that in another post.

Today I'd like to explain how I usually like to stretch. I try to do this on a daily basis unless I am traveling or am just plain lazy. To make the time pass, I usually do these while I am watching television at night. I start with my lower back and legs and then move on to my spine.

1. Roll my lower back on the foam roller. I have this awesome foam roller that I got at Wal-Mart and find that it really helps my lower back (particularly on my landing side) feel better. It's like a deep tissue massage. I roll anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on how sore my back is feeling. Sometimes I will do it multiple times a day if I'm in extra pain.

2. Sit and reach. I hold the pose for at least 30 seconds per side. It really stretches out my lower back as well. I also stick both legs out straight and hold that stretch for at least 20 seconds.

3. Crunches. I usually do anywhere from 100-500, depending on how tired I'm feeling that evening.
4. Front splits. I do both legs, holding each for at least 30 seconds. I used to be a gymnast so was previously pretty flexible (my right split has always been weaker). It took me about a year to get these back, and they're not all the way down on the ground yet.
5. Center split. This one is going to take a while to get back. I currently look something like this:
My goal is to eventually end up in a full split position, but I know it will be a long journey. After holding that stretch for about 30 seconds, I sit down and hold this stretch, except with my arms behind me. I hold that for about 30 seconds and then scoot my booty forward another inch if I can.

6. Camel stretch. I try to keep my lower body upright as much as possible and then lean back like this. I can't quite grab my feet yet. I hold this for about 30 seconds.

7. Downward dog. Since that camel stretch is a bit uncomfortable right now, I go straight into downward dog to help alleviate my lower back. Ahhh, much better.



8. Exercise ball bridge stretches. Finally, I get out my exercise ball and lie on back for about a minute. Then I put my arms on the floor and get into a bridge position. I lift my belly button towards the ceiling (lifting my back off the exercise ball completely) and hold the bridge for a count of 10. Repeat at least 3 times.





If my back is tight after the bridge exercises, then I go back into downward dog or the foam roller.

Hope that this post was helpful!

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images. They are copyright of their respective owners.



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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cinnamon raisin bread

A super soft, fluffy and perfectly swirly cinnamon raisin bread from scratch! The recipe makes two loaves, so you can share one or freeze it for another day!
Cinnamon raisin is one of my favorite breakfast flavor combos. I was the self-proclaimed cinnamon raisin bagel queen in high school and college and would never try any other flavors. Every loaf of bread I bought had to be cinnamon raisin . As time went on, I cut back on my bagel and bread consumption so cinnamon raisin has not been on my mind lately. Until now.

I'm not sure what got into me, but I had a weird urge to bake cinnamon raisin bread. I've never made it until now, and I am happy to tell you that this recipe was a huge success.


The bread has a few steps to it. You have to make the dough, let it rest, roll it out and sprinkle with filling (like classic cinnamon rolls), shape them, let them rise again, and then bake. Don't worry, most of the time spent on this recipe is waiting for the dough to rise so it's not too much hands-on time.

I was afraid that the bread would be too done for my tastes (the tops were very golden brown as you can see in the photos), but the bread actually turned out perfectly. The crust was nice and crusty and the inside was super light and fluffy.

I gifted a loaf to some neighbors, and we demolished the other loaf on our own. We ate it for breakfast and as a snack. You could toast it or turn it into french toast. Whatever you do with it, you can't go wrong.

Cinnamon raisin bread
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast (4.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 to 6 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast and warm water. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes until frothy.

Then add 1/2 cup of the sugar, oil, salt, eggs and 4 cups of the flour. Mix on medium speed until everything comes together. Add just enough flour until the dough is soft and pliable. It should not stick to your hands.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double, about 1 hour.

Generously grease two standard 9"x5" loaf pans and set aside.

Punch the dough down and divide into two equal portions. Add half of the raisins into each half of the dough and knead until well incorporated. Roll one piece of dough out to a rough 15"x9" rectangle.

Brush the dough lightly with oil. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of it over the dough, allowing for at least a 1/2 inch border all around.

Roll the dough up, jelly roll style, starting on the shorter end. Place the dough, seam side down, into the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Brush the tops lightly with oil. Cover and allow the dough to rise for at least 30 minutes or until doubled.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the tops are golden. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: Two (2) loaves

Source: Taste of Home

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hershey's perfect chocolate cake

This extreme chocolate cake will please all the chocoholics in your life. It's a rich, springy chocolate cake that is topped with a smooth and luscious dark chocolate frosting. Save room for another slice!

My little girl just turned 6 years old last week. How did that happen, and where did my baby go? Seems like just yesterday we were leaving the hospital with a 7 pound bundle of joy, and the next thing I knew, she's blossomed into a smart and sassy kindergartener.

We have a small party planned for her soon, but I had to bake the birthday girl a cake. She's always asking for chocolate cake, and she loves sprinkles, so I baked her exactly what she wanted. I picked her up from after-school daycare early, took her to get her nails done, and celebrated with this cake before Addie went to her weekly figure skating lesson. It was a perfect day for a 6-year old.

This is actually a recipe repeat and worth re-posting since the cake is so good. It the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake that I posted about in 2012 (wow - look at that horrendous photo!)



All of us enjoyed this cake immensely and couldn't wait to have another slice the next day. I received raving reviews the next day (after gifting some slices to Addie's skating coaches). Clearly chocolate cake is a favorite amongst skaters, and this was one of the best chocolate cakes they've had to date.

There's a reason why this cake has been around for so long - it's truly sensational and a standard chocolate cake to have in your baking repertoire.

Hershey's perfect chocolate cake
Cake
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Frosting
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 9" round cake pans and set aside.

Bake the cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt (I mixed this with a spatula). Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix by hand. Then turn the mixer on to low or medium low speed and mix until everything is well incorporated. Turn the mixer off and add in the boiling water by hand. Once the water is all mixed in, you can turn the mixer on low on to get the batter more uniform.

Evenly divide the batter into your prepared pans and bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whip the butter on medium speed until creamy. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the cocoa powder, powdered sugar and milk. You may want to alternate between cocoa powder/powdered sugar and milk so the frosting doesn't become too stiff. Add the vanilla extract and beat until the frosting is smooth.

Assemble the cake: Put one cake, flat-side down, on top of a cake stand or a plate. Using a serrated knife, cut the domed part of the cake off so the cake layer is flat. Spread some frosting on top. Remove the other cake from the cake pan and again, cut the domed part off the top of the cake. Then put this cake, flat-side down (the flat side that was on the bottom of the pan; not the side you just cut) on top of the frosting. Frost the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired.

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

Yield: One 9" cake; about 10-12 servings

Source: Hershey's

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Skating Fridays

Judges' Critique


Last weekend, I skated in my final competition of the season (the adult skating season usually concludes in mid-April after Adult Nationals). Since I was the only competitor in my event, I did not receive a placement or a medal. Instead, I was offered something even more valuable - a judges' critique.

I had no idea what that meant since I never had a critique before. It's uncommon to receive critiques in my neck of the woods so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I didn't know if I would go talk to the judges right after my performance or how that worked.

I asked the registration desk about the process, and they explained to me that I'd skate my program as if it were a competition, and then an hour afterwards, I'd head to the judges' room and would talk to the judges one-on-one. Once I told my coach about this opportunity, she decided to come to the competition with me so she could hear the judges' comments too.

When the time came, Coach and I went into the judges' room. We sat at a small table with 2 (of my 5) judges. They introduced themselves, and one of them explained her notes to me. She broke it up into two sections: things that were good, and things that could use improvement.

Things that were good:
  • Timing and exiting of spins: This judge noted that my spin exits were right on cue with the music.
  • Projection: I made lots of eye contact with the judges, smiled, and really seemed to enjoy myself.
  • Interpretation: The judge said that it was very obvious that I knew my music and interpreted the musical story very well.
  • Arm movements: The biggest surprise of the day was that the judge noted that she liked my arm movements and said they went really well to the music. I know that I have a flappy arm problem, so I was dumbfounded for sure. Progress!
Areas to improve:
  • Scratchiness of skating: The judge said that I got scratchy at times, and particularly when the music got quiet. I need to skate on clean edges and stay off the toe pick.
  • Timing: This particular judge noted that while my spins were exactly on time, a lot of the choreography was not. I appeared to be ahead or behind in the music and needed to work on my timing.
  • Speed and flow: I need to skate faster and with more power. The judge recommended "training to the point of exhaustion" and even suggested a few exercises. One was "suicide drills" where I would have to skate back and forth at top speed until I was ready to keel over. Another was skating (fast) laps around the rink while carrying full buckets of water. Sounds torturous but might be worth a try?
  • Jump GOEs (grades of execution): The judge said that if I wanted to receive positive GOEs, then I'd need to give her a reason to reward me. Some examples were difficult entries and exits, or adding deliberate body movements going into or during the jump.
All in all, the judges had great things to say, and I am grateful for this wealth of information. This was my first time talking to a judge about my skating, so it was eye opening and definitely worth my time.

Although my overall IJS score decreased from Sectionals, I am not discouraged. I was the first IJS event of the afternoon and I knew that some judges would use my skate as a 'baseline' score for the rest of the skaters following me. My PCS scores were artificially low; had I been the 10th skater of the afternoon, my scores would have been higher (at least this is what my coach told me).

I'm proud of closing out my Kung Fu Hustle program with a decent performance. I received one very high performance mark that I am quite proud of (a 3.75 for interpretation, which is on par with the ladies that qualify for Championship Gold). This means that I am slowly improving, and that makes me very happy.

Time to get working on a new freestyle program.


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