Sunday, April 19, 2015

Soft garlic knots

Soft and fluffy garlic knots that you can make easily at home! Perfect with a bowl of pasta or a slice of pizza! You can dial the garlic up or down depending upon your tastes.


My 4-year old (almost 5!) is a little sponge. She soaks up everything she learns at school and can memorize all the books she reads. One of her latest recitations is telling me about tastebuds. "Mommy, you know those little bumps on your tongue? Those are tastebuds. They can change when you get bigger."

How right she is. As a child, I could not stand garlic. I am talking about full-on hissy fits and cry-fests. My mom got smart and started hiding garlic in dumplings, wontons and other foods she'd make. I would be the kid that picked out every visible bit of garlic I found and put them on my napkin to throw away later.

As I grew older, I started appreciating garlic more. I liked the aroma, but the bits of garlic I could see in food still detracted me a bit. Now I am at a stage where I don't mind it as much. Addie was right - my tastebuds changed.

One food item that I have grown to love are garlic knots. I have fond memories of trying these for the first time at a local pizza place in college. I would always order the spinach pizza with a garlic knot as my dinner. I especially enjoyed the soft, fluffy roll with the buttery garlic sauce on top.


When Nicole of Seven Ate Nine announced that this month's What's Baking theme was baking with garlic, I knew I had to make these. The knots are a great way to get my little girl to try garlic at a young age. Plus, the garlic knots go great with one of her favorite foods - pasta.

So whether you're a garlic hater or garlic lover, I'm sure you'll enjoy these soft garlic knots. They're not too heavy on the garlic, and remember that you can always pick off the bits of garlic or just use garlic powder.

Be sure to visit Nicole's blog to see what the other ladies baked this month!

Soft garlic knots
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast 
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt 
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil 
  • ¼ cup milk of choice 
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
Garlic butter glaze
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped (I used 1 teaspoon of garlic powder since I didn't have any garlic on hand)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if mixing by hand), mix together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt with a rubber spatula. Add the dough hook and continue to mix the ingredients on low speed. Slowly add in the olive oil, milk and warm water (if kneading by hand, simply make a well in the middle of your large bowl and mix in the liquid ingredients and knead well). Keep mixing until a soft dough forms. You may need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky - it should not stick to your bowl.

Stop the mixer, remove the dough, and transfer it to a large bowl. Cover and allow it to rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into ten equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope.

Tie each rope in a regular knot. Tuck the ends into the top and bottom of the knot to hide them. Press down slightly so they don't stick up.

Transfer the knots to a parchment-paper or silicone lined baking sheet (a baking stone works too).

Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise for another 45 minutes or until they are puffy.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the glaze, mix the garlic with the butter and Italian seasoning together. Brush each roll with the garlic butter mixture.

Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes or until they are slightly golden. Allow the rolls to cool slightly before serving.

Leftover rolls should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. They are best the day they are made but can be reheated in the oven (after thawing).


Yield: 10 garlic knots

Source: Barely adapted from Annie's Eats

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Skating Fridays

What Adult Skating Competitions Are Like


A skating friend (who does not compete) recently asked me what it's like to be at an adult skating competition. I told her briefly, and she told me to write a blog post about it so others can read about it. So, here I am.

My first adult skating competition, believe it or not, was Adult Nationals last year (2014). Go big or go home, right? I wasn't quite sure what to expect but heard some stories. I just had to go and experience it for myself.

My initial thought and fear was that the skaters would be catty and uber competitive. Remember, I come from a gymnastics and flute-playing background so my competitors in those respective hobbies were pretty cutthroat. Those athletes and musicians were rooting for you to lose because we were all competing for a spot on a team or musical ensemble. And many of those people liked to show off as well - see how high I can play! Watch me stick this landing! Look at me! I am awesome!

I am happy to report that adult skating competitions are quite the opposite. Generally speaking, skaters are very supportive of one another. We all know we're not going to the Olympics, and we all skate for fun. Most of us do not do this as a full-time job (there are some skaters who are also coaches, but I find that they are in the minority). We know how difficult it is to train, budget and practice for this demanding sport.

Adults from all levels will watch each other skate. We cheer each other on and help calm down anybody who's a bit nervous. We'll hug a random stranger or offer to help with each others' costumes or hair. And for large competitions (like Adult Nationals and Adult Sectionals), skaters will throw gifts onto the ice after your performance. These are called "tossies," and they are a big, big deal. You'll get tossies from skaters you may or may not know, and they can be anything from a stuffed animal to candy to handmade items. This is such a fun part about the competition since it's one of the only chances you'll get to literally be showered with gifts after a performance. (Can you think of any other situation where people throw gifts at you? Probably not.)

And what about the Gold level skaters? I was initially worried that these ladies would be very competitive, but it was not the case. All the ladies that I have met have been genuinely nice and generous about their support of one another. We all cheer for one another and give each other (real) hugs after our performances. If one of us has a bad skate or a fall, we do our best to cheer her/him up and offer compliments on what went well.

Although I've only competed 4 times, I have found the adult skating community - especially those at adult skating competitions - to be very warm and supportive. It's been a wonderful experience so far.

And because the same skaters tend to compete in the same events, it's a fun reunion whenever we see each other. I've made some good friends through figure skating, and it's neat to share the same passion with them. We're all in this together.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Birthday funfetti cupcakes with blue buttercream frosting

Looking for the perfect funfetti cupcakes for a birthday celebration or other special occasion? Look no further, as these light and fluffy cupcakes are chock full of sprinkles and will make your special day a very happy one!
Yesterday, my little girl turned 5. Five! Can you believe it? It seems like just yesterday that we were heading into the hospital to await her arrival. And now, here she is, a pre-schooler and getting ready to register for kindergarten. Someone is going to have to hand me a tissue here...

I was planning on bringing these funfetti cupcakes to Addie's school, but the administration made a recent change to their food policy. They used to allow homemade goods, as long as the parents clearly labeled the ingredients. I followed this rule, since I knew that several kids in her class had allergies. I guess a parent must have brought in something last week without labeling the ingredients because we are no longer allowed to bring in homemade items. Store-brought is OK (as long as the ingredients are listed), but you all know how much of a snob I am about those. Pa-tooey!


We became good friends with some of the parents in Addie's class, and one of them invited us over for dinner the weekend before her birthday. Since I wasn't allowed to bring in these homemade cupcakes, I decided to bring them to the dinner party instead.

Addie had been begging for Funfetti cupcakes with blue frosting for her birthday. Blue is now her favorite color because her favorite character Elsa, from Frozen, wears a shimmery blue dress. I tinted the buttercream blue to match Elsa's dress.

Addie and her friends loved the cupcakes - especially the Elsa blue frosting and the sprinkles. As long as the birthday girl and her friends are happy, I am happy.

Happy 5th birthday to my precious daughter!

Birthday funfetti cupcakes with blue buttercream frosting
Cupcakes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles
Blue buttercream frosting
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • blue food coloring
  • sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
Directions
Make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with 15 cupcake liners and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one until well incorporated. Add the vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until everything is just combined - do not overmix. Turn the mixer off and fold in the sprinkles by hand.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cupcake liners, filling each one close to the top. Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before decorating.

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 and salt on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds. Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar about 1/2 a cup at a time. Add vanilla and mix. Drizzle in the heavy cream. If your frosting seems too stiff, add more cream. If it's too soft, add more powdered sugar. Once the frosting is to your liking, add in the food coloring (I used about 10 drops) and mix until the color is uniform.

Once the cupcakes are cool, pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes and decorate with extra sprinkles if desired. I used a Wilton 1M open star tip to pipe my cupcakes.

Yield: 15-16 cupcakes

Source: Crazy for Crust


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Blood orange loaf cake with candied blood orange slices

This is a fantastic recipe that showcases blood oranges. The beautiful citrus is featured in the cake, syrup, zest and as a topping. This gorgeous cake will definitely impress!


I am a bad foodie. I have heard such great things about blood oranges but never bought any. Maybe it was the odd name that kept me away, or maybe I just didn't look hard enough in the grocery store. Whatever the reason, I am done making excuses now. I finally bought some blood oranges and made something with them.

I wanted my first recipe to use most of the fruit so I didn't have to waste any of it. Let's be clear - these beauties aren't cheap. I think my grocery store was selling them for $1+ a piece, and imagine my disappointment when I cut into one and realized that it wasn't actually a blood orange... it was a regular orange instead! This loaf cake features blood orange juice and zest and also contains blood orange juice in the syrup and glaze as well. Oh, and it's topped with candied blood orange slices. How's that for using blood oranges?

This cake is nothing short of delightful. The cake is extremely moist and flavorful (especially since it is infused with the blood orange syrup), and the glaze gives it an extra pop of sweetness. And the candied blood oranges take this to a whole new level.

I actually had to make this cake twice before I photographed it. I had a bunch of baking errors in the first batch. If you're prone to baking mistakes, listen up so you don't fall into the same traps that I did and end up with an ugly (but tasty) cake. First of all, make sure you allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. I was impatient and my cake fell apart. I also used a new loaf pan (a non-silicone one) and that was a big fail. The cake stuck to my pan, so I had a hot mess on my hands.

Second, when you are candying the orange slices, don't leave them in the pan after they're done (after 20 minutes). Use some tongs to pick them up and place them on a wire rack to dry. If you don't, the orange slices will harden in your saucepan, and you will have a heck of a time trying to get the orange slices off the pan. I hurt my fingers pretty badly when I tried to pry the orange slices off. Ouch.


I altered the directions below to make sure you don't make the same mistakes I did. If you follow them closely, you should come out with a gorgeous loaf cake. I am pretty ecstatic that my second attempt was much more successful and more photogenic than the first. I should have taken a picture of that ugly cake, but I ate it instead.

P.S. I normally don't eat a lot of the desserts I make, but I practically ate the entire two loaves on my own!

Please visit Mandy's Recipe Box for the recipe!

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf (about 10-12 servings)

Source: Barely adapted from Annie's Eats

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Skating Fridays

Struggles


Like most normal people, I struggle with a lot of things. In high school, it was history. In college, I really struggled with accounting. And in skating, I've been having some massive struggles with my camel spin.

The camel spin is essentially a spiral that spins in one place. The back is supposed to be nicely arched, and both legs are extended and straight. I initially had trouble with it when I was first learning the spin many, many years ago. Then the spin came to me pretty automatically. These days, my spin is hit or miss.

I'm not sure what my problem is. Some days, I "swoop" my leading arm (right arm) too much, and it throws me off balance. Other days, I pop out of the spin. And who knows what else on the remaining days.

I had a lesson with Coach B one week, and I just broke down and cried. Like an ugly cry. Why does this spin matter, you ask? Well, it is currently in my freestyle program, and we included it so I could obtain some easy points. However, I have received 0 points for this spin in my last 2 competitions. Yes - zero.

For whatever reason, I am not holding my camel position for two full revolutions. A minor bobble hurts because then you have to hold the full camel position for 2 full revolutions AFTER the bobble for it to count. It's extremely frustrating.  I know that I CAN do this spin, but when it's in a program or under pressure, my nerves take over and my body freaks out.

I may play it safe at Nationals and execute a different combination spin so I can get some guaranteed points. I'm not going 0-3 on the camel-sit spin combination. Nope, it's just not going to happen.

Here is an example of one time that I executed this combination spin correctly. Yes, I have evidence that my body can do this!


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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ultimate banana muffins

These are the ultimate banana muffins - they contain 4 whole bananas and are perfect as breakfast, a snack or even dessert. There's no lack of banana flavor in these muffins!

Ever buy banana muffins but can't taste the banana? Yup, me too. Or even banana bread, for that matter. I'm tired of "banana" baked goods that barely contain half a banana. Well, these muffins are the opposite of that. A batch of 20 of these muffins contain 4 whole bananas. You won't have to search for the bananas here!

We eat a lot of bananas in our house. Every week, we buy a bunch of 6-7 bananas and almost always have to make a mid-week grocery store run to buy more. Once in a blue moon, we don't finish the bananas so I freeze them.

While I have made a fantastic banana bread before, I found that Addie doesn't eat quick breads as much. She's a muffin fiend. So I went to look for a soft and banana-y muffin that she would enjoy. I found this recipe online and made a few adjustments, which you'll see below.

My husband happily declared that these muffins were definitely one of his favorites. Addie had one with her meal one day and said, "Mommy! These are sweet!" I tried one as well, and they were definitely good. The muffins did get a bit soggy overnight, so I recommend refrigerating them if you aren't planning on eating them all in one day.

The other recommendation I would make is to decrease the amount of sugar. I felt like 2 cups was way too much, so I would try 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar the next time. The bananas on their own are already sweet, so they don't need too much extra sugar. Other than that, these muffins were definitely banana-y and will remain on our muffin rotation.

Ultimate banana muffins
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (I recommend decreasing this to 1 cup, and possibly using 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar as an alternative)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed (I used frozen bananas that I thawed in the microwave)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease two standard muffin pans and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, applesauce, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the mashed bananas.

Transfer the dry ingredients into the large bowl with the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pans, filling each well almost to the top.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days (note that room temperature muffins will start to get soggy after 1 day). They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 20 muffins

Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, via The Food Network

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ultimate vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting

Soft and fluffy vanilla cupcakes that were taste tested by over 50 bakers! These are the perfect vanilla cupcakes for your next celebration!


Not too long ago, Addie's school hosted a class party. The teachers created a sign-up sheet and asked parents to bring in various items. My husband came home one day and told me that he signed us up to bring cupcakes. Being the baking snob I am, I knew I had to make them from scratch. Store cupcakes or ones from a box mix would definitely not do.

I wanted to try a new recipe and thought about fun flavors to try. But knowing that many kids either had allergies or were fairly picky eaters, I decided to keep it simple and stick to a classic vanilla cupcake. I would tint the frosting a different color so it wouldn't be quite as boring.

Both my husband and Addie helped with these. The cupcakes baked up pretty quickly, and we were able to run an errand while they cooled. When we returned, Addie and I piped on the frosting. I held the pastry bag and taught her how to make the rose-like swirls. She enjoyed being my little helper and was proud of what she had created.

These really are the ultimate vanilla cupcakes. The cake itself was light and produced a soft and fluffy crumb. It wasn't crumbly at all, and the cake had a nice "spring" to it when touched. I hate nothing more than having a cake that crumbles all over the floor and is really difficult to clean up. This is not one of those cupcakes.

My husband brought the extra cupcakes to a meeting one day, and he said that most of them were eaten at breakfast time. Yes, these would be perfect for a morning pick-me-up too!

Ultimate vanilla cupcakes
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice
Vanilla buttercream frosting
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, plus more or less to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food coloring, if desired
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two standard muffin pans with paper liners 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, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar by hand. If you use the mixer, the ingredients will fly everywhere and get all over your countertop!

Gently fold in the room temperature butter and continue to fold by hand until the mixture becomes crumbly.

In a separate medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, Greek yogurt, oil and vanilla. Gently pour this into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix by hand until parts of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat until everything is well incorporated. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the milk until well combined.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared cupcake liners, filling each one about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cupcakes should NOT turn golden brown.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, cream the butter in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Slowly add the milk and vanilla and continue to beat until you achieve the desired consistency. Add more or less powdered sugar as needed. If desired, add food coloring.

I used a large Wilton open star tip to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. It should be enough frosting to decorate about 16 cupcakes.

Yield: About 16 cupcakes

Source: Cupcake recipe from Cupcake Project; buttercream frosting is an Eva Bakes original

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