Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cinnamon chip snickerdoodles

Don't forget to enter my California Cling Peach giveaway!
Have you ever had cinnamon chips before? If not, run (not walk) to your grocery store and look for them. Then stock up. These baking chips seem to be seasonal and only available around the beginning of fall, and then they are gone until next year. I first heard of cinnamon chips a few years ago and was bummed when my local grocery store didn't carry them. I checked other stores as well, and still no luck. Then lo and behold, they appeared one day and I stocked up.

I had a partial bag open in the pantry and wanted to make something for a party that would serve a fairly large crowd. Since snickerdoodles seem to be generally loved by everyone (who doesn't love these?), I found a recipe that incorporated cinnamon chips into the cookie base and knew it was what I needed to bake for the party.

When I told Addie that I would be baking for the party, she wanted to help. She immediately pulled up her step stool and asked what she could do. I had her mix the cinnamon-sugar together (for rolling the cookies) and asked her to crack the eggs into my stand mixer. Once the dough came together, she helped me dunk the cookie dough into the cinnamon-sugar and place them on the baking mat. After the cookies had cooled, I let her sample one. Of course.

Addie was so proud of these cookies and kept asking if we liked the cookies that she had made. She had one at the party as well and could not stop smiling. Our hosts and their guests were also raving about the cookies. The soft pillowy cookies had bursts of cinnamon surprises in each bite, and the cookies were just about gone when we left to return home. Next time I go to the grocery store, I'm going to look for more cinnamon chips because who knows when they'll be back on shelves again.

Ingredients
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips

Directions
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the sugar and butter with the paddle attachment on medium speed or until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until everything just comes together.

Add in the cinnamon chips and mix them in by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, portion out the dough and roll them into balls. Then dip them into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and coat on all sides.

Place coated dough balls on your prepared baking mat and leave about 2 inches around each sphere (they will flatten and spread slightly). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. You do not want to overbake these.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. They will keep for several days and may be frozen and thawed as well.

Yield: I used a medium cookie scoop and got 32 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from Very Culinary

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Skating Fridays

Better, Faster, Stronger

I think I've mentioned at the beginning of the year that I wanted to skate better, faster and stronger in 2014. I have been working on my basic skating skills and transitions. Admittedly, I have gotten de-motivated and/or lazy at times, but I know how important skating skills are.

Our skating club hosted a competition earlier in the month, and it was such a motivator to watch the elite level skaters speed around the rink during their warmup. Their normal speed is about "kamikaze" speed for me - almost to the point of being reckless. I don't have as much control as they do, so I'm fine going a bit slower, but I still need to push myself beyond my normal comfort zone.

Nowadays, I spend at least 15-20 minutes of a 30 minute freestyle session working on skating skills. I have several patterns that I skate up and down the rink as well as exercises that I do on the hockey circles.

With the faster speed, I have tried doing basic jumps (waltz jumps, loops, loop-loop), and I have noticed that my jumps have been gigantic--well, at least compared to my previous jump attempts.

I hope to continue building up my speed, strength and power so that my skating/presentation scores at the next competition is much higher than before. Of course, that is assuming that my injured knee is stable enough to get me through a program.

Here is a video from a practice last week. I attempted a 3-jump combination (axel-toe loop-loop) and a level 2 sit spin but with a faster entrance.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Peach pie bars and a giveaway

Although fall is my favorite season, I'm not quite ready to let go of the summer yet. I had great memories of sandy beaches, fresh fish tacos, Taiwanese snow ice, ice cream, gelato, and of course - peaches. We received a ton of fresh peaches in our CSA this summer, but I never made a peach pie. I don't know if it was laziness or what, but I never took the time to bake us a pie.

Much to my delight, the kind folks at the California Cling Peach Board contacted me to see if I would be interested in sampling some of their canned peaches again this year and host another giveaway. Now that I know that canned peaches have the same nutritional value as fresh peaches, I can bake with peaches all year long. Plus, I don't have to worry about peeling or slicing the fruit. That's what I call a win-win.


Rather than bake a full peach pie with my canned peaches, I opted to bake peach pie bars. They are easier to store in the house and a heck of a lot easier to share with friends. These bars were super thick, and the flavor was indeed reminiscent of a peach pie. The crust was nice and crunchy, and the peach pie filling was slightly sweet and full of peaches. My husband and I enjoyed these and I was especially thankful to not have to go through the trouble to bake an actual pie.

And now onto the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a California cling peach prize pack, courtesy of the California Cling Peach Board. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as sometimes the widget is slow to load. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Peach pie bars
Crust and Topping
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 12 TBSP unsalted butter, chilled
Peach Filling
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used a 7 oz container of plain FAGE yogurt)
  • 6 TBSP flour (I upped this to 12 TBSP since I used more Greek yogurt)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans of California sliced peaches, drained and chopped
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and line a standard 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside (I used my silicone pan and did not grease or line it).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt together. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand and is crumbly. Set aside about 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture. Transfer and press the remaining mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool for another 10 minutes.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, Greek yogurt, flour, salt and vanilla. Gently fold in the chopped peaches.

After the crust has cooled, pour the peach filling on top of the semi-baked crust. Gently sprinkle on the reserved crust mixture. Bake in your oven for 60-75 minutes or until the top becomes golden in color.

Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Bars should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days. Feel free to serve with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

Disclaimer: The California Cling Peach Board provided me with samples of their products. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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

Souce: Slightly adapted from Beantown Baker

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Healthy vanilla coconut muffins with cinnamon sugar topping

Here I am with another muffin recipe! This one is simply fabulous, and it can be dressed up or down depending on your tastes. I happened to have some coconut milk left over in the fridge after baking another batch of eggless Nutella stuffed chocolate chunk zucchini muffins. I didn't want the coconut milk to go to waste, so I decided to find a recipe that could use it up.

I'm not a huge coconut fan, and when I read the ingredients, I was a bit weary about how much coconut flavor was going into these muffins. Thankfully, I pressed on and made the muffins without any alterations.

The muffins were pretty much the perfect vanilla muffin. It was crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy (and cupcake-like) on the insides. I could not taste any of the coconut flavors at all. You could add chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit or whatever you like to the batter. This is a fantastic base muffin recipe that you can really alter to suit your tastes.

Healthy vanilla coconut muffins with cinnamon sugar topping
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (light or regular)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Cinnamon and sugar for topping, if desired (I used turbinado sugar to give my muffins an extra crunch)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set aside (I used my silicone muffin pan and did not grease).

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the eggs, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut oil. Set aside.

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

Slowly transfer the egg mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently mix everything together and use as few strokes as you can. Do not over mix the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter into your prepared muffin pan and fill each one 2/3 to 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and cinnamon if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe; originally inspired by Baking Bites

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Skating Fridays

"Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better"

Last weekend was our local skating competition. Since my meniscus injury is still healing (over 4 months now), I opted out of the freestyle program to focus on my rehab and take things slowly. I occasionally get some pain when I try a cannonball spin or do a sit spin combination, so I didn't want to push things too hard.

Instead of the freestyle event, I skated a duet with my friend K. Last year we did a hilarious Nancy and Tonya program that we considered resurrecting at a future competition. This year we wanted to do another fun routine and chose "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun. We thought it would be entertaining if one of us was an amazing spinner while the other was an amazing jumper.

We performed this a few days before the competition, and it was a big hit. The judges seemed to like it too, as they placed us 1st (out of 1, since we had no competition... but at least we didn't lose to "the book" and place 2nd). In fact, after the duets were done, one judge walked by us and started singing our music! The audience absolutely loved this performance as well, and we had a blast skating it. We had so much fun performing this program that we may keep it for some upcoming competitions. It really was a hoot!

I'm sharing the exhibition video since I didn't skate as well during the competition itself. I was cold and hadn't been on the ice, so my skills were a bit shaky.

Enjoy!


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Soft sugar cookies with cookie dough frosting

Don't forget to enter my Prevention RD cookbook giveaway!

We had some friends come over for dinner recently, and I baked us a batch of cookie dough stuffed dark chocolate cupcakes. It had been so long since I baked these (2 years) that my husband forgot that I had made them before. After I assembled my cupcakes, I had some leftover cookie dough and frosting. Amazingly, I didn't sneak any, but I didn't want them to go to waste.

I flipped through my Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook to see what else I could do with the leftovers. I settled on these soft sugar cookies since they seemed easy and didn't yield too many portions. I halved the recipe and gave some to my skating coach and skating friend.

When I returned home, I tried them and thought they were pretty good. The cookies weren't soft enough for me, but then again, I have a high bar (check out these Lofthouse-style cookies). In fact, if I have leftover cookie dough frosting again, I would recommend spreading them on regular chocolate chip cookies (my two favorite recipes are here and here) or the Lofthouse-style ones.

I still have some leftover chocolate chip cookie dough. Want some?

Soft sugar cookies with cookie dough frosting
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time until each is fully incorporated.

Add the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add in the salt, baking soda and baking powder. Then add the flour, about half a cup at a time until the dough comes together. It should be soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a little bit of flour at a time (about 1 TBSP at a time).

Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 standard cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

Roll out the dough to about 3/8 inches thick and using a round cutter (or the top of a cup), cut out circles. Alternatively, you can pinch the dough to the size of a golf ball, roll in between your hands and smush the dough down into a circle.

Place 12 cookies on each prepared baking pan. These cookies will not spread out.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the tops are puffy and the bottoms are slightly golden. Do not overbake these.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Once the cookies are cool, you can frost the tops with the cookie dough frosting and garnish with mini chocolate chips.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about a week.

Yield: I halved the recipe and got 12 cookies; I had just enough leftover frosting from the cookie dough stuffed dark chocolate cupcakes so I did not have to make a new batch

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, by Lindsay Landis; pages 57-59; frosting is also from the book, and you can find the recipe here

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gluten-free fudgy mint brownies and a giveaway


This is the week I celebrate my friend Nicole at Prevention RD. In my previous post, I baked one-bowl basic blondies for her virtual baby shower to welcome Baby Shea. Nicole has just published her second cookbook that is titled Prevention RD's Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour, which is great for those who are gluten-free or know people who are gluten-free.

Nicole's cookbook includes chapters on breakfasts, sides, starters, entrees, quick breads/muffins and desserts. Naturally, I skipped ahead to the dessert chapter, but the other chapters had some wonderful-looking recipes as well. The one thing that caught my eye were her fudgy mint brownies.

Instead of using flour, Nicole replaces it with almond flour. She also replaced butter with coconut oil and honey to help bind the brownies together (and give it a nice sweet and subtle coconut flavor). The brownies were good and had a slightly grittier texture than regular brownies, so if that isn't your cup of tea, you can always sift your almond meal/flour to remove larger chunks of almonds. The mint flavor was good, and I would recommend increasing the amount if you are a mint fiend like me. All in all, I enjoyed these brownies and would serve these to a gluten-free friend. In fact, one of the skating moms (who is gluten-free) tried one and said that she loved me. Ha!

And finally, onto the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of Nicole's cookbook, Prevention RD's Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour. All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient, as sometimes it is slow to load. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Gluten-free fudgy mint brownies
  • 1 and 1/4 cups almond flour (I used Trader Joe's almond meal)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease (and/or line) an 8"x8" baking pan. I used a silicone pan and did not grease or line it.

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

In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the egg, coconut oil and honey until well incorporated. Add in the mint extract and mix well.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.

Transfer the batter into your prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

Allow the pan to cool completely, then place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cutting and serving.

Brownies are best served cold and should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Prevention RD's Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour, by Nicole Morrissey

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