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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Friday, September 12, 2014

Skating Fridays

Angel

Yesterday was an emotional day. I attended a surprise baby shower for a coworker after lunch. We celebrated her and her husband and the upcoming birth of their first child. There was much laughter, smiles and joy.

Not long after the shower was over, I received a message from my best skating friend that her mother-in-law had unexpectedly passed away that morning. Needless to say, I was in shock. I don't know many details, but I wanted to support my friend as best as I could. I had the pleasure of meeting Deb on many occasions, and she had the ability to always make me laugh. She was full of life, and her infectious personality was something that I admired.

I had already planned on skating my (new) dramatic program after class last night, but this performance was very special. I told my friend that I would dedicate it to her mother-in-law, whom I hoped would be watching. This was the debut of my program, and it was a heartfelt performance despite not skating my best. Although I skated alone, I didn't feel alone because I could feel the love and energy surrounding me as I took the ice.

I finished and gave my friend a big hug as tears filled both of our eyes. It was a performance that I will never forget, and I will smile when I skate it again because I know that there is a new angel watching me from above.

Thank you for all the laughter you brought me, Deb. You will be missed.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

One-bowl basic blondies

Just last week, my 4-year old started pre-K. How did that happen? Since when did my sweet little girl turn into a person? It doesn't seem that long ago when she was just a cute, toothless baby. Sigh. Sometimes I miss my tiny, cuddly baby.

Imagine my joy when I found out that my friend Nicole at Prevention RD was expecting a baby girl of her own! She and her husband have already named their daughter Shea, who is expected to arrive in a few short weeks. Our sweet friend Kim at Feed Me, Seymour wanted to host an online baby shower for Shea and asked if I would contribute something for Shea and the mother-to-be.

I wasn't quite sure what to make, so I turned to Addie to ask her what Mommy should bake that day. She said that she wanted brownies, but then she altered her answer to say she wanted white brownies. I'm telling you - my daughter certainly knows her sweets. It's been a while since I've made blondies so this was a perfect choice. I asked Addie what kind of chips I should add in, and after I told her the options, she chose butterscotch.

This has been my go-to blondie recipe, and I've made it several times but haven't blogged about it until now. It's a one-bowl recipe, so you don't need to melt anything over the stove or cream anything with a mixer. The batter comes together very easily and quickly, and you can customize it with your favorite add-ins. It's a great base recipe that can be adapted to fit your tastes.

Congratulations, Nicole, on the upcoming birth of baby Shea. I hope your daughter enjoys cooking and baking with you, and I am so excited for you and your husband to become parents. Be sure to head over to Kim's blog to see what everyone else has made for this fun virtual baby shower.

One-bowl basic blondies
  • 6-7 TBSP butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-2 to 1 cup add-ins, such as chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chopped nuts, M&Ms, toffee pieces
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease a standard 8"x8" square baking pan and set aside. I used a silicone pan and did not grease.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Add in the brown sugar and mix well until the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Then add the salt, flour and baking powder until no flour streaks remain. Gently fold in whatever add-ins you want to use.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle additional toppings on, if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for up to a week.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan, about 16 blondies

Source: Bakingblonde

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

One pot fudgy brownies

Are you tired of dirtying several bowls and pans when you bake?  I am. It aggravates me when recipes require 2-3 bowls, 5 spatulas and countless dirty dishes. Then the drying dishware clutters my counters and drives me bonkers. Fewer dishes and an uncluttered kitchen counter = Happy Eva!

I've already shared my favorite brownies with you, which happens to be a one pot recipe. Here is another one that I came across in case you don't want to chop up chocolate and dirty up a knife.

I doubled this recipe and baked these brownies for one of my husband's work meetings. He brought 20 of these to his meeting and said that people ate them like hawks. Those who did not receive a brownie were visibly upset. He had a meeting with the same group the next day, and many asked if he had brought another baked good to share. Nope, sorry folks.

I did save a brownie for myself, and while they were a solid brownie, they still don't compare to the salted fudge brownies that I have fallen in love with. But, because they are a one pot recipe and don't require me to chop chocolate, I'll probably make it again. Just note that the 40 minutes baking time was too much for my preference - the tops felt too dry and overdone, but the middles were still slightly fudgy. If you are fudgy brownie fan, I recommend cutting down on the bake time.

One pot fudgy brownies
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks butter (12 TBSP)
  • 1 and 3/4 sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" or 9"x9" square baking pan and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Once the butter has fully melted, take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix well.

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

Then add the cocoa powder and flour and mix until no streaks remain.  Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in your preheated 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes up with moist crumbs. Do not overbake these. I baked mine for 40 minutes and they seemed too dry, so I would recommend checking after 30-35 minutes.

Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting and serving. If desired, you can include several add-ins to jazz these up (nuts, caramel, dried cherries, etc.). Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. They will keep for several days. Brownies can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan; about 12-16 brownies

Source: Rachael Ray Magazine, May 2014 issue

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Skating Fridays

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

I can't even begin to tell you how many people at the rink have asked when Addie is going to skate.  And oh, wouldn't it be great if she was just like Mommy? My answer is these questions is always the same: "I'll take her to the rink when she asks me."

I don't want to be that parent who forces their child to participate in an activity that she has no interest in. She does not have to follow in my footsteps.

Yes, Addie pretends to skate around at home, and yes, she likes to watch Meryl (Davis) and Charlie (White) on YouTube. But she hasn't asked me to enroll her in lessons. At least not yet.

On occasion, she'll ask to go skating on a weekend, and I'll take her to public skating, but beyond that, she hasn't requested lessons. Every once in a while I will ask her what sport she wants to learn, and figure skating has not come up. Am I disappointed? No. If she develops a genuine interest for the sport, she will let me know. Trust me, she is an opinionated girl and tells me if and when she likes something.

I don't expect my daughter to take up my favorite sport, but if and when she does, I'll be ready.

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