Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cinnamon banana muffins

Cinnamon banana muffins make a great breakfast or snack during the day. These are a great alternative to a classic banana bread or banana muffin!
Do you guys ever participate in spring cleaning? While I don't set a dedicated time to organize my home and my life, there are times when it's time to start throwing away the old stuff and de-cluttering.

Last fall, I got fed up with all the junk that was in our garage. We kept it really unorganized since we moved in. I don't know why. Stuff just started piling up and I couldn't take it anymore. For a type-A personality like myself, it was driving me nuts. So I finally hired a company to build some organizational systems into my garage. Life has been better since then.
Another area that is constantly a mess is my freezer. We have things from who-knows-when, and my husband is usually the one that finds them and throws them out. I was digging in there one day and found a lot of bananas. And rather than make some boring banana bread, I made some cinnamon banana muffins instead.

I've been avoiding using butter in muffin recipes to make mine a little bit healthier, but I used it this time so I could stick to the original recipe with the creaming of the butter and sugar. That process made these muffins light and fluffy. I did swap out the oil with applesauce and used white whole wheat flour to lighten up the calories a tad.

These were some pretty fantastic muffins. My family all enjoyed them, and my husband and I particularly enjoyed the fact that the freezer was a little bit more de-cluttered. I'm afraid to tackle some other rooms, like my closet... ;)

Cinnamon banana muffins 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup overripe bananas, mashed (about 2-3 large) 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute with white whole wheat if desired)
  • Coarse sugar for topping, optional
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan 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, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add in the eggs until well incorporated. Add the applesauce, baking soda, bananas, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and mix well.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour. Mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar and bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Friday, March 16, 2018

Skating Fridays

Sectionals, Part 1

I am back from my Sectionals event and am ready to give you a summary of how the weekend went. This year's event was a bit crazy, since there were 30 (!) ladies entered in my championship event and 39 ladies in the Silver event. Since there were so many competitors, they had to extend the schedule out by a day.

The day before my competition, I could not spin to save my life. I had a lesson and complained to my coach about it and she told me to cover over to the boards. She took one look at my blades and said that I had no rocker left and needed new blades ASAP. Um, that was not going to happen with 24 hours before my competition. I made an emergency call to my blade guy and he was able to shave off part of my bottom toe pick and create a rocker for the time being. I wasn't going to be able to skate on it until the day of the competition so I was nervous and anxious.

We arrived one day earlier than planned so that I could attend my official practice ice at 7:25 the next morning. I ran through my program and missed a few elements and then tried to go back to the hotel to relax. My blade felt fine during the warmup, thankfully. A friend sent me inspirational messages, and I attempted to take a nap (I didn't actually fall asleep, but it felt good to just chill).

As I started to get ready for my event, I felt some butterflies in my stomach. But I tried to take the attitude that I had nothing to lose. I knew that making the championship round for the weekend would be a long shot, so I might as well attempt to execute every difficult element I had planned.

I lost a coworker to Lou Gehrig's disease just a week before the event, and when I took the ice to wait for the announcer to call my name, a vision of him appeared in my mind. He was smiling at me, and I told him that I'd skate for him. Then I took my starting position.

I am proud to report that I finally was able to skate in the moment. This has been a constant struggle, where I typically think ahead to the future or dwell on the past. I took each element one by one and skated the final performance of this program. While my spins weren't "on," (the ice was a bit wonky that day and I was also nervous about my faux rocker) I was able to execute both of my axels and receive full credit for them. By the end of the program, I knew that I had achieved my goals for the day.

Once the scores were finally posted, I was in shock that I had earned 6th place out of a very strong group of 13 ladies in my qualifying round. They were going to take the top 4 ladies from each qualifying group and then the next top 4 scores for the championship round the next morning. I essentially was "on the bubble" for the next top 4 scores. It was a very exciting position to be in, and not one in a million years that I'd ever thought I'd part of.

As the events came to a close, I was excited for the possibility of being able to skate in the championship round. But alas, I came in 13th place overall and missed the championship round by 1 placement. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed, but more excited that I was able to even be considered for that honor. I was beyond thrilled to have earned a personal best and overcome my mental hurdles for several elements. This was definitely a huge win for me. I'm excited to build on this foundation and hope that my mental game continues to improve.

Next week I will recap the other two events I competed in. In the meantime, here is a video that my friend took of my freestyle event.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chocolate truffles

Rich, dense and perfect chocolate truffles for a special occasion or as an after-meal dessert! Dust them with cocoa powder, sprinkles or melted chocolate for a beautiful finish!
Is there anything better than receiving a box of truffles as a gift? OK, maybe a pint of ice cream with that box of chocolates, but I hope you'll agree that truffles are a pretty perfect dessert. I mean, they're bite-sized, smooth, rich and full of that intense chocolate flavor that I love.

What I don't love are the insane prices of these treats. One can easily pay a few dollars a truffle at some high-end stores and bakeries. If you can use a microwave and stir something with a spoon, then you can make these beauties.
All you need to do is heat up some heavy cream, add chocolate chips and stir it all together. Then after the mixture has cooled, just scoop and roll into balls and you're done. You can make them prettier by rolling them in cocoa powder, sprinkles or a layer of melted chocolate if that's what your heart desires.
I served these truffles with the chocolate torte on Valentine's Day and they were a big hit with my husband and daughter. With only 3 ingredients, these truffles will be a great addition to your baking repertoire to wow your friends and family!

Chocolate truffles
  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl.

In a saucepan, boil the heavy cream. Pour it over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Then stir vigorously until the mixture is even. Allow to cool slightly and then transfer to your refrigerator and let it chill for at least an hour. The mixture should be slightly soft.

Scoop out spoonfuls of the chocolate with two spoons or a cookie scoop. Roll these out into balls with the palms of your hand.

Roll in cocoa powder, sprinkles, powdered sugar, melted chocolate or whatever makes you happy. You can eat them plain too. Place them back in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Leftover truffles (hahaha!) should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 2-3 dozen, depending on how big you roll them

Source: An Eva Bakes original

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Whole wheat cranberry oatmeal muffins

Hearty whole wheat muffins packed with oats and sweetened dried cranberries will jump-start your day. These muffins are great for breakfast or a snack in between meals!
One of my skating friends came to visit me last month. I met her at a skating competition, and we've become close since meeting in person. She traveled to visit me and to compete at a local skating competition.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with skating competitions, there is usually very little time to eat. It's not uncommon to go an entire day without having the time to eat a real meal. Since skaters need to spin during our freestyle programs, we cannot have a lot of food in our stomachs for fear of it coming back up. Therefore, we tend to snack throughout the day and attempt to eat after our day is done.

Knowing that we wouldn't have time to eat lunch on competition day, I baked these muffins for us to munch on before we took the ice. I made them hearty and healthier so they wouldn't weigh us down before we competed. I also took a batch of my whole wheat double chocolate muffins for a quick chocolate fix, and my skating friends were excited to have real food rather than pre-packaged granola bars and trail mix.

These muffins really hit the spot during hungry periods throughout the day. Since they were baked with whole wheat flour and oats, they kept me fuller. Granted, I was still starving by the time the competition was over, but the muffins served as a great lunch substitute.

Feel free to dress these up or down as you like and throw in additional dried fruits or even chocolate chips. These muffins are a great alternative to granola bars and trail mix and will keep your hunger pangs at bay for a while.

Whole wheat cranberry oatmeal muffins
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute all-purpose)
  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce 
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking powder and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, milk and applesauce.

Pour the egg mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold gently with a rubber spatula until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the cranberries and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling each well about 3/4 full.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Leftover muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Slightly adapted from How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman

Friday, March 9, 2018

Skating Fridays

Meeting Gracie Gold

Last week I was traveling for work. I did some research ahead of time and saw that there were a few rinks nearby. I was able to pay for some early morning freestyles online and decided to practice before my long day of meetings began.

I had heard through the grapevine that 2-time National Champion, Gracie Gold, was currently in the area. I was hoping that I would have the pleasure of running into her.

As my morning practice wound down, I had just about given up hope when in walked Gracie. She was there to coach a skater, and I nervously asked her if she would be willing to snap a photo with me. She was very soft-spoken and kind, and she happily obliged. I was so ecstatic to have met Gracie, as she continues to inspire me and other skaters around the world.

The next morning, I practiced at the same rink. I met an adult skater while putting on my skates and Gracie walked in again. We got to chatting a little bit, and I asked her if she enjoyed coaching. She said she did, but the early morning hours were a bit rough. She commented that she enjoyed meeting and talking to adult skaters. This made my day.

After that, I completely fangirled and asked her to sign my travel skating bag. Again, she graciously agreed.

Meeting her was an honor and privilege, and I wish her well on her skating and life journeys.  Gracie, if you happen to be reading this (one can wish, right?), thank you for being so kind to an adult skater like me. We are cheering you on and hope you can overcome whatever challenges you may be facing. You are an inspiration, and I wish nothing but the best for you. And please keep your snarkiness going on your twitter feed!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Chocolate torte

A rich and dense flourless chocolate torte that will knock your socks off! This is perfect for chocolate lovers and would pair well with some fresh fruit!
For Valentine's Day this year, my husband and I decided to stay at home and hang out with our daughter. We haven't gone out for this holiday in years. It's more fun for us to make our own food and enjoy the time spent together doing that.

This year, we let our daughter pick the menu. She's been on a shrimp scampi kick and suggested a shrimp scampi pasta. While my husband and I both enjoyed the recipe we tried, my daughter said it scored only a 2 out of 10 on her food grading scale. I guess she wasn't a fan of the garlic sauce and preferred a classic tomato sauce. Once we added some jarred pasta sauce to her dish, she rescored the entree as a 10 out of 10. Go figure.

For dessert, we sifted through some cookbooks and some posts on the internet. I came across a chocolate torte and she thought that it sounded good. So I went off to look for a promising recipe.

And guys, this is the best chocolate torte that I've had. It's rich, dense and super chocolate-y. And it contains no flour so you gluten-free peeps can enjoy this too. I was able to make this several days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.

I had leftover ganache and added more chocolate chips to it so I could turn it into truffles. Then I garnished the tops of each slice with some truffles for an even richer dessert.

Bon appetit!

Chocolate torte

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or 1 and 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 13 and 3/4"x4" rectangular tart pan, an 8" square pan or a 9" round pan (I actually used a 10" springform pan). Set aside.

Make the torte: In a large microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips and butter together until melted. Mix until smooth. Add the sugar, salt and espresso powder if using. Mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Finally, fold in the cocoa powder and mix until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes. The top should not be jiggly. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan and turn it out onto a wire rack or serving plate and allow to cool completely (I actually let mine cool in the springform pan and just loosened the sides before allowing to cool completely).

Make the filling: In a large measuring cup, heat up the cream in the microwave until almost boiling. Add the chocolate and allow to sit for about 1 minute before stirring. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth. Pour about half of it over the cooled torte. 

Transfer the torte to the refrigerator and allow to cool completely. 

You can make chocolate truffles with the remaining ganache - simply add more chocolate chips or chunks (I added about another 1/2 - 3/4 cup) so the mixture is thick like pudding. Allow it to cool in the refrigerator. Then scoop out spoonfuls of chilled ganache and roll into balls. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and keep in the refrigerator.

Slice the torte and top with the truffles.

Any leftover torte should be stored in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 10" torte; about 8-12 servings, more or less, depending on how big you cut your slices

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Whole wheat double chocolate chip banana bread

This whole wheat double chocolate chip banana bread will satisfy all your chocolate cravings! With no butter or oil, it's a healthier alternative to other classic recipes!

This whole wheat double chocolate chip banana bread (say that 5 times fast) was a big hit in my house. I was able to secretly make the original recipe healthier by swapping out all-purpose flour with  whole wheat and substituting butter and oil for applesauce.

The best part is that nobody knew except for me.

My 7 year old just thought this was a chocolate chip bread. She didn't even notice that this was a banana bread. All that she cared about was that this was a chocolate bread and that it contained chocolate chips.

This bread is best right out of the oven so the chocolate chips are slightly melty but will definitely keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Whole wheat double chocolate chip banana bread
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 bananas, extremely ripe and smashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips of choice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the bananas, applesauce, eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

Pour the banana mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and fold until a few dry streaks remain. Toss in the chocolate chips and fold until everything just comes together. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the bread to cool before serving.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few days (and last longer in the refrigerator).

Yield: About 8-12 servings

Source: Adapted from How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman


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