Sunday, September 24, 2017

Brookies (brownie cookies) in a pan

America's two favorite desserts - chocolate chip cookies and brownies - combined into one amazing bar dessert! This is big enough to feed a crowd and doesn't require any cookie sheets!

What took me so long to create this? I have no idea. I love brownies, and I love cookies, but I never thought of marrying the two together until now [bangs head on desk]. I baked these after I couldn't decide whether I wanted cookies or brownies one day. The best part was that I didn't have to decide since I could have both. That's what I call a win-win.

I've seen 'brookies' (brownies + cookies) in cookie form, but that just seems like a lot of work. I mean, you have to make the two doughs/batters, then scoop them and roll them into a ball to bake. It just seemed like too much effort. If I had wanted to get out my cookie scoop and cookie pan, I would have baked cookies. Am I right?

These lovelies were baked in a 9"x13" pan, which meant that I could share half the pan and then keep the other half for our family. I was able to gift brookies to 3 skating friends, each of whom were beyond delighted... and couldn't stop eating them. Brownies plus cookies - what's not to love?

I baked mine for 25 minutes since the brownie batter was still jiggly after 20 minutes. I like my brownies on the fudgy side so these were perfect for me. If you like your brownies and cookies a little more on the done side, bake these a little bit longer.

Brookies (brownie cookies) in a pan 
Cookie layer
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Brownie layer 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 9"x13" baking 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, sugars, and vanilla together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and continue mixing until fully incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Finally, add in the chocolate chips and mix well.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan, making sure to fully cover it with the batter. Set aside.

To make the brownie layer, mix the melted butter, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the cocoa powder and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined.

Pour the brownie batter over the cookie layer, making sure to cover it completely.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. If you like your brownies a little fudgier, bake for less time.

Allow the brookies to cool before slicing and serving.

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

Yield: About 24 brookies (or more, depending on how big you cut them)

Source: Allrecipes Magazine, Sept/Oct 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Skating Fridays

Change edge spins

About a year ago, Coach B introduced me to the concept of change edge spins. Although I understood the concept, my body did not want to cooperate. These were HARD. So naturally, I decided not to work on them.

Ever since I received a copy of the spin pyramid, I've been more motivated to try to check more of these off. Change of edge spins was a box that I was staring at and desperately wanted to complete. So I mustered up some courage, swallowed my pride, and restarted the process of learning these again.

I've only been working on these for a few days but have to say that they are must easier than I remembered. Don't get me wrong - these are NOT EASY, but they are easier than the first few attempts I ever made.

If these continue to progress, then I'd love to graduate to a change edge camel spin. Sigh...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fresh mint chocolate chip cookies

If you are a fan of the mint chocolate chip combo, then you will fall in love with these mint chocolate chip cookies! Made from real mint, these soft and chewy cookies are sure to be on your rotation!
If you asked me my favorite dessert flavor combination, I would not hesitate and tell you that it was mint chocolate chip. Obviously, mint chocolate chip is my favorite ice cream flavor, and I am a sucker for anything mint chip.

So tell me why it has taken me so long to finally try mint chocolate chip cookies?? I've tried cookies with mint infused in the chips, but having mint-infused (melted) butter is a game changer.
I had accidentally bought fresh mint at my local Asian grocery store instead of fresh basil (oops), but that turned out to be a happy mistake. Then I was on a mint craze and wanted to make everything out of fresh mint, including these beauties.

My husband and I were initially worried that the mint would overpower the cookies, but that wasn't the case. The mint took on more of a subtle aftertaste and was a nice complementary background flavor.
We gifted some of these cookies to friends, who all liked them just as much as we did. These cookies are a fun way to jazz up regular old chocolate chip cookies and only make 12-18 so you won't have too many left over (and won't have to share!).

Fresh mint chocolate chip cookies
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter with the chopped up mint. Once the butter is completely melted and you can smell the mint aroma, turn off the stove and set the pan aside for 30 minutes to rest.

Once the butter and mint have rested for 30 minutes, strain the butter out into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Press down on the mint leaves to extract as much butter as possible. Add the brown sugar and cream on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes or until smooth and creamy.

Add the egg and vanilla and continue to mix until well incorporated.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until everything just comes together. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

Portion the dough into golf-ball sized amounts and roll each into a ball (I got about 18 cookies but the original recipe claims to have only gotten 12). Make sure you allow at least 2" between each cookie since they will spread.

Bake in your preheated oven for 6 minutes. Then rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom. Bake for another 5-6 minutes or until the sides start to turn golden. The middle may look slightly underdone, and that is OK.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container and will keep for at least a week. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 18 cookies

Source: Dessert for Two

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Whole wheat chocolate chip banana muffins

Classic banana muffins get a healthier makeover - with no butter or oil, these fantastic muffins have chocolate chips in every bite!

I am a fan of bananas... but definitely not banana flavored things. In fact, my family and I go through a bunch of bananas every 3-4 days and often have to make another grocery store run in the middle of the week to buy more bananas.

There are weeks though, where we don't consume all the bananas in the house so those get thrown into the freezer. I soon noticed that we had somewhere around 12 bananas stored in the freezer. That meant that it was time to make some banana bread.

I recently made two loaves of banana bread (using up 8 total bananas) and still had about 4 more. Rather than make banana bread, I opted for banana muffins this time and threw in some chocolate chips for good measure. Because chocolate.

These muffins were dense and chewy with beautiful pops of chocolate in every bite. I happily ate these for breakfast over the course of a few days. I liked the fact that the muffins were somewhat healthier than traditional banana bread because I had swapped out some of the ingredients for more wholesome ones and omitted any butter or oil.

Hope you enjoy these!

Whole wheat chocolate chip banana muffins
  • 1 and ½ cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease a standard muffin pan and set it aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

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

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

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

Bake in your preheated oven for 18-22 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 The New York Times

Friday, September 15, 2017

Skating Fridays

Staying in the Moment

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard others tell me to learn how to "stay in the moment" while skating. That advice went in one ear and out the other, I hate to say, but honestly - I just didn't really know what it meant. I mean, it makes sense, theoretically. But what, really, does it mean, and how does one do it?

I enlisted the help of a seasoned professional to help me understand what this actually meant in practice and how one could accomplish it. Here is what I learned.

Our mind can be in 3 different stages: past, present and future. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Sometimes we dwell on things that have happened (past), and sometimes we try to visualize or hope for things that haven't happened yet (future). But what about being in the present?

I have learned that when I skate, or am preparing to skate, my mind tends to go to the past. "I failed on this element at <competition/event>." Or, it fast-forwards to the future... "I want to earn X points and place # at this event."

Unfortunately, this type of thinking is very, very bad for figure skaters. Our mind gets stuck in the past or future and does not know what to do in the present. We get too fixated on what has already happened or what we hope to happen that we aren't skating in the moment. So what does skating in the moment actually mean?

In a perfect world, we should execute like robots. Just do the elements as they come up in the program. Do not think about potential outcomes. Like Nike - Just Do It. Your mind should be clear, and you should focus on the element at hand. When you are in the moment, you are being robotic and just doing.

There are different methods on how to actually be in the moment, and I am playing around with various ways to get myself there. There are times when I think I'm in the moment, but then my mind "blips" and either goes to the past or to the future. Then I can't execute my element.

This has been a really long journey to shift my mindset and to not focus on anything but the element at hand. What's been really eye-opening is that skaters tend to focus so much on the physical aspect on the sport that we often neglect to learn how to train our minds as well.

I am hoping that this new mental training will get me to a better spot once the competition season actually starts. I have a local competition coming up where I am hoping to test this new methodology and see how it serves me. I have a few more months until qualifying competitions so hopefully I can fine-tune some things before then.

Have you ever focused on mental training? How do you stay in the moment?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pumpkin cookie butter rice krispy treats

Who said that rice krispy treats have to be boring? Spice things up a bit with some pumpkin cookie butter and a layer of frosting!

Now what's better than rice krispy treats? How about ones covered in chocolate? And pumpkin spice cookie butter? Now we're talking. Well, that's exactly what I have for us here. I made some rice krispy treats with pumpkin spice cookie butter and then slathered on a layer of chocolate pumpkin spice cookie butter frosting. Oh yeah.

Now if you can't find pumpkin spice cookie butter, do not fret. All you need to do is add a bit of pumpkin spice to some regular old cookie butter and voila! I also made mine slightly healthier (ha!) by using puffed wheat instead of puffed rice cereal. But you can definitely use regular puffed rice cereal if that's how you roll.

I brought these to a neighbor's house one evening and all the kids that were over for the evening (there were 7 of them) loved these. We even called these pumpkin rice krispy treats and they didn't get all weirded out. So try these - they are kid and adult approved!

Pumpkin cookie butter rice krispy treats 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin cookie butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups puffed rice cereal (I used puffed wheat)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin cookie butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Generously grease a standard 8"x8" pan and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add 2 cups of the marshmallows and stir occasionally until they are completely melted. Add the cookie butter and salt and mix until everything is uniform.

Turn the stove off and take the saucepan off of the heat. Stir in the puffed rice cereal and the remaining 1 cup of marshmallows.

If desired, you can melt 1/2 cup of the pumpkin cookie butter with 1 cup of chocolate chips and spread it on top of the bars.

Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will last for about a week.

Yield: About 16 bars

Source: Barely adapted from Warm Vanilla Sugar

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Baked chocolate chip hush puppies

Jazz up hushpuppies with some chocolate chips - and bake them so they are slightly healthier!

My 7-year old has been eating out with us on a pretty regular basis. My husband and I go out once a week and have been taking her since she was born. We wanted to get her used to the idea of going out and teach her the patience one needs to have when dining out.

Over the course of her 7 years of life, our daughter got used to getting seated, having waitstaff take our order and waiting for our food to be prepared and brought to the table. In fact, we created a memorable order of events for her: "Order the food, cook the food, then eat the food." She's memorized this so questions about how much longer we have to wait have cut down immensely. (I might add that we do not bring any electronic devices when we dine out, so she has learned how to have a conversation rather than glue herself to a screen).

Anyway, there is a Latino-inspired seafood restaurant on our rotating list. The restaurant has these fried saffron potato cakes that Addie loves - she calls them hush puppies. So when she saw this recipe in a cookbook that I had borrowed during our weekly mother/daughter library trip, she freaked out.

I mean, chocolate chip hush puppies? Come on - the girl was on cloud 9. We had to bake these, and bake them soon.
I took a week off from work to spend some quality time with her, and we bake these hush puppies one afternoon. My batter was a little on the dry side so I added a little extra water to bind everything together.

Both Addie and I had a hush puppy fresh out of the oven and we agreed that these were very tasty. Although the texture wasn't entirely the same as a traditional hush puppy, it was still pretty darn good. I'd liken these to a cornmeal-textured cookie, but a fantastic one at that. I may try frying a batch sometime but liked that these were slightly healthier due to the fact that they were baked.

Baked chocolate chip hush puppies
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fine- to medium-grain cornmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup sour cream (I substituted with Greek yogurt)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two standard muffin pans and set aside.

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

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Try to get rid of the brown sugar lumps if you can.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, butter, maple syrup and vanilla.

Transfer the egg mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently knead everything together until everything is just combined - do not over mix.

Using a cookie scoop, portion out balls of dough into golf ball sized fritters and drop in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place in a muffin well. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake your hush puppies in your preheated oven for about 13-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Store the hush puppies in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for about 3 days.

If you'd rather fry your hush puppies, heat a pot of oil to 350 degrees F. Drop 1 Tablespoon of dough into the hot oil and fry for about 2 minutes on the first side, then 1 minute on the other side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Then toss with the cinnamon sugar and drizzle on additional maple syrup if desired.

Yield: About 24 hush puppies

Source: Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito


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