Friday, February 23, 2018

Skating Fridays

Improvement


This past weekend I skated in an all-adult competition. There were 14 very strong ladies in my event. In years past, I would have been analyzing my start order, the list of competitors, and just about everything else you can imagine.

This year I did not.

My new mental focus was to only concentrate on the things that I could control and to be in the present. I did my best not to worry about others around me and past or future outcomes. This strategy worked.

For the first time in my competitive career, I was not nervous. I was in the present and did not think 2 steps ahead. I "dumbed down" my program since my knees were still badly bruised and I didn't want to take any chances to further injure myself. Since I wasn't putting pressure on myself to get a certain placement or land a certain element, my mind was at ease.

I skated a good, clean program. My protocol reflected that too. I ended up with a 25.57, which is the second highest score I've received to date. My component scores rose by at least 2 points from the last competition. And I even got a dash of doom (0 points) for my last spin since I apparently did not hold the camel position for 2 full revolutions (I have reviewed my video and think it's right on the border, but the controller did not call it in my favor). Had I received full credit for that spin, I would have earned at least 27 points and gotten a new personal best. I wound up placing 9th, but only by a fraction of a point.

Regardless, I will call this a win. I am working towards a new mental state and am building up the confidence that I can do this and belong here.

Here is the video.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Salted caramel triple chocolate skillet cookie

When you're having a cookie craving, make yourself this giant salted caramel triple chocolate skillet cookie. It's the perfect solution and requires no cookie sheets!

This has been a crazy start to 2018. I was sick for about a week after I got my flu shot. Then, after I got better, my daughter got pink eye and a sinus infection. As she was recovering, my husband got a tickle in his throat. And people at work have been dropping like flies (from the flu and other illnesses).

One thing I have been craving since shaking off my virus was a nice, warm chocolate cookie. You know the kind - one with a crispy exterior and nice melty center. Well, I wanted one but didn't want to do all the work of having to scoop dough balls and clean a messy cookie sheet.

So rather than bake traditional cookies, I made myself another skillet cookie. But this time, I added some salted caramel sauce to the middle. Because I could. I made my sauce from scratch but you can certainly use pre-made sauce if you're strapped for time.

This is probably the first dessert that I've made in a while that wasn't shared outside of my family. We totally hoarded this one and kept it to ourselves because it was that good!



Salted caramel triple chocolate skillet cookie
Salted caramel
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Cookie
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, plus more for topping
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a cast iron pan if isn't seasoned already.

Make the salted caramel sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium heat, mix together the sugar, butter and cream and cook for about 10 minutes. The mixture should start to bubble. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Turn off the stove and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and salt and set aside.

Make the cookie: In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 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 together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Then add the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and slow add in the dry ingredients. Mix until everything just comes together. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Spread about half of the dough on the bottom of your cast iron pan. Make sure you smooth it out and spread everything into an even layer (an offset spatula will be helpful here). Bake in your preheated oven for about 13 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and drizzle on the caramel sauce. Then top with the remaining cookie dough. It might be hard to spread, so do your best. I found it easiest to break the dough into chunks and spread them out onto the pan and gently use my offset spatula to even everything out.

Bake in your preheated oven for an additional 15-20 minutes. The top should be done but the cookie may appear slightly underdone. This is OK because the cookie will continue to Harden as it cools.

Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top and gently press them into your pan if desired. Allow the cookie to cool slightly before serving.

This is best eaten warm, preferably with a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream. Any leftover cookie (ha!) should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days.

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

Source: Decadence Baking Co.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Intense chocolate brownies

If you love chocolate - and I mean really love chocolate - then these brownies are for you. They are supremely intense, fudge-like and come from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery!
A few weeks ago,  I hosted my annual chocolate tasting party (those of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen a post about this). Seven ladies, myself included, all came together for a wonderful evening of food and most importantly, chocolate.

Each person brought at least one chocolate bar for all of us to taste. We had chocolates from all around the world and from milk chocolate to fun mix-ins like ginger and turmeric to intensely dark chocolate with 85% cacao. The favorite varieties of the evening were from a local chocolate shop in Raleigh to the 85% dark chocolate from Israel.

These intensely chocolate-y brownies contain an entire half a pound of chocolate. I used all bittersweet chocolate, but if you want to sweeten things up a bit, you can mix in some milk chocolate or even use unsweetened chocolate.

Make sure you don't bake these up too long or else the brownies will become too cake-like (unless that's your thing). Your brownies should be soft and fudge-like, with a nice crackly top and a tender crumb. Don't be surprised if a bunch of crumbs start clinging to your knife when you cut into them.


My friends would probably have really enjoyed these brownies since they contain so much chocolate.  The brownies weren't too sweet, either, and would be even better with a scoop of ice cream on top. I think adding a teaspoon of instant espresso powder would have made these brownies even more over the top.

We only tasted 18 bars of chocolate that evening - there were still another 5 that we didn't even open! Maybe I'll need to host a mini chocolate tasting party in a few months so we don't have to wait another year for the next party.

Intense chocolate brownies
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (can replace half of it with unsweetened chocolate), finely chopped
  • 12 Tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

In a medium sized microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in a double boiler. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk the eggs on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the sugar. Beat for another 1-2 minutes or until the mixture looks thick and frothy.

Turn the mixer off and fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture with a spatula. The mixture should be smooth. Slowly fold in the flour mixture and continue to fold until everything just comes together.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and smooth out the top with a spatula - the batter will be thick. Bake in your preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes. Start checking around the 20 minute mark to ensure that your brownies don't over bake. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with some moist crumbs. If it is still liquidy, bake longer. If the toothpick comes out clean, then the brownies are overdone (but will still be amazing).

Cool the brownies and allow them to firm up before serving.

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

Yield: About 16-24 brownies, more or less, depending on how big you cut your pieces

Source: Barely adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang


Friday, February 16, 2018

Skating Fridays

Bruised


What a week. During my last lesson, Coach and I were working on a change edge swing roll when I hit my heel and took a bad fall. I stayed on the ice for a little while because it stung. I bruised my right knee pretty badly and it's now a beautiful palette of blue and purple.

Then I traveled for work one day and took a huge spill while walking into the parking garage. I was with a coworker and my manager when I didn't notice the step down from the curb (to be fair, it was not clearly marked and my manager had almost tripped as well).

I tripped and landed on both knees and my hands. I sat there for at least a minute before I even attempted to get up. Both knees were throbbing in pain as I remained still and completely embarrassed about what had just happened. It was all such a blur, as the tripping felt like it happened in the blink of an eye. I don't even remember how I got on the concrete floor.

As I got up, I realized that it was difficult to bend my knee. The three of us headed to dinner with the rest of our team shortly afterwards, and I found it very hard to climb the stairs to the second floor where our teammates were. I then realized that I was bleeding.

To make matters worse, I had a fainting episode at dinner while I was seated. They called an ambulance and the EMT came to take my vitals. They said that proper protocol was to whisk me away to the hospital but I refused. I felt fine and didn't need to go.

My manager and I left shortly afterwards and drove the 2 hours back home. Thankfully I got home safely. I have a doctor's appointment next week to get a quick checkup.

Needless to say, it's been a trying week. I'm competing this weekend and my ego and confidence are badly battered. Not to mention my injured knees. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Spanish seafood and chicken paella

A fantastically beautiful and flavorful Spanish paella that will 'wow' your friends and family. Filled with rotisserie chicken, shrimp, and mussels, this recipe will feed a crowd!
My brother and sister-in law gifted me a paella pan and some saffron for the holidays. I was super pumped about this because I absolutely love paella. There is a restaurant in Baltimore that my husband took me to (called Tio Pepe) that had the most amazing paella. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

Since I didn't own a paella pan, my paella attempts to date have not be awesome. The rice was always too soggy, and the recipes I've used just weren't good enough.
This recipe, although a bit more labor intensive, was phenomenal. I didn't have cockles so I replaced them with more mussels (I mean, can you see the mussel love in these photos??).

I used frozen shrimp and wished that I would have splurged for fresh shrimp because they were a bit rubbery. I used a rotisserie chicken as a shortcut and loved the flavor that it brought into this dish.

Oh, and this feeds at least 4 people, so it could be a great meal to share with your guests.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Spanish seafood and chicken paella
  • 4 ounces chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Pinch of saffron dissolved in 2 Tablespoons of water
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (can substitute with water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock or broth
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 pound mussels, de-bearded and cleaned
  • 1/2 pound cockles, cleaned
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cooked chicken, preferably dark meat (I used rotisserie)
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 10-inch paella pan, cook the sausage over medium heat. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the sausage. Then add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add in the tomatoes, rice, saffron water, and the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring everything to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, without stirring, for about 15 minutes or until the rice is al dente.

In a separate non-stick skillet, sautee the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the shrimp to the paella pan with the rice.

In the same skillet, add the wine and lemon juice. Add in the mussels and cockles and cover. Shake the skillet a few times and cook until the mussels and cockles open, about 3 minutes. Add everything in the skillet to the paella pan.

Finally, add the cooked chicken to the rice. Cover and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes. If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and/or a thinly sliced scallion and drizzle additional olive oil over the top.

Serve immediately.

Yield: About 4-6 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from Food and Wine

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chinese egg waffles (雞蛋餅)

These cute little egg waffles are one of my favorite snacks from my childhood. These little spheres require no syrup and are best eaten hot and shared with a friend!
You guys - I am so excited to share this recipe with you! This is a snack that gives me great memories of my childhood, and I couldn't wait to tell you about these.

When I lived in New Jersey, my family and I would drive to New York City at least once a month to go to Chinatown. We went there to eat a good meal and go grocery shopping at the Asian market. My brother and I would go to town in the snack aisle and walk away with at least 10 different snacks every trip. We'd consume about half of them in the car on the way home, provided that we were still awake after filling our bellies with a warm meal.

Before we got into the car to go home, we'd usually stop by this little Chinese egg waffle stand near Mott Street. There would be a line about 20-30 people deep, each waiting patiently for a bag of egg waffles. The vendor sold 20 egg waffles (one "waffle" equating to a golf ball-sized sphere) for $1, which was such a bargain that most people would buy at least $2-$3 worth. Each batch was made to order, so we'd have to wait a good 5 minutes per customer.

Although my brother and I were young, we were more than happy to wait in the egg waffle line. We knew that our patient would pay off, as we would get to eat freshly made treats. My parents usually bought 20 spheres worth, but as time went on, they knew to buy at least another 20 if they wanted to be able to eat some.

A few years ago, Williams-Sonoma sold an egg waffle pan, which apparently they don't carry anymore (it does look like Nordic Ware sells it on their own site, which you can find here). Although the waffle indentations in the pan are much smaller than the ones the Chinatown lady used, the premise was the same. I saw these in the Williams-Sonoma store and immediately bought one for myself and another for my parents.

I searched high and low for the perfect egg waffle recipe. The one I used below seemed to be the best of the bunch, as the original author did a ton of research to find the most authentic recipe and tested ones from multiple sources.

So how does one eat an egg waffle? By breaking each little sphere apart and eating them by hand. I like to eat them one at a time, while my daughter likes to stuff a few in her mouth like a chipmunk. The recipe below makes 3 large waffle irons full, which equates to at least 60 little spheres you can enjoy.

I hope you like this recipe from my childhood. My parents were beyond the moon when I got them their own egg waffle pan and have enjoyed making these on occasion. Nothing beats the egg waffle lady from Chinatown, but at least I can make these on my own now.

Chinese egg waffles (雞蛋餅)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Directions
Heat both sides of the egg waffle pan and grease well on both sides (I usually turn my burners to medium and put each half of the waffle pan onto its own burner. When ready to make, I turn one of the burners off).

In a mixing bowl, preferably one with a spout, beat the eggs. Slowly whisk in the sugar until well blended. Then add the milk and mix well. Fold in the cornstarch, flour and baking powder. Finally, add in the melted butter. The batter should be fairly lump-free so make sure you beat everything together well.

Once your waffle pan is hot, pour some into the middle and cover it with the other half. Give the pan a few shakes to distribute the batter. After 2-3 minutes, flip the pan over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Open the waffle pan and remove the waffle. Allow it to cool slightly on a wire rack and eat immediately.

Waffles are best eaten the day they are made but will keep if you store them in an airtight container.

Yield: About 3 large waffles

Source: Nom Nom Panda

Friday, February 9, 2018

Skating Fridays

Axel and Axel-Loop Videos


You guys. I am truly humbled. Several of you sent me messages that you enjoyed watching my videos, and that a few of you actually use and/or study them to apply to your own skating.

Goodness. Never in a million years would I ever think that I'd be in this position. I've been told countless times that I was never good enough, never smart enough, and never talented enough. And now I'm being used as a positive example? This just blows my mind.

Here are the Axel and Axel-loop videos that I sent my coach last week. Things to keep in mind as you watch these:
  • I learned this jump as an adult
  • I first landed it 10 years agoo
  • It took me 8 years to learn how to cross my legs
  • I have yet to land a clean Axel in competition
We're still tweaking it so it looks more like a kid's jump, but it's come a long way. I hope that it continues to progress and become even more consistent.

I'd love to hear about your skating journeys - whether you're trying to master skating on one foot, conquer the backspin, land an Axel or something else. We're all in this together. Let's learn from each other.



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