Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thin mint ice cream

Still have Girl Scout cookies around the house? Chop them up and turn them into ice cream!
One of the girls at my skating rink was selling Girl Scout cookies. I couldn't turn her down, so I ordered a box of Thin Mints and a box of Samoas. A month after everyone else had received their cookies, she finally brought mine in. I'm not sure what happened, but she forgot my Samoas (I never did receive them). So she only charged me for one box of Thin Mints.

Although I can easily polish off a box of these seasonal cookies, I opted to feature them in a dessert. Both my husband and daughter were strongly hinting that we were running out of ice cream, so I made some homemade Thin Mint ice cream.
I used my trusty Jeni's ice cream base and added peppermint extract for a nice minty background. Then I chopped up some cookies and layered them on top of the ice cream and repeated until my ice cream container was full.

As expected, this ice cream was super creamy and a delight to eat. The thin mint cookies got a bit soft but you can always garnish a scoop or two with full-sized thin mint cookies. I'm sure we'll be making this ice cream every Girl Scout season.

Thin mint ice cream
  • 2 cups whole milk, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • About 10 thin mint cookies, chopped
In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Set this aside. Reserve the remaining milk and keep it separate.

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the sea salt until well combined. Set a fine mesh sieve above it and set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the cream, remaining milk, sugar and corn syrup on medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Allow the mixture to boil for 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the stove and very carefully add the cornstarch/milk slurry. Mix until everything is well incorporated and put the pan back on the stove. Allow the mixture to come back to a boil and until the liquid becomes slightly thicker, about 1 minute.

Turn off the stove and pour the liquid through the sieve into the large bowl with the cream cheese/salt. Add the vanilla and mix well until everything is fully incorporated.

At this point, you have two options. You can either set the ice cream over an ice bath (pour the contents into a large zip-top bag, seal it shut and place it over a large bowl with ice cubes), or put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Once the mixture is completely cool, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Fold in the chopped thin mint cookies by hand. Or, you can spoon a layer of ice cream in your container, then add some chopped cookies and repeat until the container is full.

Pour the ice cream into a container and set it in the freezer until it has hardened (at least 4 hours).

Yield: About 1 quart

Source: Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nutella stuffed deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie

Want to make chocolate chip cookies but don't want the hassle of scooping out dough? Then make a deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie in a skillet! Then stuff the middle with Nutella!

I had a craving for chocolate chip cookies the other day but didn't want to get out my cookie scoop. While I love cookies, sometimes it just feels like extra work. It can be time consuming to portion out the dough and bake on cookie sheets. I'm sure it's all in my head, but just stick with me here.

Rather than make individual chocolate chip cookies, I decided to finally try my hand at making a single deep dish chocolate chip cookie in a skillet. It's a serving size of one, so I don't have to share, right? All kidding aside, this was a great way to get my cookie fix without having to roll out balls of cookie dough.

And to make this cookie even more amazing, I stuffed mine with Nutella. If that's not your thing, feel free to substitute with cookie butter, peanut butter, or melted chocolate. Or just leave it as is (if that's how you roll, we can no longer be friends).

This skillet cookie was gone really quickly. It was best warm, when the tops were nice and crispy and the Nutella was slightly oozy and melty. The cookie hardened up a bit the next day but was still pretty amazing. So the next time you want a chocolate chip cookie but don't want to portion out balls of dough, make a skillet version.

Nutella stuffed deep dish chocolate chip cookie pie
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup Nutella
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9" or 10" cast iron 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 together the butter, sugars and vanilla on medium speed. Add the egg until it is fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Turn the mixer off and fold in the chocolate chips by hand.

Transfer half of the cookie dough into your prepared cast iron skillet. I used an offset spatula to evenly spread it out, but you can use whatever is easiest for you. Make sure the cookie dough covers the bottom of the pan.

Add the Nutella on top and spread over the cookie dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around (you don't want it to leak out). Then top with the remaining cookie dough. You should not see any Nutella peeking out.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden. Once the cookie is done baking, add a few more chocolate chips for a prettier presentation.

Allow the cookie to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator. You can reheat in the microwave. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.

Yield: One 9" cookie (about 6-8 servings)

Source: Cafe Delites


Friday, April 29, 2016

Skating Fridays

Spins, Spins and More Spins

The adult skating season is finally over. I'm in the midst of working on a brand new freestyle program (sorry, I'm not giving you any hints). Coach and I are trying to decide which 3 spins to include this year. I'm fairly certain that I will keep my Level 3 sit spin since it is my "money" element and gains me a lot of points. The other two I'm not so sure about.

We are working on all kinds of spins, including:
  • Back camel spin into something else (maybe back sit into forward sit)
  • Broken leg sit spin (I need to be careful with this one since this is how I tore my meniscus)
  • Cross-foot spin
  • Camel spin variations
  • Flying camel spins
One day I was playing around during practice and came up with this combination. It is a flying camel spin into a back sit spin into a forward sit with variation ("broken leg" or "sit to the side").

We'll keep playing around to see what spins fit me and what I can consistently execute. In the meantime, enjoy.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Easy focaccia

This easy, flavorful focaccia from Anne Burrell is perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You'll want to make a meal out of this!
You ever get those days when you're just craving bread or carbs? I had one of those days recently and wanted a thick, hearty bread without too much work. Focaccia came to mind so I set off to find a worthy recipe to try.

I found this one from Anne Burrell that seemed very simple. Her recipe made a huge batch so I was able to gift some to a friend. I sprinkled the top of my focaccia with sea salt and Italian seasonings (I did not have any fresh rosemary or I would have used that).

We served our focaccia with a comforting ravioli soup. Some of us dunked our focaccia in the soup and ate it that way. The next evening, I topped some focaccia with pasta sauce and mozzarella and made mini focaccia pizzas as appetizers.

The focaccia is perfect for a side dish, appetizer or as a main dish. Feel free to dress it up or down however you like and add whatever toppings floats your boat. Just save some for me, OK?

  • 1 and 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • Dried Italian seasonings (or fresh chopped rosemary), for sprinkling
In a measuring cup, sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the warm water. Allow to sit until it becomes frothy, about 5-10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if kneading by hand, whisk together the flour and salt on low speed. Add the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Keep kneading until the dough comes together and is soft and pliable. It should not stick to the bowl - add more flour if needed.

Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover, and allow to double (about 1 hour).

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bottom of a standard jelly pan (if you don't have a jelly pan, use two brownie pans - the pans will need to have high sides). Place the dough onto the oiled pan and gently stretch it out to all four corners of the pan. Then using your fingers, make deep indentations all the way into the dough (this gives it a nice dimpled look for the finished focaccia). Allow the dough to rise another hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle the top of the focaccia with additional olive oil and sea salt. Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow the focaccia to cool before cutting and serving.

Leftover focaccia should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and can be reheated in the oven. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: One jelly pan's worth (depending on how big you cut the pieces, can range from 8-24 servings or more)

Source: Barely adapted from Anne Burrell, via The Food Network


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Chocolate chip meringue cookies

Got leftover egg whites? Then make these 5 ingredient chocolate chip meringue cookies for a light and airy snack. You'll have enough to share (unless you want to keep the whole batch to yourself)!

Every few months I have to do a Google search to find ideas on how to use up egg whites. For whatever reason, the recipes I choose always yield leftover egg whites. I've used the leftovers for frosting, bread, cake and other sweet treats. I thought that it was finally time to make some cookies. But not just any cookies. Chocolate chip meringues.

Regular old meringues are just that - boring. Sure, they are crispy on the outside yet soft and super airy on the inside. But I didn't want plain old meringues. Being a chocolate lover, I had to find a way to chocolate-tize them (I totally just made that word up, by the way). I chopped up some dark chocolate and folded it into the meringues for a subtle chocolate kick.

These chocolate chip meringues were just perfect.  I got a nice crunch when I bit into the meringue and saw all the beautiful air pockets inside. It was like looking into a crevasse - lots of little nooks and crannies everywhere. The cookie was impossibly light, yet the whole thing melted in my mouth after I took a bite. The bits of chocolate interspersed throughout were an awesome addition too.

I was a good friend and gifted some to friends. I could have easily eaten all of the meringues but decided not to hoard the cookies this time. That doesn't mean I will share the next batch of sweets though.

Chocolate chip meringue cookies
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • About 7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped finely
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking  sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and 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 egg whites on medium speed until they get frothy. Then add the cream of tartar and salt until they are fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer up a notch and slowly stream in the sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to the highest setting and let it whisk. You'll want the mixer to go for at least 4-5 minutes. Turn the mixer off and check to see if your meringue has achieved stiff peaks (the egg whites will stand up straight and not move). If not, keep whipping in 30 second intervals on the highest speed.

Once you've achieve stiff  peaks, turn the mixer off. Gently fold in the chopped chocolate into the meringue and be sure not to deflate the egg whites.

Using a large spoon or a pastry bag (or zip-top bag), dollop the meringue onto your prepared baking sheets.  Make sure you space them at least an inch apart on the baking pan.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 2 hours (I baked for 90 minutes). Allow the meringues to cool completely before eating or storing. Meringues will get soggy if exposed to moisture, so you will not want to store these in an airtight container. If using a lidded container, crack the lid open a bit when storing. Meringues are best served the day they are made and will start to get slightly soggy after each day.

Yield: About 54 cookies (you may get more or less, depending upon how big you make yours)

Source: Adapted from Serious Eats


Friday, April 22, 2016

Skating Fridays

My Stretching Routine

One of my readers suggested that I share the exercises I use to stretch. I shamefully admit that I don't do any warmups prior to getting on the ice, but I do spend about 10 minutes on the ice doing various edge work around the rink before doing any elements. I can write about that in another post.

Today I'd like to explain how I usually like to stretch. I try to do this on a daily basis unless I am traveling or am just plain lazy. To make the time pass, I usually do these while I am watching television at night. I start with my lower back and legs and then move on to my spine.

1. Roll my lower back on the foam roller. I have this awesome foam roller that I got at Wal-Mart and find that it really helps my lower back (particularly on my landing side) feel better. It's like a deep tissue massage. I roll anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on how sore my back is feeling. Sometimes I will do it multiple times a day if I'm in extra pain.

2. Sit and reach. I hold the pose for at least 30 seconds per side. It really stretches out my lower back as well. I also stick both legs out straight and hold that stretch for at least 20 seconds.

3. Crunches. I usually do anywhere from 100-500, depending on how tired I'm feeling that evening.
4. Front splits. I do both legs, holding each for at least 30 seconds. I used to be a gymnast so was previously pretty flexible (my right split has always been weaker). It took me about a year to get these back, and they're not all the way down on the ground yet.
5. Center split. This one is going to take a while to get back. I currently look something like this:
My goal is to eventually end up in a full split position, but I know it will be a long journey. After holding that stretch for about 30 seconds, I sit down and hold this stretch, except with my arms behind me. I hold that for about 30 seconds and then scoot my booty forward another inch if I can.

6. Camel stretch. I try to keep my lower body upright as much as possible and then lean back like this. I can't quite grab my feet yet. I hold this for about 30 seconds.

7. Downward dog. Since that camel stretch is a bit uncomfortable right now, I go straight into downward dog to help alleviate my lower back. Ahhh, much better.

8. Exercise ball bridge stretches. Finally, I get out my exercise ball and lie on back for about a minute. Then I put my arms on the floor and get into a bridge position. I lift my belly button towards the ceiling (lifting my back off the exercise ball completely) and hold the bridge for a count of 10. Repeat at least 3 times.

If my back is tight after the bridge exercises, then I go back into downward dog or the foam roller.

Hope that this post was helpful!

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images. They are copyright of their respective owners.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cinnamon raisin bread

A super soft, fluffy and perfectly swirly cinnamon raisin bread from scratch! The recipe makes two loaves, so you can share one or freeze it for another day!
Cinnamon raisin is one of my favorite breakfast flavor combos. I was the self-proclaimed cinnamon raisin bagel queen in high school and college and would never try any other flavors. Every loaf of bread I bought had to be cinnamon raisin . As time went on, I cut back on my bagel and bread consumption so cinnamon raisin has not been on my mind lately. Until now.

I'm not sure what got into me, but I had a weird urge to bake cinnamon raisin bread. I've never made it until now, and I am happy to tell you that this recipe was a huge success.

The bread has a few steps to it. You have to make the dough, let it rest, roll it out and sprinkle with filling (like classic cinnamon rolls), shape them, let them rise again, and then bake. Don't worry, most of the time spent on this recipe is waiting for the dough to rise so it's not too much hands-on time.

I was afraid that the bread would be too done for my tastes (the tops were very golden brown as you can see in the photos), but the bread actually turned out perfectly. The crust was nice and crusty and the inside was super light and fluffy.

I gifted a loaf to some neighbors, and we demolished the other loaf on our own. We ate it for breakfast and as a snack. You could toast it or turn it into french toast. Whatever you do with it, you can't go wrong.

Cinnamon raisin bread
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast (4.5 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 to 6 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the yeast and warm water. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes until frothy.

Then add 1/2 cup of the sugar, oil, salt, eggs and 4 cups of the flour. Mix on medium speed until everything comes together. Add just enough flour until the dough is soft and pliable. It should not stick to your hands.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double, about 1 hour.

Generously grease two standard 9"x5" loaf pans and set aside.

Punch the dough down and divide into two equal portions. Add half of the raisins into each half of the dough and knead until well incorporated. Roll one piece of dough out to a rough 15"x9" rectangle.

Brush the dough lightly with oil. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of it over the dough, allowing for at least a 1/2 inch border all around.

Roll the dough up, jelly roll style, starting on the shorter end. Place the dough, seam side down, into the prepared loaf pan. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Brush the tops lightly with oil. Cover and allow the dough to rise for at least 30 minutes or until doubled.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the tops are golden. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

Bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for several days. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: Two (2) loaves

Source: Taste of Home



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