Friday, June 23, 2017

Skating Fridays

A New Dramatic Program 


I really admire artists who continue to reinvent themselves throughout their career (Madonna, Picasso, etc.). It's wonderful when one is able to find 'their style' and stick with it. Me? I haven't found my sweet spot yet in terms of my skating style or music.

We've tried lyrical (Piano theme from The Notebook), emotional (Angel by Sarah McLachlan), Broadway (Bring Him Home from Les Miserables), soundtracks (Star Wars melody), Top 40 (Uptown Funk from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars), and others. While some of these pieces have been more successful than others, I haven't identified my secret sauce yet.

So I thought I'd try to reinvent myself again this upcoming season and skate to something completely different for my dramatic program. I've cut the music already but have not begun the choreography yet. I'm excited to bring this music to life and see how I connect to it (and the audience).

Don't worry, I will post a video when I'm ready to share it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Oatmeal chocolate chip skillet cookie

This giant oatmeal chocolate chip cookie is your answer to a cookie craving. With hearty oats and plenty of chocolate chips, you'll be tempted to eat the whole thing! Best of all, there are no cookie sheets or scoops to clean up!
Ever get one of those crazy mad cookie cravings? Like the kind where you are ready to drive to the nearest grocery store or bakery to buy yourself some? Well, what if I told you that you could have a giant cookie ready to eat in a little over 30 minutes?

I got one of those "I NEED A COOKIE NOW!" cravings very recently and decided in the moment that I had to bake cookies. Except that I didn't want to have to scoop cookies on multiple sheets and have to clean up all the bowls, spatulas and cookie scoops. Cue this skillet cookie.
While the dough was done by a stand mixer, I only had those dishes to wash. I put all of the dough into a greased skillet and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. After my kitchen timer went off, I went to town.

This cookie was amazing and definitely hit the spot. It was like just a heartier version of a giant chocolate chip cookie. The hint of ground cinnamon made the cookie even better - feel free to add some nutmeg too if that's your thing.
I shared this with some skating friends and got a text almost immediately afterwards. A skating friend, who normally doesn't eat much dessert, said that it was awesome. Feel free to share this - or not - the next time you get a cookie craving!

Oh, and just for fun, here is a behind-the-scenes look at how the photos above came to life. After photographing the cookies, I then edited the pictures in Photoshop afterwards. You'll see my old school Nikon camera in there (a D40, which isn't even made anymore!). Compare that to this new camera, which has 16 (!) lenses. How do I sign up??



Oatmeal chocolate chip skillet cookie
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
Directions
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease 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 the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add in the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the cinnamon and salt until well incorporated.

Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour. Mix until everything is just incorporated - do not over mix. Turn the mixer off and fold in the oats. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and smooth out the top. Sprinkle on additional chocolate chips if desired and bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. The middle may appear slightly underbaked, and that is OK.

Allow the cookie to cool slightly before serving. Top with ice cream, caramel or chocolate sauce, or anything else that makes you happy.

Store the cookie in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One large 9" or 10" skillet; about 8-10 servings

Source: Jessica N Wood

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chocolate chia seed pudding

This chocolate chia seed pudding is super chocolate-y and healthy for you! Kid-approved, this vegan pudding is a great alternative to dairy versions.

Don't worry, I'm not turning this into a health blog. I just like to try new ingredients occasionally and found some chia seeds at my local supermarket the other day. I like the texture of chia seeds and thought that it would be fun to make some pudding with it.

We are such big chocolate pudding fans that I wanted to try a chia version. Plus I wanted to see if my 7 year old would like it. Well, it turns out that Addie could not get enough of this pudding. She got chocolate all over her face and chia seeds in between her teeth. But she wanted more after she finished the first serving. Little did she know that this pudding was actually good for her.

This no-cook dessert just requires a bit of patience since the chia seeds expand overnight while cooling in the refrigerator. They turn out tapioca-like so it makes for a fun texture. The original recipe contained the wrong chia seed to liquid ratio, so I have corrected it below.

I enjoyed eating this as an afternoon snack and sprinkled mine with some granola for a crunchy texture. You can also eat it plain if that's your thing.

Bon appetit!

Chocolate chia seed pudding 
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (can substitute with honey)
  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • pinch of salt
Directions
In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well until all of the cocoa powder has been incorporated.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Leftovers should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 4 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Fit Foodie Finds

Friday, June 16, 2017

Skating Fridays

Mid-year goals update


At work, it's time for our mid-year calibrations and performance management activities. That's when people managers get together to see how their team members are doing and if they are trending below, ahead of, or on par with their peers. I'm anxiously awaiting my one-on-one discussion with my manager to see how I fared when compared to my peers.

I thought that this would be a great opportunity to check in on my 2017 skating goals and see how they are progressing (or not).

Here we go!
  1. Improve PCS. About a month prior to Adult Nationals, my coach asked me about my goals for the competition. I mentioned "higher PCS," and she repeated the question. I was confused. After she explained that a goal is something that is within your control, I finally understood. I should have altered this goal to say that I wanted to improve my extension on landings, skate with deeper edges (etc.), because those were within my power to execute. I cannot control how an individual view/judges that. So with respect to PCS, while it did not improve score-wise, I am skating better than ever. I just hope this translates into higher scores at future competitions.

  2. Increase technical scores. Same as above. I should have said that I wanted to fully utilize my toe picks on jumps and hold my landings for a full second before moving to the next transitional element. I cannot control how a judge marks my elements on my score sheet, so I will be updating how I state this goal in the next year. So how am I progressing here? Well, I have been spending 75% of my practice time on basic skating skills and have noticed a drastic improvement. As a result, jumps are becoming easier to do. I would like to see this translate from practice to competition since that is where the true test lies. (In case you are wondering, my technical score did not improve)

  3. Approach 30 points in my IJS score. Same as #1 and #2. I cannot control a score. I need to be focused on being in the moment and delivering the elements as I know how to do them. I should alter this to say, "Focus on the element at hand and successfully execute it to the best of my ability." (And if you are curious, I did not approach 30 points this season)

  4. Land a correct double salchow. Still working on this. I am hoping that with my renewed focus on basic edges and skating skills, that it will translate into an easier double salchow. I'll be sure to post a video if and when I land one correctly.

  5. Add another axel to my program. This happened. I had two axels in the last version of my program. We'll see if I keep this approach for the upcoming season.

  6. Continue working on double loop and/or double toe loop. While we have been working on my skating skills, double jumps have not been a priority. So I have no updates here.
In summary, I need to restate my goals to focus on what I can control versus what it beyond my reach. I can skate on deeper edges, hold landings, emote, etc., but I cannot control a score or how a judge reacts to my skating. Theoretically, if I can skate with authority and with great precision, that should translate to better scores.

We'll see how I continue to improve throughout the rest of 2017.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Japanese red bean (azuki) milk bread

A super soft and fluffy yeast bread made with Japanese red bean (azuki) paste. Feel free to smear some jelly or chocolate spread on top for an extra special treat!
Do you guys ever get sucked into watching those food shows on television and then you have all of the cravings? It happens to me All.The.Time. As a result, I often get hungry for BBQ, Korean and all kinds of ethnic cuisines around 10:00pm. #foodieproblems

I'm not sure what show we were watching, but I wanted Japanese food. I didn't have the energy to make anything too difficult but I remembered that I had a can of sweetened red bean paste in the the pantry that I could use. Then this Japanese red bean milk bread was born.
The recipe below makes 3 mini loaves or 1 large loaf. I unintentionally underbaked my bread the first time so I had to pop them back in the oven for 350 degrees at 20 minutes to complete the baking. This bread was so good that I baked a full loaf the next day and also saved some red bean paste to spread on top of the dough for extra flavor.

We've been happily eating this bread as a side dish and even for breakfast. You can always add your favorite breakfast spread on top (chocolate hazelnut spread, fruit jam, etc) if it isn't sweet enough for you. I thought it was plenty flavorful but my 7 year old wanted more red bean - that's why I added some in the 2nd loaf.

Either way, I hope that you enjoy this bread. It's a great alternative to plain toast!

Japanese red bean (azuki) milk bread
Tangzhong
  • 1/6 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup water
Dough 
  • 3/4 cup sweetened red bean paste (can find at your local Asian grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons butter or melted coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 and 1/2 cups bread flour
  • tangzhong from above
Directions
In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the flour and water for the tanzhong. Continuously stir until it reaches pudding consistency. Once it thickens, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Mix for another 30 seconds and set aside.

In a large measuring cup, mix together the red bean paste and the milk. Add the egg and mix well. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment or in a large bowl if mixing by hand, add the butter, sugar, salt, yeast, red bean paste mixture, tangzhong and flour. Mix until everything comes together. The dough will be extremely sticky, so you may need to add more flour. Mix until the dough is still sticky but workable.

Generously grease 3 mini loaf pans (about 5 and 3/4" x 3" x 2"), OR a standard 9"x5" loaf pan.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured working surface. If baking 3 mini loaves, divide the dough into 9 equal parts. If baking 1 large loaf, divide the dough into 4 equal parts.

Take one portion of dough and roll gently into a rough oval. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Take the dough and place it so the shortest end is toward you. Roll the dough slightly and then, starting with the shortest end toward you, roll it up, jelly-roll style (like you are making cinnamon rolls). If you have extra red bean paste, you can slather on a layer of it before roll up your dough - I did this the second time I baked it and got delicious results.

Place seam-side down in your prepared loaf pan. If baking 3 mini loaves, you'll want to place 3 dough rolls in each pan side by side.

Let the dough rise for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 335 degrees F.

Bake in  your preheated oven for 20-22 minutes for mini-loaves or 30 minutes for a large loaf. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Leftover bread should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for a few days.

Yield: 3 mini loaves or 1 standard (9"x5" loaf)

Source: The 350 Degree Oven

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Copycat Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies

A copycat of the famous Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies from New York City. These gigantic beauties are the epitome of what a perfect chocolate chip cookies should be - crispy edges, soft interiors and bursting with chocolate chips!
 
There are some days when all you want is a chocolate chip cookie. Am I right? And I'm not talking about any old chocolate chip cookie. I'm talking about a big mama chocolate chip cookie that you can stuff your face into. One that seems to go on forever... until you almost get a tummy ache.

I'm here to solve that for you. These are a copycat of Levain Bakery's massive chocolate chip cookies. They weigh in at a hefty 5 ounces before baking. The entire batch is only 8 cookies. That means there's less to share, right? 

See this photo down here? That's my husband's hand. He wears a men's size large in gloves... so you can see how gigantic these cookies really are. He barely fit one of these babies in his palm.
We both quality controlled a cookie after it came out of the oven. We each kept taking bites until the behemoth was gone (cue sad face). The cookie was crispy on the edges yet soft and pillowy in the middle. Each bite was bursting with chocolate chips, and once the cookie was gone, I was almost satisfied. Almost. 

The good news is that we had 7 more of these cookies left. We gave most of them away because otherwise my booty would have expanded another dress size or two. And although my cookies expanded quite a bit, they were still amazing. Just make sure your dough is cool before baking. If it's not, just pop it in the fridge for 15-30 minutes before baking.

Enjoy!


Copycat Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies 
  • 1 and ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) COLD salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 410 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cornstarch and baking soda 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 sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time until each has fully incorporated.

Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients until a few dry streaks remain. Add in the vanilla. Turn off the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.

Your dough should be cold at this point. If it's not, stick it in the refrigerator to firm up. I made this mistake and my cookies spread.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. They should weigh between 5 and 6 ounces each (they are huge). Roll them into balls and place 4 on each cookie sheet and make sure to leave plenty of space in between each one.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-13 minutes or until the tops look set. The cookies will continue to firm up as they cool. Allow them to cool slightly before serving.

Leftover cookies should be sent to me (just kidding... kind of). Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 8 giant cookies

Source: Wishes and Dishes

Friday, June 9, 2017

Skating Fridays

Working on a New Spin


Before Adult Nationals this year, Coach B showed me a video of a spin that she wanted me to try. I told her that we'd have to wait until after the competition to begin working on it since I was focused on my freestyle program at that point.

I've had a few short weeks to try out this spin, and it's making some progress. This is a spin that Alaine Chartrand does in her free skate in case it looks familiar. It is an upright variation, and a much prettier one than the dreaded A-frame in my opinion. I still need to straighten both of my legs since they are very bent right now.

We'll see how much progress I can make on this spin over the summer and if it will be up to par to include in next year's revamped freestyle program.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pastitsio (Greek lasagna)

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta dish that I refer to as "Greek lasagna." With layers of noodles, a hearty meat sauce and a thick, creamy bechamel, this meal is one of our favorite Greek dishes.

Our local community has an annual Greek festival that we always look forward to. My husband and I can't get enough gyros, spanakopita, baklava and other Greek treats. We've been going for many years, and one of my favorite dishes is what I lovingly refer to as Greek lasagna - pastitsio.

While I've contemplated making this on my own, I never had the nerve to try. Instead, I happily bought a slice at the Greek festival and typically order it at a Greek restaurant. I soon came to find that my 1st grader is also a big fan of the dish. If she isn't ordering a standard cheese pizza at the Greek restaurant, she's usually stealing my pastitsio. It was time to give the girl her own slice.

I found this recipe from my friend Ashley, who blogs over at Wishes and Dishes. Ashley and I have been online friends for several years but haven't actually met in person. Her recipe made this dish rather easy to make and not as intimidating as I originally thought it was going to be. If you can make lasagna, you can make pastitsio.

I made this for Mother's Day brunch (for just the 3 of us, mind you). It was such a hit that Addie wanted seconds and thirds. She also begged to bring slices for lunch the rest of the week, which I happily obliged. My husband usually isn't the world's biggest pastitsio fan but even commented on how awesome this dish was. I think I may have converted him, actually.

Don't get me wrong - once the Greek festival is here, I am sure I'll still buy a slice for Addie to eat. But now we can make all year long rather than once a year. Thanks, Ashley!

Pastitsio (Greek lasagna) 
  • 2 pounds ground beef or lamb (I used a blend of beef, pork and veal)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (one 8 ounce can)
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 pound ziti (can substitute with penne if you can't find ziti)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 1 and ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cup milk (I used 1%)
Directions
Generously grease a standard 13" x 9" baking pan and set aside.

In a large nonstick pan, brown the ground meat and onion on medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain. Add the garlic and drain any remaining liquid.

Add the tomato sauce, wine, tomatoes, parsley, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low and allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Drain the pasta and add the oil and toss to coat. Add in 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Set aside (but not on the stovetop or else your eggs will scramble).

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until a thick paste forms. Cook for 1 more minute. Slowly stream in the milk and continuously whisk until the mixture thickens to almost pudding consistency. Remove from the heat and add in 2 beaten eggs and the remaining 1 cup of parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. This sauce will be super thick.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Transfer half of the pasta to the bottom of your greased pan. Make sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan. Add all of the meat sauce on top. Then add the remaining pasta on top of the meat sauce. Pour the sauce on top of the pasta and make sure you spread it evenly across.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Allow the pastitsio to cool for 15-20 minutes before serving so that it will firm up.

If you don't plan on eating this the same day, you can cover with aluminum foil and allow it to chill in the refrigerator. Let the dish thaw for at least an hour before baking. You may need to add more baking time.


Yield: One 13"x 9" pan; about 12-16 servings

Source: Wishes and Dishes

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Skinny double chocolate muffins

Healthier double chocolate muffins that contain no oil or butter - these are even better than the full fat versions. Bet you can't eat just one!
I have fond memories of the 2nd birthday party we held for Addie. I baked her a chocolate cake and she somehow got chocolate cake crumbs in her armpit. My brother still jokes about it since we wonder how a little girl could get cake crumbs there. Maybe she was pretending to be a monkey after she took a bite of the cake? Who knows.

That photograph is forever etched in my mind. Addie had chocolate cake smeared all over her face (as well as her armpit area), and I just have to smile when I think about it.

When I baked these muffins, a similar thing happened. Addie somehow managed to get chocolate all over her face and hands. She was a little bit more careful this time, as the chocolate did not venture anywhere past her forearms.
I don't know what it is about little kids and chocolate covered faces, but it gives me great joy every time I see it happen. What's best about these muffins, other than the smearing of chocolate, is that it's healthier than most double chocolate muffins you will find. By using whole wheat flour and applesauce, these muffins are actually better than the ones you'd normally purchase.

My little chocoholic has been eating one daily for her breakfast and is going to be pretty sad once we run out. Guess I'll need to bake another batch soon... and buy some more napkins.

Skinny double chocolate muffins
  • 1 and ½ cups white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard muffin pan and set aside.

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

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, brown sugar, honey, milk, applesauce, egg and vanilla.

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

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

Bake in your preheated oven for 5 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool before serving. Muffins should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for a few days. They can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Live Well Bake Often

Friday, June 2, 2017

Skating Fridays

Sour Cows


One element in skating is called the salchow (pronounced "sal-cow"), which is named after Ulrich Salchow (1877–1949), who was a Swedish skater. The element name often gets butchered, intentionally or not.

When this element goes wrong for a skater, we sometimes like to refer to it as a "sour cow." Imagine all the funny memes you can create with this!

Well, I wanted to share this epic fall that I had last week during practice. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you... my sour cow!


This one left a bruise for sure. I completely slipped on my toe pick and fell forward.

Enjoy the laughs, and may your cows always be happy! 

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