Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cake of the Week: White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

Ok so I know that Christmas is technically over, and I should be blogging about diet desserts to help us all lose those holiday pounds...BUT you probably have some leftover candy canes hanging around, and might even have another one or two holiday events before the year is up. And I'm not going to sit on this recipe until next December. (Withholiding delicious? Not I!) Plus, what do the Christmas movies all tell us? Keep Christmas with you all through the year. Duh. (Go ahead, listen to that song and feel wonderful.)

All of this justifying is probably unnecessary though. I have faith in my readers. Faith that you don't care what the season is, becuase you know that delicious desserts are delicious -- all year round. So do yourself, your family, your friends, your co-workers (ooh can I work with you???) a favor and make this White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

A small piece...but note the extra space on my plate for all the other things!

I made it this year for the whole family Christmas dinner. In my family, we open stocking and immediate family presents at home in the morning, then alternate years between my aunt/uncle/cousins' house and my parents to host Christmas dinnner. This was their year, so after an eventful (and rainy) morning, we drove down to Menlo Park in the afternoon. 

We chit-chatted over cheese and crackers for a bit until it was time for Round 1 of presents (it sounds like a boxing match, but I swear we're very civil.) (Oh wow, 10 points to me for not actually working that pun. Sister1 would have.) Presents are opened youngest to oldest, so finally, after 16 years of being the starter, my youngest cousin has been displaced by a certain almost-three-month-old Liam

Liam in his Christmas jammies.

Then we feast on roast beast! (Not pictured. Desserts are so much more photogenic.)

Cheesecake, Fudge, Almond Cookie, and Fruitcake.

Then we do Rounds 2 and 3 and 4 (and 5? Sometimes there are 5!) of presents. Opening one by one so everyone can see. 

And then, once our stomachs have settled a bit, it's dessert time. Sister1 made a cookie assortment, Auntie Robin makes her famous fudge (Sister2, what's your fudge consumption record?), Grammy Jean rocks the fruitcake (I love fruitcake), and I made this cheesecake. 

It's not very tall, but makes up in flavor for what it lacks in height (says all short people everywhere haha). At first I though the tangy creaminess of cheesecake would be weird with peppermint...but it's not. It may seem like you're adding a lot of mint, but the resulting flavor is actually very light. 

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

(Adapted from Baked by Rachel)

Crust Ingredients:
  • 2C chocolate cookie crumbs (or 22 regular oreos with filling – not double stuffed)
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 – 8oz containers or blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 1C sugar
  • 4oz (about 1/2 cup chips) white chocolate, melted
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream (OR I used half and half)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 batch peppermint bark, made thin or roughly 1 1/2C chunks 
  • If you're making the peppermint bark: 
    • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract divided
    • 1 medium-sized candy cane, crushed)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Extra peppermint bark for garnish

Peppermint Bark directions:
  1. It’s best to do this step a couple hours ahead. Melt 4oz (about 1/2 cup) chocolate with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Mix in 1/8 tsp peppermint extract. Spread thin over a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with half the crushed candy cane pieces. It doesn’t need to be perfect, remember it’s getting chopped up and going in something. Chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt 4oz (about 1/2 cup) white chocolate with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Mix in 1/8 tsp peppermint extract. Spread over chilled dark chocolate. Sprinkle immediately with crushed peppermint candies. Chill for at least 15 minutes. Longer is better. (*when melting chocolate, if using a microwave be sure to use the 30 second 50% power method stirring well after each 30 seconds).

Cheesecake directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9″ spring-form pan with two sheets of tin foil. In a food processor, blend cookies until only fine crumbs remain. Add melted butter. Give a quick blend. Transfer crumb mixture to spring-form pan. Shake to disperse crumbs. Using a flat bottom cup, press down to create an even crust. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.
  3. Cut up peppermint bark into small pieces. Set aside.
  4. Begin melting 4oz (1/2 cup chips) white chocolate. Using a double boiler or heat safe bowl, melt over simmering water. Stir until fully melted. Using the microwave, in a heat safe bowl microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power until fully melted. Stir well after each interval.
  5. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar. Mix well. Scrape bowl well prior to each new addition and as needed. Add melted chocolate, flour, whipping cream, salt and peppermint extract. Mix well. On medium/low speed, add one egg at a time. Mix until smooth and blended well.
  6. Add peppermint bark pieces, stir by hand.
  7. Transfer spring-form pan and cooked crust to a larger pan, such as a large roasting pan. Pour filling into crust. Add enough hot water to reach half way up the sides of your spring-form pan. Carefully place in center of oven. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Turn off the oven. Keeping the door shut, leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for at least 1 hour before chilling.

Topping directions:
  1. When the cheesecake is completely chilled (you can do this the next day), carefully remove side of spring-form pan. 
  2. In a small bowl mix sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. 
  3. Spread evenly over the top of the cheesecake.
  4. Before serving, sprinkle with extra peppermint bark pieces (wait to do this until right before serving, otherwise the candy cane bits might bleed into the cheesecake and make the top look like it's spotted pink.)
  5. Cut with a sharp knife dipped in hot water before slicing.

Cheesecake, Fudge, Almond Cookie, Peppermint Pattie Stuffed Chocolate Cookie. (Note that the previously pictured fruitcake has been replaced/eaten.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas Eve!

Well I'm home again, doing the Petaluma thing (i.e. hanging with the fam, going to yoga, walking my dog) and it's pretty great.

If I saw this man walking down the street, I would freak out like this. Oh please, as if you wouldn't.

Christmas is the same here every year, so I won't walk you through it all again in detail, but let it suffice to say that we saw Santa (with a baby this time!!!), just got back from our Christmas Eve beach walk, and have epic plans of driving around to look at Christmas lights and watching Sesame Street Christmas tonight.

Our living room right now. No presents yet...
Oh HEY peppermint bark!!!
I bought this creche in Niger, where it was 105 degrees in December.

The traditional Dillon Beach walk.

Wherever you are, I hope you're having a wonderful holiday too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache

You saw a picture yesterday, and now I’m pleased to share the recipe: Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Ganache. If it sounds slightly familiar, that’s because it is – I made a very similar cake about a month ago for SpeedyKate’s birthday, and far be it from me to commit the great sin of trying to fix something that is broken! I used the exact same red wine cake recipe, and second time around it was just as good – still the best chocolate cake recipe out there. The major difference is that this time, because it was a 6x6/LLC cake, it had to have espresso. And dark chocolate. Because that, my bloggy friends, is how my real life friends operate.

Saturday morning I work up at 7:30 am because someone was chain sawing somewhere nearby. (Who does that???) Instead of groaning and rolling over to fall back asleep, I started getting excited about the party prep I had ahead of me. “Well, I’m awake and feeling alive,” I thought. “So I may as well get started.”

By the time SpeedyKate emerged at 9 am, I had walked to the grocery store, started cleaning our apartment, baked this cake, and was sipping my first cup of coffee. I love checking things off lists!

So anyway, about this cake: I like frosting  in reasonable quantities, and tend to prefer cream cheese-based; however, since this was not a cake for me, and my friends LOVE buttercream, I thought about how much I would want…then doubled that. And added two pods of espresso of course.

Last time I covered a cake in ganache, the ganache itself did not come out as smooth-looking as I would have liked. I think it’s because I stirred while the chocolate was melting (which, in my defense, the recipe told me to do). This time I used more cream, and let it sit for a full 2 minutes before stirring. It worked perfectly. (Also, my recipe made quite a bit of ganache, so now I have extra in my fridge – what shall I dip in chocolate next?)

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Printable recipe.
Cake ingredients:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark or dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup red wine (any kind – you don’t really taste it in the cake)
  • 1/2 cup light olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 3 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. Add eggs, buttermilk, wine, oil, and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cakes begin to pull away from the edges of the pan.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto the racks and finish cooling completely before frosting.

Espresso Buttercream

(Note: I am fully aware that this is not technically an actual “buttercream.” But it is delicious and I really don’t think anyone cared.)
  • 1 ¼ cups butter (2 ½ sticks) at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon rum (I used white)
  • 3 tablespoons – ¼ cup milk, as needed (ok so I used buttermilk, since that’s what I had…and I’m pretty sure that is why my frosting did not come out looking as smooth and shiny as it should. So use regular milk and yours will come out better looking than mine!)
  • 2 espresso pods (I used lavazza, and I think 2 pods is about 3 tablespoons espresso. This is kind of a lot of espresso, feel free to use decaf.)
  1. Beat butter, vanilla, and rum together. Beat in the powdered sugar, and add milk a couple tablespoons at a time until it reaches spreadable consistency.
  1. Spread frosting evenly between the layers, and cover the cake completely. (It will work best if you do a “crumb layer” – i.e. spread a thin layer of frosting around the outside to catch all the crumbs, then do a second frosting layer to make it look good.)
  2. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

(Prepare this after the cake is frosted and cooled.)
  • 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup (6 oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped or in chip form (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips.)
  1. Stovetop: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  2. OR Microwave: Bring cream to a simmer in a microwave safe bowl (it took about 1 minute for me).
  3. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.
  4. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed.
  5. Pour ganache over the top, spreading it with a spatula so it drips down the edges. Serve at room temperature.
Serving tip: Cut with a sharp knife that you’ve dipped in hot water between each slice.

Printable recipe.

Oh and for writing on the cake, I used a tube of sparkly decorating frosting and my summer working in a Whole Foods bakery cake-writing skillz.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weekend Report: Bon Voyage Abby and Natalie!!!

Alright guys. I’ve kind of sort of alluded to this, but things are about to get real: 6x6 and LLC (two of my very best friends) are leaving. 6x6 is moving to Cape Town, South Africa, and LLC is going to Hawaii. Not forever, but for a while (2 and 5 years, respectively), and I’m going to miss them!!!

When to they leave? Soon. So soon. TOO soon! This was out last weekend together in DC, and so I did what a good friend does – threw them an epic going away party on Saturday night.

The food preparations were thorough and included most of our favorite things, including but not limited to: Chinese dumplings, chips and salsa, cheese (so much cheese), and a huge chocolate cake with more espresso buttercream than you thought possible. The festivities started at 7, and by 8 my little apartment was quite full of all the people I know and like, because who can miss a Bon Voyage party for 6x6 and LLC?!?!

And actually, while we’re having this talk, newer readers may not know the root of these two lovely ladies' blog names.

6x6 and I met literally the day I arrived in DC. She was moving out of my house as I moved in and we exchanged emails since we have common professional interests and I was looking for a job. About a  month later she invited me to her birthday dinner and we started chatting about running and how she wanted to become a “real runner.” And that, my friends, is how the 6x6 (6 days a week for 6 weeks) introductory running guest blog series (and her blog persona) was born! (Here's her first post. And her first race.)

6x6 and I in Florida, rocking our muumuus.
While it was pure chance that I met 6x6, LLC and I have known of each other our entire lives. LLC is an acronym for Long Lost Cousin. Why? Because we are, in fact, first cousins! Out mamas are sisters and we have the same grandma, but because of mostly geographical reasons, we’d never met until I moved to DC (where she was in school) in 2009. The first time we met, we went and walked around Eastern Market. I talked to my sisters afterwards – so guess what? Our cousin is awesome! Then the next weekend I went to run the race in Alexandria that started this blog and she came along to hang out with me afterwards. So of course LLC has always been kinda sorta peripherally in my life, but who knew we’d become such good friends!?

Ok enough reminiscing. I will be profoundly sad when I return from California after Christmas and they are not here, but that day is not today.

I asked guests to send me notes and pictures for a Natalie and Abby Wall of Awesome. 

The party was the main event of the weekend, but I also did some things on Sunday. And by some, I mean brunch, and going to see The Hobbit. My LOTR love means that I am preconditioned to love The Hobbit as well, but objectively/realistically the reviews are true – it is not very good, too long, and sometimes boring. So there you have it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. And the music alone might make it worth it!

The world will end – i.e. I will leave and never (!) see 6x6 or LLC again – (no that’s pure lies and over-dramatic but I won’t see them for a while) on Thursday morning. Until then, we are packing in as much fun as possible!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Best of the Week #86

Oh hallelujah it is Friday! We made it!!! Enjoy some Best of the Week links! (And a special happy last day of work to LLC!)

My most popular post this week was "Trampoline Workouts for Runners." I may or may not start writing a series on JumpSport's blog.

Ok here we go. Even if you don’t like Glee, listen to Rachel sing "Oh Holy Night." It will make you feel Christmasy and wonderful. I have started every day with it this week.

I always love gifs, therefore I almost always love this Tumblr.

"When my day is going terribly."
"When I make holiday plans with my friends from home."

Some Russian perspectives on American culture: “A Hunger for Tales of Life in the American Cul-de-Sac.”
  • An average Russian mother would no sooner entrust her children’s upbringing to a local teenager than to a pack of wild dogs.
  • Though Americans are slovenly in their outward appearance, he said, it is “completely unacceptable” to show up at work in the same outfit two days in a row. 
  • “You can’t suddenly show up at a friend’s house in the middle of the night with a bottle of vodka, to talk over your problems and seek support,” he writes. “Russians solve problems when they reach a critical point — that is our national style. Americans try to keep things from getting to a critical point.”
“Life can be stressful sometimes, and what better way is there to relieve stress than to watch puppies play in the snow? That question was rhetorical, because there is no better way.” (source)

Parallel institution-building in Syria? “Political Violence Thought of the Week.”
  • That is, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces must engage in so-called “parallel institution-building” — this week’s political violence thought of the week.
  • My sense is that parallel institution-building — “parallel” in the sense of replacing the embattled governing regime — is more or less a good idea. Such measures can help opposition movements build legitimacy and political power, which both tips conflicts’ balance in favor of the opposition and lays out a potentially smoother transition to post-conflict state-building functions.
Some wise/amusing words from Runner’s World. “In a Rut? Take 4 Days Off! I'd recommend applying this approach to any number of problems.”
  • Also, guess how much I ran? None. I ran NONE MILES.
  • And when I realize I need one [day off], it tends to happen abruptly -- usually in a "instead of running five miles today, I believe I'll take four days off" sort of way. And then I go get a bowl of cereal and find someplace soft to sit down.
  • PROBLEM: You're feeling sluggish after taking four days off. SOLUTION: Take 4 Days Off!
Mean Girls of Capitol Hill” is amazing and makes me realize how truly genius the writing of that movie is (go Tina Fey!).

About the Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers list that came out this week: “The Opposite of Thinking.”
  • For starters, policy itself is more or less the opposite of thinking. It implies the development of a set of rules or guidelines that shape and direct actions. In fact, however, policy is designed to help keep people who aren't actually policymakers from doing any thinking at all at critical moments. And it doesn't take much more than a cursory look at how well things are going here on this little planet to reveal that foreign policymakers are not doing such a great job with all the thinking they are allegedly being paid to do.
  • All the above may seem obvious to you. But if genius is the ability to recognize the obvious before anyone else, isn't stupidity therefore the failure to do anything about the obvious even after everyone with a functioning brain has come to see it as readily apparent? The point is: Big challenges demand big ideas. New challenges demand new thinking. And right now, the big new challenges of our time -- from the rise of new powers and the changing geopolitical landscape to shifting global resource demands -- require a kind of thought they are clearly not getting. Instead, we have a policymaking apparatus that discourages creativity.
N’Sync Medley by Pentatonix. You will not regret watching this.

Who needs satellites when you could have vultures??? “'Vulture spying for Israel' caught in Sudan.”
  • Officials in Sudan say they have captured an electronically-tagged vulture suspected of being dispatched by Israel on a spying mission.
"Meet Casey Legler, the Woman Who Works as a Male Model." There's an interview with her.

  • “I have a body of work. I don’t think that anyone looking at that body of work and then seeing me as a model would see it as any kind of a stretch,” Legler says. “It implies something interesting. I am not the artmaker in those cases. I get to participate with other artmakers as part of their palette.”
  • Casey Legler is a woman working as a male model. She looks wonderfully comfortable shrugging into tailored suits and chomping on cigars.
Say "logarithms" and I shudder. But this is actually really interesting: "What number is halfway between 1 and 9? Is it 5 — or 3?"
  • Ask adults from the industrialized world what number is halfway between 1 and 9, and most will say 5. But pose the same question to small children, or people living in some traditional societies, and they're likely to answer 3.
  • Cognitive scientists theorize that that's because it's actually more natural for humans to think logarithmically than linearly: 30 is 1, and 32 is 9, so logarithmically, the number halfway between them is 31, or 3. Neural circuits seem to bear out that theory. For instance, psychological experiments suggest that multiplying the intensity of some sensory stimuli causes a linear increase in perceived intensity. 
And I will leave you with this. Because it is too perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Literary Bite: Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

This book was super weird. I liked it. But it was super weird.

Despite the fact that I write book reviews, I don’t actually read them. So when someone hands me a book and says Mollie, read this!, I say Ok! and jump right in.

It wasn’t until I’d read about 20 pages that I wondered, what is this supposed to be about??? And read the back of the book:

  • An Arab and a Jew open a restaurant together across the street from the United Nations... It sounds like the beginning of an ethnic joke, but it's the axis around which spins Tom Robbins's gutsy, fun-loving, and alarmingly provocative new novel, in which a bean can philosophizes, a dessert spoon mystifies, a young waitress takes on the New York art world, and a rowdy redneck welder discovers the lost god of Palestine--while the illusions that obscure humanity's view of the true universe fall away, one by one, like Salome's veils. 

My biggest problem with the story was the inanimate-objects-as-characters parts. Robbins used them as a vehicle to philosophize, which is a bit annoying, and frankly I just don’t care what a can of beans “thinks.” I didn’t think Robbins' ideas on the Middle East/religion/race were particularly revolutionary either. The human story line was great, but in the middle of the book the objects took over and it felt forced and tedious.

So to talk about the human side of the story, it’s about Ellen Cherry, a woman from the South who moves to New York with her goofy husband, to become an artist. When her husband accidentally finds success in art long before she does, she starts working at the aforementioned restaurant and all of a sudden finds herself in the middle of the conflict over the Middle East.

Robbins’ writing style is fun – very figurative and rhythmic ("The winter passed as slowly and peacefully as a boa constrictor digesting a valium addict"). For the most part the story was a fun mix of absurdity, sexuality, and racism (if we can call that a “fun mix”?). Apparently Robbins’ has a huge following, and just based on this book, I would say he’s definitely a love-it-or-hate-it type of writer.

If this kind of book sounds like your jam then read it! But I'm hesitant to strongly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trampoline Workouts for Runners -- JumpSport Fitness Trampoline Review

The coolest kid in the neighborhood always had a trampoline. I was never that kid…UNTIL NOW!

That’s right – there’s a JumpSport Fitness Trampoline in my living room. I use it for core, stability, and cardio workouts to supplement my running. And it’s fun!

JumpSport sent me a Model 370 Fitness Trampoline for review (my opinions are my own) and I’ve been working it into my training over the past couple months. When you’re young, jumping up and down and up and down for hours is literally the best thing ever. And actually, as an adult it’s pretty great too. The only difference is that now I change into running clothes and call it a “workout,” the trampoline is inside and a lot quieter, and my sister is not trying to bounce me off.

Sorry for the blurriness -- this is a screengrab. 

Why this trampoline is awesome (Logistics):

  • It’s completely quiet – I can watch TV while doing my workout. And if I had downstairs neighbors, I don’t think they’d be bothered at all. 
  • It’s super-stable – I feel completely safe jumping on the trampoline. You aren’t supposed to jump super-high (for a better workout you want to jump down into the trampoline), so a normal-height ceiling would work fine. 
  • It’s light and portable – I can lean it against the wall, or move it elsewhere in the house by myself. 
  • You’re off the floor – Ok this one is from my mama – you can do abs lying on the trampoline, which means you don’t need a mat and won’t be down on the floor with your dog.

Why this trampoline is awesome (Workouts!):

  • Jumping is a great cardio workout –you can get your heart rate up pretty quickly, and 20-30 minutes of jumping is enough to make you feel like you did something.
  • No impact – runners prone to impact-related injuries (stress fractures, shin splints, etc.) can supplement their training with trampoline workouts to prevent problems. 
  • It’s more than just cardio – I most often use the trampoline for core and stability work. 
The trampoline comes with an intro Basic Workout DVD, and JumpSport also sent me the Video 3-Pack: BODY Bounce Circuit, Cardio Core Express, and Bounce Camp.

I started with the DVDs to get an idea of the workout possibilities, and then in typical Mollie fashion, pulled my favorite exercises from each and made up my own runner-specific workouts.  (Disclaimer: I’m just a runner, not an athletic trainer or doctor.)

Trampoline Circuit Workout for Runners

I made up a circuit workout, alternating cardio, core, and upper body. I do this for anywhere from 20-45 minutes, depending on my mood. If I’ve already run, I skip the cardio parts and focus on core and stability; however, recently I’m having a bit of a hamstring strain issue, which means my entire workout is on the trampoline. (I made a video for JumpSport of this circuit. Don’t judge me/I’m not an actress/I’m so sorry.)

  • Basic jump  (x50)
    • Leg lifts lying on the trampoline (x10)
    • Push-ups (x10)
  • In and out jumps( x50)
    • Twisting jumps for core (x50)
    • Dips (x10)
  • High knees (x100)
    • Alternating leg lifts lying on the trampoline (x10)
    • Plank (count to 100)

Trampoline Core and Stability Workout for Runners

I mostly use the trampoline for stability and core exercises. Just standing on one foot on the trampoline works  all the muscles in your legs (especially around your knees), back, and abs. Balancing, dips, and leg-lifts on the trampoline are especially good for runners with muscle imbalances, knee problems (“runner’s knee”), and/or IT band issues.

This video (again, so sorry) shows some examples of the stability and core work you can do on the trampoline.

  • Basic Jump
  • Twisting jumps for core
  • One-footed jump
  • Balance on one foot
  • Extended leg (in front) dips on one foot
  • Extended leg (to the side) dips on one foot
  • Extended leg (to the side) dips on one foot with leg extension
  • Lying on the trampoline leg lifts (two legs together and alternating legs)
  • Plank
  • Push-ups

JumpSport trampolines are unique in that the trampoline beds (i.e. the part you jump on) are designed to minimize impact, so they put less stress on your knees and back, and the bands/chords absorb the shock so you get a better “return bounce.”

So there you have it. Trampoline workouts for runners. Who knew???

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cake of the Week: Peppermint Pattie Brownies

Every 12 months we remember that mint and chocolate together is a glorious combination. It’s a match made in seasonal dessert heaven -- like Santa and Mrs. Claus, George Bailey and Mary Hatch, the Grinch and Cindy Lou, the kid in A Christmas Story and his BB gun (ok maybe not so much that last one).

Sure, the rest of the year I enjoy an occasional box of Junior Mints at a movie, or a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the summer. But it’s not until Thanksgiving is over that the mint chocolate things come out in full force and have just one month to make their mark.

In light of this deplorably brief minty chocolate window, I say GO HOME AND MAKE THESE PEPPERMINT PATTIE BROWNIES NOW. (Sorry for the yelling, I just feel very strongly about this.) Sister1 made them for me last time I was home, and I re-created them for A Muppet Christmas Carol viewing party last week.

Actual quotes, testifying to the extreme goodness of these brownies:
  • Mollie, this is the best thing I’ve had in a while. - LLC
  • Ohmygoodddyummmmmmm. Going to get another one. – 6x6
  • Ok you can take some of them to work tomorrow…but please don’t take them all? – SpeedyKate
So without further ado, here’s the recipe. Oh and if you want to make things easier, I fully support the cheater option: make box brownies, then do the peppermint pattie topping and ganache. Also, you can crush up candy canes or peppermints and sprinkle them over the top for an extra minty crunch.

Peppermint Pattie Brownies

Printable recipe.  Adapted from How Sweet It Is.
Yield: 9-12 brownies (1 8x8 pan)
Brownie Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips (optional – as in, I was baking late at night and totally forgot to add these…it was fine)
Peppermint Pattie Layer:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons evaporated milk (OR regular milk)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract 
  • 3.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (about 2/3 cups chocolate chips)
  • 2.5 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan with butter or nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine melted butter with sugar and vanilla extract, whisking until combined and almost smooth. Whisk in each egg one at a time, stirring until a smooth batter forms. Add in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, stirring until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter in the 8x8 baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Remove and let cool completely.
  3. While brownies are cooling, add powdered sugar, butter, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and peppermint extracts to the bowl of an electric mixer or in medium-sized bowl. Beat or wisk until smooth and creamy. Pour over completely cooled brownies and spread in an even layer with a spoon or spatula. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 30 minutes.
  4. To make ganache, heat heavy cream until warm (about 30 seconds in the microwave) and pour it over chopped chocolate. Let it sit for about a minute. Stir for a few minutes until totally combined, smooth and creamy. Spread over the top of the peppermint layer and cool to set. 

These brownies are actually best cold, so I suggest refrigerating them until right before serving. To serve, run a sharp knife under hot water (so the ganache doesn't stick to the knife as you're cutting).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekend Report: Many December Things

So many things this weekend guys, SO many things.

Saturday morning I talked SpeedyKate into seeing the Christmas trains at the U.S. Botanical Gardens. This was one of those situations where she definitely thought I was a little bit weird/crazy/nerdy (I think trains are so cool!) until she saw for herself how awesome the exhibit is. It’s an entire world, constructed out of all organic materials, except for the many many toy trains running through it.

The Garden is staying open late (until 8 pm) through December, plus there’s a schedule of live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you haven’t been – GO.

That afternoon I hit up the Rumsey pool for a pool-run, which for some reason is waaaaay more boring in the afternoon than in the morning.  Toward the end the lifeguards put on some Mariah Carey though, so ultimately it was ok. I've been involuntarily sentenced to quite a bit of pool-time recently, but hopefully I'm back on land soon!

Saturday evening I had Christmas party #1 to attend and needed to make something to bring. Being too lazy to trek to a store, I surveyed my fridge and cupboards: oatmeal cookie dough in the freezer…heavy cream…chocolate chips…there is only one way that can go: oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate ganache. Easy, fancy-looking, and yummmmm.

Sunday morning I met LLC and her boyfriend to use a brunch deal I purchased a while back. It was to Kushi, a Japanese izakaya (bar with food) and sushi restaurant. Japanese brunch? you may wonder. Agreed. It was definitely not brunch food, but it was delicious! I got “Ocean's Oyako Don,” which is a bowl of sushi rice with salmon and roe and wasabi. I LOVE wasabi. Just a note, in case you ever feel the urge to sushi brunch it up in DC: coffee is not on the menu, but they do have it (hallelujah!) – just ask.

Sunday afternoon I went on a little run and a misty rainy bike ride (the Southwest Waterfront smells exponentially better in the winter than in the summer!), and then headed to Christmas Party #2. This was technically an Ugly Sweater Party. At one point I did own an amazing ugly sweater, but alas I think I left it in Boston. So I wore what I like to think of as a cute Christmas sweater, brought some of the ganache cookies, and enjoyed some early evening eggnog and chocolate.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Best of the Week #85

Thoughts/ramblings/fun things that happened this week:
  • Have you been to The Pug this December? It looks like tacky Christmas threw up on the inside and I love it. (Example to your right.)
  • Toki Underground is still delicious. I went with the Kimchi Ramen this time. I do not regret it.
  • The Human Rights First Summit (at the Newseum), featured John McCain and Samantha Power as keynote speakers. 
    • John McCain: “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest,” and then goes on to fault both the White House and Republicans for failing to lead on human rights, and criticize Senate Republicans for voting down the Disability Treaty. Also: “there is not just a longing for human rights but a longing for American leadership on behalf of them.”
    • Samantha Power: “We would be better off trying to fix [the UN human rights] council from the inside rather than lobbing criticisms from without.”
  • SpeedyKate and I hosted a viewing of Muppet Christmas Carol. I have had this song stuck in my head ever since. 
  • The annual CAR (Capital Area Runners) holiday party was quite the runner soiree, per usual. “Huh...I’ve only ever seen you in spandex,” was said to me by multiple people. 
  • Oh and work took a turn for the crazytown, but we released this report quoting George Clooney (no, I do not get to meet him.): "Razing a village is a war crime, and the torching of now at least 26 Nuban villages, plus the systematic destruction of crops and grasslands for cattle, is a crime against humanity. What we’re seeing here is a widespread campaign of village and crop burning.”
Enough of that silliness. And on to more silliness. Here’s your Best of the Week! It’s a bit video/music-heavy this week…so get excited!

Mariah  Carey, Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots made my Wednesday with this video.

Mustache implants. SERIOUSLY?!?
  • Turkish plastic surgeon Selahattin Tulunay says the number of mustache implants he performs has boomed in the last few years. He now performs 50-60 of the procedures a month, on patients who hail mostly from the Middle East and travel to Turkey as medical tourists.
"Pelicans Are Awesome: A Defense Of The NBA’s Best New Team Name"

  • The Pelicans are here to assure you that your mascot can have a killer instinct and local significance without appealing to a fourth-grader's sensibilities.
  • Here's a montage of pelican attacks. God, they're badass.
  • They're so noble, they're pretty much deities. During times of famine, it was said, the mother pelican would draw her own blood to feed her young, and the early church quickly adopted the pelican as a symbol for the Christ. Do you see anyone worshipping a seahawk? You do not.
I find this too funny:

Stacey Cook gets 2nd in Lake Louise Downhill World Cup. Two days in a row! (Day 1 and Day 2.) AWESOME. Who wants to go skiing???

‘Tis the season for gingerbread houses. This guy’s are awesome.

  • Will Cotton may be most famous for art-directing Katy Perry's "California Gurls" video, but to me, he'll always be first and foremost the creator of some of the most charming gingerbread houses — and chalets and cottages — the world has ever seen. Did you know he actually builds the gingerbread houses and their alpine settings and then does his paintings of them? My kind of guy.
Cutestpaw: like Pinterest but only for adorable animals. No words, only emotions.

Wise words: “A 2-Step Plan for Getting What You Want.”
  • I figured out what I wanted.
  • Then I stopped doing things that didn't get me closer to that goal.
Could there possibly be anything more addicting than this (Biscoff Cinnamon Muddy Buddies)? Maybe no…

Very stereotypical…but also accurate and therefore funny: “What If Men and Women Switched Roles at the Gym? [Video].”

A deep and important piece from The New Yorker: “A Chunky History of Peanut butter.”
  • Peanut butter, the everyman staple, which contains neither butter nor nuts (peanuts are legumes), originated as a health food of the upper classes.
  • Canadians eat it for breakfast; Haitians call it mamba and buy it, freshly pulverized, from street vendors; it is popular in the Netherlands, where it is known as pindakaas, or peanut cheese. Peanut butter is also increasingly found in the Saudi Arabian diet, thanks, in part, to expatriate oil workers. Nevertheless, it remains, in Krampner’s phrase, an “all-American food.”
And finally, this is so catchy. I challenge you to listen and not want to dance. “Every Pop Song You Could Ever Want, In One Video.”

Hope you survive your Friday and have a great weekend!