jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Almond flour shortbread

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Gluten-free, practically sugar-free, and quite tasty!

2-1/2 c blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 Tablespoons melted and cooled butter (I prefer unsalted.)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey (you can leave this out entirely if you prefer a more savory treat.)
1 c chocolate chunks (I use bittersweet)

Stir dry ingredients together. Add butter, vanilla and syrup if desired. Add chocolate chunks. Form into balls and press onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for around 10-12 minutes or until very slightly crisp (these will not rise). Allow to cool before removing from sheet.


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Homemade granola

I know that when times are tough, it is not enough to offer a granola recipe. I know that making or eating granola won’t really help.

But honestly, I don’t know what else to do. And maybe having a little something will help fortify and sustain those of us who need it right now. A little protein, a little sweetness, a little comfort until we can make it through the initial pain and figure out what to do next.

This granola isn’t the clumpy kind, and it has a high proportion of nuts and fruit to oats. You could certainly modify it by adding more oats, or fewer nuts, or egg whites to make it clumpy. There is very little sweetener, and you could leave this out entirely since the dates make this granola fairly sweet to begin with.

This is an easy recipe if you have a food processor. With my weak left hand, I think a food processor is a necessity, but I imagine there are some brave folks out there who would chop everything by hand. If you are one of them, I think it would be a matter of chopping everything first and then adding in wet ingredients and then oats.

Nutty Granola

1 cup dates
1 cup almonds (you can use different nuts, or fewer nuts)
1 cup pecans
1 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup oil (I used avocado; coconut oil would work too)
a splash of honey or maple syrup
3 cups oats
dried fruit

In a food processor, chop up the dates loosely and then add the almonds and other nuts and chop some more (chopping them all at once will prevent having the dates clump up too much). Add coconut, oil, and sweetener if desired, and mix some more. In a large bowl, blend oats with nut mix. Place on rimmed cookie sheet or in large baking pan.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for around 15-20 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 5-10 minutes, depending on how anxious you are. Watch the final stages carefully so that the granola doesn’t burn, and take out when it is about 3/4 golden brown. Add dried fruit if desired (I use craisins).

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So here’s the granola. And because that’s not enough, here’s a meditation.

May you be safe.
May you be peaceful.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be free from suffering.

If you skate, may you skate long. And prosper.


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Lovely guacamole

Happy Halloween! So I was waiting at a local bakery/coffeeshop to pick up my son after school and decided to get me one of these cupcakes. It looked delicious, but I actually was quite disappointed as soon as I took a bite of it. The cake part was dry, and the frosting was too cold and just too sugary.

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I did manage to choke the cake part down, though. Funny how late-afternoon chocolate does that to you. But I was sorry afterwards, since I am trying to keep my sugar intake low for a reason.

Lesson learned: better stick to guacamole. Years ago at our local co-op was passing out samples of their “tropical” guacamole recipe, which I have since made many times. This particular recipe makes a lot of guacamole, which is perfect for parties. But I have made much smaller batches of both this and my much more pared-down basic version (pictured here).

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Your Basic Guacamole

1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/8 – 1/4 red onion (chopped fine)
1/4 red bell pepper (chopped fine)
2 ripe avocados (chunks)
1-3 teaspoons lime juice (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Mash up avocados and mix with other ingredients.

Wedge Tropical Guacamole

6 ripe avocados, chunks
4 tomatoes, chunks
2 ripe mangos, chunks and juice
1 honeybell tangelo, juice
6 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (more if you want it hotter)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons cumin
2 Tablespoons salt
black pepper to taste

Put avocado chunks, garlic, red onion, cilantro, tangelo juices and spices in a large bowl. With a fork, stir until creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended. Be careful not to break up the mangoes and tomatoes too much.

It’s disturbing how quickly five people can devour this guacamole.


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Gazpacho with lots of tomatoes

So my sons are both out of elementary school, but I maintained my loyalty to their former school’s spring plant sale anyway (a decade’s worth of habits die hard). One of the things I bought was a six-pack of different tomato plants.

Now I know that six tomato plants is too many, even for a family that likes tomatoes. My older son used to just eat cherry tomatoes like candy. As a toddler, I would take him to the local co-op, put him in the grocery cart seat and give him a carton of organic cherry tomatoes to munch on while we shopped. Still, in past years I’ve limited myself to just two plants of heritage tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Plenty.

But this year the combination of winter and the tempting array of tomatoes in the pictures (Big Boy! Super Sweet! Those cool yellow ones!) on the order form was too much for me. And now I am seeing the consequences of my lack of restraint. So many tomatoes, all ripe at once. I filled up a big colander just a few days ago and will need to go out again very soon.

So what does this have to do with skating? Biting off more than I can chew? Too many things to work on? Actually not much, but I wanted to share my gazpacho recipe. It’s adapted from an old copy of The Colorado Cache Cookbook that I got many years ago.

Gazpacho with lots of tomatoes

2-3 big tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 c. or more green onion
1 green or red or yellow or orange pepper
2 avocados (I didn’t have these, but it was just fine without them)
1 cup celery (I’m not a fan of celery, so just left this one out too. Just fine.)
Lots of other tomatoes (the recipe calls for 4 cups of tomato juice, but I just threw all these tomatoes into the food processor instead. Slightly chunkier consistency, but really tasty.)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
a dash or two of black pepper
Chop up the first six ingredients into pretty small pieces (especially the green pepper), then add the others and chill.

Yes, it’s that easy, aside from the chopping. And it’s great for a hot summer day, as if skating weren’t chill enough.IMG_5713

 


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At the boards

So I went to slice up some chicken for my favorite chicken shawarma recipe today. So easy, so quick–unless you get distracted. After a minute of doing this, I realized that I was using the wrong side of the knife. Nice indentation, but no results. Luckily once I realized what I was doing, the rest of the cutting was easy. Into the marinade went the chicken, and now, a few hours later, I just popped it in the oven. Delicious!

Similarly, I have been realizing that some of my many skating faux pas involve some basic errors in position and their accompanying misconceptions. Take that cross behind (tuck behind) from forward outside to forward inside. I was trying to cross by putting one leg in back of the other, which leads to both inconsistent and precarious edges. The correct position is knees basically side-by-side (although one is slightly back) rather than one behind the other.

Every so often my coaches tell me to go over to the boards and I know it’s going to be some  fundamental correction. For cross behinds, Laurie is having me practice (1) the action of bringing in my new skate so that I touch my ankle to the back of the old skate, (2) getting my new skate in the correct position (heel down), and (3) simply bringing up the old skate, rather than trying to step forward onto it.

(That last move feels like I’m rubbing my calves and shins together, which makes me wonder if some of these errors have developed out of a body-aversion thing in which I have successfully avoided ever really bringing my feet together–but I’ll save that for another post, maybe post-therapy.)

Once I am board-certified in these positions (haha!), I try to do the same thing moving on the ice. Whoa, that was scary!

Sometimes the benefits of these corrections don’t kick in until much later. For some time now, I have been trying to get better lean on my edges, mostly by changing my upper body position.  But the aha! moment on my lesson this week was when Laurie told me to try pushing my skating hip down and out farther into the circle underneath me. Voilà, much better lean!

I remember an earlier lesson with Laurie on this position at the boards (as well as a scary exhilarating lesson with Ari on progressives on a circle in which he pushed on my hip to try to get me to feel this position). So now it’s finally kicking in. Hooray!

Better lean makes for some really enjoyable edges. Can’t wait to try this out this week–and eat that leftover chicken shawarma when I get done. One basic rule that we learn both at and away from the boards: hungry skaters need fuel!

 


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Pi day plans gang aft agley

First of all, happy pi day! Two quick and easy pies this year: a chocolate chip cookie pie and a bittersweet chocolate pie on a coconut crust. The former is for my two teenage sons and the latter is for my husband and me (we are doing gluten-free and low sugar these days).

Here’s a couple of pictures and the basic recipes.

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Chocolate chip cookie pie (no crust)

2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8 inch pie plate. Beat eggs until frothy. Add in flour, brown sugar, and sugar. Mix in butter. Add chocolate chips. Spread in pie plate and bake for 35-45 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

 

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Bittersweet chocolate pie with coconut crust

Coconut crust: Mix 1-1/2 cups coconut (I used half unsweetened and half sweetened) with 3 tablespoons of butter. Press into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool crust, then fill with a round of bittersweet chocolate pudding and chill. Serve with whipped cream.

I was really looking forward to this week of skating, since I am on spring break. Last week I finally got my skates sharpened and was feeling pretty good. But wouldn’t you know it, last Thursday I was doing power pulls on my newly sharpened skates and caught an edge. Down I fell! and bruised my tailbone and right thigh this time. Fortunately this was not as bad as the bruise I got in January, but it is enough to make me contemplate wearing pads.

Ouch redux! So I have been a little tentative on my right side this week (maybe this will force me to work harder on my left side). I have also gotten behind on this blog because even thinking about skating made me feel more bruised.

I am feeling much better today. Pi(e) helps!

So do a couple of good lessons (which I will detail in a future post) and this note of wisdom from poet Robert Burns, from his classic “To a Mouse” (he has just destroyed the home of this “Wee, sleeket, cowran, timorous beastie”):

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
          But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
          An’ cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!

Everyone has grief and pain sometimes. But not everyone celebrates January 25, Bobby Burns Day, with the dread haggis. I’ll take pie anytime!

 


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More Bitter Than Sweet Chocolate Pudding

Deep cravings for pudding? Thinking about going over to the dark side of chocolate? Here it is, sans wobble.

This is a variation on a recipe I found on a blog called “Almost Slowfood“; it was inspired by Karen DeMasco’s recipe for chocolate pudding in The Craft of Baking. DeMasco bakes hers in a water bath, but Peggy Boujaily does hers with semisweet chocolate on the stove.

No added sugar, so it’s much more bittersweet than the average chocolate pudding. I can actually eat this and then eat an orange afterwards without going into major mouth-pucker mode. I don’t think it’s too bitter, but my sons do, opting instead for the wonderful chocolate chip cookie dough pudding that Eva makes when she’s not too busy skating. That’s okay; this way my husband and I have the entire batch to ourselves and everyone is pudding-happy.

More Bitter Than Sweet Chocolate Pudding

2-3 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (70% or more). Since my variation has no additional sugar, you may want to add 2 oz. first and then taste test.
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (DeMasco uses 1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped, with seeds reserved)
2 moderate pinches salt
2 large egg yolks (in a separate bowl if you are making this on the stove)

For the oven version, preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Add the cream, milk, vanilla and salt to a medium pot. Set over a medium high heat and stir until nearly boiling. Add the chocolate and stir continuously until melted.

Dip a ladle into the chocolate mixture and very very slowly add to the egg yolks while vigorously whisking; for me, this worked much better with a kitchen helper since I have trouble pouring slowly while whisking vigorously (no wonder skating is a challenge). Whisk the egg yolk mixture well and then pour it all back into the pot.

If you are doing this on the stove, moderately boil the pudding (and keep whisking!) for a few minutes until it feels thickened. You’ll feel a difference almost immediately once the egg yolk mixture is added. Then remove from the heat and pour into serving dishes and refrigerate until set.

If you are doing it in the oven, individual ramekins go into a water bath and then into a preheated over for 20 minutes. Then chill before serving, unless warm pudding is your thing.

I like this plain, but the rest of my family goes for whipped cream and maybe some strawberries.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Valentine’s Day Tree on Summit Avenue in St. Paul