Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Brownies

I keep accidentally opening a folder on my computer that has pictures of these brownies that I took about one year ago.  I didn't like think the pictures looked good, so I wasn't going to post them, but every time, I accidentally scroll over them (like everyday)-- I want to make them and I love the pictures a tiny bit more.

Yesterday, I was so excited to find my new favorite baking chocolate, Scharffen Berger, at Target.  In honor of the score, I'm making brownies and posting this recipe.  I refuse to make brownies anymore unless it's with good chocolate.  To me, using bad chocolate is like using margarine instead of butter.

This recipe is definitely my go to brownie recipe and you won't be disappointed either.  If you are looking for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dessert, you should make these (and eat them all!)
Sweet and Salty Brownies:

1 cup sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 TBSP butter

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, chopped (60-72% chocolate)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs, room temp (important!)
2 tsp vanilla

1) Make the caramel.  Measure out heavy cream, and set aside, place butter and salt in small bowl, set aside.  In medium saucepan- preferably metal- combine sugar, corn syrup, and water- stir carefully- don't splash onto sides, it can wreck the caramel later.  Cook over medium high heat until it reaches 350' or a dark amber color (like beer)- it will take a while to turn amber, but once it does, it can get brown fast and burn.  You don't need to stir while it is heating up, maybe swirl the pan once or twice.

Once it reaches the amber color, turn off heat and slowly add cream and salt and butter- be careful because it will release a LOT of steam, the caramel may even seem to harden, just keep whisking it until smooth.  Set aside to cool while you mix the brownies.

2) Preheat the oven to 350'.

3) Grease a 9x13 baking pan.  You can also choose to line it front to back and side to side with parchment paper- I never have done this and my brownies have never stuck in the pan.

4) In a bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt- set aside.

5) Put chocolate and butter in a double boiler- set this over a pan of boiling water- stir until the chocolate and butter have melted and are smooth.  **(If you do not have a double boiler- put chocolate and butter in microwave safe bowl and microwave in 20 second increments, take out and stir each time- longer increments can result in the chocolate burning and drying out. )

6) Keep double boiler over pot of water, turn off the burner.  Add the sugar and brown sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

7) Transfer chocolate mixture to a large bowl- use a scraper to get it all out.  Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined (do not over mix here- this is the difference between gooey fudge brownies or dense cake ones).  Add the last two eggs and mix until just combined.

8) Add vanilla and whisk until combined.

9) Sprinkle flour mixture on top of chocolate mixture- fold in with a spatula or wooden spoon.  There may be small amounts of flour mixture that aren't mixed in, that is ok-Remember over mixing will result in denser brownies.

10) Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Spread about 1/2-3/4 cup of the caramel sauce around the top of the batter- stay about 1/2 " away from the edge of the batter.  Drop the rest of the batter on top of the caramel layer and use a spatula to carefully spread it out.

11) Bake the brownies for about 40-45 minutes total.  After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the pan halfway to ensure even baking.  After 35 minutes of baking, you can insert a toothpick into the center of the brownies to check for doneness- a few sticky crumbs will come out on the pick, but should not be dredged in batter.  Remember, there is caramel in there, so it will be a littly sticky-but when in doubt cook a little longer- I have made these before and taken out when they weren't done and it is hard to finish cooking a half baked batch once you realize you under baked them.

12) Remove from oven and sprinkle the top with sea salt or another coarse salt.

Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations
Caramel recipe from Bakingdom blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Born Again CrossFitter

Some of you have seen this before in an email a few months ago, but some of you haven't, and I think it's a good read.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase “born again”. 

Well, for the first time, publicly, I’d like to admit that I am a born again crossfitter.

When I started crossfit, I was a competitive runner and just a competitive person in general.  I tried to push my weights, wanted to “RX” everything, wanted to be the first one done in my class.

Then, about 10 months in, I got a shoulder injury.  At that moment in time when the MRI came back with a partial tear in my supraspinatus- I actually think time stopped for a minute.  All I could think was “ how am I going to do pull ups, how am I going to do snatch?”

With the help of an awesome PT and a LOT of patience and modifications, I never had to stop crossfitting.  I had to take 6 weeks off from many lifts and used many many bands to do pullups, but I was still able to WOD and sweat profusely every day.  You know what, you can get a damn good work out using the PVC!

I was still able to crossfit and that’s what counted.  

I was basically starting again with all the upper body lifts.  Looking back, that’s when I had an epiphany and became a new crossfitter, a better crossfitter.  

Some people look at modifications like the plague, I look at them as a learning experience.  I look at them as an opportunity to be humble and realistic that I want to be better and sometimes that means doing something different.

I became a born again crossfitter.  I still wanted to be good, but focused more on being good at my form instead of my time.  As my form gets better, so does my ability to handle more weights.  My body is getting stronger because I’m building up a strong base layer of strength.  

Instead of focusing on my time (I don’t look at the clock until I’m done)- I focus on my form.  I focus on having fun.  If you can’t have fun with it, it becomes a chore.  

Have you heard of the phrase “crossfit puts the fun back in functional”?  Well for me, being a born again crossfitter, I have fun all the time- even when I’m being tortured doing 5 million walking lunges.

I love everything just as much as I did when I started crossfit over two years ago-probably even more.  I still get nervous before doing a WOD I’ve done many times before, I still plan my day around fitting that WOD in.  For me, crossfit is an essential part of my life, I need food, water, air, sleep, and crossfit to survive. 

The only thing that changed for me over these two years, is my focus.  I went from wanting to be competitive and fast to wanting to have fun and be a more awesome person.  With my shift of focus, I’ll tell you what, my times have gone down and lifts have gone up.  

After two years, there’s a lot of things I am not good at yet, but I’m way better now than I was before I started.  I am only 38, I have plenty of time to do all the work I need to do.  I’m not going to rush to the top of the mountain without enjoying the scenery because once I get to the top, then what??

I often hear people express a struggle for motivation or that they are sad to modify.  Maybe you need to shift your focus too.  I’ve got two words for you:  “HAVE FUN”. 

This week, I encourage you to figure out how to turn a WOD you’d normally cherry pick into something fun.  You want to put in the work, you need to put in the work, make it more enjoyable and there will be endless benefits. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Underdog

The Underdog

What does this mean anyways?

noun:  a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest

a person who has little status in society

How often have you put yourself in the position of being the underdog?
It's so easy to walk into the crossfit workout and say "I'm not good at that so I'm going to have a bad score today."

If you set yourself up in public to be the underdog, you're also training your brain and your body to be the underdog.  STOP IT!

It seems to make everything go a lot smoother when you take the pressure and expectations off and go through the workout with fluff and stuff.

Being the underdog not only causes you to have an excuse to work less, but it gives some people a sense of entitlement to complain.  

"I'm not good so no one pays attention to me."  "No one wants to be my partner."  "No one will ever choose me for their team."  "No one gives me special recognition."

You know what?  The only person who invites people to the pity party is the host- burn the invitations because nobody really wants to come- not even you!

So what if you are (or consider yourself to be) the underdog.  Use it to your advantage.

Work harder.

Train your weaknesses.

Be confident about yourself.

The only approval and praise you need to keep moving is your own.  You can cheer for yourself in your head (I do it all the time- it works!).

I think being the underdog is a huge advantage.  When your hard work pays off and you rise above, proving everyone else wrong- the victory party is going to be far greater than that small pity party you've been attending.

It's not going to happen overnight, it's going to take time and hard work- but you do not have to be the underdog.

Show up and get it done!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Get Out of the Ring

I keep finding myself at the end of a boxing match and I've been beaten myself.

I keep noticing many people doing the same thing, it's so easy to win a fight when you are beating up your own self.

Well. I stepped out of the ring.   So should you.

It's just so easy to sell yourself short, to feel like you've done wrong, that you're never going to be good enough.

Trust me, I know when I've done something I wish I did not do.  This afternoon, for example, my daughter, who is going to send me to my grave early by the way, was climbing on a stool after I said no, and in slow motion, I saw her falling down- which was followed by about 20 minutes of tears, that I just didn't want to deal with.  I got really really mad at her, then that was followed by 10 minutes of guilt.

Guilt, it's pretty much the black belt of the ring.

This morning, at crossfit, I was not going to add too much weight on my barbell, I always sell myself short- I do not want to get hurt, I'm not sure I can do that, I will play it safe-.  "Self, you've been doing this for 2 years now, that is not out of your possibility", is what I should have been saying.

That's where my friend stepped in and told me that I had to do it.  She gave me the confidence to stand up and do what I knew I could do.  Had I left without attempting what I did, I would have spent the rest of the day wondering if I could have done it or maybe even slapping myself on the cheek a couple of times for backing out of it.

Slaps on the face, no one wants them, but yet, we just keep going in for more.  Seriously- stop!

You are not a bad person.  You are human.  We are going to do things, things we regret, things that make us guilty, we are going to back away from challenges- it's just going to happen.

But it's your choice, your right, and your necessity to step out of the ring, to stop taking hits to the jaw, accept what you have or have not done and move on.

Things happen and things end- MOVE ON!  Stop talking about it, stop analyzing it, you did or didn't do it and that's a fact- next time you have the chance to do it differently.  Forgive yourself for the wrong, and encourage yourself for the challenges.

If this is hard for you, get a friend.  Friends are awesome- they do things that are wrong too and they also see things in you that you do not.

No one is perfect- but no one deserves to get their ass kicked-- from their own self.

Get out of the ring and move on!