Our Backyard Garden

Good Evening! It’s Wednesday night already! This week is FLYING. Aaron is at class right now though he should be heading home pretty soon. I’m blogging from my bedroom because it’s the only air conditioned room in the house and it’s been 90+ degrees the last few days here!

The last couple of weekends, Aaron and I have spent a lot of time in the backyard building raised beds and planting our first garden.

It started out with building walls around our weeds.   

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Then it became digging up half of our yard and dumping it over the hillside.

Plus some weed and feed which promptly killed about 50% of our yard because it was about 50% weeds.

Then some grass seed.

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Plus edging our little walkway. And then we were ready to plant!

For those of you who don’t know, we live next door to a cemetery.

Perhaps this is why the soil seems so fertile.

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So we planted about a week and half ago now. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures that first day but the plants have been growing like CRAZY lately especially the zucchini which is seriously crowding the tomatoes.

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We planted about 9 tomatoes plants (3 kinds), 4 pepper plants (2 kinds), zucchini, eggplant, basil, and kale.

It was super windy today so I staked them with a couple of random dowel rods and some quarter round that I ripped out of the dining room the other day.

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The kale, basil and eggplant are in the little garden. The only thing that doesn’t seem to be growing that well is the eggplant. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a later season thing?

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I also took to the spray paint again. This would be the third thing I’ve spray painted white this week. I spray painted two shelves white for the bathroom, our giant Goodwill mirror for the bedroom and now the vents and outlet covers for the dining room. The vent covers were super dirty and rusty so Aaron cleaned them today then I sprayed them. They look great and we saved a little money by not buying new ones.

The outlet covers were sort of yellowy/beige probably because they are about 50 years old but now they’re shiny and white again!

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I also baked cupcakes for a neighbor’s dinner party a couple of weeks ago that I don’t think I ever posted.

Chocolate cake, filled with raspberry and then chocolate buttercream. Fondant flowers on top.

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This would be my sad attempt at staging food photography. I’m trying.

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Alright that’s about it for now. We’ve been taking many pictures of the progress in the dining room but I’m going to wait to post until it’s finished. We have a few more steps that we might be able to accomplish this weekend then it’ll be done!

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Chocolate/Chocolate Cupcakes & Vanilla/Strawberry Cupcakes

Good Morning!

I’m sooo happy the week is almost over. AH! Last night I baked cupcakes for a 30th birthday. I baked dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream and vanilla cupcakes filled with strawberry filling and covered with strawberry buttercream.

I made cake toppers out of fondant. The blue and yellow ones say Happy Birthday Dana and then I made a few flowers and then I also made a TINY kayak, tennis racket and climbing wall. Oh my gosh these were so hard to make! They’re seriously tiny. I kept smashing the little climbing person and had to remake her. AH!

Chocolate on chocolate with a few chocolate sprinkles on top:

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Tiny kayak, climbing wall and tennis racket:

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See the tiny climber?
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I tried to put some non-pareils on these also but they wouldn’t really stick.

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Packaged and ready to go:
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Alright time for me to get ready for work. I have to make ten cake pops this evening for Friday but then no baking this weekend I think! Aaron and I don’t have any plans Saturday but then we’re running the Great Race 10k on Sunday!!

Have a good Thursday!

Wedding Cupcakes Take 2

This past weekend, I spent a good amount of time working on the dreaded wedding cupcake flowers. I had originally intended to make 150 beautiful, perfectly uniform sugar paste roses for each of the cupcakes. That idea went out the window after three failed attempts. Instead, I made daises. Lots and lots of daises. MUCH easier. It actually wasn’t too bad once I got started. Gluing on (with dots of water) the little tiny white pearls in the center of each was pretty tedious but it’s DONE!

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Then I tested a vanilla cupcake recipe. I narrowed it down to three different recipes and but was so happy with the results of this recipe that I’m not even trying the others. These cupcakes are not too sweet and dense enough to hold a filling but not of muffin density. They baked into perfect little rounded tops and did not fall flat after I took them out of the oven. I used this recipe for the cake and this recipe for the butter cream. I filled them with blackberry jam. I tried to fill them with a tiny pastry tip but the blackberry seeds got stuck in the tip. I’m going to get seedless jam for the wedding but for this batch, I cut a little cone out of the top of each, spooned a bit of jam in and replaced the little cone. Otherwise though, both the cupcake and frosting recipes came out perfectly. The recipe made exactly 12 cupcakes at 50 grams each. Yes, I weighed them… I piped the frosting on with my brand new Wilton 1M open star pastry tip. I’m in love.

And the pictures for you:

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Wedding Cupcakes Take 1

Well I spent a good portion of the day making cupcakes. Three batches to be exact. The first ones were a big failure. Huge failure. I concluded that it was the stupid cupcake liners that I had purchased for the wedding. They don’t work! They make the cupcakes fall flat and crack. Soo batch number two was baked in normal cupcake liners and they faired a little better but I wasn’t pleased with the light and fluffy cake that it produced.

At this point (with about 20 cupcakes in the trash), I consulted my cookbooks and a few blogs and decided on a different recipe. Of course I ran out of SUGAR so I walked to Giant Eagle to get that and a few other ingredients.

An hour later I was back at my apartment and ready to tackle batch number 3. These ones turned out much better! They were still not quite as dense as I like but the recipe was much easier and didn’t flatten out too much. The recipe yielded 16 cupcakes. I let them cool and then filled them with some strawberry jam. No clue what I was doing… I’ve never filled cupcakes before. I used a tiny pastry tip in the corner of a ziploc baggie and just squeezed some jam into each. It seemed to work pretty well.

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Close up:

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Then I made some butter cream frosting, tinted it green and frosted about a dozen of the cupcakes:

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I had made three sugar paste flowers a few days ago. I’m still working on mastering that but I’ve made some progress. Hopefully they’ll look better by the wedding. It’s a start though. I also need to tweak the frosting so it pipes more smoothly.

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All in all, I’m pretty pleased. My kitchen is a huge mess, a tasted too many cupcakes, and I have jelly on my elbow but yeah, pretty pleased.

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I have declared next weekend, WEDDING CUPCAKE NIGHTMARE.

Please join me next weekend as I tackle carrot cupcakes, butter cream take 2, and the saga of the sugar paste roses.

Sun glare will become a problem today in Pittsburgh

It’s Tuesday. I can’t WAIT for the weekend. Nothing too exciting going on though. I think I’m going to try my hand at some Tartelette macarons so stay tuned for that very exciting post. It’s Easter weekend so there will be some new family time and sunrise Church service and probably some finishing of my taxes. Also, there will be basking in the glorious Pittsburgh weather.

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What have I been up to lately? Well, Aaron broke his finger. He has a lovely green cast now which I took a sharpie to…

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We had thai food at Thai Gourmet some time last week. Shrimp Summer rolls for an appetizer:

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And then I ordered basically a giant plate of vegetables in a brown, garlicky, spicy sauce. It was delicious! I now know that I’m a fan of baby bok choy. I later wikipedia’d it and found that it’s in the cabbage family. Aaron and I kind of thought it was some type of onion. It definitely has an oniony texture. Aaron had Pad Kee Maw which I bet I spelled incorrectly.

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Thai Gourmet is sooo much better than Thai Cuisine (both on Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield) so why are there always so few people here. It’s byob!

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Our fortunes:

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Saturday afternoon I made it out for an outdoor run. It was a great run! The weather was perfect and I was listening to the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. Yayayay

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Long sleeve t-shirt and shorts running weather (plus sweet sunglasses).

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Then I made a spinach/frozen blueberries/banana/chocolate almond milk smoothie. Aaron says, “someone got mud in your glass.”

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After shower and smoothie, we met Aaron’s parents, friends and parent’s of friends for dinner at Max’s Allegheny Tavern in the North Side. I opted for the only vegetarian option, the veggie delite sandwich with a side of purple cabbage. It was actually pretty good for vegetarian food at a German restaurant. Everyone else had some form of sauebrauten/wurst/schnitzel thing.

After dinner, we didn’t feel like going home so we drove to the Waterfront and wandered around Barnes and Noble. I checked out this cookbook which looks pretty awesome.

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I’m trying to narrow down my cupcake flavors for the wedding cupcakes. I’m thinking of going with three flavors:

  • blueberry cupcake w/lemon curd filling and lemon buttercream
  • carrot cake cupcake w/ vanilla buttercream
  • chocolate cupcake w/ strawberry jam filling and champagne buttercream

Do you guys have any other ideas for flavors? I’m trying to keep all of the frosting colors pretty similar for cupcake uniformity. I like ORDER. That’s why I blog.

Okay time to get ready for work. It’s going to be 80 DEGREES in Pittsburgh this weekend!!!!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakedom

Good Morning All!

So first of all, it just occurred to me that all of these pictures are terrible. I think… my camera is still set on Night Shot.

This will soon be corrected. For now, we have some pixilated pictures.

I woke up pretty tired yesterday morning but work was so busy that it kept me awake. I had oats with peanut butter and maybe a 1/4 cup of that cereal. I’m a big fan. FLAX.

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Morning snacks included frozen strawberries and two carrots.

Then lunch was tuna and spinach on a whole wheat Arnold’s thin plus a tomato and basil salad with salt, pepper, and maybe a teaspoon of someone’s balsamic vinegar…
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After eating all of that, I was still kind of hungry so I had maybe 1/2 cup of yogurt with cinnamon. I ended up not having time to eat my afternoon snack so that worked out.

Boss came back from lunch and left sushi on my desk. Who knows why. I left it in the refrigerator at work. Maybe I’ll have it tomorrow. If not, I’ll at least photograph it.
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I got home from work at 5:30, ate some quick dinner and then started baking.

Baking wreaks havoc on my clean counters (and dishes and floor):

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I made banana chocolate chip cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday. 12 regular size + 25 minis.
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I also made a giant batch of buttercream frosting. I tinted it brown with a bit of melted and cooled chocolate.
The pastry bag that could take over the world. And frost it.
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Some cupcakes:

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I melted some chocolate and dipped/drizzled chocolate on banana chips for garnish.

Finished cupcakes:
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And ready to be lugged on the bus:
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That’s about it for now. I think I already posted this recipe because I’ve made these cupcakes about five times now. I’ll check tomorrow and post it if it’s not already up somewhere.

Have a lovely day!

It’s already Wednesday.

Easter Dinner/Carrot Cupcake RECIPE!

First of all, I never posted the rest of Easter yesterday so here you go:

For my contribution to Easter dinner, I made cupcakes!

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Mmm. I was pleased. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Big Bill’s Carrot Cake and halved the recipe, reduced the cooking time to twenty minutes and it made a perfect dozen cupcakes. I made buttered pecans (which I toasted a bit too much) for garnish.

Here is the recipe that I followed:


Bill’s Big Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream


Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
Yields 12 Cupcakes

For the cake:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4+ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
1/4 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 and 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 35o degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from pan and transfer to cooling racks.

The cupcakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice.

And for Easter dinner, we had:

  • Ham
  • Asparagus
  • Mushroom lasagna
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Rolls
  • Salad

    The lasagna was GREAT!

    Here is the table:
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    And Uncle Ed:
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    Cousin Alex:
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    Aunt Isabel (who will probably kill me for posting a picture at that angle):
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    Yay fun time! Thanks family that didn’t abandon me for Florida!