Spring Garden 2017

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The weather is finally getting warmer, and I can’t wait for the 70-degree days predicted later this week. I’ve been getting outside more often. We recently completed our second attempt at the TD five-borough, forty-mile bike tour, ran our favorite chocolate 5k, and visited the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens (more about all of those in posts to come soon). And just yesterday we finally got in the garden—weeding and pruning and turning the soil and adding a bunch of new little plants that I can’t wait to watch grow!

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We haven’t yet transplanted the ones that dad’s been nursing from seeds because they’re too small, so we saved some space for them in our second planter. We have our usual herbs: sage and lilac and chives and mint that all resurfaced from last year, as well as some sweet basil, purple basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill. This year we really want to have more of a veggie haul, so we focused a bit more on those: snap peas, green beans, red and yellow bell peppers, five varieties of tomato, three types of eggplant (black, white, and Japanese), two types of squash, onions…and watermelon!

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I’m not sure that the watermelon will actually grow very well, but we figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It would be so awesome to have a fresh-from-the-garden watermelon! We’ve also got blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and black raspberries all growing on the side of the house; I’m hopeful that the black raspberry bush will actually start yielding some fruit this year. I’m excited to start taking care of the garden and spending the rest of the spring with my hands in the dirt. And I can’t wait to hear what everyone else is growing this year!

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Easter Baking to Celebrate Spring

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Though the Christmas season is my favorite time of year, Easter takes a close second place in the holiday hierarchy because it’s filled with so much joy, from uplifting songs at church to green buds on the trees. As Christ arose from death, the world is waking up: I can hear birds chirping in the morning while I get ready for work. The weather no longer requires a coat and scarf and gloves and hat and double socks. All of that makes me want to celebrate—and how better to express my delight than with some Easter baking?

This year mom made all the dinner dishes while I tackled the desserts: brownies, a fruit & yogurt tart, a lemony cheesecake, and a banana cream pie. I spent all day in the kitchen on the Saturday before Easter, and it was wonderful! Todd helped with the baking, and together we listened to several Disney soundtracks, including my top two favorites, Moana and Pocahontas. I probably annoyed Todd with my…let’s just say overly enthusiastic…singing (to the same song three times in a row), but he barely complained. And he even decorated a super cute Easter egg for me later that night. He’s too good for me!!

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Cute egg Todd made for me: the two of us holding hands in a hot air balloon with a rabbit on it.

I considered providing all of the dessert recipes here, but then thought that might be information overload, so instead I’ll just share my thoughts on each; if anyone is interested in the recipes, let me know and I can write up a separate post for that particular one.

The brownies were the first of my four projects. I followed the “signature” recipe from Butter & Chocolate by Sheila G. Mains, the creator of the popular Brownie Brittle snack. You know that debate between cocoa powder or chocolate chips? This recipe solves it by using both—resulting in decadent, fudgy, delicious brownies. I stacked my two heart-shaped brownie cakes and slathered store-bought dark chocolate frosting over them.

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Next up was the fruit tart: the puff pastry exterior only required thawing and baking, and I topped the cooked dough with a mixture of Siggi’s plain and Chobani vanilla yogurt. Then I layered on some fruit and drizzled honey over it, and voila! Done! So easy it only took two sentences to explain. Plus it was relatively healthy, and the tart flavors of the yogurt helped balance out the sweetness of the other three desserts.

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The cheesecake required a bit more effort: I had to first make the lemon curd glaze and leave it to cool in the fridge for four hours. While it cooled, I made the cheesecake itself, using a copycat recipe of the Cheesecake Factory’s vanilla bean cheesecake. I refuse to go through the effort of a water bath (plus I don’t like how soft it can leave the cheesecake), so mine cracked a bit, but since I planned to cover it anyway, I didn’t worry too much. Once it cooled, I topped it with the lemon glaze and fresh blueberries. Oh, and a carrot cake Hershey’s kiss to represent Jesus on the cross haha.

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The banana cream pie took the most work, but it was also most worth it. I’d never made this particular dessert before, and it was a bit of a learning curve when it came to whisking the custard to just the right consistency. I layered the banana-vanilla custard with fresh bananas in a crust made of crushed pretzels, peanuts, and peanut butter, with a bittersweet chocolate bottom. Then I made a super easy whipped topping and finished it off with a garnish of chocolate shavings. I was really proud of the finished pie, and I was glad to hear on Easter that everyone liked it!

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What did you make for Easter? What’s your favorite part of the holiday?

 

Running in Winter: My Motivation

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I didn’t run very much or very often over the holiday season. Instead, I baked cherry oat bread, feasted on lobster, and practiced yoga—all of which I enjoyed immensely but didn’t leave me with the elation or satisfaction I experience after a good run. I wanted to run more in the new year, and today I received an acknowledgement of my progress in the form of a Nike+ badge for running five weeks in a row.

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