productivity Archives | The Pickled Ginger


Fluffy Moist Lemon Cupcakes with Lavender Buttercream Icing

by ColleenTags: , , , Categories: Recipes

We’ve already established my love of cake and baking, right? Well, I’m coming at you with another great recipe. This one is a bit exotic though, and not for everyone. Are you ready? Here goes: Fluffy, moist, lemony cupcakes with delicate lavender-infused buttercream icing. Can you handle it? If so, read on!

This very simple recipe starts with a delicate white cake flavored with real lemon juice and lemon zest, then topped with a basic American buttercream infused with perfumy lavender. Now admittedly, I am not a huge fan of lavender in food, but my husband and daughter just can’t get enough. What we can agree on, however, is that the contrasts in flavors between the zesty cake and the sweet icing perfectly compliment each another.

Here are the ingredients:

For the cake:

Helpful Hint: For optimal results, please let all of your ingredients come to room temperature. This allows everything to mix well without separating, and really helps your cakes to get a good rise!

• 2 cups of cake flour (the low gluten content of cake flour makes this cake super fluffy, so for best results, cake flour is necessary)
• 1 ½ cups of sugar
• 2 ¼ teaspoons of baking powder
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• 2 large eggs
• ¼ cup whole milk
• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
• ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
• The juice and zest of one large lemon
• One tablespoon organic dried lavender (I got mine at Whole Foods Market) and/or good quality food-grade lavender essential oil (I get mine at Vitamin Shop or Whole Foods Market or my local co op)
I use a stand mixer, but you could certainly use a hand mixer if that is what you have.

After lining your muffin tins with muffin papers and preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, start by combining flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

Add in your butter and coconut milk and beat for a good 2 to 3 minutes in your stand mixer (or with your hand mixer). After 3 minutes, your mixture should be smooth and fluffy.

 

mixing bowl

 

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and whole milk together, add in your grated lemon zest and lemon juice. Make sure your lemon is also room temperature to get the most juice. I also like to roll my lemon firmly on the counter a few times just to release the juices and oils to get the most from it.

Add your milk, egg and lemon mixture into the fluffy batter and mix just until well incorporated. The less you mess with eggs, the softer and fluffier your cupcakes will be. Just make sure they are well incorporated into your batter.

Use an ice cream scoop to fill your muffin tins ¾ of the way full. I’ve made the mistake of overfilling my muffin tins before and the mess is a pain to clean up.

 

caketins

 

Once filled, tap muffin tins gently on the counter to release air bubbles, then place in preheated oven and bake.

I managed to get 17 cupcakes from this batter and they took 12 minutes to bake, but I highly suggest relying on your eyes than a timer to tell you when these cakes are done. Their little domed tops should still be fairly white with barely a hint of color around the edges and the top should spring back when you gently press with your fingertip. This batch pictured was a little overcooked, resulting in an almost crunchy top, while the cake underneath was perfectly moist, tender and fluffy. I should have pulled them out at 11 minutes, maybe even 10. A mere minute can make a huge difference, so really keep an eye on your cupcakes.

 

coolingrack

 

After letting them cool completely on a rack, mix up your favorite buttercream frosting. I didn’t include a recipe in this post simply because I’ve experimented with several different icings, they all work, and everyone has a favorite. For the classic American buttercream icing, simply warm your whole milk or cream (whichever you use) gently with the dried lavender. Then pull off of the stove and let the lavender steep for 20 minutes. Strain the milk/cream through a fine sieve to get rid of the lavender bits and incorporate into your buttercream mixture. If you prefer a stronger lavender flavor, put a drop or two of the essential oil into the mixture. A little goes a long way, so always start out with less and incorporate more as you need.  I ended up using the lavender-infused cream and the essential oil.  I would have been fine with one or the other; my family loved the stronger flavor.

I also made a version with a Swiss meringue buttercream and just used the essential oil. Both versions were a hit with my friends and family.

If you desire, you can put a drop of lavender food coloring (or combine a drop each of red and blue) to give your buttercream color.

 

icedcakes

 

Top your cupcakes and enjoy!


One-Pallet Wonder – Spice Rack

by ColleenTags: , , , , , , , , Categories: DIY

I think I could probably function optimally if I had the luxury of hibernating all year long, awaking only for the fall season. Is that so insane? Or better yet, if three seasons out of the year were autumn-like, breaking for one month for a glorious snowy winter. I know there are too many obstacles to the practicality of this scenario, such as the obvious need for the spring and summer seasons to bring forth the beautiful leaves that eventually don their gold and scarlet hues, but a girl can dream, right?

What I’m saying, in a very verbose way, is that I feel so much more productive right now than any other time of the year. I’m still keeping on track with my weight loss journey, but I feel less obsessive about documenting it right now because I’ve got much more interesting ideas and projects on my brain. I’m getting organized too, which is really helpful to me when it comes to weight loss.

One of the organizational projects I’ve been working on is my kitchen. We’re renting, which has been really great, as we’ve been fortunate enough to have the most awesome landlord anyone could ask for. But as any renter knows, renting customarily severely limits your options when it comes to remodeling. In our case, the pink-and-blue flowered 1980’s styled wallpaper and giant white porcelain cabinet knobs were too much to bear and our landlord wholeheartedly supported our efforts to strip and paint the kitchen walls, and to replace the cabinet hardware with something less dated, like simple brushed nickel.

I have a lot of cookware and kitchen appliances and limited space; and if I’m honest, I’ve let quite a few of our kitchen cabinets become overrun with junk in the past 8 years that we’ve lived here. A perfect example is my “spice” cupboard, which very quickly became a spice-medicine-vitamins-and-any-other-junk-I could-shove-in-there cabinet. Yeah, it got really bad. After months of poring over Pinterest pins, I became obsessed with the idea of an organized spice rack made from pallet wood.

After securing a nice rough pallet from a friend, I proceeded to spend 3 months arguing with my husband over how to proceed. I could not find plans for a spice rack that suited me. I do a lot of cooking and baking and possess a wide variety of exotic spices, and as my goal was to completely clean out that darned cabinet, it was imperative that my rack be large enough to house my collection. Additionally – and this is where the arguing with my DH came in – it was my goal that the rack be made solely of the material from the one pallet.

Well, my babe came through for me. After roughing out a 3D model of his plans, he set to work prying apart and rearranging boards. As the pallet was a bit rough (which I personally loved), I decided on a distressed whitewashed finish, which goes along nicely with the look of my kitchen. I didn’t think to get a before shot of the pallet, but here is a shot of the shelf whilst being whitewashed.

rack

After being anchored to the wall, I transferred my spices to some tiny adorable glass canisters that I found on Amazon and labeled them with chalkboard stickers. I think the end result was really adorable (Actually, I think I’m going to touch up the paint in some areas yet). Also, I found some cute vintage fleur-de-lis hooks that I think I’m going to attach to the bottom to hang some measuring spoons and pot holders.

In addition to feeling better about my organized spices, I now have an entire cabinet that I can now dedicate to tea cups and coffee mugs for enjoying hot beverages on these cool fall evenings. It’s a win-win!!

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Transformation Tuesday 8/18 and Photo: I’m Still Here!

by ColleenTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Weight Loss Journey Progress

It is with agonizing humility that I return here to pick up where I left off. I realize it’s almost 2 months since my last post, and every tortuous Tuesday that has passed by with my own radio silence has rung out as silent defeat to my ears. I’ve had on and off (mostly off) days/weeks. Sugar-fueled weekends turned into weeks, and the internal rally to get up and move! went largely ignored by my senses, dulled by idleness, wine, chocolate, and angst over the minutia of life.

But I’m nothing if not persistent. I’ve not given up. I’ve renewed my renouncement of my drug and have managed to conquer 3 whole days with no sugar, with Day 4 just hours away from being ass-whooped.

And so it was, with little enthusiasm but a hopeful heart, that this morning I donned my Guinness T-shirt and jean shorts, took a jaunt to the scale and then outside for my Transformation Tuesday photo.

 

4

 

Surprisingly, I’m 10 pounds lighter than when I first started this journey. I’m currently at 320. So that means that I must have managed to rid myself of 3 pounds during the past couple months.  My initial reaction to this photo was incredible disappointment, but then I took a moment to compare all of my progress photos thus far, and I observed something:  My fat rolls are definitely creeping south, drastically so.  So there is either less fat or less water retention buoying those puppies up.  It’s a snail’s pace but beyond my expectations, so I’ll take it!

I started my weight training regime again two days ago (a maneuver that instantaneously improved my sleep quality), and the intention is to continue building muscle whilst managing my eating.

Can I just tell you that I’m headed out of town for a beloved cousin’s wedding this weekend and I’m terrified? I know it’s going to be a wine-and-cake kind of weekend and I will let you know up front that I will be partaking. It’s how we celebrate everything and it’s been so long since I’ve seen my family. And I want to. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it?

Do I have a plan? Yes. Well, sort of. Just jump back on track Monday. I’ve already recruited my husband as my accountability partner, a task he seems to be all too eager to take on (I suppose I’ll forgive him), as well as committed to updating you the following day, Tuesday, August 25, 2015.

So until then, thank you for sticking with me and have an incredible week!


Rediscover Your Productivity While Working from Home!

by ColleenTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Work-at-home Tips,Working from Home

From time to time, I find myself feeling a little frustrated when I don’t quite “have it all together.”  Case in point, I’m currently sitting in my home office which very visibly has not been vacuumed since my return from vacation nearly a week ago; the mail basket sitting on my desk is overflowing with envelopes I’ve yet to open; my voice mail box is so full it can’t take any new messages; and I’m sipping coffee from one of 3 drinking vessels left on my work station during the course of the week.  (About 10 minutes ago, I picked up the wrong mug.  Ugh!)
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How to Determine what to Charge for your VA (Or Any Other) Services

by ColleenTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Tips on Working from Home,Virtual Assistant,Working from Home

For a few years, a sizable portion of my income while working from home was made as a VA (virtual assistant).  While I did well and worked with some wonderful individuals (partners as well as clients), I soon became dispassionate about my work.  I was stubborn and slow to accept and learn about blogging as an important facet of running a successful business and I was overwhelmed by social media in general.  I’m not as stubborn as I formerly was regarding these common business tools, and while I still have so much learn about them, I am genuinely making the effort.
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