OOTD: The Gold Standard

Good Morning, everyone!

I’m not going to lie- yesterday was the third major snowstorm/blizzard that hit us head-on within a two week span- and it’s got me a little bummed out. I’m tired of shoveling. I’m tired of sliding around on ice. I’m tired of having to wear 13 layers to stay warm- and I’m anxiously waiting for Spring to get here and more importantly- STAY here.

Little by little, I’ve been trying to incorporate Spring-inspired trends into my wardrobe and accessories to brighten my outfits and my mood. Pastels, bold prints, some florals- and especially metallics- which I’ve been utilizing within my clothes and my makeup as of late.

My favorite piece right now is this gold moto jacket I actually found at Forever 21 a couple of weeks ago by sheer luck. I’d popped by the store to find a couple of t-shirts for when I work out- and noticed this gem hanging behind some semi-similar styled black leather jackets on the rack. It fits like a glove, is lined to keep me warm when I’m outdoors- and it is so shiny!

What I like best about it, though- is that it can be worn with both casual outfits- like jeans, t-shirts and ankle boots- or with fancier/professional ensembles. The black knitted mini-dress shown in the photo is one of my staples at the office this time of year- so the jacket gives it a nice, fun and unexpected pop!

While I’ve been keeping my eye makeup pretty subtle lately (mainly for work)– I’ve opted to keep up with the metallic trend on my lips. The shade above- a pink/purple sheen- is ‘Yacht Week’ by Tarte. It’s quickly become one of my favorite shades for the Spring- so expect to see a lot more of it in my social media posts/selfies (like this one!)

With the recent onslaught of Winter storms- I’ve unfortunately had to put this jacket on hold until the weather warms up again- but I’m really looking forward to wearing more of it in the coming weeks since it’s one of my most impressive and least regrettable impulse buys recently.

And now I’m off to work to catch up on the tasks I missed yesterday during our mandatory snow day- as well as some ‘Hump Day’ lunch plans!

Here’s to warmer days ahead and the weekend getting here a little sooner!

xx

– Ashley –

Comfort Food: Baked Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a chance to rest, relax, and regroup this past weekend- which I know may have been a little tricky with Daylight Savings Time throwing a wrench into everything.

I’m still a bit off, especially since I forgot to re-set my clock in my car- so when I happened to glance at it when I was halfway to the office this morning- I had a moment of panic thinking that I was somehow (and miraculously) an hour earlier than scheduled.

I’m sure I’ll get accustomed to it by the time Fall rolls around and we have to set the clocks an hour back, of course.

Anyway- this morning I have a pretty fun (and not really appropriate for those avoiding carbs, sorry!) appetizer/snack recipe that adds a fun twist on an old classic. I love pasta, and I love cheese- so homemade mac & cheese is one of my “Cheat Day” indulgences- but I never really get a chance to bake it in a way that gives me some control over portion sizes.

Until now, anyway. All you need are the below-listed ingredients and a mini-muffin tin- and you’re good to go!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound small elbow pasta
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups grated yellow cheddar cheese, divided

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease two mini-muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow pasta and cook according to the package instructions, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain.
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the milk and whisk well to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season the sauce with the cayenne pepper (if using), salt and pepper. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the white cheddar and 1½ cups of the yellow cheddar. Stir until the mixture is melted.
  7. Stir in the cooked pasta and mix until it is evenly coated with the sauce. Scoop 1½ to 2 tablespoons of the mac-and-cheese mixture into each cavity of the prepared pans.
  8. Sprinkle a few pieces of yellow cheddar on top of each mac-and-cheese bite and then transfer the pans to the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted and the bites become golden, 17 to 20 minutes.
  9. Let the bites cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and serving. Serve hot or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

I’m not ashamed to admit I ate way too many of these things when they were done- because they were so delicious and addictive! I also want to mention that I used smoked cheddar in this recipe, which gave these bites a really great and almost unexpected kick of flavor- so if anyone is feeling experimental- it’s a pretty tasty alternative to regular cheddar cheese!

I think when I make another batch of these (which I most certainly will soon!)– I’m going to add pieces of cooked bacon and maybe some diced jalapeño peppers to the mix. This is a pretty versatile recipe that you can play around with and customize- which makes it even better!

Enjoy your day, everyone! Here’s to another beautiful, brilliant week!

xx

– Ashley –

How Many More Weeks of Winter?

Good Morning, everyone!

No, the photo above isn’t a snapshot from December that I waited to post ’til now- but was actually taken yesterday morning during a break from shoveling my way out of the aftermath of Winter Storm Quinn- which dumped just under two feet of snow on my neighborhood.

After the “thunder snow” (a thunderstorm within a blizzard) passed- the cleanup of powder, downed trees and power lines was completed surprisingly quickly! The temperatures have thankfully been on the warmer side, too- so a lot of this should hopefully melt within the next few days- or at least until the next storm, rumored to hit on Monday- rolls in.

I had originally planned an OOTD/Outfit of the Day post for today to showcase one of my early Spring styles- but given the recent weather- it looks like I’ll have to postpone it for next week, instead.

This coming weekend I’m staying close to home (so many flights, trains, ferries, etc. have been cancelled/delayed due to the weather- so I’m going to wait a few days to let things get sorted out before I travel again!) to spend time with family and friends- but I’m planning a day trip to Brooklyn next weekend, as well as catching the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

Until then, I’ve got a recipe to share and a peek at some of the metallic pieces currently brightening up my closet coming up on the blog within the next few days.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone- and if you’re in the Northeast- stay warm!

xx

– Ashley –

Bomb Cyclones and Burgers

Good Morning, everyone! I’m currently in the midst of preparing for what will be the second major Winter Storm to hit New England in less than a week- and moving to Nevada is looking better and better right now, honestly.

Last Friday night, we got slammed with major rainfall, dangerously high winds and flooding when Winter Storm Riley barreled over us. While my neighborhood (thankfully) remained above the rising water levels and only lost power in small, quick increments- areas of Boston and Quincy were all but completely submerged- especially when high tide came in.

Power lines and trees were blown over and uprooted, and by the time the storm passed- it looked like a tornado had touched down.

Things got so serious that the National Guard came in to help First Responders get people who were trapped with nowhere to go and no heat/power to safety and shelter. It was an absolute mess- and unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

And now, with residents only just returning to their homes for the first time since the storm moved inland- we’re about to get slammed by Winter Storm Quinn- which is reportedly going to dump a considerable amount of snow on us. Whether or not I’ll be able to get to and/or remain at my office to accomplish anything is still a mystery- but I know for a fact I’m probably just going to give up on shoveling anything in the aftermath.

Nope. I am DONE with this weather. Where is Spring? We keep getting teasers- but I’m ready for it to get here and stay here already.

I digress. Despite the weather, I had a pretty good weekend. I got a lot accomplished in terms of errands and tasks I’d been putting off- and I got to spend some time with friends around my hometown, as well! Sean, who had lost power in his own apartment- made the trek to Central Massachusetts with me to get out of the cold and spend some time playing board games and grabbing late night burgers with a few of our longtime friends from back home.

Can’t let a Winter Hurricane keep us down! 3/4/18

Sunday was all about brunch, relaxing, getting ready for the work week- and flipping back and forth between the Oscars and ‘The Walking Dead’ as the night wore on. It was nice just to do nothing for a day- although this coming weekend is looking like it’s going to be pretty busy. I’m glad I could embrace and enjoy the laziness while I had the time!

For those of you who live in New England – stay safe and warm and let’s ride this thing out together! To those of you watching this unfold from other parts of the world- please send snacks. We need them.

See you all on Friday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bites: Mini Chicken and Waffles

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone- or as happy as Monday mornings can be, really. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and that this coming week is an easy one for each of you!

A lot of people around where I live are still recovering from Winter Storm Riley, which blew through the area Friday night/Saturday morning and caused some considerable flooding like I’d never seen before- as well as some long stretches or power outages. I spent a good chunk of my Saturday morning shuttling friends to places with electricity and heat so they could wait out assistance from National Grid (and the National Guard- who were rescuing people that were stranded in the rising waters!)

I’ll get into the aftermath a little later on this week, since it’s only Monday and I want to keep things light this early in the morning. Yesterday, I made time to have a little pre-Oscars brunch/luncheon with some friends where we watched a couple of the nominated films for ‘Best Picture’ and ate snacks. My snack of choice- a bite-sized chicken and waffles recipe I’d had saved for a couple of weeks and had been waiting for an appropriate occasion to try- was the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, breakfast and lunch, and small- but filling!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Cooked, fluffy waffles
  • Canola or peanut oil, for frying
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½ pounds chicken tenders, cut into bite-size (about 1-inch) pieces
  • Hot sauce and/or maple syrup, to taste

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a deep, medium-size pot, heat about 3 inches of oil over medium heat until it reads 350°F on a thermometer.
  2. MAKE THE WAFFLES: While the oil heats, make the waffles. Let the waffles cool slightly, then cut them into bite-size (about 1-inch) squares and place them in a 250°F oven to keep warm.
  3. MAKE THE FRIED CHICKEN: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cornstarch, cayenne pepper, Italian herb seasoning, salt and black pepper to combine. Pour the buttermilk into a shallow, medium-size bowl.
  4. Toss the chicken pieces in the flour mixture to coat. Working in batches, dip the floured chicken into the buttermilk, then return it to the flour and toss to coat.
  5. Working in batches, add the breaded chicken to the hot frying oil. Don’t overfill the pot with chicken, as it will bring down the temperature of the oil. Fry until the chicken is golden brown and floats on the surface of the oil, 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed if the chicken is browning too quickly.
  6. Remove the chicken from the oil and drain on several layers of absorbent paper towels. Let cool slightly, then place a piece of chicken on top of a waffle square and secure with a toothpick.
  7. Serve immediately with hot sauce or maple syrup on the side.

I’d nearly forgotten I had some of these leftover star-topped toothpicks in my cupboard, but they were the perfect decorative piece given the Oscar-themed gathering!

These chicken and waffle bites came out fantastic- and were soft, fluffy, and had just enough of a heated kick to them to balance out the sweetness of the syrup I’d drizzled over the ones I was eating. I’ll definitely be keeping this recipe saved for when it’s football season again- since I know these are going to make a great Game Day appetizer!

Have a great Monday and here’s to a wonderful week, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –