Festive Foodie: Gingerbread Pancakes

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Mine was very relaxing- with my time divided between getting some Christmas shopping done from the comfort of my couch, setting up some decorations around the house- and going on little drives with friends through the Western Massachusetts’ countryside to marvel at the snow and festively illuminated farms around the area.

And, of course- getting into the holiday spirit means cooking up some seasonally appropriate dishes, too! Case in point? These sugary gingerbread pancakes I served (with hot chocolate!) during Sunday brunch with some of the girls yesterday morning/afternoon before we hit the road for a day out together to catch up while getting some errands done.

These pancakes take about 30 minutes total to prep and bake- making them a perfect option to serve when it comes time for that last-minute holiday craziness to kick in. Don’t stress yourself out with a big breakfast. Just make these!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, as needed for serving (optional)
  • Whipped cream, as needed for serving (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the molasses, egg and vanilla extract to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until well combined.
  3. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, spritz it with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Working in batches, pour scoops of batter (about ½ cup each) onto the hot griddle. Cook until the pancakes are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip and cook until golden on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with confectioners’ sugar and whipped cream, is using.

A dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream on top- and these pancakes looked *and* tasted magical. I would gladly make these again- probably for when all the girls in my family get together to bake cookies and wrap gifts a few days before Christmas Eve! These were a big hit yesterday- and I know they’ll be a big hit then, too!

And now with another work week ahead of me, I’m off to get started on sifting through my e-mails, voicemails and caseload for the day. Here’s wishing you all an easy and stress-free start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bites: Mozzarella Bites

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you’re all hanging in there. We’re almost to the weekend!

Before I race into morning meetings and play a little catch-up with my e-mail inbox- I wanted to share a quick, easy, and cheesy (in a good way) recipe I whipped up for ‘Girls Day’ brunch this past weekend. You just need a handful of ingredients, a couple of bowls, and about 30 minutes of patience- and you’ve got yourself a crunchy, gooey appetizer that is perfect for pre-gaming for Springtime sporting events or for long afternoons of Netflix-binging. Whatever your Lazy Sunday itinerary consists of!

Think of these as a rounder, slightly-crispier spin on a traditional mozzarella stick.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ cups bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnishing
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, warmed for dipping

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Line a large plate with several layers of paper towels. In a small pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it reads 360°F to 370°F on a thermometer. (Note: This is a relatively high frying temperature, which gets the outside crust crispy before the inside cheese can melt too much. Keep an eye on the temperature of the oil, and if it gets too hot, turn off the heat.)
  2. Taking the mozzarella, break off pieces about an inch long and roll between your palms to create a round/ball shape. Continue doing this until you have the desired number of bites.
  3. Place the flour in a medium bowl, the egg in a second medium bowl and the bread crumbs in a third medium bowl.
  4. Working in batches, dredge the cheese balls in flour to coat, then in egg, then in bread crumbs. Repeat until all the cheese is breaded.
  5. Fry the mozzarella in the preheated oil until golden brown on the outside, then remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to the prepared paper-towel-lined plate. Season immediately with salt.
  6. To serve, garnish the mozzarella with parsley, then serve immediately with a side of warm marinara sauce.

I love simple recipes that satisfy- so seeing how quickly these cheese bites went and knowing that I didn’t spend an entire afternoon making them was a pretty fantastic feeling. I’m planning another batch for this coming Friday night when I show up to bi-weekly dinner with my family.

I know my niece- who never turns down anything with cheese in it- is going to love these!

But for now, it’s time to hustle and make some money here at work.

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone! See you all on Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bakes: Giant Cinnamon Roll

Good Afternoon and Happy Monday, everyone!

When it comes to breakfast and/or brunch, I try to keep things light and healthy so that I don’t feel weighed down for the rest of the day and can still keep busy and active without needing a nap, first. Needless to say, there’s a lot of fruits, nuts and grains involved- as well as the occasional egg or two.

However, sometimes it’s nice to give myself a “cheat day” and indulge in something sweet, sticky or covered in powdered sugar and syrup. With this past weekend marking my friend Stef’s birthday party AND Wrestlemania (I’ll get into those a little later on this week!)- there was a lot of snacking and late-night tasting going on- so I figured I may as well make my “Girls Day” Sunday brunch fun and whipped up this gigantic cinnamon bun to serve.

At 9 inches around, this cinnamon bun is served like a pie- cut into slices- and so, so worth doing some extra crunches for repentance during my next workout.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon, softened
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • Three 8-ounce tubes crescent roll dough
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, or more as needed

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch oven-safe skillet with the softened butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, light brown sugar, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla to make a smooth paste.
  3. Open the tubes of crescent roll dough and unfurl the contents of each tube into one long, flat piece. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the filling evenly over the entire surface of each piece and then cut in half lengthwise to create two long strips. (You should end up with six strips total.)
  4. Roll one strip into a tight spiral and place it in the center of the prepared skillet. Wrap the remaining pieces of dough around the spiral, working outward, until you’ve used all the dough.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash evenly over the cinnamon roll and then transfer to the oven to bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla until the mixture reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency. Add more cream if needed.
  7. Ice the cinnamon roll with the glaze and let set for 5 minutes

I brought some of the leftover slices into work this morning to share with my co-workers who also had a severe case of Monday blues- and it cheered them right up! This is perfect to share, or- if you’re feeling particularly gluttonous (we all do every now and then)– to eat in sections all on your own.

But I am off and hitting the ground running. I took a half day today at work for a couple of appointments- but it’s sunny and cool out- so maybe I’ll take the scenic route to get where I’m going and enjoy the freedom from my office!

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 –

Tipsy Treats: Champagne Doughnuts

The past few days have been filled with a lot of champagne. January is a pretty big month for birthdays (including my own)– so between New Year’s Eve and today- there’s been nearly a handful of celebrations that have involved toasting with some bubbly!

Of course, there’s usually some left over by the time my friends and I are done partying- and I hate to see any of it go to waste- so I found a really fun, super tasty- and rather sparkly-looking breakfast treat to whip up that requires just a small amount of some of that flat champagne so you can take your brunch to the next level and wow everyone!

Best of all? These doughnuts are baked- not fried- so enjoying one or two on your cheat day shouldn’t make you feel too guilty.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE DOUGHNUTS:

  • Nonstick spray
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • ⅓ cup Champagne (Yes, I used canned champagne. I am NOT stepping out in the frigid temperatures to pop the cork on a new bottle!)

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup Champagne, or more as needed
  • Shimmery gold sprinkles, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Make the Doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease two 6-cavity doughnut pans with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, butter and oil. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well to combine. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and Champagne and mix until the batter is smooth.
  4. Divide the batter between the doughnut pans, filling each about halfway full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a doughnut comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  5. Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely, 45 minutes more.
  6. Make the Glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and Champagne (add more Champagne as needed to achieve a pourable glaze).
  7. Spoon the glaze over the doughnuts and decorate them with sprinkles.
  8. Relish in your title as the BOSS of brunch!

These were so, so good- and the champagne gave the doughnuts an unexpected and pleasantly delightful flavor that paired really well with the sugary glaze! Also- I am all about edible glitter. It just makes dining much more festive and fun!

I have another brunch scheduled for this weekend with some friends before I leave for California next week- and you best believe I’ll be whipping up a second batch of these to bring to the table with me!

xx

– Ashley –