Easter Eats: Cookies-and-Cream Shortbread Cookies

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

In my family, both immediate and extended- making the time to have occasional big, family dinners with lots of food and conversation is really important. The older everyone gets, and the more responsibilities and other commitments/engagements that come up- the harder it is to get everyone together.

We all know and understand that- which is why we treasure holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter (and sometimes the 4th of July or Memorial Day during the Summer!) It’s when everyone can be together and eat, drink and be merry.

My mother hosts Easter at her home every year- and while she typically enjoys taking charge and putting together the menu- she never says no to any dishes anyone wants to bring with them to share. When I bring food, I typically gravitate towards appetizers (they’re so much fun!) and side dishes- but I’m also known to whip up some pretty good desserts, too.

This year, in lieu of my usual “safe desserts” like thumbprint cookies or my experimental cakes and pies- I thought I’d bring this fun spin on shortbread cookies, instead- which is a chocolate lover’s dream!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE COOKIES:

  • 15 chocolate sandwich cookies
  • ½ cup (56g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup (226g) cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (241g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • 1 cup (113g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE COOKIES: Preheat the oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cookies until they form fine crumbs, about 1 minute. Remove 2 tablespoons of the cookie crumbs and reserve in a small bowl.
  3. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl of the food processor well.
  4. Add the flour and salt, and pulse until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds. Add the vanilla and process until combined.
  5. Divide the dough in half and then form each piece into an inch-thick disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ⅓ inch thick. Cut the dough into circles using a round fluted cookie cutter and then transfer to the prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake until the cookies start to brown at the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool completely.
  7. MAKE THE GLAZE: In a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and cream until a thick glaze forms. Working one at a time, spoon 1 teaspoon of glaze on top of each cookie. Let the glaze set for 5 minutes, then sprinkle the reserved cookie crumbs on top of each cookie. The glaze will fully set in another 10 to 15 minutes and then the cookies are ready to serve.

I had opted to sprinkle crumbled up sandwich cookie chunks on top of the still-setting glaze as opposed to the finely pulsed cookie crumbs I’d initially used to create the dough- since I thought it gave these a more fun look- but you can do it by the book if desired!

The result is a sweet, decadent dessert that serves as the perfect finale to a great meal! I can’t wait for my mother to see (and eat) these when I bring the next batch to her house.

And with that being said- there are lots of big changes happening at my job this week, which I’ll discuss at a later time when I have a free moment- and I’m here bright and early to get the jump on them and stay on top of things!

I’m off- but here’s wishing you all an easy start to your day and your work week!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: No-Bake Sugar Cookie Truffles

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

Today’s post is coming at you all a little later on in the day than usual- since this morning and mid-afternoon were pretty busy for me. For starters, I was live on-air for “Morning Glory” at Indie617 bright and early this A.M. talking about some of my favorite albums, shows and indie music headlines from 2018. There was a lot of good music and a lot of laughs. If you missed the action or want to hear the audio- CLICK HERE.

Following the segment, I headed back towards Central Massachusetts to have a pre-holiday luncheon with some of my friends/co-workers from the office, where we had a mini gift exchange and got a chance to talk about normal, non-work related things.

Now that I’m home and able to catch up on some e-mails (and touch up my makeup) before I get together with my family to have a little Tree Trimming party- I thought I’d share one of the bites I’m preparing for tonight. With limited ingredients and no baking required for this quick, easy dessert- these truffles are a go-to during the hectic holiday season.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups sugar-cookie crumbs (from about 15 medium cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cookies until they are fine crumbs. Add the cream cheese and mix well to combine. The mixture should hold together when pressed.
  2. Scoop the mixture into heaping tablespoon-size portions and roll into balls. Transfer the balls to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Add the white chocolate chips to a medium-size microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is smooth and melted.
  4. Dip the cookie truffles into the melted white chocolate to coat fully, returning to the baking sheet as you go. Before the chocolate sets, decorate with sprinkles.
  5. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator until the chocolate is set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

These truffles are delicious- and can be tweaked a bit for those with different tastes (using dark chocolate instead of white chocolate, for example)– but the’re festive and fun- and no hassle at all!

This coming weekend is going to be filled with time with family and friends (and a long overdue touchup of my hair for the season) as Christmas continues to draw closer.

On Sunday, I’ll be heading out to Easthampton to catch a holiday performance from one of my favorite theater groups- Paintbox Theatre– who will be putting on their annual ‘Santa Show’ for adults and kids alike! Tonight’s first performance is at 7:30 PM, while Saturday and Sundays’ performances are at 10:30 AM and 1 PM.

You can purchase tickets directly through Paintbox’s website or at the Williston Theater- but be sure to get there early to snag a good seat!

And be prepared to sing along to a lot of holiday classics and laugh along to a lot of crazy antics!

But for now- I’m off to prepare for tonight. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and safe weekend. I’ll be back on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies

When I was a kid, my mother used to have a handful of recipes she’d fall back on around the holidays to serve guests or bring with us when we attended family Christmas parties. One of those recipes were thumbprint cookies. My mom would typically make a couple dozen of them at a time and then proceed to fill in the center indentation with melted chocolate or lemon custard. They were always popular and were always one of the first snacks/desserts to disappear once our actual dinner was finished.

And now, years later- I’ve found an updated version of the recipe that incorporates two popular desserts into one bite-sized treat: sugar cookies and cheesecake. With 30 minutes of prep/cook time total- this recipe makes 24 cookies in all- which means you’ll have plenty of them to feed everybody and not have to worry about spending all day in your kitchen!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 crackers)
  • 1¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

FILLING:

  • 5 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup jam

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. MAKE THE COOKIES: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and mix to combine, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir the flour with the graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt to combine. Add to the mixer and mix just until fully incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball; repeat with the remaining dough. Transfer the balls to the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each one slightly, then use your thumb to make a deepimpression in the center of each cookie.
  5. MAKE THE FILLING: In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the sugar, egg white and vanilla extract to combine.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each cookie. Top each cookie with 1 teaspoon jam and then use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl the jam into the cream cheese filling.
  7. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden brown at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely before serving.
  8. Enjoy!

Not only were these cookies really pretty when they were done, but they tasted incredible, too- and definitely took me back to my childhood while I was eating them. I’m really looking forward to surprising my mother with a batch of these for her birthday this coming Christmas Eve. I know she’ll appreciate the tradition being passed down!

Enjoy your Friday and your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: August 2017

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve got a busy day at work ahead of me and an even busier weekend coming up- but it’s that magical time of the month where my POPSUGAR “Must Have” box arrives at my door and I get to share all of the fun things I found inside!

What made August’s PSMH Box so special was that it marked the company’s 5th year anniversary of curating their monthly assortment of awesome items to send subscribers. I’ve been a devoted member for a couple of years now, and I don’t plan on cancelling my account anytime soon. The things I receive are always so fabulous- and it’s truly like treating myself every few weeks when I go through it and marvel at what’s inside.

The theme/inspirations for August’s “Must Have” box were pretty self-explanatory given the aforementioned milestone- CELEBRATE, GRATITUDE, LOYALTY, SMILE and FRIENDSHIP were the words used to select this month’s items- and with this being the last box before Fall rolls around- I was really excited to see what the company had chosen to wrap up this season.

First up were these really cute white (and gold speckled!) 24-count tall birthday candles from Meri Meri. I know so many people with birthdays sprinkled throughout late August and September- and for some reason I’m almost always the one responsible for getting the cake in order for their parties (it must be my sharp eye for details)– so it’s going to be nice to have these lovely candles on hand to add to the fun when it’s time for my friends and family to close their eyes and make their birthday wishes!

I’ll never say no to trying a great face mask, and I’ve been hearing a lot of really good things about this “Bouncy Mask” from First Aid Beauty. Said to calm irritated skin, firm, hydrate and refine your complexion in just ten minutes- it sounded too good to be true! I haven’t had a chance to give this a try yet, but I plan on taking some time out during my upcoming busy weekend to see if the mask is really worth all the hype.

Who knows? It might very well make my upcoming Favorites List for the month!

I am in love with this cute, simple, friendship bracelet by Dogeared, Inc. With blue silk thread and a sterling silver heart-shaped clasp- this one takes me back to middle school when my girlfriends and I would exchange handmade friendship bracelets on an almost weekly basis. Granted, this one is a little fancier than the yarn or beaded ones we used to make when I was a kid- but the nostalgia is still there- and I’ve been wearing this a lot over the past few days!

I think my favorite item in August’s “Must Have” box was this rose gold “Free Spirit” journal from Fringe Studio. I’m always appreciative of a lovely, simple and well-made notebook to take with me on-the-go- and this one may be one of my favorites. With it’s durable and protective covers to the sweet design on the front- this has been in my bag with an assortment of pens for when an idea springs up unexpectedly or I need to take down some important information.

I’d love to have a 2018 planner with this design, too!

POPSUGAR kept up with their tradition of sending the BEST snacks this month! From Goodie Girl Cookies comes these gluten-free, low-fat chocolate chunk treats that were gone nearly minutes after I spotted them in this month’s “Must Have” box (and yes, I shared a couple- although I was reluctant about it!)

I’m already preparing to order a couple more boxes online to keep around the kitchen for the next time I have a craving but don’t want to regret cheating with something sweet now and then. These are so, so good!

The older I get- the more I can appreciate a quality gift card- so to receive a $25 card to Shoptiques was pretty cool. The website has all sorts of stuff- from dresses to handbags to shoes and home decor- so I know I’m going to have to take some serious time to do extensive browsing to determine what I want to treat myself to! Yes, some of their things are on the pricier side- but they do have a really nice SALE section I’ve been eyeing.

And also? Look how cute the card came packaged!

Finally, POPSUGAR sent me something I can gift to my mother since I know for a fact she has a set of plates that match this polka doted serving tray- also by Fringe Studio- perfectly. I know she’s going to love it, since we have similar taste in decor and I thought this was such a fun, colorful and perfect for any occasion tray that she could keep on hand whenever she has people over for company or just wants to liven up her dining room table.

POPSUGAR has done it again. I loved this month’s box- and every item fit in perfectly with their theme/inspirations and birthday celebration! This collection, as I’d mentioned earlier- serves as their lost assortment of items for the Summer- which means the Fall boxes are going to start rolling out soon. I can’t wait!

xx

– Ashley –

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review: June 2017

A couple of years ago, I was actively reviewing about 3-4 monthly subscription box services every few weeks: GlossyBox & Ipsy (makeup/cosmetics), Loot Crate (gaming/movies/comics/etc.) and POPSUGAR’s “Must Have” Box (a lifestyle subscription service that features a little bit of everything from makeup, food, decor, books, etc.)

Last year, while reviewing my finances and budgeting- I decided to limit myself to one subscription box per month- and the one I overwhelmingly chose to stick with and continue receiving/reviewing was POPSUGAR’s service. At $39.95 per month (+ shipping), the “Must Have” box is a bit more expensive than the others- but the value of everything included with each installment far surpasses the cost and makes each box worth the splurge now and then. It’s like a little treat for myself that arrives on my doorstep just when I need it the most!

Every month, POPSUGAR selects a theme or multiple inspirations to curate the contents of the box around. I’d say that most of the time- the items included fit the theme/inspirations very well. Subscribers are usually given the theme/inspirations in advance- so it’s always fun to try and guess what will be in the box before it actually arrives.

The theme/inspirations for June were: BEACH READ, SWIM, WAVES, BREEZE, MERMAIDS and PALM TREES.

I love the Summer boxes- so I was really excited to see what I got!

I am always and forever in need of durable totes/clutches/pouches to carry with me when I’m on the go- and I’m legitimately in love with this palm tree-covered one from ALOHA Collection. Apart from the cute and Summery exterior design- this pouch is completely splash proof- which means that my belongings are going to be safe, secure and dry when I bring this to my next outing at the beach.

It’s the perfect size, too- so it can fit all of the necessities in it without it weighing me down!

Of course, no good beach outing is complete without a decent page-turner to dive into while I’m resting on the shore under my umbrella. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is described as a drama with a little bit of mystery thrown in for good measure. From Google Books’ reviews:

“In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.”

I received a hardcover edition of this novel in this month’s “Must Have” box and I’m already bringing it with me to start reading at work during my break!

I’ve been taking extraordinary good care of my nails as of late (although after this weekend I’m in dire need of a fresh coat of polish) and one of the reasons is because I’ve been utilizing cuticle oil. This “So Rich- Mermaid Tears” version from NCLA is packed with Vitamin E extract and sunflower seed oil to keep my tips healthy, moisturized and shiny. Bonus? This oil smells like honeysuckle!

POPSUGAR always includes the most unique (and delicious) snacks in their “Must Have” boxes. These cookie butter bites from Belgian Boys are no exception to that rule. I absolutely indulged in these super tasty (and super cute!) mustache-shaped cookies from the Heavens the second I saw them- and I don’t regret it one bit!

I’ve been using a sea salt-infused texturizing cream to give my curls a more wavy and Summer-appropriate beachy look lately- but I have to admit that the sprays make it SO much easier to style my hair without the crunch or the hassle. I am LOVING this version of those sprays from Captain Blankenship– especially because this particular spray is infused with aloe- so it won’t dry my hair out!

The fragrance of this spray is, admittedly, a little potent at first- but it fades quickly so it’s not as powerful as the day goes on after spraying and styling my hair the way I want. I’ve been browsing some of the other products this company makes- and they definitely know a thing or two about keeping your skin and hair ready for the beach. I sense some shopping in my immediate future!

My favorite item in June’s “Must Have” box is- without question- this adjustable “Aloha” baseball cap from Billabong. I love the bright blue hue of this cap, as well as how comfortable it is- and it goes with pretty much anything in my wardrobe. I can wear it to the beach, out running errands, around the house- and to work on our casual office days.

This is my new go-to hat for every occasion (sorry, trusted Red Sox hat!) and I’m going to be sporting it for the remainder of the Summer for sure!

Considering I’ve been experimenting with Summer-inspired eats/treats and drinks in my kitchen lately- I know I’m going to use these pretty pastel blue and white striped straws from Meri Meri the next time I have company over and need to serve some chilled watermelon lemonade or chocolate & strawberry milkshakes to help my guests cool down when the temperatures are soaring.

I just love the look of these straws- and I’m tempted to find plastic cups that match them- just because!

Finally, POPSUGAR included a bonus item in this month’s “Must Have” box- and it’s one I’m definitely familiar with- especially when I’m in a rush in the mornings! It’s a bottled version of Starbucks‘ mocha Frappuccinos (best served cold- by the way!) which I’m sipping right now as I post this from my office! It’s tasty AND refreshing!

POPSUGAR was nice enough to include a coupon, too- for when I decide to stock up on more of these drinks before this week comes to an end!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I loved this month’s “Must Have” box and thought that each item really represented the overall theme/inspirations really well. I’m going to use everything that I received- which is another reason this box was such a success! Nothing is going to waste!

I can’t wait to see what POPSUGAR has in store for July!

xx

– Ashley –