Fall Foodie: Mini Pecan Tarts

Fall Foodie: Mini Pecan Tarts

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I’m writing this from a mini getaway in Boston, where I’m relaxing after last night’s phenomenal Bon Iver show at TD Garden (I’ll have the full recap up a little later on this week!)

Before Troy and I set off to enjoy the city for a little while longer and then eventually head back to the Pioneer Valley- I thought I’d share a quick, easy, delicious and Fall-appropriate dessert recipe I like to whip up this time of year when I have people over to watch football games, carve Jack-O-Lanterns, or just hang out and enjoy a horror movie marathon. If you love pecan pie as much as I do- these mini tarts are for you!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 cup butter/margarine
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • A pinch of salt

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. To Make Pastry: Cream butter or margarine and cream cheese together. Add flour and mix well.
  2. Roll mixture into balls, and place one ball in each cup of a mini tart pan. Use your fingers or a tart tamper to press into the shape of the crust.
  3. To Make Filling: Break the eggs, but do not beat. Add sugar, melted butter, salt, vanilla and pecans. Mix well.
  4. Fill the tart shells- and bake at 350℉ for about 30 minutes or until delicately browned.
  5. Remove tarts from oven, let cool fully, and serve with your choice of toppings!

I can’t wait to make a big batch of these for Thanksgiving this year! They always go so quickly!

But I’m off to spend some time around the city I love the most! Enjoy your “Hump Day,” everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Sea Salt Pumpkin Butter Cups

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

While today would typically be my half-day/work-from-home day at my office- the schedules have rotated for the Fall/Winter and that day has now been delegated to Thursdays. My “Hump Days” will be spent commuting to and working from my office- but that doesn’t mean my posting schedule has to change!

On the contrary- I thought I’d use the mid-work-week mark as an opportunity to share another Autumn-inspired recipe- and a Halloween appropriate one if you’re up to making a bunch of these to either hand out to trick-or-treaters or bring to your next spooky gathering!

These salted pumpkin & peanut butter cups are the ideal candy- a savory mix of sweet and salty, smooth and crunchy. The true trick is eating one and being able to stop yourself from having another (or four.)

Best of all? There’s no baking required!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chunks/baking morsels
  • ⅓ cup crunchy peanut butter (you can use almond butter, too!)
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Coarse sea salt, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Melt dark chocolate (with a stove top or microwave.) Stir with a spoon or spatula until the melted chocolate is smooth.
  2. Line a series of mini cupcake papers on a baking sheet.
  3. In a bowl, combine the ⅓ cup of peanut butter, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and honey.
  4. Place ½ tablespoon of chocolate into the bottom of each of the cupcake papers.
  5. Drop in 1 teaspoon of peanut butter/pumpkin mixture onto the top of the melted chocolate within the cupcake papers. Cover with remaining melted chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle the tops of each mold with coarse sea salt.
  7. Place in refrigerator or freezer until the chocolate hardens.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

For something so small- these cups sure were savory- and a big hit with the family and friends I shared them with!

I love experimenting with Fall flavors- like pumpkin, cinnamon and caramel- so expect a lot more posts like this as the season progresses and I continue to get creative in the kitchen!

But until then, I’ve got to focus on a rather large stack of paperwork on my desk and a full inbox waiting to be tackled before this morning is done.

Enjoy the rest of your day, y’all!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Sweet Potato Crostini

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The work-week is halfway over, and before I jump into what few tasks I set aside for my half day at the office this morning and prepare to head on over to The Big E a little later on today- I wanted to share the first of what I’m sure will be many Fall-inspired recipes I recently cooked up (and will no doubt be revisiting again soon since we are pretty much officially in my favorite season right now!)

Sweet potatoes are probably my favorite vegetable because you can do many different things with them in the kitchen and they always taste delicious. Cut into fries? Added into stews? Turned into a traditional but delightful dessert? They’re fantastic- and very much something I love to cook/bake with this time of year.

These crostini, which are essentially a crispier and slightly smaller-sized take on a loaded baked potato- are the perfect pre-dinner or Game Day snack because you can top them with pretty much anything and they’re guaranteed to be a crowd favorite. For this particular batch- I opted for seasonal flavors that I thought would compliment the potato’s sweetness- but feel free to get experimental!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced/cubed brie cheese (one piece to top each potato slice.)
  • ½ cup of cooked and crumbled bacon pieces
  • ½ cup of chopped and salted roasted almonds
  • ½ cup of chopped dried cranberries

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the ends off the sweet potatoes and then cut the potatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides of the potato slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange the potato slices on the prepared baking sheet and roast until they are golden brown and crisp, 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. Top each cooled potato slice with a piece of brie and sprinkles of the toasted almonds, dried cranberries and bacon crumble. You can mix and match here- it’s totally fine!
  5. Serve and enjoy!

I honestly ate so many of these things in one sitting and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They’re so good!

I also read a recipe that topped the potato slices with cream cheese and smoked salmon- which sounded like it might be life-changing- so I may have to incorporate that into the next batch I make, as well!

But before I make another couple dozen of these and before I head off to enjoy my afternoon off- I’ve got some work to do over the next few hours.

As always, I’ll be back on Friday morning- as is tradition!

Enjoy your “Hump Day,” y’all!

xx

– Ashley –

Seaside Starters: Maryland Crab Cakes

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

This coming weekend is shaping up to be a busy (in a good way!) one- including a long overdue dinner with my family to celebrate my older brother and my niece’s upcoming birthdays, working at the station, catching a screening of “It: Chapter 2” with friends- and then Sunday will be fully devoted to sand, surf and scallops at Hampton Beach’s Annual Seafood Festival!

And, of course- the Patriots’ regular season kicks off- so there will be beer and nachos, as well. As is tradition!

Inspired by the Seafood Festival, and still getting acquainted with my new kitchen- I thought I’d whip up one of my own favorite recipes to share with you all- crab cakes! These can be served as an appetizer or, if you’re eating more than one- as an entrée all on their own. Whatever you choose- they’re delicious and very easy to make!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 8 ounces crab meat- drained, shells removed and patted dry.
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided in half
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon McCormick Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (optional)
  • Olive oil (to fry cakes)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Drain crab meat, pick out shells and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Add crab meat, bell pepper, tarragon, ½ cup Panko bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, mayo, dried mustard and Old Bay seasoning to a medium mixing bowl and mix with a rubber-tipped spatula.
  3. Scoop handfuls of the combined mixture out one at a time and gentle pat/press together to form cakes.
  4. Add ½ cup Panko bread crumbs to a shallow dish. Place each cake in and coat the sides until all of the cakes are covered evenly in bread crumbs.
  5. Heat a heavy sauté pan and add the olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Place cakes in the sauté pan and cook approximately 4 minutes on each side or until they are evenly browned
  6. Remove cakes and place on a plate to allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Drizzle horseradish sauce over the cakes and serve.

I could eat these crab cakes all day every day- that’s how much I love them- and while I’m sure I’ll be eating plenty of variations of these at the Seafood Festival, among many, many other things- I’m a bit biased when it comes to my own! I don’t think they can be topped!

Next week, my blogging schedule returns to normal now that Labor Day is over (Monday, Wednesday and Friday!) I’ll be sure to have more Autumnal Activities to share, a peek into the Fall section of my wardrobe- and a few other surprises!

But until then- enjoy your weekend, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Sweets: Peaches-and-Cream Ice Pops

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve got another long weekend ahead of me since I took this coming Monday off from work as a bit of a “personal day.” Originally, I had plans in the Cape with some friends- but it ended up not happening due to scheduling conflicts for a few of us so now I’m simply taking the day to rest, recharge- and maybe hit the beach or Ashfield Lake again.

And while temperatures are soaring here in New England- I thought today would be as good a time as any to share a really delicious, super easy-to-make-and-freeze Popsicle treat for yourself and/or your guests to beat the heat with!

If you like real fruit, Greek yogurt and refreshing desserts- then you are going to *love* this recipe!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound (453g) peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ⅓ cup (66g) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups (340g) plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (112g) crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the peaches in an even layer on a baking sheet. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt; toss to combine.
  2. Roast the peaches until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, crème fraîche, vanilla and almond extract to combine. Transfer about three quarters of the mixture to a container with a pour spout.
  4. Add the cooled peaches to the remaining yogurt mixture in the bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the two together (it’s okay if there are chunks of peaches left)
  5. Pour 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture into each ice-pop mold. Follow with 4 tablespoons of the peach mixture, then 4 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture. Continue alternating the two until the molds are full. It’s okay if the layers swirl together.
  6. Place an ice-pop stick in the center of each mold and transfer to the freezer. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.
  7. Run the molds under warm water and then unmold the ice pops. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe was the waiting for the ice pops to freeze so I could finally enjoy one in front of my air conditioner! And, once I did- I was so relieved these tasted just as good as they looked.

I love a good ice pop this time of year- and I’m thinking I may try to incorporate pineapple or mango instead of peaches the next time I attempt this one. Something with a little more citrus and sour behind it. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the next few days- but here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead. I’ll be back- bright and early- on Monday morning. ‘Til then- have fun, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated out there!

xx

– Ashley –