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 –

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 –

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 –