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 –

Fall Foodie: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread with Cinnamon Streusel

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Hello October!

It’s officially “Spooky Season”, and being a self-proclaimed Halloween Queen- I have a lot planned over the next 31 days. To get things started, of course- it seemed only fitting I should post one of my favorite Autumn-inspired, pumpkin-infused recipes!

I had actually whipped this up yesterday prior to the Pats/Dolphins game to serve to a few friends who had dropped by to watch (and what a game it was!) and amid all the salty, crispy and spicy snacks- this was a welcomed change of flavor and ended up being a big hit!

(The recipe below makes one loaf of the bread.)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

CREAM-CHEESE SWIRL

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

PUMPKIN BREAD

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup neutral flavored oil (canola, peanut, or olive–not extra virgin)
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree

CINNAMON STREUSEL

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. MAKE THE CREAM-CHEESE SWIRL: In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with the egg white until smooth and well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix to combine. Set aside.
  3. MAKE THE PUMPKIN BREAD: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the oil with the sugar to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and mix to combine. Mix in the vanilla extract and the pumpkin puree.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the wet ingredients; mix until evenly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Drizzle the cream-cheese mixture over the top, then use a skewer or the tip of a knife to swirl the cream cheese into the batter.
  6. MAKE THE CINNAMON STREUSEL: In a small bowl, mix the flour with the brown sugar, oats and cinnamon to combine. Add the butter and mix until moist crumbs form. Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the batter in the pan.
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the loaf is golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

This bread was rich, decadent, and loaded with the spicy and sweet Fall flavors I love the most! It can be served for breakfast (I brought a piece with me to the office this morning to enjoy with my coffee!) or as a lovely dessert. It’s pretty much appropriate for any time of day.

And now, with bread and coffee in hand- I’m off to get some work done before I head out to paint the city tonight with friends in order to celebrate the kick-off of “Rock”tober. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Monday and a great start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Sweets: Lemon Pie with Blueberry Meringue

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

I hope you all had a sensational Labor Day Weekend- and although it marked the unofficial end of Summer and now we’re not supposed to wear white for a while (a rule I break constantly)– it’s nice to be looking ahead at the Fall and all the beauty that comes with it. It’s my favorite season for a reason!

Before I launch into some of my favorite Autumn recipes, however- I wanted to share one final Summer-inspired dessert I whipped up this past weekend for an impromptu “So Long, Summer” party I attended with friends. Made with lemon and a lot of love- this bright yellow and lavender-colored pie combined some of my favorite flavors of the season. It was a lovely (and delicious!) way to bid adieu to these long, late nights on the beach or by the pool.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE PIE:

  • 1 prepared pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1¼ cup sugar, divided
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

FOR THE BLUEBERRY MERINGUE:

  • ½ cup freeze-dried blueberries
  • 1¾ cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE LEMON PIE: Roll out the pie crust to ¼ inch thick. Roll up the dough onto the rolling pin, then gently transfer it to the pie plate. Chill for 10 minutes.
  2. Fold the excess pie dough under itself all around the edge of the pie plate, then crimp as desired. Prick the base all over with a fork, and refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Cut a piece of parchment paper to slightly larger than the base of the pie plate. Place it in the base of the chilled pie crust and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until the crust is beginning to lightly brown at the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove the pie weights and continue to bake for 5 more minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Whisk in ½ cup of sugar.
  5. In a medium pot, whisk together the cornstarch, salt and remaining sugar. Add 1½ cups water and begin to heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil; boil for 1 minute.
  6. Gradually pour about ⅓ of the cornstarch mixture in the pot into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to combine. Return the yolk mixture to the pot (pour in a slow, steady stream), whisking constantly.
  7. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook once large bubbles appear on the surface for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  8. Stir in the lemon juice and butter, mixing well to combine. Strain the mixture into the cooled pie crust and smooth into an even layer. Bake until the filling is just barely set (it will still look a bit jiggly), 15 to 17 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
  9. MAKE THE BLUEBERRY MERINGUE: In a blender or food processor, pulse the blueberries until they form a fine powder (you should end up with about 2 tablespoons blueberry “powder”). Transfer to a medium pot and whisk in the sugar. Add ⅔ cup water to the pot and heat over medium heat.
  10. Stir the mixture until it comes to a boil; once it boils, stop stirring. If any sugar crystals have washed up on the sides, brush them away using a pastry brush dipped in cool water. Boil the sugar syrup until it reads 230°F on a candy thermometer.
  11. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the syrup reaches 230°F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed. The goal is to have the egg whites at soft peaks when the sugar reaches the 240°F.
  12. Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, then continue to whip until it reaches medium peaks, 4 to 6 more minutes. Spoon the meringue on top of the cooled pie and swoosh with the back of a spoon into an even, centered mound. If desired, you can toast the meringue with a kitchen torch or under the broiler, but it’s safe to eat untoasted and it will keep the meringue a prettier color.

Served with some ice cold lemonade following one last backyard BBQ- I really enjoyed making this pie. Not as much as I enjoyed eating it, of course- but it was surprisingly easy to bake and was a big hit when it came time to pass the slices around!

For the next couple of months, my recipes will consist of more vegetables (harvest time!), more spices- and yes- more pumpkin. But this meringue pie is definitely one you can try at anytime, really. I know I’ll be making another one as soon as Summer comes back around again!

I’m off to get some work done at my office and prepare for a tailgate party this coming Friday (bring on the buffalo chicken wings!)– but I hope you all have a great Wednesday. It’s a short work week for many, so here’s to it being even closer to Friday again!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Sweets: Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Pie

Good Evening and Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful start to your week! While my posts typically go up early in the mornings before I head into my office for the day- I was a little pre-occupied this past weekend- and with my hours changing a bit at work (I come in a little earlier, stay a little later- and have half days on Fridays now!) I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get this yummy, sweet and just the right amount of tart recipe up on the blog ’til now!

Lemonade is my go-to, non-alcoholic drink to serve during the Summertime- especially when it’s scorching hot out (which it definitely has been around New England lately!)– since it’s so refreshing when it’s made right. When I saw this strawberry-infused, set-it-and-forget-it frozen pie version a couple of weeks ago- I knew I had to try out the recipe during one of my days off to share with friends as we tried to beat the heat and stay cool!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 24 whole graham crackers, crushed into tiny crumbs (you should have 4 cups worth of graham cracker crumbs total.)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Water, as needed
  • 3 egg whites
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 ounces whipped topping, thawed
  • 16 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE CRUST: Combine butter, crushed graham crackers, and ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl. Stir together until the mixture begins to stick together. To test the mixture, pinch a small amount at a time and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t- add a tablespoon of water at a time until it does.
  2. Divide the graham cracker crumbs between two 9 inch pie plates, using your fingers to press the mixture evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Place the crusts in the freezer while you make the fillings.
  3. MAKE THE FILLING: Place the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl. Use electric beaters or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on medium speed for 1 minute. Then add the lemon juice. Beat on medium high speed for another 4 minutes. The mixture will look foamy and thick. Add the sugar, a quarter cup at a time, and continue to beat on medium high speed for 1 minute after each addition (the eggs will take about 8 minutes total to whip up completely.)
  4. Add the frozen strawberries and beat on medium speed until they’re broken up and evenly distributed throughout the egg mixture. Fold in the whipped topping.
  5. Divide the strawberry mixture evenly between the two pie pans. Cover and freeze for at least six hours- or overnight.
  6. To serve, drop the pie plate in an inch of hot water for about 30 seconds to help loosen the crust. Then slice and serve!

I love this recipe because it’s sweet and sour- but the graham cracker crust helps break up the tartness with each bite! You can also add or reduce the amount of lemon juice and sugar incorporated into this if you want the pie to taste more sour or more sweet- depending on your personal preference. I think I’ll actually be adding a little more lemon juice next time!

Here’s to another lovely week of Summer ahead of us. We’ve already made it through Monday- so here’s hoping the rest is a breeze!

xx

– Ashley –