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 –

Wedding Cake, Haunted Mansions and Post-Election Naps…

Good Morning and Happy “Hump Day”, everyone!

Listen, I am admittedly pretty tired after watching election coverage last night from the edge of my seat- and being at work (even just for a half day) is not something I’m particularly up for physically, mentally or emotionally right now- but I’m an adult and there’s a lot to do at my office this morning.

I’m just *really* looking forward to catching a nap at home later on this afternoon before I head out for the evening.

I had taken yesterday off from work- just because- and although I now have a lot of missed calls, e-mails, regular mail and general out-of-office maintenance to go over and catch up on- I wanted to share some photos from my longtime friend Stef’s wedding this past weekend.

Stef and I met when I was about 16/17 and we were both working at the same crummy after-school job at a local grocery. I told her a joke I’d heard in one of my classes earlier in the day- just a painfully unfunny, borderline “dad” joke- but she laughed and we became instant friends. That friendship has carried on- through good times and bad- over the course of 16 years. We’re both now in our thirties and are in very different places in our lives than we were back when we’d met- but we’re still just as close as ever.

On Saturday, Stef married her longtime boyfriend, Andy- in a lovely little ceremony in Linwood, Massachusetts. Although neither she or Andy are particularly religious, the church portion of the evening was more for their older family members who had wanted to bear witness to a a more traditional union between the two.

The reception, on the other hand… Well, that was all Stef and Andy. 100%.

Stef had picked out the Asa Waters Mansion in Millbury as her venue. Formerly inhabited by the family behind the Waters & Co. Armory in the mid-to-late 1800s- the house was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad and has since been turned into a function hall, community gathering spot, and museum. It’s a beautiful house- more than likely haunted- and very cozy. Although dinner and the dance floor were a bit of a tight squeeze given how old the home is- we had a blast cutting loose and taking a tour of the grounds provided by some of the helpful staff on hand.

Stef’s wedding cake and cupcakes were crafted with love and care by our dear friend Holly- who I’m hiring for any future events I host because everything looked and tasted amazing.

It was so good catching up with old friends, making new ones, dancing and dining and laughing at the same inside jokes the lot of us have been cracking up at for over a decade now. I’m so happy for Stef and Andy and I know they’re going to have a lifetime of happiness ahead of them. I’m so grateful I got to be a part of the celebration.

I’m actually supposed to see Stef, Andy and a couple of friends visiting from out of the country later on today for a while- so I’m pretty excited to recap all the excitement with them and get a look at some of the photos that were snapped throughout the evening.

But, alas- I’ve got work to do, first. Here’s hoping you all have an easy, stress-free Wednesday! Let’s push through to the weekend!

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 –

Funk and Frosting…

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

This week has been filled with phone calls and meetings, and as we kick off the halfway mark to Friday- the momentum is still going strong. I’ve got so much to do today, and then immediately after work it’s off to a date in Western Massachusetts to decompress and relax with good company.

Although this past weekend took an unexpected turn with some wild weather and a F1 tornado dropping by my mother’s neighborhood for a couple of minutes- I still managed to find some time to take in a bit of impromptu live music, indulge in the sweeter things, and even pamper myself a bit.

On Saturday night, after recovering from the shock of the storm that ripped through the area- I headed back out towards Beverly to grab a couple of drinks and catch a George Clinton show at the Cabot Theater. One of my friends had rounded up a handful of tickets to the show and thought it would be a fun way to pass an evening. He was right- although the show itself was a bit… Unusual?

There was so much happening all at once and a lot of noise so it was a bit difficult to differentiate one song from the next (especially with 20 people on stage at any given time)– but everyone was in good spirits and the inside of the venue was really beautiful- so it all evened out and it was worth the price of admission. It was a unique experience for sure!

On Sunday morning, while nursing an unexpected-and-not-hangover-related migraine that seemed to materialize out of nowhere first thing in the A.M.- I opted to treat myself to some “Unicorn Poop” (yes, that’s the real name) cupcakes courtesy of Whoopie-Doo & Cupcakes, Too! while I was passing through the Sturbridge area. The cupcakes were *almost* too pretty to eat- with the rainbow swirled frosting, edible glitter and rich chocolate cake- but I powered through my remorse once I tasted how delicious they were.

And sure enough- my headache went away shortly afterwards!

Sunday afternoon and evening was all about errands and preparing for this most busy of work weeks- while also sneaking in an aqua-colored mani/pedi combo- but I’m looking forward to doing some more cooking this week (I have a great steak recipe to share on Friday morning before we break for the weekend!) and spending some long overdue time at the beach this coming Friday/Saturday- if the weather holds up, of course.

And Sunday is going to be all about Boston Comic-Con! I’m really looking forward to visiting some of my favorite local vendors and artists since I’ve been out of the circuit for a few months (I love to cosplay and attend the panels, meet and greets, etc.- but sometimes a girl just needs a break now and then!)

Expect a lot of pictures here and on my social media over the next few days!

But we’ve still gotta’ make it through this week- so I’m going to dial it back a bit and just say that I hope you all have a wonderful and stress-free Wednesday- and I’ll see you all on Friday!

Don’t spoil your appetites, either- because the recipe I have planned for Friday’s post is one of my favorites for the late Summertime!

xx

– Ashley –