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: Mom’s Corned Beef

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I didn’t forget that yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day when I posted my “Spring Cleaning” update last Friday- but when you live in Massachusetts and St. Paddy’s falls on a weekend- the party sort of extends into the days leading up to and following the actual holiday until everyone eventually gets tired/hungover and collectively decide it’s time to pack it up until next year.

Such was the case this past weekend, which consisted of plenty of Irish breakfasts, brunches, celebratory parades and green-tinted everything. While I managed to avoid overzealous college students chugging green beer and people dressed like leprechauns loudly trying to trace back their family’s lineage to Ireland (as is tradition!)– there was one thing I made it a point not to skip- and that was my mom’s annual corned beef dinner.

My family isn’t Irish enough for it to actually count- but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our Irish friends with a traditional meal of meat and vegetables. I asked my mom for her recipe to share here this week- and although she doesn’t actually measure out anything (it’s all from memory!)– she was kind enough to oblige and give her best “guest-imates” on how much of everything to use.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 corned beef brisket (point cut or flat cut)
  • 1 bag of red or yellow potatoes
  • 1 bag of carrots (whole or cut)
  • 1 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup brown sugar

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Put corned beef in a pot, and cover with water and seasoning (optional.) Boil the corned beef until fork tender.
  2. Add potatoes, carrots and cabbage. Finish boiling under vegetables are tender.
  3. Heat oven to 400°F.
  4. Take the cooked corned beef and place it in a baking pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top and bake until the sugar is melted and a little crispy- about 20-25 minutes.
  5. Plate the corned beef with the vegetables and serve.

Now, admittedly the cabbage went right into the garbage because, you know- cabbage is gross– but everything else was delicious! I love tender carrots and potatoes- and the brown sugar that was added to the corned beef gave it a pleasantly surprising sweetness I hadn’t expected.

I hope that all of you who celebrated yesterday are recovering smoothly and that today is as easygoing as possible for you. Naturally, I’m back at work and keeping two steps ahead of everything (or trying to, anyway!) so this morning is all about answering e-mails, voicemails, and prioritizing tasks. Living the dream as always!

Here’s wishing us all a good week ahead. I’ll be back on Wednesday with my weekend recap!

xx

– Ashley –

Festive Foodie: Balsamic Cranberry Roast Chicken

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! (Also- Happy First day of Winter!)

We’ve made it to another weekend- and it’s the one right before Christmas- which means a lot of people are more than likely going to be getting a bit bonkers with last minute gift shopping and/or preparing for travel and visits with friends and family!

Tonight I’ll be having a pre-holiday pasta dinner with my mom, brothers, sister-in-law and niece so we can eat all the carbs we want and watch a couple of classic Christmas movies together before it’s time to pack up the car and travel ’round the state throughout Saturday and Sunday to deliver presents to my cousins, aunts, uncles, best friends, etc.

Before I do that, though- I wanted to share one last festive recipe for those of you who may be in need of a quick, easy, packed-with-flavor entree to serve any guests you’re expecting over the next couple of days! If you like chicken and cranberry (and who doesn’t?)– this one is going to give you plenty of holiday cheer.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1½ cups cranberries, divided
  • 8 pieces chicken (thighs, drumsticks or a mixture)
  • Nonstick spray, as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra sprigs for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, process the garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce and ½ cup of the cranberries until smooth.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in a large zip-top plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. Close the bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a large oven-safe skillet or casserole dish with nonstick spray.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet or dish, skin side down, and season with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cranberries around the pan.
  5. Roast the chicken until the skin begins to brown and the meat is nearly cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Flip the chicken and brush each piece generously with the reserved marinade. Discard the remaining marinade.
  6. Raise the oven temperature to 425°F and cook until the chicken skin is crispy, 5 to 8 more minutes. Serve immediately.

I love a good chicken roast- and this one had just the right amount of sweet, tangy deliciousness to give it an extra kick of unexpected- but savory- flavor!

Christmas Eve is my mom’s birthday- where my family and I will be having yet another big, celebratory dinner- so I’ll be taking the day off from posting content to decompress and enjoy my time with loved ones.

I *will* be back on Wednesday, though- since it’ll officially be the countdown to New Year’s from there! I’ve got a few more posts to share before we enter 2019, after all.

I hope those of you celebrating Christmas have a wonderful, fun, safe and happy holiday filled with good friends, loving family, warmth and laughter.

And I hope Santa is extra good to you all this year!

See you next 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: Gingerbread Pancakes

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Mine was very relaxing- with my time divided between getting some Christmas shopping done from the comfort of my couch, setting up some decorations around the house- and going on little drives with friends through the Western Massachusetts’ countryside to marvel at the snow and festively illuminated farms around the area.

And, of course- getting into the holiday spirit means cooking up some seasonally appropriate dishes, too! Case in point? These sugary gingerbread pancakes I served (with hot chocolate!) during Sunday brunch with some of the girls yesterday morning/afternoon before we hit the road for a day out together to catch up while getting some errands done.

These pancakes take about 30 minutes total to prep and bake- making them a perfect option to serve when it comes time for that last-minute holiday craziness to kick in. Don’t stress yourself out with a big breakfast. Just make these!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Pinch of cloves
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, as needed for serving (optional)
  • Whipped cream, as needed for serving (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the molasses, egg and vanilla extract to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until well combined.
  3. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, spritz it with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Working in batches, pour scoops of batter (about ½ cup each) onto the hot griddle. Cook until the pancakes are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip and cook until golden on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with confectioners’ sugar and whipped cream, is using.

A dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream on top- and these pancakes looked *and* tasted magical. I would gladly make these again- probably for when all the girls in my family get together to bake cookies and wrap gifts a few days before Christmas Eve! These were a big hit yesterday- and I know they’ll be a big hit then, too!

And now with another work week ahead of me, I’m off to get started on sifting through my e-mails, voicemails and caseload for the day. Here’s wishing you all an easy and stress-free start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –