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 –

Fall Foodie: Slow Cooker Glazed Carrots

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s a short work-week for me, with Wednesday being a half day, Thursday being Thanksgiving- and then my office remaining closed on Friday so we can all recover from our food comas (thank God)– so today and tomorrow are pretty packed with pre-holiday/long weekend paperwork and preparations.

In the spirit of alleviating any last minute stress and hopefully assisting some of you with a quick, “set it and forget it” recipe- I wanted to share an incredibly easy, packed with flavor vegetable side dish you can make in your crock pot while you tend to other, more important matters on Wednesday night or Thursday morning (like watching the parade- which I’m determined to wake up in time for this year!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 lbs. carrots peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • ¼ cup butter melted
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Place the carrots in a slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the carrots and toss to coat.
  3. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or until carrots are tender. If you’d like to thicken the glaze, remove the cover and cook on HIGH for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

So simple, right? And believe me when I say this ridiculously easy recipe is delicious. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, salty- and the tender texture of the carrot slices is savory- not sloppy. If you’re feeling extra creative (and no nut allergies permitting)– you can even add some sliced almonds to the mix for an extra bit of crunch. I’ve done it before- and it’s awesome!

But I’m off to try and stay ahead of my caseloads today and get another cup of coffee. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –

Pre-Thanksgiving Prep!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I managed to dig myself out of last night’s first snowfall of the season (and it arrived with a vengeance!) and get to my office this morning- but whether or not I’m motivated enough to actually get anything done is still questionable. All that shoveling made me tired!

So, the weekend before Thanksgiving is undoubtedly a crazy one. Everyone starts heading home for the holiday, there’s the final grocery shopping trip to get done before it’s time to have the actual dinner, insane amounts of cleaning and decorating to do, and- in my case, at least- the Friendsgivings around the city (and this year, around the state, as well!)

This coming weekend is no exception, and tomorrow morning will be filled with a lot of cooking and baking before I head off to one of my friend’s first attempts at Friendsgiving at his new apartment in Somerville later on in the evening. I’m excited- and I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot of pictures up on my Instagram.

And on Sunday? It’s the same thing- except Friendsgiving 2.0 will be taking place out in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, instead!

Next week on the blog I’ve got my usual weekend re-cap on deck, as well as another holiday-inspired recipe to share before the big feast with my family for anyone looking for something last minute, quick and easy to prepare for their guests.

But before I buckle down for my everyday duties at work and get ready to launch into the weekend- I thought I’d share some links from posts of Autumn days past to help those looking for some inspiration or ideas!

IF YOU NEED SOME AUTUMN/THANKSGIVING-INSPIRED RECIPES

IF YOU NEED A SWEET LITTLE FALL PLAYLIST FOR THE PRE-DINNER RECEPTION

IF YOU’RE ABLE TO GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED

Here’s wishing you all a safe and stress-free weekend. As stress-free as it can be, anyway!

See you all on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –