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: Mini Shepherd’s Pot Pies

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to the end of another week!

This coming weekend- kicking off when I leave work a little later on this afternoon- is sure to be a busy one. I’ve got to make an appearance at local horror movie convention tonight, possibly swing by a midnight screening of ‘IT’ (the Tim Curry version!) in the middle of the woods- yes, really- and prepare for a weekend in the city with friends when we all get together for our bride-to-be-BFF’s bachelorette party before she ties the knot in a few weeks!

But before I start racing around and more than likely tripping over myself- I wanted to share a pretty great recipe I found via PUREWOW earlier this week. If you’re a meat and potatoes type of person- this may be right up your alley, but if you’re a meat and potatoes AND mini versions of food enthusiast- then you’re going to love this and want to whip a batch of these up immediately!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 package refrigerated piecrust (2 x 9″ inch pie crusts)
  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 (1 oz.) envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup beef broth
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables (corn, peas and carrot blend)
  • 1 package Bob Evans Classic Mashed Potatoes

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Unroll both piecrusts and use a 3” circle cookie cutter (or small round bowl) to cut out 12 circles (re-roll scraps of dough to get remaining circles). Line each cup of a 12-cavity muffin tin with the pie dough and bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until cooked and crumbled. Stir in the onion soup mix and 1 tablespoon of flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the beef broth, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet and then add in the frozen vegetable mix. Continue cooking and stirring for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the liquid has thickened and the veggies are mostly heated through.
  3. Scoop ¼ cup of the meat mixture into the piecrusts, then top each mini pie with 2 tablespoons of Bob Evans Classic Mashed Potatoes.
  4. Continue baking for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, till the piecrusts are golden brown. Turn on the top broiler for the last 2 minutes to lightly brown the mashed potatoes if desired. Run a butter knife around the edge of the mini pies to gently remove and serve warm.

If I had to make one criticism for these otherwise delicious pies- it’s that you may want to consider going a little easy with the onion soup mix. One full package left these pies tasting very strongly. It wasn’t terrible by any means, since I do like onion- but it may not be for everyone and if you’re serving these to guests- you’re going to want to be sensitive to their taste buds.

That aside, I loved these pies! They were warm, flavorful and filling- the perfect treat to end a rainy, brisk Autumn day. I can’t wait to make more!

But for now, I’ve got to get some work done and then hit the ground running come 4:30 PM. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful and safe weekend. I’ll be back on Monday!

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 –

Brunch Bakes: Giant Cinnamon Roll

Good Afternoon and Happy Monday, everyone!

When it comes to breakfast and/or brunch, I try to keep things light and healthy so that I don’t feel weighed down for the rest of the day and can still keep busy and active without needing a nap, first. Needless to say, there’s a lot of fruits, nuts and grains involved- as well as the occasional egg or two.

However, sometimes it’s nice to give myself a “cheat day” and indulge in something sweet, sticky or covered in powdered sugar and syrup. With this past weekend marking my friend Stef’s birthday party AND Wrestlemania (I’ll get into those a little later on this week!)- there was a lot of snacking and late-night tasting going on- so I figured I may as well make my “Girls Day” Sunday brunch fun and whipped up this gigantic cinnamon bun to serve.

At 9 inches around, this cinnamon bun is served like a pie- cut into slices- and so, so worth doing some extra crunches for repentance during my next workout.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon, softened
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • Three 8-ounce tubes crescent roll dough
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, or more as needed

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch oven-safe skillet with the softened butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, light brown sugar, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla to make a smooth paste.
  3. Open the tubes of crescent roll dough and unfurl the contents of each tube into one long, flat piece. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the filling evenly over the entire surface of each piece and then cut in half lengthwise to create two long strips. (You should end up with six strips total.)
  4. Roll one strip into a tight spiral and place it in the center of the prepared skillet. Wrap the remaining pieces of dough around the spiral, working outward, until you’ve used all the dough.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash evenly over the cinnamon roll and then transfer to the oven to bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla until the mixture reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency. Add more cream if needed.
  7. Ice the cinnamon roll with the glaze and let set for 5 minutes

I brought some of the leftover slices into work this morning to share with my co-workers who also had a severe case of Monday blues- and it cheered them right up! This is perfect to share, or- if you’re feeling particularly gluttonous (we all do every now and then)– to eat in sections all on your own.

But I am off and hitting the ground running. I took a half day today at work for a couple of appointments- but it’s sunny and cool out- so maybe I’ll take the scenic route to get where I’m going and enjoy the freedom from my office!

xx

– Ashley –