2 Spooky 4 U

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

After battling a 24 hour stomach bug for most of yesterday (I still managed to get a lot done despite feeling pretty awful at random intervals throughout the day,) I’m looking forward to getting some work done at my office today, retreating to my family’s home for a quiet night in with my mom and my dog- and heading to bed early! I need to get my strength up for Halloween next week, after all!

This past Wednesday night- some friends and I from work decided to get into the spooky season spirit with a beloved New England tradition- and we stopped by Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island for their annual Jack-O-Lantern Display Spectacular.

The trail, which winds through a waterfront section of the zoo- features thousands of intricately carved and painted pumpkins, Every year also has a different theme (decades, pop culture, historical moments, etc.) that artists base their designs around. This year it was the different seasons- as well as side themes of notable conservationists and a nod to Stan Lee & Marvel.

You can see some of the photos I snapped below. Click to enlarge any of them for a better view!

I had an absolute blast, and the weather held up nicely so it was great to take some extra time to really look at everything without freezing.

Before leaving, we made sure to grab some hot apple cider and kettle corn popcorn for the road- and then it was all the way back to the Valley for me!

Next week, the posting schedule will be a short one given that Halloween falls on Thursday- but I’ll have some of my favorite things from this past month up to share with you all on Tuesday- and a look back on this most wild and fun of Octobers as a whole with my “In a Nutshell” post!

But until then, enjoy your weekend ahead! I’m off to get some work done!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Sea Salt Pumpkin Butter Cups

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

While today would typically be my half-day/work-from-home day at my office- the schedules have rotated for the Fall/Winter and that day has now been delegated to Thursdays. My “Hump Days” will be spent commuting to and working from my office- but that doesn’t mean my posting schedule has to change!

On the contrary- I thought I’d use the mid-work-week mark as an opportunity to share another Autumn-inspired recipe- and a Halloween appropriate one if you’re up to making a bunch of these to either hand out to trick-or-treaters or bring to your next spooky gathering!

These salted pumpkin & peanut butter cups are the ideal candy- a savory mix of sweet and salty, smooth and crunchy. The true trick is eating one and being able to stop yourself from having another (or four.)

Best of all? There’s no baking required!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chunks/baking morsels
  • ⅓ cup crunchy peanut butter (you can use almond butter, too!)
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Coarse sea salt, for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Melt dark chocolate (with a stove top or microwave.) Stir with a spoon or spatula until the melted chocolate is smooth.
  2. Line a series of mini cupcake papers on a baking sheet.
  3. In a bowl, combine the ⅓ cup of peanut butter, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and honey.
  4. Place ½ tablespoon of chocolate into the bottom of each of the cupcake papers.
  5. Drop in 1 teaspoon of peanut butter/pumpkin mixture onto the top of the melted chocolate within the cupcake papers. Cover with remaining melted chocolate.
  6. Sprinkle the tops of each mold with coarse sea salt.
  7. Place in refrigerator or freezer until the chocolate hardens.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

For something so small- these cups sure were savory- and a big hit with the family and friends I shared them with!

I love experimenting with Fall flavors- like pumpkin, cinnamon and caramel- so expect a lot more posts like this as the season progresses and I continue to get creative in the kitchen!

But until then, I’ve got to focus on a rather large stack of paperwork on my desk and a full inbox waiting to be tackled before this morning is done.

Enjoy the rest of your day, y’all!

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 –