Fall Foodie: Hot Mulled Cider

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I’m getting ready to run some final errands before I head out to Boston for a couple of days for a mini vacation, but before I do- I wanted to share what is- hands down- the best (and easiest!) recipe for the perfect mulled apple cider for those of you who are attempting to savor these final days of Fall and may be looking for some refreshments for your upcoming Friendsgivings/Thanksgivings.

A handful of ingredients and 20 minutes is all you need to whip this one up- and it’s a crowd pleaser for sure!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 16 cups pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
  • Four 2-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 oranges (peels and juice)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 star anise

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Pour into mugs, rest the cinnamon sticks inside the cider- and serve.
  3. Grab the fluffiest, coziest blanket you own, get comfortable and curl up- and enjoy!

I assure you- this is the only cider recipe you’ll ever need to get you through what’s left of Autumn and the early Winter! There’s so much flavor in each mug!

I’m going to be back on Friday with a full recap of my days away- so stay bundled up, stay warm- and enjoy the rest of your week, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Seaside Starters: Maryland Crab Cakes

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

This coming weekend is shaping up to be a busy (in a good way!) one- including a long overdue dinner with my family to celebrate my older brother and my niece’s upcoming birthdays, working at the station, catching a screening of “It: Chapter 2” with friends- and then Sunday will be fully devoted to sand, surf and scallops at Hampton Beach’s Annual Seafood Festival!

And, of course- the Patriots’ regular season kicks off- so there will be beer and nachos, as well. As is tradition!

Inspired by the Seafood Festival, and still getting acquainted with my new kitchen- I thought I’d whip up one of my own favorite recipes to share with you all- crab cakes! These can be served as an appetizer or, if you’re eating more than one- as an entrée all on their own. Whatever you choose- they’re delicious and very easy to make!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 8 ounces crab meat- drained, shells removed and patted dry.
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided in half
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon McCormick Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (optional)
  • Olive oil (to fry cakes)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Drain crab meat, pick out shells and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Add crab meat, bell pepper, tarragon, ½ cup Panko bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, mayo, dried mustard and Old Bay seasoning to a medium mixing bowl and mix with a rubber-tipped spatula.
  3. Scoop handfuls of the combined mixture out one at a time and gentle pat/press together to form cakes.
  4. Add ½ cup Panko bread crumbs to a shallow dish. Place each cake in and coat the sides until all of the cakes are covered evenly in bread crumbs.
  5. Heat a heavy sauté pan and add the olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Place cakes in the sauté pan and cook approximately 4 minutes on each side or until they are evenly browned
  6. Remove cakes and place on a plate to allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Drizzle horseradish sauce over the cakes and serve.

I could eat these crab cakes all day every day- that’s how much I love them- and while I’m sure I’ll be eating plenty of variations of these at the Seafood Festival, among many, many other things- I’m a bit biased when it comes to my own! I don’t think they can be topped!

Next week, my blogging schedule returns to normal now that Labor Day is over (Monday, Wednesday and Friday!) I’ll be sure to have more Autumnal Activities to share, a peek into the Fall section of my wardrobe- and a few other surprises!

But until then- enjoy your weekend, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Sweets: Peaches-and-Cream Ice Pops

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve got another long weekend ahead of me since I took this coming Monday off from work as a bit of a “personal day.” Originally, I had plans in the Cape with some friends- but it ended up not happening due to scheduling conflicts for a few of us so now I’m simply taking the day to rest, recharge- and maybe hit the beach or Ashfield Lake again.

And while temperatures are soaring here in New England- I thought today would be as good a time as any to share a really delicious, super easy-to-make-and-freeze Popsicle treat for yourself and/or your guests to beat the heat with!

If you like real fruit, Greek yogurt and refreshing desserts- then you are going to *love* this recipe!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound (453g) peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ⅓ cup (66g) light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups (340g) plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (112g) crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange the peaches in an even layer on a baking sheet. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt; toss to combine.
  2. Roast the peaches until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, crème fraîche, vanilla and almond extract to combine. Transfer about three quarters of the mixture to a container with a pour spout.
  4. Add the cooled peaches to the remaining yogurt mixture in the bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the two together (it’s okay if there are chunks of peaches left)
  5. Pour 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture into each ice-pop mold. Follow with 4 tablespoons of the peach mixture, then 4 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture. Continue alternating the two until the molds are full. It’s okay if the layers swirl together.
  6. Place an ice-pop stick in the center of each mold and transfer to the freezer. Freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.
  7. Run the molds under warm water and then unmold the ice pops. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe was the waiting for the ice pops to freeze so I could finally enjoy one in front of my air conditioner! And, once I did- I was so relieved these tasted just as good as they looked.

I love a good ice pop this time of year- and I’m thinking I may try to incorporate pineapple or mango instead of peaches the next time I attempt this one. Something with a little more citrus and sour behind it. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the next few days- but here’s wishing you all a wonderful weekend ahead. I’ll be back- bright and early- on Monday morning. ‘Til then- have fun, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated out there!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I am so excited for this weekend- not only because I need a little break from what proved to be a rather busy and hectic work-week- but also because the weather is supposed to be really nice and I’ve got a lot of outdoor stuff I want to do around the Valley!

One of those outdoorsy things may include some grilling- and I recently came across a super simple, super quick backyard BBQ recipe that combines fruit and cheese (a great pairing in itself, really)– but in a fun and unique way.

Meet watermelon and feta skewers- the Summertime recipe you didn’t know you needed in your life ’til now!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • About 40 (1-inch) pieces cubed watermelon
  • About 20 (1-inch) pieces cubed feta cheese
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups arugula (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Set your grill to high heat. Thread a piece of watermelon, a piece of feta and a second piece of watermelon onto a 6-inch skewer. Repeat with the remaining pieces of watermelon and feta.
  2. Once the grill is hot, brush the skewers on all sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Grill until lightly charred on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and cool slightly.
  3. To serve, mound 1 cup arugula onto each plate and top with 5 skewers per plate. Drizzle each salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Even though the original recipe calls for some extra ingredients for presentation purposes- my skewers were well-received even without being placed on a bed of arugula or sprinkled with basil. I put them out with a little bowl of standard cream cheese fruit dip and another little bowl of vanilla Greek yogurt and my friends devoured them just the same!

The sweetness of the watermelon with the saltiness of the feta was an unexpected flavor journey as I ate a couple of these skewers myself- but it was definitely delicious and something I will absolutely make again- although I think the next time I might leave them on the grill for a little longer to get a bit more of a charred surface. I was admittedly afraid of melting the cheese too much during this go at the recipe!

That just about does it for me this week. I’ll be back on Monday with more recaps of my time around the Valley, another look at my Summer wardrobe and maybe- just maybe- a custom-made Summertime soundtrack to share! You’ll have to check back to find out!

Here’s wishing you all a sunny, safe and fun weekend ahead. Be good to yourselves and each other!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bites: Mini Quiches with Hash Brown Crusts

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

While I don’t leave for vacation until Wednesday morning- I’m pretty much already there mentally at this point. Although I have a longtime fear of flying- I’ve reached such a point of emotional and physical exhaustion that I know I’m going to sleep like a baby the second the plane takes off and will hopefully wake up feeling refreshed and ready to soak up the sunshine when I land in Vegas!

I digress. My perpetual feeling of sleepiness is the result of being a bit overworked and overwhelmed with my move right now (as well as all the rain we’ve been getting!) and thankfully has nothing to do with poor diet- as made evident by this positively exquisite dish I prepared for brunch over this past weekend.

With just a few ingredients and under an hour of your time- you can make these little and totally customizable quiches, too!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE CRUST

  • 3 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and drained well
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled into bits
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 7 eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE CRUST: Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly grease a standard-size muffin tin. In a medium bowl, toss the hash browns with the butter and salt until well combined.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons hash browns into each cup of the muffin tin. Press gently into the base to form a crust. It’s OK if the potatoes come up slightly around the edge of the cup.
  3. Bake the hash-brown crust until it’s golden and crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  4. MAKE THE FILLING: Place about 1 tablespoon bacon into each crust, then top with a few pieces of tomato.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard into each cup, stopping about ¼ inch below the top rim. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake until the quiches are puffed up and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve warm.

Honestly, I could probably eat an entire dozen of these on my own in one sitting- because they were delicious and one or two didn’t feel like nearly enough for me by the time I was finished. Between the hash brown crust and the fluffy egg loaded with bacon and tomato- I was on Cloud Nine during my entire brunch get-together.

I know I’ll be whipping these up again after I’m moved into the new apartment and I finally have a chance to go grocery shopping!

I’m off to do some last minute crunching at my office to get things done before I take off to the West Coast- but I’ll be back on Wednesday morning with a pre-flight recap of my weekend!

Enjoy your Monday, everyone! Here’s hoping it’s easy and stress-free for all of you!

xx

– Ashley –