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 –

Brunch Bites: Berry Ricotta Croissant French Toast

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Although I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since Monday and will more than likely be working through the weekend, as well- I did find some time this past Sunday to whip up a quick, easy, creative- and delicious- brunch recipe that I had been inspired by while browsing PUREWOW.

Ricotta in French Toast was something I’d never considered before- since i usually only put it in on my pizza or in my salads and lasagna- but I’m really glad I gave this a shot because it was so unbelievably sweet and tasty!

This recipe, which only takes about a half hour total to prep and assemble- is completely customizable, as well. You can use any type of berries and toppings you like- and it will taste incredible regardless!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 small croissants
  • Butter, for greasing
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (this is optional!)
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fresh berries (your choice! I used strawberries this time around.)
  • Maple syrup, for serving

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a shallow, medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon until combined. Dip the croissants into the egg mixture, allowing each side to sit for 1-2 minutes in the egg mixture.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat generously with butter. When the skillet is hot, cook the croissants in batches (do not overcrowd) until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the ricotta. Stir in 1 tablespoon honey for added sweetness.
  4. Carefully slice open the croissants length-wise, and using a small spoon- fill each croissant with portions of the cream/ricotta mixture.
  5. In a small bowl, mash half the berries. Stir in the remaining whole berries. 5. Serve the french toast topped with additional ricotta, berries, and maple syrup.

This was another huge hit for me and my friends- who cleaned their plates and came around looking for seconds! I know I’ll be making this again- but I intend to find some more ricotta-filled recipes moving forward since it’s a much more universal ingredient than I previously gave it credit for!

But the morning is underway and I’m off to answer e-mails, voicemails, and maybe sneak in a nap under my desk- but you didn’t read that and you certainly won’t tell anyone- right?

Have a great “Hump Day”, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Breakfast Bites: Mozzarella Meatball Frittata

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Another weekend down and another snowstorm to emerge from (relatively) unscathed. Here in New England we got a one-two punch- an overnight storm on Friday/Saturday and another one last night into this morning, Spring may be on the way- but Winter is not going to go down without a fight!

With all the snow, ice, and bitterly cold temperatures- I wanted to cook up something this past weekend that would warm me up from the inside out and keep me fueled for all the shoveling and for getting through my plans that were unfortunately pushed together and sort of rushed with all the weather delays (including helping one of my best friends move to her new house and unpack, stopping in Northampton for theater-related work, and squeezing in some pampering for myself!)

I love a good egg recipe- and frittatas are one of my favorites. This one in particular, which incorporates meatballs and a couple different kinds of cheeses- takes about 20 minutes total to prep and cook- making it perfect for those of you on the go who want a tasty, hassle-free breakfast or brunch dish to serve!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves
  • ½ pound meatballs (cut in half if more than 1 inch in diameter)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, preferably fresh, cut into ½-inch chunks

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large ovenproof and preferably nonstick skillet, heat ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the tomato juices are viscous and glossy, about 2 minutes. Pour the tomatoes onto a plate and use a silicone spatula to scrape any sticky tomato juices onto the plate as well.
  3. Whisk the eggs until well blended, then mix in the Parmesan and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Place the meatballs in the pan, cut sides down if they have been halved. Evenly sprinkle in the tomatoes. Pour in the egg mixture, using a fork to evenly redistribute the tomatoes or basil if necessary. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly across the top. Cook until the edge of the frittata starts to set, then use a silicone spatula to pull the cooked egg away from the side of the pan a bit, letting the raw egg flow behind it. Repeat a few times and cook until the eggs are almost set around the perimeter of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  5. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are just set in the center and the top is dappled with toasty brown patches, about 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 1 minute to help set the top and to foster bubbly, toasted cheese bites.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven. The frittata is easiest to remove from the pan after resting for 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath to loosen, then cover the skillet with a large plate or pizza pan and invert the frittata onto it. Flip the frittata one more time onto a serving plate or cutting board so it is right side up.

You know a recipe is good when my brother- a somewhat picky eater who happened to stop by shortly after I’d prepared this- really liked it! It’s filling and loaded with so many delicious flavors (the tomato and garlic stand out to me the most) that work wonderfully together.

Next time I prepare this, I think I may incorporate some red pepper and maybe some onion, as well- just to add more vegetables to the mix!

And now, with a new week just starting- I’m off to shovel, try to get some work done at my office, probably shovel some more- and then curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book a little later on tonight!

Stay warm out there, everyone- and enjoy your Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Dinner For Two: 30-Minute Beef Stroganoff

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

As we an embark on this “week of love” with Galentines Day, Valentines Day, and the latest spin on the holiday- Palentines Day (falling on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively)– I thought it’d be fun to share some holiday-inspired posts throughout the next few days.

The first, and one of my favorites- is a super quick and easy recipe you can whip up with just a few ingredients and within a half hour to share with your love, your date, your lady-friends- or your friends in general before you light some candles and gather around to watch a romantic comedy together…

… Or whatever you do to celebrate these sorts of holidays (mine involves a little more beer and little more “Mystery Science Theater 3000”- but to each their own!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1½ cups beef broth
  • 1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound pappardelle (FYI – I used egg noodles this time around!)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Working in batches, add the beef to the pot in a single layer and sear until browned on both sides, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer the beef to a plate.
  3. Add another 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and the mustard. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  5. Simmer until the liquid reduces into a thick sauce and the mushrooms are very tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the beef and continue to simmer until the beef is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and parsley.
  7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pappardelle according to the package instructions. In a large bowl, toss the pappardelle with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper.
  8. To serve, top the pappardelle with the beef stroganoff and dill.

Loaded with savory flavors and with each portion being filling and beyond satisfying- this dinner is a convenient and delicious spin on a favorite that typically takes a lot longer to prepare- making it perfect for busy Gal/Val/Palentines Day plans!

It’s a lot of fun to prepare together, too- so why not get your significant other or your friends in on the process with you? Cooking a meal together is a great bonding experience, after all!

And now, with Monday morning underway- I’ve got to buckle down and get some work done today- and tonight it’s all about meetings and meetups with friends!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful start to your week! See you all again on Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –

Super Bowl Snacks: Mozzarella-Stuffed Pizza Bread

Good Afternoon and Happy “Hump Day,” everyone!

Today’s post is coming at you all a little later on in the day than usual- but with a Patriot’s Parade, work and friends visiting from California- the past couple of days have been a little crazy!

I’m still riding the post-Super Bowl celebration high right now- which is why I’m sharing a dish that I particularly love to make during football season- but can also really be prepared and served any time of year! Pizza dishes are appropriate year-round- on any day, occasion, party, etc.

This cheese-stuffed pizza dough takes just over an our to prepare, cook and serve- and about two minutes to eat (or one minute, if you’re like me…)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces finely diced fresh mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomato pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese Fresh basil, for serving

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 4-by-14-inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water until combined.
  3. Sprinkle the mozzarella down the length of one piece of the dough in an even layer. Sprinkle the oregano and pepper evenly over the cheese. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash around the perimeter of the other piece of dough. Stack the pieces of dough, pressing firmly around the edges to seal and encase the cheese.
  4. Use a spoon to spread a line of pesto, about 1 inch thick, all the way down the length of the dough.
  5. Gently pick up the dough and twist down the length of it so that the pesto looks swirled. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and coil it into a tight spiral.
  6. Brush the dough with the olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the Parmesan onto the dough and then bake until very golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. 8. Serve immediately, garnished with basil.

Amid the nachos, French fries, chicken wings, chips & dip, sliders and beer- this “Pizza Bread” was definitely a hit and went pretty fast! I also made sure to serve it alongside small bowls of marinara sauce and ranch dressing- since those are the mandatory Super Bowl side-sauces, after all!

And, of course- no Super Bowl party is complete without properly representing your team. Luckily, I had plenty of Patriots plates/cups on standby for the occasion! There’s still some left over, too- so maybe I can break it out again for next year’s Super Bowl!

A girl can hope, right?

Anyway, I have to get back to work- but here’s wishing you all a wonderful rest of your Wednesday!

xx

– Ashley –