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 –

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 –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Chicken and Snap Pea Stir-Fry

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

In the midst of wrapping up my end-of-the-month “To Do” checklist at my office, booking a vacation to the West Coast near the end of September, and soaking up as much sun as possible during my lunch breaks and after work since it’s been pretty hot out these past few days- I’ve also been whipping up the last of my favorite Summertime recipes before it’s time to skim through the Autumn cookbooks again.

This 10 minute recipe- infused with soy sauce, garlic and plenty of vegetables- is a quick, easy and delicious side dish to serve up at your Labor Day Weekend cookout this coming weekend.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2½ cups snap peas
  • 1¼ cups boneless skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, plus more for finishing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for finishing

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bell pepper and snap peas, and sauté until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken and cook until it is golden and fully cooked and the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, Sriracha (if using) and sesame seeds; toss well to combine. Allow the mixture to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cilantro, then garnish with a sprinkle of extra cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

I kept a couple of separate dishes with the sesame seeds and cilantro on the side so that my friends could garnish their plates with as much/little as they wanted- and kept some extra soy sauce within reach for those who wanted more of a kick to their chicken and vegetables.

Overall, this was a hit- and it’s not overly filling which meant I could still scoop some macaroni salad and grab an ear of corn during the BBQ and not feel stuffed.

I’m off to get some work done, but I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday! I’ll be back here bright and early on Friday morning to bid a proper farewell to August, and to Summer 2018!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: 15-Minute Skillet Pepper Steak

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend! Celebrate!

Today is my half day at work, and then once I’m out of my office- it’s off to lunch in the city with some friends and getting a jump start on my plans for the next couple of days. Not that I’m counting down to noon or anything, right?

Before I wrap up a couple of things I put off until the last possible minute and race out the door-I thought I’d share a quick, mess-free and pretty convenient recipe for those of you who- like me- are doing their best to savor the last of these final Summer days with as many backyard BBQs and cookouts with friends/family as you can fit into your schedule!

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare and some steak and vegetables on hand, you can whip up this on-the-fly dinner recipe with no hassle and feed everyone in no time at all!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 12 ounces top round beef, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other neutral oil), divided
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ white onion, thinly slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Sesame seeds, as needed for finishing (this is completely optional. I skipped using these this time around because I didn’t want them to get stuck in my teeth!)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Season the steak with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steak to the skillet and stir-fry until browned on the exterior but not fully cooked, about 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer the steak to a medium bowl. Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and crushed red-pepper flakes. Toss well to combine.
  3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the peppers and onion in an even layer. Cook, tossing occasionally, until just tender, about 4 minutes.
  4. Push the peppers and onion to one side of the skillet and return the steak to the other side of the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir the garlic into the peppers and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Garnish the steak with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

I’m a carnivore through and through- and I love burgers, steaks, chicken wings, etc. during the Summer. The steak was filled with so much flavor- and I added a little extra soy sauce to the vegetables after the fact to give them an additional kick, as well.

This dinner was filling for sure- but afterwards I didn’t feel gross or like I ate too much. It was just the right portion size!

I’d actually like to incorporate some grilled corn (my favorite!) the next time I cook up this recipe for guests in order to add even more flavors and textures to it. You can’t really go wrong with the vegetable choices, after all!

But I’ve got to head out and get to work. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your Fri-yay and a fantastic weekend!

See you all on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –