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 –

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: Slow Cooker Glazed Carrots

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s a short work-week for me, with Wednesday being a half day, Thursday being Thanksgiving- and then my office remaining closed on Friday so we can all recover from our food comas (thank God)– so today and tomorrow are pretty packed with pre-holiday/long weekend paperwork and preparations.

In the spirit of alleviating any last minute stress and hopefully assisting some of you with a quick, “set it and forget it” recipe- I wanted to share an incredibly easy, packed with flavor vegetable side dish you can make in your crock pot while you tend to other, more important matters on Wednesday night or Thursday morning (like watching the parade- which I’m determined to wake up in time for this year!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 lbs. carrots peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • ¼ cup butter melted
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Place the carrots in a slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the carrots and toss to coat.
  3. Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or until carrots are tender. If you’d like to thicken the glaze, remove the cover and cook on HIGH for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

So simple, right? And believe me when I say this ridiculously easy recipe is delicious. It’s the perfect combination of sweet, salty- and the tender texture of the carrot slices is savory- not sloppy. If you’re feeling extra creative (and no nut allergies permitting)– you can even add some sliced almonds to the mix for an extra bit of crunch. I’ve done it before- and it’s awesome!

But I’m off to try and stay ahead of my caseloads today and get another cup of coffee. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful start to your week!

xx

– Ashley –

Pre-Thanksgiving Prep!

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I managed to dig myself out of last night’s first snowfall of the season (and it arrived with a vengeance!) and get to my office this morning- but whether or not I’m motivated enough to actually get anything done is still questionable. All that shoveling made me tired!

So, the weekend before Thanksgiving is undoubtedly a crazy one. Everyone starts heading home for the holiday, there’s the final grocery shopping trip to get done before it’s time to have the actual dinner, insane amounts of cleaning and decorating to do, and- in my case, at least- the Friendsgivings around the city (and this year, around the state, as well!)

This coming weekend is no exception, and tomorrow morning will be filled with a lot of cooking and baking before I head off to one of my friend’s first attempts at Friendsgiving at his new apartment in Somerville later on in the evening. I’m excited- and I’m sure I’ll be posting a lot of pictures up on my Instagram.

And on Sunday? It’s the same thing- except Friendsgiving 2.0 will be taking place out in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, instead!

Next week on the blog I’ve got my usual weekend re-cap on deck, as well as another holiday-inspired recipe to share before the big feast with my family for anyone looking for something last minute, quick and easy to prepare for their guests.

But before I buckle down for my everyday duties at work and get ready to launch into the weekend- I thought I’d share some links from posts of Autumn days past to help those looking for some inspiration or ideas!

IF YOU NEED SOME AUTUMN/THANKSGIVING-INSPIRED RECIPES

IF YOU NEED A SWEET LITTLE FALL PLAYLIST FOR THE PRE-DINNER RECEPTION

IF YOU’RE ABLE TO GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED

Here’s wishing you all a safe and stress-free weekend. As stress-free as it can be, anyway!

See you all on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Fall Foodie: Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Thanksgiving is next week- and in the days leading up to it- I’ve got a couple of Friends-givings to attend around the city. While I’m preparing menus, seating arrangements, decor and a *fantastic* playlist- I’ve also been experimenting in the kitchen with different vegetables to incorporate some new dishes into the lineup for the big meal. This past weekend, it was cauliflower’s turn for a transformation.

When I was a kid, I hated cauliflower. The texture and taste reminded me of Styrofoam- but as I got older and saw just how many endless and delicious possibilities it can be used for, I can’t get enough of it. For this quick dish- all you need is a handful of ingredients (including cheese, which automatically makes everything so much better) and just over a half hour of time to make a crunchy, savory side for your next holiday meal!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 7 cups cauliflower florets, cut to bite sized pieces
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the cauliflower and olive oil in a large Ziplock bag or a large bowl and shake or toss to coat the florets evenly.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bag/bowl and shake/toss until coated, pressing slightly to help the breading stick to the florets.
  4. Pour the coated florets onto the baking sheet and spray the tops of the cauliflower with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir the cauliflower and continue to bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!

If you’ve got fussy eaters (particularly kids who are anti-vegetable)– then this is a good way to get them to eat cauliflower without protest. The cheese and garlic taste incredible together, and the breading gives the otherwise soft cauliflower a much-needed crunch and extra flavor.

Add a little ranch dressing on the side and you’ve got the perfect vegetable appetizer to serve before the turkey and stuffing! Best of all? These are light- which means they won’t make you feel like you ate too much or weigh you down before it’s time to dive into the main course(s)!

But that’s all for me today. It’s time to chug my morning coffee and get to work. Now that the holidays are coming up- things tend to get a little busy around the office- so I’m trying to stay one step ahead!

Have a great Monday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –