Strawberry Milkshake Bites

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We’ve been making a lot of mini treats lately on Smart Cookie. Just a few days ago, we made teeny tiny Cookies & Cream Brownie Cookie Cups, and last week, we had hand-held Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread Bowls. Maybe my fascination with all things mini is because I myself am mini (5’1” and proud). Whatever the reason, it works out well for all of us because mini foods are both cute and delicious.

We’re breaking out the shrink ray again today for these itty bitty Strawberry Milkshake Bites. You can scarf one down in one or two bites max, and get all the flavor of a tall, creamy strawberry milkshake. These bites are served chilled too, so they’re just as refreshing as the beverage they mimic.

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I started with something unexpected for the filling: canned frosting. Pillsbury’s Fluffy Strawberry Marshmallow frosting gives us the candy-like strawberry flavor we want, with added creaminess and richness too. Then we fold in fresh homemade whipped cream for added fluffiness. A few drops of strawberry extract enhance the flavor, and we’ve got a dreamy, light filling that’s refreshingly cool and sweet.

My favorite sugar cookie dough makes up the soft and chewy crust. I had so many people asking about the crust recipe when I served these at a grad party over the weekend. It’s the recipe I turn to every Christmas, and it makes for an awesome edible bowl for our luscious filling.

Someone at the party I brought these to also suggested turning it into one big pie too. You could easily do that and enjoy whole honking slices of this dreamy stuff. That said, I do enjoy my mini one-bite treats. It makes me feel like I can eat more of them, and you know what they say: the more, the merrier.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Be careful not to over-whip the filling, or you wind up with butter instead of fluff.
  2. You can make the crusts for these ahead of time, and then freeze until you’re ready to fill them fresh.
  3. Save the dough recipe itself for the best sugar cookies ever.
  4. The pearl sprinkles are optional, but cute. find them in the baking section of craft stores.

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Strawberry Milkshake Bites

Ingredients:

For the dough
Adapted from Buzzfeed.com

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tbsp.), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling
By The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. strawberry extract
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup Pillsbury Fluffy Strawberry Marshmallow Frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs, one at a time, until evenly combined. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Fold mixture into butter mixture, a little at a time, until evenly incorporated.
  4. Drop dough into muffin tins, about a teaspoon’s worth, and bake for 5 minutes. Immediately use something like the bottom of an ice cream scoop or a handle that’s thick, round and about 1/2-inch in diameter to press deep indentations into the dough. If you don’t have anything to use, just use your thumb (but put something over it to prevent burning). Return to oven for 2 more minutes.
  5. Let cool completely before removing from pan. Use a knife and work it around the edges to loosen the crusts then gently remove them.
  6. Make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream, strawberry extract, mascarpone, cornstarch, and vanilla until thick and fluffy. Fold in the frosting.
  7. Transfer filling to a piping bag (you can make one out of a plastic bag by cutting off one corner) and pipe filling into cooled crusts. Store in fridge in an air-tight container and enjoy.

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24 Recipes for the 4th of July

4th of July RU

The 4th of July has always been a blast in my house because it’s a double-holiday: Independence Day and Mother Cookie’s birthday. When you’re celebrating two momentous occasions at once, it’s doubly important to have great stuff to eat.

I can show you a lot of embarrassing photos of cakes I made as a kid. I was not always as gifted with frosting as I am now.I still get made fun of to this day for the Happy Birthday/4th of July cake that says “Happy Birthday Mamma” instead of “mama.”

Nowadays, I like to think my Smart Cookie skills have vastly improved my Independence Day eats, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’ve got a whole list of incredible 4th of July recipes for you, ranging from 4th of July desserts to 4th of July snacks and side dishes. I’ve even got vegetarian 4th of July main dishes. Whatever you’re looking for to make you the star of the cookout, I’ve got you covered.

4th of July Desserts

1. Red, White, and Blue Cupcake Cake

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2. Red, White and Blue Ice Box Cake

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3. Red, White, & Blue Breakfast Bombs

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4. Key Lime Pie Rice Krispie Treats

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5. Red, White, & Blue Flip Flop Cookies

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6. S’more Swirl Chocolate Bark

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7. 3-Ingredient Mini Blueberry Fritters

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8. Strawberry Lemonade Bars

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9. Red, White, & Blue Macaroons

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10. Red, White, & Blue Poke Cake

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4th of July Sides

1. Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese

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2. Sun-Dried Tomato Mac & Cheese

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3. 4-Cheese Stovetop Mac & Cheese

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4. Crispy Potato Bites with Guacamole

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5. Sauteed Basil-Parmesan Brussel Sprouts, Corn, & Cherry Tomatoes

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4th of July Snacks

1. Loaded Buffalo Potato Bites

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2. Mini Caprese Bites

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3. Best Hummus
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4. Roasted Zucchini Salsa

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4th of July Vegetarian Main Dishes

1. Black Bean Burger on a Pretzel Bun Topped with Mac & Cheese

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2. Pepper Jack Summer Squash Steaks

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3. Black Bean Taco Bites

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4. Summery Stovetop Quinoa, Veggies & Herbs

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5. Lemon Garlic Pepper Oricchiette with Caramelized Onions & Broccoli

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What are you making this weekend?

Cookies and Cream Brownie Cookie Cups

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I’ve never made so many cookies and cupcakes as I did this past weekend. I catered the desserts for my boyfriend’s sister’s graduation, and it took a lot of work for one little Smart Cookie to make enough sweets for all those people.Whether I made enough is debatable, considering they ate every last bit.

I made a plethora of mini cookie cups with a variety of fillings, and everyone I talked to had a different favorite flavor. Personally, my faves were the Cookies and Cream Brownie Cookie Cups. I’m a sucker for cookies and cream, and if you are too, then you’ll see why I love these so much.

The crust is a chewy, rich brownie-cookie hybrid that would be delicious enough on its own with that dark, rich flavor. By simple creating a crater in the middle of it when it’s warm and soft straight out of the oven, we make a little nook for our fluffy filling to rest in.

I made a no-bake mousse of sorts that’s studded with plenty of Oreo  bits. It’s quite airy and cloud-like, with a bit of added creaminess from mascarpone cheese. All you have to do is whip the filling ingredients together and fold in the cookies. It is that easy to make an amazing mousse.

Who knew?

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I like to pile the filling sky-high so I can sink my teeth into the mountain of fluff when I go to take a bite. Of course, it is tempting to forgo small bites altogether and devour the entire cookie in one bite. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy it. The only way you could go wrong is if you missed out.

These hand-held, bite-sized Cookies and Cream Brownie Cookie Cups are cool and creamy, making them perfect for a summertime cookout dessert. Bring a plateful of these, and I guarantee they’ll vanish quicker than you can blink. Make sure you steal a few for yourself before you set them out. It’s your right as the baker.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I recommend using a piping bag to make filling these easy and quick.
  2. Be careful not to over whip the filling so you don’t wind up turning the heavy cream into butter. Yes, that really happens.
  3. Find mascarpone cheese in the specialty cheese section. It’s like an Italian cream cheese. That said, the two should not be interchanged because cream cheese is thicker and tangier.
  4. If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the Oreos the old-fashioned way. Put ‘em in a ziplock bag, and hit them with a hammer. I kid you not; it works, and it’s fun.

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Cookies and Cream Brownie Cookie Cups

By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted & cooled to room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the filling

  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crushed Oreos

Directions:

  1. Make the crusts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, blend together sugar, chocolate, vegetable oil, and two eggs.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder until evenly combined. Fold into chocolate mixture with vanilla until smooth and homogenous.
  4. Drop dough in teaspoons into muffin tins and bake for 8-10 minutes or until puffed and set. Immediately make a deep indentation into the cookies while still warm by using something round with a 1-inch radius. I used the bottom of an ice cream scoop and pressed down into the warm dough. Let cool completely.
  5. Make the filling: Place cream, powdered sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and mascarpone in a large mixing bowl. Beat on high with a hand mixer until fluffy and stiff peaks form. Fold in Oreo pieces until evenly combined.
  6. Transfer filling to a piping bag (you can make one just by cutting the corner off a ziplock bag) and fill crusts high with filling. Enjoy or store in fridge in an air-tight container.

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Red, White, and Blue Cupcake Cake

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I have waited an entire year to share this cake with you.

Really, I made this almost one year ago for Mother Cookie’s birthday, which is on the 4th of July. I desperately wanted to share its cuteness and patriotic-ness with you ASAP, but I couldn’t share it with you before the 4th of July since I made it that day. I decided to be patient and save it for next year when it’d be more timely.

Naturally, I almost forgot.

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Luckily, in looking through photos of last year’s Independence Day celebrations, I was reminded of this too-cute-to-miss cake, and I can share it with y’all in the nick of time. There are several reasons I love this cake:

  1. It’s easy; anyone can do it.
  2. It’s adorable.
  3. It’s customizable.

In fact, I made Red Velvet Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling for this patriotic 4th of July dessert. They were a huge hit, and I know my mama enjoyed them. That said, you can make chocolate, vanilla, or whatever strikes your fancy, and then you can still do the red, white, and blue decor.

Cupcake cakes are so much less work than a regular fancy cake. They’re just basic shapes and colors put together to make an awesome picture, and they’re so shareable. No cake-cutting required! Just grab one and share; no hassle necessary.

Scale this up or down to suite your BBQ this weekend. No matter who’s attending your party, they won’t be able to resist the beautiful colors of this Red, White, & Blue Cupcake Cake. You’ll find they’re extra tasty because they’re flavored with something special: freedom.

God bless America…and cupcakes!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can do this with mini cupcakes as well.
  2. Find a cute red, white, and blue tray to display this on.
  3. For an incredible homemade chocolate cake recipe, I recommend this one. For semi-homemade, try this.
  4. Sprinkle red, white, and blue sprinkles over the coordinating colored cupcakes for extra sparkle.
  5. You might even enjoy sparkler candles for extra festiveness.

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Red, White, & Blue Cupcake Cake
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  •  2 dozen cupcakes (your choice of flavor)
  • Whipped Cream frosting, recipe follows
  • red food dye
  • blue food dye
  • Betty Crocker White Cake Icing (comes with detachable tips, so you can use this for the stars)

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat all whipped cream ingredients on high until fluffy and stiff peaks form. Separate into thirds, two of equal size and one smaller section (so you have 40% + 40% + 20%).
  2. Fold blue dye into the smallest section of frosting, then red dye into one of the bigger sections, and leave the last portion white (20% blue, 40% red, 40% white).
  3. Frost 6 cupcakes with blue, 9 cupcakes with red, and 9 cupcakes with white.
  4. Arrange cupcakes in 6 columns and 4 rows, staggered (they should be off by one cupcake’s height). The columns should be: blue, blue, red, white/blue, blue, red, white/blue, blue, red, white/red, white, red, white/red, white, red, white/red, white, red, white.
  5. Use the star tip on the Betty Crocker Frosting two draw white stars on each blue cupcake. You can make all 50 if you like or just do a few.
  6. Enjoy or store in fridge in an air-tight container.

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I hope you have a great holiday, American Smart Cookie readers!

The Weekender: Countless Cookies, Pizza Crust, & Cupcakes

Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread BowlsSunday is here already. When did weekends become so fast that you can blink and miss them? I didn’t spend much time relaxing this weekend because I was baking for a grad party. I’ll give you more details on that later. But first, let’s make sure you didn’t miss anything delicious this week on Smart Cookie.

Let’s review!

  1. Caramel Brownie S’more Cookies
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  2. Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread Bowl
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  3. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cups
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On top of all the cooking and baking and creating I do for y’all, I’ve been prepping for my boyfriend’s sister’s grad party this weekend. Today is the big day, so check back with next week’s Weekender to get more details on how it goes.

In the meantime, you can follow me on Instagram since I’ll be posting from the party. My social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook too, are an exclusive way to catch behind-the-scenes fun before it makes it onto the blog.

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I will tell you I’ve made a plethora of cupcakes, but what I do with them you’ll have to wait and see.

Because I’ve got to balance out all of these sweet, my boyfriend and I decided to take on the challenge of finishing a 2-foot Pizza Hut Dippers pizza. I know the capacity of our stomachs is unmatched, so we crushed that challenge on like champs.

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Yes, we finished it all.

Thank god I teach Les Mills BODYSTEP at the gym to help keep me fit in the midst of all this feasting. I even caught the most epic selfie of my Stepping. I put my phone on a timer and prayed for perfect timing, and still managed to catch this. Talk about good luck – and good selfie skills!

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Before I leave you, I’ll make sure you get your weekly dose of cute. This week, you can take your pick between Mina’s adorable paw…

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…and Mr. Poe’s snuggly face.

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Let’s be honest: you can’t really choose.

See you tomorrow!

 

Smart Cookie Shopping 55: Stuff to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

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If you’re hungry, I suggest coming back to this post later because it’s only going to make you drool. In this edition of Smart Cookie Shopping, we’ll review the latest food products at the grocery store so you know what’s worth buying. I found a ton of sweet snacks this time around, with some other good stuff snuck in there.

You can always count on me to be honest. I’ll tell you what I recommend you get ASAP, and what you should avoid like the plague. That’s smart shopping!

Let’s grab our grocery lists and get to work.

1. Nutri-grain Apple Harvest Cinnamon Bars available in the snack aisle

I wasn’t expecting to love these as much as I did, but this is an excellent bar. It has a sturdy but chewy-enough texture with a gooey topping, basically the filling of a Nutrigrain bar on the top. It’s the right level of cinnamon-y, and it’s perfectly sweet. I would buy these again and again.

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2. Tumaro’s Let’s Skip the Sandwich Tomato and Basil Wraps available near the deli or bakery section

I’ve got mixed feelings about these wraps. They taste good, the texture is decent, and they’re 60 calories with 5 grams of protein. That’s all great. But here’s my issue: these don’t taste anymore like tomato and basil than they taste like cotton candy or cat food. There is no flavor here, just lies.

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3. Smuckers Simple Delight Salted Caramel Sauce - available with the ice cream toppings

I used this in those incredible ooey gooey Caramel Brownie S’mores Cookies, and it was awesome. This is a good-quality caramel sauce for a lower price. It’s not as “salted” as I’d like, but it at least tones down the edge of the sweetness.

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4. Ice Cream Rainbow Sherbet Pebbles available in the cereal aisle

Call this for what it was: an excuse for me to buy a childhood favorite. The sugary sweet scent is overwhelming when you open these, but the flavor is much more subtle. It’s only slightly different in taste than regular Fruity Pebbles. I plan to use these in a recipe next week.

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5. Pillsbury Fluffy Frosting in Strawberry Marshmallow available in the baking aisle

I know I’m not supposed to like canned frosting, but I really enjoyed this stuff. Talk about light as a cloud! It was so fluffy, I could curl up and take a nap in it. It is very sweet though, so be warned if you’ve got a weak sweet tooth.

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6. Pop-Tarts Chocolatey Strawberry - available in the cereal and snack aisle

Why are these “Chocolatey” and not just “Chocolate?” Regardless, this isn’t a great Pop-Tart flavor. It tasted like a bad cereal bar. My boyfriend, however, thinks they’re delicious, so believe what you will.

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7. Rold Gold Creamy Fudge Pretzel Cracker Sandwiches - available in the cereal and snack aisle

These were a surprise, something I almost walked by. The pretzel cracker was an awesome salty companion for the fudge filling, and it came in a 100-calorie snack pack. That’s perfect snacking, in my opinion.

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8. Jiff Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola Bars available in the cereal and snack aisle

These are just “meh.” They’re definitely not bad, but they don’t stand out to me. That peanut butter has a slight aftertaste, but I liked the tiny touch of chocolate. I also like that these have 7 grams of protein.

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Which of these products have you tried?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cups

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Most people probably don’t sit around pondering how to make peanut butter cups better. They’re already amazing. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” they say. Well to me, just because something “ain’t broke” doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. And the only way I can think to improve a chocolate peanut butter cup is with cookie dough.

My Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cups replace the classic peanut butter filling with actual peanut butter cookie dough. This is dough you can feel good about eating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s indulgent and rich, but it’s egg-free, so there’s no risk for salmonella.
Although, I’m still not convinced that salmonella in cookie dough isn’t just a conspiracy theory to keep me from enjoying life.
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Even though we’ve changed up a classic, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites still maintain the trait that makes the original so good in the first place: a balance of salty-sweetness. You can’t deny that chocolate and peanut butter make a strong team, and that’s why we love them so much.
When you find something that works so well, you don’t mess with it, but you might find a way to make it work even better. That’s when you’ll find my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
  1. Feel free to make the dough as much as a day in advance then make the candies whenever you’re ready.
  2. Always heat chocolate in intervals when using a microwave to melt it. This keeps it from burning and makes it melt quicker.
  3. You can freeze these to make them set up faster, but there’s a trade-off; when you take them out to room temperature again, they form an unattractive layer of condensation.
  4. Pick out cute wrappers with fun colors or patterns to make these as pretty as they are tasty. Nowadays, they make all kinds of whimsical designs.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Cups
By The Smart Cookie Cook
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 32 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
Directions:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together peanut butter, butter, sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla until evenly combined. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water, 1 tbsp. at a time. Set aside.
  2. Line a mini cupcake tin with mini cupcake liners. Set aside.
  3. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring well in-between, until completely melted. This should take about 3 intervals.
  4. Cover the bottom of the muffin tins with a thin layer of chocolate. Take a scant teaspoon of peanut butter “dough” and flatten into a circle. Place on top of the chocolate then cover completely with another layer of chocolate.

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  5. Place in fridge until completely set, about 1 hour. Enjoy. Keep stored in fridge in an air-tight container.

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Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread Bowl

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There’s nothing that makes my carb-loving self happier than a meal that includes bread and pasta. Any restaurant that serves up complimentary hot bread and butter before my meal automatically wins a spot in my heart for that very reason. The best thing is when I save a little piece of bread and dunk it in my pasta sauce when the entree comes.
Perfection.
So why not skip the wait and enjoy two favorites together with my Cheesy Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread Bowls? No plates necessary – this bowl is not only edible; it’s made out of buttery garlic bread. I can’t think of any better cradle for our tangy, cheese-loaded pasta marinara.
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I ate quite a few more of these than I care to admit, but what can I say – I’m helpless in the face of pasta and bread. The fun thing is that you can choose to make these dinner or an appetizer; they cover both. You could even get creative with your sauce choices for the pasta sauce. Vodka sauce, alfredo, or a meat sauce would all be delicious variations.
If you can have two favorite foods at once, then I don’t know why you’d want anything else. For as much as I complain about being an adult, it’s pretty awesome to be able to say I want pasta AND bread in one meal, and no one can tell me “No.”
I guess being grown-up isn’t all that bad.
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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
  1. If you’re not a fan of spice, avoid the red pepper flakes.
  2. For a stellar jarred marinara sauce, I recommend Hannaford’s Taste of Inspiration Neapolitan Sauce (if you live near a Hannaford). It’s exceptional: great quality and great flavor.
  3. You can make the pasta ahead of time and just heat it up when you’re ready.
  4. Store-brand crescent dough is much cheaper, and you don’t trade off in quality.
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Cheesy Pasta Marinara Garlic Bread Bowls
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cooked elbow pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 0z. can crescent dough
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp.red pepper flakes
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Roll out crescent dough and separate by perforated lines. Slice sections in half.
  3. Arrange dough pieces in the muffin tins so that it completely covers the bottom and comes up the edges like a little cup. Brush with butter mixture.
  4. Bake for 5 minutes, or until starting to puff up. Immediately use the end of a handle of something thick and circular like an ice cream scoop to make an indentation in the crust where you can fill with pasta. Return to oven for another 3 minutes or until golden.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together pasta, sauce, and the cheese until warm and cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
  6. Spoon pasta into the finished bread bowls. Sprinkle with extra cheese, if desired. Enjoy.

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Caramel Brownie S’mores Cookies

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I am already making enemies at work.

They scold me for bringing in such tempting treats. They tell me I’m going to make them fat. I apologize because that’s all I can do. Making delicious food is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. People may whine about it, but they’ll do so with a mouth full of food.

I brought these Caramel Brownie S’mores Cookies in on a Monday morning, thinking I could start everyone’s week off on a high note. If the combination of caramel, brownies, and s’mores doesn’t make you happy, then you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t like rainbows and kittens. Plus, my Red, White, & Blue Flip Flop Cookies were such a hit last week that I wanted to keep the good stuff coming.

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I used my favorite fudgy chocolate cookie recipe as the base. It’s rich, moist, and chewy just like you flattened a big fat brownie down into snackable cookie form. I then coated the cookies’ surface in crispy graham cracker crumbs, hitting the second of our quintessential s’mores trifecta. Then, just before the cookie is done baking, I smoosh a marshmallow right on top and let it get gooey in the oven. The grand finale is a downpour of salted caramel that breaks the gooey-meter altogether.

With the 4th of July around the corner, I can’t see why you’d fuss with making s’mores outside around a hot fire when you can have these Caramel Brownie S’mores Cookies waiting for you after your cookout. These are s’mores that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere…

…provided you’ve got a napkin to contain the ooey-gooey goodness.

I took an empty container home with me from work,and I got some heckling from co-workers as I left. They accused me of conspiring to make them balloon in size, and of just being plain cruel. But I know the real reason they jest: they were just disappointed the container was empty.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Over-baking is the enemy. An unnecessarily long cook time ensures your cookies will be hard as a rock. As soon as the cookies look puffed and set, you’re good to go.
  2. If you want your marshmallow more “toasted,” put it on the cookies a few minutes earlier.
  3. You can do this with a drizzle of fudge sauce or raspberry sauce instead.
  4. Make your cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it until whenever you’re ready to bake it.

Caramel Brownie S’mores Cookies

For the dough
adapted from food.com

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled to room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the toppings

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 dozen large marshmallows, halved width-wise
  • 1 cup Smucker’s Salted Caramel Sauce

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar, oil, and melted chocolate in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at medium speed until blended. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until well-combined.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add about 1/3 of dry mixture at a time to chocolate mixture, mixing on medium-low speed just until combined after each addition. Don’t overmix, or the cookies won’t be as fudgy. Cover and let chill at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place graham cracker crumbs in a bowl.
  4. Shape dough into tablespoon-sized balls and flatten out with your hand. Drop the dough into the graham cracker crumbs and pat down lightly to coat one side. Place cookies 1-inch apart on baking sheets.
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  5. Bake for 5 minutes then pull cookies from oven. Press a marshmallow half into the top center of each cookie. Return to oven for another 4 minutes or until puffed and set. Transfer to a cooling tray to cool completely.
  6. Drizzle with caramel sauce then enjoy or store in an air-tight container.

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The Weekender: Father Cookie

dad and newborn me

You guys don’t hear too much about the elusive Father Cookie because he’s always off working hard. The man has been busy since the day I was born, and there’s no doubt that’s where I get it from. He’s the type who doesn’t sit still. He puts 200% into his job, and when he actually has time off, he’s in the garage doing those vague “dad chores,” or he’s off in the yard doing vague “dad yard work.”

21 years, and I still don’t really know what men do during “man time.”

A hard work ethic doesn’t just happen; you have to learn it from someone who exemplifies it. My father and his brother learned it from their father, and then I learned it from my dad. He taught me to work for what I wanted, to not say, “IF something happens someday,” but “WHEN something happens,” because you can’t doubt it for a second.

My father taught me, if I want something, ask for it. Just because it’s not presented to you on a silver platter, doesn’t mean it isn’t there for the taking. You just might have to work a little harder for it. That has followed me throughout my life, and I cannot tell you how many goals and desires I’ve achieved just for having the willingness to pursue them.

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Father Cookie has never doubted me. He’s the biggest proponent of this website, and my biggest fan. Nobody brags harder about their kid than a dad. He thinks I’m smart, but only because I had to work so hard to keep up with him. I’ll never be quite as intelligent as my dad, but I know my smarts and problem-solving come from him.

Father Cookie didn’t inspire this website in an obvious way. He’s not a chef or a baker; if you see him cooking, it’s probably a slab of meat on the grill, or seafood on a special occasion. That’s as far as it goes.

Side note: You can imagine we don’t see eye-to-eye on my vegetarianism. He never stops asking if I want to try whatever meat dish it is that he’s eating. Now you see where I get my persistence from too.

Pine Island, N.Y.

Pine Island, N.Y.

Anyway, Father Cookie inspired this site because he taught me the drive I needed to build it. My father grew up as an onion farmer, who went on to get his degree from the University of Notre Dame. He started at the bottom of the food chain in his career, then climbed higher and higher, and I watched it as I grew up. He has achieved so much, earning prestigious leadership roles that are more than well-deserved and well-fitted for him.

What he doesn’t know is that I’m proud of him too.

notre dame graduation

When I see what he’s built for himself and for our family, I know I can do anything I so please, as long as I have the determination to keep after it. Would I have ever had the ambition to start a blog, when I knew absolutely nothing about it, without what he’s taught me? Would I have been brave enough to concoct my own recipes from scratch, all the while learning as I go, and be able to shake it off when I fail, if it wasn’t for the diligence he’s demonstrated? Would I keep at it day after day- no matter how busy or frustrated I get – if he didn’t teach me to believe it WILL pay off in the end?

Quite simply, no.

Father Cookie may not have been the one to teach me my culinary skills, but my kitchen expertise wouldn’t matter one bit without the drive to pursue it all. For that, I have Father Cookie to thank. When he says he’s proud of me, it’s the best feeling, and I can only hope to continue to achieve things that make him prouder.

Thanks for being such a supportive, encouraging, motivating father, Dad.

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Cook your dads something delicious and give them a big hug.