18 Cool, Refreshing Recipes for the Warm Weather

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I don’t know about you guys, but it hasn’t been warming up quite as quickly as we’d like here in CNY. However, I’ve got a feeling that when Spring and Summer finally hit for good, rather than this come-and-go nice weather, it’s going to hit full-force. That means we’ve got to be prepared.

My 18 Cool, Refreshing Recipes for the Warm Weather are all you need for mouth-watering seasonal eating. Not to mention, they’ll keep your spirits lifted like the sunshine would if it could just get here already. Something has to hold you over until Winter gets the heck out of dodge, right?

Whether it’s a bright, vibrant dip or a cool and creamy dessert, these recipes will satisfy every springtime craving you encounter. Now, the only question is: which will you try first?

The list below correlates w/ the photo above.

  1. Lemon-Basil Artichoke Bean Dip
  2. Chocolate Peanut Butter Poke Cake
  3. Key Lime Pie Dip
  4. Hummus & Avocado Zucchini Bites
  5. Mini Strawberry-Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cakes
  6. Roasted Vegetable and Garlic Hummus
  7. Mini Coconut Cream Ice Box Cakes
  8. Roasted Zucchini Hummus
  9. Raspberry Lemon Coconut Trifle
  10. Roasted Chickpea Salad w/ Avocado
  11. Chocolate Birthday Cake Ice Cream
  12. Personal Raspberry & Peanut Butter Cream Pies
  13. Almond Joy Poke Cake
  14. Simple Chunky Guacamole
  15. Chocolate-Pretzel-PB-Brownie Parfaits
  16. Andes Mint Brownie Fudge Ice Cream
  17. Banana Peanut Butter Cookie Pudding
  18. White Chocolate Tiramisu

What are your favorite Spring recipes?

Readers’ Choice Wednesday: Extra Cheesy Mac & Cheese Muffins

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It’s Readers’ Choice Wednesday! That means I take use one of your suggestions for what to make in today’s post. Only problem is, y’all have been way too shy lately. Everyone has cravings, so go ahead and tell me yours! I’ll happily whip it up in next week’s edition.

Thank goodness miss Lexi M. had a suggestion, and a good one: something cheesy. Well, that was easy enough for me to accomplish. And when I saw a box of Kraft Deluxe White Cheddar, Garlic, & Herb in my pantry waiting to be dressed up, I knew I had something good up my sleeve.

My Extra Cheesy Mac & Cheese Muffins are ultra-easy, semi-homemade, and loaded with cheese. Now, you don’t have to feel guilty about grabbing a box of the mac and cheese mix you secretly love so much because you can upgrade it to be the cutest, gooiest little treat.

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We all love mac and cheese, which means we also love to eat it in every form imaginable: baked, stovetop, fried, stuffed into tomatoes – it’s all delicious. And there’s no denying that these golden brown muffins are possibly the most adorable option of all.

I like them best because anyone can make ‘em, assuming you can handle whipping up a boxed mix (given that is a challenge for some people). All you need to do is mix in some extra cream and cheese then spoon them into muffin pans and bake until bubbly and browned. I guarantee they’ll put a smile on anyone’s face that you feed them too.

I mean, they’re mac and cheese muffins. It doesn’t get better than that.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Make sure you undercook the pasta slightly so it doesn’t get soggy and limp in the oven.
  2. Don’t like asiago? Go for parmesan, mozzarella or fontina. You could even add more white cheddar.
  3. If you really want to amp things up, add fresh basil or cherry tomatoes.
  4. You could do a mini muffin version in a mini muffin tin.
  5. Breadcrumbs would be delicious on top.

Extra Cheesy Mac & Cheese Muffins
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 8 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Kraft Deluxe White Cheddar Garlic & Herb Mac & Cheese
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup shredded asiago cheese, plus 1/2 cup more for topping
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Be liberal or these babies will stick.
  2. Boil pasta until al dente, meaning it still has some bite to it. Drain.
  3. Stir in provided sauce and herb mix along with cream, 1/4 cup cheese and garlic until well-combined. Spoon into prepared pan and sprinkle with extra cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle each muffin with even more cheese then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing so they can set then gently run a knife around the muffins to free them. Enjoy.

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What’s your favorite way to eat mac & cheese?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Poke Cake

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It took me a week to figure out what I should make as dessert for Easter dinner with my BF and his family. Cooking for a crowd is always difficult because you have to figure out something that will somehow please everyone when everyone has different tastes.

Being not just a cookie cook but a smart cookie cook, I knew my best bet would be to go with a crowd pleaser like chocolate and peanut butter. Naturally, I had to figure out a Smart Cookie twist for this classic flavor combo, so I concocted a cool and indulgent Chocolate Peanut Butter Poke Cake.

I started with my can’t-be-beat chocolate cake recipe, the moistest and richest in the world. You basically can’t go wrong if you’re starting with that chocolaty dream, but I didn’t stop there. I poked holes in its surface then drenched it with gooey fudge sauce. Finally, I blanketed it with light, creamy peanut butter mousse and crumbled Reese’s cups.

If that doesn’t curb your chocolate-peanut butter cravings then nothing will.

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What’s really spectacular about this cake is how it balances being both rich and refreshing at the same time. Yes, there are a lot of indulgent ingredients from my deep, dark chocolate cake to the fudge it’s drenched in, but the fact that it’s chilled and has such an airy topping makes it seem lighter. It’s the best of both worlds.

Now, the real test was presenting my mile-thick, peanut butterific (that needs to be a word) cake to 13 hungry taste-testers. One by one, I watched them each try their first forkful, and they all had the same reaction: amazed. That’s right; every single one of them loved the cake. They couldn’t say enough good about it. Even my BF’s grandfather said he doesn’t normally like cake, but found this to be exceptional.

That’s how you know it’s good.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you want an extra dark and chocolaty cake, use all dark cocoa powder instead of a mix.
  2. You should bookmark the cake recipe itself. It is so darn good; you’ll never want another.
  3. You know how you can get away with buying the storebrand version of some things, but not others? Vanilla pudding is not something you should use store-brand. I tried it, and it wasn’t as good as Jell-O.
  4. If you don’t feel like chopping up Reese’s, you can use the unwrapped minis instead.

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Poke Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake

Cake recipe from The Pastry Queen

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling and topping

  • 1 16-oz. jar Mrs. Richardson’s Hot Fudge sauce
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 box Jell-O instant vanilla pudding (not cook & serve)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 12-oz. bag miniature Reese’s cups, unwrapped and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter, water, and oil until butter is melted. Remove from heat and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, cocoa powders, and flour. Whisk in the butter mixture until completely smooth. Then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  4. Microwave fudge sauce on high for 30-second intervals until molten. Set aside.
  5. Using the rounded bottom of a spoon/whisk/something with a 1-inch diameter, poke holes into the entire surface of the cake. Pour fudge sauce over surface, directing it into the holes.
  6. Cover and chill overnight, or up to 12 hours.
  7. Prepare pudding mix according to box directions. In a separate bowl, beat cream, peanut butter, vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in half of the pudding and save the rest for later use.
  8. Spread filling over cake in a smooth, even layer. Sprinkle with crumbled Reese’s cups and enjoy. Store extras in an air-tight container in the fridge.

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The Weekender: Awards, Animals, & Injuries

Egg & Avocado Double Cheese Flatbread

Happy Easter everyone! I hope y’all will forgive me for not posting last week, but I was enjoying a very rare weekend with the entire Cookie family. More on that later.
First, let’s take a look back at this week’s eats so you’re all caught up and ready for next week’s grubbing.

Let’s review, shall we?

1. Easter Lemon Poke Cake
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2. 34 Best Easter Recipes
Almond Joy Poke Cake
3. Readers’ Choice Wednesday: Avocado & a Egg Double Cheese Flatbread
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4. Smart Cookie Shopping 26: Easter Eggs, Ravioli, & More
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Which of my Easter recipes will you be whipping up today? I’m joining My BF and his family for a feast that will include an indulgent Chocolate Peanut Butter Poke Cake. Stop in Monday for that recipe!

Let’s talk about someone who doesn’t have any Easter spirit: the person who abandoned three perfectly good bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs in the middle of the grocery store. What kind of monster are you? Everyone knows those things are made with crack and irresistible.

You’ll get to hear more about this weekend’s festivities in next week’s edition of the Weekender, but let’s talk more about why I held out on you guys last weekend.

For the first time in over a year, my mom, dad, sister and fiancé were all up here at once. They came to attend my college’s annual RSI awards, which are held each spring to honor student accomplishments in the Public Relations/Journalism department (how many of you remembered I was a PR major?).
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Since I’m a senior, these were my last RSI Awards, so it was an extra special event for me. If you were curious, I received the Outstanding Senior Award and the Faculty Award, which recognizes the upperclassman with the highest GPA.

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Photo collage credit goes to Sister Cookie

It meant a lot to have all the people I care about there with me.

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The only way the ceremony could’ve been better is if I was allowed to bring my babies! They’ve been getting into a lot of trouble this week, but what else is new?

Little Miss Mina sits in the sink with me every morning while I’m getting ready, so I decided to take a photo every day for a month to prove it. These are our first three days of girl time.

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On a less adorable note, I dislocated my toe this week. I didn’t even do anything cool; I was play-fighting with my BF, and he pretended to go for my legs, so I leap-frogged over him. It would’ve been really epic except for the fact that I landed like an uncoordinated elephant and smashed my toes in unnatural directions.

It’s feeling much better now though, and the bruising has gone down considerably. I know, I’m falling apart, right?

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A few states away, Reesy wasn’t doing so hot this week either. She had four teeth pulled, and she had to be put into the cone of shame so she wouldn’t bite her pain patch. Don’t worry; she’s doing much better now.

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Speaking of animals wearing ridiculous things, who wants to guess how Mr. Poe got stuck in my headband? I still don’t know.

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He sure does love a good grocery bag!

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Before I head out, tell me what you guys want to see in this week’s Readers’ Choice Wednesday! What are you guys craving?

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That’s it for now. Don’t forget to join me tomorrow for some cake!

Smart Cookie Shopping 26: Easter Eggs, Ravioli, & More

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It’s that time again, folks! We’re grabbing our grocery carts and hitting stores to find what’s new and what’s worth buying. I’ve got a spectrum of stuff for us to try today, everything from Russel Stover’s wide assortment of chocolate eggs for Easter to Lean Cuisine ravioli.

1. Pepperidge Farm Blueberry Cobbler Cookies available in the snack aisle of most grocery stores

Dang, for a store-bought cookie, these were delightful! They were so nice and soft with a generous amount of blueberries. I do wish there could have been a more authentic blueberry experience rather than the more dried “Quaker Blueberries and Cream Oatmeal” effect it had. Still, these were tasty and great for this time of year.

Photo by Pepperidge Farm

Photo by Pepperidge Farm

2. Russell Stover Chocolate Eggs available in the candy section of some grocery stores and most drug stores

I saw the endless assortment of RS chocolate eggs at my local Walgreen’s and darn-near lost my mind. Yes, these photos are of the empty wrappers because I ate them all before photographing. Here’s my take on the flavors I tried:

  1. Carrot Cake
    Delicious, but not carrot-cakey at all. It just tasted like a mildly spiced filling.
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  2. Red Velvet
    Tied w/ Birthday Cake for favorite. I’m not usually a dark chocolate fan, but I like this because it wasn’t bitter and was perfect with the sweet, rich filling.
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  3. Birthday Cake
    Now we’re talking! The filling was cake-like in flavor and texture, but still on a richer, more truffle-like side. I also appreciated the sprinkles on the outside. It’s the little things.
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  4. Wedding Cake
    I’m not sure what was supposed to be wedding cake-like about this, but RS missed the mark. This was way too sweet, and I don’t say that often.
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  5. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
    These were rich and yummy. I’m not sure if I’d say it hit the head on the cookie dough mark perfectly, but it was tasty all the same.
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3. Goldfish Pizza and Parmesan Mix available in the snack aisle of most grocery stores

This was not my favorite of the new varieties I’ve tried lately. The parmesan ones didn’t taste parmesan-y at all, and it felt like I was just eating a regular bag of the Pizza Flavor Blast ones.

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4. Flatout Light Italian Herb Flatbreadsavailable in the bakery section of most grocery stores

I’ve seen Flatouts around a lot, but I had yet to try them until now. I appreciated how hearty and generously sized the flatbread was for only being 90 calories. Plus, it has 10 grams of protein. It was thicker and better tasting than the whole grain pitas I’d typically buy.

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5. Lean Cuisine Spinach and Artichoke Ravioli available in the frozen section of most grocery stores
I’ll be straight up with you guys: don’t waste your money on this. It wasn’t bad, but for almost 300 calories, you only get FIVE raviolis. That’s right, five tiny little raviolis! That’s not a meal; that’s an appetizer.

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6. Joseph’s Spinach Artichoke Hummus (I refuse to spell it like they did) available in the refrigerated section near the refrigerated pastas

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s hummus and it’s delicious. But on the other, there were jalapenos in this, which just seems like an odd addition for something spinach-artichoke flavored, and they completely overwhelmed every other flavor that may have been present in the dip.

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7. Market Pantry Chocolate Truffle Muffin Caps - available in the frozen section of Target

This is Target’s version of my beloved Vitamuffins, but it doesn’t compare. These were pretty dry and just didn’t taste chocolaty. Stick to the name brand with this one.

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Readers’ Choice Wednesday: Avocado & Egg Double Cheese Flatbread

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Everybody knows it’s important to listen to their mama, and that’s why I’m appeasing Mother Cookie in this week’s Readers’ Choice Wednesday. She wanted something with avocado, and so avocado she shall get.

I went through all the obvious options during my brainstorming process: guacamole, salad, etc. But you know what? I don’t do obvious. I do Smart Cookie twists. So I took one ho-hum avocado and turned it into an Egg & Avocado Double Cheese Flatbread.

Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? Is it brunch? It’s whatever you want it to be! Don’t let the term “flatbread” fool you into thinking this is a light meal. On the contrary, it is incredibly filling with a whole grain crust, rich avocado, melty cheese, and protein-packed eggs. If this doesn’t load you up with energy to tackle even the toughest day, then nothing will.

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I never believed in miracles until I fell in love with avocados. They are so creamy, indulgent and delicious without doing a single thing to them, AND they’re jam-packed with nutrients. Have you ever seen something so beautiful? I haven’t. That’s why I smothered Mother Nature’s greatest gift atop this cheesy, hearty flatbread.

This makes for an easy and relatively healthy meal in minutes. But the fresh and unique combination of toppings makes you feel like you’re eating a fancy meal from a quaint brunch joint in town. The only difference is you don’t have to put pants on to make this at home. If you go out to eat though, I would advise grabbing some pants. Most restaurants look down on pantslessness.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Many cheeses would be delicious on this flatbread: mozzarella, muenster, pepper jack, Monterey jack, etc.
  2. An avocado is ripe if it’s soft but not mushy when you squeeze it. Think of the texture of clay.
  3. If you like runny eggs, feel free to cook you eggs that way and let the yolks run over the flatbread.
  4. A little taco seasoning would be delicious to zest things up.
  5. To pit an avocado, slice in half lengthwise then take a sharp knife and quickly and swiftly lodge it into the pit. Twist and remove.
  6. The lemon juice keeps the avocado from browning and add fresh flavor.

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Egg & Avocado Double Cheese Flatbread
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 Flatout flatbread (I used Light Italian)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3-4 drops lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp. shredded asiago cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place flatbread on sheet and bake for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a small pan with olive oil to medium-low heat. Cook eggs to your liking. Set aside.
  3. Remove avocado from skins and mash together with lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Spread over warmed flatbread in an even layer. Sprinkle with cheeses and top with egg and return to oven for another 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is browning along the edges. Slice and enjoy.

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What do YOU want to see in next week’s Readers’ Choice Wednesday?

34 Best Easter Recipes

Almond Joy Poke CakeThis Easter is going to be a little different for me because it will be the first year I don’t spend it with Mother & Father Cookie. A few states may separate us, but no distance can really keep us apart. Plus, I am grateful to have people I love in the area who are kind enough to let me spend the day with them.

No matter who you’re spending Easter with, you can’t beat coming together over a great meal. I’ve compiled 34 of my Best Easter Recipes for you that will ensure your Easter is absolutely delicious. Which of these will you be whipping up? Continue reading

Easter Lemon Poke Cake

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There are a lot of fancy and festive Easter recipes floating around the web right now, many of which may have enticed you until you saw how much work they were. Plenty of folks find enjoyment in making elaborate meals for special occasions, but plenty more want something that’s as easy as it is impressive. If you’re already slaving over dinner, you want your dessert to be one less thing to worry about but one more thing to look forward to.

That’s why I was determined to create a super simple but cute and delicious cake that literally anyone could make for Easter. My Easter Lemon Poke Cake is doable for everybody and guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser. The festive little scene on top is just a matter of sticking things together, and the ultra-rich lemony cake starts with a boxed mix. Continue reading

Oven-Roasted Mini Pepper Nachos

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Nachos are a particularly evil food because not only are they incredibly addicting, but they’re nutritionally empty, so you have absolutely no excuses or solace after having downed a plateful. Nachos are maniacal little devils, and they’ll laugh in your face as they draw you in with ooey gooey cheese and crunchy chips.

I got hit with a particularly nasty nacho craving the other day, but I didn’t have any chips. How the heck are you supposed to make nachos without one of the two essential components? I’ll tell you how: you improvise.

The Smart Cookie Cook is the queen of improvisation, and if you don’t believe me, then check out these Oven-Roasted Mini Pepper Nachos. These are going to completely change how you think about nachos. Those chips you thought were so vital to the nacho equation suddenly are no longer necessary. Continue reading