Caramel-Filled Utica Comets Carrot Cake

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I had an interesting situation presented to me on Halloween when I decided to go ahead and make a carrot cake for my boyfriend’s father’s birthday since it’s his favorite, and despite the fact that my boyfriend is less than crazy about carrot cake. I have to cater to the birthday boy here first and foremost.

So I dug out my babci’s recipe – the always reliable, always amazing one that no modern-day recipe can hold a candle to. I haven’t made it in years because carrot is not a crowd-pleaser, and I was disgruntled to realize that it called for four cups of grated carrots. Yes folks, that takes some elbow grease. And it helps if you’ve got an assistant who wants to contribute to his father’s cake.

Get through that, and the rest is a breeze. I always marvel over how the simplest recipes wind up often being the best. This carrot cake is outstanding. You won’t find another this moist or tender, I promise. I think I could leave it out overnight uncovered, and it’d still be moist the next day.

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Of course, I had to personalize this beauty one step more by making it a Caramel-Filled Utica Comets Carrot Cake. If I lost you after “caramel-filled,” stay with me. First off, the birthday boy loves caramel, so the filling was a no-brainer. Second of all, he and his whole family (along with almost everyone who lives in Utica, NY) are huge fans of the local Utica Comets hockey team. In fact, he’s at a game as we speak. So, I added the simple logo and distinguishing blue and green to finish this cake off right.

Whether you care about the Comets or not, this is a must-save recipe to break out for every carrot cake lover in your life. you won’t find another this good.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Grating carrots is a pain. It helps to have a good, heavy duty grater.
  2. A classic cream cheese frosting would be delicious as well.
  3. You can make this into cupcakes by reducing the cook time to about 20 minutes.
  4. This makes a lot of batter, so you can stretch it to three layers, if you like.

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Caramel-Filled Utica Comets Carrot Cake
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups grated carrots

For the frilling

  • 1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup good-quality caramel sauce
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the frosting

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the optional Comets decor

  • green frosting
  • blue frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Spray 2 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and ine the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until thickened. Stir in the oil.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. Stir into the egg mixture, a little at a time, until well-incorporated. Fold in the carrots.
  4. Distribute batter evenly between pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Then flip out onto cooling racks to cool completely. Discard parchment paper.
  6. When cakes are cool, make the filling. Place all filling ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on low until they start to come together. Increase speed and beat until well-combined.
  7. Place one layer of cake on whatever you’re serving the cake on. Spread filling on top in an even layer.
  8. Make the frosting. Place butter and 2 cups sugar in a standing mixer and beat on low until it starts to come together. Increase speed until well-combined. Add another two cups of sugar and beat in slowly. Beat in the final cup of sugar.
  9. Add vanilla, salt, and 2 tbsp. cream and beat until well-combined. If it’s too thick, add the last tablespoon of cream.
  10. Place second layer of cake centered on top of the filling-covered first layer. Spread frosting over top so that it is smooth and even.
  11. If you’d like, use the blue to write square lettering to spell out “COMETS.” Use the green to write “UTICA” above it. Use both colors to draw the signature swoosh, and use the blue to draw stars on the sides of the cake. I recommend Googling the logo to reference.
  12. Store cake in fridge in an air-tight container.

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Brownie Batter 3-Musketeer Rice Krispie Treats

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Serious question: what treat isn’t improved by brownie batter? Ice cream, cake filling, heck, I’d pour it in my coffee. Out of all the raw baked goods, brownie batter is the one I love the most. Some people love chocolate chip cookie dough; others love cake batter. Well, I love me some brownie batter. Put it in a glass and give me a straw, I say.

I’m not even sure where the idea to make Brownie Batter 3-Musketeer Rice Krispie Treats came from; it struck me like a bolt of lightning, and given the prospect of brownie batter goodness, I had to act upon it. The next day, I was at the grocery store scooping up ingredients. Good thing I only needed five to make this chocolaty delight.

These chewy, gooey treats only support my theory that brownie batter makes everything better. This is a rich upgrade to a classic treat, lacing chocolate flavor throughout every square-inch. Plus, I make my RK treats super soft by adding extra marshmallow because nobody likes a dry RK treat. You’ve got to have that balance of the crunchy cereal and gobs of gooiness too.

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I could’ve called it a day after just adding the brownie batter flavor, but as I scurried to the checkout at the grocery store, I passed a display of 3-Musketeers, and that Smart Cookie instinct kicked in. The bag was in my cart before I even knew what was happening. So on top of delicious brownie batter flavor, you get creamy 3-Musketeers in every mouthful.

You can thank my grocery store’s strategic placement of candy and my stroke of pure genius for that.

Perhaps the best thing about Rice Krispie treats is that, no matter how “fancy” you get with the flavors, they are always quick and easy, and pretty much fool-proof. Just melt the marshmallows and butter, stir in everything else, and let set. The hardest part is easily waiting for them to cool.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go turn the leftover brownie mix from these into a perfume and become a multi-millionaire from selling it.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Any chocolate candy would be delicious on these: Milky Ways, Hershey, Reese’s, etc.
  2. Make sure you stir the marshmallows constantly as they’re melting so you don’t burn them.
  3. Craving more brownie bliss? Try my Dark Mocha Brownie Fudge.

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Brownie Batter 3-Musketeer Rice Krispie Treats
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 10.5-oz. bag + 1 cup large marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 2 cups brownie mix (I used Pillsbury)
  • 1 11-oz. bag 3-Musketeer fun-sized candies, chopped

Directions:

  1. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add marshmallows and stir continuously until completely melted and smooth. Turn heat to low and stir in brownie mix until well-combined.
  3. Remove from heat and immediately fold in Rice Krispies until evenly distributed. Transfer to prepared pan and press down into an even layer. Sprinkle the candy over top and press down lightly. Let cool completely.
  4. Cut into squares and enjoy. Store in an air-tight container.

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Lukin’s Brick Oven Pizza – Utica, NY

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In the seven years that I’ve lived in CNY, I’ve struggled to find satisfactory pizza. This is because I grew up on thin, big, foldable slices with loads of toppings, and CNY pizza is the exact opposite: thick, often square, slices with scant toppings. That’s how people like it here, which is just fine for them, but it’s not my personal preference. I’m constantly on a hunt for what I consider good pizza, because a life without good pizza is hardly a life at all.

In a continuation of my search, I finally got around to trying Lukin’s Brick Oven Pizza on Varick Street in Utica. I’ve had my eyes on this fairly new pizza joint for some time because “brick oven” just sounds promising.

Marketing, am I right?

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http://lukinsonvarick.com/

Not to mention, I’d seen their pizza pics floating around Facebook, and it looked like what I classify as “real” pizza: thin, big, and buried in cheese. Ry and I decided to swing by after an exhausting day of shopping to see if the pie lived up to its pics.

We started out with the Fried Mac and Cheese Balls for the simple reason that I can’t see “fried mac and cheese” on a menu and not order it. They came to the table as four beautifully browned spheres served with marinara sauce.

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I was impressed to find they were clearly homemade, not ordered from some mass distributor. They were also exceptionally cheesy and gooey, which is great because I often find fried mac and cheese can be dried out. My one complaint is that the inside was a bit cold, but the fix is easy for that. They must’ve cooked it on too high a temperature, making it brown outside before it cooked through all the way. If they lower the oil temperature a bit, they’ll be good to go.

I must also say that the marinara sauce was fantastic. I could drink the stuff. It was smooth, sweet, tangy, and fresh.

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Ry and I decided on trying one of the specialty pizzas, the Ortolana. It was covered, and I mean covered, in a gorgeous blanket of fresh mozzarella cheese and oodles of sautéed vegetables: peppers, onions, zucchini and carrots. I cannot say enough good about those veggies. They were so tender, flavorful, and succulent; I could’ve eaten a plateful of those alone. Paired with the gooey cheese, it was too good to be true.

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And that crust was so thin and crunchy. Each big foldable slice was deceivingly filling too. I can normally kill half a pizza that size, but I hit my wall after 3 generous slices. It was a sloppy pizza to eat but, man, was it good!

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My one suggestion would be to go lighter on the veggies; there were so many that half of them fell of the pizza. It was overwhelming.

I will definitely be back to Lukin’s, and I’m excited to try a classic cheese pizza next time.

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Have you been to Lukin’s? What did you think?

Rice Krispie Cookie Dough Bites

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Do you ever get the feeling you’re going to make a bad decision, but you have no desire to prevent it from happening? That was me yesterday. I was eating healthy all day, but I could tell nothing was satisfying me like it should have. I knew it was just a matter of time before I cracked.

I had a chance of staying on track because I didn’t have much on-hand to cook with. I figured I couldn’t make myself any treats without any ingredients. But as my hungry mind wandered, I dreamt of cookie dough – the ultimate indulgence – and I always have stuff on hand for that. Who doesn’t?

So I caved and made these Rice Krispie Cookie Dough Bites. It was just too easy for me to pass up. I only needed a handful of simple ingredients, and there was no baking required! Plus, this cookie dough is purposefully made egg-free so that it’s safe to eat. It’s specially designed dough meant for snacking, not baking.

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To add a subtle crunch for textural variation, I used irresistible Rice Krispies. I thought about rolling the melt-in-your-mouth cookie dough darling in melted chocolate, but that seemed like too much work for 11 ‘o clock at night. So instead, I opted for pretty rainbow sprinkles. They add a nice bite to break up the richness of the cookie dough, and the colorfulness is a nice touch too.

Each Rice Krispie Cookie Dough Bite is perched on a toothpick to make them extra snackable. It also makes it much easier to keep grabbing another and another, until you realize it’s 9 ‘o clock in the morning, and you have no business eating cookie dough at that hour. Yes, these were a late night snack that turned into my breakfast. No, I’m not ashamed.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Take your cookie dough game to the next level with my Milky Way-Stuffed Cookie Dough Bites.
  2. You can go ahead and dip these in chocolate, if you prefer. OR dip them in chocolate AND sprinkles!
  3. You’ll want to make sure these are good and chilled before serving. Nobody wants room temperature cookie dough.
  4. Go for white chocolate chips if you’d like to switch it up.
  5. As I stated above, this will not bake into a cookie, so do not bake with it. It is intended to be eaten as dough. If you want a great chocolate chip cookie recipe, try this one.
  6. These can be frozen in an air-tight container for another time.

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Rice Krispie Cookie Dough Bites
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 2 dozen bites

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup Rice Krispies cereal
  • 2 cups rainbow sprinkles
  • toothpicks

Directions:

  1. In a standing mixer on medium speed, beat together butter and sugars. Beat in vanilla. Add flour a little at a time, mixing until combined. Mix in salt.
  2. Add two tablespoons of water and beat in. If it matches the texture of cookie dough, you’re good. If it’s too dry, add another tablespoon of water.
  3. Mix in chocolate chips and Rice Krispies.
  4. Shape dough into scant tablespoon balls and roll in sprinkles until evenly covered. Stick a toothpick through the top.
  5. Cover and chill at least two hours before servings.

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20+ Halloween Dinner, Dessert & Snack Recipes

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We all got lucky this year because Halloween falls on a Friday, so we get to celebrate to our hearts’ content. Whether you’re planning on trick-or-treating, partying, or staying in for a scary movie marathon, you can stay up as late as you want. I still don’t know what my Halloween plans are specifically, but I do know one thing: I’m going to pig out.

No matter what you’re doing on Halloween, I’ve got a collection of recipes to make sure your day is as delicious as it is spooky. I’ve got delightful dinners, scary good snacks, to-die-for desserts, and more.

What’s on YOUR Halloween menu?

Halloween Dinner

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  1. Gnocchi, Pumpkin, Kale & Cheddar Soup
  2. Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese
  3. Bacon & Brown Rice in Pumpkin Cream Sauce
  4. Cheesy Baked Butternut Squash Ravioli & Spinach
  5. Lil’ Pizza Bites

Halloween Desserts

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  1. Pumpkin Oreo Chip Blondies with Maple Glaze
  2. Double Candy Corn Sundaes
  3. Caramel Apple Trifle
  4. Spiced Pumpkin Latte Cookies
  5. Pumpkin Fudge Brownie Milkshake
  6. Halloween Hello Kitty Cookie Cake
  7. Pumpkin Halloween Cookie Ice Box Cake
  8. Halloween Sm’Oreo Brownies
  9. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites
  10. Little Owl Cookies
  11. Monster Whoopie Pies

Easy Halloween Snacks

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  1. Zombie Caramel Apple Oreos
  2. Jalapeno Popper Party Bread
  3. 4-Layer Halloween Treat Cups
  4. Popcorn Hands
  5. Fudge-Swirled Pumpkin Brownies
  6. Ultimate Salty-Sweet Halloween Candy Cake Bars
  7. Pumpkin Hummus

Happy Halloween!

Smart Cookie Shopping 39: Pumpkin Ice Cream, Oatmeal & More

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I’ve been teasing y’all with sneak peeks of the product line-up in this edition of Smart Cookie Shopping for some time now, but it’s only because I love you. Now, you can finally get the scoop on the stuff that has just hit the grocery store shelves. What’s worth buying? What should you avoid like a plague? I’ll break it down for you.

Get your shopping list ready to go.

1. Quaker Pumpkin Spice Oatmealavailable in the cereal aisle

There are a lot of pumpkin products this season, but here’s one that makes sense. The subtle pumpkin spice flavor is perfect in oatmeal. It’s sweet but not too sweet, and it smells amazing.

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2. Calbee Tomato Basil Lentil Snapsavailable at Target

These might sound a little odd, but they are ridiculously delicious and addicting. Don’t buy ‘em unless you’re prepared to eat the whole bag in one sitting. They’re crunchy and coated in a generous amount of sweet tomato flavor, and they’re good for you too! I’m obsessed. Too bad when I went back to buy more, they were all out.

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3. Turkey Hill Pumpkin Pie Ice Creamavailable in the frozen section

I really enjoyed this ice cream because it has classic flavor with a slight twist. Instead of being plain or adding chunks of pastry crust, this ice cream features swirls of scrumptious cinnamon-graham cracker paired with perfectly pumpkin-y ice cream. If you’re going to buy any pumpkin ice cream this season, make it this one.

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4. Market Pantry Pumpkin Cereal Barsavailable at Target

These were good, but not exceptional. The filling was almost undetectable, and they were a bit crumbly.

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5. Eggo Waffle Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwichesavailable in the frozen section

I was so disappointed in these. I thought they were literally sandwiches with two Eggo waffles, but it’s just some thin bread pressed on top with a waffle iron imprint. They left me hungry too.

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6. Pepperidge Farms Cinnamon Bun Cookiesavailable in the cereal & snack aisle

I didn’t expect anything too exciting here, nor did I find it. They’re tasty cinnamon cookies, but nothing exceptional.

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7. Nestle Pumpkin Morsels ­– available in the baking aisle

These are tasty but be warned – they’re quite sweet. I find a little goes a long way, and they’re perfect for my Pumpkin Oreo Chip Blondes with Maple Glaze.

Photo from verybestbaking.com

Photo from verybestbaking.com

Have you tried any of these products?

Cheesy Baked Butternut Squash Ravioli & Spinach

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On Sunday, I completed the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk with my team from the gym. Although it was a short walk, it sure was a chilly one. The wind was brisk and biting in a way that better mirrored winter than fall, and the sky was gray and dismal. Once all was said and done, we felt quite accomplished, but I was in need of something exceptionally warm and comforting to refuel with. I needed a meal that was rich enough to stick to my bones and warm me through.

This Baked Cheesy Butternut Squash Ravioli & Spinach was the remedy to the chill that hung on to me long after the walk was over. The sauce was as hearty as it gets since it was laced with oodles of gooey cheese and smooth butternut squash. The squash flavor is subtle; it just adds this little something extra that makes this the perfect dish for fall. Spinach helps bulk things up, and big raviolis fill you up to the max.

Y’all know I have one of the biggest appetites in the world, but it only took one generous bowl to satisfy my usually insatiable tummy. There was so much velvety sauce and melty cheese that it felt like I was giving my soul a high-five with every bite. It might have been dark and yucky outside, but I was one happy, toasty camper while curled up with a bowl of these rich raviolis.

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You just can’t beat a big, bubbling casserole on a chilly fall night. It’s a full meal in one pot, and a little goes a long way. Plus, if you wind up with leftovers, I can attest to the fact that this heats up just as deliciously as it did the first time. That’s good news because there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve got another dose of this cheesy masterpiece waiting for you at the end of a long day.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can use tortellini instead of ravioli.
  2. Buy the fresh ravioli, not frozen. It’s much better quality, and you won’t have to pre-cook it before baking the casserole.
  3. You typically can find fresh ravioli between the produce and meat section.
  4. You’re welcome to use fresh squash, but using the already pureed stuff means saving a lot of time and hassle.
  5. This sauce is great over plain pasta too, like in my Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese.

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Baked Cheesy Butternut Squash Ravioli & Spinach
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 12 oz. frozen cooked butternut squash, thawed
  • 3 oz. Velveeta cheese, chopped
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 24 oz. fresh spinach ravioli (I used Hannaford brand)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt better. Add shallot and saute for two minutes. Add garlic and whisk in flour just until completely free of lumps. Immediately whisk in cream until smooth. Cover and let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk in butternut squash until evenly combined, then whisk in the 3/4 of the cheeses until melted and smooth. Fold in salt, ravioli and spinach.
  4. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish and sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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Zombie Caramel Apple Oreo Owls

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I think I’ve been watching too much “The Walking Dead” lately. Combine that with my owl obsession, and you’ve got these Zombie Caramel Apple Oreos Owls.

I’ve had those cool yet creep bloody candy eyeballs on hand for some time now, and I couldn’t decide what to do with them. I’ve made very cute and pretty owl treats before, but this gruesome décor allowed for a more Halloween-appropriate upgrade.

Plus, how can you argue with a treat that’s this spooky AND easy? There’s no cooking required, and you can make them in less than 30 minutes with only 5 ingredients (sounds like 5 ingredients is the name of the game this week!). They’ll be the hit of any Halloween party because everybody loves owls and zombies. Together, you can’t go wrong.

And if somebody doesn’t like ‘em, well, who gives a hoot?

Teehee.

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To make these extra fun and festive, I utilized the new Caramel Apple Oreos, but you could also scoop up the Pumpkin Oreos, or even the plain Oreos to make these. Decorating is up to you too. Have fun with it.

I think the zombie factor makes these a little easier to eat too. Regular owls would almost be too cute to sink your teeth into, but the fact they’re undead makes you feel like you’re doing the world a favor by chowing down.

I think I am just making this sound gross, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

Moral of the story: these are super cute, super easy, and a little creepy. Make them ASAP.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can get grosser with these, adding red frosting or jelly as blood, black under-eye circles, scars, and more.
  2. Be gently when chopping the cookies. They will break easily.
  3. A small, round piping tip is helpful for decorating.

Zombie Caramel Apple Oreo Owls
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 16 Owls

Ingredients:

  • 32 Caramel Apple Oreos
  • 32 bloody candy eyeballs (find them at your local craft store or Walmart)
  • White frosting
  • Orange frosting
  • Bone sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Separate the tops from half of the Oreos. Take the side without filling on it and cut into quarters.
  2. Use frosting to attach two eyes to the top center of a full Oreo. Take two of the quarters you cut and attach one to each edge of the “owl,” below the eyes.
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  3. Take another quarter piece you cut and cut it in half again. Stick those two tiny triangles into the top of the Oreo, sliding between the two cookie halves. Use orange frosting to draw a beak under the two eyes. Then use white frosting to draw a belly. Stick one bone sprinkle like a bow tie on the belly.
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Cheesy Sun-Dried Tomato Garlic Bread

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This bread was almost never born. Ry and I were out shopping for ingredients for the dinner I already had planned, a rich casserole that you’ll see tomorrow, when he started clamoring for garlic bread. I acted like this was a hassle, but let’s be honest, I was happy to bring more bread into my life.

He also suggested I get a post out of it, which was a grand idea, but that meant I needed a special spin on the recipe to make it worthwhile. Plain garlic bread would not do. Luckily, fate was on my side, and I spotted sun-dried tomatoes nearby. The match clicked in my head instantly, and Ry and I quickly snagged the stuff to make this Sun-Dried Tomato Cheesy Garlic Bread.

I might’ve given Ry a hard time about making this bread, but I can’t thank him enough for putting the idea in my head because this was the best darn garlic bread I’ve ever sunken my teeth into. The bread baked up to be beautifully crusty on the outside and tender inside. Every slice is slathered in sweet, pungent sun-dried tomato garlic and loaded with oodles of stringy cheeses. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

I think I teared up a little.

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This stuff was so garlicky, flavorful, and irresistible. Ry and I made the mistake of having it as our appetizer. So naturally, it turned into a meal. I’d like to tell you we didn’t kill the whole thing before even touching our dinner, but I can’t lie to you guys.

I’ve no regrets though. This bread was melt-tastic, crunch-arific, garlic-ified heaven. Look at that. I had to make up not one, not two, but three new adjectives just to describe it. If that doesn’t speak to the level of awesomeness that this bread brings to the table, then nothing does. You’re only five ingredients away from a very happy Monday. Go forth and concur.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I used a pizza blend of cheeses, featuring whole milk mozzarella, parmesan, and provolone.
  2. You can make this even better with fresh oregano.
  3. My Sun-Dried Tomato Cheesy Garlic Bread makes for a great party food or appetizer. You can cut it in a checkerboard pattern to feed more people.
  4. The leftovers heat up great. Cook it the same way you did the first time by wrapping it in foil until warmed through.
  5. You can find jarred sun-dried tomato garlic in the produce section near the jarred garlic.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Cheesy Garlic Bread
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf fresh French bread
  • ½ stick butter (4 tbsp.), melted
  • 4 oz. sun-dried tomato garlic
  • 2 cups pizza blend shredded cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Slice bread width-wise, just short of cutting all the way through. Leave just 1/8-inch at the bottom.
  3. Pour butter over top, pulling the slices apart slightly so the butter can sink in. Spread about 1 tbsp. of sun-dried tomato paste between each slice then stuff each crevice with a generous amount of cheese.
  4. Sprinkle oregano over top. Fold aluminum around loaf so it’s completely covered. Bake for 15 minutes then uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy.

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The Weekender: Hoots, Halloween, & Hard Work

Sage Spinach Pesto

Do you ever find yourself pondering if life will ever slow down? I’ve asked myself this several times this week, but it does me no good to dwell on it. If my life is hectic, it’s mostly my own choosing, so how can I complain?

I should just stuff my mouth with delicious food, and shut up. Lucky for us, that’s easy to do with awesome Smart Cookie recipes each week. Let’s review, shall we?

  1. 4-Layer Halloween Treat Cups
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  2. Pumpkin Oreo Chip Blondies with Maple Glaze
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  3. Sage & Spinach Pesto
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  4. 10 Pink Recipes for Breast Cancer Awareness
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Between school and training for my BodyStep certification next month, I’ve had my hands full. The gym has become my home away from home, but I’m okay with that. This week, we’ve been preparing for our Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Sunday, so we all dawned pink for a special BodyPump class. Notice I’m sporting my best Hello Kitty, the Queen of Pink.

pinkpumpSpeaking of Hello Kitty, to reward myself for working my butt off this week, I decided to snag this absolutely adorable Halloween Hello Kitty from Walgreens. I had to stop in anyway, so why not, right?

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I must’ve hit the Halloween jackpot this week, because I also scored these too cute Halloween owl hair clips from Kirklands for $3. Can’t beat that!

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And while in Kirkland’s, I began my Christmas decor shopping early when I spotted this guy. How on Earth could I turn away a Santa owl pillow that cute, and for $15? I knew right away that he was coming home with me.

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While we’re on the subject of owls, allow me to give you a preview of a Halloween recipe coming your way this week: Zombie Caramel Apple Oreo Owls. If you follow me on Instagram, you already got an exclusive sneak peek at these. And if you don’t follow me, then make sure you do so that you don’t miss posts like this.

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Some of Sister Cookie’s wedding pictures are finally surfacing. She just got her paws on some rehearsal dinner pics, so hopefully the ones from the Big Day are coming soon. Here’s a couple for y’all:

rehearsal sistersrehearsaldinner

What did you eat or cook this week? How are you preparing for Halloween?