Creamy Toasted Walnut & Spinach Pesto

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There are many days when I really feel like cooking something amazing, but I refuse to go to the store. So that means turning my kitchen into my own episode of Chopped and crafting a recipe out of limited – and sometimes seemingly unconnected – ingredients. I’m not sure how long I spent this time walking in circles around my kitchen, peeking into my cabinets and fridge, until I was ready to give up.

Then at the last second, when I took my tenth look at a bag of walnuts in the pantry, it hit me:  pesto.

You don’t have to like walnuts to like walnut pesto. Turning anything into pesto creates a completely different flavor and textural experience. Not to mention, this isn’t just any pesto; it’s Creamy Toasted Walnut & Spinach Pesto.

I’d describe this recipe as pure magic. You wind up with a sauce that’s as thick and creamy as a mac and cheese, yet we make it in 15 minutes with no roux and no fuss. Here’s the breakdown: we create a basic pesto by blending up flavorful toasted walnuts with fresh spinach, garlic, a little parmesan and olive oil until nice and smooth. Then we stir in a smidgen of cream, and it magically morphs into a thick and rich sauce that perfectly coats every noodle.

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Walnuts hold onto a lot of buttery richness and good fats, so when we toast them and then grind them up, we release all that good stuff to create unique but indulgent flavor. You won’t get that anywhere else, not from butter or cheese. However, the freshness of the spinach lets us cut some of that richness for the perfect balance.

Who knew you could create something so comforting in such little time? I’m guilty of associating comfort food with casseroles and soups that take hours, but this sauce only takes minutes. That’s why pesto is such an underrated weapon to have in your arsenal. It’s so good, and it sounds so fancy. “Oh, I made my own pesto today because I’m super sophisticated and stuff.”

Listen, you don’t need to be an esteemed chef on Chopped to whip this up tonight. It’s fresh, it’s different, and it’s colorful like the spring we’re all so desperately awaiting. You can pretend you’re on your own cooking show while you make this if you like, but remember it’s your show and your rules.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can take the flavor of this pesto one step farther by roasting the garlic.
  2. This pesto would also be delicious tossed with veggies.
  3. If you don’t have a food processor, you can probably make a blender work.
  4. Toasting the walnuts brings out a unique flavor you won’t get when they’re raw.
  5. Add some red pepper flakes if you’d like a little heat.

Creamy Toasted Walnut & Spinach Pesto
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta, boiled
  • 2 cups whole raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 generous cups fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 5 tbsp. heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay walnuts in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool.
  2. Place garlic, walnuts, and spinach in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add cheese and pulse a few times more.
  3. Stream in olive oil while pulsing until smooth and well-combined. Mix in salt and pepper.
  4. Fold pesto into pasta in a medium pot over medium heat. Mix in cream until well-combined and let cook until warm. Serve with more cheese and enjoy.

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The Weekender: Cats in Shoes, Spiderman, and Peek-a-Boo

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Ah, nothing like Sunday. We’re back in the teens for temperatures here, and that’s a bit discouraging when it’s almost April, but the sun is glowing quite bright today. That is enough hope for me to hold on to for now. I’ll just sit here with the light coming in through the open blinds and be grateful that the snow mountain outside my window has finally melted down enough for me to see the world again.

Easter is just around the corner, which means I’ll have a recipe round-up coming to you soon. But for now, why not take a peek at the Easter treat we made this week? Heck, let’s catch up on all of this week’s posts while we’re at it.

  1. Alfredo Spaghetti Pie
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  2. Mini Cadbury Creme Egg Confetti Cookie Combs
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  3. Smart Cookie Shopping 49
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  4. Parmesan Pasta Marinara Cups
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At least these everlasting freezing temperatures are appropriate for hockey games. Okay, I still kind of wished it was 70 degrees walking into the Utica Comets game last night, but I’m trying to be positive here. I even sported a Vancouver Canucks hat to look more spirited.

21095_10153249234948453_5350131647974717074_nGood news: I finally got word that I passed my assessment video, so my Les Mills BODYSTEP certification is official now! I am fully certified, and fully enjoying teaching.

10152548_10153244449058453_5615109084519105896_nMina enjoys that Ry and I are both Les Mills certified because it means more shoes for her to cuddle with.

10428704_10153240097993453_3532017099378365740_nSeriously, she loves shoes.

20150326_232226_resized_1Meanwhile, Poe prefers a good box. Can you spot him?

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That’s it for this week’s recap.

What did you eat/cook this week?

Parmesan Cups with Pasta Marinara

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In my mind, non-edible plates and bowls are an enormous waste. If you can’t eat your food vessel, then what good is it? All mousses should be enjoyed in cookies cups, and all cheese should be served in a golden brown pastry cup. As for pasta, it belongs in a crisp parmesan bowl.

My Parmesan Cups with Pasta Marinara won’t cause any unnecessary dish-dirtying because there are no bowls necessary. We create our own edible cup from pure parmesan cheese. It’s crunchy and flavorful, complimenting the tender and saucy pasta it cradles. You’d think such a fancy little bite would be complicated to craft, but it couldn’t be simpler.

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First, we bake the parmesan so it melts and becomes crisp. Then, while it’s still warm and malleable, we drape it over muffin tins so it can cool and take on that cup-like shape. Once it’s set, you’ve got a crispy little bowl of pure cheese to put your pasta in. How cool is that?

I don’t know why anyone bothers with forks and plates anymore when cheesy finger food like this exists. Crunchy-munchy cheese baskets holding pasta galore are revolutionary! This is the future, you guys, and the future is delicious.

This meal speaks to the kid in all of us since we can eat it with our hands. It makes for a great family night dinner, or perhaps you’re looking to serve something more fun at your next get-together. It’s one snack that’s almost as fun to make as it is to eat. You feel like a little cheese artisan!

Now that you’ve discovered the miracle that is parmesan cups, the possibilities are endless. Pastas, dips, you name it – there’s nothing these cheesy goblets can’t handle.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Asiago cheese also works for these cups.
  2. You need to leave the cheese circles slightly malleable still. If you cook them to a complete crisp, they won’t take the shape of the cup.
  3. If you don’t have mini muffin tins, use the bottom of a shot glass.
  4. You have to work quick and transfer the cheese to the molds before they cool and set.
  5. You can really fill these with just about anything.

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Parmesan Cups with Pasta Marinara
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups boiled pasta, preferably a shorter pasta
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 tbsp. basil pesto

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Have a mini muffin tin at the ready, turned upside down and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Arrange cheese in 3-inch circles on the parchment paper. Bake until melted and slightly golden, about 12 minutes. Immediately remove from tray and drape over upside down muffin tins, gently molding them to the shape. Let cool and set.
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  3. In a medium pot over medium heat, mix together pasta, marinara, and basil until well-combined. Let cook until sauce is good and warm. Spoon pasta into cooled parmesan cups and enjoy.

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Mini Cadbury Creme Egg-Stuffed Confetti Cookie Bombs w/ Chocolate Glaze

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When the Easter Bunny used to bring baskets for my sister and I, we prayed for Cadbury Creme Eggs. Those were, and still are, my favorite Easter candies. I loved the thick chocolate shells that cracked to reveal a gooey cream filling of sugary elation. It was a bonus when, after taking all the toys and candies out of the basket, I would pull away the Easter grass to reveal an egg or two that escaped to the bottom of the bag.

The Easter Bunny may deem me too old for baskets now, but he can never deem me too old for Cadbury Eggs. As an adult, I feel a little guiltier just buying them and chowing them down, so I like to make myself feel better by using my favorite candy eggs in recipes. It’s totally okay for me to eat a whole dozen of them if they’re in these Mini Cadbury Creme Egg-Stuffed Confetti Cookie Bombs with Chocolate Glaze, right?

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It’s almost like these rainbow-studded cookies serve as mini baskets for cradling the mini eggs. Granted, these cookie baskets are much tastier than the wicker ones the Easter Bunny brings. See, the Bunny may not bring my old self baskets, but I can bake my own. Watch out, Cottontail; I’ll take your job.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. So a soft, chewy cookie stuffed with a Mini Cadbury Egg was not sufficient; I had to add a creamy chocolate glaze. Why, you ask? More like, why not? Chocolate is always made better by more chocolate.

Did I mention these little cookie bombs took me less than an hour to make? That’s not even right. Something this colorful and heavenly shouldn’t come together that quickly. Is it an Easter miracle? Nah, it’s just a Smart Cookie creation.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can find Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs in the holiday candy section of most stores.
  2. I tried baking these without the liners, and it was just about impossible to get them out of the tins in one piece. So be smart and use liners for the tins.
  3. For more Easter recipes, check out this round-up.

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Mini Cadbury Creme Egg-Stuffed Confetti Cookie Bombs w/ Chocolate Glaze
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs
  • 1 box vanilla cake mix (I used Pillsbury)
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup rainbow sprinkles
  • 3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with liners.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together cake mix, butter, and eggs on medium speed until well-combined. Fold in the sprinkles.
  3. Take a tablespoon of dough and wrap it around each egg. Place each in the lined muffin tin and bake for 10 minutes or until puffed and set. Let cool completely.
  4. Make the glaze: whisk together cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, and sugar until smooth and homogenous. Drizzle over cooled cookies.

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Smart Cookie Shopping 49: Cheesy Pasta, Chips & Spaghetti-O’s

SCS 49They say “never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach,” but what do you do if you’re always hungry? You can’t win. On the bright side, it’s possible my constantly grumbling stomach aids me in picking out Smart Cookie Shopping products. I want to try everything!

It’s time to take our biweekly trip to the grocery store and scope out what’s new. I recommend not reading this post on an empty stomach either, but if you’re like me and you’re always hungry, then you’ll just have to suffer through it.

1. Jimmy Dean Delights 3-Cheese Pasta available in the frozen section

I thought it a bit suspicious that mac and cheese could be 300 calories. As it turns out, the reason for that is this mac is super tiny. It’s a side dish at best. But I can’t deny that it’s really yummy. I loved how cheesy the flavor of the sauce was, and it was incredibly creamy. For a frozen mac, it was pretty darn delicious.

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2. Knorr Pasta Sides Cheesy Spinach Dip Pasta available in the pasta aisle

Processed pasta might not be good for you, but this was pretty tasty. It had a good cheesy flavor and creamy texture. The “spinach” aspect was lacking though. I recommend buying this to serve as a side and stirring in fresh spinach as it cooks.

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3. Fiber One Cookies and Cream Bars available in the cereal aisle

This is my new favorite snack bar. It’s got protein and fiber – but more importantly, it actually tastes good. Usually, when I eat these flavored bars, they taste nothing like what their wrappers claim. However, these actually taste like cookies and cream.

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4. Spaghetti-Os Micros available in the pasta aisle

These are the classic delectable Spaghetti-O’s you love but without the hassle of a can! Yay! (Yes, I still eat Spaghetti-O’s)

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5. Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips available in the organic snack aisle

Finally! I’ve tried several sweet potato chips without much success, but these were a definite winner. Their texture is thick and perfectly crunchy. They feature a subtle but certain sweet potato flavor that balances sweet yet savory. They are delicious on their own or with hummus. I also appreciated the short, understandable ingredient list.

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6. Taste of Inspirations Roasted Garlic & Eggplant Marinara Sauce available in the pasta aisle

This sauce was sweet yet tangy and made from all natural ingredients. I used it in my Alfredo Spaghetti Pie. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the eggplant chunks. They were tough and hard to chew.

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7. Pepperidge Farms Chocolate Mint Brownie Cookies available in the snack aisle

You can’t call something “brownie” if it’s not ultra-soft and fudgy. These cookies are chewy, but they’re not soft and brownie-like. That aside, they are extremely chocolaty, and the mintiness is refreshing.

8. Pepperidge Farms Banana Nut Cookies available in the snack aisle

For me, these were just okay. They need white chocolate chips, and the flavor is quite artificial.

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9. Cape Cod Aged White Cheddar and Sour Cream Potato Chips available in the chip aisle

You can’t beat a good kettle cooked chip, especially when it’s cheddar and sour cream flavored. These are dangerously good. Be prepared to devour the entire crunchtastic, cheesy bag.

DSC06602Which of these products have you tried?

Alfredo Spaghetti Pie

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I eat a lot of pasta, mostly because carbs are awesome. From bakes to stovetop and skillet creations, there is a plethora of possibilities for partaking in pasta. Just when I think I’ve discovered them all, I stumble upon another revolutionary carb experience.

I bet you didn’t think you could eat pasta as a pie, but as it turns out, you can. In fact, not only is it possible, it’s amazing. My Alfredo Spaghetti Pie opened my eyes to serving up spaghetti in a completely new way, and I couldn’t believe how perfect it was. The spaghetti bakes together for a sturdy crust that’s tender inside and slightly crisp on the outside. The crunchy golden bits wind up being the best part.

We then take a semi-homemade approach to fill this. I chose a store-bought marinara, but I made sure to select a high-quality sauce with a short and easy-to-understand ingredient list. This is KEY. It must have fresh ingredients and no preservatives.

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Then, to upgrade this pie, we make a quick 4-ingredient alfredo sauce that is the be-all-end-all of alfredos. Tuck that recipe within a recipe away for the next time you’re craving fettuccine alfredo because you’ll never find better. It’s creamy, just the right thickness, and full of garlicky parmesan flavor.

The rich alfredo blends with the sweet, tangy marinara for a perfect balance of flavors. Together, they coat every bit of that tender pasta crust. The pie would be delicious enough like that, but I’ve got to add a melty layer of fresh mozzarella cheese to finish it off right. Finally, a sprinkle of fresh basil ties it all together.

With bubbly, golden, gooey, saucy goodness like this, you know you’ve got a comforting meal that will quickly turn into a regular favorite. Pasta as a pie may be unconventional, but it’s bound to become a classic after your first bite. Think outside the casserole dish every now and then.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can find great store-bought marinaras as long as you do what I said and check the ingredient list. However, avoid store-bought alfredo at all costs. There’s no such thing as a good store-bought alfredo (think about it; why would you want a dairy-based sauce that doesn’t need to be refrigerated). Plus, my 4-ingredient recipe is so quick and easy, and so heavenly in comparison.
  2. You can add sausage or pepperoni if you’d like to have meat.
  3. You can do an all-alfredo or all-marinara version of this.
  4. The spaghetti crust doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t stress too much while constructing it.

Alfredo Spaghetti Pie
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 8 oz. multigrain spaghetti, cooked
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. butter

For the filling

  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ cup marinara sauce
  • 8 oz. sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 pie dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together spaghetti, salt, parmesan, olive oil, egg and butter until evenly combined.
  3. Arrange spaghetti in an even layer in the pie dish. It should be thick enough to cover the bottom completely. Build a layer up around the edges to create a crust.
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  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until beginning to turn golden. Keep oven on 350.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Whisk in the cream and let cook, stirring occasionally until it starts to simmer. Whisk in parmesan, salt and pepper until cheese is completely melted. Let simmer, stirring frequently for about 8 minutes, until thickened slightly.
  6. Pour marinara over baked crust and spread into an even layer. Pour alfredo over top (the sauces will likely blend together) then lay cheese in a single layer and sprinkle with basil. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Let sit for 3 minutes then slice and enjoy.

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The Weekender: St. Patrick’s Day, Skillet Cookies & TV

Leprechaun BreadWe’ve seen a few sunny, semi-warm days here, and it’s such a teaser. You can’t help but wonder when it’ll stop being just a passing day, and when it’ll actually be spring. Although yesterday was the technical first day of spring, it snowed here.

Ah, the beauty of CNY.

Is it warming up where you are yet? Perhaps we can all warm things up in the kitchen instead. Let’s take a look back at what we cooked up this week.

  1. Leprechaun Bread
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  2. Open-Face Eggplant, Tomato, Pepper & Basil 3-Cheese Sandwiches
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  3. 20 Must-Have Tips & Tricks for Cooking
    Smart Cookie27
  4. No Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Delights
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  5. Pesto, Pepper & Spinach Double Cheese Subs
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Did you catch my latest appearance on WKTV? I stopped by to share my Leprechaun Bread for St. Patrick’s Day. Check out the clip below, and see me again Saturday, April 4 at 9 a.m.

Of course I broke out this fantastic Hello Kitty St. Patrick’s Day shirt because why wouldn’t I?

10985213_10153216678338453_8995771129181942590_nAlthough this 4-Leaf Clover Cupcake Cake seems St. Patrick’s Day-related, it was actually a birthday cake for my good friend who has a suspiciously frequent habit of stumbling upon 4-leaf clovers. I chose 5 nouns to describe her, placing one on each leaf. They were vanilla cake with whipped cream frosting.

IMG_20150321_165744Maybe it’s wrong to be such an avid baker and partake in desserts from chain restaurants, but y’all can’t deny the giant chocolate chip cookie sundae at Uno’s Chicago Bar and Grill is pretty darn tasty. Just look at it.

IMG_20150319_223953The only thing prettier is my little Mina, who is still attempting to smuggle herself into the gym. One of these days, she’s going to be successful.

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So how was your week? What did you eat?

Spinach, Pepper, & Pesto Double Cheese Subs

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It’s funny how some of the best stuff I cook is entirely unplanned. Today’s Spinach, Pepper & Pesto Double Cheese Subs is the result of me needing to use up a few ingredients leftover in my kitchen. OF course, when one of those leftover ingredients includes bread, there’s no way I can pass up making a good ol’ cheesy sandwich.

Any excuse to make something cheesy, I am game for.

Just the other day, I told y’all how gifted I am with cheese. Does this ooey gooey masterpiece have you convinced yet? I chose one of my favorite cheeses of all time, ultra melty Muenster, and paired it with a strong asiago. If you’ve checked out my Ultimate Grilled Cheese Guide, then you know they key to a great cheesy sandwich is pairing something soft with something flavorful.

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I wish I could’ve gotten a recording for you guys of the sound this sandwich makes when you crunch into. Imagine, “Crrrsssscccchhhhhh,” yet even more beautiful. It’s music to the ears, and heaven on the taste buds. All that gorgeously gooey cheese paired with the freshness of basil pesto and spinach, plus the sweetness of the peppers – can you imagine a grander symphony?

Despite how epic this sandwich may seem, it’s basic and quick to make. We give the bread a quick pre-toast then pile all the good stuff on and finish it off in the oven so that it gets hot and melty. You’ve got a a fancy-shmancy sammy in just minutes.

No need to plan out dinner tonight. I’ve got you covered.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Parmesan can be substituted for the asiago.
  2. Find pesto near the cheese and deli section of your grocery store, or make your own.
  3. You can use any kind of bread you like, just make sure it’s crusty and sturdy.
  4. Not a pepper fan? Use sun-dried tomatoes instead.
  5. You can usually find sliced Muenster in the dairy section, but if you’re having trouble, try the specialty cheese section by the deli.

Spinach, Pepper & Pesto Double Cheese Subs
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • 4 sandwich rolls, halved
  • 12 slices Muenster cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 2 cups fresh chopped spinach
  • 1 cup sliced roasted red peppers (like Mezetta)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place rolls on pan and butter the cut side of each slice. Bake for 4 minutes.
  2. Spread 1 tbsp. of pesto on each roll, dividing between the buttered sides of each half.
  3. Break up 3 slices of Muenster and place on pesto of half of each sandwich. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. asiago over the Muenster. Take a bunch of spinach and sprinkle it over the cheese. Finish with a handful of peppers. Close each sandwich by placing the remaining pesto-covered halves with pesto side-down on top of each cheese & veggie covered half.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Slice in half and enjoy.

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6-Ingredient No-Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Delights

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I bet you didn’t know you could make a dessert out of a jar of frosting without a box of cake mix to go with. Today, I’m going to show you how frosting can be used as more than just a cake topper in these 6-Ingredient No-Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Delights.

We all love classic desserts like cupcakes and cookies, especially when adorned with frosting; that’s why they’re classics in the first place. But from time to time, we need to branch out to different treats so we don’t get bored. When food gets boring, life gets boring. That’s just not okay.

These No-Bake Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Delights will let you shake it up without breaking a sweat. What’s one of the main reasons we don’t stray from what we’re used to? Because new things can be challenging. These little delights, however, are mixed up and rolled out in 15 minutes, with no baking required. All you need is one bowl.

That’s a change worth embracing.

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You’ll find these little snacks are surprisingly hearty and decadent. I guarantee one perfect sphere is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. You get a little crunch throughout from the graham cracker crumbs and the chocolate chips, while the frosting gives creamy richness, and the oats provide chewiness. There’s something about adding oats to any dessert that makes it feel old-fashioned and comforting.

These cuties also travel well, so you can pop ‘em in a baggie and take a few to work to enjoy for a midday treat. Just don’t let anyone else in your workplace catch wind of them, or you might be asked to share – and you won’t want to share.

Use frosting in a way you never thought possible and make these spherical snacks today. Kids will love them too, and they’ll be a hit at any party. After all, it’s chocolate and peanut butter. That is the ultimate classic couple.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I found the frosting I used at Wegmans. If you’re having trouble finding a peanut butter frosting, you can just mix 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter with 1/2 cup vanilla frosting.
  2. You don’t have to chill these, but it sets them up better.
  3. These make a great gift. Wrap them in a cute package and give ‘em away.
  4. Add chopped peanuts for even more crunch.

6-Ingredient No-Bake Double Chocolate-Peanut Butter Delights
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. peanut butter frosting (I used Dollop Gourmet Frosting)
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking oats, plus more for rolling
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Line a tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together frosting, cocoa powder, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and oats until evenly combined. Fold in chocolate chips and salt.
  3. Pour about ¾ cup more oats into a shallow bowl. Roll chocolate-peanut butter mixture into balls and roll in oats, packing the oats down so they stick to the outside. Place on prepared tray. I recommend storing in the fridge in an air-tight container.

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20 Must-Have Tips and Tricks for Cooking

Smart Cookie27

There are certain tips and tricks we pick up along the way that make us say, “Dang, if only I knew this sooner!” These kinds of culinary secrets are life-changing. And if we can make our time in the kitchen easier, then why wouldn’t we?
I’ve gathered your best tips and tricks for the kitchen and compiled them with a few of my own favorites so we can all tackle cooking and baking like seasoned professionals. Feel free to add yours in the comment section!

  1. Stabilize your whipped cream
    Making whipped cream is sweet and simple, but it doesn’t seem to last long without separating. All you have to do to prevent this is add 1 tbsp. of cornstarch per cup of cream, and that will stabilize it.
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  2. Chop veggies faster
    Stack pieces of vegetable together to slice more at a faster pace. –Submitted by Tina G.
  3. Bake a sweet potato faster
    Poke a few holes in the potato before wrapping it in a paper towel or paper bag. Microwave on high for 4-5 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake sweet potato in heated oven (wrapped in foil) for roughly 10 minutes. Submitted by Kaylin G.
  4. Get perfectly smooth frosting
    When I frost my cakes, I do a rough even coating of frosting all over. Then I take my spatula and dip it lightly into warm water, just enough to moisten it slightly, and glide it over the whole cake to smooth it perfectly. Keep re-dipping as needed.
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  5. To peel kiwi
    Best way to peel a kiwi is to cut it in half and run a spoon in between the fruit and the skin and pop it out! – Submitted by Katie P.
  6. Make a perfect grilled cheese
    Butter one side of each slice of bread and pre-brown them on a skillet over medium heat. Then build the sandwiches on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until cheese is melted. You’ll never have burnt bread with uncooked cheese again.
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  7. To peel hard boiled eggs
    Cool then crack each end. Roll the egg between both hands and VOILÁ! Perfectly peeled eggs…. The shell comes right off. Submitted by Hilary L.
  8. Stock up on butter
    It’s so easy to run out of! By a bunch and store it in the freezer.
  9. Make cookies easier
    If I know I will be making batches of cookies in the near future, I will mix together flour, baking soda and salt in the appropriate portions and store it in a jar. When I’m ready to bake, I measure out the amount I need. All I have to do is mix together the wet ingredients. The dry ingredients are already taken care of. – Submitted by Tina G.
  10. Never burn chocolate again
    The trick to melting chocolate in the microwave without burning it is to 1) cook it in 30-second intervals, and 2) stir well in between.
  11. Save space and money
    You only need one pan, a 16” cast iron skillet. It cooks everything,  goes in the oven and doubles as a doorstop. –Submitted by Kevin W.
  12. Frost like a pro
    Turn ziplock bags into piping bags by filling with frosting, snipping off one bottom corner, and twisting off the top. Pipe away!
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  13. Get the most out of your herbs
    To make fresh herbs last longer, wrap them in a paper towel, then place in a plastic bag. Learned this from the Food Network! It does work! –Submitted by Bonnie B.
  14. Turn cake mix into cookies
    Use any cake mix flavor you like and add 2 eggs + 1 stick softened butter. Mix together, drop in scant tablespoons on a tray and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.
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  15. Make speedy soup
    If you plan on making a soup later in the week, peel and chop onions, carrots, bell peppers and other veggies that aren’t leafy and store it all in a container in the fridge. It will save time when you’re ready to make the soup. –Submitted by Tina G.
  16. Make muffins and cookies picture-perfect
    Ever wonder why bakery cookies look so picturesque with their chocolate chips perfectly dotted on top when yours always seem to sink into the baked good? That’s because they sprinkle extra chips on top of the cookie after rolling the dough and placing on the tray. For muffins, sprinkle them on immediately after baking.
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  17. Make better Rice Krispie treats
    Always add extra marshmallows – it’ll keep your treats super chewy and soft.
  18. Fancy fruit
    This is the easiest way to create a fancy presentation. Cut the leaves off strawberries then make 3 to 4 equidistant slices down the berry lengthwise, but DON’T cut all the way through. Gently spread layers apart to “fan” them.
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  19. Edible Cups
    You can turn almost any dough/batter into an edible cup/bowl by baking in a muffin or mini muffin tin then using the rounded end of a spoon or something similar to make an indent in the center as soon as it comes out of the oven. For example, see these Mocha Brownie Nutella Cups.
  20. Impress with ease
    The best go-to recipe to have on-hand is my 4-ingredient alfredo. It’s easy and quick but tastes like it’s from a 5-star Italian restaurant. Break it out when you’ve got to make a great dinner on the fly: melt  4 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat then saute 2 tsp. minced garlic. Stir in 2 cups heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes then whisk in 1/2 –3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese until melted and let simmer another 5-10 minutes until thickened slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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