Category Archives: Holiday

SC’s Easter Extravaganza: Favorite Easter Treats

Holidays mean one thing and one thing only in the Smart Cookie Household: food! On the menu for this fabulous Spring Sunday is Brussel Sprout Gratin, Scalloped Potatoes w/ Cheddar & Gruyere, Garlic Knots w/ a twist, and more. Did I mention there’s my Babci’s Famous Carrot Cake for dessert? Never fear, my little cookies. These recipes will be coming your way soon next week!

In the mean time, here are my favorite delectable Easter eats on the site:

  1. Chocolate Bunny Cake
    This cake looks exactly like the classic chocolate bunny you receive in your Easter basket, but when you cut it open, you’ll find a special surprise: moist chocolate cake & fluffy chocolate buttercream! It’s chocolate heaven, almost too cute to eat but too delicious not to.
  2. Bunny Butt Trifle
    What’s cuter than a bunny’s butt? This dessert is surprisingly simple to make, and yet it looks so darn impressive. The Easter Bunny himself is diving headfirst into layers of dark devil’s food cake, rich chocolate mousse, and chunks of Milky Ways. Now that’s a Happy Easter!
  3. Party Bread
    There is no better way to please Easter dinner guests than with this incredible, mouth-watering bread. Tender sourdough bread is drenched in butter & poppy seeds then stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and topped with fresh scallions. The whole thing is baked until it reaches the point of melty, ooey gooey, golden brown perfection. Plus, its checkerboard pattern makes it fun to pull apart and easy to share.
  4. 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese
    What could be more welcome at Easter dinner than a pan of baked 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese? With Cheddar, Gruyere, Fontina, and Parmesan, this pasta is overflowing with creamy, cheesiness. Finish it with a crunchy breadcrumb topping, and you’ve got yourself the perfect side dish!
  5. Peanut Butter Eggs
    Skip the store this Easter and make your own Peanut Butter Eggs! These babies are packed with peanut butter and covered in smooth, creamy chocolate. They’re so easy to make, yet so delicious!
  6. Spinach-Nut Pesto w/ Roasted Tomatoes and Rotini
    This is the ultimate Spring pasta. It’s light, flavorful, and colorful. The fresh spinach in the pesto makes it as good for you as it is delicious. Sweet, juicy roasted tomatoes are the perfect finishing touch.

Now, this ain’t the only stuff I’d like to stuff my face with on Easter. In fact, I’m hoping the Bunny is going to bring me a few of my Easter Basket Favorites:

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
    These are a “you love ‘em or you hate ‘em” kind of treat. I definitely understand why people don’t like them. They’re very sweet, which can be a little much for some people. I, on the other hand, cannot get enough sweets. Therefore, these delectable little eggs are right up my alley. I’ve gotten them in my basket every year for as long as I can remember, and they still taste just as good as they did when I was a kid. A thick milk chocolate “egg” shell filled with a sweet, creamy, gooey filling? Yes please!
  2. Milky Way Simply Caramel Bunnies
    Milky Ways are my favorite candy bar, so obviously putting them in bunny form will be a major win. I actually think these taste even better than the bars since they’re more caramel-y.
  3. Peeps (sort of)
    I say “sort of” because Peeps are the cutest edible anything on the planet. Food does not get any more adorable than Peeps. They’re pretty darn tasty too, but I usually get bored after the first 2 or 3. However, it is fun to jazz them up with chocolate or sandwich them in a s’more!
  4. Hershey’s Cookies and Cream Eggs
    One delicious bar turned into miniature eggs…yum!

Let’s chat! What are you favorite Easter treats? What are you having for Easter dinner/dessert?

Pierogi Casserole (VIDEO)

I am just about as Polish as they come. People constantly point out my “round polish face,” I’ve been raised on real, homemade potato pancakes, and I have a small tattoo written in Polish. When I was younger, I used to think being Polish was boring. I had friends who were Irish, Scottish, Italian, and even Native American. I felt like Polish was equivalent to a boring white crayon in a box of colorful cultural crayons.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized how important is it to embrace who you are. Plus, I learned how awesome it is to be Polish; I mean can you really argue with a culture that’s known for its pierogies? There have been a few times in my life when I was lucky enough to enjoy fresh pierogies, handmade from scratch. It’s not an everyday affair because the pierogi-making process takes quite a bit of time and effort. Unfortunately, the only person willing to do so is my grandmother. God bless her. When you taste one of her tender homemade pierogis fresh from the frying pan, you wonder how you ever went on for so long eating the pasta imposters from the freezer section of the grocery store.

Now, I’m a college student, so the chances of me churning out homemade pierogi any time before summer break are slim to none. So what am I to do when my Polish roots start craving some pierogi? The answer is simple: make Pierogi Casserole.

This dish is a blessing. It lets me have all the goodness of a pierogi in casserole-form. It’s essentially a pierogi that’s been deconstructed, stripped down to its individual elements and put back together to resemble some sort of lasagna. Only this is much better than lasagna. We’re talking a rich, mashed potato filling that’s stuffed with melted cheese, fried onions, and butter then layered with lasagna noodles. So, you’ve got that classic pierogi filling and the pasta shell that cradles it, broken down to exist as a layered casserole. It’s a pan-full of heaven: mounds of cheesy, starchy, buttery goodness. Is it indulgent? Yes. Is it good for you? That’s debatable. No, it’s not great for you physical health, but comfort foods such as this do wonders for the mind.

Grab a plateful of this Polish pierogi dream and treat yourself. The best dishes are worth a bit of over-induglence.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Serve with some veggies to balance out the meal.
  2. This recipe is easily doubled to serve a crowd.
  3. Make-ahead dish alert: assemble the casserole earlier in the day, then bake when you’re ready to eat.
  4. You can use a different kind of potato if that’s all you have, but the Yukon Golds are highly recommended. They’re so buttery, tender, and delicious, perfect for this casserole.
  5. Note: You can easily cut down the butter in the mashed potato mixture to 1/2 or 3/4 of a stick.
  6. Check out my video to watch Reese and I whip up this delicious casserole!

Pierogi Casserole
Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into fours
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 oz. velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter (note: you can cut down the butter used in the mashed potato mixture to 1/2 or 3/4 of a stick if you like)
  • 1/4 cup milk or cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Peel potatoes and chop into quarters. Set them in a large pot and cover with water, allowing it to come to a boil. Boil potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. While potatoes are boiling, cook pasta according to directions, and once drained mix with two tablespoons of butter. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter and saute chopped onion until soft and lightly golden.
  4. Drain potatoes and mash with one stick of butter, garlic, and cheese. Make sure no lumps remain. Add milk to loosen, if desired. Fold in onions.
  5. Spread out 1/2 the pasta in a large baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, cutting down noodles as necessary. Spread 1/2 the mashed potato mixture over top. Top with the remaining noodles and another layer of mashed potatoes. If desired, top with more cheese and onions. Cover and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. For the last ten minutes of cooking, remove the cover. This is best when served immediately, but still tastes good after being in the fridge for a day or two.

A Valentine For You

….Will you be my Valentine?

I got you a little something special: sweets and treats galore!

Baked Brownie Bites

French Toast Cupcakes

Soft Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

Giant Triple Chocolate Chocolate Bookie

Princess Valentine Cookie Sammies

Outrageous Brownies

Tiramisu Creme Brulee

PB & J Tiramisu

Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie

Enjoy! Happy Valentine’s Day, my little cookies.

Princess Valentine Cookie Sammies w/ Strawberry Buttercream Filling

I apologize in advance for the epic amounts of girlishness crammed into these cookies. It just sort of happened.

I’m not five-years-old, I SWEAR.

I am, however, a kid at heart. As I explained to you while discussing my latest Wegmans finds, I am, and will forever be, a Disney girl. When I saw that Pillsbury had dished out Princess Valentine Shape Sugar Cookies in honor of good old February 14th, I just about lost my marbles. Disney Princess cookies? Is this a childhood dream come true?

On their own, these pre-made cookies are cute and girly enough. I mean, they’re pink with a little purple high heel printed on the center. Plus, the white heart surrounding the shoe makes them quite Valentine’s Day appropriate. I, however, cannot bake pre-made cookie dough with good conscience unless I jazz it up a little.

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Giant Triple Chocolate Bookie

No typo here, my little cookies. This is a bookie: a cookie-brownie hybrid. I’ve also seen these referred to “brookies,” but that’s not a very linguistically pleasing word. Bookie is much more fun to say.

Bookie.
See?

If you’re anything like me, then choosing between cookies and brownies is tough. Cookies are so snackable* and delicious, but brownies are so chocolatey and decadent. How does one choose? The better question is, why should you have to?

That is why this Giant Triple Chocolate Bookie and I are BFF’s. I get the best of both worlds: a giant cookie that’s essentially the size of my head stuffed with two kinds of chocolate chips and chunks, and yielding such fudgy, soft, rich qualities that I can’t decide if it’s truly a cookie or a brownie.

When I created my Colossal Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae, I thought that was the greatest dessert to ever grace my mouth. Warm, gooey, chocolatey, and made from the best chocolate chip cookie dough in existence, it truly was a magical experience. However, now that this dark, fudgy, chocolafied* version has come into my life, I don’t know which I like love more.

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Soft Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

People possess very mixed opinions about Valentine’s Day. Generally, they tend to support on of the following opinions:

  1. “Oh my god, I love Valentine’s Day! My boyfriend/girlfriend and I are so IN LOVE. I want everyone to know! Let’s eat chocolate and have an expensive dinner!” These people live for V-Day. Cupid got them bad. They can commonly be spotted adorning festive red and pink attire and jamming out to love songs.
  2. I hate Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day sucks. All you love birds make me sick. I’m going to go listen to depressing music and think about how much Valentine’s Day sucks.” The passionate hatred of Valentine’s Day associated with these people is usually attributed to a recently broken heart or a non-existent love life. I think everyone dips their feet into these waters at some point or another.
  3. Valentine’s Day is just a card store conspiracy. They just want to make us go buy cards and chocolate. It’s purely for the economy. You should show your love every day, not just because the calendar tells you to.” These people make a few good points, and they may be right, but it’s often times a bitter heart fueling these words rather than unbiased logic. Unless, of course, if you’re a man. Many men fall under this category. Not because they’re bitter, but because a holiday full of lovey-dovey pink and purpleness seems completely absurd in their opinion.

Which one are you? I ten to hover somewhere between 1 and 2. It’s hard not to feel a little bit of resentment towards a day that highlights one’s single status, but at the same time, I think it’s great to have a day that honors love. True, you should express your love every day, not just because of a holiday, but couldn’t the same be said for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? I think having a special day allotted to such relationships is pure fun. Even if you lack a “lover” to spend Valentine’s Day with, surely you have someone you love to celebrate. Whether it be a friend, a sibling, your parents, or even your dog, show that special someone you care about them.

It just so happens that I have the perfect way to do so. Nothing says “I love you” quite like these Soft Sweetheart Sugar Cookies. Their heart shape is a universal sign of affection, plus pretty pink frosting and colorful sprinkles add to the overall festiveness. If you could bake love into cookie form, these would be it. Not only are their romantic aesthetics appropriate for Valentine’s Day, but baking them from scratch will show your loved one(s) you care more than any store-bought gift could.

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Wegman’s Finds: Valentine’s Day Treats & More

If you are blessed enough to live near a Wegman’s, then you know just how truly magical the place can be. The moment you walk through the doors, you are greeted by a wonderland of sublime grocery goods and more. Wegman’s doesn’t just sell food, they sell the best food. Everything that comes out of that place is amazing. Moreover, they sell a plethora of other goodies like gifts, kitchen equipment, home decor, and more.

Basically, they have everything.

I made my bi-monthly trek yesterday. It was actually an impromptu trip because I happened to be in the area. I was only going to grab a few things, but what I found were treasures galore.

Wegman’s was ready for Valentine’s Day. They had a whole section of the store devoted to all things red, pink, and chocolate. Any kind of candy your sweet tooth could desire, they had it. Loving teddy bears and various plushies? They had those too. They even had an entire floral shop to buy flowers for your sweetie. However, what I really enjoyed was all of the romantic-themed eats and treats.

1. Love Bug Cupcakes

These may be the cutest cupcakes in existence. Your choice of chocolate or vanilla cupcake is topped with mounds of fluffy frosting to uncannily resemble a cute little lady bug (or, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, a love bug). Two mini chocolate curls act as edible antlers and amp up the adorableness. The best part is, unlike most elaborately decorated cakes and cupcakes, the love bug itself is all frosting, no chewy fondant or other edible but undesirable medium. So, like all of Wegman’s baked goods, these cupcakes taste amazing. They’re delicious AND cute as a bug!

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Baked Brownie Bites

Last week’s decadent Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie brought me an unforeseen blessing: leftover brownie batter. Now, some people might look upon that bowl of batter and think, “Great. What am I going to do with this?” But I never see extra food as a bad thing, especially when it comes to brownie batter. So what did I do with that liquid chocolate gold? I baked it into cute handheld bites of course.

You see, the problem with traditional brownies is that they aren’t always easy to eat with your hands. Often times, they can be crumbly or cut into unmanageable squares that are best tackled on a plate with a fork. These chocolatey cuties, however, are for brownie lovers on the go. Munch away at these moist and tasty treats without the aid of a fork and plate. You can do some laundry, drive to work, or keep one hand on the remote while watching The Bachelor, all while chowing down on one of these petite brownies. It’s the way to go, my little cookies.

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Homemade Conversation Hearts

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You know those chalky little multicolored heart candies that make an appearance every year at Valentine’s Day? Sweet, festive, and always baring a sappy, lovey-dovey message, they’re are a holiday classic.

Conversation hearts are a go-to gift for V-Day, but they have their drawbacks. Have you ever been the unfortunate recipient of an awkward heart message, like when a platonic (or so you thought) friend gives you one that says, “I love you”? Or perhaps worse yet, you were the one giving the inappropriate message (note: it’s probably not a good idea to give a “kiss me” heart to your best friend’s boyfriend). And if we’re being honest here, they aren’t the most delicious of V-Day sweets. Chocolate or conversation hearts? The choice is pretty obvious. And yet we still eat the tiny treats anyway.

Admit it: you eat them every year, even though they aren’t particularly tasty.

Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t you have cute, romantic heart candies that taste as good as they look? Why can’t you customize the messages to avoid social blunders and miscommunications?

Fear no longer, my little cookies. There is a solution: make your own conversation hearts.

Homemade Conversation Hearts are the perfect sweet treat to make for Valentine’s Day, and I can give you several reasons why:

  1. You can customize the messages! Profess your love to that special someone. Tell that guy at work how much of a creep he is. Remind your friends how awesome they are. The possibilities are endless!
  2. Make your favorite flavors. You won’t believe all the different kinds of extracts there are out there: vanilla, almond, raspberry, mint, lemon, orange, bubblegum, and more! Choose your favorites and leave out the ones you don’t like.
  3. These taste so much better than store-bought. They flavors are more prominent and the texture isn’t chalky. They’re actually a little bit creamy in the center. So, that means no breaking you teeth like you often do on the ones from a box.

Now, if those reasons aren’t enough for you, let me give you one more: nothing says “I love you” or “I care about you” like a homemade gift. Your loved ones will go crazy for these homemade heart-shaped cuties. They’ll be so impressed, but most importantly, they’ll appreciate the time and effort you put into making them. Plus, they’ll get a kick out of those customized messages.

Think making candy is hard? Think again. there’s no thermometer required, and it’s not quite as scientific and exact like candy-making typically is. Don’t believe me? Then watch the video below and join me in the kitchen to make these colorful candies!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  • You need two days to make these. The actual prep doesn’t take that long, but they need at least 24 hours to dry or the edible ink will bleed all over when you try to write on them.
  • You can make however many colors/flavors you like. I made pink/almond extract, purple/raspberry extract, and white/vanilla extract. If you’re looking to match the classic conversation hearts, they include: white/mint, yellow/banana, orange/orange, green/lime, purple/grape, and pink/cherry.
  • Food dye stains, so you can wear plastic gloves to avoid staining your skin (although it washes out relatively easily). If you get food dye on your counter, some cleaner with a bit of bleach in it will take it right out.
  • Work with the dough quickly because it starts to dry out and will become hard to work with. If this happens, use a tiny bit of water to moisten it again.
  • You can find the edible food markers at craft stores, and sometimes in the grocery store in the baking aisle.
  • I cut the recipe in half because it makes a ton of candies, but I’ve included the full recipe below. You can make the whole recipe or cut it in half depending on how many hearts you want.
  • You can use whatever sized heart-shaped cutters that you want, but I don’t recommend going too small because you won’t be able to write on them.


Homemade Conversation Hearts

Recipe by Cakespy

Ingredients:

yield: about 70-100 conversation hearts

  • 1 packet (1/4 ounces, or 2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 2 pounds (one bag) confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting your work surface
  • Assorted flavoring extracts of your choice (I used almond extract, vanilla, and raspberry)
  • Assorted food colors, your choice
  • Small heart-shaped cutters
  • Food coloring markers (I used Wilton Foodwriters)

Directions:

  1. Place the corn syrup, gelatin, and water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the gelatin is well-distributed. Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds, so the gelatin dissolves, and stir well. (Or, you can do this stove-top over low heat).

  2. Pour the gelatin mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add one cup of confectioners’ sugar and turn the mixer to low, mixing until the sugar is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that the sugar all gets mixed in.

  3. Continue to add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well, until all of the 2 pounds is added. While you’re mixing, periodically stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Continue mixing at low to medium-low speed until it progresses from a thin, watery liquid to a glaze-like texture to an extremely thick dough.

  4. Once all of the sugar is incorporated and your mixture is thickened, dust a work surface with some of your confectioners’ sugar and scrape the candy out onto the work surface. The candy will be very sticky and stiff. Generously dust the top of the ball of candy with confectioners’ sugar, and begin to knead the candy like bread dough, folding the ball of dough over onto itself, then use the heel of your hand to push it down. Give the candy a quarter-turn, and repeat the process, dusting it with more confectioners’ sugar as often as necessary to prevent it from sticking to the board or your hands. Knead until the candy is no longer sticky, but smooth. I found it kind of like the texture of a pliable clay.

  5. Decide how many colors and flavors of conversation hearts you want to make, and divide the candy dough into that many portions. To flavor and color the candy, take one of the balls and flatten it into a palm-sized disc. Add a few drops of food coloring and a small dot of flavoring extract to the center of the disc, and fold it over on itself. Knead the dough ball, just as you did before, until the color is evenly dispersed throughout the candy, and all streaks have disappeared. You may want to taste-test a tiny piece to decide if you need more flavoring. Repeat this process with remaining balls of candy dough until all of the bits are colored and flavored.

  6. Note: As you finish coloring each ball of dough, wrap each securely in plastic wrap so that they wouldn’t dry out while you finished the rest.

  7. Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar, and roll out one of the candy balls to your desired thickness. Be aware that the thinner you roll it, the more fragile the candy will be.

  8. Use heart-shaped cutters to cut hearts out of the rolled candy, and transfer the hearts to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Smaller hearts are more realistic, but larger hearts are easier for writing messages. Once you have cut out your hearts, you can re-roll the scraps to get more shapes out of the candy. Repeat with remaining candy balls.

  9. Allow your hearts to air-dry for at least 24 hours before writing on them. This step is VERY important, because the extra moisture in the hearts will cause the ink to run if you do not let them dry properly.

  10. After the hearts have dried, use the food writing markers to write the messages that come from your heart. Store your conversation hearts in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Triple Chocolate Brownie Pie

How Brownie Met Pie

Brownie’s life was blessed. She had everything a baked good could want. She had adoring fans, good looks, and she was lavishly rich (rich and fudgy, that is). But despite all this, Brownie was unhappy. She felt a constant void within her chocolatey core, calling out for something beyond her seemingly perfect life. Outsiders wondered how she could possibly be unsatisfied. When Brownie passed by, the gossiping Cupcakes would whisper speculations to one another, proposing far-fetched possibilities like a lack of love from her parents. On the contrary, Brownie had very supportive parents. But even they didn’t know what to do to please their daughter.

As Brownie matured from a tiny brownie bite to a fully baked choice-cut from a thick 9 by 9 pan, the insatiable longing within her grew stronger still. Her best friend, an over-sized chocolate chip cookie from a posh bakery, tried to cheer her up, but couldn’t understand what Brownie was so upset about in the first place. It wasn’t something Brownie could explain, no matter how many times she tried.

It seemed that Brownie would go through the rest of her shelf-life feeling like something was missing. She had almost given up hope entirely, until one fateful day changed it all. She was watching a baker put together a pie. The baker mixed up a filling that seemed delicious enough on its own. Then he poured it into a buttery crust, a crib to cradle the precious pie filling and complete the delicious dessert.

And it was then Brownie knew exactly what she had been missing.

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