Happy V-Day! Be My Valentine?

I love you guys so much that I made you not one, but TWO Valentines! I hope you like them.

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No matter what you’re doing today, show some love to the people who mean most to you. And if you need some romantic or sweet treats for the occasion, check out my 20 Best Valentine’s Day Recipes.

What kinds of delicious things are you eating today? I’m gorging on chocolate!


20 Valentine’s Day Recipes to Fall in Love With

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I know a lot of you hate Valentine’s Day, whether it be because you’re single or because you resent being forced to buy gifts for your significant other. I fall into the former category (if my cat lady ways weren’t a good enough clue for you to figure that out already), but I’ve never hated Valentine’s Day because I’ve got a million other things to love besides a man.

Here are my Valentines this year:

  • Mother & Father Cookie
  • Sister Cookie
  • My incredibly loving grandparents
  • My best friend at college
  • My cats, Mina & Mr. Poe
  • My dog, Reese
  • The best boss ever
  • My wonderful, one-of-a-kind co-workers
  • One particular co-worker who doubles as my fitness guru and friend
  • And of course, my fantastic and supportive readers, AKA you!Fall 20124

I think that’s a lot to be grateful for this V-Day. If you’re just looking at romantic love this V-Day, then you’re being much too narrow-minded. There are all kinds of love around you, even if it’s just a furry friend. Show them so love, and more importantly, show yourself some love too. The absolute best way to do that is to make something delicious. People really appreciate that you put forth the love and sweat to make it yourself. Even if you’re just cooking for one this V-Day, you’ll be amazed by how much some wonderful homemade eats and treats will brighten the day.

Here are my top 20 Smart Cookie Valentine’s Day recipes, from confections sweeter than your sweetheart to romantic meals. Enjoy!

Psst…the numbers correlate with the photos up top!

  1. Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes
  2. Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes
  3. Chewy Red Velvet Bars w/ Whipped Cream Frosting
  4. Strawberry Sweetheart Bars
  5. Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies
  6. 3-Ingredient White Chocolate Walnut Truffles
  7. Vodka Blush Pizza
  8. Soft Sweetheart Sugar Cookies
  9. Fudge Brownie Thumbprint Cookies w/ Caramel Drizzle
  10. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Strawberry Buttercream Filling
  11. Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  12. Sparkling Strawberry Cookies
  13. Lil’ Pizza Bites – Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter!
  14. Copycat Olive Garden Alfredo
  15. Homemade Conversation Hearts
  16. Copycat Chocolate Candy Shop Blizzards
  17. Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes
  18. Tortellini Dippers w/ Four-Cheese Fondue and Pesto Dipping Sauce
  19. Chocolate Oatmeal Krispie Bites
  20. Strawberry Mousse Mini Pies

Happy Valentines Day, Smart Cookiers! You’re the best Valentine’s I could ask for.


The Weekender: Cat Conspiracies, V-Day Recipes, & Loving Yourself

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Are you prepared for Valentine’s Day? Even if you aren’t celebrating with a sweetie, you should celebrate your love for yourself. After spending a couple V-Days single, I realized you don’t have to have a significant other to enjoy February 14th. Focus on appreciating yourself; partake in little indulgences like a big box of chocolate or a glass of wine. There’s no reason to wallow in self-pity; just grab yourself some good food, and you’ll feel great!

Or, if you’re looking for something even better, you can bake up something sweet and indulgent. Tomorrow, I’m bringing you my ultimate Valentine’s Day recipe round-up. But in the meantime, you can get a sneak preview by checking out the V-Day recipes I posted this past week. And since I didn’t do a Weekender last weekend, I’ll post last week’s recipes as well.

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Copycat Chocolate Candy Shop BlizzardsDSC_0215-2
  2. Mini Cauliflower Crust Broccoli QuichesDSC_9555
  3. Italian Bean (& Bacon) Soup
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  4. Strawberry Sweetheart Bars
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  5. Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes Stuffed w/ Lindt TrufflesDSC_0486
  6. Spinach Artichoke BurgersDSC_0346
  7. Confetti Corn Pop TreatsDSC_0685
  8. Chewy Red Velvet Bars with Whipped Cream FrostingDSC_0752
  9. Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy CakesDSC_1025

And of course, make sure you don’t miss my newest video this week where I show you exactly how to make those adorable Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes. They’re so cute, but so easy!

Did you see Smart Cookie on DailyBuzz Food this week? My General Tso’s Chickpea Patties made it into the Top 9! They’re a healthy, vegetarian alternative to General Tso’s Chicken, so put down that take-out menu and check out the recipe here.

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I was also featured on SheKnows Canada last week for my Homemade Conversation Hearts. That’s right;  Smart Cookie is taking over Canada!Fullscreen capture 292013 95435 PM-2

And now, my friends, it’s time for another day in the life of the Smart Cookie Cook. Churning out these posts isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when you have two nosy, mischievous cats conspiring against you. This is what happens when I try to take the “Cast of Characters” photo I do for every recipe:DSC_0928

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I don’t get paid enough to deal with this! Good thing I love what I do and have such wonderful, supportive readers like you.

How was your week? What did you eat? What was your favorite post this week?

Make sure you like Smart Cookie on Facebook and follow me on Twitter & Pinterest so you never miss a bite.

See you tomorrow for a Valentine’s Day recipe round-up!


Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes

 

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Do you want to know why these Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes exist? Because I can be an absent-minded idiot sometimes. Let’s not sugarcoat it; you’ve got to be a fool to do some of the things I do. You see, I went to make my Chewy Red Velvet Bars with Whipped Cream Frosting the other day, and I knew exactly how to make them: ignore the boxed directions; beat in a stick of butter and two eggs instead. So what did I do? I completely ejected that from my mind and poured the cup or so of water called for in the box directions onto my cake batter.

Bars = ruined.

So my marvelous Mother Cookie was kind enough to go buy me another box of red velvet cake mix for the bars, but I still had that whole bowl of ruined battered that I didn’t want to waste. So I followed through with what I started and baked it into a cake instead.

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Of course, then I needed something to actually do with the cake. Given the ingredients I had on hand, these Two-Bite Red Velvet Hearts were an easy solution. I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly addicting these red velvet devils are, and the fact that they’re bite-sized makes it so easy to inhale a hundred of ‘em. They are even better than a box of chocolate, and that means a lot coming from me.

Even with a boxed cake mix, you get a super moist and decadent red velvet cake center that’s perfectly complimented by a smooth white chocolate shell. They remind me of the snack cakes you buy at the grocery store, like the Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes I loved so much as a kid. Of course, these are even better because they’re homemade. And you only need a few ingredients to make ‘em.

Don’t disappoint your Valentine this year with boring chocolates when you can give them these candy-cake hybrids instead. They’re really easy to make, but your sweetheart will think you slaved over them. One thing he or she can be sure of is that they were made with love.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Although I’d normally scold you for using boxed mix, it’s totally okay here because we’re doctoring it up.
  2. This idea would work for any holiday, with any cake flavor, and any shaped cookie cutter. Get creative!
  3. If you don’t freeze the cake before dipping, you’re going to have a crumbly mess. Trust the recipe, my friends.DSC_1006

Two-Bite Red Velvet Candy Cakes
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 2 dozen hearts

Ingredients:

  • 1 9×13 red velvet cake , use your favorite recipe or a boxed mix
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • Red & pink sprinkles

*The cake will be moist and fragile, so freezing it will make it hold up better to the chocolate.

Directions:

  1. Use a large bread knife to slice off just the domed top of the cake. Discard or snack on the scraps. Next, slice the cake lengthwise into two even layers, like you’re making it into a sandwich. Carefully separate the two layers. Freeze the cakes until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Set up your work station: Place one layer of cake on a cutting board and line a baking sheet or cooling rack with wax paper or parchment paper. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, no bigger than 2-inches in diameter, to cut hearts out of the two cake layers. Be gentle.
  3. Place the chocolate and shortening in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring well in between. This should only take about 4 intervals to be able to stir it smooth as long as you stir in between each interval.
  4. Gently dip the red velvet hearts into the chocolate, letting it coat the sides. Let excess drip off and transfer to the prepared baking sheet or rack. If you don’t get all the sides completely coated during the dip, just use a spoon to drizzle more chocolate on. Immediately sprinkle on sprinkles after dipping each one, before the chocolate has a chance to set.  Repeat with remaining hearts.
  5. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and allow to set completely.DSC_0986

Chewy Red Velvet Bars w/ Whipped Cream Frosting

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The other day, I discovered what looked like multiple bloody gashes on my hands, arms, and elbows. You would’ve though I just took a tumble onto hard pavement and scraped myself up. But then came the awkward moment when I realized it was just dried red velvet batter, which I had been elbow-deep in all day.

That’s Food Blogging Problems 101 right there.

I guess it’s never really a problem to be working with delicious red velvet batter though.  Unless of course you’re like me and a) can’t keep it in the bowl and b) can’t stop eating it raw and putting yourself at risk for salmonella. But let’s not get hung up on the negatives here. Red velvet flavored anything is about feeling good. It evokes pleasure, creating a romantic moment between you and your food. Maybe that’s why it’s such a popular flavor around Valentine’s Day.

On Monday, I’m going to be churning out one lovey-dovey post filled with my best Valentine’s recipes to get you ready for the big day, but I had to slip in a few more V-Day recipes before the big round-up. So here you go, fellow red velvet lovers: Chewy Red Velvet Bars with Whipped Cream Frosting.DSC_0728-2

These are similar to my Strawberry Sweetheart Bars because we start with a boxed cake mix. Then, you just need to add two ingredients to turn it into a moist and chewy bar with a texture teetering between cake and cookie. You’ve only got to dirty one bowl, and they bake up pretty quick, so you could say these 3-ingredient bars are one of the easiest, tastiest treats on the planet. Who doesn’t love the ease semi-homemade?

The only thing that could make these bars better is so creamy, cloud-like Whipped Cream Frosting. It’s sweet and smooth with a hint of vanilla flavor. But what makes this whipped cream better than most? It’s stabilized, which means it won’t separate and get runny like regular whipped cream does, so these bars last for days!

If you’re looking for something that will impress but requires minimal effort, then this is the recipe you want. The bars are indulgent yet light at the same time, with the perfect amount of sweetness. Share ‘em with your sweetheart or enjoy ‘em all yourself. I won’t tell!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Not over-baking is the key to a nice and chewy texture. These guys go from done to dry fairly quickly, so pull them just before you actually think they’re done.
  2. I would imagine this recipe works with any brand of cake mix, but because I’ve only done this with Betty Crocker Super Moist, I cannot guarantee they’ll come out the same. I know they’ll work; your texture just might be slightly more brownie-like, or you may have to adjust cooking time.
  3. People who haven’t made whipped cream are scared by the idea of it, but it’s actually super easy to make; in fact it’s easier than any other kind of frosting, I think. All you have to do is beat the crap out of it until it forms stiff peaks. How much easier could it get?DSC_0762

Red Velvet Bars with Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

For the bars

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
  • ½ cup (1 stick), butter, softened
  • 2 eggs

For the whipped cream frosting

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

Directions:

  1. Place a large mixing bowl in the fridge to chill. You will use this to make the whipped cream later. The cooler the bowl is, the faster the cream will whip.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat together the cake mix, butter, and eggs on low speed just until well-combined.
  4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and press down into an even layer. It will probably be sticky, so you may want to spray your hands with nonstick spray when spreading out the batter.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Let cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting: Place all the frosting ingredients EXCEPT for the cornstarch into the chilled mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add cornstarch and continue beating until stiff peaks form. When you pull the beater away, the whipped cream should follow and hold its shape.
  7. Spread frosting onto cooled bars in an even layer. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.DSC_0739