Easter Week: Baby Chick Lemon Mousse Cookie Cups + How-To Video

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Welcome to Day 1 of Easter Week at Smart Cookie! I’m bringing you a new delicious Easter recipe every day this week, so make sure you come back so you don’t miss a hop. Today, we’re giving love to an underrated Easter mascot: the chick. Often times, the chick is lost in the bunny’s shadow. Sure, everyone knows Easter is the bunny’s big day, but fluffy, puffy chicks are an unmistakable spring mascot too.

My Baby Chick Lemon Mousse Cookie Cups are the cutest yet easiest edible representation of the lovable little chick. A mountain of swirling, luscious Lemon Mousse is perched upon a sugar cookie crust just like a newborn chick would sit in its cracked eggshell. Three simple, easy-to-execute facial features bring the chick to life: 2 black eyes and one orange beak. Who knew something so basic could be so darn cute?DSC_3491

Everyone will swoon over how adorable these Baby Chicks are, but once they get past the too-cute-for-words aesthetics and take a bite, heavenly, smooth, and creamy Lemon Mousse will greet their taste buds with its fresh and vibrant flavor. Then the crispness of the outer cookie and its chewy center will act like a vessel to carry the mousse through the journey down your gullet. It’s a tantalizing experience,  and rather unexpected; how can something be that cute AND taste that good?

Find out for yourself in my how-to video. And be sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment of Smart Cookie’s Easter Week.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I do not recommend using lemon juice in place of lemon zest because it will cause your filling to curdle.
  2. Want to enjoy these lemony confections all year-round? Just leave off the eyes and beak!
  3. Feel free to make the sugar cookie dough from scratch, if you like.
  4. Check out all of my Easter recipes here.DSC_3412

Baby Chick Lemon Mousse Cookie Cups
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 rolls store-bought sugar cookie dough, I used Pillsbury
  • 2 cups chilled heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 package Jello Instant Lemon Pudding Mix (not cook & serve)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 8-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup super-icy cold water
  • Yellow food dye, optional
  • Orange frosting
  • Black frosting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Break off chunks of dough about 2 tsp. in size and roll into balls. Drop balls into muffin tin. Keep them on the smaller side; if they overflow, they’re hard to get out without breaking.
  3. Bake 13-15 minutes, or until puffed, set, and just turning golden around the edges. As soon as you take them out of the oven, use something with a circular bottom (I used the bottom of an ice cream scoop) to press into the middle of the cups and maker craters. Whatever you use should be slightly less than the width of the cookie. Let cool completely.
  4. Make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream and vanilla on high with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Place in fridge.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together pudding mix, condensed milk, water, and lemon zest until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place in fridge for 5 minutes to set up completely. It should be good and thick.
  6. Fold whipped cream into pudding just until evenly distributed. Stir in yellow food dye. Cover and place in fridge.
  7. Run a butter knife around the edges of the cooled cookies to loosen and gently lift out. Transfer to whatever surface you wish to work on.
  8. Transfer lemon mousse to a piping bag, or make your own piping bag using a ziplock bag (put filling in bag, work it to the bottom of one corner, twist off the top and snip off a small bit of the corner). Pipe the filling in high, swirling mounds to look like chicks. You can also just scoop the filling in with a spoon.
  9. Use the black frosting (preferably with a small tip; if your frosting doesn’t have one or you don’t own tips, squeeze the frosting into a ziplock bag, work it to the bottom of one corner, and snip off a very teeny-tiny bit of the corner with scissors. Use this to pipe), to dot on two black eyes. Then use the orange to draw on a tiny orange beak below the two eyes. You’re done!
  10. Store chicks in an air-tight container in the fridge.DSC_3433

 


The Weekender: Ruthless Weather, NJ Eats, & an Update

Winter 20123

Is anyone else flabbergasted by the fact that February is practically over already? Did February even happen, or did we just jump straight from January to March?

The weather isn’t helping me feel any less disoriented. We had a fairly mild winter to start here in CNY, but now it’s like Mother Nature just woke up from an unplanned nap, realizing she overslept, and is now trying to make up for lost time. CNY is the dumping ground for all of Mother Nature’s crappiest weather, and we are getting pounded with frozen garbage.

I am so sick of it, I could spit. Quite frankly, I am tired of risking my life to go to class. College is not high enough on my priority list for that.

However, this website is top on that priority list, hence why I’m writing a Weekender instead of doing homework. Yay, procrastination!

We had a lot of delicious things going on this week; we even had our first St. Patrick’s Day recipe! In case you missed it…

Let’s Review, Shall We?

  1. Shamrock Spinach Pesto PizzaDSC_1585-2
    And don’t miss the brand new video that goes with it! I let a curse word slip…but I censored it!
  2. Sweet Potato Spinach BallsDSC_1469-2
  3. Triple Peanut Butter Crunch ClustersDSC_1526
  4. Frosted Circus Animal Cookie ButterDSC_0442
  5. American PizzaDSC_1739

What recipe from this week are you dying to try?

Typically, I spend my weekends whipping up more recipes for you, but this weekend, I didn’t cook at all. Can you believe it? In my defense, this was only because I took a road trip to New Jersey to visit my sister and do some house-hunting. Okay, let’s be honest; the main thing I did during my trip was eat, and you’ll be hearing all about it next week. We’ll take a trip to a local bakery and talk about my favorite restaurant on the planet. From pizza to cupcakes, I ate so much good stuff that they had to roll me home.IMG_1913DSC_1855

I didn’t get to tell you guys about this last week, but I got the cutest cake pops ever from my dad for Valentine’s Day. They’re little love bugs made by Shari’s Berries! Almost too cute to eat, right? Well, that didn’t stop me. They’re super fudgy and rich inside, which is my kind of cake pop. Who needs boyfriends on Valentine’s Day when you can have cake?Winter 20122

Moving on to another approaching holiday, Easter has infested every store in the country (side note: can you believe there’s only about a month until Easter?). You guys may not know this about me but I, being a mature 19 year-old, have a thing for Hello Kitty. Imagine my elation when I spotted this Easter-ready Kitty at a CVS.photo(13)

Guys, I’m not going to object if someone wants to buy me one.

Before I go, I wanted to give you guys a quick update. I told you a while back that I’d have a new design up on the site soon. Obviously, most people’s definition of the word “soon” ran out by now. I want to apologize. I’m not sure what is taking so long, but this time frame turned out to be at least 10x longer than what I expected. Unfortunately, that is out of my hands (as you can imagine, I am not a web page designer). I hope I will have something for you guys in the next two weeks, and I think you’re really going to love it. Bear with me for now!

P.S. It’s Girl Scout Cookie time. Yipee!photo(11)

Don’t miss a bite. Like Smart Cookie on Facebook, follow me on Pinterest & Twitter, and subscribe to my Youtube Channel.

How was your week? What did you eat?


Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed w/ Lindt Truffles + How-To Video

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Have you ever followed someone you loved around like a lost little puppy dog, unable to focus on any other aspect of life but them? We’ve all been through it, that all-consuming, gleeful, gushing, innocent puppy dog love. Our eyes cloud over with lover’s haze, we float through every hour of every day on a cloud, and no form of reason can reach us. It’s love; we don’t need a reason.

It’s February, which means it’s the season of puppy love. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, that means every fool’s falling in love and chasing the feet of their crushes. Well stop wasting your breath running after them and try a more efficient approach; everyone knows food is the way to the heart. I’ve got you a one-way ticket right here: Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed with Lindt Truffles.DSC_0475-2

These are the cutest, lovey-doviest darn cupcakes you could make this Valentine’s Day. And although they look intricate, they’re actually super simple. We start with a boxed mix of brownies to save you time. I find brownies are one of the better baked mixes you can get, but because I live by the philosophy that store-bought mixes are okay if and only if you jazz them up, we stuffed the brownies with silky Lindt truffles. It’s an unexpected bonus to bite into the fudgy, rich cupcake and find a creamy chocolate center. If that doesn’t say “I love you,” then nothing does.

These cupcakes are beautiful inside and out, with their decadent deep chocolate center and their adorable puppy love décor. A combination of creamy Vanilla Buttercream and rich Triple Chocolate Buttercream makes for endless decorating possibilities. Use the frostings in combination with M&Ms and heart-shaped sprinkles to create infinite different combinations of adorable dog faces.

My video breaks down just how easy the basic face is to make: squeeze out some frosting fur as sloppily as you like, it doesn’t need to be perfect, then make two ears and two circles for cheeks. Then you’re free to stick on eyes, draw on mouths, or pipe on slobbery tongue. Let your imagination run wild. Whatever you chose will be adorable.

Ah, puppy love; so much better in a cupcake.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Watch the video to really get a feel for how to make these cuties.
  2. This décor works on any kind of cupcake.
  3. Here’s a bunch of different combinations you can try to make different dogs:Puppy Love Cupcake Brownies
  4. Using store-bought brownie mix is fine since we doctored it up, but don’t you dare use store-bought frosting. That stuff’s nasty, and homemade is so easy.
  5. Not an artist? Don’t worry! You’ll be surprised how simple these are. You don’t need an artsy bone in your body.
  6. When melting chocolate in the microwave, you MUST cook it in short intervals, stirring in between, or it will burn.DSC_0446

Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed with Lindt Truffles
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield: About 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • About 2 dozen Lindt Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Red frosting or writing gel (I used Wilton)
  • Pink frosting or writing gel
  • Black frosting or writing gel
  • Heart-shaped sprinkles
  • Red, pink, & white M&Ms

For the Triple Chocolate Buttercream

  • 2 oz. milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 oz. semisweet or unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Special equipment: 2 ziplock bags for frosting the brownies

*NOTE: Brownies are a bit difficult to get out of cupcake liners, so you might want to just spray the pan instead.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill two cupcake tins with liners or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Prepare the brownie mix according to box directions. Use an ice cream scoop to fill lined cupcake tins 2/3-full. Drop a Lindt truffle into the center of each one.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set and cracked on top. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with fudgy crumbs; if it’s clean, you’ll have overbaked them. Let cool completely before removing from tins.
  4. While the brownies cool, make the frostings. For the Vanilla, in a standing mixer, beat sugar into the butter two cups at a time, until well-combined and creamy. With each addition, start a low speed then increase as it starts to incorporate or you’ll have a sugar dust storm.
  5. Beat in the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and heavy cream on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  6. For the Triple Chocolate, place the chopped chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely smooth. If you stir well, this should only take 3 intervals. Let cool slightly.
  7. In a standing mixer, beat sugar into the butter two cups at a time, until well-combined and creamy. With each addition, start a low speed then increase as it starts to incorporate or you’ll have a sugar dust storm.
  8. Beat in the melted chocolate, vanilla, salt, and heavy cream on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Transfer each frosting to a plastic bag, pushing the frosting down to one corner of the bag. Tie off the top and snip off that corner. Pipe fur onto each cooled brownie in little strands. It’ll look kind of like grass. Pipe on two long or short oval ears (you can vary the ear shape/size across the cupcakes to create different looks). Finally, pipe two circles of equal size, right next to one another, centered towards the bottom of the cupcake. You can experiment with different frosting combinations like making a white face with brown ears & one brown eye patch to look like a beagle.
  10. Take either two heart sprinkles or two M&Ms of the same color and place next to one another centered above the circles you made to represent eyes. You can also pipe on white/black to represent eyes.
  11. Place one M&M or heart centered right on top of the two circles to represent the nose. You could also pipe it on with one of the colored frostings.
  12. For the mouth, you can pipe it on in red or pink, or you can use an upside down heart sprinkle to look like a tongue. You can also pipe on a tongue with one of the colored frostings.
  13. Make different faces for each dog, or make them all the same. Have fun and be creative. Store cupcakes in an air-tight container.

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Fried Mac & Cheese + How-to Video

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The first time I ever tried fried mac and cheese was at a Cheesecake Factory. I knew it would be a sin to see the words “fried” and “mac and cheese” beside one another in some sort of glorious partnership and not order it. It was like Marvel’s The Avengers, assembling history’s greatest heros (and hottest actors); you can’t not go witness such an epic assembly.

Turns out, The Cheesecake Factory makes some stellar FM&C, and by stellar I mean oh-my-god-I-must-be-dreaming-somebody-slap-me-this-is-so-darn-GOOD. If you ever go to Cheesecake Factory, you must get yourself some fried mac and cheese. Period.

With just one bite, my world was changed. I love deep-fried food, wrong and unhealthy as that love may be, and adding to that repertoire gave me joy. From that bite on, I wanted to try making my own at home. I’m the Smart Cookie Cook; I could make my own Fried Mac and Cheese as good as or better than the old CF.DSC_9826

And so, I did. My Fried Mac and Cheese is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen yet, and it is going to rock your culinary world. Why is it so awesome? Because you get my cheesy Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac and Cheese encased in a delicious, crunchy, golden brown breadcrumb shell; That’s like having 360 degrees of breadcrumb topping!

I specifically designed the mac and cheese filling to be extra creamy and saucy so you aren’t overwhelmed by pasta. Instead, there’s tons of molten, gooey cheese and just the right amount of pasta to compliment it. You can make a whole batch of my Mac & Cheese to fry, or even better yet, you can make it for dinner the night before and turn the leftovers into these incredible Fried Mac & Cheeses the next day.

If you’ve not tried Fried Mac & Cheese yet, now is the time. It’s crunchy, deep-fried, creamy, cheesy heaven, and it tastes like a dream come true. Everyone’s favorite comfort food just got a whole lot better.

 A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. As I noted in the recipe, box mac and cheeses (and most other mac and cheese recipes) will not work well for the filling because the sauce dries up a bit while frying, and you’ll wind up with a lot of pasta, and not much cheese. I specifically made my Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac and Cheese for the filling so that it would still be good and saucy after frying.
  2. The seasoned breadcrumbs add a lot of flavor here, so don’t replace them with plain breadcrumbs or Panko.
  3. You can make a whole batch of my Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese for this like I did then chill it before frying, or you can make the mac and cheese for dinner one night, and fry the leftovers the next night. Just cut the frying ingredients in half.
  4. You MUST chill the mac and cheese until firm and solid or these will not hold together.DSC_9827-2

Fried Mac & Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – about 2 dozen mac & cheese patties, the size of your palm (if you use the whole recipe of Mac  & Cheese)

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
  • 1 batch Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese (recipe follows), chilled for at least 4 hours or overnight
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Salt, for sprinkling
  • Optional: marinara sauce, for dipping

*I do not recommend using another recipe or boxed mac and cheese for this. I specifically designed that mac & cheese to be extra saucy so it won’t dry up when fried and isn’t too heavy on the pasta. Other recipes, and especially boxed mix, are likely to dry up and just be deep-fried noodles.

Directions:

  1. Make Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese (recipe below). Let come to room temperature then cover and chill in fridge for at least 5 hours or overnight until firm and solid.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set aside.
  3. Pour oil into a deep frying pan so that it’s 2 inches deep. Bring to medium-high heat.
  4. Meanwhile, put the flour, milk + egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls (one for each). Whisk the egg & milk mixture together.
  5. Take a generous scoop of the chilled mac and cheese (it should be nice and firm) and form into a patty. It should be about the size of your palm. Dip it first in the flour, flipping it so it gets completely covered, then into the milk/egg mixture, and finally the breadcrumbs. You should completely coat the patty with each layer; you should not be able to see any mac and cheese underneath.
  6. Drop one breaded patty into the oil carefully. If it sizzles, proceed to put a few more patties into the oil (about 4 or 5 per batch). If the oil does not sizzle, it’s not hot enough, and you need to wait a few more minutes.
  7. Allow patties to cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, then use a spatula to gently flip and let the other side brown. Once both sides of patty are browned and crisp, use a spatula to transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to absorb excess oil. The patties are fragile, so be gentle.Once you have a batch completed, transfer to the aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm while you finish the rest of the fried mac and cheeses.
  8. Sprinkle finished fried mac and cheeses with salt and serve immediately. Dip in marinara sauce, if you’d like.
    Extra Creamy 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese

    • About 12 oz. cavatappi or elbow pasta (use ¾ of a 16-oz. box, it doesn’t have to be exact)
    • 4 tbsp. butter
    • 1 tsp. minced garlic
    • 4 tsp. all-purpose flour
    • 3 – 4 cups heavy cream
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
    • 2 cups shredded Muenster cheese
    • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • ½ tsp. hot sauce
    1. In a large pot of salted boiling water over high heat, cook the pasta according to box directions. Drain.
    2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour so that it’s free of lumps and let cook for one minute, continuing to whisk.
    3. Whisk in 3 cups cream and all the milk until free of lumps. Cover and let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.
    4. Once sauce is thickened, whisk in all the cheeses, salt, and hot sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Test taste to decide if you’d like any more cheese. If sauce is too thick for your liking, whisk in more cream, ¼ cup at a time.
    5. Turn off heat and immediately fold in pasta until well-coated. Enjoy some for dinner and cover and chill in fridge for frying the next day or cover and chill whole batch in fridge for 4 hours to overnight, until solid and firm. The longer you chill, the better off you’ll be.

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The Weekender: Back to School, Valentine’s Day Prep, & Deep-Fried Bliss

Winter 2012-2

Well, crap.

Where did Winter Break go? In the miniscule fragment of time it takes me to inhale a slice of pizza, break flew by, and it is time for me to once again resume classes. This college thing needs to be done already so I can focus on what really matters: Smart Cookie, of course!

This week, we whipped up whoopie pies, loaded up on Loaded Cheese Fry Dip, and got our healthy on with a vitamin-packed, no-carb skillet. Did you miss a bite or two? Never fear!

Let’s review, shall we?

  1. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Strawberry Buttercream Filling – Eating one of these is even better than having a Valentine.DSC_8993
  2. Loaded Cheese Fry Dip – All the goodness of cheese fries, in dip-form!_DSC8614
  3. White Chocolate-Maple Almond Butter – Rich, creamy, and homemadeDSC_9203
  4. Peanut Butter Cocoa Puff Treat Cake – Think Rice Krispie Treats, on steroids.DSC_9028
  5. Sweet Potato & Squash  Marinara Skillet – Too delicious to be healthy.DSC_9391

Plus, don’t miss my brand new video where we make those heavenly Red Velvet Whoopie Pies:

While we’re on the subject of Valentine’s Day treats, you’ll be pleased to know there are more coming your way this week. One of which includes an addictive no-bake confection made with just three ingredients. They will win over the apple of your eye with just one bite.

To really get into the V-Day spirit, I hopped into the Smart Cookie kitchen for a mini photo shoot, complete with my festive heart apron and heart-shaped cookie cutters. Here’s a few that made the cut:DSC_9490-2DSC_9483-4DSC_9500-2DSC_9499-2

Now, if the promise of pink and red sweets made with love isn’t enticing enough, I’ve got something really good coming for you on Tuesday, complete with a how-to video. Get a good look my friends:DSC_9925-2

If you know what those golden brown bundles of bliss are, then you’re just the kind of foodie I like.

And now, for another edition of…

Weird Crap my Cats Dophoto(4)-3photo(3)

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Before I head off, I wanted to thank everyone for helping Smart Cookie reach 2000 likes on Facebook! We’re almost up to 2020 now, so keep on spreading the word about Smart Cookie.

Also make sure to follow me on Twitter & Pinterest so you never miss a bite.

See you on Monday!