Healthified Iced Sugar Cookies

Do you ever find yourself wondering why the heck desserts can’t be good for you, rather than vegetables? I know I’m not the only one who dreams of a life where cupcakes and brownies for dinner are not only perfectly acceptable, but actually provide your body with all the nutrition it needs. Well, maybe not all the nutrition. You may have to eat pizza. And soft, chewy bread dipped in olive oil, mixed with Italian herbs and spices to supplement your diet as well.

Well, I can keep dreaming, huh? Because I know I’ll be stuck eating giant salads for dinner the rest of my life to offset the cookies, cake and ice cream I eat for dessert. I guess it’s worth it. Besides, salads can be delicious too, right?

I often see recipes for “healthy” desserts and wonder what that exactly means. In some rare cases, desserts can actually be healthful and provide valuable nutrients to your diet. But the recipes I usually see titled “healthy” when it comes to baked goods, really just means lower in calories. Obviously, lower calorie options are healthier in some ways. But to me, healthy means providing nutritional value rather than empty calories.

So, instead of calling these cookies “healthy,” I am calling them “healthified.” Weighing in a just about 100 calories each, eating a couple for dessert (or snack) won’t do you too much harm. I will warn you, if you follow the recipe and make about 10 cookies with the dough, they will turn out fairly small. So you probably are going to want to eat two or three…or four.

The good news is that they are low in fat, relatively low in sugar, and made with part whole wheat flour. They are even almost vegan, minus one measly tablespoon of butter (but you could use vegan butter, which apparently they make, I just don’t have any).

I am always looking for lower calorie options for desserts since I just cannot get away without eating something sweet every single night. Finding ways to make desserts healthful, not just lower calorie, has become a fun challenge as well. 
I am happy to report that this cookie satisfies both my sweet tooth and my attempt at a balanced diet. Even Greg, who stared at them for a minute, questioning what I had just made, ended up finishing off the batch himself- a rare occurrence around here. But with a thick, soft, chewy cookie like this, I shouldn’t be surprised.
Healthified Iced Sugar Cookies
Makes about 10 small cookies
Ingredients:
For the cookies-
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons almond milk
For the icing-
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons almond milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Sprinkles as desired
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease cookie sheet with non-stick spray and set aside. 
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
3. In a separate smaller bowl, combine applesauce, melted butter, vanilla and milk. Whisk well to combine.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Whisk until well-combined. 
5. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and set on greased cookie sheet. Place in fridge for about 15-20 minutes to chill. 
6. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes before placing on cooling rack. 
7. Prepare the icing by whisking powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over cooled cookies and top with sprinkles.

Sunday Blessings – A Confession

I am going to be completely honest and make a confession to you. I have been having a difficult time writing these “Sunday Blessings” posts. It’s not that I don’t feel blessed for everything in my life, because I am. I have a great family and job. I live in one of the most beautiful cities and have found a passion in keeping up with this little blog of mine.

When I started Counting My Cupcakes, I decided to dedicate my Sunday posts to take time to reflect on the ways God has blessed me. I want to follow God’s word and do everything I do for His glory. I thought a “Sunday Blessings” post would be the way I would write this blog for Him, not just me.

Overtime, I feel like my Sunday posts have become preachy and sometimes very forced. They may not seem forced to you as a reader, but as the writer, I can tell you they are. I enjoy spending time reflecting on all the ways God is present in my life. I want to continue to build a stronger, closer relationship with Him. But recently I have been feeling like a dedicated weekly post may not be one of the ways I do that. Not that there is anything wrong with blogging about my faith, but the way I have been doing it has not been the best fit for me.

I don’t want to feel like I am giving-in or being weak by cutting back on these posts, but in this case, quality over quantity is more important. By not forcing a “Sunday Blessings” post every week, I think the overall quality of other posts will increase and the blog as a whole will benefit.

I hope you all can understand where I am coming from here. I would love to know what you think about the slight change. Will you miss a weekly “Sunday Blessings” post or do you mostly read for the recipes and food-related posts anyway?

Thanks for your feedback and continued support. Have a splendid Sunday!

Death by Chocolate, Revived by Vegetables

Death. By. Chocolate. 
That’s the name of this overloaded chocolate cupcake from Cupcake here in Charleston. The name couldn’t be more perfect. This thing is chocolately perfection. So perfect you could die. They describe this as “dark chocolate cake, chips, and chocolate butter cream icing dipped in ganache.” AH! 
It was about 3:30 yesterday afternoon and my afternoon was draggingggg. Then, a representative from a local hotel stopped by to speak with my coworker about an event our company might host there. She brought a few of these cupcakes to help make the sale, and I’ll tell you what…she won my vote!
This baby turned my Thursday mid-afternoon frown upside down. It felt like Friday had already arrived! I have had not-so-stellar cupcakes from Cupcake before, but as a frosting fanatic, it’s hard to deny this was anything but good. 
Cupcake Mt Pleasant on Urbanspoon
I can’t say the cupcake has been the highlight of my week though. On Wednesday night, Greg called me on his way home from work and said, “I’m making you dinner!” He had been saying that since last Sunday and was finally making it happen. I was excited to see what he had planned. 
My lazy self laid on the couch while he cooked away in the kitchen. Hey, I offered to help but he wanted nothing to do with me. “You just sip your wine,” he told me. Then I got a little nervous when he said, “Things are getting crazy in here!” but he still didn’t want any help. 
About 30 minutes later we sat down at the dinner table (which I love doing so much more than eating on the couch in front of the TV) with plates full of delicious food. He made boiled corn on the cob, sauteed garlic asparagus, and cheese ravioli covered in a chicken and mushroom marsala wine sauce. 
Every single part of this meal was so good. The best part was that Greg made it all for me! 

I mostly avoided the chicken when scooping out my serving from the pasta pan, but figured since Greg took the time to make it, I should at least have a bite or two 🙂 
For dinner last night I reverted back to my meatless ways and made myself a big bowl of sauteed veggies on top of some spinach. Sometimes the thought of a meal like this can seem so plain and boring, but it honestly never disappoints once I sit down and take a bite. I added just a touch of my Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki Sauce (also used in my stir-fry here) and just about inhaled that bowl.
Veggies included zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, onion and leftover asparagus from the night before. Doesn’t get much better (or easier) than that!
As you can tell we do not have a vegetable shortage in this house! We have plenty of fresh produce in the fridge after biking to the Daniel Island Farmers Market last night. So instead of going out to eat tonight, I’m thinking another home cooked meal is in store for us! 
Hope you all have a fabulous Friday!

Sourdough Pizza and a Marshmallow Sweet Potato

When I got home from work yesterday, all I wanted to do was lay down and not move a muscle. I felt extra exhausted and instantly threw out the idea for another evening bike ride, like I had planned on this morning.
Normally the first thing I do when I get off of work is call Greg to see where he is/when he will be home and see what he wants for dinner. Last night, I was too tired to even think about dinner. It’s not that I wasn’t hungry at all, I just didn’t have any desire to prepare anything.
Greg came home shortly after I had planted myself on the couch and said he wanted to make homemade pizza for dinner. We have had a giant bowl of bread starter in the fridge that Greg made last week for his mom’s sourdough bread recipe. We already made a loaf this past weekend and haven’t stopped thinking about what else we will use it for. Just like the last time we had this starter, we knew homemade pizza was at the top of the to-do list. 
Once Greg got going in the kitchen, I figured I could try to get up and help. I was in charge of the pizza dough and followed the directions from my Not-So-White-Pizza (halving the recipe). But I decided I wasn’t really in the mood for pizza (I told you I wan’t feeling so hot!). Since we already had the crust dough coming together and the toppings chopped, I figured it only made sense for Greg to take this one on his own. Keeping things extremely simple for me, I wrapped a sweet potato in foil and stuck it in the hot oven for about 45 minutes. 
Greg’s sausage, onion and cheese pizza finished cooking first. This iPhone picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was so rustic looking. I loved it. 

My roasted sweet potato finished cooking just a few minutes later. 
I sliced it open, stuffed mini marshmallows inside and sprinkled with cinnamon. On the side I had a heaping cup of spicy steamed broccoli- spicy because it was seasoned with red pepper flakes. So good. 
This light, healthy dinner boosted my energy and I felt so much better. Or maybe it was the few bites of one of these and the bowl of cookies and cream fro yo for dessert that made my night ten times better!

Nutella Marshmallow Croissants with a White Chocolate Glaze

I hope you’re in the mood for something sweet this morning. I made these Nutella Marshmallow Croissants for dessert last night, but realized they would be great with a hot cup of coffee in the morning too. That seems to happen to me a lot- make something for one purpose, but find it fits just as well for another. Then again, that really can be said for almost any foods. Even pizza for breakfast or, my favorite, pancakes for dinner. Do you like pizza for breakfast? Some people love it, but I know Greg thinks it’s just crazy. I’m kind of indifferent on the subject. I love a bowl of cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, but am not completely opposed to a cold slice of pizza either. Although, it’s been years and years since I have done such a thing.
A pastry like this blows pizza for breakfast out of the water. The croissants are soft and chewy. The Nutella is chocolatey and melty. The marshmallows are…well, I don’t actually know what the marshmallows are, but they are definitely necessary. 

And then there’s the simple white chocolate glaze for a touch of added sweetness. 

I don’t know about you, but the weather here has taken us back to fall! Yesterday felt like October. I almost pulled out my furry boots again and wore three layers of tops on my evening bike ride with Greg. I’m a wimp, I know. I’m sure it will be hot again before I know it, but for now I’m enjoying a comforting breakfast like this in the cool weather. 

And I can’t think of a better way to start this Tuesday. 
Nutella Marshmallow Croissants with a White Chocolate Glaze
Makes 8 servings
Ingredients:
For the croissants-
1 roll Pillsbury croissants
1/2 cup Nutella, divided
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
For the glaze-
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons almond milk
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Roll out croissants onto cookie sheet. 
2. Spread about 1 tablespoon of Nutella onto each croissant triangle. Add about 6-8 marshmallows. Roll up croissant from wide end to narrow end. 
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
4. Meanwhile, prepare glaze by melting white chocolate chips in a small, microwave-safe bowl for 15 second increments until completely melted. Stir throughly between each increment. Add milk and powdered sugar. Stir until completely combined and glaze is runny.
5. Scoop glaze with spoon and drizzle over each croissant. 

Pecan Pancakes and My Favorite Macaroni

Another Sunday. Another stack of pancakes. Only unlike last Sunday, I ate these pancakes myself. Greg and I took his family to Triangle for brunch before they headed out of town yesterday. I had my mind set on pancakes since that picture Brooke sent me last week. Triangle’s Toasted Pecan Pancakes and a side of fruit sounded perfect. Not to mention a $1 mimosa…or two. 
We had a great brunch, but Saturday’s dinner at Coleman Public House is tough to beat. You may have read about their decadent mac and cheese from my posts herehere and here. Yes, it is THAT good. 
For an appetizer, Greg and I split a basket of french fries- Garlic and Truffle & Parmesan. We couldn’t decide between the two so our waitress offered to give us a mix of both!

Wanting to keep to my commitment of eating little to no meat, I couldn’t decide if I should skip (GASP!) the mac and cheese topped with grilled chicken like I normally do and just order a salad or veggie flatbread instead. But Greg talked some sense into me. “Go with what you know is good,” he said. 

So I did. I ordered the mac and cheese, but skipped the added chicken. The dish does contain some bacon pieces, but I was able to compromise with myself. And that stuff is worth every bite and compromise. It has never failed to be just as delicious as I remember. 
When I ordered, I was surprised that my waitress remembered me from our previous visits and said, “Don’t you normally get grilled chicken on top?” Why yes! Thank you for remembering! She said her and the other waiters still love that combination that I have opened their eyes to. 
You’re welcome.
Other highlights of the weekend included riding around all over Daniel Island on our new bikes, watching Greg’s brother finish a half Ironman (such an amazing accomplishment!), shopping, and a nice longggg, hard nap. 

Now it’s time to work away for another week. Looking forward to next weekend already!

A Restaurant Review – Sesame Burgers and Beer

Sesame Burgers and Beer opened their third location in Charleston a few weeks ago. This most recent addition in Mt. Pleasant made it much more convenient for me to finally try it out. Greg and I went for dinner last Friday night and I immediately knew we would be frequent customers.

That’s not to say the experience was flawless, but it was good enough to bring us back again last night with Greg’s family who is in town for the weekend.

Let’s start with last week’s visit first.

We arrived just before the end of Happy Hour and made sure to order a couple of beers for $1 off to get the party started. We ended up just staying at the bar instead of waiting 20 more minutes for a table. The place. was. packed.
Then we ordered the Pimento Cheese appetizer. Oh em gee. This stuff is to die for. The extra soft flatbread, kalamata olives, and bed of greens could not be more perfect to serve along side. I scoop a little bit of everything on each bite and just go to heaven.
Now here comes the first issue. We sat there for about 30-40 minutes until my burger was brought to me. Notice I said MY burger. Greg’s was nowhere to be seen. We were told it would “be right out,” but after about five minutes, Greg told them to forget it (keep in mind it had already been almost an hour since we originally ordered). Our waitress/bartender would hardly even look at us. She was obviously stressed out and I can understand the feeling, but at least acknowledge us, even if you aren’t going to smile. She hardly even seemed sorry or apologize when Greg told her to cancel his order either. 

We ended up splitting my burger- The Southwestern Burger made with a black bean patty, topped with guacamole and a chipotle sour cream. I love that ALL of their burgers at Sesame can be made with beef, black bean, chicken, or turkey patties. 

I loved this guy. 
Thankfully, the pimento cheese appetizer was quite a hefty serving, so between polishing that off and half of my burger each, Greg and I were at least satisfied even though he never actually got his own order.
Overall the first trip was worth the poor service, and last night I was hoping they would redeem themselves. Well, we definitely had a much friendly server. Our appetizer (Pimento Cheese…again) was out in no time, but we did wait a long time for the burgers again. To be honest, I wasn’t keeping track of time, but it was probably close to 25-30 minutes that we waited. Our server was great and kept checking on us, so I know it is most likely issues in the kitchen rather than the waitstaff that are causing the delays. The restaurant was packed again and clearly doing something right, even if it isn’t the speed of service.
Last night I ordered the Arizona burger- again with the black bean patty, topped with pepper jack cheese and grilled zucchini (no pic, sorry). I also added a side of sweet potato fries this time. It was decent, but I liked the Southwest Burger much more. And the sweet potato fries were not the best I have ever had, but still pretty good. It’s hard to go wrong with sweet potato fries in my book!
One other great thing I have to mention is their prices. Most of the burgers range from $5-6.50, the generous appetizers average about $5 each, and the Happy Hour specials are competitive to any other you will find. 
Sesame Burgers & Beer on Urbanspoon