Ultimate Green Smoothie (and a giveaway winner!)

“It looks better than it tastes.”
Fortunately in the case of this Ultimate Green Smoothie it’s the exact opposite. Before we look at the smoothie itself, let me be the first clarify. IT TASTES BETTER THAN IT LOOKS. 

See all of those pretty, colorful ingredients? Packed full of nutrients, I aptly named this an “ultimate” smoothie because it really can’t get much better. Greens, berries, healthy fats and more make this smoothie the perfectly well-rounded breakfast, lunch or snack. I suppose you can eat it for dinner or dessert too – no reason to discriminate which meal suits it best.

Okay, so now you see what I mean? It’s not the most appealing color once you blend everything together. If you’ve ever had a green smoothie before, I’m sure you’re familiar with a not-so-pretty result and are okay with this. If you have never had a green smoothie before and expect a smoothie to be bright magenta, pink or orange, then…well, it’s time to try something new. Don’t let the looks of this fool you. Just do it. (insert Nike swoosh here).

Changing subjects now.

Did you watch the Oscars? I know those award shows are always hyped up, but for some reason I felt like this year, the Oscars in particular, got a TON of attention. I get the past year has been full of great movies, but isn’t that always the case? Maybe I’m naive and this year really was much better than past years. To be honest, I haven’t seen many of the movies that were nominated – Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street – I know, I have some catching up to do. So maybe that’s why I don’t fully realize what a great year it was. I enjoy seeing celebrities on the red carpet, being interviewed, and presenting and accepting awards. But still.

After an hour of watching the pre-show, I was bored. Plus Greg had about zero percent interest. So we turned on a movie, Nebraska instead (a Best Picture nominee after all!) and I didn’t even watch a minute of the award show. I figure I’ll catch the good stuff online and on E! News this week. I’m sure I can count on Robbin’s blog to keep me informed as well. Or you can tell me in the comments…what were the highlights?

Ultimate Green Smoothie

Makes 1 large smoothie

Ingredients:
1 ripe banana
2 large handfuls of spinach
1/2 medium yellow squash
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons oats
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk

Directions:
1. Add add ingredients to a blender. Blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrap down sides and stir as needed.
2. Pour in a large cup, find a straw and slurp away!

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GIVEAWAY WINNER

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Food Lion giveaway last week! I used Rafflecopter to run the giveaway and randomly select a winner:

Congrats, Shannon Finer! Please check your email for a message from me to claim your gift card!

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches

I know what you’re doing right now. You’re staring at that unbelievably creamy marshmallow fluff, puffing its way out the sides of those cookies. So light, and pure, and white. Heavenly, one might say. Like mounds of snowfall or a sky full of pillow-like clouds. 

That’s an awfully big coincidence, if you believe in coincidences I should say, because right now I am in Breckenridge, Colorado. Not only am I almost 10,000 feet high in the clouds, but I am also surrounded by powdery white snow.  
If only the clouds and snow tasted like marshmallow fluff, as my childhood self used to imagine. 

And then we have the cookies. If you’re eyes were closed while taking a bite, you might think you were eating peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread. The cookies couldn’t be more soft and gooey. They do their best to contain the marshmallow fluff, but they will inevitably fail. 
Sure, it makes for a messy snack. You may even prefer to eat these sandwiches with a spoon (I did!). In the end, you won’t care how it gets in your mouth, as long as it does. 

And now I will proceed to ski my heart out, hopefully burning off close to as many calories as I just consumed. Then again, the recipe doesn’t contain any flour or butter. On top of that, peanut butter is a healthy fat and there’s even a banana in the mix…the guilt is washing away as I speak! Can you say “health food”?

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches
(Cookies adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Makes about 6 cookie sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 medium extra ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat mats or spray with non-stick spray. Set pans aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg. Add banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Fold in the pecan pieces and chocolate chips. Place bowl in fridge for at least 10-20 minutes to stiffen up the dough.
3. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto the pans, spaced evenly apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes (I baked for 8 minutes for a very soft, doughy cookie; bake longer if you want a crispier cookie). Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
4. Add marshmallow fluff to a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 20 seconds. Stir well. Spread about two tablespoons of fluff onto the bottom of a cookie. Place another cookie (bottom down) on top of the fluff. Repeat with remaining cookies. Eat immediately!

*Warning:
-These are very delicate cookies. Things will get messy if you’re not careful.
-They are best consumed the day you bake them. If you are not going to eat them the same day, wait to form the sandwiches until you are ready to eat.

July Blog-A-Day #30: Celebrating Two Years with Birthday Cake Oatmeal

Today Counting My Cupcakes celebrates her second birthday. Two years old. Wow, time flies. I still feel like such a beginner most of the time when it comes to blogging. The site has come a long way, but there is also so much room for improvement (obviously). 
Then again, I say that and immediately want to take it back. Why do I feel like there is SO much room for improvement? Well, mostly because I am comparing my blog to other blogs. Other blogs with better pictures, more interesting words, easier site navigation, and infinitely more followers. Some of that may be opinion, but some of that is fact. Either way, I take back my previous statement. 
My blog is beautiful just the way she is and I’m proud of her.I have devoted so much time into this little baby of mine. Sure, things will change over time. I may update the color scheme, redesign the layout, improve my photography skills, or gain (or lose) readership. But that’s life. Things evolve in their own time. 
Thank you to each and every one of you who are reading these words right now. Although I mostly write for me, because it is something I have always enjoyed, I really do love sharing my thoughts with all of you. Whether this is the first post you have ever read or if you have been a loyal reader all along, THANK YOU. 
Happy Birthday to CMC! Here’s to hoping the “terrible twos” don’t apply to the blogosphere 😉
Oh, and that oatmeal up there? I felt like I needed to celebrate the birthday in style. Who says you can’t put sprinkles in your oatmeal? Not me.
Birthday Cake Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving
Ingredients:
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/3 cup water
1 banana, sliced
1 teaspoon sprinkles
Directions:
1. The night before you want to eat this, combine oats, cinnamon, salt, chia seeds and protein powder in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add milk and water. Cover bowl and place in fridge overnight. (You don’t have to prepare this overnight, but it helps make the oats thicker!)
2. In the morning, slice the banana and add half of the slices to the oatmeal bowl. Microwave for about 1 minute and 20 seconds. Stir, add remaining banana slices, and microwave about 15-30 seconds longer. Add a splash of milk or water to thin the oatmeal if desired. Top with sprinkles and serve immediately. 

Whole Wheat Coconut Banana Bread

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Banana bread in the summer. It can be a thing, right? 
Certain foods are made for certain seasons, or at least certain temperatures. Warm banana bread just isn’t usually something I associate with summertime. Fall? Yes. Winter? Sure. Summer? Notsomuch.
I might just switch everything around and start eating banana bread and soup and chili all summer. Then when it’s cold and depressing in the winter, I’ll think of summer by eating ice cream and grilled corn on the cob and cold pasta salad. Okay maybe that wouldn’t work out so well. 
Let’s backtrack for a moment.
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I think I’m having an identity crisis. Not so much of who I am on the inside, although those deep, ‘what is my purpose in life’ questions have been on my mind lately. But my identity issues revolve around the more physical things. Like my face.

Do I sound crazy yet?

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Seriously though, (seriously, I’ve been watching too much Grey’s Anatomy again and those of you who watch too know what I’m talking about….seriously), where was I…
Oh. Right. Seriously, sometimes I look at pictures of myself and wonder, “Is that really what I look like???” I know I can’t be the only one who has had this happen to them. I’m not talking about pictures of me making stupid faces, but pictures that capture my face at a certain angle or something that I just can’t explain. I don’t remember ever feeling this way with pictures in the past, but more than just a couple of times recently I have had to stare at a picture to grasp that, yes, that really is what I look like.
It kind of makes sense. Our appearance changes over time. Slowly, but surely it does. Maybe I’m just finally seeing some of the subtle changes that are happening as I’m getting older. I know I’m not old, but hey, I’m not a baby either. I’m in my mid-twenties, not even close to my teen years anymore. I work full-time in the corporate world, pay bills, am married (woo! still getting used to saying that one!), and am usually in bed by 10pm. And I’m not afraid to admit it. 
So don’t mind me, snacking on banana bread in the middle of summer (okay, technically the beginning but the middle sounds better), trying to come to terms with my identity. 
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Afterall, is there ever really a bad time for banana bread?
Seriously.

Whole Wheat Coconut Banana Bread 
(Adapted from How Sweet It Is)

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups mashed extra ripe banana
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large loaf pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt and cinnamon. Whisk until well-combined and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add eggs and brown sugar. Whisk thoroughly until smooth. Add coconut milk and oil and stir until well-incorporated. Add mashed banana, then vanilla and coconut extracts. Stir until smooth. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated. Add shredded coconut and gently stir until just combined. Pour into loaf pan.
4. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in pan about 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm.

{Vegan} Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Breakfast hasn’t tasted this good in a long time. 
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Yes, I’m baking with oats…again. Yes, I’m baking with bananas…again. But you know the saying. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When it comes to oats and bananas, it’s hard to go wrong in my book. Combine the two, then add some chocolate chips and, well, we’ve got quite the delicious treat. 
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I instantly pinned these when I saw them on Jenna’s blog a while ago and have been dreaming about the day I would make them ever since. 
These are so perfect for breakfast. I’ve been eating them all week. I almost feel like I get to eat a cookie for breakfast. 
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Almost.

Don’t get me wrong. They are great for a mid-day snack or even dessert too. But something about them screams: BREAKFAST! I guess it’s probably the oats screaming that. 
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The bars are just the right amount of sweet without being too sweet for breakfast. You know me – I love a good sugary doughnut or sweet pancakes for breakfast. But especially during the week, I try to keep breakfast as healthy as possible. I don’t know about you, but I do (and feel) so much better throughout the day when I eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Then, after a well-rounded dinner, I don’t have a problem treating myself to a bowl of fro yo or chocolate candy. If I start off with something like a doughnut, I only crave sugar that much more throughout the rest of the day.

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What I’m trying to say is that these bars are a great compromise. They’re satisfy my sweet tooth without bringing on more cravings, and still offer the healthful benefits I look for in my breakfasts. They’re hearty and filling and, and, and…
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I’m obsessed. So obsessed.

{Vegan} Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
(Adapted from Eat. Live. Run.)

Makes about 8-10 bars

Ingredients:
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chai seeds
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking sheet with non-stick spray and set aside.
2. Add mashed banana, oil and brown sugar to a large bowl. Whisk until well combined.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, chai seeds and oats. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the large bowl. Stir until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour mixture into the pan and gently spread with a spatula or spoon in an even layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

{Vegan} Whole Wheat Banana Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

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Sometimes I bake things that I know are going to be good before I even start. If I’m following a tried and true recipe, or sticking with traditional flavors and ingredients, I don’t usually worry about the outcome. 
This was not one of those times. 
Yesterday I showed you my breakfast from the weekend – a bagel, spread with mashed avocado, and topped with sliced bananas. I was one bite into the bagel when I knew what I would bake later on that day. 
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In my head, it had potential. When I said it out loud, it just sounded weird. But I could not get the idea out of my head. I wanted to…needed to…combine the banana and avocado flavors into my most beloved dessert. I worked up the courage and decided to go for it. 
The only question was: banana cupcakes with avocado frosting? Or avocado cupcakes with banana frosting. Judging by the title of this post and the pictures, I think you know what the answer turned out to be. 
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Once I had the flavors figured out, I wanted to take these cupcakes one step further. I wanted to healthify them. 
Besides the fact they’re filled with all-natural fruits, I brought in whole wheat flour and cut back on the sugar. I even made them vegan by leaving out butter and eggs, instead only using vegetable oil. 
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The end result was better than I even imagined. I mean really, what’s better than a (somewhat) healthy cupcake? 
You want to make these soon. And because of the green frosting, I think you need to at least make them this week/weekend for St. Patrick’s Day, no?
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Yes.

{Vegan} Whole Wheat Banana Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting 

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes-
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 very ripe medium bananas, mashed

For the frosting-
3/4 medium avocado
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon almond milk

Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:
For the cupcakes-
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake tin with liners and place aside.
2. In a medium/large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk well and set aside. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, add vegetable oil, milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add mashed banana and continue to beat another 2-3 minutes. Turn speed to low and slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until just combined, be careful not to overmix. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the batter a couple stirs.
3. Fill cupcake wells with batter, about 3/4 full. Bake 15-18 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting-
1. Add the meat of the avocado to the bowl of a stand-alone mixer. Beat on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 3-4 minutes.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

Well that’s a mouthful. A mouth full of light, fluffy, cheesecakey deliciousness! 
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We can shorten the name to PB ‘Nana Choc Cake Squares if you want. I like abbreviations. Probs. Maybs. Totes. Adorbs. 
Perf. 
You get the point.
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Do you realize Valentine’s Day is in two days? TWO! I think you could use a PB ‘Nana Choc one of these to sweeten your V-Day.  
But be careful. They can be addicting! (Name that movie!) 
At first I wasn’t sure I liked the outcome of these. There is no mistaking the banana flavor. Not bad by any means, just stronger than I expected. I think after literally not being able to stop myself from just taking ‘one last bite,’ then ‘no really, just one last bite,’ I realized how good they were. 
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Things were getting out of control between these little squares and myself so I shared them with my coworkers and only heard good things. Then again, I can’t imagine a coworker telling me to my face they didn’t like something I made, but you never know. 
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Now I wish I still had one, or two, left for Valentine’s Day. Prepare yourself for the sadness that comes when you or your coworkers finish these off. I’m still mourning the loss. 
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Oh, oh! And if you’re counting calories as my obsessive self usually does, these are only about 150 cals each, assuming you use “light” versions of the ingredients as I have them listed below. 
Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
(Adapted from Bake at 350)
Makes 16 squares
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup chocolate Teddy Grahams
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used light)
1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
1/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 8×8 baking pan with foil so that the foil completely covers the pan and hangs over the sides. Spray with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. Add Teddy Grahams to a food processor and blend thoroughly. Pour into baking pan and gently shake the pan to spread the crumbs in an even layer. 
3. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, add cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt. Beat on medium speed until ingredients are well-blended, about two minutes. With beater on low speed, add cocoa powder, corn starch and sugar. Add egg and egg white and continue to beat until well-incorporated. Add banana and peanut butter, again mixing until well-incorporated. Pour batter into the baking pan and gently shake to evenly distribute. Sprinkle white chocolate chips across the top of the batter. 
4. Bake 35-40 minutes. The top of the cheesecake will begin to crack slightly. Remove from heat and let cool in the pan for up to an hour. Place in fridge to chill an additional hour. Slice into squares and serve chilled.