Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

Cookies!

This past weekend when I was being especially productive, I made a lot of cookies. Baking cookies is the definition of productivity if you didn’t know.

Of the two varieties I made, this being one and the other coming to the blog soon, neither turned out quite the way I expected, but I can’t complain. Expectations are a funny thing. It’s nice to have something to look forward to – a vacation, seeing someone for the first time in awhile, and the important things like eating a homemade cookie… – but when expectations aren’t met, what happens? Disappointment can ensue.

Let me clarify. The cookies were not bad, and I really shouldn’t say I was disappointed, but they were different than what I was originally hoping.

The good: They were full of texture, not overly sweet, and the warm cinnamony flavor (from both ground cinnamon and cinnamon chips) made them perfect to be called a “breakfast cookie” if you so desire.

The bad: What they were lacking were enough Raisinets. I had a box (about 1/2 cup total) of dark chocolate Raisinets and was giddy over the idea of incorporating them into the cookie dough. But I needed MORE! One box was simply not enough to live up to my expectations.

The solution(s): A. From the beginning, expect a cinnamon oatmeal cookie with an occasional dark chocolate raisin surprise or B. Double the amount of Raisinets.

If you chose option B, please let me know how it is.

Once I took a second bite and got over the initial feeling of these not living up to my expectations, I quickly realized what I created was just as good as my original idea.

The moral of the story: let go of expectations and take one step in life (or one bite of cookie) at a time.

…Easier said than done, right?

One day, I’m sure I’ll get around to meeting those Raisinet overload cookies that formed in my head, but until then I have other cookie recipes to tackle. I have a difficult time repeating or trying to re-do a recipe when I have hundreds of others catching my eye.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
(Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen small, or 1 dozen large, cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate Raisinets, or other chocolate covered raisins
1/4 cup mini cinnamon chips

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl combine flour, cinnamon and baking soda.
2. In a separate bowl add the butter and beat with a handheld mixer until creamy. Add sugars and beat again until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, beating on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Add oats and beat again until just combined. Fold in Raisinets and cinnamon chips. Chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop dough into golf ball size balls and place about two inches apart on a cookie sheet (use silpat mats or spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray).
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Enjoy!

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!

Blackberry Peach Crumble Bars

My inspiration for today’s recipe: “Fake it ’til you make it.”

As freezing temperatures sweep through Charleston this week, I am going to pretend it’s actually summer until it comes true.

Can’t. handle. the. cold.

Crumbly fruit bars are just one way to pretend it’s summertime. If you’ve never tried the blackberry-peach combination, get on it. Besides the pretty colors, the flavor can’t be beat. With these bars, the juicy fruits are pressed between two layers of crisp, buttery oats. Warm, summery smiles all around, guaranteed.

What are “summery smiles” you ask? I don’t know exactly. I made it up. But I imagine we smile a whole lot more in the summer than in the winter. An easy-going kind of smile that just comes naturally in the warm and sunny weather. Not the forced ouch-this-hurts-my-dry-crackling-skin kind of wintertime smile.

Anyway.
I’m keeping things short and sweet (no pun intended) around here today, because the pictures speak for themselves. 
In full disclosure, I actually did make these bars last summer, hence all of the lively greenery in the background. However I’m sure they will be equally as wonderful with a backdrop of snow (or freezing rain in my case…). 
Like I said, FAKE IT ’til you make it. 
Blackberry Peach Crumble Bars
Makes about 12 bars
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons milk
3 large peaches, peeled and chopped
1 cup blackberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×9 inch pan and set aside. 
2. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, baking powder, flour and salt. Cut in the butter pieces and egg until butter chunks become size of peas. Spread half of this mixture in the bottom of the pan. Press down to form the crust. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Mix in the chopped blackberries and peaches and stir to combine. Spread this fruit mixture over the crust in the pan. Crumble the rest of the flour mixture evenly over top of the fruit. 
4. Bake 40-45 minutes or until the crumble on top is golden brown. Cool completely, cut into squares and serve. 
Refrigerate any remaining bars in an airtight container for up to five days. 

No-Bake Protein Date Bars

No-Bake Protein Date Bars1
Sniff, sniff.
No, I’m not crying. I’m getting sick! Scratch that, I AM sick. Ugh. After waking up with a swollen and sore throat, I have gradually been getting worse all day. You never appreciate how wonderful normal breathing is until you find yourself sniffing every other second, trying to keep snot from running out of your nose. TMI? Sorry. I speak da truth!
It’s like that song, “Let Her Go” by Passenger, you know it right?
“Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home
Only know you lover her when you let her go…”
No-Bake Protein Date Bars4
Now that I’ve got you singing and thinking about runny noses, let’s just be thankful we can’t spread illness through the interwebs! So stick around for a few minutes longer, won’t you?
These bars. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh these bars. If I could summarize in one word: Addicting. 
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These bars were the first thing I have ever made with dates and I couldn’t have been more satisfied. They are the epitome of salty and sweet. The sweet, chewy date filling sits between a salty and crunchy almond oat crust. It’s a true party in your mouth, I promise you that. So. Much. TEXTURE!
This is one of those treats where you start with “just a bite,” then move on to “okay, maybe just half of the bar,” to “well, I might as well finish it now.”
…and maybe just one more. 
No-Bake Protein Date Bars2
Side note – Do you know how difficult it is to search for recipes using dates online? No, Google. I do not want recipes for my date. I want to make something with this box of dates. See the difference? It’s easy to search “pumpkin recipes” or “side dish recipes,” but when you search “date recipes” all that comes up are ideas for food to make for a date night. 

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Stay warm and healthy my friends. And eat date bars. Lots of date bars.

No-Bake Protein Date Bars
(Adapted from Oh She Glows)

Makes ~10 bars

Ingredients:
1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup vanilla protein powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
~20 dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup water

Directions:
1. In a food processor, add oats, almonds, protein powder and salt. Pulse on high until a crumbly mixture forms. Add five of the dates and process again until crumbly.
2. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and pour into food processor. Blend with the other ingredients until entire mixture is just barely moist. Add about 3/4 of this mixture to a medium loaf pan. Press down with spatula or your fingers. Set the rest of the mixture aside.
3. Add the remaining 15 chopped dates to your food processor with the shredded coconut and water. Blend until a paste forms, scraping down the sides as needed. Spread this mixture on top of the crust in the loaf pan. Top with the crust you had reserved earlier. Gently press down on top. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least one hour. Cut into bars and enjoy!

*Store in refrigerator for up to one week

Apple Pie with an Oatmeal Crumble

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I like to think of myself as a relatively happy, optimistic person. I haven’t always been that way, but throughout the past few years, I have grown closer to God and really noticed a difference. Looking on the bright side of things and having a glass half full attitude does wonders for my soul. It’s such a better way to live life. 
Of course there are times when I get upset and am not so smiley. Greg can attest to this more than anyone. He can handle it though. That’s why I have him around.

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Then there are times when the silliest things just make me angry. Little things that are so annoying I can’t even take it, like:
1. You remember how we moved recently, right? Well I quickly discovered that at 8:15 every morning, right when I’m leaving for work, the sun shines through onto our street just perfectly through the trees so that for about five seconds of my drive I am absolutely BLINDED by the light (sorry for just writing the longest sentence ever). I seriously cannot see a thing for those few seconds, and it’s while I’m driving along a curve to make matters worse. Every morning I’m praying that there’s nobody in the road or a car coming from the other direction. It’s so dangerous, but there isn’t anything I can do. Sunglasses on, visor pulled down…I still can’t see anything. I get so angry at the sun during that time. Sorry, Sun. I love you, but I don’t always have to like you. 
2. When people have the car blinker on when they aren’t actually trying to change lanes or turn. I know it happens to everyone, myself included, but it still drives me crazy. I just want them to TURN IT OFF! I can’t wait to get around the car so I don’t have to see it flashing unnecessarily anymore. 
3. Wind. I have long hair. I like to wear it down sometimes, is that a crime? The wind thinks so.

And with that, I’m off to yoga to fight off these negative energies (well, I actually already went to yoga, but originally typed this post early this morning beforehand). Another solution to put yourself in a good mood: Make this apple pie, add a big scoop of ice cream and just see if you can keep a smile off your face. I bet you can’t. Take that, negative energy!

Apple Pie with an Oatmeal Crumble
(Adapted from my Baked Apple Pie and How Sweet It Is)

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 pie crust (I used a store bought crust)
4 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the crumble topping-
1 cup oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

+Vanilla ice cream for serving, highly recommended

Directions:
1. Roll out the pie crust and lay in 9-inch pie pan. Press down around the sides of the pan and trim any crust hanging over the sides. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. In a large bowl, combine sliced apples, sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice. Stir until well combined. Pour mixture into pie crust and set aside.
4. In a bowl (I use the same one used for the apple mixture to reduce clean up), add oats, brown suga, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir well and shake over top of the apple mixture in the pie pan. Distribute butter pieces evenly on top.
5. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Be sure to check on pie after 20 minutes of baking – cover with foil if the crust is becoming too brown for the remainder of bake time.
6. Remove from oven and let cool 10-20 minutes. Slice and serve with a BIG scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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. 

{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. 
BananaCCBars

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.